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Open Thread 94.25

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840 Responses to Open Thread 94.25

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      I know you have 10,000 topics, but reading about the early US battleships prompted this question –

      Do you know much about the battles of Santiago and Manila? I know almost nothing about them, other than that they happened, and yet they’re one of only a handful of naval battles fought with ironclads before the age of dreadnoughts. Do they hold any interest at all for the budding naval historian?

      • bean says:

        I know very little about them right now, but those are actually fairly close to the top of the list. I’m slowly going through the uses of the ironclads/pre-dreadnoughts in combat, but I have to at least do the Sino-Japanese War first. And possibly one or two other things.

      • Protagoras says:

        Some quick research suggests that the Spanish had smaller, older ships with poorly trained crews and terrible morale (partly because they knew all of the preceding). So there may not be too much to tell as far as why the battles went the way they did. Still, I imagine there must be an interesting detail or two hidden somewhere.

      • John Schilling says:

        Do you know much about the battles of Santiago and Manila?

        You are forgetting the most important and hard-fought naval battle of the Spanish-American war – the one between admirals Sampson and Schley over who deserved credit for winning the battle of Santiago.

        • Lillian says:

          This reminds me the observation that in the history of the Imperial Japanese Navy, no war was as important, lengthy, and hard fought as that against their hated and sworn enemy: the Imperial Japanese Army.

    • David Speyer says:

      While poking bean: The second half of a recent This American Life https://www.thisamericanlife.org/634/human-error-in-volatile-situations was about sleep deprivation among Navy personal. All the time I was listening, I was thinking “I wonder if bean has something smart to say about this”. So, thoughts?

      • bean says:

        I have no specific insights into this, other than that the surface and submarine communities have been really slow to appreciate the need for adequate rest. Hlynkacg knows more than I do, but the aviation world is a lot better about not randomly waking people up to do random things (drills, working parties, etc). Fatigue was fingered as a likely contributor at the time of the collisions. He said that they used to put signs (and maybe guards) on the doors to the aviation detachment quarters when drills were going on to stop the ship’s crew from bursting in and waking people up.

  1. McCastles says:

    How can one learn to write rational fiction?
    I’ve read the HPMoR and recently I’ve watched Made in Abyss anime series. The setting is truly fascinating but the characters kinda spoil it for me, so I thought it would be funny to try to write my own story in a rational key (including jokes a la layers of the Abyss inspired Chomsky to create his hierarchy).
    So, how can I start? Input data: I’ve never written before + my native language isn’t English 😀

    • C_B says:

      You know how in a lot of fiction, much of the dramatic tension and plot development comes from characters egregiously failing to be reasonable? Like, interpersonal drama that would resolve itself if the characters just spent five minutes communicating clearly? Or characters becoming enemies because one of them made a totally unjustified assumption when they had incomplete information? Or somebody making obviously bad decisions because I MUST STICK TO MY CODE OF HONOR?

      Try writing fiction where you just, like, don’t do that. This is harder than it sounds, because it means you have to come up with sources of conflict that aren’t based on somebody being an idiot, and having somebody be an idiot is by far the easiest way to generate conflict in fiction. But you can do it.

      An example that’s on my mind lately is the early chapters of Ward, the ongoing sequel to Worm.

      (Vague Worm spoilers follow.)

      Worm gets called out as “rationalist fiction” sometimes because unlike most superhero fiction, the characters actually spend some amount of effort thinking about how to best use their powers. At the macro scale, though, their overall goals are still very traditional superhero stuff – fight people, save the world, etc. It’s not that saving the world isn’t a valid rationalist goal, but it’s not a goal that showcases rationalist thought. Everyone wants to prevent the world from being destroyed, rationalist or not. The consequentialists in the story (Cauldron) aren’t presented as being particularly admirable.

      Ward, on the other hand, is about harm reduction. We’re 3+ chapters into a story about people with superpowers designed for fighting, and most of what they’ve done so far is communicate about their emotions in healthy ways and tried to de-escalate conflict. It’s like the soothing antidote to every story where the protagonist’s irrationality was the primary driver of conflict.

      Try that. You can probably even do this as a writing exercise: write a short story where people have genuinely different goals, but nobody is crazy, stupid, or cartoonishly evil-for-evil’s-sake. I think that’s like 80% of the way to rationalist fiction.

      • For what it’s worth, a common criticism of my two novels (Harald and Salamander) is that the characters are too rational. To quote from one Amazon review:

        The other problem I had was that almost everyone in the book, in almost every speech that he or she makes, is so _reasonable_ The author must know some unreasonable people, in fact I know that he does. He should study what we say and what we post on usenet to get an understanding.

        That pattern reflects my irritation at characters doing stupid things. I don’t know if it increases or decreases the number of readers.

      • Deiseach says:

        Like, interpersonal drama that would resolve itself if the characters just spent five minutes communicating clearly?

        This drives me crazy! Where it’s very clear that the entire plot hinges on A being secretive and not mentioning “by the way, I’ve been having weird dreams where I turn into the Big Bad and destroy the world, funny that” to their best friend B, who is the only familiar face from home in this big new city where they’ve both been thrown into the thick of it.

        If your plot device requires the character to do something idiotic, and there has not been established a good reason for the character being an idiot (and “if they act like a sensible person there is no plot” isn’t a good reason), then try not to do it.

        • Matt M says:

          I feel like MOST of Shakespeare consists of plots that are contingent upon some hugely colossal misunderstanding that could be resolved in 10 seconds if the main characters actually spoke directly to each other.

          • Deiseach says:

            MOST of Shakespeare consists of plots that are contingent upon some hugely colossal misunderstanding

            True, but everybody knows we wouldn’t have a play if that happened 🙂 And I think the lingering aftermath of the Henrician court and reign, where everybody backstabbed everybody else, being very cagey about who you told your deepest secrets to (in case your best friend/family member suddenly turned you in as a plotter against the king/his new plans of church governance) and not speaking directly to anybody outside of a tight group you were confident about became second nature to a lot of people great and small. Even Gloriana’s golden reign had a lot of intriguing and ‘this week the queen’s favourite, next week the headsman’s block’ going on.

            Hamlet feels (not without reason) that he can’t trust anybody; Claudius and Gertrude recruit his old college buddies Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on him, Polonius tries to use Ophelia for the same ends, and any other courtiers he might confide in run the same risk of “are they going to go straight to the king with this?” He probably doesn’t confide in Horatio as much as he should, but that’s as much for self-protection and to protect Horatio as anything else. And he’s badly undermined by “Okay so my father’s ghost told me to kill my uncle. Wait. I’m taking instructions from a ghost? Was it real or am I really crazy?”

            Othello too is in the same bind; he has nobody he can really confide in, and the person he thinks is his friend – Iago – is the one undermining him and creating the entire trap. Othello again has some justifiable doubts and even paranoia about how well-received and actually how integrated into Venetian society he is, so there’s nobody he really trusts (his career and success have been built on him being self-sufficient) to talk to about his doubts and suspicions of Desdemona.

            Romeo and Juliet is two teenagers being melodramatic idiots as you’d expect at that age; the person who should know better is Friar Lawrence and he should never have agreed to the silly secret marriage plot.

            Twelfth Night would collapse if, as you say, the main characters spoke directly to each other, but the tacit understanding is that we suspend disbelief for the sake of the delicious soufflé of a plot that we all know is based on the good old trope of mistaken identity.

          • Nick says:

            Romeo and Juliet is two teenagers being melodramatic idiots as you’d expect at that age; the person who should know better is Friar Lawrence and he should never have agreed to the silly secret marriage plot.

            Your worldview is threatened, Deiseach—even in the late sixteenth century, who could say no to love? 😀

          • John Schilling says:

            Be fair; Deiseach’s objection has always been with Drama, not with Romance.

            And that’s where Shakespeare’s “star-crossed” lovers found their problems. Which stars, exactly, crossed them? Every character in that tale, saving Tybalt and maybe Paris, wanted Romeo and Juliet to live happily ever after, or would have if they’d been asked. In particular, the deciding authority in the matter was Capuet, who explicitly,

            Wanted Juliet to marry by choice the man who would win her heart, and

            Was trying to end the long feud between Montague and Capuet, and

            Considered Romeo Montague a praiseworthy young man even after he’d crashed a Capuet party, and

            Had the authority to order Tybalt and Paris to back off and make it stick.

            So there’s plan A, where they just go and ask Capuet if Juliet can marry the very praiseworthy man she has fallen in love with and who happens to be a prominent Montague, and there’s plan B, where we add Drama. And look where that gets you.

            I’m with D on this one. Juliet is a literal Teenage Drama Queen, and Romeo was thinking with the wrong organ, but the Friar should have known better. In any century.

      • Anonymous says:

        Worm gets called out as “rationalist fiction” sometimes because unlike most superhero fiction, the characters actually spend some amount of effort thinking about how to best use their powers.

        That’s an interesting point. I’ve found Mother of Learning being called “rationalist fiction” rather puzzling, for instance, but under this definition, it makes sense. Guess I was conflating a particular style of “rationality” as evidenced by Yudkowsky and Alicorn with the greater category.

        • beleester says:

          It’s not the only thing that makes something rationalfic, but it’s an important part of making a consistent world with intelligent people. If magic has existed for thousands of years, then it shouldn’t be possible for the protagonist to come up with a game-breaking exploit after thinking about magic for an afternoon. That just makes the rest of society look like idiots.

          HPMOR does have some examples of this – Harry runs some experiments in early chapters and discovers that most of the things he wants to do are either too dangerous (anything to do with Transfiguring chemicals) or just don’t work. Hermione comments that maybe he’s not smarter than all of his teachers, who are, you know, professional wizards.

          • In my Salamander, magic has presumably existed forever. People figured out how to use it about three hundred years before the story starts, and the first polity that did so used the resulting advantage to build an empire. The knowledge spread and the empire eventually started to shrink once all the people they had conquered, and their nearest neighbors, knew how to use magic too.

            About fifty years before the story starts we have the magical equivalent of Newton, someone who took the first steps towards converting it from a craft to a science. One of my two protagonists is a brilliant theorist at the kingdom’s one college of magic, a follower of the ideas of the Newton figure, and the story is in large part about the implications of a way of using magic he has worked out.

      • McCastles says:

        Thanks for your reply, it has some essential thoughts.

        I forgot to mention in the original post that I’ve read Eliezer’s “The Abridged Guide to Intelligent Characters”, and it seems that your words about drama built on characters’ stupidity correlates with Yudkovsky’s “good vs. good” theme.

      • noddingin says:

        @McCastles, C_B
        For good models, McCastles might look at some Golden Age detective classics; Gaudy Night would be a good one, or Clouds of Witnesses. Ftm, look at Golden Age science fiction.

      • noddingin says:

        @C_B
        in a lot of fiction, much of the dramatic tension and plot development comes from characters egregiously failing to be reasonable? Like, interpersonal drama that would resolve itself if the characters just spent five minutes communicating clearly?

        In Atlas Shrugged, what if Francisco had told Dagny befofehand what he and Galt were up to? The book as is, is more mysterious and suspenseful (and probably longer), but F and G treated her dishonestly.

    • Anonymous says:

      How can one learn to write rational fiction?

      Practice.

      I’m not being facetious.

      • I was in my late fifties when I started writing my first novel. One of the things that helped was that I had been writing expository prose, non-fiction, for a long time. Fiction and non-fiction are different things but a lot of the relevant skills apply to both.

        The nonfiction I had been writing was largely about constructing rational arguments for things, which was what a good deal of the dialog of my characters, perhaps too much, ended up being. Having constructed characters who talked rationally, it made sense for them to act rationally.

        One conclusion I reached from writing my first novel and confirmed with my second was that no plot survives contact with the characters. Once you have created them, you have to let them do what those people would do under those circumstances in order for the story to work, whether or not it was what you had planned for them to do.

    • Anon. says:

      A man, he observed, should begin to write soon; for, if he waits till his judgement is matured, his inability, through want of practice to express his conceptions, will make the disproportion so great between what he sees, and what he can attain, that he will probably be discouraged from writing at all.

    • Thegnskald says:

      First, pick a message, an objective; HPMoR started out with the objective of teaching people rationality. You can use the same objective or a different one, it doesn’t matter. To be rationalist, it should be somewhat related to the idea of instructing in rationality, but it doesn’t have to be capital-R rationality.

      Next, design a world in which you can communicate that message, making clear parallels where that world is similar to our own in terms of the delivered message; HPMoR has a magic system with well-defined rules, such that they could be discovered and analyzed rationally, like physics but less mathy. The plot should also revolve around the message; this is HPMoR’s weakest point, since the climax of the book is about imagination rather than rationality. (Indeed, the second half of HPMoR shifts from rationalist to broken aesop in general)

      Next, design characters who both demonstrate the message, and who do not. Your protagonist needs to be halfway, because their journey is the reader’s journey; the lessons they learn are the lessons you are teaching the reader. You also have characters who are doing it wrong, with internal explanations of how they are doing it wrong, to show the failure modes. This last part is critical to rationalist writing – if you don’t have someone doing it wrong, you are writing an Aesop, not rationalist literature. Your goal is to teach, remember, not lecture, meaning you need to point out where the cliffs are so none if your students fall down them.

      Next, write. “Don’t have stupid characters” isn’t actually a requirement, but stupid characters tend to be off-putting to smart people. Really, you want characters that reflect your intended audience. You can have stupid characters, just don’t have supposedly intelligent characters behaving uncharacteristically stupid to get your plot to work. Nobody likes the idiot ball, it is just lazy writing.

      That is pretty much it. Good writing takes practice for most people – and if it doesn’t for you, practice anyways, as your goal should be great writing.

      • Don’t communicate your message in John Galt speechifying.

      • Your goal is to teach, remember, not lecture

        My goal in writing fiction is to tell a story.

        I don’t write “libertarian fiction”–arguing for my views is what I do in non-fiction. I write fiction written by a libertarian (and an economist and a believer in reason), and that affects the world and people I describe. One problem with writing libertarian fiction is that it’s too easy to cheat, to make things come out the way the author’s political beliefs want not because those beliefs are true but because the author is controlling how things come out. As Niven put it somewhere, the greatest super power is author control.

        Similarly, I don’t write rationalist fiction. I am trying to tell a story in a world that makes sense, with rational characters, not to persuade people that the world is like that–my readers, after all, know that what they are reading is fiction. I expect that what I write will generally work better for people who share some of my views but I don’t expect it to convert those who don’t. And persuading my readers that everyone they encounter will behave rationally would be a disservice to them, since it wouldn’t be true. Those are just the sort of people I like telling stories about.

        It is possible to use fiction to propagate views–Rand, for all the criticism one can make about the preaching, did so with spectacular success. So did Shaw, to take an example on the other side. But that isn’t what I want to do. And I suspect that, for most people, starting out with that objective makes it harder to write good stories.

      • Nornagest says:

        I think that most — almost all — people who write to make a point do so badly. Even if they end up with a readable work at the end, it’s generally in spite of the message, not because of it. Not always: every so often you get a George Orwell or a C.S. Lewis that can make a career of it, but message writing more often ends up unacceptably clunky even in the hands of otherwise good authors.

        I’m therefore suspicious of anything branding itself as rational fiction. Writing to explore a theme has a higher hit rate, though, and the two can be difficult to distinguish from the outside, or can even coincide in the same work — HPMoR for example is way way better when it’s writing about how its characters think than when it’s trying to make a pitch for rationality as such.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Most people who write messages lecture, rather than teach. Their goal is not to show you a new idea, or a new way of thinking – their goal is to convert you over to it.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yeah, message fic is often heavy-handed to the point that “anvilicious” is a useful and informative critical term.

            I’ve just this morning run into an example of such on my Tumblr dash; someone’s first novel has been nominated for an award EDIT: they’re making us aware of its existence as it came out in October and its main character has such a cluster of characteristics that my immediate uncharitable mental response was “So is there anybody normal in this book?”

            Any writing advice I might have as a reader is please try to avoid having an obvious pet character that the reader can tell is your favourite, and even might harbour suspicions of “authorial self-insert” (or the dread and dreaded Mary Sue/Gary Stu). And if you positively must write about sex/gender/race/class/sexual and romantic orientation/disability and ableism/other points – and I am not saying you should not -at least spread it out over your cast of characters; don’t sink all the Weirdness/Cool Points into one person (see author’s description of their character below):

            my debut novel about a young (disabled, intersex, lesbian/queer) Black woman living in the slums of a generation ship

            The lead character is also an orphan, in case you were labouring under the misapprehension that she* had anything positive going for her (naturally there is no mention of a father and I would not be at all surprised to learn the reason for her existence is “Mama was brutally raped by an overseer”), sample blurb as quoted by OP to give you all an idea of what this is about:

            sci-fi debut tells the story of Aster Grey, an orphan raised on the slavery deck of a starship called the HSS Matilda as she searches for answers to her mother’s death and the mystery of the forces who control the starship

            It made more end-of-year lists that I can count, including NPR’s Best Books of 2017, Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2017, The Guardian’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2017, & Them’s Best Queer Books of 2017. It’s also been featured as a part of Paste Magazine’s Best Audiobooks 2017, Buzzfeed, Elle UK, Shondaland, and Bustle, among others.

            *If using “she” and “her” is not misgendering someone who represents the following list (again, OP):

            – being trans, nonbinary, genderweird, genderantagonistic, gendertraumatized
            – being a dyke, dykegender, loving women, wanting women
            – being autistic, adhd, psychotic, “not otherwise specified,” borderline, PTSD
            – being a descendant of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, a refugee, & diasporan

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            How about some examples of very ideological fiction that people like ?

            For example, Borderline and Phantom Pains by Miishell Baker. They’re very Social Justice, but I’m looking forward to the third book.

            Main character has BPD and is a double amputee from a suicide attempt, dealing with some pretty dysfunctional elves in Hollywood.

            The Torchship Trilogy by Kurt Gallegher does an elegant job of threading the needle of meeting by Social Justice and puppy requirements.

            Fairly hard sf. It’s difficult to be married to a hero. A good bit is about the effects of AI going wrong.

            Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys.

            Not quite social justice, but close. Author makes it clear that no one has clean hands, having inherited sins and also having biological requirements that make perfect consideration impossible. A clever mashup of all (I think) the Lovecraftian sapients. I just found out there’s a sequel on the way. Happy dance!

          • Vorkon says:

            How about some examples of very ideological fiction that people like ?

            The Sword of Truth series is kind of a guilty pleasure for me; I KNOW it’s only semi-competently written and is ridiculously heavy-handed, but it’s like Confirmation-Bias-Popcorn, and is generally just a more fun read than Ayn Rand. (Possibly just because I’m a fantasy buff, and prefer the subject matter, but still.)

          • albatross11 says:

            Quite a bit of Heinlein’s work could qualify as message fiction, though I think he was dismissive of the idea (“He sold his birthright for a pot of message”.) _Starship Troopers_ and _The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress_ are probably the best examples.

          • albatross11 says:

            Thinking about entertaining ideological fiction a bit more:

            _Oath of Fealty_ by Niven and Pournelle

            _The Probability Broach_ and _Pallas_[1] by L Neil Smith

            _Beggars in Spain_ by Nancy Kress

            _The Dispossessed_ by Ursula K LeGuin

            _The Rainbow Cadenza_ by J. Neil Schulman

            There are surely many more, but all of these seemed like they were idea-heavy, explored or assumed some ideology, and were also pretty entertaining to read.

            [1] I think Smith managed to capture the idea of Anthem better than Rand did, and then morphed into a pretty good Heinleinish story about the main character/refugee/escapee from the dystopia.

          • Nornagest says:

            Heinlein’s stuff is good, but the apparent message is so different between books that I get the feeling he’s less writing to make a point and more writing to see what the world looks like from that viewpoint: you’ve got authoritarian militarism in one book, revolutionary libertarianism in another, a free-love hippie commune before there were hippies in a third, whatever the hell you’d call Job: A Comedy of Justice

            There are a few points he comes back to again and again (broad competence, responsibility, appreciation for technical skill, variations on polyamory) but not as many as you’d think from reading a lot of his critics.

          • John Schilling says:

            How about some examples of very ideological fiction that people like?

            Hmm. I recall Voyage from Yesteryear, by James Hogan before he went off the deep edge, as making the best case I’d ever seen for anarcho-socialism. Had teenaged-me convinced for a while.

            The only libertarian/ancap message fiction I’ve ever really liked was Alongside Night, J. Neil Schulman, 1979. Probably a bit dated now; I recall it depended heavily on the crime-ridden urban hellholes of the 1970s.

            And much of Robert Heinlein’s work I would consider very ideological, but where the ideology is often identified as libertarian I think “be a responsible citizen, and don’t trust anyone who won’t let you do that” is a more generally accurate description. Late Heinlein is reasonably criticized for letting the message get in the way of the story (among other things), but the juveniles and some of the mid-period works like The Moon is a Harsh Mistress do it quite well.

            I’ve often joked that the Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga is an unintended but superb Death Eater apologia, but I mostly don’t mean that seriously.

          • AG says:

            Re: good ideological fiction

            I really enjoyed Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives trilogy. Race relations play a strong part of the plotting, but the characters and world building are still fun and competent. I could write an entire essay on how it expertly avoids many of the pitfalls of dystopia YA, and how relieved I was at the resolution of its themes that it went with.
            The Bluescreen series by Dan Wells is also very fun. Overtly diverse and has class themes, but again, a great yarn with fun characters.
            And in both of these cases, the prose just zips, which I miss in harder sci-fi sometimes.

            But speaking of which, Cory Doctorow’s latest novel, Walkaway, is the most overtly pro-SJ he’s ever been. Dealing heavily with class themes, and he overtly centers the book on a diverse set of women in a way he never has in his previous writings. But it’s also still brilliant hard sci-fi from him, as usual, delving deep into transhumanist themes, as well. And his Little Brother/Homeland novels would probably count as ideological.

            And then some of the best Discworld books are the most ideological, in the Moist and Watch novels.

            In anime, you’ve got Revolutionary Girl Utena, its hot-blooded counterpart Kill La Kill, Oregairu, Monogatari, Gatchaman Crowds, PMMM, Princess Mononoke, and NGE, of course. There’s a reason I like to joke that “Everything is AT Fields.”
            In films, you have West Side Story, Hidden Figures, Remember the Titans, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Dark Knight, A Clockwork Orange, In the Heat of the Night, To Kill a Mockingbird, Blazing Saddles, The Great Dictator, Zhang Yimou’s Hero, The Hurt Locker, Mad Max: Fury Road, Bend It Like Beckham, and Saving Face.
            YMMV on the likes of Fight Club, Mr. Robot, Moonlight, Dollhouse, Westworld, or Black Mirror.

            Also, a good chunk of children’s media is trying to impart a message. Do we not count MLP or Power Rangers or other “you can do it!” kid’s shows as a form of ideological?

          • Nornagest says:

            As to enjoyable message fiction… well, I already mentioned Orwell and Lewis. Warren Ellis’s late-90s comic series Transmetropolitan is basically a fifty-issue paean to truth, journalism, humanism, and whatever else Ellis happened to be thinking about at the time. Mid-period Terry Pratchett leans in this direction, probably peaking sometime around Night Watch (his early work is less consistently ideological and the ideological stuff is less consistently good; his late work is more ideological and less good). Teenage me liked Illuminatus!, though I haven’t read it for a while.

            Fury Road, for all that I unironically love it and think it’s probably the best action movie of the last fifteen years, is an example of succeeding in spite of the message, I think. The same might go for the original Mad Max.

        • Writing to explore a theme has a higher hit rate, though

          Yes. My first novel has three different societies. My protagonist is from the one closest to my political views, loosely modeled on saga period Iceland. The other two are a feudal kingdom–mostly allied to him, with complications–and an empire loosely modeled on the Roman and Abbasid empires.

          One of the ideas I am exploring is the advantages and disadvantages of each form. Another is the economics of warfare, in particular how to raise an army without either feudal obligations or taxes and the ways in which the need to do so constrains my protagonist. And, perhaps most central, the difference between viewing a political system as a table of organization–A is subordinate to B is subordinate to C–and viewing it as a network of individual relationships.

        • pontifex says:

          HP:MoR is a bit of a spoof or parody of Harry Potter, though. It takes a setting that is supposed to be whimsical and turns it into something deadly serious. And that’s what makes it fun.

          The Metropolitan Man is another fun bit of fanfiction that does this… except this time with Superman. It’s much more poorly written than HP:MoR, and quite a bit darker in tone, but still a lot of fun to read.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not sure I buy that, in either direction. MoR had plenty of whimsy (the scene where fifty bullies get glued to the ceiling, for example), and the original Harry Potter at least tried to pull off some serious gravitas (most of the sixth and seventh books, parts of the fourth and fifth). Both with mixed results, but that’s another conversation. I maintain that the most evangelical parts of MoR are also some of the weakest, but if anything those tend to be more on the comedy side.

            I’ve read The Metropolitan Man, and enjoyed it, but I’d probably have enjoyed it more if I had much of a connection with Superman as a franchise.

          • Vorkon says:

            The parts that were evangelical about rationalism were pretty weak, but I’d say the parts that were evangelical about humanism were actually pretty well done.

          • pontifex says:

            HP:MoR is a sort of parody of Harry Potter, though. It’s at its best (and also its funniest) when explaining why things from the original series don’t make sense, or are morally awful. For example, explaining why Hagrid probably shouldn’t ever be a teacher at the school, or questioning why students are allowed to do such dangerous things, and so forth.

            The original series is all about this sort of Romanticism, and HP:MoR is the opposite. The contrast is what makes it interesting.

    • Anonymous says:

      The easiest way seems to be to take a highly irrational, popular source of media and rationalize it with fanfiction.

  2. j1000000 says:

    Is this a culture-war free thread? I always forget which ones are.

    • Jack Lecter says:

      I think he labels them when they are.

      So in this case I think no.

      If I’m wrong, I really hope someone who knows will chime in.

    • rlms says:

      No, only the .5 ones (posted every other weekend) are.

    • Matt M says:

      The “hidden” (.25) threads are never CW-free. CW-free is “every other Sunday” I believe.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The Wednesday quarter-integer threads are free-for-all threads. The Sunday half-integer and whole integer threads are CW-free, not just the whole number biweekly visible thread. Scott often forgets to specify, but when he does specify, like at the last 0.5 thread, he makes it clear that is the system. (It’s a little confusing that he calls the Sunday thread “off-weekend”; it’s supposed to be late Sunday. Most of the weekend was taken up by the dregs of the Wednesday thread.)

      • gbdub says:

        My understanding was that the whole number threads are not CW free.

        The CW free threads are the every-other-Sunday hidden (x.5) threads.

        “Off-weekend” doesn’t mean “not on the weekend”, it means “the weekend thread that is not the visible (whole number) thread”. The thread that occurs on the “off weekend”.

  3. le4fy says:

    What methods have people here found good for self-study of mathematics? I’m at an “advanced undergraduate” level (which is how so many texts I pick up describe their intended audience), but I never fail to come across problems I just can’t reason through. Where do you go for help? My strategy right now is to post on Math StackExchange, I’m uncertain how that will work out in the long run.

    I’m currently studying E.T. Jaynes’ _The Logic of Science_, with the intention of moving on to Bishop’s _Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning_.

    • Orpheus says:

      How much math do you already know? If you don’t know basic calculus, linear algebra, combinatorics and set theory, I would strongly suggest starting with these topics.
      Beyond that, your strategy of asking questions on MSE is a definitely a good one.

      • le4fy says:

        I know all those topics from classes in university and intermittent self-study. Graduated in June 2017 with a degree in computer science, and am trying to work out the best way to continue learning on my own.

        • johan_larson says:

          Find out what courses some reputable university requires of their actual math majors. Look through course catalogs and Google for the course numbers to find out what is actually taught in those courses, texts to read, assignments, and so on. Then work through the course material on your own for a fraction of what it would have cost you to take the course formally. (It will require much more discipline on your part, however.) And if you really, really, get stuck on a topic, hire a math graduate student by the hour to straighten you out.

    • littskad says:

      It’s perfectly normal and fine not to be able to do every problem in a more advanced mathematical text as you go along. After you’ve given each problem an honest try, if you can’t figure it out, just move on. Maybe something will click later on, and you’ll see how a given problem can be handled, and maybe not, but it truly doesn’t matter too much. Now, if you can’t do almost any of the problems, well, that’s something to be a bit more concerned about, I suppose, but I think it’s really important to just try to keep moving on at least a little each day.

    • Thegnskald says:

      My high school calculus teacher failed to be able to solve several problems in our textbook.

      It isn’t unusual. Oftentimes, there is a trick you have to know in order to solve the problem; if you have the trick in your arsenal, it is easy, otherwise impossible. Changing coordinate systems is a relatively common trick in advanced Calculus, for example; if you have never needed to do this, the first problem you come across that will require it will be totally intractible.

      A lot of textbooks implicitly assume you have these tricks in your arsenal; I have yet to encounter a book that actually taught them (although I had a couple of math instructors who took pains to introduce their students to some of them, usually letting the students struggle for a while so they would understand why the trick was important to know)

    • le4fy says:

      Thanks everyone for your comments. Especially littskad and Thegnskald. I feel more comfortable leaving the occasional question unanswered having given it some serious thought.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      1. Don’t split mathematics up into “advanced” and “non-advanced”. Its better to view certain subjects as pre-requisites for others, without the other labels.

      brilliant.org is good. Its a website, not a book though.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Late to this party, but you might also benefit from the Feynman Method of Learning.

  4. rlms says:

    Today in unlikely historical friendships: the photographer and the executioner he depicted in one of the most famous photos of the Vietnam War (Saigon Execution):

    Adams said his immediate impression was that Loan was a “cold, callous killer”. But after travelling with him around the country he revised his assessment…
    Adams and Loan stayed in touch, even becoming friends after the general fled South Vietnam at the end of the war for the United States.
    But upon Loan’s arrival, US Immigration and Nationalization Services wanted to deport him, a move influenced by the photo. They approached Adams to testify against Loan, but Adams instead testified in his favour.
    Congress eventually lifted the deportation and Loan was allowed to stay, opening a restaurant in a Washington, DC suburb serving hamburgers, pizza and Vietnamese dishes.

    (source)

    • Well... says:

      The restaurant’s motto: “…a dish best served cold”!

    • Lillian says:

      Incidentally, i’m glad we let General Loan stay in the United States. Aside from the public relations mistake, the man did nothing wrong.

      • rlms says:

        Yes, the other interesting thing about the picture is that Nguyễn Văn Lém (the man being executed) was an unrepentant war criminal.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        The part that’s interesting to me about the picture is how many times I saw that image presented either with no context or a very misleading caption like “South Vietnamese officer executes a civilian prisoner”.

        It wasn’t until I was doing my own research that I found out the rest of the story.

        • Jiro says:

          Remember, the media has an agenda.

          We can also recall Tank Man in China (the guy stood in front of the tank when the tanks were going home; he was not trying to stop the tank from killing anyone), Love Canal, and Kitty Genovese.

          • Odovacer says:

            We can also recall Tank Man in China (the guy stood in front of the tank when the tanks were going home; he was not trying to stop the tank from killing anyone), Love Canal, and Kitty Genovese.

            How does that change the view of Tank Man? He’s got (had) huge balls! He stood up to a tank of a communist power. He’s a symbol of resistance to an authoritarian state, not some superhero lifesaver.

      • quanta413 says:

        I wouldn’t go so far as to say “nothing wrong”. What he did may have been wrong to varying extents depending on your moral ideals. But certainly, the situation at hand was more than difficult enough, and everything else I’ve read about him seems to indicate an honorable man. The U.S. certainly owed him anyways as an ally whose country was abandoned by the U.S. and left to their enemies.

  5. rlms says:

    Brief update about SSC Diplomacy game(s): there is one spot left in this game, first-come-first-served.

    • veeloxtrox says:

      Would someone that plays be willing to give game updates or give a post game summary?

      • John Schilling says:

        It’s hard to do mid-game updates in Diplomacy because the diplomacy part is necessarily part secret, but I’ll certainly be keeping notes for a post-game writeup. And possibly a neutral observer could be found to give periodic updates based on the board position and open press.

      • rlms says:

        One player said he’d do a writeup at the end.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        I was planning on a postgame summary. Midgame updates, beyond the obvious board moves, will be difficult, since the diplomatic maneuverings are necessarily classified until the game is over.

        Postgame will be easier to give a complete picture, especially if players of other powers are willing to share their correspondence with me.

  6. Said Achmiz says:

    I made this:

    The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

    (This is, of course, the FitzGerald translation.)

    P.S. Try hovering your mouse over, or clicking on, the quatrain numbers!

    • Rose T says:

      Excellent. The Rubaiyat always makes me think of the case of the Somerton Man.

    • That’s his first translation. The one usually quoted is the fifth and final version.

      When my daughter was very little, my usual way of trying to get her to sleep was to walk around carrying her and reciting the Rubaiyat. The first evidence we had that she understood language was her reaction to the first line of the poem, which was to put her head down on my shoulder. She knew that meant “go to sleep,” which didn’t mean that she actually did.

      The first line (fifth translation) is:

      Wake! For the sun, who scattered into flight

      • Said Achmiz says:

        As it happens, I own a beautiful old printed (hardcover!) copy of the fifth translation (the design of which is what inspired me to make this page). But, I confess, I prefer the first translation. I find the fifth to be clumsier, in places. (Perhaps it’s more accurate? But as I understand it, the degree to which any of FitzGerald’s translations can be said to match anything Khayyam actually wrote is questionable, so I have little reservation in judging the translations by their aesthetic value primarily…)

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Very nice. I was briefly disappointed that when I did the mouseover the moving finger didn’t write anything.

    • James says:

      Rather nice.

      I must read them one of these days.

  7. Thegnskald says:

    The Marxist criticism of communism:

    I’ll attempt to keep this short. Ish.

    First, the central Marxist criticism of capitalism is that capital takes precedence over the individual; in more modern terms, we can say instead that capitalism, as a process, sacrifices all human values in favor of consumption. There’s some nuance to this, in that consumption is necessary to or enabling of many human values, but we’ll set this nuance aside for the moment since that isn’t the focus here.

    The central Marxist criticism of communism, therefore, must be that “community”, or more accurately the state, takes precedence over the individual. To an extent and a degree that I think, by comparison, makes capitalism look quite tame.

    In the nuts and bolts, Marxism criticizes capitalism because capital owners (the rentier class) gain value without putting in work; I think this was a somewhat more valid criticism in Marx’s era and region, in which the rentier class wasn’t far removed from the aristocracy, as early industrialization largely amounted to rich landowners installing factories that the peasants worked in, and it took time to push out this class of people. I’d say in the modern era the rentier class is much more complex, as it includes anybody who owns stocks, which at this point is most people – but given the advanced stage of capitalism we are in, it is hard if not impossible to point at anybody who doesn’t have to work, even if the work they do is abstract and unintuitive, or even counterintuitive, in its value. (Shorting stocks is a good example of useful work that is counterintuitive in its value)

    This is also a valid criticism of communism, but replacing capital owners with politicals. The people setting the plans and organizing the workers no more worked the factories than the factory owners in capitalism, and both enjoyed massively improved lifestyles and consumption compared to the working classes. Worse, in fact, since when a factory fails to be profitable in capitalism, it goes bankrupt; when it fails to produce enough in communism, the workers get punished, or a scapegoat is found and executed.

    There is a Marxist criticism of capitalism that it is exploitative because workers produce greater value than they receive in compensation. I disagree with this, at least in modern capitalism, but it is instructive to look at the criticisms of capitalism first.

    There should thus be a Marxist criticism of communism, in that it is exploitative because workers produce greater value than they receive in compensation – indeed, communism is if anything far, far worse in this regard than capitalism.

    Communism is a feudal society by another name. You have the nobility – the politicals – who backstab the shit out of each other and throw each other under the bus in order to achieve greater political power. You have the peasants – the workers – who do as little as possible because they don’t own anything they produce anyways, so they have no incentive to do any better a job than is required to avoid punishment, which is the only really incentive they have. And you have the military, keeping the peasants in line. It is also the state religion, with the secret police acting, effectively, as an inquisition.

    Marxism shouldn’t be apologizing for communism. Marxism is more appropriately furious with it.

    And at this point, it is pretty clear that any Marxist who takes their philosophy seriously should espouse some form of capitalism, until somebody can come up with something that is genuinely better. Because it is pretty clear that the natural default, once capitalism is overthrown, isn’t “utopia”, it’s “nobility”. Which is of course the natural course of things; in a violent revolution, the violent thugs have a natural advantage, and rise to the top. And stay there. Because it’s pretty goddamned hard to uproot the thugs, as evidenced by the excruciatingly slow pace of the advent of effective capitalism in the first place.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Your confusion comes from the different meanings of the word “communism”. Communism, to most people today, means something like the Soviet Union. But communism in Marxism means the end state of a five stage process that goes slavery, feudalism, capitalism, socialism and then communism. At the end of communism, there is no state, no capitalists, no money. Marx didn’t advocate for a strong, oligarchy to determine the activity of the country in the socialist stage. He wanted something closer to a pure democracy. Some people thought in order to break capitalism, stronger measures were needed, hence Marxism-Leninism and the Soviet Union. Whether someone thinks that Marxism-Leninism is a good intermediate step depends on the Marxist but I don’t think most of them do anymore.

      • Thegnskald says:

        My confusion, hm?

        No. I am not a linguistic prescriptivist; words mean what they are understood to mean.

        • fion says:

          The problem is that “communism as it is widely understood” is not a well-defined concept. For a precise discussion we need to use words precisely.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Precise?

            It is pretty clear what I am talking about. If it isn’t, a single question suffices to clear the matter up. Judging by Wrong Species’ response, there was no confusion about what I was talking about, just a presumption that I was using a word wrong.

            Precision isn’t an argument, it is a justification for why an argument should be had. I have zero interest in that argument, because it is based on the faulty presumption that there is a correct way for words to be used.

          • fion says:

            Out of interest, have you read Eliezer’s sequence on this subject?

            The word “communism” evokes thoughts of gulags, repression, bureaucracy, dishonest government propaganda, but those are connotations. What are its denotations? How does the man on the Clapham omnibus define communism? I think the answer is that he doesn’t. It is a word heavy on connotations and light on denotations, which makes it a powerful rhetorical trick. What is the membership test for your “communism”? I assume the Soviet Union passed the membership test, and probably also Mao’s China, but what about modern China? What about North Korea? Modern Vietnam?

            The way Marxists use the word communism has a precise definition. Perhaps you also have a precise definition. Perhaps you just mean “anything that calls itself communist”. Perhaps you mean “anything that Marxism-Leninism seeks to create”, or “anything that Marxism-Leninism actually creates”. Or perhaps you just want to make use of the connotations to make your point without getting held back by denotations.

        • Wrong Species says:

          My criticism was not that your word choice was wrong. It’s that by focusing on a different meaning of the word communism then what self-described communists mean, then you are attacking something that is either a straw man or a weak man. You’re criticizing something that only a small subset of communists advocate and even for them, it’s a means to an end, not a final end state.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I will say only that you are reading the wrong target audience into what I wrote.

          • Wrong Species says:

            So your target audience of criticism of communism is people who are already critical of communism? What do you hope to gain from that?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Not exactly.

            citizen seems to understand what I am gesturing towards; unfortunately, pointing directly at it renders the exercise moot, as it is a conclusion somebody has to reach on their own, and saying it outright makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to arrive at.

            Needless to say, if your response is “But that isn’t communism!”, this isn’t helpful for you. I don’t know how to direct somebody who thinks in that way, except to say that the trees are all part of an interconnected structure. Maybe consider how you feel about libertarians who insist that the 19th century wasn’t actually libertarian, and criticisms of outcomes from that era aren’t valid criticisms of libertarianism?

          • Wrong Species says:

            Don’t be a condescending prick. I know what you’re saying. I’m just telling you that since you don’t know the basics of what you’re arguing against, maybe you should learn before declaring that you figured out all by yourself the problems of some ideology. I’m not a communist. I’m not even really sympathetic to it. I just think people should argue against what others believe, not what they want to argue against.

          • Thegnskald says:

            You are defending an ideology from a person who believes in it, and accusing them of not knowing what they are talking about because they used jargon in its commonly understood public sense – making it clear from the context that they knew what they were doing, I might add.

            At a certain point, I have to ask you if you understand what “condescending” means, and if so, if you understand what “irony” means.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Do elaborate; what have I clearly demonstrated a lack of understanding of?

            Because if I am getting something wrong, I’d prefer if someone told me.

          • Wrong Species says:

            One thing that jumped out at me was you talking about the usefulness of shorting stock and the difference between sacrificing all values for consumption versus surplus value but other people addressed those.

            In your last paragraph, you say that Marxists should just support capitalism until we figure something else out. But that’s not how it works according to Marxism. Capitalism is supposed to inevitably collapse on itself based on its own internal contradictions. You can’t stop it. Maybe you can delay or speed it up but it’s going to happen.

            You also say that you disagree with the Marxist critique about the exploitation of workers but later identify as a Marxist, which is mind-boggling.

            Think of it like a Progressive saying that they support the reintroduction of Jim Crow laws. Why would they support both? They point out that Woodrow Wilson is considered a Progressive and he supported segregation. So if someone started arguing against Progressivism because they think that segregation isn’t wrong, wouldn’t you agree that those are really weird things to conflate? Would you get the sense that they knew what Progressives stood for? I get that contemporary people associate communism with the Soviet Union and maybe you wanted to use that terminology. That would be one thing if you mentioned it in your original post but you didn’t, so it just seems like you didn’t even know there was a difference between vernacular “communism” and Marxist communism until I mentioned it. The strangeness is compounded by being a self-declared Marxist. It’s Marxism 101. Maybe you do have a good understanding of Marxism but it doesn’t come across that way. I don’t know a lot about Marxism but this all stood out to me. I imagine it’s much more noticeable to a Marxist.

          • fion says:

            I’d like to add that calling yourself a Marxist doesn’t prove that you understand it.

            I believe in evolution. That doesn’t mean that “you don’t understand this particular aspect of evolution” isn’t a valid criticism to a post I make about evolution.

          • Thegnskald says:

            One thing that jumped out at me was you talking about the usefulness of shorting stock and the difference between sacrificing all values for consumption versus surplus value but other people addressed those.

            You mean in the section where I explicitly called out that I was deviating from the original framing to put it in terms that would be more comprehensible to a modern audience?

            In your last paragraph, you say that Marxists should just support capitalism until we figure something else out. But that’s not how it works according to Marxism. Capitalism is supposed to inevitably collapse on itself based on its own internal contradictions. You can’t stop it. Maybe you can delay or speed it up but it’s going to happen.

            Can’t get into this in much detail, but: Yes.

            You also say that you disagree with the Marxist critique about the exploitation of workers but later identify as a Marxist, which is mind-boggling.

            I have also spent some time here discussing my view of capitalism as a value-consuming optimization engine. This is the central criticism Marx makes of capitalism; exploiting the workers sells well, but it is, by the same logic (as Marx pointed out), exploitative of the capitalists as well.

            I get that contemporary people associate communism with the Soviet Union and maybe you wanted to use that terminology. That would be one thing if you mentioned it in your original post but you didn’t, so it just seems like you didn’t even know there was a difference between vernacular “communism” and Marxist communism until I mentioned it. The strangeness is compounded by being a self-declared Marxist. It’s Marxism 101. Maybe you do have a good understanding of Marxism but it doesn’t come across that way. I don’t know a lot about Marxism but this all stood out to me. I imagine it’s much more noticeable to a Marxist.

            Communism as Marx defined it was the end goal; in Marxist terms, the Society Union was socialist. Communism is the Marxist Utopia, and bears many similarities to the ancap Utopia.

            (I should write something up on that sometime)

            The Soviet Union calling itself communist was propaganda, but it shaped the way the word is used.

            The core of it, however, is this: Marxist Communism is stateless. That is a keystone to the whole idea.

            So insomuch as you describe communism as a political system, you aren’t describing Marxist Communism.

            It is very clear what I am talking about. The baffling thing is that you think Marxists are too stupid to know what I am talking about, and leap to defend them from something that isn’t an attack on them; that is the core of the “Marxists should be furious” thing, because a LOT of Marxists fall into the logical trap of defending the undefendable.

    • Björn says:

      You should note that the Marxist theory how value is created is not correct. Marx thought that the value of a thing is determined by how much work was invested by the people who built it. There are many examples where this is not the case, like when you take things that are valuable because they are rare, or when you compare people who do the same work faster than other people. Also, the value of organizing and planning labour is not recognized, even though this is what companies are about (and they are extremely successful with it).

      This theory of value leads to many theoretical problems that Marxism has, like that factory owners are seen as evil men who steal the workers’ value or that it hates free markets and wants to decide any economical question by the bureaucracy. Of course, there is also the classical question “What is capitalism?”. Does it mean that the rich are getting richer or does it mean that prices are determined by the market?

      In your text, you are moving away from the Marxist theory of value by saying that shorting stocks can create value. This is certainly reasonable, but I wouldn’t call it Marxism any more.

      And I would say that communism is exactly the system that fits Marxism. That’s what you get when you overthrow the economy because of a distorted image of it, and if you are extremely naive about how a state should work. It’s correct to say that communism was very bad and should be avoided, but then you should ditch the things that say “Insert communism here!”

      There are so many reasonable things politics can do to help poor people. But you can only implement them so they work if you have at least a semicorrect model of the economy. Marxism still has so many followers because it is so easy to understand. But simple models aren’t always correct.

      • One fundamental problem with Marx’s labor theory of value is that if you take it literally, it implies that industries with a low ratio of capital to labor are more profitable than industries with a high ratio of capital to labor, which is inconsistent with equilibrium on the capital market. Marx recognized the problem and constructed an elaborate argument which came down to claiming that goods did not exchange at their value.

        Ricardo, who seems to have been a major influence on Marx, had a much simpler solution. He assumed that all goods were produced with the same labor/capital ratio. He then calculated by how much the fact that they were not would distort relative prices, given what he thought the actual range of ratios was, concluded that it was a small effect (hence Stigler’s article “Ricardo and the 93% Labor Theory of Value”), and proceeded to use the simplifying assumption to make it possible to invent general equilibrium theory with no math beyond arithmetic.

        One implication is that Ricardo’s “labor theory of value” could equally well be described as a capital theory of value, since in his model the ratio of the two is fixed.

        • First, the central Marxist criticism of capitalism is that capital takes precedence over the individual; in more modern terms, we can say instead that capitalism, as a process, sacrifices all human values in favor of consumption.

          This is not how Marx saw it. For Marx, capitalism as a process sacrifices all human values in favor of the endless creation of surplus-value. If only capitalism was primarily about obtaining more consumption goods, then capitalists could rest easy one day. But they cannot. Even they are not in control. They are forced by competition to plow the majority of their profit back into production as capital (either real or fictitious), lest they be out-accumulated by their rivals, put out of business, and thrown back into the ranks of the proletariat.

          The central Marxist criticism of communism, therefore, must be that “community”, or more accurately the state, takes precedence over the individual. To an extent and a degree that I think, by comparison, makes capitalism look quite tame.

          This would be the central Marxist critique of “really-existing-socialism,” yes. The state bureaucracy ends up controlling the worker rather than the worker controlling the state bureaucracy. This is indeed a problem, and one foreseen especially by anarchists, Marx, Trotsky, and others.

          Marx:

          “For it [capitalism] to become an “intolerable” power, i.e. a power against which men make a revolution, it must necessarily have rendered the great mass of humanity “propertyless,” and produced, at the same time, the contradiction of an existing world of wealth and culture, both of which conditions presuppose a great increase in productive power, a high degree of its development. And, on the other hand, this development of productive forces…is an absolutely necessary practical premise because, without it, want [deprivation] is merely made general [equalized], and with destitution the struggle for necessities and all the old filthy business [exploitation and the State] would necessarily be reproduced…”

          You can interpret this as evidence in support of the Menshevik idea that we need superabundance, and thus a much longer period of capitalist development, before we should even think about something else.

          “The ending of the existing social order…can be accomplished only by concentrating all the means of social existence in the hands of our committee, and the proclamation of compulsory physical labor for everyone…All those who remain isolated and unattached to workers’ groups without sufficient reason will have no right of access either to the communal eating places or to the communal dormitories…in a word, he who without sufficient reason has not joined an artel [workers’ committee], will be left without means of subsistence. All the roads, all the means of communication will be closed to him; he will have no other alternative but work or death.”
          —Sergei Nechayev, Fundamentals of the Future Social System (1870). Printed in the second issue of the Russian populist magazine ‘Народная расправа’ (“People’s Reprisal”) in 1870 in St. Petersburg. Quoted in Hal Draper’s book Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Vol. 4 (New York: NYU Press, 1990).

          And Marx’s response:

          “What a beautiful model of barracks communism! [Sarcasm]. Here you have it all: communal eating, communal sleeping, assessors and offices regulating education, production, consumption, in a word, all social activity, and to crown all, Our Committee, anonymous and unknown to anyone, as the supreme dictator. This indeed is the purest anti-authoritarianism…”
          —Karl Marx’s sarcastic criticism of Nechayev’s proposal [above], from a pamphlet entitled The Alliance of Socialist Democracy and the International Workingmen’s Association (1873).

          Nevertheless, this describes many of the defects of the Soviet Union.

          “The basis of bureaucratic rule is the poverty of society in objects of consumption, with the resulting struggle of each against all. When there are enough goods in a store, the public can come whenever they want to. When there are few goods, the public are compelled to stand in line. When the lines are very long, it is necessary to appoint a policeman to keep order. Such is the starting point of the power of the Soviet bureaucracy. It “knows” who is to get something and who has to wait…it [the Soviet bureaucracy] of course draws off the cream for its own use. Nobody who has wealth to distribute ever omits helping himself first…

          The construction of a network of automobile roads and asphalt highways in the measureless spaces of the Soviet Union will require much more time and material than to transplant automobile factories from America, or even to acquire their technique. How many years are needed in order to make it possible for every Soviet citizen to use an automobile in any direction he chooses, refilling his gas tank without difficulty en route? In barbarian society the rider and the pedestrian constituted two classes. The automobile differentiates society no less than the saddle horse. So long as even a modest “Ford” remains the privilege of a minority, there survive all the relations and customs proper to a bourgeois society. And together with them there remains the guardian of inequality, the state.
          —Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed (1936), Chapter 3 & 5. Available here: https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/revbet/ch05.htm

          So, if all of these Marxists were aware of the possibilities of these defects, or of their actual existence, then why didn’t they become anti-communist revolutionaries? (Well, Stalinists would argue that Trotsky did…) Mostly, it was because they thought these defects would be corrected: by being conscious of the mistakes of past bourgeois revolutions like the French Revolution (didn’t help. The Soviet Union faced many of the same problems and fell into many of the same defects.), by development of the productive forces, by superabundance, and by being helped towards superabundance by being rescued and aided by world revolution in the advanced capitalist countries (as if they had already approached superabundance themselves!)

          One could make a principled case as a Marxist for a Menshevik position—that we are nowhere near superabundance yet and must put up with quite a lot longer period of time under capitalism. You can probably understand why such a position is less popular among Marxists—less romantic (we are only human, as much as we prize ourselves on our steely, objective rationality), more depressing…and in some cases, those Marxists who are out for a convenient excuse to take power for themselves don’t get an easy, ready-made excuse that they can use within their own lifetime with the Menshevik position.

          I am always skeptical of Marxist publications that breathlessly hint that “revolution is just around the corner! The internal contradictions of capitalism are jittering towards max! She can’t hold much longer, captain!” Oh please…

          Re: David Friedman, you are conflating profit with surplus value.

          Sectors with a lower ratio of capital to labor will produce more surplus-value, but will tend to obtain the same average rate of profit (due to capital mobility ensuring profit arbitrage; if market prices started out proportional to “direct prices” (the prices that would exist if prices were strictly proportional to labor-values), the less capital-intensive sectors would initially obtain a higher rate of profit, yes. But then capital would move out of other sectors and into those ones, driving up the supply and driving down the market prices until those sectors would then make the average rate of profit once again.

          One way of thinking about this is that less-capital-intensive sectors will inevitably face more numerous and more fierce competition and glut, so as to drive the market prices of their commodities down from the direct prices to the production prices (prices that obtain an average rate of profit based on the socially-necessary cost-prices).

          So yes, market prices do deviate from values, but in a systematic fashion. Value theory is still needed to understand the center-of-gravity from which market prices systematically deviate, and to understand that changes in the socially-necessary labor-time of commodities is the major source of change in the center-of-gravity from which market prices deviate.

          And all of that said, within a particular sector it is still the firms that use less individual, concrete labor (which is usually achieved by more capital-intensive technique) that obtain the higher profit rate because each hour of their workers’ individual, concrete labor counts for more socially-necessary labor.

          I recommend Howard Nicholas’s book “Marx’s Theory of Price” for a more in-depth explanation of how prices are dependent on, but not synonymous or strictly proportional to, values.

          • So yes, market prices do deviate from values, but in a systematic fashion. Value theory is still needed to understand the center-of-gravity from which market prices systematically deviate, and to understand that changes in the socially-necessary labor-time of commodities is the major source of change in the center-of-gravity from which market prices deviate.

            And this model of market prices is superior how to the standard neoclassical model in which labor inputs and capital inputs are treated symmetrically, with price equal to marginal cost and cost including the cost of all inputs?

            Ricardo didn’t have the tools to work out that model but he saw the problem and made it explicit that what he was analyzing was a model deliberately simplified for analytic tractability, not because the simplified version was in some fundamental way true.

        • Thegnskald says:

          citizen –

          Surplus value is consumed, either by the consumption god Capital to produce more consumption, or by the consumers themselves.

          As we can see with the case of overproduction – a definite case of surplus value – surplus value is not in itself useful, and can be quite detrimental to the institution producing it. It is consumption which gives surplus value its relevance.

          Consumption is the thing. It is in a certain sense equivalent, but in another, I find it a more useful lens to see through, because it highlights why society has evolved in the way that it has.

          (It is also a more useful framework within which to argue, because “surplus value” as an emphasis is hard to point out the flaw in, whereas we can easily look around and see what consumer culture looks like)

      • fion says:

        You should note that the Marxist theory how value is created is not correct.

        This is debated. One shouldn’t “note” it but “consider” it.

        things that are valuable because they are rare

        This is related to the difference between value and price. Restricted supply raises the price of a commodity; not its value.

        when you compare people who do the same work faster than other people

        I believe the labour theory of value says that the value is determined by the “necessary labour” or something along those lines. That is, you can’t make something more valuable by working on it more slowly. The machine that produces a hundred a day sets the value.

        the value of organizing and planning labour is not recognized

        I think it is. At least by modern Marxists.

        “What is capitalism?”. Does it mean that the rich are getting richer or does it mean that prices are determined by the market?

        Neither. It means there is a class which controls the means of production and another class that does not.

        Marxism still has so many followers because it is so easy to understand

        Marxism is not easy to understand (and I don’t get the impression it has very many followers but that’s neither here nor there). I think a caricature of it may be easy to understand (and easy to criticise) but to adequately criticise Marxism you need to adequately understand it.

        By the way, I do think there are valid criticisms of Marxism. They’re just not these.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I am a Marxist, of sorts.

        So I would disagree with pretty much everything you wrote, some of which seems based on the loudest Marxists. (Certainly I despise the loud Marxists.)

        Because the important takeaway from Marxism isn’t the solutions it advocates, but the criticisms it raises. There is a validity in pointing out the class struggle; rentier classes are a very real problem. But if your proposed solution has been tried before, and made the problem worse – maybe it isn’t a solution. (Crony capitalism tends to result in the worse rent problems)

        I went libertarian for a while before I decided it suffered the same problem as Marxism: Correctly diagnoses issues, doesn’t propose effective solutions. Back when I was libertarian, I believed that a complete description of a problem necessarily described the solution.

        Now I am mostly just of the opinion that shit is complicated, too complicated for any one human to deal with. So some sort of decentralized, distributed solution is necessary.

        Capitalism fits that bill. It just carries it’s own set of problems with it, among them that profit, as an incentive system, strongly incentivizes corrupting centralized institutions (crony capitalism), and that a truly effective firewall (what capitalism proposes with a separation of state and economy) isn’t actually possible, since capitalism is fundamentally underpinned by an effective government determining what is and is not property.

        • albatross11 says:

          The belief that a lot of social systems and situations are too complicated for humans to fully understand or deal with seems to me to support a kind of basic conservatism–not the ideology marketed under that brand name in the US, but rather the belief that we should try small iterative changes to society and see how they work out, rather than making huge changes or redesigning fundamental bits of the society because we believe we can understand how those changes will work out before we make them.

          You could see a lot of the way drug policy in the US is going as kind-of incrementalist in this sense–we seem to be creeping toward marijuana being legal everywhere, but doing it pretty slowly, state by state, moving from medical marijuana to decriminalization of small personal-use quantities to outright legalization. This may be a good or bad change (I suspect it’s a very positive change), but it’s happening gradually enough that if there’s some reason it’s going to blow up in our faces, we’ll probably have enough warning of that to try to either stop or mitigate the worst of the bad stuff.

          An issue where things went the other way was gay marriage–we were in a period of fairly incremental progress on the issue, but then we had a supreme court case decide it nationwide all at once. Again, I suspect this is a positive change, but if there’s some reason it’s going to blow up in our faces that I don’t see, we aren’t doing an incremental approach to it, so maybe we won’t see it in time.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The issue with incrementalism is that not all increments are reversible. Indeed, it seems that few, if any, are. Loss aversion means whoever benefits is generally going to fight much harder against a change than whoever suffers, because loss aversion and distributed cost.

        • If Marx was right (big if), then capitalism will not stay relatively decentralized forever. “One capitalist kills many.” If Marx was right, then one day we will wake up and find that one megacorp in one sector is consciously planning out production along an entire supply chain with another megacorp in another sector, and issuing no-bid contracts in which the rates of profit had to be consciously calculated and agreed to rather than discovered by the anarchy of the market…and managers will find that they are actually doing all the work of organizing production while the capitalists-proper are just clipping bond coupons and collecting dividends from an index of the few megacorps left to invest in (hence, no role for estimating what sorts of production society needs and investing differentially in that) and performing no necessary social function…and meanwhile the entire political system will have been captured by this tiny elite, and even the former small-capitalists who have been thrown into the proletariat as either skilled managers or laborers will start abandoning capitalism, and they will bring their education and skills and general enlightenment with them into the proletariat.

          Of course, if all of these problems can be reformed, and the monopolies dispersed, and the “paradise lost” of individual producers making a living through their own “hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property” restored, then maybe we can start the process all over again and keep capitalism.

          But if not…if attempt after attempt at reform fails…it will just start to seem obvious that, if we are going to have planning anyways, that society as a whole should be in charge of it.

          As long as new industries and small businesses and active entrepreneurs remain important to capitalism, Marx’s prediction remains unfulfilled. In a way, Marxists should not be rooting for the “Too Big to Fail” banks and other companies to be broken up, but instead for them to be centralized even further, so as to swell the ranks of the proletariat.

          Also, middle and upper-managers in the United States are nowadays, though initially proletarians, paid enough that they are often able to become small capitalists in their own right (something Marx did not predict!) Lenin, in trying to find a band-aid to account for this unforeseen anomaly that departed from Marx’s theory, argued that this is only possible with imperialism, and if U.S. imperialism should fall and U.S. foreign investments become confiscated by nationalist or socialist governments abroad, the capitalist class will no longer be able to bribe a large “labor aristocracy” with such generous benefits and perks of becoming petty-capitalists. We shall see….

          • Thegnskald says:

            From a certain perspective, if the proletariat own shares in capital, the major problem is solved.

            From another, capital still rules us, and we are all subject to it.

            Personally I don’t expect to see the One Corporation To Rule Them All; corporations have discovered that the organizational structure that does X optimally is different from the organizational structure to do Y optimally; hence spin-offs. More, X1 and X2 might be better served with different approaches, as well; hence the firewall between Disney and its subsidiary companies.

            Pepsi and Coke are both better off by being distinct, is the short of the second point.

            More, large companies benefit from small competitors, counterintuitively; from massive IT companies buying competitors to get access to technologies or people they couldn’t produce or hire directly, to Wal-Mart discovering it could charge slightly more for certain goods if they could be labeled “organic”.

            Specialization carries its own surplus value, is the short of that, and corporations are starting to figure out how to extract it.

            What they do instead is buy shares. Capital buying capital. That is the dangerous dystopia that looks more likely now; not a single megacorporation, but a system in which individual shareholders, while ultimately owning everything, have no power; all voting interests are controlled by capital itself.

            So the shareholders of company X have no power because company Y owns a controlling interest, and X owns a controlling interest in Y, only spread out infinitely thinly.

          • @citizencokoane

            “One capitalist kills many.”

            Up to a point, due to economies of scale (long run average costs that decrease with increases in firm size), but only up to a point, due to diseconomies of scale (long run average costs that increase with increases in firm size). The graph curves back.

        • Because the important takeaway from Marxism isn’t the solutions it advocates, but the criticisms it raises.

          That is close to the point I was making earlier when I objected to the claim that the fact that effects of Marxism had been bad showed it was wrong. Marxism is an intellectual theory. It is at least possible that a theory might be entirely true and yet its knowledge have bad effects–for instance the theory of how to build atomic bombs. It is not only possible but reasonably likely that a theory might be in large part true and yet have mistakes in it that led either to bad consequences or incorrect conclusions. I think that describes Malthus’ population theory. It was a lovely bit of economics–and its central prediction was inconsistent with what happened for the next two centuries.

          Marxism, to me, is an economic theory, and I cannot see that it was in any way superior to either what preceded it (Ricardo) or what followed it (Marshall). But it’s also a lot of other things, many of which I don’t know enough to evaluate. When I read Volume I of Kapital it reminded me of Stapledon’s Last and First Men, a vast panorama of history, persuasive as literature whether or not true.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Capitalists have been cribbing Marx’s notes for quite a while now.

            I’m not particularly impressed with the intellectual descendants of Marx who call themselves Marxist, but rent-seeking, to take an example from another thread of conversation, is a Marxist idea placed in a capitalist context.

            At a certain point, when a substantial portion of his ideas are now part of functional capitalism, whether or not his work was superior to his antecedents is irrelevant; he accurately described specific problems in capitalism, which market theory now encapsulates as a matter of course. Modern economic theory -is- Marxist. It is also Ricardo…an?

            My point being, there isn’t a “good” and “bad” axis on economic theory; there is only useful and useless.

            How would you rate the usefulness of the concept of rent, and hence rent-seeking? Certainly it crops up a lot in free market advocates arguing against market regulations.

          • How would you rate the usefulness of the concept of rent, and hence rent-seeking?

            “Rent” refers to several related idea. The Ricardian theory of rent, actually invented by Malthus and someone else whose name I have forgotten, is important, correct, and the seed from which marginal theory develops. It, of course, predates Marx. And is not about rent-seeking.

            The idea of rent seeking originates in the modern literature with an article by Gordon Tullock: “The Welfare Cost of Tariffs, Monopoly and Theft.”

            Is the contents of that article in Marx? If so, where?

          • Thegnskald says:

            The Ricardian version of rent was not the modern economic concept of rent – it was literally the rent from land, extrapolated out onto industrial capital.

            The Marxist version of rent expanded that to include other forms of what we now call rent; he tended to focus on interest payments as a form of rent, but in general any kind of payment without work.

            He stopped just short of calling welfare rent, but did draw many parallels between the lumpenproletariat and the rentier classes.

        • since capitalism is fundamentally underpinned by an effective government determining what is and is not property.

          From which it follows that there is no property in stateless societies. Which turns out to be false. Government provides one possible mechanism for enforcing rights, to property and other things, but not the only and not the most fundamental.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Capitalism, not property, is dependent on government in that sense.

            Animals can be territorial, but such a property system doesn’t actually incentivize tigers to build factories (if they could), since another, bigger tiger could just take it away from them; it might incentivize the biggest and strongest to build a factory, to demonstrate their ability to defend it and thus their reproductive fitness, but it isn’t actually the basis of an economy.

            Whether or not we can construct something that works better than government is theory; government is what we know works.

          • I wasn’t talking about territorial behavior in animals, interesting though that is, but about stateless societies with property rights. Saga period Iceland was semi-stateless–no executive arm of government, so enforcement depended on private acts, although there was a law code and a court system that affected what private acts were viewed by others as legitimate. It had private transferable ownership of both land and commodities. The traditional Somali legal system had some but limited transferable ownership of land, transferable ownership of goods, no government.

        • cassander says:

          Because the important takeaway from Marxism isn’t the solutions it advocates, but the criticisms it raises.

          I think this is a false distinction, one that Marxc himself would vehemently reject. MArx’s solutions, in theory, derive directly from his analysis of the problems, and they can’t be neatly separated like that.

          There is a validity in pointing out the class struggle; rentier classes are a very real problem.

          there is a massive economics literature that deals with the problem of rent seekers far better than anything in marx.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Marx proposed dozens of solutions. We’ve implemented some of them, in point of fact, such as progressive income taxation.

            And rent in that sense is a concept developed by Marx; it shouldn’t surprise us if more thought has gone into it since then, and if that thought is more in-depth. That is how progress works. But we don’t say Darwin gives an inferior treatment of evolution than modern literature, because, even while true, it is a severe mistreatment of the path dependencies involved.

          • cassander says:

            Marx proposed dozens of solutions. We’ve implemented some of them, in point of fact, such as progressive income taxation.

            Marx also spent most of his life condemning the idea of non-revolutionary socialism

            And rent in that sense is a concept developed by Marx; it shouldn’t surprise us if more thought has gone into it since then.

            Adam smith talks about rents, marx definitely didn’t develop the concept.

          • Rent is an ancient institution, long predating Smith. The economic analysis of it was worked out in the generation after Smith and used by Ricardo.

            But I assume that Thegnskald is talking not about rent on land but about rent-seeking, which has nothing in particular to do with land. I don’t know what ideas of Marx he associates with that.

            The graduated income tax was introduced in England by William Pitt the Younger twenty years before Karl Marx was born (thank you Wikipedia). So I don’t think he can get credit for the idea.

          • cassander says:

            @davidfriedman

            I meant rents as economic rent, not renting out property. And while smith didn’t use the term rent seeking, he very clearly described rentiers what we would now call rent seeking behavior.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Cassander –

            Do you happen to know where he described the phenomenon?

            (Not doubting you, I just didn’t come across it, or else didn’t notice it, back in my libertarian days.)

          • Thegnskald says:

            DavidFriedman –

            Proposed versus invented – most of his proposals weren’t his ideas.

            As elucidated elsewhere, Marx’s innovation to the concept of rent was to extend it beyond land; Ricardo had previously defined it as the difference between the productivity of the land itself, and what was produced on the land. Marx took that a step further by eliminating the connection to land, and focusing on ownership instead (of companies, for example). Ricardian rent was still, basically, payment to a land-owner for use of the land. Marxist rent could be applied to any kind of ownership, which is why the concept moved naturally into intellectual property as that became relevant. (Das Kapital focuses on ground rent; Theories of Surplus Value go on to describe interest as a form of rent as well)

            Later economists abstracted it a step further, treating membership in a guild, for example, as a form of ownership of the means of production; the Ricardian connection to difference between natural productivity and (income, in this case) makes the development path clearer for Ricardian rent than Marxist, but the abstraction to ownership, rather than ownership of land, is a required step in that logical progression.

      • yossarian says:

        Well, I am not exactly a Marxist, but let me try to refute your theory at least at a point or two:
        1) Things that are valuable because they are rare – things are rare not because they are actually RARE, but because, exactly, an amount of labour that is required to produce them. Like, for example, if Johnny is my employee and I want a kilogram of dirt – he can just take a shovel and take a couple of digs in his backyard. That’s it. If I want a kilogram of diamonds (and not just some diamonds, I want them to be at least a couple of karats each) – well… then Johnny would have to dig around the world and find a place where there are diamonds, then dig and dig and dig (for years)… and only then he would be able to bring me that little bucket of diamonds. Or, if there are no more naturally-occuring diamonds, then Johnny would have to study lots of chemistry and physics and then invent me a process to make artificial diamonds. Still, a lot of investment. So yeah, “rare” just means “needs more labour to get”. In fact, there can be almost no “rare good” that is not produced by applying a right amount of labour to it.
        2) Planning and organizing the labour is recognized by modern marxists and even (gasp!) anarchists.
        3) Stock market in its modern interpretation can’t create value. Marxism would only see it as a sort of a swindle. And please, if you tell me that predicting the performance of certain companies is not a swindle – modern stock market that ain’t. It’s way too manipulated by other factors.
        4) And many of the rich people (factory owners partially included) are, indeed, evil or stupid. That kind of crap does happen.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Some rare things represent a lot of labor, but props from major movies can be expensive, and that’s more about fascination/prestige, I think.

          • yossarian says:

            The fascination/privilege do represent a lot of labour, too. Like, for example, let’s say a Picasso painting. If we had an algorithm that would produce a 100% natural Picasso paintings, then Picasso paintings wouldn’t be rare. It takes a thousand of painters to draw their paintings, then someone rich or influential to notice that Picasso’s are better than the others (well, sometimes it’s just the media, sometimes it’s the popular choice, sometimes it’s pure random (when I look at some of the modern art, I think it might be that in more cases than not), sometimes it’s the talent, but you can’t determine whether a painter has a talent until he actually paints quite a few pics). So yeah, Malevitch’s Black Square might not have taken some large amounts of labour directly – but it has taken an insane amount of other people’s labour and luck – and the meaning of luck is that 10000 people invest a 10000 units of labour each, and only one of them actually happens to reap the benefits – for his particular painting to be “rare”.

      • Marx did not propose an “embodied labor theory of value.” The amount of individual, concrete labor that went into making a commodity is irrelevant. What matters is the amount of abstract, socially-necessary labor that went into making the commodity.

        And how does society measure the extent to which an individual’s concrete labor counts as socially-necessary labor? Through market exchange. Each apple that lands on a supermarket shelf might have a different amount of individual, concrete labor that went into it, but all of these apples will only have one common market price.

        For those apple producers who were able to sell their apples at the market price for at least an average rate of profit—meaning their cost-prices and thus individual direct and indirect labor invested were no more than was socially-necessary to produce those apples—every hour of their individual, concrete labor counted as abstract, socially-necessary labor (and possibly then some, if they obtained an above-average rate of profit). Whereas for those apple producers who could not obtain an average rate of profit on their apples when selling them at the market price—meaning their cost-prices and thus individual, concrete direct and indirect labor invested were more than was socially-necessary to produce those apples—their failure to make an average rate of profit is a sign that some of their individual, concrete labor was not socially-necessary labor. Some of it was unnecessary labor, either because their individual laborers were less productive than average (whether because of laziness or lack of access to state-of-the-art equipment, the market doesn’t really care; this is only relevant to that individual capitalist), or because society does not want such a large supply of apples at their production price, such that the market price has fallen below the production price for apples and likely caused most capitalists in the apple industry to obtain below-average profits—meaning that some of the labor of their firms was socially-unnecessary.

        It should also be stressed that Marx’s theory of value only applies to commodities—goods or services produced for exchange that can be reproduced. It would not apply to unique works of art, naturally-endowed fish that fall out of the sky, or other unusual examples that mainstream economists like to trot out as refutations of Marx’s theory of value in domains that Marx never intended his theory to apply. For Marx, this was not a big deal because he considered commodity production to be at the root of capitalism, and other economic forms were of minuscule importance.

    • fion says:

      I want to second Wrong Species’s criticism, but I also think you misunderstand (or more charitably, fail to accurately communicate) the Marxist criticism of capitalism. The problem with workers producing greater value than their wages is not “that it’s exploitative” – in fact this is a reasonable definition of exploitation and therefore carries no moral content – but that it leads to crises of overproduction due to the inability of the capitalist to sell the product.

      Marx’s analysis of capitalism is much more heavy on the “this system doesn’t work in the long term” than “this system is morally bad”. (The Communist Manifesto does contain some of the latter, but Capital is mostly the former.)

      • Thegnskald says:

        Marx understood the process of creative destruction, which is the process by which what you describe entirely fails to happen.

        Why he then concluded it would happen anyways is beyond me, but I follow the theory, not the man who invented it.

      • “Underconsumption” (workers producing more than they are paid and can monetarily demand) is one potential cause of crises (crises of disproportionality, where the economy has been temporarily geared to produce too many consumer goods and too few capital goods with respect to the monetary demand for each), but is not necessarily the only or main cause of crises.

        Marx pointed out that there is also the “productive consumption” of the capitalist class. The less that workers consume, the more that the market can be oriented towards producing Department I goods (means of production), and the more quickly investment can proceed. This is one of the tragic, albeit necessary historical tasks of capitalism—to restrict the consumption of the working class so that more production can be focused on building up Department I goods to improve the productivity of labor-power in the long-run.

        Whether more of the economy is geared towards Department II goods purchased by the wages of the workers (and by a small portion of the profits of capitalists for personal consumption), or more geared towards Department I goods purchased by the profits of capitalists for productive consumption, there should not in principle be any systematic deficiency in aggregate monetary demand to purchase all of the products that would result from workers being paid too little.

        That’s not to say that Marx believed in Say’s Law. Say’s Law is incorrect for a different reason: namely, the fact that it is possible and likely that there will periodically be a generalized overproduction of all commodities with respect to an underproduction of the money-commodity gold (especially with the credit system, which temporarily yet unsustainably provides the illusion of substituting for commodity-money, thus sending a false signal that less gold production is needed, which inevitably produces a crisis of too much credit leverage and/or a devaluation crisis where over-printed fiat paper money must be depreciated with respect to under-produced gold.

        For more information, I recommend the Critique of Crisis Theory blog.

      • The problem with workers producing greater value than their wages is not “that it’s exploitative” – in fact this is a reasonable definition of exploitation and therefore carries no moral content – but that it leads to crises of overproduction due to the inability of the capitalist to sell the product.

        I have never understood this argument. The firm produces a hundred dollars worth of output. The workers receive eighty dollars. The capitalist/stockholders receive twenty. The workers spend their money on consumption goods. The capitalist spends his either on consumption goods or on producing capital goods so as to produce more in the future. A hundred dollars spent.

        This could lead to an equilibrium of continuing growth, as it so far has in the developed world. It could lead to a static equilibrium, with some owners of capital spending it down while others accumulate. Neither of those implies a crisis of overproduction.

        Reading more of the thread after writing this, I note that CitizenCokane makes the same point. So is a crisis of overproduction due to exploitation a mistake made by Marx, a mistake made by Marxists who misunderstand Marx, or a mistake made by non-Marxists? Certainly it is an argument one sees.

        • Thegnskald says:

          It seems to be an earlier mistake of Marx’s, which he never formally repudiated.

          Or at least I never noticed him repudiating it, he just starts talking about the process that would later be referred to as creative destruction, which supplanted the crisis of overproduction as the revolutionary motivation which would tear capitalism down.

          He has something of a point – people really, really hate economic downturns, and continually try to regulate them out of existence in spite of their necessity in bringing production in line with demand.

          But it hasn’t brought about the revolution yet, and at this point I doubt it will; we’ll just get the continued incremental changes to law that “fix” whatever caused the last crisis (generally pushing resources into whatever causes the next, if the last forty years are any guide).

          ETA:

          It occurs to me we have a different understanding of what the crisis of overproduction is. It isn’t “We are producing more goods than we can sell”. It looks more like Douglas Adam’s shoe planet, in that more and more resources get dedicated to competing, rather than producing, until a point is reached where production efficiency is such that the marginal value of labor is near-zero. Technological unemployment, more or less, but more industrial in nature than our modern understanding of it.

          At that point, the system reaches a crisis; you can produce anything anybody could need, but there’s no basis of exchange; the workers/consumers have only labor to offer you, which you don’t need anymore, because an additional worker doesn’t add anything to your productive capacity.

          • I do think that Marx was inconsistent about “underconsumption” being a primary cause of crises. There’s a point somewhere in Marx’s writings where Marx explains that just because a capitalist can, with automation, produce 10 knives just as cheaply as 1 knife before, does not mean that society wants to, or is able to, purchase all 10 of his knives.

            And Stalin seemed to subscribe to the “underconsumptionist” school of thought:

            The basis, the cause, of economic crises of over-production lies in the capitalist system of economy itself. The basis of the crisis lies in the contradiction between the social character of production and the capitalist form of appropriation of the results of production. An expression of this fundamental contradiction of capitalism is the contradiction between the colossal growth of capitalism’s potentialities of production, calculated to yield the maximum of capitalist profit, and the relative reduction of the effective demand of the vast masses of the working people whose standard of living the capitalists always try to keep at the minimum level. To be successful in competition and to squeeze out the utmost profit, the capitalists are compelled to develop their technical equipment, to introduce rationalisation, to intensify the exploitation of the workers and to increase the production potentialities of their enterprises to the utmost limits. So as not to lag behind one another, all the capitalists are compelled, in one way or another, to take this path of furiously developing production potentialities. The home market and the foreign market, however, the purchasing power of the vast masses of workers’ and peasants who, in the last analysis, constitute the bulk of the purchasers, remain on a low level. Hence overproduction crises.

            –Stalin

            But I think the mature Marx would respond that this just indicates that the knife producer needs to re-allocate some of his capital to other sectors—possibly one of the Department I sectors if the personal consumption power of workers is lacking and that of capitalists is not forthcoming (because of miserliness or whatever). In principle, a higher rate of surplus value (lower relative wages) cannot possibly be a terminal problem for capitalism, even if it might generate temporary disproportionalities between Departments I and II—especially if there is a rapid increase in the rate of surplus value.

            It isn’t “We are producing more goods than we can sell”.

            Based on the work of the Critique of Crisis Theory blog, I do think that crises of overproduction are indeed simply crises of “we are producing more goods than we can sell.” In other words, they are a specific type of crisis of disproportionality—between too many non-money commodities being produced and not enough of the money-commodity (gold) being produced. And I’d argue, along with Sam Williams of Critique of Crisis Theory, that this is still the source of apparent crises of overproduction and financial crises, regardless of the apparent end of the Gold Standard. In other words, aggregate purchasing power still depends on the amount of gold produced on the world market. The real aggregate demand for commodities cannot simply be increased by more creation of paper money; nor can it sustainably be increased by the creation of more loans. (Loan creation can temporarily alleviate the symptoms of a gold shortage on the world market, but only at the price of making the crisis worse in the future).

            In other words, paper money is “neutral,” but gold is not neutral, and credit is not neutral (but not sustainable to create ever more of either, so no saving grace there), and gold still stands behind the world economy as the universal equivalent and determines aggregate purchasing power.

            I am of the opinion that, in principle, crises of overproduction need not be inherent to capitalism; that it is the reliance on credit and the self-delusion that credit is a perfect and sustainable substitute for real hard money which fools the market into producing less gold than it needs for aggregate purchasing power to sustainably keep pace with the growing aggregate value of non-money commodities.

            Without credit, gold production would rise smoothly, with minor adjustments, in great enough value to purchase the production of all other commodities; or, in other words, general gluts would be frequent (nearly continual without credit) but very very minor and self-correcting without too much heartache.

            That leaves the falling rate of profit as the remaining defect that I consider to be inherent to capitalism.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I think a major part of the issue with trying to understand Marx is he’d change his mind about something and not actually say he had done so. So it hard to figure out what his actual, final thoughts were.

            Like – is the revolution going to happen because the rentier class is eliminated as deadweight in the relentless optimization of capitalism, and humanity is finally united against capital? Or will it happen because people get fed up with economic crises and kill the capitalists for leading them into starvation? Or will it happen because capital will outpace itself, and the engine of capitalism will stall out when there is nothing more it can do (which will cause a specific econonic crisis which will result in the workers killing the capitalists for leading them all into starvation)?

            (At a certain point, it becomes clear he was searching for a reason for the revolution to happen, rather than neutrally predicting it from observation, which brings the idea of the revolution into doubt)

            I’m not sure I consider a falling rate of profit to be a defect; it is pretty much the thing that makes the whole process bearable, that, even if the strains of staying economically relevant aren’t equally distributed, there at least isn’t anybody who is actually immune to it.

            Personally I am inclined to say capitalism’s great defect is in it’s success at generating wealth – maybe this is equivalent in practice to “falling rate of profit”, Marx seemed to think so – which produces a complacency and an entitlement mentality to the whole process which the process, in the end, can’t actually live up to.

            It isn’t that the American Dream is unrealistic, exactly, but that it is defined by relative wealth rather than absolute. Capitalists complain about this all the time, that people are never satisfied with the fact that their situation has improved, because somebody else’s has improved more. Capitalism generates immense wealth – but ultimately, for every unit of wealth, it generates 1.1 unit of expectation of wealth. And the expectations don’t stop growing when the economy does.

            That, I think, is what will bring it tumbling down.

            I don’t particularly expect a Utopia to follow. Never did understand that mentality.

            But after the disaster of the revolution, I do suspect people will be a little more cautious about organizing society this way again.

          • AG says:

            Except that the overproduction case has occurred multiple times in agriculture, where a plentiful harvest coincides with plummeting prices and screws over the producers. I believe this contributed to the economic collapse in Japan in the 1930s?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Except that the overproduction case has occurred multiple times in agriculture, where a plentiful harvest coincides with plummeting prices and screws over the producers. I believe this contributed to the economic collapse in Japan in the 1930s?

            Marx isn’t referring to sporadic, weather dependent events, he is referring to the idea (to put it generously) that capitalists exploit a unit of labor and only gain in relation to the quantity of labor units they exploit. It therefore follows that capitalists will employ as many units of labor as they can so they can profit as much as possible, but because they only pay a fraction of the worker’s productivity out that the workers cannot afford all of this production. Therefore overproduction which causes prices to crash, and causes the value of capital to crash.

    • yodelyak says:

      I’d say in the modern era the rentier class is much more complex, as it includes anybody who owns stocks, which at this point is most people – but given the advanced stage of capitalism we are in, it is hard if not impossible to point at anybody who doesn’t have to work, even if the work they do is abstract and unintuitive, or even counterintuitive, in its value. (Shorting stocks is a good example of useful work that is counterintuitive in its value)

      I’m not really-engaged with Marx’s writing or any current self-identified marxists to really wade into what marxists ought/ought not think about communism or capitalism. But I think it’s trivially easy to point at someone who doesn’t have to work (Mitt Romney). It’s easy to point at someone whose work is of negative value (All of Vegas comes to mind as an example, but that might be controversial. Someone running a protection racket in an otherwise safe area might be a consensus example.)

      Also, it’s certainly incorrect to suppose that most people own stocks. In the world, the median average wealth of an adult human, is pretty close to zero, because so many people have precisely zero property. “The bottom half of the world adult population owned 1% of global wealth.” Link.

      I think in the U.S., mean average wealth is extremely high, but most people are either one flood-insurance-didn’t-cover-it-type setback from being paycheck to paycheck, or are already paycheck to paycheck–so median wealth is still basically zero. I don’t have a source for this, but I’m pretty confident most Americans do not own stocks.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Also, it’s certainly incorrect to suppose that most people own stocks. In the world, the median average wealth of an adult human, is pretty close to zero, because so many people have precisely zero property. “The bottom half of the world adult population owned 1% of global wealth.”

        This is net wealth, you can own stocks and still have zero or negative net wealth. Also a lot of people with current low net wealth are ‘poor’ because they are young and they will eventually own stock.

        The percentage of people who never own a single share in their life is probably moderately low (especially when you count people with pension plans that own stocks).

        • Iain says:

          To inject some numbers into this discussion: according to Gallup, 54% of Americans own stocks. (It appears that this number includes 401ks, but does not include pension plans.) Looking at adults between 30 and 64, 62% own stock; for older Americans, that number goes back down to 54%, although that’s the only age bracket where stock ownership increased between 2007 and 2017.

          Related:

          The top 10 percent of families as a group accounted for about 85 to 90 percent of stock shares, bonds, trusts, and business equity, and over three quarters of non-home real estate. Moreover, despite the fact that 46 percent of households owned stock shares either directly or indirectly through mutual funds, trusts, or various pension accounts, the richest 10 percent of households accounted for 81 percent of the total value of these stocks, though less than its 91 percent share of directly owned stocks and mutual funds.

          • Yes, the argument among some Maoists is that First-world workers have been bribed by the profits of imperialism and have become petty-capitalists who really have acquired an interest in maintaining a capitalist system; thus, they will not become revolutionary until anti-imperialism around the world deprives America of its overseas investments. And even then, America’s petty-bourgeois labor aristocracy might react in the short term with fascism in an attempt to reclaim their old position (perhaps through forcible reconquest of America’s foreign investments, or at least attempts to do so), rather than international proletarian solidarity…which might come eventually if America’s former labor aristocrats become demoralized with the cost that it will take, and the sacrifices that they will have to bear, to regain America’s lost position on the world market.

            As for who would qualify as a true “capitalist,” it would have to be someone who could live at least at a minimum wage-type level on capital income alone. So, about $20,000 a year, at maybe 5% per year…would mean, anyone with over a million dollars of accumulated wealth would be a full-blown capitalist who does not have to work for a living.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I think $10,000 would be sufficient. Maybe even $5, if you are resourceful enough.

            But that is quibbling over irrelevant details.

            I think that retirees probably qualify as well, even if they are effectively liquidating their capital as they go. After all, retirement in the US sense is made possible by interest and capital growth.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Most adults have a 401k with at least a little money in it. (80%, I think?). They own stock. It is weird and indirect, but they do own it.

        (They’re specifically who I was thinking of here; as the shorting comment indicates, people who own individual stocks are probably providing some kind of price signal at least. The 401k owners aren’t really doing anything.)

        Tax preference on 401k plans was a brilliant piece of capitalist construction – it means almost everybody has a vested, selfish interest in keeping the system as-is. (Apart from the lack of clear alternative, I mean)

        And, I suppose, was a great piece of capitalist propaganda – here in the US, everybody owns part of the factories!

  8. keranih says:

    This comment is to note that @yodelyak has here made an apt and classy apology/stepback-and-restart on the topic of charity in debate.

    My original reply to yodel was never posted, thank you sweetblackbuttoneyedlittleJesus, and the reply I got has encouraged me to not respond so much with vitrol in the future.

    The object level disagreement (climate change: existential threat to humanity or just TEOTWAWKI?) remains open, but (hopefully) where the facts and trends can be debated, and not who might be getting kickbacks from who.

    • Matt M says:

      Look at this guy, another paid shill parroting the talking points of Big Civilized Debate…

    • yodelyak says:

      Thanks keranih. A lot of commenters here have a way of gracefully responding to not-that-well-worded responses with either “All I will say is…” or just by moving on. I’m trying to pick up on which of my comments create good conversations and which don’t, but sometimes a direct “hey, you know you sound like a dick” is a pretty good tip.

      Also, I’d never seen TEOTWAWKI before… I think that’s going to enter my vocabulary right next to TANSTAAFL.

  9. Well... says:

    I want to riff off a question someone asked in the previous OT. I generalize and rephrase it:

    What is the smallest number of issues a candidate (for president, let’s say) could enthusiastically and prominently espouse your same view on, to where you would vote* for that candidate even if he or she espoused views that were strongly counter to yours on all other issues? Which issue(s) would the candidate have to agree with you on?

    *If you don’t vote, replace “vote for” above with “favor.”

    Here’s a non-exhaustive list of possible issue-name keywords to jog your memory, since recognition is generally easier than recall:

    – Abortion
    – Affirmative action
    – Arts
    – Guns
    – Foreign policy/interventionism/diplomacy
    – Immigration/borders
    – Drug laws
    – Surveillance
    – Climate/environment
    – Gay/trans issues
    – Feminism/gender issues
    – Euthanasia
    – Crime/policing
    – Economic policy
    – Education
    – AGI preparedness
    – Freedom of speech
    – Universal basic income
    – Welfare
    – Veterans
    – Healthcare

    • Matt M says:

      It’s probably not about “number of issues” but rather “severity of position” for me. Like, a candidate who promised to immediately reduce the federal budget by 50% would get my vote regardless of all else. A candidate who promised “I’ll introduce a budget that will result in the elimination of the deficit 20 years from now” eh…. not so much.

      • Well... says:

        The “number of issues” part of the question is just there to encourage you to try and whittle it down to as few issues as possible. That the candidate’s severity of position on that issue or issues matches your own is implied.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Even though I like to debate politics online I don’t actually have any expectation that politicians will agree with me on how to handle important issues. I’ll gladly vote for a trustworthy and competent candidate if I have the option, and only default to platforms when I need to pick the lesser of two evils. In my view that’s the whole point of having a ruler in the first place: they’re supposed to be able to make all of those decisions in the background so that the rest of us can get on with our lives.

      The 2016 election was a good example of that thought process in practice. I was disappointed when I heard that Bloomberg went back on his promise to run as a third party candidate, because even though we have very different ideals his mayorship showed that he’s an effective leader who advances the interests of his constituents. Trump’s platform was much more appealing but it was always a long shot whether he could, or even wanted to, implement it successfully.

      • cassander says:

        How do you define trustworthy and competent in a way that doesn’t involve “will vote/decide the way I want them to vote/decide?”

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I judge competence by the leader’s impact on basic quality of life factors like cleanliness, safety and economic growth. Leaving the place nicer than it was when he entered office.

          I judge trustworthiness by how closely I have to pay attention to a leader. Good government is something that you don’t even notice is there: problems are dealt with without a lot of fuss and good citizens can go about their business without being hassled.

          Going back to my example of Bloomberg, policy-wise he’s very anti gun rights and pushed idiotic nanny state policies like the soda tax. But overall he seemed to be keeping things on an even keel and the city consistently got nicer for his entire term of office. I would have liked him to have made some decisions differently but overall everything was smooth and orderly.

          • cassander says:

            I judge competence by the leader’s impact on basic quality of life factors like cleanliness, safety and economic growth. Leaving the place nicer than it was when he entered office

            That to me sounds an awful lot like votes the way I want him to vote.

            >I judge trustworthiness by how closely I have to pay attention to a leader. Good government is something that you don’t even notice is there: problems are dealt with without a lot of fuss and good citizens can go about their business without being hassled.

            almost all of what you speak of here has to do with broader cultural issues and has almost nothing to do with a single political actor. At best it’s “politician is no more scandalous than average” but even there, a lot of that has to do with factors outside his control.

          • I judge competence by the leader’s impact on basic quality of life factors like cleanliness, safety and economic growth. Leaving the place nicer than it was when he entered office.

            You might be able to observe what happens to those factors but that doesn’t tell you whether improvements were because of him or in spite of him. Trump would like to take credit for improved economic conditions over the past year but lots of people argue, for all I know correctly, that those are the delayed results of Obama’s policies.

            To observe what his impact was you need a theory about what policies produce what results and that’s a good deal of what people disagree over. You end up with “he did X, Y, and Z and economic growth was good, I believe that X, Y, and Z are things that promote economic growth, so his impact was positive.”

            That tells you that he was competent only on the assumption that your beliefs about what policies promote growth are correct, which gets you back to “does he agree with me.”

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Competence is particularly hard to judge, but it doesn’t necessarily have to do with “vote the way I want to.” I’d say it’s more handling diverse interest groups, knowing how to navigate political constraints, getting some big picture items right, and using sound reason.

            Rahm Emmanuel has been a competent Chicago mayor, IMO, even if I disagree with his stances on certain culture war issues. He’s trying hard to balance the budget and focusing on improvements in existing infrastructure rather than massive expansions that happen to look cool. That might not translate to the Presidency, but I’d have a great deal more faith that he’d manage the North Korean situation better than Donald Trump.

            I personally thought Dubya was more competent than Obama, and Slick Willie was probably more competent than both of them. I would say Kasich has demonstrated more confidence than Rubio or Cruz, though I thought Rubio or Cruz might be closer to me on some issues (particularly culture war issues).

          • Aapje says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            George W. Bush was chronically lazy, which is why Cheney was able to be ‘acting President’ for quite some time before Bush realized what was happening and put an end to it.

            It’s also why he managed to surprise people during the debates. People were used to Lazy Bush and when he ‘turned up,’ he was way better than normal.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            “I divide my officers into four classes as follows: The clever, the industrious, the lazy, and the stupid. Each officer always possesses two of these qualities.

            Those who are clever and industrious I appoint to the General Staff. Use can under certain circumstances be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy qualifies for the highest leadership posts. He has the requisite nerves and the mental clarity for difficult decisions. But whoever is stupid and industrious must be got rid of, for he is too dangerous.”

            More to the point, being somewhat lazy does not make you less competent than your successor, and I was not a big fan of Dubya’s successor (at least not his first term and his prior career, at any rate).

          • Aapje says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            He was too lazy for his level of clever, which was why Cheney took over.

            The clever and lazy general finds competent inferiors and trusts them, but also notices and intervenes if they don’t deserve the trust. Bush didn’t do that.

          • cassander says:

            @a definite beta guy

            but I’d have a great deal more faith that he’d manage the North Korean situation better than Donald Trump.

            Donald Trump has managed to get more public criticism of NK by China in the last year than any of his predecessors. Now, maybe it would have come anyway and trump is benefitting from circumstance, or succeeding in spite of himself, but this is not a particularly good example to pick, and seems to indicate that your definition of competence is not as independent of other factors as you seem to think that it is.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Donald Trump has managed to get more public criticism of NK by China in the last year than any of his predecessors. Now, maybe it would have come anyway and trump is benefitting from circumstance, or succeeding in spite of himself, but this is not a particularly good example to pick, and seems to indicate that your definition of competence is not as independent of other factors as you seem to think that it is.

            The administration is also signalling that it is prepared to launch a “limited strike” that has a huge chance of escalating out of control. If there was an opportunity for that in the Trump administration, it came and went in the first 6 months, because at this point forward you have to start seriously considering whether this escalates into American cities getting nuked.

          • Iain says:

            Donald Trump has managed to get more public criticism of NK by China in the last year than any of his predecessors.

            Source?

          • cassander says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The administration is also signalling that it is prepared to launch a “limited strike” that has a huge chance of escalating out of control.

            Yes, which is precisely WHY they’ve gotten china so much more helpful. The only people who can really change NK behavior without war are the chinese, as they are the only ones with any leverage. The trouble is that if the US tries to pressure china directly, they’ll dig in their heels out of a desire to avoid looking like they’re caving to US pressure. So the way you get them to chance is to convince them that if they don’t act vis-a-vis North Korea the US will, but if china does act, then the US will quietly support them.

            Now, you can rationally argue with this strategy, but it’s far from crazy, certainly not outside the norm for US diplomacy and seems to be working. Again, I must go to you defining competence as voting the way you want combined with personal evaluation of less objective traits.

          • John Schilling says:

            Donald Trump has managed to get more public criticism of NK by China in the last year than any of his predecessors.

            Yes, and Xi Jinping’s angry speeches have had about as much effect as Hans Blix’s angry letters. China is not going to fix this for us.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Cassander,

            That’s a just-so story. You can argue for tightening sanctions without signalling a military strike is imminent. The US has slowly been escalating sanctions on NK for years, and ramped up a lot of sanctions on Iran without signalling immediate military conflict. And saying “all options are on the table” is not the same as leaking to the press that the administration is now, at this moment, deciding whether to bomb North Korea.

            Israel and Saudi Arabia DID do similar signalling against Iran, but I don’t think it did much good in the end.

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling says:

            Yes, and Xi Jinping’s angry speeches have had about as much effect as Hans Blix’s angry letters. China is not going to fix this for us.

            The letters are preludes to more serious action by china, which can exert extreme leverage by cutting off aid. And while china doesn’t want to do that, they also don’t want to see US planes bombing or US ships blockading their nominal ally.

            @A Definite Beta Guy says:

            That’s a just-so story.

            If that’s a just so story, then what on earth is “Rahm emanuel would have done a better job”?

            You can argue for tightening sanctions without signalling a military strike is imminent.

            No, you can’t. there are no more meaningful sanction the US can put on north korea. the only people who can meaningfully sanction the koreans are the chinese, and they won’t do it if the US asks them nicely. they will only do it if they think that is the least bad option.

            The US has slowly been escalating sanctions on NK for years, and ramped up a lot of sanctions on Iran without signalling immediate military conflict.

            Iran had trade that could be sanctioned. Korea does not.

            And saying “all options are on the table” is not the same as leaking to the press that the administration is now, at this moment, deciding whether to bomb North Korea.

            Which is precisely why you DO want to leak that sort of thing if you want to put people on notice.

          • John Schilling says:

            The letters are preludes to more serious action by china, which can exert extreme leverage by cutting off aid.

            More likely they are preludes to more serious press releases by China, which can say “we are cutting off aid” without actually doing it. It’s not like you are going to check.

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling says

            I don’t expect the chinese to actually cut off aid, I expect them to threaten to and the koreans to moderate their behavior.

            Now, maybe this strategy won’t work, I certainly wouldn’t claim I was sure it would or that trump will pull it off, but it’s the only peaceful path towards improvement on the peninsula that I can see as plausible.

          • John Schilling says:

            It would require the Chinese and/or the North Koreans to act foolishly w/re their core interests, so it’s not plausible. “Making threats” won’t actually cause the North Koreans to moderate their behavior except at the token-gesture level, so the Chinese won’t make threats+demands that can’t be satisfied by token gestures on someone’s part.

            That you can’t think of any other solutions that are plausible, doesn’t obligate Beijing or Pyongyang to make this one plausible.

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling says:

            It would require the Chinese and/or the North Koreans to act foolishly w/re their core interests, so it’s not plausible. “Making threats” won’t actually cause the North Koreans to moderate their behavior except at the token-gesture level, so the Chinese won’t make threats+demands that can’t be satisfied by token gestures on someone’s part.

            It’s not in china’s interest to have america take kinetic action against Korea, it’s not in their interest to get a nuclearized south korea or Japan, and it’s not in their interest to appear to be contributing to the whole mess. The key to the success of this plan is to convince them that those things will happen if they don’t restrain north korea, and that they will like the consequences of them less than the consequences of doing nothing.

            Maybe it won’t work out, but it’s possible, and I don’t see a better option on the table. I think you are underestimating the degree the NorKs depend on chinese economic support.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            That Rahm would do better than Trump is a hunch, not a story, because it hasn’t happened. Suggesting that the only reason China has (somewhat) clamped down on North Korea is because Trump has signaled a military strike may be imminent is the just so story, because it’s an actual narrative of what actually happened.

            The counter-factual is that Xi Jinping has never made a visit to North Korea, and he became President in 2012. They have supported broadened sanctions since they started testing nukes in 2006. For instance, China banning imports of North Korean coal, which the Trump administration highlighted as a big action, was the result of UN sanctions that were voted in during November 2016.

            NK’s apparent insanity is as much a signal to China as it is to the US: if ANYONE screws with them, they’ll launch nukes. And China does not, to my knowledge, have any sort of missile defense that can stop it.

            I’m not particularly fond of the idea that sanctions are going to somehow fix our problem. The only solution is for NK to go the Qaddafi route, or some group of generals needs to end the Kim dynasty and seek some sort of rapprochement.

            I really don’t see North Korea as evidence of Trump competence. To me it looks more like a whole bunch of nations getting worried because of successful nuclear tests and successful ICBM tests. There’s really no other place to point to signal Trump competence and his demeanor has just a massive storm of rage in the Democratic base that could very well lead to the House flipping and a huge leftward swing in the whole party.

          • cassander says:

            I’m not particularly fond of the idea that sanctions are going to somehow fix our problem. The only solution is for NK to go the Qaddafi route, or some group of generals needs to end the Kim dynasty and seek some sort of rapprochement.

            Sanction won’t fix anything. China credibly threatening to cut off the NorKs is not sanctions, in the traditional sense. the only way you get NK to go the gadaffi route is to drive a wedge between them and china, because unless china does act, NK will have no reason to go that route.

            I really don’t see North Korea as evidence of Trump competence.

            Yes, that’s precisely my point. you think trump isn’t competent, so you look at everything he does through the lense of that assumption and see confirmation.

            There’s really no other place to point to signal Trump competence and his demeanor has just a massive storm of rage in the Democratic base that could very well lead to the House flipping and a huge leftward swing in the whole party

            when the country had a huge republican swing in 2010, did you go around how showing that was a huge sign of obama’s incompetence?

          • quanta413 says:

            The only solution is for NK to go the Qaddafi route

            Give up their nuclear program and then be brutally murdered by U.S. backed rebels? That would solve our problems, but I don’t think Kim is going to bite.

            But more seriously, I’m not sure what solution you’re referring to here.

          • It seems to me that the least bad solution to the Korean problem is for the U.S. to push missile defenses, as we did when responding to the Soviet threat. We can outspend North Korea a lot more easily than we could outspend the Soviets.

            Also, North Korea is geographically much smaller that the Soviet Union was. What is the potential for anti-missile defenses that target the launch rather than the descent, given that both we and China can get relatively close to the launch sites?

          • John Schilling says:

            It seems to me that the least bad solution to the Korean problem is for the U.S. to push missile defenses, as we did when responding to the Soviet threat.

            I think we’d want to push for missile defenses that we are confident we can build and that would actually alleviate the threat, so that would be something very different than what we did when responding to the Soviet threat.

            And it wouldn’t be a bad plan, but it would take at least five years to deliver any significant results. And people are mostly divided between the ones who think this isn’t really a threat we need to worry about, and ones who think it needs to be solved this year Or Else.

            We could have started five years ago, of course, but five years ago people were mostly divided between the ones who thought this wasn’t really a threat we needed to worry about, and ones who thought it needed to be solved that year Or Else.

            What is the potential for anti-missile defenses that target the launch rather than the descent, given that both we and China can get relatively close to the launch sites?

            Marginal at best, and you’d really want to put the missile defense sites in Vladivostok to catch US-bound ICBMs in boost phase. I’m told our current president has the connections to make that happen, but I’m kind of concerned about the price.

    • Deiseach says:

      This is a “how long is a piece of string?” question. If Candidate A, Candidate B, and Candidate C are basing their campaign position on Hot Button Topic, how important is Hot Button Topic to me? How repugnant are their attitudes to other topics? Does B think Issue is a bit of fluff and not worth their time whereas I think it’s a vital question? Or vice versa, does C get all hot under the collar about something I think is as superfluous as udders on a bull?

      Often it comes down to “who is the least bad choice?” If there is one Honking Big Issue that I really think is important, then I have to look at who is nearest to my position (and what their other positions are; it’s no good parroting the pious line about “X should be safe but rare” then being really excited about “and my party will pass the Widows and Orphans Eviction Bill which will remove the pesky obstacles to flinging the destitute bereaved out into the howling gales and lashing rains in the depths of a dark winter’s night and make it easier for moustache-twirlers of all genders and orientations to laugh evilly while directing their heartless goons to break the few sticks of pathetic furniture when evicting the hapless”).

    • Anonymous says:

      What is the smallest number of issues a candidate (for president, let’s say) could enthusiastically and prominently espouse your same view on, to where you would vote* for that candidate even if he or she espoused views that were strongly counter to yours on all other issues? Which issue(s) would the candidate have to agree with you on?

      Non-voter here. The big issue that concerns me is somehow saving the terminal patient known as Western Civilization. Assuming complete opposite stances on non-mentioned issues, I’d probably favour someone who agrees with me on abortion, affirmative action, contraception, sodomy, immigration, feminism, economy, universal suffrage, education, welfare and UBI. Eleven issues.

    • Brad says:

      I don’t think the question makes any sense as asked. It depends critically on how far off the other candidate is. For example, if candidate A channeled me exactly on foreign policy/interventionism/diplomacy while candidate B was in the same general neighborhood that would be an entirely different situation from one where candidate B pledged to invade China.

      • Well... says:

        I guess assume the other candidate is fairly wishy washy on all issues. Or if you want something more realistic, assume the candidate who agrees with you on some important issue is the candidate for the political party you’d most likely be aligned with based on that issue, and the other candidate is a run-of-the-mill candidate for whatever party normally opposes that party.

    • John Schilling says:

      What is the smallest number of issues a candidate (for president, let’s say) could enthusiastically and prominently espouse your same view on, to where you would vote* for that candidate even if he or she espoused views that were strongly counter to yours on all other issues?

      The fundamental problem with this approach is that it is much easier for politicians to do great and lasting harm than for them to do great and lasting good. So however enthusiastic a politician may hypothetically be on the issues I care most about, he is likely to win only transient and limited victories that will have to be re-fought in his successor’s term. Meanwhile, we’ve just “won” a nuclear war with North Korea, and the crime rate is up 50% and the deficit has doubled and all the good teachers have quit the public schools and public trust is disintegrating, and no possible successor is going to be able to put even half those eggs back together again.

      I evaluate politicians, and especially presidents, first and foremost by the harm they are likely to cause. I may weigh some harms more than others, but there are too many areas where the government can cause real damage for me to focus narrowly on just a few.

    • The Nybbler says:

      This isn’t a really good framing for the reasons others have given. There are many issues which are just plain showstoppers in terms of support if the politician is strongly on the wrong side:

      Freedom of speech: Can’t support a politician who is strongly against it. Wishy-washy opposition (like Trump and his libel laws) is bearable in the US, because it’s not enough to overcome the courts and tradition.

      Guns: Could not support a “Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in” candidate no matter what the other issues. Even if I didn’t believe this was a prelude to tyranny, a serious attempt to do so is certainly going to result in low-level internal warfare at the least.

      Foreign Policy / Interventionism / Diplomacy: A wrong extreme results in nuclear war or a multi-front war involving Russia and/or China. No thank you.

      Drug laws: I grew up during the height of the War On Drugs. Not a good idea.

      Climate/environment: Either the air turns lethal and the rivers catch on fire again, or we’re all freezing in the dark.

      Surveillance: The Stasi are the model for the failure mode here.

      Affirmative action, feminism/gender, gay/trans issues — a.k.a the culture war. Wouldn’t have thought these would rival the war on drugs in badness, but they have.

      • Well... says:

        Sounds like you think it is a good framing, just inverted.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        “Affirmative action, feminism/gender, gay/trans issues — a.k.a the culture war. Wouldn’t have thought these would rival the war on drugs in badness, but they have.”

        ???

        I’m not seeing the mass incarceration, the violence, or the organized crime.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It’s not bad in the same way. But it appears the culture war has undermined entire fields of knowledge (replacing them with grievance theory), and looks to destroy more, including engineering. Long term that’s worse than the war on drugs, though of course that’s extrapolating in a straight line.

          • Well... says:

            I’m as hostile to affirmative action/militant feminism/etc. as anyone here, but I think your claim is overblown. (BTW here in this sub-sub-thread let’s call affirmative action/militant feminism/etc. “PC” for short; I know that’s not really quite the same thing but I need a quick shorthand and it’s close enough.)

            PC has undermined many undergraduate programs, and some graduate and postgraduate programs, and I appreciate that the experience of being, say, a conservative and going into those fields is unduly intimidating and unsettling and stressful, but I don’t think PC has yet completely undermined them. Good honest work is still being published. Much of the various lines of inquiry in those fields is untouched by PC anyway because PC simply isn’t relevant to it. And increasingly there is public knowledge and backlash against that PC infiltration and pollution.

            PC has certainly poisoned many aspects of corporate culture, public media and entertainment, and other venues of mainstream/polite discourse, but like with fields of knowledge and engineering, PC is simply irrelevant to much of it once you look more closely. Yes, there are encroachments: whoever thought the NFL would become so political? Well, it isn’t as soon as the national anthem ends. Most of what happens in the world is so mundane it isn’t of interest to professional bellyachers. And importantly, corporate culture, public media and entertainment, and other venues of mainstream/polite discourse are not the platforms most relevant to people anyway (not anymore, if they ever were).

            Finally I think the comparison to the drug war isn’t fair because the drug war is 20% a campaign of stupidity and upside-down ass-backwards nonsense, and 80% a campaign of real destructive violence that gets people killed and deprived of their day-to-day freedom and drowned in abysmal dystopian horrors. PC on the other hand is 99.99% stupidity and upside-down ass-backwards nonsense and 0.001% real destructive violence.

            What are the worst atrocities that have happened because of PC (modern PC as instantiated in the US)? A few people being beaten up and killed maybe. A lot of good people fired from their positions. Many more afraid to do something. That’s bad, but don’t tell that to someone whose door was kicked in, wife shot, kids traumatized, valuables stolen by a drug-raiding police squad. Don’t tell that to whole subcultures who’ve organized themselves around the illegal drug trade and its requisite antipathy to decent normal healthy society so that for kids growing up in that subculture jail by age 16 is the norm. I don’t think it’s even a comparison.

            I’ll grant you that even a (much more sloppily argued) defense of heroin legalization would not have gotten James Damore fired from Google, but I think PC and the war on drugs are just absolutely different in outcomes. In fact, because PC is a war on the best and brightest and most productive while the war on drugs is effectively a war on the underclass who can be kept from view, I think the PC thing will burn itself out in a few decades while the war on drugs might continue in perpetuity.

            I mean, the Federal war on drugs is already over a century old as it is! When the Harrison Act was passed in 1914 (by mostly liberal progressives) a few people (mostly conservatives) opposed it but for the most part its natural opponents were silent. PC on the other hand has never failed to generate at least grumblings, if not outright scathing takedowns, in even the mainstream press.

          • cassander says:

            Finally I think the comparison to the drug war isn’t fair because the drug war is 20% a campaign of stupidity and upside-down ass-backwards nonsense, and 80% a campaign of real destructive violence that gets people killed and deprived of their day-to-day freedom and drowned in abysmal dystopian horrors. PC on the other hand is 99.99% stupidity and upside-down ass-backwards nonsense and 0.001% real destructive violence.

            PCness can defiinitely lead to bad policies that get people killed. the effect is a lot less direct than with the drug war, I grant you, but it’s also much more pervasive.

          • Well... says:

            I agree PCness can lead to policies that get people killed, but I don’t agree that the effect is more pervasive than the war on drugs. The Freddie Gray effect is nothing compared to the effect of federal drug laws.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Well…

            Much of the various lines of inquiry in those fields is untouched by PC anyway because PC simply isn’t relevant to it.

            According to the culture warriors of that side, PC is relevant to everything. Every line of inquiry which doesn’t lead to the PC conclusions needs to be stomped. Decolonize history, decolonize mathematics, even engineering is not immune. (Yes, making these Departments of Engineering Education might be intended to segregate the PC from the real engineers. But they get the credential and thus likely the control as well)

            This isn’t the blatant violence of the drug war, but it’s a much deeper harm.

          • cassander says:

            @Well…

            I agree that the drug war is bigger, but PCness isn’t just the freddie gray effect.

          • Well... says:

            @The Nybbler:
            You’re right that occasionally someone non-ironically publishes a paper about icebergs being racist or drilling for ores being misogynist or whatever, but those are exceptions and they get loudly ridiculed. Compare to Joe “Civil Asset Forfeiture” Biden who is a “fun uncle” figure — if not hero — to half the country and whose horrible drug war record is unknown to most of the other half.

            This isn’t the blatant violence of the drug war, but it’s a much deeper harm.

            Both the drug war and PC involve the universal teaching and insistence upon lies, and I’ll grant you the PC lies are more fundamental. But the drug war has actual blatant violence in addition to those lies, executed at every human scale from microscopic to global.

            A lot of people grow up and realize the BS they were taught by their undergrad humanities professor is precisely that and can correct any bad decisions they made based on that misinformation, but once you’re a 17 year-old ex-con, or dead from drug-dealing gang violence, that’s kind of it.

            @cassander:

            My point is the Freddie Gray effect is by far the most widespread and brutal instantiation of actual violence caused by PC-ness and it’s still infinitesimal in comparison to even a conservative estimate of violence caused by the war on drugs.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      1st Amendment: Someone who opposes pretty much anything and everything beyond “actual malice” libel/slander and espionage laws.

      2nd: National CCW reciprocity and a shall-issue standard, NFA repeal for suppressors, strikedown of most import restrictions, re-opening of the NFA register for post 1986 automatics (there’s actually a dedicated gun owner lobby OPPOSED to this, sadly), opposed to any and all “assault weapon” and sneaky chilling effect legislation. This is not an exhaustive list of requirements but a basic starting point.

      Everything else is at least somewhat negotiable, but there are no “rule-in” criteria, Only “rule-out” criteria. Someone who passes both the tests above can still lose my vote if their position is distinct enough from mine on enough issues. There’s no good way to lay out all the possible disqualifiers without pretty much laying out my theoretical perfect candidate, but the short version would be that I’m searching for a pretty good (75% or better) match, with no one issue where they take a strong opposite position.

      I am well aware that given my views there are very few politicians in either major party that can meet these criteria. I refuse to compromise them under any circumstances.

    • Grek says:

      I do not vote based on issues, as experience shows me that what a politician promises to do and what they are ultimately able to do are not very strongly related. Instead, I choose someone who I think would do as I would do if I were in the same position; someone who would make the same tradeoffs and take into consideration the same values as I would if I were elected to their office.

    • SamChevre says:

      One, and there are three options for which one, and I’ll live with policies contrary to mine but within the Overton Window on everything else:
      1) Anti-discrimination law: get rid of all Federal anti-discrimination law/policy, as applied to any actors except the Federal government, and forbid state anti-discrimination law from applying to any actor except the state government.
      2) States rights: get rid of all Federal requirements on States, including those tied to funding, other than those that were legally understood as Federal powers over states in 1900, or supported by a Constitutional Amendment in the interim. (So overrule Katzenbach, Griswold, Abington Township, Lawrence, etc, etc, etc)
      3) Administrative state: eliminate the ability for anything other than a law passed by Congress to require anything of anyone, specify a penalty for anything, etc

      Close–you’d have to be very bad on several things for these not to be enough:
      1) A general loser-pays rule for the courts, most especially including criminal courts, with the “loser-pays” portion of costs in criminal court being driven by the difference between threatened charges and actual charges. (So pleading down from 10 years in jail to 6 months in jail would mean the prosecutor paid 95% of the defense costs.)
      2) Getting harassment law to be scrutinized under speech-protective standards, so if the government can’t forbid it in front of the courthouse, it can’t punish an employer for not forbidding it at work.
      3) Non-profit limit changes: non-profits must spend 10% of their endowments per year, on expenses excluding lawsuits in which they are plaintiffs, and salaries over 2x the median household income to any person or 3x the median household income to any family. Any real or chattel property in active use for the operations of the non-profit is excluded from the endowment value.

    • yodelyak says:

      I ran across a tagline on Quora where someone answering politics questions described themselves as, “I’ll vote for the candidate who I think is least likely to speak lies.” That’s a good tagline, but I’ll add to it that I favor candidates who surround themselves with people who value truth and truth-telling.

      I’m very unlikely to vote for a candidate whose stated goals match mine, but who I think is the biggest liar, and going to surround themselves with liars.

      • Jaskologist says:

        They’re all liars, the real question is if they’re lying to me or to my enemies.

      • Nornagest says:

        I bet you anything that the question “who’s the biggest liar?” has the same subjective answer, upwards of 95% of the time, as “who disagrees with me the most?”

        • Brad says:

          For a counterexample, I think Clinton was a significantly bigger liar than Sanders, but I supported Clinton in the primaries.

        • I think Trump is a bigger liar than Hilary, Sanders, or Obama. I’m not sure what “disagrees with me” means for Trump, since it isn’t clear to me what his real beliefs are or in what sense he has them, but politically speaking I think he is closer to me than they are.

        • yodelyak says:

          Yeah… okay, this sounded neat, and I guess it’s relevant to how I vote, but it’s not everything.

          I mean, I also don’t really like family dynasties, and I don’t like politicians who think I or other Americans should be willing to forgive them for using the influence that comes with having an ex-President in the family to work to install another dynasty family in the country. The Clintons should have aimed to anoint another leader, maybe–but not to keep the presidency in the family. (The political graveyard has really soured me on this since I discovered it a year or two back.)

          Re: who was a bigger liar, of course it’s Trump by mile.

    • If the candidate…
      -Has a first amendment interpretation of free speech (though I live in the UK).
      -Believes self-defense laws should be strong
      -Thinks the competitive market system is better than a highly nationalized one.
      -Recognizes we need a social welfare system of some sort to cover the losers of this productive competition.
      -Believes that victimless crimes generally shouldn’t be crimes.
      -Has a focus on civil liberties.
      -Favors equality before the law over equality of opportunity, or worse, equality of outcome.
      -Understands that rights are enforced by the state and belong to citizens, and so understands the importance of national sovereignty and selectivity about new citizens.
      -Isn’t a complete dinosaur on tech issues.

      …That’s good enough for me. Of course, some of the things on this list are apparently a high bar to clear for British politicians and parties.

      EDIT:

      I’d say I could boil it down further to 5 key things and I could still support them if they were shitty on other issues, only the problem is that the exact combination of things I want is poorly represented altogether:
      1: Free speech
      2: Equality before the law
      3: Markets are good
      4: So is welfare
      5: So are borders.

      I think UKIP came the closest to upholding my list (with the possible exception of the welfare state due to neo-thatcherite influence), but they’ve all but collapsed, and were filled with conspiracy theorists and kooks anyway. No parties for me!

    • cassander says:

      I would vote for the devil himself if he promised 100mph speed limits on the interstate and the abolition of the TSA.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I have basically one litmus test for national politics, which is free trade. In the long run, free trade will probably have more positive effects on both domestic economic prosperity and international peace than any other policy. Of course free trade is one of those areas that politicians lie constantly, both in favor and opposed, so it’s hard to judge that.

      In practice, though, I rarely vote based on an individual’s issues, but on trying to keep a balance of power. Governments with the same party in control of both houses and the White House are the most dangerous, pass the dumbest laws, and maintain little control on out of control Presidents (which is really all of them). I supported Hillary for this reason, although it is also true that the current Republican monopoly is less dangerous than previous monopolies, because Trump’s incompetence and divisiveness has prevented little bad stuff happening.

    • Jiro says:

      My vote for such a candidate would take into account not only his position on the issues, but the chance that the candidate could affect the issue, as well as any signalling information the issues give me. (Sometimes these could push in opposite directions.) For instance, there’s pretty much no chance a candidate who opposes abortion could do much about it, since the right to abortion has been established by the Supreme Court. On the other hand, a candidate who opposes all abortion may be signalling that he is willing to implement policies favored by the religious right which he won’t bother telling me about before the election.

      Also, the answer to this question depends on what counts as a single issue. It’s easy to split up or combine issues and change the count.

  10. DunnoWhatToDo says:

    Big thanks to everyone who helped me in the last OT.

    The last two days were just filled with despair. This day and the day earlier I woke up and I felt so sad and lonely. It felt like I should’ve woken up and opened my eyes to see her smile (I did see it once, when I used all my courage and put my hand forward to introduce myself, she smiled back) but it just made me sadder realizing that someone else has it. That someone else is getting the affection I really really want. It’s really eating me inside.

    I’m feeling a bit better now and would like to try my best to recover. Stopping the tears would be my first step, but what really scares me is that I’ll never recover, that I’ll look back at it a year, two, three and so on and just feel that my life.. was just irrecoverably damaged. I thought about using this as motivation for never failing again, but something tells me it would be my defeat in another crucial aspect. Something like never truly getting over it. That any action I’d take is just an attempt to console my grief. Maybe I’m asking the same question I asked in the last thread, but if anyone got more advice, it would still be welcome.

    So my first goal would be, as I’ve said, to stop the tears. Every time I feel the tears come, I’ll remind myself that while it’s sad, the tears aren’t gonna help, and at that rate they aren’t gonna end either. There’s more to this world than that. I’ll work on trying to approach other girls, and I won’t pin too much hope on them. Eventually I’ll get better. Perhaps in a hopeful and rather selfish notion they’ll break up and I won’t miss my chance this time. But once again, no pinning too much hope.

    Thanks everyone.

    • Mark says:

      I think that your heart is in the right place, but that your lifestyle or thought process probably isn’t very healthy.
      So, I think your plan to build up strength through experience is an excellent one. And, I think also, maybe look for some other good things that you can enjoy while doing this. Perhaps just revel in improving yourself.

      Having said that – I had very similar thoughts when I was in my late teens, I gradually chilled out and just started making friends with women, just being a bit more open, and a few of them threw themselves at me without me ever having to ask anyone out.
      So, even if you don’t build up psychological strength, good things might happen anyway. But, probably best to build up that mental hardness.

      Start doing fighting.

      • DunnoWhatToDo says:

        Yeah, my lifestyle isn’t exactly fantastic.. most of it is spent in my room, because I’m not so great with people.. I can talk to people, make jokes and everything but I could never feel a solid connection to them. Sometimes I feel like I should reach out to people, but it feels more like an obligation than an actual desire. I have a few friends but I can never actually feel the need to.. reach out to them. I occasionally make an effort to meet them but something just doesn’t click.. I can’t really enjoy it at all.

        I feel like an ideal me should definitely have those friendships, but it’s kind of hard to feel for them.. every time I tried a social gathering it felt like I was out of place. It felt artificial, I could do everything like grooming, dressing up and stuff, but I could never actually feel like I belong there. I remember people’s birthday and did attend but I could never, ever ever ever feel like I’m actually enjoying it. I felt out of sync with everyone else.

        The only time I actually felt like I wanted to talk to people was when I saw a girl I liked, otherwise I had zero interest in people, and it takes me a bunch of effort to actually care.

        It’s probably bad to armchair psychology but I’m reminded I’ve had suspicion for either avoidant/schizoid but I don’t remember when I got that, it was a long time ago and my best guess is earlier than mid teens.

    • DunnoWhatToDo says:

      Bad result today: I started working on my squat form by re-reading starting strength, I got tired of it after a while (I can read books and just get restless sometimes) because it didn’t feel like it went anywhere, and eventually I got a mix of hyperactivity and stress so I decided to go down and get a walk. I came across someone who looked like the girl I liked on the other street and I HAD, for some reason, satisfy my curiosity, I felt like I had to do it, no matter how wrong I told myself it was, I turned back and followed her, I know it’s fucked up, I totally know it, I had to satisfy my curiousity, it makes me annoyed and angry at myself for my lack of restraint, but I couldn’t resist it at all. Hopefully it wasn’t her, and if it was I hope I’ll get to apologize.

      Perhaps I seriously need a psychiatrist, because I’m dumping too much out of myself here. Or maybe it was just a way to release some stress, this never happened before. It makes me really scared to just lose control of myself like that.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I would suggest not apologizing, because that would give you an excuse to seek her out, which is sort of the issue you are revolving around.

        • DunnoWhatToDo says:

          You’re right, I just got into that bad mode of thinking again, rather than working to not get trapped in it.

          Thanks.

          • Thegnskald says:

            “Bad thought” isn’t a helpful way to approach it, because you are mentally punishing yourself for something you have little or no control over. It can make it difficult to deal with a problem, because dealing with it becomes unpleasant, and turns it self-loathing.

            “Unhealthy thought” is somewhat better, if you can avoid moralizing about it.

            Focus on getting yourself into a good place, not on punishing transgressions. Meditation can help with this, since the practice of it revolves around this sort of mental exercise – in the process of avoiding thinking, when thoughts do arise, if you try to mentally punishing yourself for the thought, you are just doing more thinking. So the practice is about setting things aside / letting them go. (But observing them, although that part comes after a little more practice in the art or observation)

      • Mark says:

        If you’re getting into stalker territory, don’t apologise – either she doesn’t know you are creepy, in which case apologising for following her will make things worse, or she thinks you are creepy, in which case she likely won’t appreciate your apology.

        Also, there’s not really anything all that wrong with walking down the street – whatever is going on in your head might be fucked up, but as far as anyone else is concerned, you were just walking down the street.
        So, if you just leave it at that, no harm done.

        • DunnoWhatToDo says:

          I turned arund and crossed to the other side of the street, probably higher profile but I’ll stick with “just walking down the street” cause it feels better.

          Thanks, will do.

    • James says:

      what really scares me is that I’ll never recover, that I’ll look back at it a year, two, three and so on and just feel that my life.. was just irrecoverably damaged.

      Well… I don’t think it’s quite like that. But, then again, as one gets older, painful things happen, and the heart piece-by-piece hardens in response… I guess you could call this ‘irrevocable damage’ if you like, but I rather tend to think of it as just the sensible, even inevitable, response to the harshness of the world. (I admit I’m generalising a bit from only my experience, here.)

      Ho hum.

    • lvlln says:

      Have you ever tried mindful meditation? As others have pointed out, your experience of hope at possible romance then despair at its being extinguished isn’t that uncommon among young men, and I’ve personally experienced something like it, and I found meditation to be helpful. It won’t solve your overall social issues or make you better able to get the girl next time, but what I’ve found it does is to make the suffering less. It seems to me like your suffering comes not so much from outside and the way others treat you, but rather the stories you tell yourself about yourself, triggered by the way others treat you, which then start taking on a life of their own. In my experience, mindful meditation can help to slow down those thoughts and let them dissipate. And, again, that won’t help you become better socialized, but it could help to alleviate the suffering you feel in the moment, and sometimes that’s the best you can do. It’s not a panacea, but it’s not nothing.

      Also note that you can be mindful without necessarily setting aside time to meditate (which also doesn’t need to be much time if you decide to do that – even meditating for 30 seconds in a day is much MUCH more valuable than 0 seconds, even if it might not be as useful as 10 minutes or an hour or more). If I were in your situation, the next time I felt despair at the rejection I got from that girl at the gym, or the next time I got the impulse to follow some girl whom I found attractive, I would direct my attention at the emotional and physical sensations I was feeling and try to stay with them. I’m sure thoughts would start popping up, many of them negative, like being angry at myself and thinking that I’m “fucked up,” and I would try to notice those thoughts, and then direct my attention back to my visceral sensations. This isn’t necessarily easy to do, especially if you’re not practiced in mindfulness, so it’s very normal to fail, often within a single second. The idea would be to keep trying again each time I notice that I failed.

      Maybe you’ll feel like the right thing to do is to be hard on yourself and to hold yourself to some standard and to feel awful for failing to meet it. And it’s not like that’s necessarily a bad thought. But in the moment, if you’re suffering, perhaps it’s not so bad to try to alleviate that suffering just a little, at that moment. And that by itself probably won’t fix all the issues in your life, but is being harsh on yourself doing any better a job at that? And if so, is it worth the momentary suffering? And if so, will deviating from that and trying to alleviate that suffering for at least a few seconds really spin you completely out of solving your issues through neurotic self-criticism? If I were in your situation, I would ask myself those questions and try to answer them as honestly and as objectively as possible, maybe by pretending that I’m someone else who’s trying to help a friend whom I care about and love.

      Again, mindfulness is not some magic pill that will solve all your problems, and you shouldn’t put any such expectations on it. It probably won’t even take away all the pain. But maybe it could make that pain hurt just a teensy bit less. And considering that the costs of trying it out aren’t too high – just however much attention and time you want to devote to it, which isn’t nothing but also which I doubt is so valuable that you can’t afford to throw a few minutes or seconds in its direction – it might be worth it. At least, I’ve found it to be so.

  11. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Is there any strong nutritional reason for eating insects? I have a notion that we evolved eating insects (among many other things, of course) and those of us who have a taboo against insects might be missing out on something.

    Recently, MOM’s Organic Market has opened locally, and they have a pretty good insect section– dried insects, insect flour, insect bars, chips with one cricket per chip. This stuff isn’t cheap– the cricket flour is $40/pound, which is a better deal than amazon at $56/pound. One argument for insects as food is that if you want animal protein, they’re easier on the environment (and plausibly easier to raise and kill humanely) that animals. I can eat more insects if there’s a good reason to do so.

    Anyway, I can recommend the Chalu Aztec bar– it’s flavored with dark chocolate, coffee, and hot pepper, and it’s worth getting for the taste.

    • Aapje says:

      There is nothing in insects that you will miss out on in comparison to a good diet without insects. Cricket ‘flour’ is mainly just protein powder, so it’s useful in the same situations (for some vegans/vegetarians and some hardcore athletes). Of course, vegans/vegetarians won’t be eating insects, so…

      I would say that the main reason to go for cricket flour over whey/soy/casein protein powder is that the latter tends to be mixed for and marketed to a certain kind of woo-sensititive people who like ‘magic compounds’ that will supposedly make them super strong. Cricket flour is probably a more pure product, because it is marketed to people with ‘natural is safe’-woo, which is also irrational, but better irrationality in this context. So cricket flour probably has less/no superfluous/dangerous additions.

      Most Westerners, especially Americans, ingest way more protein than is necessary. So instead of replacing meat with cricket flour, they are probably better off reducing their meat consumption. I would definitely not replace non-meat products with products with cricket flour, unless you have a reason to ingest more protein. For example, that Aztec bar is pretty much just a high protein chocolate bar, so if you eat it instead of a regular dark chocolate bar, you will increase the protein in your diet. You are also not decreasing animal suffering, unless you offset it by eating less meat.

      PS. I think you meant to write ‘Chapul‘ instead of ‘Chalu’

    • baconbits9 says:

      If cricket flour is easier to raise and more environmentally friendly why would it cost 5-10x as much a lb as beef?

      • Deiseach says:

        If cricket flour is easier to raise and more environmentally friendly why would it cost 5-10x as much a lb as beef?

        Can you imagine the amount of processing you have to do to take out the crunchy, spiky, hairy bits and keep the “bits you can eat without it sticking in your throat and making you feel like you’ve just swallowed glass”? You’d also have to process way, way more individual insects than an individual cow to get the same “lb of flour = lb of meat”. More time, more labour/mechanisation involved, much smaller market – to recoup your costs the end product has to be more expensive, if you’re trying to coax Westerners to eat it instead of someone whose attitude is “I’m hungry so I’ll go outside my door into the patch of wild ground we live beside and catch and eat my own locusts/crickets/other skritchy leggy things”.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Can you imagine the amount of processing you have to do to take out the crunchy, spiky, hairy bits and keep the “bits you can eat without it sticking in your throat and making you feel like you’ve just swallowed glass”? You’d also have to process way, way more individual insects than an individual cow to get the same “lb of flour = lb of meat”

          Both of these point to higher environmental costs. Low environmental costs for eating insects are largely based on the idea that they turn plant matter into protein much more efficiently than larger animals, if you have to strip out a large amount of their body to get the flour then you are losing most of that benefit.

          • Aapje says:

            Not necessarily. The issue with cows is not so much that their meat to the rest ratio is bad, but that they grow relatively slowly. So they spend a lot of energy on living, which doesn’t turn into meat.

            The faster an animal grows to slaughter weight, the more efficient the feed to protein conversion tends to be.

          • baconbits9 says:

            It ends up the same if you have to raise 10 lbs of grasshoppers to produce 1 lb of edible grasshopper flour (assuming the byproducts have little value) then the energy ratio is similarly bad.

            The faster an animal grows to slaughter weight, the more efficient the feed to protein conversion tends to be

            That is because most animal protein is eatable/in demand, the description given above implies a lot of the insect protein has to be discarded or heavily processed.

          • Aapje says:

            @baconbits9

            Animals poop.

            So not all feed becomes muscle. The conversion rate of the feed is really important, not just meat to inedible.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Easier to raise *humanely*, not easier to raise in general.

        I’ve seen the argument that we just don’t know as much about raising insects in quantity as we do about the usual animals. When we know more, insect products will be cheaper.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I buy my meat from small farm that pastures its meat and doesn’t use hormones. Ground beef costs <$5.00 a lb, as do most of their chicken products. Inhumanely raised meat I can get for $1-3 a lb for the basics, making it more like a factor of 20-30 in cost.

  12. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve seen discussion of how you can tell if your society is close to GAI, but how can you tell if a particular project is at risk of going FOOM?

    • Aapje says:

      If it can self-improve without necessarily being harshly limited by the environment?

      For example, if you have an AI that self-improves by ordering hardware and waiting for humans to plug it in, then humans can stop the AI by refusing to produce/ship/plug in the hardware.

      If the AI improves by rewriting it’s code to be more efficient or by deploying a virus that takes over computers on the Internet, we may not be able to control the speed of improvement.

      • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

        Yes, but by that time it will be pretty close to too late. It would be nice to have a signal of some earlier stage than that.

        Maybe once we get to the point where we can train a single system that is human-level good at e.g. every board and computer game, rather than just Chess or Go.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      What does FOOM stand for? I see it used a lot in AI discussions.

  13. fion says:

    Does anybody have a clever way of keeping up with comments and replies? My best approach so far is to click on the last few posts and Ctrl+F for my name, but it’s quite tedious. I once made the mistake of clicking the “notify me of follow-up comments by email” box, hoping it would notify me when people replied to me, but I think I got emails for every comment that came after mine, not just replies to mine.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I Ctrl-F and search the the string ~ n e w with the spaces removed. That way you see every new comment since the last time you visited the page.

    • Well... says:

      If you’re only interested in replies to you, just hit refresh and then do a search on the page for “fion”. When I do this I scan from bottom to top so it brings each of my comments to the top of the page in turn, which reveals replies below it without having to scroll (so long as my comment isn’t terribly long).

      (I’m not sure if that’s what you said was tedious. If so, then disregard; although I’d argue it’s not that tedious unless you’ve commented dozens of times.)

    • toastengineer says:

      That little [+] gizmo in the top right corner expands upon click to list every post since you were last here.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      The indispensable Bakkot has made some good navigation tools available here.

    • CatCube says:

      @the verbiage ecstatic has created an e-mail widget that does exactly what you ask for. You can find it here: https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/05/25/open-thread-76-25/#comment-504989

      It will e-mail you only if somebody either replies to you with the Reply link, or mentions you in a comment with @username (that is, anytime anybody puts @CatCube in a comment, I’ll get an e-mail)

      There are two downsides: 1) There’s no proper signup page, so you need to edit the URL in the linked comment to sign yourself up (that is, put “fion” in place of the “INSERT” if you click on the link and 2) if you’re the 2nd deepest level here, you’re going to get e-mails for every subsequent comment in the conversation despite them not necessarily being for you, since the deepest level comments are all technically replies to the 2nd deepest level.

  14. johan_larson says:

    Some interesting news about cancer treatment out of Stanford:

    Cancer ‘vaccine’ eliminates tumors in mice
    Activating T cells in tumors eliminated even distant metastases in mice, Stanford researchers found. Lymphoma patients are being recruited to test the technique in a clinical trial.

    I’m wondering how excited we should get about this. Cancer is a very slippery foe, and it’s a long way from a promising treatment in mice to a deployable technique in humans.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Eradication of spontaneous malignancy by local immunotherapy

      I haven’t had my coffee yet and I’m not an immunotherapy guy so I can’t comment on the article’s plausibility. My roommate and my girlfriend both know way more about T-cell activation then I do so I’ll see what they think later today.

      That said, cancer has been cured dozens of times in preclinical mouse models. The trick has always to get those treatments to work in a clinical trial with human patients.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Ok so I talked to my roommate and sent him a link to the paper. He’s working on a project involving CAR T cells so he’s the most knowledgeable person I regularly encounter.

        Apparently this approach is out of fashion in the field of immunotherapy because despite a huge amount of work put into them cancer vaccines have never really panned out in the past. He’s very skeptical that Levy has cracked it but is going to look the paper over anyway.

  15. johan_larson says:

    One of the constants across the industrialized world is low birth rates, generally well below replacement levels. This is a problem because inverted age pyramids, with lots of old people and relatively few young people, mean there are too few workers trying to support too many non-workers. Right now, the solutions being tried to manage this problem are immigration, particularly of young people, and government-provided or -subsidized child care.

    But suppose those solutions just aren’t making enough of a dent, and a government reaches for stronger measures. What might a non-authoritarian government try next?

    • Aapje says:

      – Robots (what they try in Japan).
      – Making euthanasia/suicide by older people easier (Netherlands).
      – Reducing wealth transfers and services to the old (Greece) and/or trying to get children to care for their parents more, rather than have the government do it (Netherlands).
      – Encouraging women to work more, which partially solves the worker shortage, but at the expense of fewer children (all of the West).
      – Encouraging the emigration of old people to low cost countries.

      Another (partial) solution is to wait it out, because the issue will partially resolve itself as the imbalanced pyramid corrects itself by large cohorts dying and small cohorts being born. A major cause of the problem in the first place is that birth rates changed over time.

      • Randy M says:

        – Encouraging the emigration of old people to low cost countries.

        We do this state to state as well here (well, not official policy, but cost of living, etc. does that on its own). Of course, sometimes you have people drawing pensions in CA living in Florida, which probably doesn’t help.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Research extending the health span for the people they’ve got.

      • fion says:

        I wonder if such research might have the side effect of increasing life span even further.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Probably, but there’s also the concept of “squaring the curve”– staying in pretty good health with a fairly sudden decline at the end. I believe the people with genetic longevity (live into their nineties in good shape, die after at most a year or two of bad health) have this.

          So a moderate gain in longevity for most people, but nothing dramatic.

    • Anonymous says:

      Poland is trying generous subsidies for parents. Like, really generous. A couple with four kids can get the equivalent of a minimum wage job, more if they’re poor.

      Nobody I know is trying this, but radically cutting access to secondary and tertiary education might work.

    • fion says:

      I think increasing retirement ages is a symptom of (and kind of a solution to?) this problem.

    • Brad says:

      But suppose those solutions just aren’t making enough of a dent

      Which countries are having trouble attracting working age immigrants?

      • johan_larson says:

        The problem is not finding prospective immigrants. The problem is that the domestic population is unwilling to tolerate large numbers of immigrants, particularly if they are very different in culture or appearance. Japan, on one extreme, allows very little immigration. And the elites of Europe probably overestimated their citizenries’ tolerance for large-scale immigration.

        • Anonymous says:

          Not to mention allowing in migrants who can’t\won’t\don’t work. It’s one thing to let in low skilled, unassimilable manpower. It’s another to let in those who will just make the entitlement situation worse.

          The plebs hate both, but one is worse than the other.

          • johan_larson says:

            Not to mention allowing in migrants who can’t\won’t\don’t work.

            Surely that’s a very small part of the issue. Could there really be all that many people who have enough drive to pull up stakes and emigrate, but then prefer the dole to work? Seems like a stretch. I expect a more common problem is that unskilled immigrants have trouble finding work, particularly if the locals don’t quite trust them.

          • Anonymous says:

            @johan_larson

            Have you heard of the migrant crisis?

          • Randy M says:

            Could there really be all that many people who have enough drive to pull up stakes and emigrate, but then prefer the dole to work? Seems like a stretch.

            Why does that seem like a stretch? Yeah, maybe it’s a hassle to move, but it beats starving, and then if the new nation offers generous enough assistance, well, that beats working.

          • Matt M says:

            Could there really be all that many people who have enough drive to pull up stakes and emigrate, but then prefer the dole to work?

            If “the dole” in western Europe still allows a better and more comfortable lifestyle than “working really damn hard” in the Middle East/Africa does, then yes, absolutely.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’d like to note that the migrants seem to have a fanciful perspective on the ease of getting and amount of gibs they are likely to get, even in places like Germany or Sweden. Which matters little for their coming or not, since that’s entirely on the basis of belief, rather than fact.

          • rlms says:

            Does anyone here have any statistics to support their claims (e.g. employment levels of immigrants in comparison to the native population)?

          • Anonymous says:

            @rlms

            I have some data on this for Norway. Finansavisen has a summary of the balance of tax payments vs entitlement payouts for immigrant ethnic groups in 2012. Also has employment stats there –
            “sysselsetting prosent” is “percentage employed”.

            This data is at least partly confirmable via the official Norwegian statistical bureau (this data is from 2017). I am a little unsure how they define “non-immigrant” in the table; could be without foreign-born, could be without foreign-born and those born in Norway to foreign parents. Third generation are almost certainly counted as ‘native’, but there can’t be that many of those.

            Summarizing:
            – Norwegians (exclusive immigrants) have an employment rate of 67%.
            – Immigrants to Norway have an employment rate of 60%.
            – Immigrants from the North, EU and West Europe have equal or higher employment rates than Norwegians (67-73%).
            – Immigrants from East Europe, North America, Oceania and South/Middle Africa have lower employment than Norwegians (60-62%).
            – Immigrants from Asia have lower employment than Norwegians (52%).
            – Immigrants from Africa (except the earlier mentioned category, which they don’t apparently define further) have lower employment than Norwegians (42%).

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            Employment levels depend extremely strongly on whether the migrants are economic or refugees, their level of education and their culture.

            As such, your question cannot be answered in general, because the migrant populations differ.

          • rlms says:

            @Anonymous
            Thanks! But I don’t think net flow of money from people to government is particularly relevant here, unless you make the (unreasonable) assumption that the distribution of wages amongst the employed is the same for different groups. If employed native Norwegians are more likely to have high-paying jobs than immigrants, then they will appear better than immigrants even if they have the same employment rates.

            Employment rates are more useful, but the ones you have given are clearly measured in an unhelpful way — the “real” rate for Norway as a whole is ~4%, so a figure of >30% must include children, housespouses, people in further education or similar. So you can’t meaningfully compare between groups that differ in those ways.

            @Aapje
            I’m asking for figures about whoever the other commenters are discussing .I agree that they haven’t been particularly specific, but I think I understand who they are pointing at. If you don’t, you should be making your point at them, not me.

          • Anonymous says:

            @rlms

            But I don’t think net flow of money from people to government is particularly relevant here, unless you make the (unreasonable) assumption that the distribution of wages amongst the employed is the same for different groups. If employed native Norwegians are more likely to have high-paying jobs than immigrants, then they will appear better than immigrants even if they have the same employment rates.

            Fair, but that in itself is a problem – importing underclasses.

            Employment rates are more useful, but the ones you have given are clearly measured in an unhelpful way — the “real” rate for Norway as a whole is ~4%, so a figure of >30% must include children, housespouses, people in further education or similar. So you can’t meaningfully compare between groups that differ in those ways.

            FWIW, the stat includes only ages 15-74. No little kids here.

          • rlms says:

            Fair, but that in itself is a problem – importing underclasses.

            Even granting that that would be a consequence, I don’t know that it is. Someone’s got to do the dirty jobs (at optimal quality, at optimal prices). If that someone disproportionately comes from certain groups, that might cause social problems, but I don’t think it’s obvious that those would be worse than the alternative. Also, if the underclass is small enough the evidence suggests they will not be a problem (travellers in the UK do far worse than any other group I’m aware of educationally at least, but no-one considers them a problem on a national level).

            But I don’t think that low-income first-generation immigrants implies importing an underclass. Many immigrant groups have a pattern of later generations working much more skilled jobs than the first one or two.

          • Anonymous says:

            @rlms

            If that someone disproportionately comes from certain groups, that might cause social problems, but I don’t think it’s obvious that those would be worse than the alternative.

            The alternative is employers raising wages for native low-skilled work. I’m pretty sure it’s not a bad thing.

          • rlms says:

            @Anonymous
            Ultimately someone has to pay those wages, and the people receiving them end up doing less useful work than they otherwise would be (e.g. in the extreme your doctors become street sweepers and everyone dies of disease).

        • Aapje says:

          @johan_larson

          That is merely true for low-skill workers. The Japanese government is very open to high-skill migrants, but few of them want to work in Japan.

        • Brad says:

          @johan_larson

          The problem is that the domestic population is unwilling to tolerate large numbers of immigrants, particularly if they are very different in culture or appearance.

          If they are unreasonably rejecting a solution to their problem, and I think they are, then it sounds like the resulting problems are deserved. I don’t see any reason to brainstorm solutions they might, or might not, like. There are plenty of people out there suffering that haven’t perversely rejected perfectly reasonable solutions.

          • Mark says:

            Urgh… what a stinker of a comment.

          • Matt M says:

            If they are unreasonably rejecting a solution to their problem, and I think they are, then it sounds like the resulting problems are deserved.

            Hey cool, we finally agree on something!

            Although I assume you do not agree with my solution, which is something like “If you’re old and didn’t save enough money, you get to die in the street and I don’t care”

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Urgh… what a stinker of a comment.

            Not sure if this comment is helpful, good sir.

          • Brad says:

            @Mark
            From you, I take that as a compliment.

            @Matt M
            Kind of a strange thing to say, given that I’ve already said what my solution is. In any event our country, the United States, has not, at least as of yet, rejected the reasonable solution. So there’s no problem in need of your “solution”, though I don’t doubt you support it regardless of need.

            In any event, per the CIA world factbook, there were only 24 countries with negative population growth in 2016 (excluding countries with trivial populations). All in Eastern Europe except: Greece, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, Japan, Cuba, and Lebanon. The three largest countries with negative population growth were Russia, Japan, and Germany.

          • Mark says:

            Is this a teachable moment?

            Seems to me like Brad’s comment is definitively unsympathetic.

            So, when I say “what a stinker of a comment” please read as “don’t mix prejudice with lack of charity, unless you want to annoy.”

            Brad, assuming that other people are unreasonable makes your comment shitty. So, don’t take it as a compliment. Don’t take it as evidence that you are superior. Consider the possibility that you may have said a shitty thing.

            That’s what good commenters do.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad:

            Your argument proves too much. Anytime I propose a solution to some social problem and it turns out that the people in the society don’t agree to it, or think the tradeoff I’m proposing is unacceptable, then you can make the same statement–they deserve it if they won’t take my proposed solution.

            There are a whole bunch of solutions to the inverted-age-pyramid problem that we can propose, and many violate the values of a lot of people in the society. Killing off old people at retirement age is an obvious one. Another is drafting 18 year old women into the Womb Army, where they will deliver a couple kids to be raised in the state creches before returning to their regular lives. Can we also say that any society that doesn’t accept these solutions deserves whatever problems they get?

            Of course, you can say that your proposed solution is “reasonable,” and the horrible ones I’ve outlined above aren’t. But then your argument turns on what’s reasonable and what’s unreasonable–and that’s not something we all agree on.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Brad –

            I think you miss MattM’s point there: You both have solutions. His is to save up for retirement. Yours presumes somebody has failed to implement his solution.

            He is pointing out that, if you are going to say “Screw you, you deserve what you get” to people failing to implement solutions, there is no reason to favor saying that after failing to implement your solution, than there is after somebody fails to implement his.

            Which is to say, if somebody deserves not-salvation on account of not taking steps towards salvation, then that applies for every step not taken, not just the last possible step you happen to support.

            (Which all fails to take into account that there may be valid reasons for not saving up for retirement – such as not having the money to do so – or for opposing immigration – for example by believing that brain drain impoverishes other countries more than it benefits ours)

          • Randy M says:

            Your argument proves too much. Anytime I propose a solution to some social problem and it turns out that the people in the society don’t agree to it, or think the tradeoff I’m proposing is unacceptable, then you can make the same statement–they deserve it if they won’t take my proposed solution.

            This is the mirror of the recent conversation about “If environmentalists don’t want nuclear power they aren’t serious.” It is possible the that they have considered the proposed solution (nuclear power, gradual demographic replacement immigration) and found it lacking in some way and so are considering other alternatives.

          • Matt M says:

            Eh, I’d say I’m not “proposing a solution” so much as I am “disputing that there is a problem.”

            To me, “We need immigrants – otherwise how will we pay for our enormous welfare state?!” is basically a solution in search of a problem. It assumes, as a given, that a welfare state is a thing that must exist.

          • Brad says:

            @Mark

            Is this a teachable moment?

            No, because I think you are a terrible poster (I believe I once referred to a post of yours as dadaist trolling) and your initial contribution to this subthread is further evidence for that belief. Therefore I have no interest in anything you have to say on the subject of being a good poster. Feel free to stop pissing in the wind.

            @albatross11

            Of course, you can say that your proposed solution is “reasonable,” and the horrible ones I’ve outlined above aren’t. But then your argument turns on what’s reasonable and what’s unreasonable–and that’s not something we all agree on.

            Yes, reasonableness is inherently subjective. I don’t claim otherwise. But from my perspective this is a solved problem. If Eastern Europe, Japan, and Germany don’t like the solution that I consider entirely reasonable they can reject it. I can’t stop them.

            I can try to convince citizens of those countries, and others with similar trajectories, to change their minds. In my own small way I have doing just that. I think that effort, no matter how marginal it might be, is more likely to be fruitful than trying to brainstorm fanciful alternative solutions like Anonymous’ ‘forbid women from going to college’ or Matt M’s ‘let old people die in the street’. YMMV.

            @Thegnskald

            He is pointing out that, if you are going to say “Screw you, you deserve what you get” to people failing to implement solutions, there is no reason to favor saying that after failing to implement your solution, than there is after somebody fails to implement his.

            Yes there’s a reason, I consider a nation refusing to allow win-win immigration to be unreasonable while I consider a nation putting in place social safety nets to prevent old people from dying in the streets quite reasonable. Feel free to disagree! That’s what we are here for. But I reject the notion that we can never look at the object level and have to endlessly go to ever higher meta-levels of debate.

            Sometimes it can illuminating to look at things from the meta-level, but far from always.

          • James says:

            dadaist trolling

            No, no, suntzuanime was the only one who could pull that off.

          • Mark says:

            Someone not liking your comment is evidence for their irrationality.

            That explains a lot. As suspected, not a teachable moment.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Promote religious observance:

            Among women age 40–44, completed fertility for women who report that religion is very important to them is 0.4 children higher than that among women for whom religion is only somewhat important and 0.8 children higher than women who are not religious.

            Those who unreasonably reject such a solution deserve what they get.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            How do you promote religious observance?

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Nancy,

            There are probably hundreds of ways. In fact, I think most societies and governments have done so. But off the very top of my head:

            * Bring back Blue Laws (also reduces drug abuse!).
            * Do the same thing we do now to promote fitness, but for religion.
            * Do the same thing you do anytime you slap a rainbow flag on something, but with a cross instead.
            * Fight for more positive portrayals of devout religious believers in media. Fight for better representation of religious characters, commensurate with their actual share of the population. And real religious characters, not just the watered down hippy ones.
            * Teach it in the public schools.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Does Christianity work better than other religions?

          • Iain says:

            Indeed, Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world — in large part because Muslims have larger families than Christians.

            No need to mess about with inferior substitutes; let’s jump straight to sharia law.

            (I believe this is the point at which I am required to say: those who unreasonably reject such a solution deserve what they get.)

          • @Nancy:

            Globally, Muslims have the highest fertility rate, an average of 3.1 children per woman—well above replacement level (2.1) due to young age of Muslims (median age of 23) compared to other religious groups.[4] Christians are second, at 2.7 children per woman.

            (Wiki)

          • Anonymous says:

            ISTR that pre-modern Christianity had better fertility than Islam did. But then, we don’t have much of pre-modern Christianity anymore.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Jaskologist, I think that if you push non-religious people who don’t want children into religion, you’ll end up diluting the religions. Or possibly having a division between old-time religions and new things that look enough like religion to satisfy social pressure.

          • Brad says:

            @Jaskologist

            * Bring back Blue Laws (also reduces drug abuse!).
            * Do the same thing we do now to promote fitness, but for religion.

            You seem to be confused as to which countries have a problem. I don’t know that Japan ever had Blue Laws and unless I quite mistaken I don’t think “we” refers to Russia for you and it certainly doesn’t for me.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Jaskologist

            * Do the same thing we do now to promote fitness, but for religion.

            Do attempts by the government to promote fitness, healthy diet, etc work?

            @Iain

            Right-wing populists converting en masse to Islam would both fulfill several of their goals – especially for those to whom religion is instrumental – and be incredibly amusing (for several different reasons0.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Iain

            Indeed, Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world — in large part because Muslims have larger families than Christians.

            No need to mess about with inferior substitutes; let’s jump straight to sharia law.

            (I believe this is the point at which I am required to say: those who unreasonably reject such a solution deserve what they get.)

            Ignoring the fact that sharia law isn’t really a consistent thing across different Islamic countries and probably has little to do with the fertility patterns, isn’t this the eventual result of the immigration solution in Europe? Whether you convert your population to Islam or import Muslims to replace dying agnostics, eventually the population is much more Muslim. And if they don’t assimilate to the fertility norms of Western Europeans, problem solved permanently.

          • Brad says:

            There are plenty of non-Muslim would be immigrants. The xenophobes of Europe don’t appear to have any interest even in their own coreligionists.

          • Ignoring the fact that sharia law isn’t really a consistent thing across different Islamic countries

            I’m not sure what you mean by sharia law. The only Muslim country I know if that comes anywhere close to running its legal system along the lines of Sunni fiqh, religious law, is Saudi Arabia. Most of the others incorporate some elements from the traditional law, but in a modern statute system.

            Fiqh is pretty consistent across the four Sunni schools of law, with differences in detail. I think the Iranian version of Shia law is reasonably similar; I gather some Sunni scholars have argued it should be counted as the fifth madhab. I don’t know enough about Iran to say how nearly it’s the actual legal system they are using.

            I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the other Shia sects varied a good deal in their legal rules.

            Sharia, as I understand it, is law in the mind of God, what fiqh is an imperfect human attempt to model. From the standpoint of a believing Muslim, Sharia is enforced everywhere on everyone, with the punishments and rewards being provided by God after death.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Is there any reason to think that immigrants from wherever wouldn’t assimilate to local fertility norms? Fertility norms are more a reaction to incentives driving social norms than they are just social norms in a vacuum. For an example of a Muslim country with a falling fertility rate, take Turkey. By the UN estimate, it’s about 1/3 of what it was in the 50s, and is hovering at replacement rate. Iran has fallen from just under 7 to well under 2. Saudi Arabia has a rate of 2.71. Saudi Arabia’s is 2.71, and has been dropping.

          • albatross11 says:

            dndnsrn:

            I don’t have a link, but my impression is that immigrants from Mexico and Central America to the US tend to do this–the original immigrants have higher fertility, but their kids and grandkids assimilate and get to American levels of fertility.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Brad

            Sure, but even if Poland was immigrant friendly, people would still rather immigrate to Germany. People want to move to rich places. And the immigrants Europe is going to get aren’t going to be the same as in the Americas. Geographic proximity and events in the immigrants countries determine a lot of immigrant flows. Unless it’s Canada or Australia, where the ocean serves as an enormous barrier.

            @DavidFriedman

            I was just responding to Iain’s flippant comment. I just meant in the sense that sharia law doesn’t really specify the laws of a country. Your comment actually taught me more about the distinctions between as interpreted and again differences with statute law.

            @dndnrsn

            Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The Amish and Mennonites didn’t really assimilate anywhere and are more similar to similar sects in other countries than to their fellow citizens. In practice, I don’t think fertility of immigrants will reach the norm of the rest of the country unless the immigrants are a small group being assimilated and aren’t much influencing the surrounding culture. Even then, it usually takes a couple generations. If it’s due to economic and technological changes, then almost every group will reach the same fertility rates in the next century or so. But fertility within group changed a lot in the last century and still shows significant variation from country to country even within the first world. I guess I would say I expect a narrowing of differences between groups, but I don’t expect differences to vanish.

          • Brad says:

            @quanta413
            Sure immigrants would rather go to Germany than Poland. But they’d rather go somewhere legally than somewhere illegally. I did a bunch of Filipino nurse cases when I was working in immigration. Many of my clients had work experience in Saudi Arabia or UAE. Those countries were quite obviously not these nurses first choice, but they were there were legal, decent paying jobs for them there. So that’s where they went.

            Poland apparently has a nursing shortage and the nurse population it has is aging rapidly. Filipinos are 80+% catholic and have a TFR of around 3. But they aren’t Poles and so the Poles don’t want them in Poland. Fine, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Maybe they can try Blue Laws and crosses instead of rainbow flags.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The Amish and Mennonites didn’t really assimilate anywhere and are more similar to similar sects in other countries than to their fellow citizens. In practice, I don’t think fertility of immigrants will reach the norm of the rest of the country unless the immigrants are a small group being assimilated and aren’t much influencing the surrounding culture. Even then, it usually takes a couple generations. If it’s due to economic and technological changes, then almost every group will reach the same fertility rates in the next century or so. But fertility within group changed a lot in the last century and still shows significant variation from country to country even within the first world. I guess I would say I expect a narrowing of differences between groups, but I don’t expect differences to vanish.

            The Amish and Mennonites are completely noncentral examples, though – their entire culture is based around eschewing a lot of the incentives that lead to a drop in fertility. If there was an equivalent sect moving to whatever European country from wherever, settling out in the countryside, and doing their “no cars, no phones, agriculture and handicrafts only” thing, I don’t think that would upset a huge number of people? It’s not as though the Amish and Mennonites have become demographically dominant in the places they’ve moved, and they wouldn’t do the other stuff Europeans are getting antsy about (past basic racism): they’re not gonna live on the streets of the cities, they’re not gonna commit crimes (petty or otherwise), they’re not gonna plow their buggies into crowds of people.

            The evidence from Canada and the US is that immigrant fertility moves to match the norm, by and large, once SES and so forth are corrected for, right? Unless there’s something inherent to group x that group y doesn’t have that makes them have more kids, and I’m not sure that there’s really any evidence for that.

            EDIT:

            @Brad

            For some reason, the thought of a union of Poland and the Philippines popped into my head, and then I thought “shit is this how the Paradox guys come up with game ideas?”

          • Iain says:

            @quanta413:

            You have correctly identified that I was being flippant. To the extent that I am making a serious point, it is simply that people should consider what “everybody should adopt my pro-fertility religious beliefs” looks like from the outside.

            Like dndnrsn, I expect Muslim fertility rates to drop off as they are assimilated: more like Irish Catholics than the Amish.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Brad

            Sure, why not I guess? It’s not going to happen, but I doubt it would hurt if it did. Almost certainly would help.

            @dndnrsn and @Iain

            Sure maybe fertility rates will all converge towards the host countries. This is roughly the pattern of the last 100 years in the West for most cases. With some enormous outliers. But I do not think it should be assumed to hold true forever. I don’t even know if it was true in the past before the last century. And American Indians/Alaskan Natives have much lower total fertility rates than the U.S. average (about 2/3 the U.S. average) despite having lived in the land of the U.S. since before the U.S. But if immigrants fertility rates really do converge towards the below replacement rates of Western countries, that’s a serious argument for current Western culture or economics being pretty broken.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Source for American Indians/Native Alaskans? Aboriginals in Canada have a population growing at a faster rate than the national population, and a younger population than the national average, which would seem to indicate higher birth rates. Given that their standard of living is lower (I don’t know if they’ve gotten treated worse in Canada than in the US, but they’ve been treated pretty badly, and the worst poverty in the country is in Aboriginal communities usually) it’s not surprising; higher standard of living correlates pretty strongly with lower birth rates.

            In general, the “developed world” pattern means lower birth rates. Kids are more likely to live so you don’t have to have a bunch to ensure a few make it, less useful as labour (no farms, and you can’t send them to work in factories any more), they’re generally more expensive to have, women have kids starting later because technology lets them pursue options other than starting to have kids in their late teens if they so choose (and it looks like they generally do so choose), etc.

            This isn’t even just a developed world thing: there’s countries that still have fairly low standards of living that have seen a swing from “we gotta get people to have fewer children” to “we gotta get people to have more children.”

            In general, I think the pattern shows that the more you get away from a subsistence-agriculture model, the fewer kids you have. I think it’s a given that any immigrant group will see its fertility converge provided a certain degree of integration (economic being more important than social, because economic change drives social change more often than the opposite). Iain is right: the pattern of Muslims in North America is probably going to follow Catholics. The fear that the Irish, Italians, Bavarians, etc were going to take over came to nothing much. (glowing galaxy brain: have you seen the Supreme Court?)

          • baconbits9 says:

            But if immigrants fertility rates really do converge towards the below replacement rates of Western countries, that’s a serious argument for current Western culture or economics being pretty broken.

            No it isn’t, culture doesn’t propagate the way genetics does. Western culture could have a sub replacement level birth rate and still grow by assimilating immigrants and having their birth rates converge over time. There would be an issue if western culture ended up dominating the world’s population by so much that there weren’t enough potential immigrant populations to make up the shortfall AND that under such a scenario birth rates stayed at sub replacement levels.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Presumably, if current patterns continue and there isn’t some sort of global-scale catastrophe, everyone’s birth rates will continue to fall. If one day everywhere in the world has a good-enough standard of living, everywhere will have a sub-2.1 birth rate.

            This is less due to “western culture” than technology, I would posit. Human similarities between groups are greater than differences between groups; anywhere that abandons subsistence agriculture, has accessible birth control, etc, will see a drop.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            Source for American Indians/Native Alaskans?

            I made a mistake. I have now checked additional sources and withdraw the claim. There is no agreement on whether it is lower or higher. Methodologically there’s some sort of variation occurring. Original source I used. I now suspect it’s junk because other sources show smaller gaps although the direction varies.

            An older source that only goes to 2005. You can see in this table that Native American birth rates were higher than the average back in the 1990. That ceased to be true in 1995 and then the rate fell some more.

            But I also found a source with the opposite difference from Pew Hispanic. http://www.pewhispanic.org/2015/09/28/modern-immigration-wave-brings-59-million-to-u-s-driving-population-growth-and-change-through-2065/9-26-2015-1-30-23-pm-2/

            I also found some census data but it’s mostly yearly just for 2012. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/demo/p20-575.pdf

            It lacks a breakdown for Native Americans’ total fertility. However, at least in 2012, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders had over ~1.5x as many births per women as White non-Hispanics. Asians had about 1.2x as many births per women as white non-hispanics. If this year extrapolated out that would mean Asians had higher fertility than white non-hispanics which is the opposite of what most sources I’ve read claimed. Clearly if I can find the time, I should read less and dig through census data more.

            @baconbits9

            Dunno. In the long run, relying on perpetual flow of people from places with births rates that exceed replacement seems like a flaw to me. If the birth rates in other places drop too much, you’re screwed. That looks like the current trajectory.

            The other possibility seems to me to be that eventually those places are much bigger and more powerful (because eventually they have a lot more people), and I would think cultural changes would start flowing the other way.

            @dndnrsn

            Sure, technology makes it possible. But people still have to decide to have less children. Yet in the U.S. surveys show that women have less children than they wanted (see graphs under that section in this great article by Lyman Stone). So either the economy or culture are interfering with people’s preferences, or men are ruining everything for everyone because they don’t want to have enough children and they’re dragging us down. I really am serious about the second possibility although I used a flippant phrasing.

          • Brad says:

            Straight line extrapolation in this case seems very foolish.

            If the Japanese, or whomever, are going to have problems with their societies in the next two or decades because of their current age pyramid, that’s worth thinking about. But worrying about what it will mean when negative growth compounds over half a dozen generations is like worrying about all the problems your baby will have when he is 15 feet tall, because after all he’s doubled in size over the last six months.

            The problems facing modern Japan were completely unknowable 120 years ago. It’s insanity of the hubris type to pretend to know what problems Japan will be facing in another 120 years.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Sure, technology makes it possible. But people still have to decide to have less children. Yet in the U.S. surveys show that women have less children than they wanted (see graphs under that section in this great article by Lyman Stone). So either the economy or culture are interfering with people’s preferences, or men are ruining everything for everyone because they don’t want to have enough children and they’re dragging us down. I really am serious about the second possibility although I used a flippant phrasing.

            It’s possible the economy is interfering with people’s preferences, and it’s possible that men want children less than women and that’s the issue. But there’s want and want. And there’s also, to steal from Game of Thrones, want to want vs want.

            If someone really wants kids, they will organize their life around that. It’s not impossible to have several children on a tight budget, but it requires prioritizing having children. My experience is that when I lived in a lower middle class area, I saw more children, and more parents herding multiple kids, than in upper-middle-class areas. If having children costs money, and that’s the problem, how come the people with less money have more children? It might mean not being able to take your kids on vacations, or not being able to send them to private schools, or not having a high-powered career. But those things are all different priorities than “having children.”

          • quanta413 says:

            @Brad

            Sure, I agree. I think it by far most likely the cultural or economic situation will change until replacement rate is reached. This may be because more recent arrivals don’t tend towards the mean of past arrivals. This may be because the large clumps we’re talking about obviously have subgroups, some of which exceed replacement rate and some of which don’t. What I’m arguing though is that the fact that either permanent large inflows of immigrants must be maintained (even as the claim is that more and more countries are approaching sub-replacement fertility) or the culture or economic situation must change for the replacement rate to be met is a sign that something current is flawed. In exactly the same way that natural selection tends to remove deleterious mutations (like humans who keep growing forever) from the population, parts of culture which fail to reproduce themselves eventually cease to exist.

            @dndnrsn

            Perhaps, but I find your explanation wanting. People fail to obtain things they want all the time. And having children is a much more complicated thing to do correctly than most things. Many people don’t know what their true preferences are until after they’ve had at least one child. But the more you delay having children, by the time you realize you were mistaken about your own preferences, the harder it is to catch up to where you want to be because of biological realities. The increases in fertility in women in middle age and the vast amounts people are willing to spend for fertility treatments indicate that a lot of people really do have less children than they’d like.

            And poorer people might have more children than richer people, but fertility also falls in recessions. People seem to decide more based upon their relative wealth to their past selves (or their parents), not compared to their peers. I’m not claiming U.S. citizens literally lack the necessary money. Most could have 6-12 children if they wanted to. This may be a severe cultural flaw that people decide based upon relative wealth over time rather than absolute cost, but things like that are the sort of thing I’m talking about as being cultural problems.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Perhaps, but I find your explanation wanting. People fail to obtain things they want all the time. And having children is a much more complicated thing to do correctly than most things. Many people don’t know what their true preferences are until after they’ve had at least one child. But the more you delay having children, by the time you realize you were mistaken about your own preferences, the harder it is to catch up to where you want to be because of biological realities. The increases in fertility in women in middle age and the vast amounts people are willing to spend for fertility treatments indicate that a lot of people really do have less children than they’d like.

            Perhaps what’s going on, then, is that people have mistaken ideas about fertility and how much work it is to raise a child? In the former case, mostly women’s fertility – there seems to be a false choice between “pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen, 16-forever” and “start having kids at 35; fertility doesn’t decline right?” In the latter case, anecdotally and by what stats we have, it appears there’s a decent supply of men (given that most children are born to heterosexual couples) who have careers, and wives who have careers, but still deal with household chores, etc, in the manner of some guy in the 50s who expects to come home, get handed an Old Fashioned, and that there be a roast in the oven.

            And poorer people might have more children than richer people, but fertility also falls in recessions. People seem to decide more based upon their relative wealth to their past selves (or their parents), not compared to their peers. I’m not claiming U.S. citizens literally lack the necessary money. Most could have 6-12 children if they wanted to. This may be a severe cultural flaw that people decide based upon relative wealth over time rather than absolute cost, but things like that are the sort of thing I’m talking about as being cultural problems.

            If people decide to have kids based on their experience as kids/their parents’ situation, then there is going to be a massive collapse in middle-middle and upper-middle class births, maybe even lower-upper class depending how you cut it, because the supply of “upper middle class raised person whose money puts them in the lower middle class” and similar is huge. If it’s a relative thing, they won’t be thinking “I can support 2 or 3 kids at a standard of living that’s magical by the standards of most people today” but rather “I won’t be able to put my kids in all the sports” or “is a life where you don’t get taken to Europe as a toddler a life worth living?

          • Doctor Mist says:

            if you push non-religious people who don’t want children into religion, you’ll end up diluting the religions.

            Not necessarily a bad thing. A religion that unifies a populace is arguably better for the populace than a bunch of religions each of which emphasizes its own congregations superiority to the rest.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            I think that explanation makes sense as to what sort of choice some people are implicitly acting like they have.

            Your second paragraph brings up an interesting question that should in principle be answerable from some government data somewhere. We know overall fertility falls in recessions, but we don’t know why. I think the correct people to compare are siblings, ideally identical twins (since the overall trends fluctuate over time). Do people who are in a lower relative percentile of wealth than their parents tend to have more or less kids than siblings who are as wealthy as their parents were? If they have more kids than their siblings, then what is the path that leads to a drop in fertility during recessions? Not absolute or relative wealth but a short term comparison to just a few years ago?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is the issue a recession, or is it a stagnation? There’s a lot of people right now in the prime of life who face a less favourable economy than someone roughly equivalent did however many years ago, but is that due to something bad now, or something being unusually good back then?

    • Mark says:

      The work people are doing is absolute nonsense anyway, so the solution is less work, less consumption, more community.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      Here’s an idea: A percentage of everyone’s yearly tax payments goes to their parents, if their parents are still living. The parents are free to return the money to the children; blow it on a vacation to Tahiti; whatever they want.

      The idea is that in the past, people had a lot of children because it was expected to be an economic benefit to them. They could have the children work for free on the farm; they could have the children work in a factory and keep the child’s earnings; etc. Obviously it’s not realistic or humane to reintroduce child labor on a large scale, but that’s arguably the fundamental problem: The economic costs of having children are much more privatized than the benefits are socialized.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Alternative construction: Your social security payments are dependent not only on your own salary, but on a percentage of the sum salaries of your children.

      • Matt M says:

        Really? You can’t think of any possible downsides to a world where people receive a vast economic benefit to having their parents die?

        • Randy M says:

          Numerous such situations have existed in the past, and while “killed for the inheritance” is also a motive for Mrs. Lansbury to consider, was it really widespread?
          I suspect by and large the population of killers doesn’t overlap too large with the population of significant-tax payers.
          (plus, fortaleza84 didn’t actually say your taxes do down when your parents die just that a portion of your does to them when you are living. If anything, it is a motivation for keeping your parents alive)

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I agree. Also, the plan could be tweaked by putting a time limit on it. In the past, parents could reap benefits from the children’s productivity for about 10 or 15 years and that was sufficient incentive.

        • John Schilling says:

          I believe the proposal is for the tax rate to be the same but for some of the taxes to go to the parents if alive and the government if not. But this has its own perverse incentives, particularly if you aren’t careful with your definition of “parents”. Even within traditional families, the potential for kickback schemes should be obvious, and I suspect the major effect would be encouraging children to live with their parents well into their thirties and treating the tax transfer as de facto rent.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Even within traditional families, the potential for kickback schemes should be obvious

            Maybe I don’t see what you are getting at, but I don’t see why this is a problem. If Dad says “Son, if you take a high-paying job, I’ll sweeten the deal for you by kicking back all of the extra revenue I get out of it,” what’s the problem?

            I suspect the major effect would be encouraging children to live with their parents well into their thirties and treating the tax transfer as de facto rent.

            I don’t see this one either. The transfer would take place regardless of where the child lives so I don’t see why the child would be incentivized to stay at home or the parents would be incentivized to permit it. Can you clarify?

          • Randy M says:

            But this has its own perverse incentives, particularly if you aren’t careful with your definition of “parents”.

            This exists already in reverse in our tax structure, that is, deductions for dependents, and while it is a source of fraud, I don’t see that fraud as sufficient to motivate eliminating the deduction, so it shouldn’t argue against setting up the reverse. Unless we really are going to enact one of those schemes to eliminate the IRS, seems workable.

          • John Schilling says:

            This exists already in reverse in our tax structure, that is, deductions for dependents, and while it is a source of fraud,

            Deductions for dependents only apply to the extent that the parent, A: has taxable income and B: is spending it to support the dependent child. At least as written, the new proposal involves actual cash payments to deadbeat dads, unemployed baby daddies, etc, which seems to be a rather fundamental change.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Deductions for dependents only apply to the extent that the parent, A: has taxable income and B: is spending it to support the dependent child.

            Actually it has not been true for many years that you have to support your child to receive a deduction. Just being your child is sufficient. The very recent tax law changes removes this deduction completely, but it also doubles the child tax credit, which also is unrelated to whether you support that child. And you don’t even need taxable income for this credit, because it is partially refundable.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          That’s not quite what I proposed, since people would have to pay their taxes regardless of whether it all goes into the general treasury or some of it goes to their parents.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Remember when the problem with birth rates was that you had to find somewhere to send all the excess population?

      But suburbs. While in the West cities have higher nominal birth rates, when you control for age (highly urbanized areas are disproportionately youthful), urban areas tend to have lower birth rates.

      (I am vaguely looking forward to the coming panic when long-term non-permanent male birth control sends birth rates plummeting.)

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Israel has a high birth rate: why don’t we ask them how they accomplish it?

      Apparently, Israel leads the world in IVF births per capita (can’t really find a good source) and leads the world in IVF treatment generally (which may affect the first part). Why?

      Well, in the UK, you are required to have unprotected sex for 2 years, and then go through 12 cycles of artifical insemination. The UK will only cover 3 cycles. The US standard is 6 months, and 3 cycles of artificial insemination. How much your insurance will pay for depends on your insurance coverage, but mine covers 2 cycles (so the UK wins on that front I suppose). It’s only covered up to the age of 40.

      In Israel, not being able to have a child is considered about the worst thing that can happen to you. And Israel really, really wants to increase their birth rate. So in Israel, you can have IVF with an unlimited number of trials, until you have 2 babies. It’s not number of cycles, they will keep giving you IVF treatments until you have 2 kids, up to the age of 45.

      So it’s not hard to conclude that Israel really wants a higher birth rate much more than the UK does. Given that Israel is slightly poor than the UK and has to spend a much higher % of its money on defense, it’s not clear why the UK’s spending on IVFs is not blowing Israel’s out of the water…except that UK isn’t really serious about increasing its birth rate.

      There’s probably some other stuff going on, but I largely suspect that nations that want to increase their birth rate probably aren’t thinking it about all that much. Mandating generous maternity leave is another easy, obvious policy.

      • Randy M says:

        In Israel, not being able to have a child is considered about the worst thing that can happen to you.

        Isn’t this, if true, sufficient explanation without looking at IVF, which is likely a very small percentage?

      • albatross11 says:

        I suspect there’s a whole culture/society/values thing that underpins that. That is, it’s probably not enough to have IVF free to all comers–rather, you need the underlying common belief that not being able to have kids is a tragedy, kids are important and almost everyone should have a few, etc.

        Biology and society don’t particularly align well w.r.t. when women have their kids. A high-achieving woman is likely to be still getting her education and establishing herself in the world until she’s 30 or so, and might not be ready to have kids till her mid-30s. At that point, it’s going to be harder on her in most ways than if she’d started at 20. But starting at 20 means not going to college or getting pregnant in the middle of college, and having your kids at 20, 23, and 27 makes it pretty hard to also get a college degree, then a graduate degree, and then build up a career. Some women manage it, but it’s not easy. In principle, we could change things about our society to make this work better, but I have no idea how to actually do that in practice in a workable way. (Like, you could imagine women having their kids at 18, 20, 22 and then going to college, but most women aren’t ready to marry at 18 and would need a lot of support to manage their kids plus getting a college degree. And nobody has (or should have) the power to impose this kind of social change from above, even if it were clearly a good idea.)

        • Randy M says:

          I’d suggest ending Tulip Subsidies a good first start. Then put some more vocational training (or even some more esoteric self-improvement type college courses for the people who say education exists to improve oneself) into High School, perhaps some small employer subsidies for on-the-job training, which would likely be more focused and efficient.
          I don’t know how to transition, but the relative level of importance in what the average late-high school/college/grad school/internship etc. offers versus what that decade-and-a-half has in terms of fertility is very overstated, imo.

          I’m not saying every 18 year old woman should be heavy with child, but the life script we sell to people seems very heavily weighted towards getting certifications and playing the field and against marriage and children, in terms of priorities, at least, even if abstractly valuing the latter higher.

          Yes, I know babies take money, but the vitality (and not just fertility) of youth is a boon in raising children, which, happiness boosting or not, most people come to want at some point in their lives; it is a vital resource we encourage people to entirely take for granted.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I don’t think the life script makes anywhere near as big a deal as people make it out to be. Asian American birth rates in the US are identical to white birth rates, and Asian Americans are far more likely to follow the life-script that prevents child-birth: the Asian college education rate is 50% compared to the White college education rate of 30%, for instance.

          Blacks have a somewhat higher birth rate, but it’s still below replacement, and their college education rate is only 16%. Latinos are marginally lower at 13.5%, but their birth rates are higher, high enough that they are above replacement.

          There’s definitely a cultural component, but it’s not just the life script. Anecdotally, there are plenty of women in this office that lived traditional life-scripts and ended up with 2 kids. The cultural issue is that they limited themselves to 2 kids, but could probably have 3 or 4 kids if they wanted to. My MIL ended up with 5, and did not start having kids until she was 30.

          You’re really talking about bringing in marginal kids at this point, so you need to make it easier to move from 2 kids to 3 kids, make it easy for single mothers to have kids if they want them, and make it a bit easier for infertile kids to have kids. You probably can’t get up to that Israeli level, but you might be able to get past replacement rates.

          • Randy M says:

            Hrmph. Your data does argue against my theory, although the logic that cutting fertile years basically in half (by starting at thirty or so) reducing fertility seems strong to me.

            You’re really talking about bringing in marginal kids at this point, so you need to make it easier to move from 2 kids to 3 kids, make it easy for single mothers to have kids if they want them

            I’d rather move some of the 2 kid parents to 4 kid parents than adopt the latter goal. Assuming those 2+ kid families aren’t single mothers to begin with.
            How does the fertility rate track age of first marriage?

          • Anonymous says:

            @Randy M

            cutting fertile years basically in half (by starting at thirty or so)

            More like leaving only a quarter of it. Fertility cliff begins at 35.

          • Randy M says:

            @Anonymous: Yeah, but I was trying to be as conservative as possible with the estimate.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The issue is not fertility but fecundity. People don’t want (many) kids, so they’re not having them. People who do want kids but wait until too late are probably (based on the data) not a big factor. So solutions based on voluntary fertility treatments probably won’t do much.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Randy,

            Not sure how the fertility tracks first marriage age….and I’m going to be honest, I’m wayyy too lazy to look into it. I basically only post when I have free time at work, and today is a half-day 😛

            I would prefer focusing on letting 2-parent families have more kids, but the same logic applies to single mothers as applies to women in the c-suite: do you want a higher birth rate, or do you want fewer single mothers? Is it a HUGE deal if we let established women in their late 20s and early 30s raise a few kids easier? I mean, I’m not talking about boosting teen birth rates (though we can even look at that, if we’re REALLY interested in boosting the birth rate).

          • Randy M says:

            Is it a HUGE deal if we let established women in their late 20s and early 30s raise a few kids easier?

            I’d have to consider whether filling in the demographic gaps with Islamic youths or fatherless westerners was more unpalatable. If those are the only options, I think you’re only bailing a sinking boat at that point.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I’d have to consider whether filling in the demographic gaps with Islamic youths or fatherless westerners was more unpalatable. If those are the only options, I think you’re only bailing a sinking boat at that point.

            I’d rather take the Islamic youths, but the marginal immigrant from Islamic nations may not reflect the average. Most of the Islamic youngsters I have met are either fairly Westernized or just a bit outside the norm.

            I guess according to Pew they are slightly more impoverished than the average American family, but it’s not quite the same as what France is dealing with.

      • Brad says:

        Israel is demographically complicated. First, you need to decide whether or not to include the population in the West Bank and/or Gaza and/or residents of Jerusalem and/or those living in Israel proper without citizenship or whether only to look at Israeli citizens. Within the category of Israeli citizens there’s three major relatively distinct sub-groups: haredi Jews, all other Jews, and Israeli Arabs (i.e. Muslim and Christian Israeli citizens).

        If the entirety of the explanation for Israel’s high birth rate as compared to countries at a similar wealth level is haredi Jews and Israeli Arabs (and I have no idea if it is or isn’t) then there’s not many lessons there to be drawn for other countries. It’s just local, non-translatable, idiosyncrasy.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Possibly, but before writing it off, can we at least make an attempt at it? It is what the OP asked, after all.

          If you’re not even making the attempt, can you really be said to be serious about raising your birth rates? It sounds more like “we tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas.”

          • Brad says:

            Sure. Inasmuch as the voters of Poland, Sweden, the UK, or wherever are really worried about the age pyramid and is unwilling to use immigration to fix the problem, then paying for fertility treatments seems like a no brainer. As expensive as they can be, helping people that already want to have children, have children seems like low hanging fruit as compared to trying to convince people to have children that don’t already want them. And most industrialized, unlike the US, have direct levers to determine what is and isn’t paid for in terms of medical treatment.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Mandating generous maternity leave is another easy, obvious policy.

        Easy, obvious, and ineffective, so far as I can tell.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Yeah. You need mandatory paternity leave coupled with it to make it work; otherwise you are just pushing women down the career ladder.

          ETA:
          Although come to think of it, I think Iceland has it. Did it work?

          • Anonymous says:

            No, it didn’t. Iceland’s TFR is below replacement and falling.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Do you want higher birth rates or do you want gender equality at the CEO level? Does the second even matter?

          • Matt M says:

            Tinkering around with tax rates and leave policies seems to be largely missing the point.

            How many people do you know whose decision to have children was largely influenced by tax deductions and leave policies?

            I’m a firm believer in economics and marginal costs and so on and so forth, but it strikes me that most people are not really “on the fence” about whether to have children or not. A lot of people really want kids in which case they are going to have kids, even if they have no spouse, no job, and no plan to provide for them. A lot of other people really don’t want kids and go through elaborate rituals and invasive surgeries to ensure they don’t accidentally end up with any, and throwing promises of small cash payments in their face isn’t going to change their mind.

            I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone whose decision on this issue could be swayed by tinkering around with tax policy.

          • albatross11 says:

            How would we discover whether there are a lot of people “on the fence” about when to have kids, vs people who have clearly made up their minds and aren’t changing them for any plausible tax/career incentive? It sounds plausible that almost nobody is on the fence enough to be influenced, but it’s not clear to me that it’s true.

            One sideline: to the extent you’re wanting the highest-functioning people in your society to have more kids, you’re playing the control-fertility-with-tax-policy game at its hardest setting–those are the people who are the most able to afford some extra costs, and who are (I suspect) most likely to be unwilling to change their life plans (“Get pregnant during grad school? Are you nuts?”) to respond to your nudge toward higher fertility.

          • Matt M says:

            How would we discover whether there are a lot of people “on the fence” about when to have kids, vs people who have clearly made up their minds and aren’t changing them for any plausible tax/career incentive?

            By implementing a bunch of tax/career incentives and watching as they have no effect?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Matt,

            I may not be on the fence as to whether or not to have kids, but I am definitely on the fence as to how many kids to have. Part of the reason we see so many 2-kid families may be that parents really want kids, can’t afford a bunch, and have 2 as the absolute minimum in mind.

            A lot of couples also may be totally willing to have kids in the future, and then their fertility windows run out before they can have more than 1 or 2.

            Yeah, the majority of kids are going to be born regardless, but we’re talking about moving the birth rate from 1.9 to 2.1.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Paternity leave doesn’t change the problem.

            Maternity leave exacerbates the choice for women between career and children. rather than picking one route or the other the policy is a major incentive to try both. Being human you can do neither at 100%, and so you get X% towards family and Y % towards career (and Z% to personal interests etc).

            The “women shouldn’t have to choose between a career and a family” sect are economically illiterate. Of course you have to choose, every guy who puts in long hours isn’t spending it with his kids, or playing golf or whatever their 2nd best option is, every woman who has a child isn’t working when they are raising it, it is a basic fact of life for everyone.

            Paid parental leave ends up acting as a work subsidy, you have 2 kids in 10 years you get paid for 10 years of work while preforming only 8.* This is more along the lines of a sabbatical than an incentive to have large families, and it should be no surprise that countries with such acts frequently end up with a large section of the female population having careers and 1 or 2 kids.

            *Also they are typically written so as to discourage large families. The woman who has 6 kids in 10 years isn’t going back into the workforce between children long enough to qualify, she might get 1 or 2 years of paid leave depending on the distribution of kids, but she already values having kids over a career by a good amount and is often planning the next kid before the prior is a year old.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I may not be on the fence as to whether or not to have kids, but I am definitely on the fence as to how many kids to have. Part of the reason we see so many 2-kid families may be that parents really want kids, can’t afford a bunch, and have 2 as the absolute minimum in mind.

            3 kids isn’t much more expensive than 2, or 1 if you have a stay at home parent. Each additional kid for the 1 income family is only a small additional cost, each additional kid for the 2 income family is a large additional cost.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, the majority of kids are going to be born regardless, but we’re talking about moving the birth rate from 1.9 to 2.1.

            Really? This doesn’t strike me as something that requires massive social intervention…

            If you wanted to move it from 0.9 to 3.1 I’d be more inclined care…

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            bacon,

            in my particular case we are a 2-earner couple. Plus there are a lot of tail-end expenses involving things like college education and weddings that need to be planned for.

            Going by BLS, 2-earner families are typical and the majority of mothers of young children do have to to work.
            https://www.bls.gov/news.release/famee.nr0.htm

            In 2016, the labor force participation rate of mothers with
            children under 6 years old was lower than the rate of those whose youngest child was
            6 to 17 years old (64.7 percent versus 75.0 percent). The participation rate of
            mothers with infants under a year old was 58.6 percent

            So there’s probably still a significant marginal cost associated with each kid.

            In my neighborhood, full-day Kindergarten is a BIG thing. Parents want to be able to unload their kids on the school system earlier. A couple people were elected to the School Board just because of this.

            Anecdotally, my sister has a stay-at-home-Dad, but he doesn’t want to just watch kids for 10-15 years.

            Matt,

            I agree that we probably don’t need a massive cultural change to get the results we want. Like Brad said, we could just let in immigrant groups that have lets of kids if we really want to.

          • Randy M says:

            Plus there are a lot of tail-end expenses involving things like college education and weddings that need to be planned for.

            You mean your daughters or sons weddings? On the whole, I think people would prefer a sibling to a fancy wedding. You might get siblings you don’t get along with, but you also might never get married, so there’s risk either way. Just tell them “We couldn’t give you an expensive wedding because we gave you a bridesmaid instead.”

            As for college, I’m hoping something changes in the next ten years, because I don’t see how present trends (in tuition cost) can continue. But even if not, I didn’t get much from my parents for college (in the low 4 figures, iirc), and I’m certainly happy to have been born and reared nonetheless.

            If those expenses are reasons not not to have kids one would otherwise have (rather than excuses when you didn’t really want more) I’d say you value a relatively small chance to boost your child’s potential status as higher than I do.
            (edit: And I’m not sure I’m right…. I’ve brought up the topic of how focused parents need to be of securing an UMC position for their young children)

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Yeah, the college expenses….I hope that gets sorted out soon. My FIL said he locked in my sister’s in law tuition and room+board at 23k per year, back in 2010.

            100k is a LOT of money, and growing at 5-6% per year is practically nightmare territory.

          • baconbits9 says:

            My goal (as a stay at home dad and home schooler) is to get my kids to a point where college isn’t necessary for a financially comfortable life.

          • Plus there are a lot of tail-end expenses involving things like college education and weddings that need to be planned for.

            The weddings struck me as odd. If you have the money to put on a fancy wedding, that’s fine, but it’s definitely a luxury good, not something you have to do if you have a kid.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          How string is your prior on this? I find conflicting evidence that lead to a murky conclusion. I would describe my personal opinion as roughly analogous to my opinion that minimum wages probably have a slight depressing effect on low-income employment.

          The consensus from quick googling appears to be that whatever the effect, it is smaller than the effect of cash transfers to families. The costs of the marginal baby is probably high, but if you’re super, super serious about increasing the birth rate, you might be willing to accept that cost.

      • baconbits9 says:

        So it’s not hard to conclude that Israel really wants a higher birth rate much more than the UK does. Given that Israel is slightly poor than the UK and has to spend a much higher % of its money on defense, it’s not clear why the UK’s spending on IVFs is not blowing Israel’s out of the water…except that UK isn’t really serious about increasing its birth rate.

        This is a dubious conclusion, success rates for IVF fall off very quickly. Women in their 40s can see their success rates drop to around 5%, which at $5,000 each would mean $100,000 per live birth just for the IVF (and IVF costs are higher than that in the US by a factor of ~2x iirc). IVF for a woman over 40 is possibly the least cost efficient method for increasing the birth rate. Advertising it could even possibly be counterproductive if it makes women overconfident that they can successfully get pregnant later in life.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          There’s also the UK’s requirement to blow throw multiple courses of other Assisted Reproduction methods before resorting to the IVF. That may be part of why a majority of IVF treatments in the UK are funded privately, not by the NHS.

          Apparently, most British health facilities don’t even follow the NHS guidelines?

          https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/may/10/ivf-nhs-fertility-postcode-lottery-cut-costs

          In Scotland and Wales, only two cycles of IVF are offered in most cases, and in England, just a fifth of CCGs provide the recommended three rounds. A quarter provide two rounds, 52% provide one round and 2% refuse to fund any IVF treatment whatsoever.

          Also, I don’t see how $100k for a live birth doesn’t seem reasonable when you are, say, Israel, surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who have tried to kill you in the not-so-distant past. It might not seem so unreasonable if your population pyramid becomes inverted and you are being crushed by transfer payments to the elderly (though I am totally on board with capping payments to the elderly to alleviate the budget crisis).

          • Brad says:

            Also, I don’t see how $100k for a live birth doesn’t seem reasonable when you are, say, Israel, surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who have tried to kill you in the not-so-distant past.

            This reads like a non sequitur to me. Can you connect the dots for how paying $100k for fertility treatments makes sense *because* Israel is (allegedly) surrounded by enemies?

            It might not seem so unreasonable if your population pyramid becomes inverted and you are being crushed by transfer payments to the elderly

            What percentage of newly born children would you expect to have a net present value to state coffers of $100k at birth (i.e. net taxes over costs, taking into account timing and discounted appropriately)?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Also, I don’t see how $100k for a live birth doesn’t seem reasonable when you are, say, Israel, surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who have tried to kill you in the not-so-distant past.

            How does this make it reasonable? Is there anyway that Israel can realistically improve its defensive ability by getting 40+ year olds pregnant at ~$100,000 each (and that is a low ball estimate, with all the costs it is probably $200,000-250,000 per live birth)? Adding 1,000 people to their population this way would cost 100 million dollars, and adding 100,000 people this way would be 10 billion- for a country that spends 17 billion on defense (wikipedia).

          • John Schilling says:

            Is there anyway that Israel can realistically improve its defensive ability by getting 40+ year olds pregnant at ~$100,000 each?

            Well, the child of a pregnant 40+ year old woman will presumably serve at least a few years in the IDF twenty years later, and may become a career soldier. The child of a not-pregnant 40+ year old woman, will not.

            Since modern western-style soldiers cost well over $100K each to train, equip, and deploy for battle, it’s quite possible that this is cost-effective at the margin.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Brad,

            Of the IVF babies? Depends on the demographics of the parents and the limitations put in place. I wouldn’t be surprised if the current average American IVF baby tops $100,000+ in net contribution to the federal government.

            Additional babies mean additional soldiers in case Egypt and Syria attempt to invade you for the 4th time. Israel already spends a considerable sum of money per soldier, so while $100,000 for an extra soldier might not be the single best use of money, it also might be value add, especially if you compare it to health care interventions rather than other military weapons.

            Like, if you ask the military if we should spend $800,000 on a heart transplant or 800,000 for 8 new soldiers, what do you think they’ll say?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Of the IVF babies? Depends on the demographics of the parents and the limitations put in place. I wouldn’t be surprised if the current average American IVF baby tops $100,000+ in net contribution to the federal government.

            The IVF baby would have to contribute ~$170,000 to the Federal government at age 18 @ 3% interest to break even on $100,000 per. $190,000 at age 22. Since most of that net contribution is going to come later in life, and after their earnings have paid for their schooling etc you probably talking around age 40 when they actually start paying off that $100,000 which puts it at well over $300,000 if they payed it off in a lump sum at 40. Realistically they won’t pay it off in a lump sum so the total will be $400,000-$500,000 no chance your average current IVF baby does that, let alone the additional marginal IVF babies that you would add.

            Additional babies mean additional soldiers in case Egypt and Syria attempt to invade you for the 4th time

            There is almost no chance that 10,000 extra soldiers 20+ years from now trumps $1 billion in defense spending available now in securing Israel’s long term future.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            10,000 additional soldiers that can be conscripted at any point over a period of 30 years? That are adaptable resources and can be equipped with whatever the military situation calls for? Because your spending today has to foresee military threats in 20-50 year time horizon.

            If you’re worried about the NPV of an IVF baby, question: how much money does the state of New York need to set aside today for a child born tomorrow, using your 3% rate? Start with just the education expenses of $20,000 per year. Since that number is larger than the cost of an IVF baby, which we have all apparently decided is just a gross misuse of funds, have we also determined that NYC should now be following anti-natalist policies too?

            All of this is still angels on pinheads talk. The UK makes it difficult for couples of ALL ages to have IVF compared to Israel, not just women over the age of 40. Women in their 30s have a much greater chance of having a successful conception and therefore the costs per live birth are much less. The state of Israel says it pays $3500 per cycle, not $5,000.

            I also think this is an aside of “what does Israel do to get such a high birth rate” as Israeli birth rates would be substantially higher than US birth rates even without the IVF babies (which account for something like 4% of all births in Israel, while Israel has damn near double the US birth rate using crude birth rate stats).

          • baconbits9 says:

            10,000 additional soldiers that can be conscripted at any point over a period of 30 years?

            No, population and military service don’t work this way. You cannot conscript 100% of a subset and stick them on the front lines with guns, further more you have to wait 15-25 years to be able to conscript them. Finally you once again drop the dollar cost of those births and just use the birth numbers without them. Tanks, bombs, trucks, aircraft etc are far more effective at fighting a numerically superior enemy than a small population increase.

            If you’re worried about the NPV of an IVF baby, question: how much money does the state of New York need to set aside today for a child born tomorrow, using your 3% rate?

            Well first lots of city and state governments have fiscal issues, second you don’t have to put that money aside before the births happen. If school costs 20k a year, and starts at age 6 then with 3% interest the costs at age 10 are ~$108,000. For IVF you have 10 years (actually this should be 12+ years since you start to pay at the start of treatments not at birth) you are at $134,000. Thirdly these costs are IN ADDITION TO the other costs. This is akin to me saying “don’t buy a $400,000 house, it is clearly out of your price range/ability to make payments” and you saying “So I shouldn’t buy a $300,000 house either?” It is very easy to come up with numbers for ‘investments’ where it is a perfectly workable and net positive decision at X and not at all workable 1.3x. Finally these are very low ball estimates. IVF costs 2-3x this much in the US and 3% interest is a very low discount rate.

            All of this is still angels on pinheads talk. The UK makes it difficult for couples of ALL ages to have IVF compared to Israel, not just women over the age of 40. Women in their 30s have a much greater chance of having a successful conception and therefore the costs per live birth are much less.

            Women in their 20s and 30s are also much more likely to have one of the other alternatives succeed. “Have you tried doing your wife” and “have you tried doing your wife at the right time each month” and then “have you tried doing this plastic cup and then having the cup do your wife” are all vastly cheaper than IVF.

            The state of Israel says it pays $3500 per cycle, not $5,000.

            GDP per capita is ~$36,000 in Israel, $3,500*20 at 3% per year for 18 years is ~$115,000, for an individual to pay just for the perpetual interest of 3% per year they would have to transfer 10% of their annual production to the government from age 19 on, every year in excess of the amount needed to pay for all their other social costs like schooling etc (and also start out right at the average and not need time to build up to the average and not start after a stint at university etc).

    • SamChevre says:

      I’d say “Likely to work, but outside the current Overton Window”

      -Tax policy that sharply discourages second incomes, the way the high marginal rates of the 1950’s did.

      • SamChevre says:

        It seems to me that there are two options that point in opposite directions:

        1) Generous maternity leave/more anti-discrimination law/subsidized childcare/etc

        This set of policies is intended to make having children while working easier, particularly for women. In my observation, it may be effective at getting some people to have one child rather than none, but I do not see any state or culture where it has increased birthrates to anything like pre-1970 levels. If, like me, you think “marriage, then children” is the desirable life path, it also seems to do relatively little to encourage marriage, then children relative to single motherhood.

        2) Steeper marginal taxes on second incomes, “breadwinner wage” structures, less limits on employment discrimination against mothers.

        This is the opposite. This is designed to make non-working motherhood the norm, and is what most countries had up until the 1960’s. The goal is to make it so that two-parent, one-income families are socially and economicly comparable to two-parent, two-income families rather than to single-parent families. The subcultures that follow this model–strictly observant Jews, the conservative end of Protestant and Catholic sub-cultures, and some immigrant groups–have much higher birthrates.

        I think model 1 has been tried and failed, and model 2 is demonstrably better. Of course, model 2 is the one that would advantage me, since that’s the family structure of my family.

      • Nornagest says:

        That might incentivize shacking up without getting married before it incentivized stay-at-home parenthood.

    • Odovacer says:

      Here’s a naive thought: Is it possible it could resolve itself? If populations decline in areas, then certain goods like housing will become less expensive. As things are less expensive, that would allow people to have more children.

      • Nornagest says:

        Housing prices are a matter of supply and demand, and supply of housing tends to be relatively inelastic, so if they’re going down, it’s usually because fewer people want to buy. “People” includes potential parents, so we can say more or less by definition that the advantage of cheaper housing is not outweighed by the disadvantages of living in the area.

  16. Rm says:

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-017-4541-7

    HbA1c, diabetes and cognitive decline: the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Fanfan ZhengLi YanZhenchun YangBaoliang ZhongWuxiang Xie, Diabetologia. …Conclusions/interpretation:
    Significant longitudinal associations between HbA1c levels, diabetes status and long-term cognitive decline were observed in this study. Future studies are required to determine the effects of maintaining optimal glucose control on the rate of cognitive decline in people with diabetes.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Good article. I would really like to see an academic fairly critique Peterson. All we get is the typical name calling (sexist, transphobic, etc) and guilt by association (“someone held up a picture of Pepe the Frog next to him, that means he’s alt-right!”)*. I would really like someone who disagrees with Peterson to tell me what he’s actually wrong about.

      * I find the whole “alt-right” thing especially weird with regards to Peterson. Ignoring the obvious worldview difference between the anti-ideology Peterson and the narrow ideology of the alt-right, Peterson is far bigger than the alt-right. Richard Spencer has ~90k twitter followers. Peterson has ~400k on twitter, and over 700k on YouTube. Peterson’s Patreon brings in at least $60,000 each month. Nobody’s giving that kind of cash to the alt-right. Peterson’s fans cannot possibly be “the alt-right” because Peterson’s following dwarfs the alt-right by at least an order of magnitude and is growing fast.

      • Matt M says:

        As used in popular conversation, “alt right” has no standard definition. It basically means “Any right-leaning person who does not loudly and constantly attack Trump”

      • toastengineer says:

        Someone who listens to news media that are trying to convince them that the “alt-right” is something to be so terrified of that you never take your eyes away from the news ticker is not going to think of that.

      • Randy M says:

        You think that he’s bigger than the alt-right. Some, especially those inclined to facially critique Peterson, have a more expansive view of the movement.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Then a rising alt-right tide should lift all (most? Many?) alt-right boats. What other allegedly alt-right figures have been attracting followers like Peterson?

          • Well... says:

            Maybe number of followers isn’t the right metric, or at least not a useful metric by itself? Peterson’s hot right now because he’s the latest Brave Guy Standing Up to the Insane Establishment and its Whiny Henchmen, but before that he was mostly unknown. Compare with Steve Sailer who’s had a pretty large following for a long time, but not as large as Peterson’s obviously.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Mainstream appeal, then? Peterson got popular on YouTube, but now he’s interviewed on Channel 4 (hostilely) and Fox (fawningly). Other “alt-right” figures are unknown outside of their narrow platforms.

            I think the only thing Peterson has in common with the alt-right is a hatred for SJWs, and the left pattern matches “doesn’t like SJWs” to “nazis” and that’s that.

          • Well... says:

            Yeah, I think that’s about right. I would still say the extent of Peterson’s mainstream appearances is probably evidence against an all-trite association, at least in the sense of “alternative” and “mainstream” being oil and water. For instance, Steve Sailer isn’t going to be on Fox & Friends, even if Sailer is every bit as reasonable and knowledgeable as Peterson. (That’s a real “if”; I don’t have strong confidence whether he is or isn’t, but for sake of argument let’s say he is.) So this makes a true comparison of “how big is X among the all-trite” difficult.

          • Randy M says:

            What other allegedly alt-right figures have been attracting followers like Peterson?

            Devil’s Advocate: Trump. Collectively, Breitbart. Maybe Milo? How is his book doing?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Well… and Randy M

            Peterson is waaaaaaaay less radioactive than Sailer or Milo.

            Peterson is a free speech crusader by the standards of Canada, but I’m pretty sure he’s on the record as saying that he doesn’t mind Canada’s hate-speech, etc, laws, which are incredibly restrictive by the standards of the US and would get knocked down by the first court they ran into. The diciest thing about him is the whole “postmodern neo-Marxism” thing, which is uncomfortably close to “cultural Marxism”, which is basically a conspiracy theory, and one that certainly isn’t not anti-Semitic. He also has some sketchy fans, and has on at least one occasion publicized things like public Facebook pages of people who don’t like him – which is basically plausibly-deniable incitement to harass, and is at minimum bad form. His objection to nonbinary pronouns is based on a really weird reading of C-16, and is a strange hill to die on. He speaks with great authority on subjects he doesn’t know a great deal about – eg, a Biblical scholar might be at odds with him about the Bible. But those arguing against him usually have to depend to some extent on guilt by association and quote-mining (which is disappointing, because I am not a huge fan of the guy, and keep seeing what I want to be incisive critiques and instead are lazy boo lights). You wouldn’t have to do that with Sailer and Milo.

            Sailer has as one of his core opinions something that is a completely unacceptable opinion in modern western society – namely, his opinion of the most racially-focused version of “horrible banned discourse”. This isn’t something that someone trying to show would have to do by selective quotation or guilt by association or whatever. He has opinions that are anathema to most people, and is quite cheerful about it.

            Milo, meanwhile, has a shtick built around saying offensive things in the most insulting way possible, and then being gleeful when people are offended and insulted. He uses slurs, misgenders people for funsies, etc. There’s that whole thing where he wrote an article on the alt-right playing down the white nationalist, etc, part of it, and then it turned out he was basically using white nationalists as proofreaders (those emails were real, right?). There’s also the chance he believes very little of it but saw a niche – which makes him not just odious and juvenile but also a huckster.

            I know people with fairly impeccable left-wing credentials who have said some variant on “that guy makes some decent points, but he is kinda dicey” about Peterson. The chance of them saying that about Sailer or Milo is zero.

          • Randy M says:

            I know people with fairly impeccable left-wing credentials who have said some variant on “that guy makes some decent points, but he is kinda dicey” about Peterson. The chance of them saying that about Sailer or Milo is zero.

            The question is, would those left-wing people put Peterson in the deplorable basket, or not. I think so, based on the fact that I think they find the alt-right to be a significant threat and would put a wider variety of opinions into that basket, such as thinking there are two genders, etc.

            If you consider Slate to be impeccably left wing (idk, do you?) this supports my claim.

            The examples of Milo etc. were the examples of other people who would be considered alt-right and have or had a comparable following. I don’t know how comparable they are, but there’s other factors; I think based on his usage of Youtube videos, Peterson probably has Sailer beat on charisma, and he is rather less scandal plagued than Milo.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Something I must have omitted: they said these things privately. There are probably people at Slate who think Peterson is right about some things. But they probably know not to write articles saying that. I’ve never had any left-wing friend of mine privately say they agree with Milo on anything.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the actual phenomenon isn’t an alt-right tide, it’s a breaking of the megaphone monopoly. Thirty years ago, it was a lot harder for people who were opposed by most/all of the mainstream broadcast and print media outlets to get much of an audience, so they couldn’t become popular successes even if they were pretty appealing to a large chunk of people. I think talk radio and cable TV really started allowing this kind of end run around the gatekeepers (or at least one set of gatekeepers), but the internet made it a lot easier to do that end-run.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is Peterson opposed by most/all of the outlets? I think you’re right that the internet played a huge role in all this, but there’s lots of people who agree with him. The internet’s role was in making this something that people outside of one Canadian university knew about.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m very much not an expert, but I think a lot of what he says is pretty anodyne–ie, clean up your room. A lot of the rest is somewhat esoteric, modern mysticism. That leaves some controversial things, maybe just the transgender thing and anti-leftwing academia (possibly atheist crusader types). I think it probably rounds to most mainstream opinion makers not seeing him as worth opposing if they aren’t into fighting on those particular causes. Those that are will want to paint him as an extremist lunatic, of course, but they likely aren’t representative.

          • dndnrsn says:

            He’s a weird mixture of stuff.

            1. Jungian stuff, or whatever.
            2. Weird misinterpretation to Bill C-16. As I recall, his initial objection was to being made to use whatever pronoun – which was a weird interpretation, from what I’ve seen lawyers say.
            3. Fairly anodyne but apparently not anodyne enough that people don’t need to hear it about getting your shit together, but honestly, nothing you couldn’t get from preexisting sources.
            4. Also, apparently you shouldn’t eat carbs.
            5. Weird, vaguely (?) conspiratorial, overly-complicated stuff about certain current trends in parts of academia.

          • Well... says:

            2. Weird misinterpretation to Bill C-16. As I recall, his initial objection was to being made to use whatever pronoun – which was a weird interpretation, from what I’ve seen lawyers say.

            Can you expand on that? I’ve only heard his side of it.

            Anyway, another problem with the all-trite thing is, who doesn’t deny being affiliated with the all-trite when the affiliation is alleged? I’ve seen Milo deny it for instance, insisting instead that he and many in the all-trite are merely “fellow travelers” but then going on to list issues where he thinks there is no overlap between him and them (e.g. Israel).

            I personally don’t think that if you define the all-trite in a reasonable way that Jordan Peterson should be included in it. My point is more to say that reasonable definitions of the all-trite are hard to come by and even those are complicated by the huge variance in specific cases, which means that when someone says Jordan Peterson is affiliated with the all-trite it’s not terribly hard to see why they say that.

            Or another way to put it might be that you have to be atypically familiar with both the all-trite and Peterson to be able to easily tell that he isn’t part of the all-trite.

          • Deiseach says:

            As I recall, his initial objection was to being made to use whatever pronoun – which was a weird interpretation, from what I’ve seen lawyers say.

            Well, since I had no idea what a “Title XII” or “Dear Colleague” letter was and had to go look it up, imagine my surprise when I found Title XII was originally about “you have to spend as much on/sponsor women’s sports and teams in universities as you do on men’s sports and teams”. How they got from that to “Dear Colleague, this covers rape accusations and how you should deal with them” I have no idea, so I’d be taking with a grain of salt any “lawyers say this teeny-weeny rule will never expand to cover things as you fear”.

            Emanations of penumbras and all the rest of it.

          • Matt M says:

            How they got from that to “Dear Colleague

            The phrase “equal opportunity” has been twisted in common American usage from something like “You can’t refuse service to someone because of race or gender” to something like “If you allow anything negative to happen to anyone of race or gender, you are denying them equal opportunity to enjoy your services and therefore you are in a lot of trouble.”

          • Aapje says:

            @Randy M

            He also argues that traits that are commonly seen as negative can help society and that people should not necessarily suppress them entirely. In the context of many of his followers being men, I can see how some may see this as support for ‘toxic masculinity’ or worse.

            @dndnrsn

            Looking at Bill C-16, it says:

            all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on […] gender identity or expression

            This can be interpreted in a really expansive way, because some may argue that being addressed in person or in writing as an ‘expansive ornate building’ is a need and if others do not do this, this person will be so psychologically hurt that they are hindered in having the equal opportunity to “make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have” as a person who identifies as male or female.

            Alternatively, this can be interpreted in a very limited way, where a person who identifies as an ‘expansive ornate building’ may not be denied something for having that identity, but where others are not required to affirm or recognize this.

            The bill doesn’t seem to specify the limit to which needs have to be accommodated, which seems to leave it up to the judge’s digression. In itself, I can see why Peterson may not want to be at the mercy of a judge, especially if he fears ‘Cthulhu swims left’ and/or in ‘legislating from the bench.’

            In a world where ‘men and women should be treated equally’ became mostly misandrist ‘Title IX panels,’ I can see why he cannot live with such vagueness.

          • Randy M says:

            He also argues that traits that are commonly seen as negative can help society and that people should not necessarily suppress them entirely. In the context of many of his followers being men, I can see how some may see this as support for ‘toxic masculinity’ or worse.

            What came to mind reading your first sentence was Autism. Goes to show it’s a fairly general statement without examples or context.

            As far as ‘toxic masculinity’ being bad, well, that’s tautological. To say all masculinity is toxic, though, is a motte (if I’m using that right) that definitely deserves pushback.

            [eta: correction accepted. I’ll just have to remember it’s the opposite of what I remember.]

          • Winter Shaker says:

            To say all masculinity is toxic, though, is a motte (if I’m using that right)

            Other way round: if I understood the metaphor right, the motte is the obviously-defensible, not-much-use-to-your-special-interest-group claim, and the bailey is the claim that is hard to defend, but profitable to you if you can get away with it.

          • Aapje says:

            @Randy M

            I think that you should not underestimate the bad faith that people commonly have for attempts to help men.

            It’s not a coincidence that the Newman interview used the fact that his audience is heavily slanted towards men pejoratively (and so did my own newspaper), while Newman got out of sorts when Peterson explained that he helped women in their careers. She clearly could not imagine how someone can care about men as men; as well as about women as women. Of course, this is my criticism in general: that very few fight for equality of opportunity for men and women, but instead, that it is often a fight for one gender at the expense of the other.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Well…, @Deiseach, @Matt M, @Aapje

            C-16 could be interpreted in any number of ways, but Peterson is taking the most slippery-slope interpretation possible and then asserting it’s the core of C-16. I don’t think that a comparison to Title IX really works; Peterson is a tenured academic, and we’re talking about speech rather than allegations of criminal or borderline actions.

            With regard to whether he’s alt-right, yeah, defining these things might require a greater than normal knowledge of what alt-right is, or about Peterson, but we’re not talking huge familiarity (I’ve never watched a Peterson video, because I can’t stand trying to follow videos) and people casting sweeping judgments on whatever without being familiar is kind of the problem in general. We do it here about some things, other people elsewhere do it about other things, etc.

          • Matt M says:

            Peterson is taking the most slippery-slope interpretation possible and then asserting it’s the core of C-16. I don’t think that a comparison to Title IX really works

            What were the opponents of Title IX, back in the 70s, saying the worst-case slippery slope scenario would be?

            Because I feel like current day policies are probably worse than that. Did anyone ever imagine the sort of sexual assault tribunals where the accused have zero rights?

          • Zorgon says:

            @Aapje

            I think that you should not underestimate the bad faith that people commonly have for attempts to help men.

            How does that quote go?

            The First Rule of Gynocentrism Club is that no discussion of Gynocentrism is permitted. Anywhere. Ever.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Anyway, another problem with the all-trite thing is, who doesn’t deny being affiliated with the all-trite when the affiliation is alleged?

            Richard Spencer and Vox Day to name two.

            I’ve seen Milo deny it for instance, insisting instead that he and many in the all-trite are merely “fellow travelers” but then going on to list issues where he thinks there is no overlap between him and them (e.g. Israel).

            Milo has consistently denied being a member of the alt-right. For a while after Charlottesville, “alt-right” was starting to solidify with the meaning of the actual neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, fascists, white nationalists, etc. But it’s too tempting a term and now it’s back to the motte-and-bailey where people bring up Spencer and the neo-Nazis to show you should hate them, but use a much wider meaning when assigning the term to their opponents.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            In every (nearly every? I haven’t seen one where they don’t) interview of Peterson that isn’t with an explicitly right-wing interviewer, the interviewer spends a fair amount of time grilling Peterson about his association with the alt-right.

            I think all of us here, left, right and center, agree Peterson is not alt-right. He rejects pretty much any sort of collective behavior or explanations for politics and instead is a radical individualist.

            When Newman, Salon, etc, mention the alt-right alongside Peterson, or ask him about his involvement with the alt-right, do you think they’re merely ignorant? Have they not seen any of the other interviews he’s done in which he’s explained he has nothing to do with the alt-right, and if anything his “sort yourself out, take responsibility for your own life” message diverts people away from both far left and far right collectivist ideologies?

            Or are they doing it because they’re trying to tar him with guilt by (false) association? It just seems to me if you’ve got 15 minutes to ask Peterson, who’s got this large body of work about religion, mythology, psychology, self-help, etc, and every single “neutral” interviewer must ask about that one time somebody held up a banner with Pepe on it for a photo with him, there’s something uncharitable going on.

          • Iain says:

            To be clear: all that Bill C-16 did was take the list in the Canadian Human Rights Act listing the prohibited grounds for discrimination and stick “gender identity or expression” somewhere in the middle. Everything else that Aapje quoted was already in the Act. All the stuff about being arrested for using the wrong pronouns is Peterson’s legally dubious extrapolation.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Deisach

            Title IX is what gets you the Dear Colleague Letter, not XII.

            This is the main part of Title IX

            No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

            The rest is mostly exceptions, in particular fraternities and sororities.

            From that, you get the no-due-process rape tribunals. Men have tried to use it; with a few exceptions, despite its neutral language, courts have refuse to apply it that way. Some cases against tribunal results have succeeded on due process grounds instead.

          • Matt M says:

            It just seems to me if you’ve got 15 minutes to ask Peterson, who’s got this large body of work about religion, mythology, psychology, self-help, etc, and every single “neutral” interviewer must ask about that one time somebody held up a banner with Pepe on it for a photo with him, there’s something uncharitable going on.

            The mainstream media doesn’t give a single crap about his large body of religion, mythology, and psychology. There are hundreds of professors in the world who have that.

            Peterson is only famous because alt-right people like him. If it wasn’t for the Pepe the Frog photos, they wouldn’t bother interviewing him at all. So of course they’re going to ask about that. He can keep insisting all he wants to do is tell people to clean their room all he wants, but he’s only famous because he has become, like it or not, a highly politicized figure.

          • Well... says:

            @The Nybbler:

            But it’s too tempting a term and now it’s back to the motte-and-bailey where people bring up Spencer and the neo-Nazis to show you should hate them, but use a much wider meaning when assigning the term to their opponents.

            If I’m understanding right, motte-and-bailey is basically another way to describe the bait-and-switch? Get someone to agree to an uncontroversial claim and use that agreement to argue he agrees with a radical claim? I’m still trying to figure out that term and how the metaphor works.

            @Conrad Honcho:

            When Newman, Salon, etc, mention the alt-right alongside Peterson, or ask him about his involvement with the alt-right, do you think they’re merely ignorant? Have they not seen any of the other interviews he’s done in which he’s explained he has nothing to do with the alt-right, and if anything his “sort yourself out, take responsibility for your own life” message diverts people away from both far left and far right collectivist ideologies?

            Or are they doing it because they’re trying to tar him with guilt by (false) association? It just seems to me if you’ve got 15 minutes to ask Peterson, who’s got this large body of work about religion, mythology, psychology, self-help, etc, and every single “neutral” interviewer must ask about that one time somebody held up a banner with Pepe on it for a photo with him, there’s something uncharitable going on.

            Maybe a bit of both? I can’t honestly believe that Newman, Salon et al. are familiar beyond a crude glance with Richard Spencer, let alone Steve Sailer, John Derbyshire, Moldbug, Duke, r/pol memes, etc. So I am totally confident that they do not appreciate the diversity of perspectives and attitudes that exist even among people who are solidly, unquestionably in the all-trite. Throwing Peterson into that pit isn’t a measured tactic, it’s a reflex built on assumptions about where the boundary of polite discourse lies.

            If you are familiar with the all-trite you realize there are particular ideas and attitudes and explicit affiliations* that can be said to roughly mark its edges. It’s an often jagged and reactive edge, but it’s there nonetheless, and there is in many areas plenty of space between it and the boundary of polite discourse.

            If you aren’t familiar with the all-trite, then the edge of the all-trite is merely the other side of whatever you consider to be the boundary of polite discourse.

            *The fact that Peterson once said something favorable about Milo is not what I’d consider an explicit affiliation. The fact that Sailer and Derbyshire and McInnes and Goad all write at Taki’s Mag and link to each other’s articles all the time is.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Peterson is only famous because alt-right people like him.

            I don’t think that’s true at all. I already laid out that his twitter and youtube numbers dwarf alt-right people. Nobody in the alt-right has a #1 on Amazon book like Peterson does. Peterson can’t possibly be famous because of “alt-right support” when his supporters dwarf the alt-right.

            That’s like saying Rachel Maddow is only popular because of literal communists. Hey, I’m sure among literal communists Maddow is probably a pretty OK news personality, but the number of people watching Rachel Maddow who are not literal communists dwarfs the population of literal communists watching her.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think that’s true at all. I already laid out that his twitter and youtube numbers dwarf alt-right people.

            My argument is not “ONLY alt-right people follow Peterson.” It is “Were it not for being associated with the alt-right, nobody would have known about Peterson in the first place.”

            He got famous for a political association. But he was also intelligent and reasonable enough to then, once famous, attract attention from fair-minded politically neutral people – as well as the requisite amount of followers who hate him but pay attention to him anyway.

            But his unique attribute is still, to this day, “Says things that annoy SJWs but is slightly more intelligent and reasonable about it than Trump or Milo.”

            LOTS of people write self-help books. LOTS of college professors have interesting insights about religion and psychology. Nobody cares about those people. The whole reason that English lady kept trying to goad him with “So you’re saying women are inferior???” is because that would be interesting. She wanted to attract viewers and generate controversy, because that’s what sells. If Peterson was just some well educated dude who said “clean your room” he’d have like 100 twitter followers, tops.

          • Zorgon says:

            @MattM

            My argument is not “ONLY alt-right people follow Peterson.” It is “Were it not for being associated with the alt-right, nobody would have known about Peterson in the first place.”

            This doesn’t fit with my memory of events; Peterson hit the news because of the protests against him at his campus. It’d be far more accurate to say that “Were it not for being against current transgender activist orthodoxy, nobody would have known about Peterson in the first place.”

          • Matt M says:

            Fine, whatever.

            “Refuses to use transgender pronouns” maps directly to “Nazi” for 95% of the mainstream media.

            Which is why these interviewers are bewildered by him. They THINK they’re getting Milo – but what shows up is far less entertaining (in terms of making a good cable news “scream at each other session”) than what they wanted.

          • Brad says:

            “Refuses to use transgender pronouns” maps directly to “Nazi” for 95% of the mainstream media.

            No it doesn’t. Quit lying.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            As Iain notes, it’s just adding stuff on to the Canadian Human Rights Act. That dates to 1977. Why would adding gender identity to it suddenly cause the way the Act is applied, etc, to change?

            @Well…

            Motte and Bailey is something come up with by a philosopher (?) but popularized (?) by Scott:

            The writers of the paper compare this to a form of medieval castle, where there would be a field of desirable and economically productive land called a bailey, and a big ugly tower in the middle called the motte. If you were a medieval lord, you would do most of your economic activity in the bailey and get rich. If an enemy approached, you would retreat to the motte and rain down arrows on the enemy until they gave up and went away. Then you would go back to the bailey, which is the place you wanted to be all along.

            So the motte-and-bailey doctrine is when you make a bold, controversial statement. Then when somebody challenges you, you claim you were just making an obvious, uncontroversial statement, so you are clearly right and they are silly for challenging you. Then when the argument is over you go back to making the bold, controversial statement.

            I’ve also seen it called “strategic equivocation” which is probably a better term because it isn’t an analogy to medieval siege warfare.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The mainstream media doesn’t give a single crap about his large body of religion, mythology, and psychology. There are hundreds of professors in the world who have that.

            No, the MSM cares that he has 500,000+ followers and that some people hate him and some people love him. Some of his followers love him for his large body of knowledge, and so the MSM cares (to a degree) about his large body of knowledge.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Well…

            The motte-and-bailey tactic as referenced on this blog is described in “Social Justice and Words, Words, Words”. It’s more switch than bait, and particularly it involves a narrower and wider meaning

          • Well... says:

            Sounds like motte-and-bailey might just be describing “foolishly making a bolder statement than you can actually defend, then retreating to the milder one you can defend if someone calls you out on it” at least 99% of the time. The other 1% of time it’s a calculated maneuver worthy of a name.

          • Matt M says:

            Some of his followers love him for his large body of knowledge, and so the MSM cares (to a degree) about his large body of knowledge.

            Then how come they don’t ask him about his “large body of knowledge” and instead they lead with “SO HOW DID YOU BECOME THE LEADER OF THE ALT-RIGHT? WHY DO YOU THINK WOMEN ARE INFERIOR? IS IT TRUE YOU BELIEVE HOMOSEXUALITY IS A MENTAL DISORDER? WHY ARE YOU BREAKING CANADIAN LAW? WHY DO NAZIS LOVE YOU SO MUCH?”

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Well…

            That’s far too charitable. The motte-and-bailey user will retreat to the motte when challenged, but will re-occupy the bailey as soon as the challenger goes away.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Then how come they don’t ask him about his “large body of knowledge” and instead they lead with “SO HOW DID YOU BECOME THE LEADER OF THE ALT-RIGHT? WHY DO YOU THINK WOMEN ARE INFERIOR? IS IT TRUE YOU BELIEVE HOMOSEXUALITY IS A MENTAL DISORDER? WHY ARE YOU BREAKING CANADIAN LAW? WHY DO NAZIS LOVE YOU SO MUCH?”

            How about you give some actual examples.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Matt M

            Then how come they don’t ask him about his “large body of knowledge” and instead they lead with [nazi stuff]

            Yes, that’s entirely my point. He doesn’t have anything to do with that stuff, wasn’t popularized by those people, is only liked by them so far as he makes leftists mad, but he doesn’t share the alt-right Horrible Banned Discourse ideology and in fact denounces it.

            It just seems like you’re making a tautology. “If he wasn’t in league with the internet nazis, why are they asking him about internet nazi stuff?!” They’re doing it to falsely associate him with those people, when he isn’t part of their ideology, didn’t rise to prominence because of anything having anything to do with them, and if anything one who was involved with the alt-right who came to see things Peterson’s way would no longer identify with the alt-right.

          • Zorgon says:

            “Refuses to use transgender pronouns” maps directly to “Nazi” for 95% of the mainstream media.

            You’re wrong, as Brad points out above, although I’d probably agree if you said that a plurality of the mainstream media would present it with strong negative affect.

            The “Nazi” stuff, on the other hand, is pretty specific and mostly avoided by libel-conscious mainstream sources. Taken from memory, I’d suggest that the timeline goes like this:

            1) The press are primed by the Berkeley riots etc to cover high-profile campus protests
            2) Peterson makes his videos about transgender pronouns
            3) Social media frenzy on transgender pronoun issues strikes a match with campus activists
            4) Peterson becomes targeted by campus activists
            5) The press picks up on this (following online activist leads) and begins covering the controversy
            6) Peterson is interviewed and refuses to apologise or give ground
            7) Channers etc notice Peterson’s refusal to give ground and approve strongly
            8) More public members of the then-nascent “Alt Right” respond to increasing approval of Peterson from their base
            9) Media association of Peterson and “Alt Right” begins
            10) “Alt Right” begins to coalesce into the two different meanings I mention above (actual Alt Right / broader “Alt Right”)
            11) Actual Alt Right holds Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, actual Nazis show up, protester is killed
            12) “Nazi Threat” narrative becomes dominant and is conflated with Alt Right (and by extension, “Alt Right”)
            13) Peterson therefore becomes “Nazi” by association (along with countless others)

            “Peterson is a Nazi” is guilt-by-association twice over, so it’s mostly restricted to bloggers and social media. The conflation of Peterson and “Alt Right”, on the other hand, is more deeply rooted.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It is relevant that Peterson is getting a decent sum of money (probably not the 50-60k a month some sources claim; more likely 1-2x his 175k U of T income) from his fans, some of whom are at a minimum pretty sketchy. It’s unclear what he’s doing with that money. It seems plausible to think that he might move his positions in such a way to please people who are doubling or tripling his (already pretty nice) salary.

          • albatross11 says:

            For a controversial person, the goal of a TV interviewer is to get ratings by keeping the controversy going. The controversy is the only reason most people are watching–they’ve heard this Peterson guy is some kind of Nazi or something, and want to see him get yelled at on TV. As best I can tell, most TV talking heads interviewing writers haven’t bothered reading the book, and maybe at best have some talking points from some assistant who may have read the book.

            In the past, this worked pretty well, because while people who knew what the controversial person actually had said, written, believed, etc., would know that the TV interviewer was an idiot, there wasn’t any way for them to discuss it widely. So the interviewer could put words in the mouth of the interviewee, cut them off, put misleading or emotionally-loaded images around the interview, or even carefully edit the interview to make sure the audience got the right impression, and there was unlikely to be much public realization that it had happened.

            That doesn’t work so well now. The megaphones aren’t entirely pointed in one direction anymore, and so people can and do have big public discussions about how dishonest or sloppy an interviewer or news story is.

          • albatross11 says:

            dndnrsn:

            I don’t know a lot about Peterson, but he sure seems like a guy who has spent his whole life developing a set of ideas. My guess is that he really, really wants those ideas widely read and talked about and considered, probably at least as much as he wants some Youtube income. Hopefully, he’s sensible enough to realize that the current media/social media attention blitz is temporary. If so, he’ll be thinking about how to keep his ideas in the spotlight, and the Youtube dollars flowing, for as long as possible.

            I suspect this translates into continuing to try to express what he sees as his most important ideas as clearly as possible, while also allowing for enough controversy to stay in the spotlight. The SJW world seems quite willing to continue the profitable[1]-for-Peterson outrage storm indefinitely, even for pretty mild stuff like overtly refusing to use preferred pronouns or making pretty tame and sensible comments about physical and psychological differences between men and women, so he doesn’t even have to do anything particularly outrageous or embarrassing.

            [1] Though the outrage storm is probably also extremely stressful for him, and may impede his normal work as a psychologist and professor.

          • Well... says:

            @The Nybbler:

            I don’t think I’m being too generous. I think most people just aren’t that careful. Especially not journalists, or people arguing on the internet.

            @albatross11:

            Yes, although I think you are discounting how atypically well Peterson handles himself in those situations. He doesn’t just keep his cool, he has a careful way of saying things that is extremely hard to take out of context. (Compare with Milo for instance.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            Consciously or unconsciously, people will follow the meal ticket. A given person doesn’t have to be bad, sneaky, whatever, to do that, whether they mean to or not. We all do this (for given values of “meal ticket” – it might be professional advancement, it might be personal ego-stroking, whatever).

          • baconbits9 says:

            It is relevant that Peterson is getting a decent sum of money (probably not the 50-60k a month some sources claim; more likely 1-2x his 175k U of T income) from his fans, some of whom are at a minimum pretty sketchy. It’s unclear what he’s doing with that money. It seems plausible to think that he might move his positions in such a way to please people who are doubling or tripling his (already pretty nice) salary.

            The first thing that Peterson did with the money was set up a series of biblical lectures for the public, renting a hall and quality recording equipment and performing college style lectures on the Old Testament for a crowd of ~500 (iirc). He has stated that he has plans to do more of this and is also in the early stages of trying to put together an on line college based on his views on a classical education.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I thought the first thing he did was buy some new recording equipment? I don’t think he’s running off with all his Patreon dollars to Tahiti or whatever. Just saying, if I was getting money from sketchy people, I’d give a bunch to charity and be open with the accounting.

          • lvlln says:

            If Peterson ends up unconsciously following his meal-ticket, that seems like a strong indicator that he will continue to say what he thinks is the truth as he’s developed throughout his academic career, because that’s sort of been his brand and what has gotten him that much money on Patreon. I mean, it’s not even like we have any ideological information on his Patreon patrons – they might be, on average, far to the left of him, far to the right of him, or exactly in-line with him politically. So if we’re to theorize that he’ll be pulled politically in some direction by the views of his Patreon patrons, it’s just as reasonable to theorize that he’ll move towards becoming a born-again SJW as that he’ll become alt-right.

            But regardless of that, having checked out some of his lectures from before he became famous in late 2016, the sense I get is that he just stands up for the truth as he believes it which he’s figured out over the years, and that naturally causes controversy due to the state of affairs these days. It’s what’s caused people to throw money at him, and if he wants to keep that money flow going, it seems likely that he’ll keep doing that.

            He’s publicly stated that he wants to start an online humanities university, and it seems likely that he’ll funnel Patreon $ & his book sales $ towards that. He’s probably reached vast diminishing returns in terms of how much he can upgrade his video equipment with the Patreon $, which I believe was his original purpose with it.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Cheap trick to state that he is getting money from sketchy people.

            Who is he getting money from? You don’t know the specifics, calling them sketchy as the default position is an attempt to smear. Why should he give it away either? People have given him money and he is using it to promote his views, seems pretty reasonable.

          • Zorgon says:

            I’m relatively sure everyone on Patreon getting more than beer money is getting money from at least some sketchy people of some kind.

          • albatross11 says:

            dndnsrn:

            What kind of sketchy people do you think Peterson is getting his money from? I assume you’re not claiming it’s the Russian government, or Mexican drug gangs, or Al Qaida.

            What I think you’re talking about is that he’s probably getting money from people whose beliefs you disagree with, or maybe that he disagrees with. Perhaps many people whose beliefs are broadly socially unacceptable.

            Is there a general principle you think should apply there–one that would also apply to media personalities or writers or thinkers you find worthwhile? Like “if you get donations from people with unacceptable views, then you mustn’t use that money–not even for expressing your own views that are acceptable”?

            This feels to me like an isolated demand for moral rigor–holding people from the other tribe to a much higher standard than you’d hold someone from your own tribe to.

            If you’re a thinker and writer, and you make money from selling your books or ads on Youtube or your Patreon account or whatever else, and then you spend that money on continuing to spread your ideas–write more books, give more lectures, put out more videos, etc., you’re doing just wgat you should do.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @baconbits9

            Where did I say that sketchy was the default position? You’re putting words in my mouth.

            @albatross11

            Wait, whose tribe am I? I’m not putting down any rules or anything. I’m just saying, if he gets rewarded for saying some things more than others, that influences what he says, very likely. When he was a popular-with-students psych prof, he was not getting Patreon dollars for what he was saying. He gets Patreon dollars for dunking on people those donating don’t like.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Where did I say that sketchy was the default position? You’re putting words in my mouth.

            Perhaps you could clear up what you meant by these statements then

            some of whom are at a minimum pretty sketchy.

            He also has some sketchy fans, and has on at least one occasion

            It is relevant that Peterson is getting a decent sum of money (probably not the 50-60k a month some sources claim; more likely 1-2x his 175k U of T income) from his fans, some of whom are at a minimum pretty sketchy.

          • Matt M says:

            It strikes me as unlikely that any significant amount of Peterson’s pateron donations are coming from hardcore alt-right types.

            If you consider that he’s getting upwards of 50k/month… keep in mind that it took Christopher Cantwell (who is proudly and explicitly alt-right)
            several months to raise about 15k… with the explicit goal of helping him buy a lawyer to get him bailed out of jail he was stuck in for macing a transgender left-wing protester in the face.

            If I was a “sketchy” right-wing figure, I know who *I* would donate to first…

          • dndnrsn says:

            @baconbits9

            If I said that some of his fans are sketchy, I in fact meant that, of his fans, some of them are sketchy. It seems pretty clear what I meant, and I’m not sure how you went from that to it being the default. He has fans. Some of his fans – some portion of them – are sketchy. I have no idea what portion are; I imagine it’s a not-insignificant minority.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If I said that some of his fans are sketchy, I in fact meant that, of his fans, some of them are sketchy

            You said that some of his fans are sketchy and specifically said that you would do X if some sketchy people gave you money. This, and other things you said, imply that Peterson should/would adjust his behavior based on these sketchy fans but you never mention how many of his fans are sketchy, which strongly implies that your default position is that enough of Peterson’s fans are sketchy that he ought to change his behavior, or that he would be incentivised to change his behavior to cater to them.

            Your default position for any individual supporter of Peterson’s might not be sketchy, but your default position for his supporters as a group is clearly sketchy, with no evidence supporting this.

          • dndnrsn says:

            There’s a clear difference between “enough are sketchy to make it worth modifying behaviour” and “default to them being sketchy.” I have no idea what sort of evidence could be produced regarding a whole bunch of anonymous Patreon donors. Are we going to apply that standard of evidence to everything we talk about here?

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            …Just saying, if I was getting money from sketchy people, I’d give a bunch to charity and be open with the accounting…

            This talk is cheap, and your insinuations are in bad faith.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What insinuations?

            A common theme in the sort of attempted takedowns I’ve seen is, what’s happening with this money? Questions concerning guilt by association, what exactly he’s saying, etc, seem a lot more subjective than a balance sheet. If he could say, look, I’m making such-and-such an amount, and this is what’s happening to it, that would undermine the people who claim he’s making 700k+ a year off of Patreon and socking it away for himself.

            Or, if I’m being unfair and uncharitable and not providing any evidence, maybe we (as in, this comment section) could start applying the same charity and standards of evidence to, say, obnoxious hairdyed campus lefty activists that we should be to Peterson and his fans?

            EDIT: let’s put it this way. What do you think the attitude here would be to some lefty activist of the Patreon-culture-warrior variety whose Patreon stats were exactly the same as Peterson’s?

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            There’s not much point in asking what insinuations and then clearly talking about your insinuations just below. Especially when you’re behaving perfectly reasonably in a different subthread in the open comments.

            And I don’t care about campus lefties making money on Patreon, I seem to have not ever posted accusing one of them of being secret khmer rouge sympathizers or subtly influenced by bolshevik infiltrators. Perhaps you have confused me with someone else.

            Or if you want to box everyone into groups and play SSC identity politics go ahead, but your moral posturing about how you’re only engaging in poor behavior against your outgroup to make a point is only depressing. I don’t actually believe you’re serious in that you wouldn’t do it to people in your outgroup if some people on the right here didn’t do it to some people on the left. If it makes you feel any better, I wouldn’t believe the people on the right who like playing that game either if they said they swear they would drop it just as soon as they were done engaging in guilt by association games about some particular lefty either.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            I’ll say it openly: turning off the amount raised looks like it could be sketchy. Not even “looks sketchy.” It might not be sketchy. Peterson seems like, some dumb and misguided opinions/positions aside, probably more upright than the average. He certainly comes off as more upright than a lot of the people who have occupied a similar-but-more-to-the-right position in the internet ecosystem – for example, Milo went from “gamers are loser basement virgins” to “gamers are the brave vanguard of free speech and cultural libertarianism” pretty quickly and the whole email thing is mega sketchy, Cernovich is a (buy my book) blatant (buy my book) huckster (buy my book). He also comes off as more upright than plenty of culture warriors on the opposite side of the aisle. But I think there’s not being sketchy, and there’s avoiding the appearance of sketchiness.

            And it’s not really guilt by association – guilt by association is “some sketchy people like him, ergo, he must be sketchy.” You can’t control who your fans are. It’s actually about ethics in accounting.

            Peterson’s not my outgroup, either. I roll my eyes at most of the attempted hitpieces, because they’re mostly really bad. I yearn for a good critique of the guy, but most of the criticisms I see, especially those embraced by people I know to be intelligent, are just depressing, borderline-dishonest messes. I am in fact being careful to critique the guy because my lizard lobster brain is telling me “psst, those shitty hypocrites from university don’t like this guy, so, he’s probably OK” and I’ve been trying pretty hard not to listen to that sort of instinct.

            Maybe it was cheap talk to say “oh I’d give it to charity” but the charge against him that (to me) sticks the most that actually gets made (because the hitpieces don’t say “he has some sketchy fans” they say “he must be a Nazi”; they don’t say “he’s a dick about gender neutral pronouns” they say “he hates trans people”, etc). It would be fairly easily dispelled; if he releases the amounts and shows what the amounts are doing, and the books disprove the charge that he’s raking in x dollars and keeping it for himself, then anyone who continues to make that charge is clearly a liar.

            I’m also not accusing you of playing culture war or whatever. Just that, around these parts, the background level of charity and standards of evidence are higher for people on the right than the left.

          • baconbits9 says:

            There’s a clear difference between “enough are sketchy to make it worth modifying behaviour” and “default to them being sketchy.”

            There is no clear difference. X% of Peterson’s fans are sketchy, the 100-X% are not sketchy, if Peterson started catering to the sketchy side then he is not catering to the 100-x%. The implication is either that the 100-x% don’t care about him catering to the sketchy fans, making them sketchy themselves or that the X% dominates the donating portion of his fan base.

            Either your claim is that his fan base is dominated by sketchy donors, or that his non sketchy donors don’t mind at all if he pushes toward the sketchy side, either of these is a default position about his fan base.

            I have no idea what sort of evidence could be produced regarding a whole bunch of anonymous Patreon donors. Are we going to apply that standard of evidence to everything we talk about here?

            I think the standard of evidence should be SOME, of SOME KIND when you are discussing groups of people and some potential outcomes (and discussing them exclusively in these terms makes it worse).

          • baconbits9 says:

            A common theme in the sort of attempted takedowns I’ve seen is, what’s happening with this money? Questions concerning guilt by association, what exactly he’s saying, etc, seem a lot more subjective than a balance sheet. If he could say, look, I’m making such-and-such an amount, and this is what’s happening to it, that would undermine the people who claim he’s making 700k+ a year off of Patreon and socking it away for himself.

            Responding to hit pieces undermines them? Or gives them credibility? Either is possible, the latter sounds more plausible to me. It functionally cedes the framing to his opposition.

            Stephen King makes more than that per year, and it is certainly plausible that certain types of violent criminals like his stories and are over represented in his fan base, should he then detail every dollar he makes and how he spends it?

          • dndnrsn says:

            OK, instead of thinking of it as sketchy vs non-sketchy, if his fans mostly like him for his culture war potential, isn’t he going to have an incentive to do more culture warring, if that’s why people donate? There are non-sketchy people who support a right-wing (or anti-left wing, or anti-idpol, or whatever) culture war position.

            You can look at his Patreon earnings and patrons, and see that a handful of people gave close to five bucks each a month when he was a psych prof talking about Jung or w/e. When he becomes famous because campus lefty activists whose actions optimize for position, etc, within campus lefty circles, and think “optics” is just another way of saying “respectability politics”, try to make him into a public enemy; that’s when all of a sudden people start watching his videos and sending him money and so on. Prior to that, he was largely known to people who were University of Toronto students who had taken his course, and he was making fairly typical established-tenured-professor money.

            So I’ll withdraw from him trying to please sketchy donors, because I think you make a good point. But I think it’s safe to say that his incentive is to culture war. Even if he doesn’t want to.

            (Considering that, it might be good for him if he becomes the “clean your room” guy, not the “BASED PROFESSOR DUNKS ON ESSJAYDUBUS” guy)

            EDIT: And I think debunking claims made in hit pieces, when they can be debunked (due to being objectively-verifiable things), does weaken hit pieces. Rolling Stone getting the pants sued off them didn’t make the UVA piece stronger. It won’t convince people who already hate him that he’s OK. And his fans probably don’t care if he’s buying a bunch of gold plated vacuums so he can clean his room in the ballingest way possible. But if you take someone like me – I think that the accounting issue is basically 1/3 of my issues with the guy – there are people who haven’t taken a side.

          • baconbits9 says:

            OK, instead of thinking of it as sketchy vs non-sketchy, if his fans mostly like him for his culture war potential, isn’t he going to have an incentive to do more culture warring, if that’s why people donate?

            What is the evidence that his fans like him for his culture war potential. Sort his youtube channel videos by views and #1 is his first lecture in his biblical series, nearly 500,000 more views than his #2 video. In his top 8 videos 6 of them are are an hour+, and 7 are 30 mins+. He has 30 videos with 300,000+ views (selected for nice round numbers), quick count 11 of them are his lectures. Peterson’s non culture war oriented book is also currently #1 in books on Amazon.

            It is pretty clear that his publicity comes from the attacks of culture war members, his twitter/youtube/facebook hits spiked in the two weeks after the channel 4 interview was released*, but it is equally clear that there is a strong demand for his long, thoughtful pieces.

            * I don’t think it is incidental that he flustered the interviewer not with a logical defense of his position but by defending her right to be antagonistic towards him.

          • baconbits9 says:

            So I’ll withdraw from him trying to please sketchy donors, because I think you make a good point. But I think it’s safe to say that his incentive is to culture war. Even if he doesn’t want to.

            This is only reasonable if you assume he can be “based professor dunking” without his current approach. When I (sample size of 1) watched that channel 4 video I didn’t think he was particularly impressive (and I listened to his entire podcast library in 6 weeks last year) until he got to the point where he was emphasizing the importance of free speech, and it clearly flusters the interviewer. I don’t think he can get to that point of the interview while being intentionally culture wary before that.

            Peterson has also stated that he thinks his popularity is tied to dissatisfaction with the culture war, and that his lecture series basically is providing his bonafides as being against the culture war, and speaking to his character.

          • quanta413 says:

            And it’s not really guilt by association – guilt by association is “some sketchy people like him, ergo, he must be sketchy.” You can’t control who your fans are. It’s actually about ethics in accounting.

            I’m going to be honest. Unless he’s making explicit promises about not buying second houses or whatever, I think he could spend his part of his patreon money on hookers and blow and I wouldn’t find it any more questionable than spending money he had earned from a book contract or his job as a professor on hookers and blow. So that sort of egregious behavior would be questionable, but not because of the source of the money.

            You have given 0 evidence that he’s doing anything bad with the money. You haven’t yet crossed the most basic of thresholds to shift the burden of proof onto him. And the burden of proof starts on you unless you want to advocate that whenever X pays Y, Y has a duty to disclose how they are spending money to X.

            You’ve started shifting tactics from “maybe some sketchy people (read: the all-trite) are a subset of the people paying him on Patreon so he should disclose his finances and donate money from sketchy people to charity” to the much more boring claim “people on Patreon should disclose their earnings and how they spend it to their donors”. The second claim is not a moral imperative and there are good reasons to think it is wrong, even if it is a little harder for hucksters to bilk people if they have to fake a little bit of accounting.

          • Well... says:

            I haven’t been following y’all’s disagreement about disclosure and sketchy fans too closely but I wonder if what’s at the heart of it is something about Patreon or putting out a tip jar in general? When you pay for a subscription or a service or whatever, maybe it’s psychologically a fundamentally different experience. You perceive the transfer of money, of ownership, of obligation, etc. differently. Because Patreon/tip jar/donation system feels like you’re doing a favor or giving a monetary compliment to the person you’re paying, rather than exchanging money for a service or product, you feel like you still have some rights to determine what that money is ultimately spent on.

            Just floating it out there as a possibility, because it seems like you guys are off on a long weird tangent that doesn’t really map to what we were talking about before.

          • Aapje says:

            I want to point out that it might also be a cultural thing. Basically, a lot of the ways in which Americans are open about their wealth/income/spending is considered rather gauche in my country. Perhaps as a Canadian, he has non-American sensibilities.

            Also, from my perspective, Patreon is merely a gifting system and people can stop donating if they dislike the quid-pro-quo. Peterson could be held accountable if he made certain promises in return for the money, which AFAIK he hasn’t.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @baconbits 9

            What is the evidence that his fans like him for his culture war potential. Sort his youtube channel videos by views and #1 is his first lecture in his biblical series, nearly 500,000 more views than his #2 video. In his top 8 videos 6 of them are are an hour+, and 7 are 30 mins+. He has 30 videos with 300,000+ views (selected for nice round numbers), quick count 11 of them are his lectures. Peterson’s non culture war oriented book is also currently #1 in books on Amazon.

            He got famous and became big because of culture war, and if you look at stuff like the memes made of him, etc, culture war seems pretty big. His book is kind of culture war-y, isn’t it? The idea that people (but mostly men) gotta stop whining, stop complaining about outside forces making their life hard, put their shit together, and focus on their own shit. That’s culture war in the same way Washington vs DuBois was culture war, or that it would be culture war stuff if Stoicism got big again.

            It is pretty clear that his publicity comes from the attacks of culture war members, his twitter/youtube/facebook hits spiked in the two weeks after the channel 4 interview was released*, but it is equally clear that there is a strong demand for his long, thoughtful pieces.

            Maybe you’re right. I don’t know how we could figure out if the people who join his Patreon after some kind of culture war flareup are there because they love them some culture war, or because they like his interpretation of the Bible and only learned of him because of the culture war.

            * I don’t think it is incidental that he flustered the interviewer not with a logical defense of his position but by defending her right to be antagonistic towards him.

            Yeah, that was some jiujitsu.

            This is only reasonable if you assume he can be “based professor dunking” without his current approach. When I (sample size of 1) watched that channel 4 video I didn’t think he was particularly impressive (and I listened to his entire podcast library in 6 weeks last year) until he got to the point where he was emphasizing the importance of free speech, and it clearly flusters the interviewer. I don’t think he can get to that point of the interview while being intentionally culture wary before that.

            Watching that video, what was impressive was that he didn’t flip the table, game-of-Monopoly-you’re-losing style, and go home. The entire interview is like this:

            Peterson: “women are on average shorter than men”
            Interviewer: “so what you’re saying is, women should be put into car crushing machines to make them shorter?”

            Peterson has also stated that he thinks his popularity is tied to dissatisfaction with the culture war, and that his lecture series basically is providing his bonafides as being against the culture war, and speaking to his character.

            One side of the culture war thinks that trying to be neutral in the culture war is being on the opposite side in the culture war, though.

            @quanta413

            I’m going to be honest. Unless he’s making explicit promises about not buying second houses or whatever, I think he could spend his part of his patreon money on hookers and blow and I wouldn’t find it any more questionable than spending money he had earned from a book contract or his job as a professor on hookers and blow. So that sort of egregious behavior would be questionable, but not because of the source of the money.

            You have given 0 evidence that he’s doing anything bad with the money. You haven’t yet crossed the most basic of thresholds to shift the burden of proof onto him. And the burden of proof starts on you unless you want to advocate that whenever X pays Y, Y has a duty to disclose how they are spending money to X.

            But I’m not saying he’s doing anything bad with the money. I’m saying that if the hit pieces usually run as follows:

            -he is deplorable because deplorables like him
            -he hates trans people
            -he is using his vast Patreon fortune to build an orbital cannon

            He can’t really do much about the first two, because they’re subjective, but if he shows that he makes x dollars, and it’s all going to orphans, the third is proven to be a false charge. Likewise, while his book money is unknown, his U of T income is known; $175k probably doesn’t buy a ton of hookers and blow after upkeep and so forth. You have to economize and choose one.

            You’ve started shifting tactics from “maybe some sketchy people (read: the all-trite) are a subset of the people paying him on Patreon so he should disclose his finances and donate money from sketchy people to charity” to the much more boring claim “people on Patreon should disclose their earnings and how they spend it to their donors”. The second claim is not a moral imperative and there are good reasons to think it is wrong, even if it is a little harder for hucksters to bilk people if they have to fake a little bit of accounting.

            Why do you call it tactics? Maybe I was wrong at first. Maybe I’m trying to figure out what I think. Some thing about the guy I like, some things I really disagree with. I’m trying not to make the basic error of deciding what I think of him based on ingroup or outgroup.

            @Well…

            Patreon works by monthly subscription, right? That might create a different vibe than paying per thing, or tossing money in a tip jar one time.

            @Aapje

            My experience is that Canadians are more reticent about money than Americans.

          • Barely matters says:

            His book is kind of culture war-y, isn’t it?

            I mean, only in the sense that literally anything can be part of the culture war if someone decides to make it so. If people trying to sort out their lives and improve themselves is culture war, then we’re further gone than I thought.

            Which side is pro self improvement and mental health? If I absolutely have to pick a side, I want to be on that one.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Barely matters

            It’s been part of the culture war for a long time; the current positions match pretty well to Washington and DuBois, based on an extremely superficial understanding of them. You can basically predict somebody’s position in the culture wars based on which of the two they like the sound of more.

            The opposite position isn’t unreasonable; it says “telling people to pick themselves up ignores forces they can’t control keeping them down.” That’s perfectly reasonable and fair.

            In one case or another, probably one exhortation (pick yourself up vs change society) is better than the other. I think it’s easy to confuse the two.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Patreon works by monthly subscription, right? That might create a different vibe than paying per thing, or tossing money in a tip jar one time.

            It can be either. Some people set theirs up to be per unit of output (per video, per piece of artwork posted, etc), some set up a monthly subscription. It’s also worth noting that the public numbers on what someone is receiving from Patreon are often massively overblown due to the phenomenon of people trying to subscribe and unsubscribe or simply denying/disputing the charges in order to get access for free, so I would take reports like “He was getting $60,000 a month on patreon” with a grain of salt sufficient to carve a new washington monument from. It’s possible that this phenomenon is worse on the Patreon accounts I’m most familiar with (for artists and webcomics) but I doubt it.

            As for increased transparency being a good way to deflect critics, quick research into similar cases indicates to me that this is not in fact the case, or at least wasn’t for Feminist Frequency and the like. What helped them there wasn’t being transparent, but rather that no one other than breitbart and various anti-feminist youtubers gave a crap in the first place.

          • Barely matters says:

            @dndnrsn

            Only to the extent that self improvement and societal improvement are zero sum, which I think is approximately zero. The framing that the two are in conflict is a huge part of the problem here. Society is made better by lots of individuals being made better.

            Thing is, especially with JP here, I don’t see anything like this framing. Seriously, who is saying that sorting out personal problems makes things worse systemically? That seems flat out unhinged.

            And combined with the ‘neutral is enemy’ mindset, I really hope that holding this view doesn’t make me a sketchy alt right scumbag.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            But I’m not saying he’s doing anything bad with the money. I’m saying that if the hit pieces usually run as follows:

            -he is deplorable because deplorables like him
            -he hates trans people
            -he is using his vast Patreon fortune to build an orbital cannon

            He can’t really do much about the first two, because they’re subjective, but if he shows that he makes x dollars, and it’s all going to orphans, the third is proven to be a false charge. Likewise, while his book money is unknown, his U of T income is known; $175k probably doesn’t buy a ton of hookers and blow after upkeep and so forth. You have to economize and choose one.

            Haters gonna hate. He could live the life of Jesus Christ and still have hit pieces written on him. If he doesn’t want to take the time to organize receipts, that’s between him and his patrons. Even if he did, there’s no real indication it would make a difference. There’s are 9/11 truthers; there’s a hell of a lot of evidence there, but there’s a wacko fringe anyways. His listed plans in his Patreon seem like a long shot to me (another better online university), but it’s not a problem.

            And seriously, what is up with your demand that his money be donated to orphans? He’s already said he’s working on organizing an online university and courses in the humanities. Donating the money to orphans would be roughly as much of a breach of trust as spending it on a nice second house. Either totally innocuous or breach of a promise depending on your viewpoint. Unless the idea here is “people accused of possibly spending money on bad things by their haters must instead give that money to charity”. That’s a bad principle that if people followed it would give veto power to any vocal and angry minority.

            Why do you call it tactics? Maybe I was wrong at first. Maybe I’m trying to figure out what I think. Some thing about the guy I like, some things I really disagree with. I’m trying not to make the basic error of deciding what I think of him based on ingroup or outgroup.

            I guess tactics because of how the discussion is proceeding. But yes, maybe I am wrong. You could be changing your mind.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            It can be either. Some people set theirs up to be per unit of output (per video, per piece of artwork posted, etc), some set up a monthly subscription. It’s also worth noting that the public numbers on what someone is receiving from Patreon are often massively overblown due to the phenomenon of people trying to subscribe and unsubscribe or simply denying/disputing the charges in order to get access for free, so I would take reports like “He was getting $60,000 a month on patreon” with a grain of salt sufficient to carve a new washington monument from. It’s possible that this phenomenon is worse on the Patreon accounts I’m most familiar with (for artists and webcomics) but I doubt it.

            If the numbers for subscribers and $/subscriber/month are unreliable, what do you think would be a reasonable correction? Reduce by 25 or 50%? I don’t use Patreon; it seems to me like Kickstarter but with a commitment.

            As for increased transparency being a good way to deflect critics, quick research into similar cases indicates to me that this is not in fact the case, or at least wasn’t for Feminist Frequency and the like. What helped them there wasn’t being transparent, but rather that no one other than breitbart and various anti-feminist youtubers gave a crap in the first place.

            But there’s the critics, and the people watching. You aren’t necessarily arguing with your interlocutors for the purpose of changing their mind; you might be arguing to make your case to the people watching.

            @Barely matters

            Only to the extent that self improvement and societal improvement are zero sum, which I think is approximately zero. The framing that the two are in conflict is a huge part of the problem here. Society is made better by lots of individuals being made better.

            Thing is, especially with JP here, I don’t see anything like this framing. Seriously, who is saying that sorting out personal problems makes things worse systemically? That seems flat out unhinged.

            And combined with the ‘neutral is enemy’ mindset, I really hope that holding this view doesn’t make me a sketchy alt right scumbag.

            The idea is not that it’s zero-sum. It’s that attempting individual change of the “clean your room” variety will of necessity mean less effort and attention to change of the “fix the world” variety – this seems a reasonable position to hold, because there’s only so much time in the day.

            If someone’s problems are externally imposed (eg discrimination), it is unfair and cruel to tell them that the problem is something in their control that they must deal with on their own. Even if you say “it is unfair that this externally imposed problem exists, but it will be harder to change than to fight as hard as you can on your own” it’s still rather unfair to put the onus of dealing with a bad system on the victims.

            If someone’s problems are internal but not self-imposed (say, they are depressed due entirely to malfunctioning brain chemistry) a message of “this is not your fault and nobody else’s fault but you gotta [get up, shower, go to see your therapist, take your meds]” (I think Peterson blames depression on diet to some extent?) is going to be more helpful than either “we need to fix society to help you” or “get out of bed, you weakling loser.”

            There are other people whose problems are entirely internal and self-imposed. A guy with nothing wrong with him with decent prospects who just sits on the couch inhaling junk food playing x-box and living off his parents needs to get off the couch, clean up his diet, clean up his room, go to the gym, finish his degree, get a job, etc.

            Whether you think problems in society, or whether you tend to think a given problem is mostly, one of the three above, seems to track pretty well with whether someone is a right winger (bootstraps!) or a left winger (fix society!). The “you have internal problems that are no one’s fault – have you tried modafinil/CBT/whatever” way of thinking is rarer, but is probably one you see more present in these parts. Giving someone the wrong advice is potentially ruinous, because their problem is not going to be fixed by the solution to another problem, and will just make them feel worse about everything.

            A lot of Peterson’s fans are people who need to hear the third message with a side of the second, I suspect. To people who are left-wing past a certain point (as, say, campus activist left-wingers and those with affinity to them are) the message of “fix yourself” is just how those in power keep those without power down; they see it as a kind of shell game. They do, to some extent, have a point.

            @quanta413

            Haters gonna hate. He could live the life of Jesus Christ and still have hit pieces written on him. If he doesn’t want to take the time to organize receipts, that’s between him and his patrons. Even if he did, there’s no real indication it would make a difference. There’s are 9/11 truthers; there’s a hell of a lot of evidence there, but there’s a wacko fringe anyways. His listed plans in his Patreon seem like a long shot to me (another better online university), but it’s not a problem.

            Haters indeed gonna hate, and allegators gonna allegate, but the charges against Jesus were primarily subjective ones – he eats with sinners and tax collectors, it was by the leader of the evil spirits that he cast out evil spirits, etc. I think there’s a difference between inherently-subjective charges and more objective charges. A neutral(ish) observer can usually tell the difference. There’s a charge against him that, if it’s a false charge, can easily be disproven.

            And seriously, what is up with your demand that his money be donated to orphans? He’s already said he’s working on organizing an online university and courses in the humanities. Donating the money to orphans would be roughly as much of a breach of trust as spending it on a nice second house. Either totally innocuous or breach of a promise depending on your viewpoint. Unless the idea here is “people accused of possibly spending money on bad things by their haters must instead give that money to charity”. That’s a bad principle that if people followed it would give veto power to any vocal and angry minority.

            Charity was a dumb thing to say; “orphans” is just generic shorthand for “worthy cause.” If he’s using the money to put together an online university, it would be nice to see a progress report, some white papers, whatever.

            I guess tactics because of how the discussion is proceeding. But yes, maybe I am wrong. You could be changing your mind.


            What are you insinuating about my insinuations?

            Do you like borscht?

            EDIT: Though, if you think I’m being unfair about Peterson’s possible motivations or incentives, wait until the next time I talk about the whole complex of entrenched student-government-type Canadian campus lefty activists who make up a solid chunk of his opposition; I can factually state their motivations/incentives are dreadful.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ dndnrsn:

            The idea is not that it’s zero-sum. It’s that attempting individual change of the “clean your room” variety will of necessity mean less effort and attention to change of the “fix the world” variety – this seems a reasonable position to hold, because there’s only so much time in the day.

            It seems reasonable, but is most likely wrong. Fixing the world requires a lot of energy, commitment and resilience, all of which are likely to be in short supply if you spend all your time feeling depressed and helpless.

            Not to mention, any serious societal problems are likely going to take years or decades to fix, and one has to consider how people should act and feel until the problem is fixed. If societal prejudice against you is going to take at least twenty years to get rid of, it’s probably better for you to make your life moderately happy in the meantime than to persist in feeling miserable in the hopes of slightly reducing the prejudice-elimination time.

            Haters indeed gonna hate, and allegators gonna allegate, but the charges against Jesus were primarily subjective ones – he eats with sinners and tax collectors, it was by the leader of the evil spirits that he cast out evil spirits, etc.

            Those are all objective allegations — Jesus either did or did not eat with sinners, eat with tax collectors, or cavort with evil spirits (though granted the latter might have been harder to verify than the first two).

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            I think Peterson blames depression on diet to some extent?

            All that I’ve seen is that he blames his own depression on diet issues. I have seen no claim about the cause of depression in general.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            Charity was a dumb thing to say; “orphans” is just generic shorthand for “worthy cause.” If he’s using the money to put together an online university, it would be nice to see a progress report, some white papers, whatever.

            I think he only kicked the idea off in the last half year or so. And if he hadn’t promised that buying a second house would have been an acceptable use of his patreon money up until then. My vague impression is he’s still in the investigatory stage. I don’t watch him, so I have no interest in digging through all his interviews and lectures to figure out what he’s said exactly. If he’d done nothing 3 years after making explicit promises, that would be one thing. Currently, any evidenceless claims that he’s acting in bad faith or building an orbital cannon are obvious and lazy attempts at character assassination and should be ignored as such.

            It is not trivial or effortless to prove that you’re not bilking your patrons/investors/whatever. A white paper wouldn’t prove anything different from what he’s said in interviews. Early on when starting something, the most important thing is to get something concrete done to prove you aren’t either full of it or incapable. But his given plan is for something complicated enough where it’ll take a couple years to see how things pan out. Maybe he could show something in 6 months if he didn’t already have a job, but given he already has one 1.5-2 years seems like a reasonable scale to watch progress on.

            For what’s it worth, I don’t worry about the motivations of Canadian SJW’s either. I think they’re mostly normal, acceptable ones and should be assumed to be as such without good evidence to the contrary. I do worry about the effects of people’s actions though. That interests me much more.

            But if you didn’t name a specific person as having done something bad, I would be less inclined to respond than when you accuse a specific person because I think those conversations are usually way past the possible cheap talk/bad faith stage and into the “they will ruin your soul if you engage in them” stage. There are several posters here who go from intelligent and reasonable to basically frothing within 6 sentences of vague culture war topics even though they may be totally calm during a very specific culture war topic. I mean, I might cave to my lizard brain and get baited anyways, but I try not to.

          • baconbits9 says:

            One side of the culture war thinks that trying to be neutral in the culture war is being on the opposite side in the culture war, though

            These aren’t the people donating to him or buying his book though.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The original Mr. X

            It seems reasonable, but is most likely wrong. Fixing the world requires a lot of energy, commitment and resilience, all of which are likely to be in short supply if you spend all your time feeling depressed and helpless.

            Not to mention, any serious societal problems are likely going to take years or decades to fix, and one has to consider how people should act and feel until the problem is fixed. If societal prejudice against you is going to take at least twenty years to get rid of, it’s probably better for you to make your life moderately happy in the meantime than to persist in feeling miserable in the hopes of slightly reducing the prejudice-elimination time.

            However, I think we can see where the disagreement resides? Someone who takes the opposite view would say that they think that fixing society is perhaps easier, and certainly the fairer thing to do. Additionally, with regard to the “making yourself miserable” thing – consider “activist burnout”.

            Those are all objective allegations — Jesus either did or did not eat with sinners, eat with tax collectors, or cavort with evil spirits (though granted the latter might have been harder to verify than the first two).

            Let me clarify: does eating with sinners and tax collectors make him a sinner, tax-collector-adjacent, whatever? By the morals of those accusing him, yeah, probably – you need to remain ritually pure by avoiding impure people; consorting with tax collectors suggests collaboration with those collecting taxes for the hated imperial occupier… But the morals Jesus is quoted as expressing are about your actions, not your associates. These are different moral systems, so, they’re subjective. While the “Judaism-legalistic; Christianity-faith” division that you see a little later on is ahistorical, it seems likely that as a historical figure, Jesus preached a morality different from many of the prevailing trends in the Judaism of the time, since his understanding of the world and humanity’s place to it was different (prophetic vs apocalyptic is one way I recall it being put).

            @Aapje

            All that I’ve seen is that he blames his own depression on diet issues. I have seen no claim about the cause of depression in general.

            I’m pretty sure he and his daughter promote the diet-screws-you-up message as something that’s happening to a fair number of people, from what I’ve seen (which is admittedly not much).

            @quanta413

            I think he only kicked the idea off in the last half year or so. And if he hadn’t promised that buying a second house would have been an acceptable use of his patreon money up until then. My vague impression is he’s still in the investigatory stage. I don’t watch him, so I have no interest in digging through all his interviews and lectures to figure out what he’s said exactly. If he’d done nothing 3 years after making explicit promises, that would be one thing. Currently, any evidenceless claims that he’s acting in bad faith or building an orbital cannon are obvious and lazy attempts at character assassination and should be ignored as such.

            It is not trivial or effortless to prove that you’re not bilking your patrons/investors/whatever. A white paper wouldn’t prove anything different from what he’s said in interviews. Early on when starting something, the most important thing is to get something concrete done to prove you aren’t either full of it or incapable. But his given plan is for something complicated enough where it’ll take a couple years to see how things pan out. Maybe he could show something in 6 months if he didn’t already have a job, but given he already has one 1.5-2 years seems like a reasonable scale to watch progress on.

            These are all fair points.

            For what’s it worth, I don’t worry about the motivations of Canadian SJW’s either. I think they’re mostly normal, acceptable ones and should be assumed to be as such without good evidence to the contrary. I do worry about the effects of people’s actions though. That interests me much more.

            I’m a big “compare stated preferences to revealed preferences” guy. There’s a moderately-sized, not-especially-lucrative-but-got-some-nice-sinecures situation in Canada involving the intersection of university student unions (far more centralized than American) and lefty activist groups. What’s the maxim or principle or w/e about people fighting for position within an organization being different from, and taking over from, fighting for the organization’s position? Lot of that in the Canadian lefty activist scene, especially on campus. Lot of people whose conscious motivation is probably “fix the world” – I’m not accusing them of acting in bad faith; we as humans are excellent at self-deception – but whose actions suggest a different, likely unconscious, motivation – which is to have a decent life with an OK paycheque (which is not an unclean motivation!)

            But if you didn’t name a specific person as having done something bad, I would be less inclined to respond than when you accuse a specific person because I think those conversations are usually way past the possible cheap talk/bad faith stage and into the “they will ruin your soul if you engage in them” stage. There are several posters here who go from intelligent and reasonable to basically frothing within 6 sentences of vague culture war topics even though they may be totally calm during a very specific culture war topic. I mean, I might cave to my lizard brain and get baited anyways, but I try not to.

            I don’t think I was accusing him of anything; if it came off that way, it wasn’t my intention. In general, I think that Patreon can create bad incentives, and there’s definitely some sketchiness going on overall.

            @baconbits9

            These aren’t the people donating to him or buying his book though.

            Of course not. But my point is that their objection to “clean your room” is not “well, that guy we don’t like said it.” If anyone came out with a book right now saying “improve your life by doing xyz, get your shit together, don’t demand that other people help you, don’t wait for them to help you” to everyone uniformly, it would become a culture war topic, with the battle lines drawn very predictably.

      • Well... says:

        I would really like to see an academic fairly critique Peterson.

        Yeah, same here. At least just one particular well-known idea of his. Doesn’t matter too much to me which one.

        As for the all-trite (spelling playfully altered to reduce googlability*), I think it’s gonna be weird anyway because it’s a squishy concept. Sometimes the all-trite is just whatever the SJWs don’t like today. But mainly the all-trite is so ideologically and culturally diverse, including in it devout Catholics, new atheists, MRAs, otherwise-regular conservatives, random disaffected guys, pranksters in it for the lulz, and so forth, with really only a few attitudes held in common (nationalism and pushback on political correctness including race realism and anti-feminism to varying degrees), it doesn’t have fine enough lines around it to be consistently used in an informative way.

        In one sense, yes, Peterson is part of the all-trite. I’m sure many people who consider themselves in the all-trite would answer yes to “is Jordan Peterson part of the all-trite?” In another sense he clearly isn’t. It’s a bit like asking “Is the earth inside the sun?” The answer depends on framing.

        *ETA: There was a time when it seemed most people here were doing this in some way, but it looks like I’m the last one. Well, I’ll keep doing it because I’m stubborn and it’s fun.

        • Zorgon says:

          I find it’s best to understand the “All Trite” as being two distinct cultural phenomena:

          1) An extremely niche group of conservatives interested in things like ethnostates and so on
          2) Merely the most recent incarnation of what the non-reproductive worker ants call “getting thrown in the pit”; the metaphorical social gulag that people with unpopular opinions get sent to in order to be dismissed and demonised.

          (The similarity of this binary structure to a certain medieval land-defence tactic has already been mentioned above.)

          This is why Peterson, who has barely ever mentioned games, gets conflated with the worker ants, and why Milo and Dave Rubin (provocateur and milquetoast centrist that they are respectively) get conflated with people who would execute both if they could. It’s nothing more than a rhetorical kill-phrase, a signal for the in-group to ignore, shun and denigrate lest they be thrown in the pit too.

        • Brad says:

          The problems with AR as a term aside, I think there is a newish cluster in the Republican big tent that wasn’t there in any significant numbers at the end of the GWB administration.

          Not business Republicans like Mitt Romney; not Christian right like Mike Pence; and not Ron Paul type libertarians. As compared to Republicans as a whole: disproportionately young, disproportionately well educated (or in the process of becoming so), disproportionately non-observant in terms of religion, and disproportionately likely to live in urban areas or college towns.

          I wouldn’t expect that they are especially large in terms of overall numbers, but they do punch above their weight online. It makes sense to have some kind of term for them.

      • Zorgon says:

        I’ve come across a few decent attempts to grapple with Peterson’s claims but it’s very hard to sort the analytical wheat from the SJW chaff. If I come across one of them again I’ll link to it on here.

    • Well... says:

      Validates much of what I’ve read/intuited/heard discussed about him in the past week.

    • lvlln says:

      Since that article mentioned his reviews on RateMyProfessors.com, I decided to check out Peterson’s ratings page. It’s interesting looking at his ratings from before late 2016, which is when he blew up on the internet. Barring some sort of conspiracy from the RateMyProfessors.com website, those ratings should give fairly honest opinions about the guy from students who weren’t influenced by the polarization that has happened surrounding him. Obviously, the opinions will be fairly limited in scope, since the website is about rating his quality as an instructor, but they’re interesting nonetheless.

      • Well... says:

        How would you summarize them?

        • lvlln says:

          I’m not sure if my own summary would be useful, given that I didn’t do a systematic review of all the ratings, and my own perception of the ratings are colored by my own impression of him which I’ve formed over the past year, but here’s the general sense that I got:

          Students mostly thought that he was a very charismatic, intelligent, and overall excellent lecturer who sometimes blew their mind with the concepts he convincingly taught them about psychology and philosophy. He got most criticized for the high difficulty and seeming randomness (as in, difficult to predict the contents based on his lectures) of his tests, as well as the large volume of reading he assigned. Also, he got criticized for making what the students thought were invalid inferences based on behavior – jumping to conclusions about what someone was thinking. Also, one review accused him of “womb envy,” which I’m not sure exactly what that means.

          I’d say overall, the ratings were skewed very positive, with most of the few negative reviews focusing on the obtuseness and difficulty of his tests while still admitting that his lectures were great.

          But keep in mind, this may be the impression that I get because it reflects the impression I got about him over seeing stuff he did in the past year. The interviews and lectures of his I saw gave me the impression that he was a very intelligent and charismatic speaker, one that explained complex concepts very well and usually made his case very convincingly, but one who also had a tendency to sometimes jump to conclusions based on what seemed to me to be closer to apophenia than actual evidence. And I would expect his tests to be difficult, based on his general theme of telling people that they ought to take on the heaviest load and most responsibility that they can.

          So I’d recommend you check out the page yourself and see what impression you get from it, as it may be more useful to you than taking my colored opinion.

          • Well... says:

            I might. Your summary was great though, and is exactly what I would have expected to find based on the videos of him I’ve seen.

          • Barely matters says:

            I think this is as good as any place to put this, being deeply threaded near the bottom of an Open that’s about to time out.

            I’m going to see JBP next weekend, so if anyone has particularly good/difficult/interesting questions they’d like me to throw at him I can ask during the Q&A and report back.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Barely matters:

            “Dr. Peterson, Kierkegaard was a contemporary of Nietzsche and struggled with many of the same issues he did. Like Nietzsche he recognized that Christianity formed the scaffolding of Western Civilization, but struggled with literal belief in the supernatural. His solution was to take a “Leap of Faith” and choose to believe.

            You’re frequently asked if you believe in God, and you answer that you ‘act as though God exists.’ Could you compare and contrast this attitude with Kierkegaard’s Leap of Faith? Alternatively, could you share your thoughts on the meaning and usefulness of faith? Thank you.”

          • Well... says:

            I’m curious what Peterson thinks of Ted Kaczynski’s philosophy. I expect his answer would be richer/more expansive than what I’d guess he thinks of it.

          • Barely matters says:

            To keep you guys updated, it’s a wash for now.

            The original venue was the subject of some protest (Imagine that) and cancelled his booking. They refunded my tickets and before I’d heard about the venue change the new talk had completely sold out. Next time.

    • Well... says:

      Sort of tangentially related, has Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins, or someone similarly aligned, ever responded to Jordan Peterson’s critique of new atheism?

      • baconbits9 says:

        Peterson appeared on Sam Harris podcast once iirc.

        • Jaskologist says:

          It didn’t go very well. They experienced a failure to communicate, so there wasn’t much in the way of productive dialog.

          • lvlln says:

            Sam Harris announced in a recent episode of his podcast that he intends to do a public discussion with Peterson sometime in June or July, I think. That’ll be over a year after Peterson’s 2 appearances on his podcast, during which time Harris at least has gotten to learn a lot more about Peterson, so one hopes that conversation will be better. In the announcement, Harris noted that when he sees or listens to Peterson in his interviews, he finds something like 90% of what he says to be very correct and insightful, but there’s a 10% that he finds issue with, and he thinks those issues are very important and worth challenging him on. Obviously, given their disagreements on religion, I’m guessing that that 10% has to do with Peterson’s views on religious mythology.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not sure they disagree so much on what is factually true, as to how useful religion and Christianity in particular is. Peterson, afaict, seems to see it as a useful way in understanding how a man relates to himself, his society, and his position in the world–without actually having much bearing on anything we’d call facts.
            It’s basically a pro-religion, atheist view.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I thought Harris was being deliberately obtuse. I don’t think it’s all that difficult to understand that something can be metaphorically true, or usefully true, without being true by the standards of scientific measurement.

            I think Harris just cannot bring himself to admit that there might, maybe, in some certain edge cases, be something sort of okay associated with religion, because if he does his whole schtick collapses.

          • Well... says:

            If that’s all it is then I’m a bit disappointed. Lots of atheists (e.g. Matthew Chapman) have been going around saying that religion is interesting, beautiful, and socially useful. I must not have understood Peterson, because I thought he was saying something substantially beyond that.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, Peterson goes substantially beyond that, explaining the ways in which mythologies and religious beliefs explain universal truths about human nature and human behavior (“how to act in the world”) far beyond what you can get out of the less strident atheists, which is usually only limited to “well I guess some people maybe act better if they think God will punish them, and I guess being involved with a church makes it easier to find babysitters, but it’s still all malarkey somebody made up to control people.”

    • a reader says:

      By the way, has anyone tried Jordan Peterson’s “self authoring” program ? Is it of any use to sort yourself out – especially against procrastination/akrasia?

      I don’t think he is alt-right, although he has lots of alt-right fans – maybe somewhat alt-light, but he doesn’t seem really racist. He coauthored a study that showed that his program reduced the scores gap both between sexes and between majority and minority students. The study was done in Netherlands, so i suppose the minority were probably Muslims – and the gap between sexes (that the intervention reduced) was in favor of women:

      https://www.nature.com/articles/palcomms201514

      “The current study, therefore, assessed the effects of a brief, evidence-based online intervention aimed at enhancing goal-directed conceptualization and action among first year college students (N=703) at a large European business school. The academic performance of these students was contrasted with that of three pre-intervention control cohorts (N=896, 825 and 720), with particular attention paid to the role of gender and ethnicity. The intervention boosted academic achievement and increased retention rates, particularly for ethnic minority and male students (who had underperformed in previous years). The gap in performance between men and women, and for ethnic minorities versus nationals, became considerably smaller within the intervention cohort. “

      But the man seems quite weird in videos – and he seems to try to reabilitate psychoanalysis, that isn’t exactly science, isn’t it?

      • Aapje says:

        I haven’t done the program, but from what I’ve read about it, it consists of the following:
        – Write an essay on the future that you want to avoid
        – Write an essay on the future that you want to achieve
        – Write down what you can do to get the future you want and to avoid the future you don’t want

        So it’s basically rational thinking for adolescents.

        In the study, they sought to decrease procrastination/akrasia by putting posters around the school with statements from the essays, so students would feel a social expectation to implement the plan.

        • a reader says:

          As far as I know, there are 4 different programs – each can be bought separately for 15$ or all 4 together for 30$:
          – about the future (what you described)
          – about the past
          – about present – about your qualities
          – also about present – about your faults

  17. fortaleza84 says:

    I have been thinking about the discussion of lying from the last thread; I admitted in that thread that I have often lied about my motivations which seems to be a very common type of lie.

    The hypothesis occurred to me this morning that all of the evil and wicked people I have ever known or known of had two and only two things in common: They harmed other people; and they lied about their motivations. It seems to me that lying about one’s motivations is fundamentally wrapped up with evil. In fact, just as most evil people are unaware of it (everyone is the good guy in his own story), it’s also very common for people to be unaware of their true motivations for doing things. It seems to me these two observations have an equivalency between them.

    Anyway, just as various forms of transparency have helped to alleviate wrongdoing in the world (e.g. videotaping government misbehavior), perhaps one of the most important applications of AI will be to construct a system for accurately assessing peoples’ motivations.

    Edit: I’m not claiming that lying about one’s motivations is inherently evil; in fact it seems like it’s often the only way for decent people to get by in this world.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I had a Come to Jesus a few years back, and my insight was that every bad thing I’d ever done, every person I’d ever hurt, every thing I’d ever done that I felt shame over involved a lie. Either I lied about what I was going to do, or I lied about what I did, and it did not turn out well. It certainly did not turn out well for my conscience. I resolved to stop lying.

      That doesn’t mean always tell the truth. That’s very difficult because it’s hard to know what the truth is. But I can identify my own falsehoods. And then avoid them. So when pondering a course of action, one thing to ask myself is “will I feel the need to lie about this later?” And if the answer is “yes,” then don’t do that thing. Find another way to accomplish the goal. If there’s no way to accomplish the goal without lying, then maybe that’s not a good goal.

      As for “decent people getting by,” you can also 1) not volunteer information and 2) refuse to answer. “That’s private. I don’t want to talk about that sort of thing.”

      I find that this attitude helps me keep a clean conscience and sleep better at night. I’m not claiming this to be any special insight of my own. I didn’t coin “Honesty is the best policy” or “To thine own self be true.”

    • The Nybbler says:

      If everyone (or at least the vast majority) lies about their motivations, it’s not a good distinguisher of evil.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        Yes, unless everyone is somewhat evil.

        • Anonymous says:

          Sounds plausible.

        • Matt M says:

          If it somehow became known that Mother Teresa didn’t actually believe in God and was super vain and all of her deeds were in pursuit of achieving worldwide fame – would that make her evil?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            How reasonable are Hitchens’ claims that Mother Teresa wasn’t doing much good?

          • SamChevre says:

            I consider his claims that she “wasn’t doing much good” very plausible, for his definition of good. I just very very strongly disagree with his definition of good.

            His fundamental objection (IIRC) is that subsistence-level care for the destitute elderly doesn’t affect their lifespan much, and does nothing about the structural problem of poverty. I think that being cared for, and treated as valuable, is very good even if it doesn’t extend life.

            Edited to add: By the same standards of “good”, holding my 2-year-old when she’s upset because of some trivial issue–like the dress she wanted needs to be washed–is not doing any good.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, I don’t think anyone was ever under the delusion that her efforts stacked up favorably to effective altruism or anything like that…

          • albatross11 says:

            One thing I think is really valuable to take away from effective altruism is: It’s possible to do stuff that is demanding and hard and *feels* like you’re doing a lot of good, but where you aren’t actually doing as much good as you intended.

            Sometimes, that may turn on your definition of good. If you’re measuring QALYs, then visiting sick people in hospitals and nursing homes and hospices looks like a total waste of time, but if you’re measuring by how much impact that has on the people visited, it might look very different.

            Other times, that may be true even when we’re all using the same definition of good. A doctor who purged and bled his patients probably thought he was doing them some good, and maybe was doing it for free out of his inherent goodness, but he was still probably not helping much and maybe was making his patients worse off.

    • Grek says:

      My experience has been that it’s slightly more complicated than just truth = good; lies = bad. In particular, I favour a two factor model as follows: Whenever you are presented with a possible course of action, your brain does two checks. First, “Do [insert evolutionarily adapted heuristics here] suggest that this action would help me, personally, ignoring social sanctions?” Second, “Do [insert evolutionarily adapted heuristics here] think that social sanctions are likely to arise if I am honest to my peers about the answer to that prior question?”

      If check one comes out in favour of action, you feel motivated to take the action; if not you end up with akrasia at best and an ugh field at worst. Call this feeling an urge. If check two suggests a lack of sanctions, the urge is ego syntonic and the reasons for the urge are made available to the part of the mind responsible for examining and articulating your own reasoning. If not, you get the urge without any explanation for why; instead your introspective abilities attempt to work it out from first principles without direct access to the prior evaluation.

      If your introspective abilities aren’t very good, you end up believing a plausible lie told to you by your own mind. Thus the ‘unaware evil’ described in the top level comment. If your introspective abilities are up to par, you get the plausible lies (which are just discarded hypothesises which sound suitably sympathetic to others) and the actual reason itself. You can then either act on the action or not and tell one of the plausible lies, or not.

      The tricky part is that both of these operations feel mostly the same from the inside, making it very hard to tell if your true motives are what you think they are. Which is of course the entire point, since the purpose of all of this internal obfuscation is to make humans better at keeping their true motives secret from other humans. But if you know how the process works and you’ve practiced paying attention to the subtle nuances of your lived experience in tremendous detail and nothing is distracting you, you can sometimes tell which one is happening based on the type and quality of the hypothesises generated, whether you’re feeling motivated or dismotivated and whether your motives ‘sound cynical enough’ for lack of a better description.

    • actinide meta says:

      I am on team “lying is bad.”

      But I think people are in most contexts entitled to privacy in their motivations. It’s usually not everyone’s business why you are doing something. I think it should be generally considered rude to demand someone explain their motivation, and not for someone to refuse to answer such a question.

      Another thing about lies that I don’t think I said in the last thread: I don’t think most lies are even ultimately self serving. People typically don’t seem to lie as part of a carefully crafted evil (or good) plan, they mostly seem to lie to avoid mild social embarrassment, and then to try to avoid being caught in those lies, in a spiral that winds up costing them more than the original benefit. Less Xanatos Gambit and more 50 Ways to Say Goodbye.

  18. Randy M says:

    Thought indirectly related to some above discussions.
    If we had a UBI, would that justify reducing labor regulations enough to significantly reduce the cost of labor, and thereby increase wages, employment, and productivity?

    Some requirements are predicated on employers having the advantage of employees having no choice but to work somewhere, so things like discrimination, or very tight safety requirements, or minimum wage are argued for on the basis that people are assuming risks out of (a perhaps left wing view of) coercion. I don’t know the significance of this cost, however, nor how voters/legislators/regulators feel about people more voluntarily assuming risks/facing discrimination/taking lower pay, etc.

    • Brad says:

      It’s a very interesting question. For me the minimum wage part is easy, I don’t support it to begin with so sure I think it is even less necessary in a world with UBI. But the other ones have some real bite. My first instinct would be that in terms of safety regulations the two issues would: informed consent and socialized costs of injuries. In terms of discrimination, I’m not sure how coercion plays into it?

      • Randy M says:

        Bear in mind I’m not an expert in work-place regulations and just listed three categories off the top of my head and am looking for explanations of others; but I know every large employer will have HR specialists who in part ensure compliance with these laws.

        In terms of discrimination, I’m not sure how coercion plays into it?

        If you can’t get a job anywhere now, you starve, where starve is a stand-in for a quality of life below what a presumed UBI would give. This makes legal discrimination particularly bad, since it would lead to unemployment for large groups of people (if certain critiques of our country are true). I don’t believe many corporations would save money by wide-spread discrimination; rather that they would not have to employ people to ensure compliance with the rules.

    • Mark says:

      Minimum wage improves productivity, investment, so I think you’d still want that even with UBI.

      I think, given the culture, people will have to be forced out of the workforce.

      • Randy M says:

        Minimum wage laws themselves, or higher wages?

        • Mark says:

          Minimum wage laws themselves. If there is someone willing and able to work for below the minimum wage, removing that option means that at least some of the firms will invest more in training, automation.

          I suppose that if wages were just higher, that’d imply that productivity was already high or that people somehow decided not to do scut work, so the cause and effect would be the other way around.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Minimum wage laws themselves. If there is someone willing and able to work for below the minimum wage, removing that option means that at least some of the firms will invest more in training, automation.

            This isn’t a net gain, its a compartmental gain. France’s productivity per hour worked is on par with the US, but that is because they have basically driven the bottom of the work force out. Total productivity is down, average productivity is up but only because they don’t factor in the 0 for the guy who doesn’t work.

          • Mark says:

            The existence of a person isn’t a cost unless you’re concerned about space/environment (and then it doesn’t matter if they work or not.)

            I mean, should leisure time for workers also count against productivity?

          • baconbits9 says:

            The existence of a person isn’t a cost

            That person doesn’t need to be fed, clothed and housed?

            I mean, should leisure time for workers also count against productivity?

            Should we put everyone except the single most productive person in the world on welfare? If you don’t count the people out of the workforce then average productivity goes way the hell up!

            Yes, leisure time needs to be counted in a consistent way. It doesn’t count ‘against’, but it has to count.

          • Mark says:

            Yeah, I suppose there is a limit to how far you could take things – you need some level of production, absolutely.

            But I think it’s reasonable to suppose that the greatest (emotional physical) costs of labour are paid by those who produce the least – the people who we need to work the least, are the ones who are paying the highest costs for their labour.
            So, if we can move them out of the workforce, and ensure that the remaining workers are producing more with their time, it could be good.

            And, you could adjust the level of the minimum wage to avoid banning necessary labour.

          • baconbits9 says:

            But I think it’s reasonable to suppose that the greatest (emotional physical) costs of labour are paid by those who produce the least – the people who we need to work the least, are the ones who are paying the highest costs for their labour.

            It depends on what ‘costs’ you are talking about. People who speak 5 languages or are skilled artists have options if they aren’t working. Their opportunity cost is high, while the typical minimum wage worker has little else going for them outside of their jobs. An $8 an hour worker who learns a skill that pushes his earnings to $10 an hour (and there are many that would do this for them) has increased his value by 25%, whereas the $100,000 a year employee has far fewer options that will increase their salary that much.

            There is no obvious way to compare the two people in terms of costs and benefits of work to the individual outside of dollars earned. I find it suspicious that it sounds OK to push a class of people into dependence on the state when the argument ignores their individual humanity.

      • Nornagest says:

        Forty years ago it would have been easy to look at the culture and say that you’d never see divorce rates higher than, say, 10%, and yet here we are.

        • Mark says:

          Yes. At least in the UK that was achieved as part of a conscious political program with accompanying legal changes.

          • Nornagest says:

            You are proposing a conscious political program with accompanying legal changes. You don’t intend to push people out of the workforce, I think, but the divorce reformers didn’t intend more than a marginal increase in divorce rates either — they just wanted to get rid of requirements for the process that they saw as cruel, unproductive, and potentially exploitative.

            Turns out that marginal effects matter. A lot.

          • Mark says:

            No, I absolutely do intend to push people out of the workforce, or at least to force them out of the explicitly productive part of the economy.

            If they want to do grow olives incredibly inefficiently because that is something that they really love doing, good luck to them, but I think that the desire, due to culture, to appear productive has really malign effects on workers.

            Doing work because you think it to be necessary vs. working because you need to be seen as necessary.

    • baconbits9 says:

      No, unfortunately I think the opposite will/would be true in the long run. I will start with what I think is the general idealized UBI proposal, where everyone gets enough money to ‘get by’ and major social programs (UE, SS etc) are deleted and their funding shifting to UBI. The issues with the UBI start with the average and move out to the extremes. If you set the UBI to what the ‘average’ person needs then you have three basic classes of people. Ones who have lower expenses than average, those that have average expenses and those who have above average expenses. The first group loves it, a tent, sleeping bag, boots and $10,000 a year means you could explore every national park to your heart’s content. Not for everyone of course, but for a few an enormous boon. On the other end you have people who legitimately can’t cover basic expenses (including medical care) for $10,000 a year, or $20,000 a year. Insurance works because your pay out can greatly exceed your pay in, but UBI is a cash payment. Shortly after it is implemented it will be noted that some people have health insurance bills exceeding the total annual UBI before counting their copays and deductibles.

      This will not stand, so the government will step in and force everyone to buy insurance and ban price hikes for preexisting conditions or set up some government run supplemental insurance. Later it will be noticed that you can buy a house in the rust belt for 2-3 years worth of rent in the low ends of major cities, also food costs, taxes etc. UBI is going to functionally end up as a subsidy to live in low cost areas, but those areas often became low cost because they were low productivity relative to cities. Productivity will dip (a little), labor mobility will dip (maybe a little, maybe a lot) and you will get a (more) fragmented labor force, with unemployed people whiling away empty hours until they discover opiates.

      This will also not stand, and regulations will be put in place to ‘correct’ the issue.

      At the other end though everyone who is healthy with a modest cost of living has the alternative of quitting their job and spending a few years hiking, or learning to paint or writing a novel. This is billed as ‘good’, but it means a higher opportunity cost of working, which functionally means you have given them higher bargaining power as a group. This should push down returns on capital which should push down investment in capital which should push down investment which should push down productivity.

      • Randy M says:

        I track with you and agree that’s more likely.

        This may make for an interesting digression, though:

        but those areas often became low cost because they were low productivity relative to cities

        What makes an area “low productivity”? Access to infrastructure like harbors? The population density?

        This [worker’s bargaining power] is billed as ‘good’, but it means a higher opportunity cost of working, which functionally means you have given them higher bargaining power as a group. This should push down returns on capital which should push down investment in capital which should push down investment which should push down productivity.

        Well, that basically boils down to “higher wages interfere with productivity” and at that point, what’s the point of productivity (from a sociological perspective, not an investor perspective) anyway?

        • baconbits9 says:

          Well, that basically boils down to “higher wages interfere with productivity” and at that point, what’s the point of productivity (from a sociological perspective, not an investor perspective) anyway?

          No it doesn’t because some of the wages are not tied to productivity which is the issue. At a basic level higher wages come from higher productivity, the more you break that relationship towards higher wages without regard to productivity the lower the rate of return on capitial.

          • Randy M says:

            No it doesn’t because some of the wages are not tied to productivity which is the issue.

            I was going to retort that higher wages aren’t ever going to be a problem, then paused to remember I don’t support $50 minimum wage laws, so I see your point.
            Still, kind of bothers me to say that workers not facing the threat of starvation is a problem.

          • baconbits9 says:

            It isn’t that its a problem, it is a fact of life. If no one works then everyone starves. The higher the % of the population that works means the less each faces starvation (oversimplified). This is why communism, socialism, UBI, Welfare etc increase the risk of starvation, not decrease it.

        • albatross11 says:

          Places that have a lot of retirees living in them are currently experiencing some of what you might imagine for low-cost areas in an UBI world. However, there are a *lot* of low-cost places in the US. Most of the US has pretty low land/housing prices. The prices get crazy in places where there are a lot of high-paying jobs and not so much available housing. UBI wouldn’t cause the same thing to happen everywhere, it would just make it possible for some people to move to lower-cost places where their UBI would go further.

          • Matt M says:

            Places that have a lot of retirees living in them are currently experiencing some of what you might imagine for low-cost areas in an UBI world.

            How many “places with a lot of retirees” are really low-cost though? Like, Miami is a famous destination for retirees, but isn’t exactly low-cost. On the other hand, I imagine rural Montana is very low-cost, but doesn’t have a reputation for retirees flocking there…

      • Brad says:

        This seems to be fighting the question. The hypo is “If we had a UBI …” and your answer seems to be “that will not be allowed stand”.

        • baconbits9 says:

          The question, as I take it, is one of practicality. If we do X, can we then do Y to increase the benefits of X should be answered in some way relating to how X and Y are going to be implemented. UBI is in many ways worse than welfare if your goal is to reduce extreme poverty, and either there is going to be visible extreme poverty of politicians will propose solutions to fix it. I wrote a general explanation of what I think would happen after the implementation of UBI, which seems in line with the question.

          • Randy M says:

            I was looking to understand both the potential effects of UBI and the extent of the cost of workplace regulation (without, you know, doing actual research into either) and how they might intersect. All replies were interesting.

          • Brad says:

            UBI is in many ways worse than welfare if your goal is to reduce extreme poverty, and either there is going to be visible extreme poverty of politicians will propose solutions to fix it.

            Only because you seem to assume that it is intended to replace all existing healthcare programs.

            No UBI proposal I’ve seen suggests eliminating medicare, medicaid, and ACA. That’s a lot to hide in the etc of “(UE, SS etc)”.

            In terms of cash and cash like programs, UBI is much superior to traditional welfare in terms of eliminating extreme poverty, because traditional welfare has a lot of holes in it (at since the 90s) and doesn’t have a great signup rate even among those populations that are eligible.

            The big winners from a UBI are those in extreme poverty, the losers, large net taxpayers aside, are those currently receiving several thousand dollars a month from the government — mostly high end social security collectors. A reduction from that to $800-$1000 a month is going to surely hurt but doesn’t drive them into extreme poverty.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Proposals to make UBI cost neutral, or near cost neutral require the displacement of most of those programs. Without displacing those programs you get the same conclusion through a different route when you start discussing the expected marginal tax issues and work incentive issues.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The big winners from a UBI are those in extreme poverty

            The majority of people in extreme poverty in advanced cultures are there because of addiction or mental illness issues (either their own or their caretakers). Cash transfers don’t do much in these situations on average (sometimes they make things better but they can also make things worse or prevent improvement). It is also reasonable to expect (though not certain) that UBI + welfare will push labro force participation down, which will push effective prices up for those living in extreme poverty.

  19. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://autnot.wordpress.com/2017/12/14/autism-labour-and-birth/

    An autistic woman describes her experiences of giving birth and what she wants from people helping her.

    She calls herself a hard woman– someone who’s focused on competence and doesn’t want unnecessary socializing.

  20. secondcityscientist says:

    In 2012, Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum posted a big article about the connection between environmental lead and violent crime rates titled “Lead: America’s Real Criminal Element”.

    Today he’s posted a big roundup of things that he and others have written about the connection between environmental lead and violent crime. My favorite was this bit:

    Everyone has their own pet theory of why crime rose in the 60s and 70s: guns, poverty, drugs, the counterculture, the breakdown of the family, black “pathologies,” racism, moral decay, the decline of religion, and so forth. This is why so many people dislike the lead-crime hypothesis. If it’s true, it means your pet theory probably isn’t. And nobody wants to give up their pet theories.

    My fellow greater Chicagoland residents might find this map from the Chicago Tribune interesting – environmental lead appears to have persisted here through the early 2000s, although the mid-2000s saw a big decrease. We (probably) haven’t hit the crime decline predicted by the blood lead level decline yet, but we should be coming up on it soon.

    • baconbits9 says:

      My fellow greater Chicagoland residents might find this map from the Chicago Tribune interesting – environmental lead appears to have persisted here through the early 2000s, although the mid-2000s saw a big decrease. We (probably) haven’t hit the crime decline predicted by the blood lead level decline yet, but we should be coming up on it soon.

      Buy real estate in marginal neighborhoods then?

    • maintain says:

      I wonder how many people dislike the lead-crime hypothesis because they have lead poisoning that affects their ability to reason properly.

    • Wrong Species says:

      He says because of when lead was introduced in cars in the late 40’s, it caused those children, who became teenagers in the late 60’s, to become more violent. But violent crime was going up as early as 1963.

      If lead explains the decline, then why was the dip in the early 80’s followed by an even greater increase in the mid 80-90’s?

      Places like Baltimore didn’t really experience a strong decrease in violence. Does Baltimore have noticeably more lead paint than other cities?

      The United States and the UK had large increases in violent crimes. What about other Western European countries?

      I’m not convinced that older people still committing crimes implies anything about lead poisoning. The differences between older cohorts from 1991 to now is small, and a possible reason is that there are fewer “marginal criminals” among the older crowd, meaning they are less likely to be affected by outside incentives, whatever those may be. I’m betting that the percentage of older criminals is fairly stable across time periods, regardless of lead.

      I’m still not convinced that lead isn’t correlated with some other variable that could explain the rise and decline. I’m sure that he has addressed it somewhere but I didn’t see it in the article.

      • maintain says:

        >He says because of when lead was introduced in cars in the late 40’s, it caused those children, who became teenagers in the late 60’s, to become more violent. But violent crime was going up as early as 1963.

        Leaded gasoline was introduced well before that. In the article he only stated that the amount started increasing after WWII.

        >If lead explains the decline, then why was the dip in the early 80’s followed by an even greater increase in the mid 80-90’s?

        >Places like Baltimore didn’t really experience a strong decrease in violence. Does Baltimore have noticeably more lead paint than other cities?

        The lead-crime hypothesis only seeks to explain the large crime wave from the 1960s to the 1990s. Obviously there are going to be other crime rate fluctuations in the meantime that are not related to lead. What you are saying is the equivalent of saying “You doctors say that bacteria kill people, but this guy got hit by a car. Did he have too many bacteria, which caused him to be hit by a car? Checkmate, germ theorists!”

        Also, Baltimore did experience a decrease in crime. It just also experienced a spike in crime after the recent riots.

        >I’m not convinced that older people still committing crimes implies anything about lead poisoning.

        In and of itself it doesn’t prove anything, but it would be predicted by the hypothesis. So, taken with all the other evidence, it starts to be convincing.

        • Wrong Species says:

          On Baltimore, it did have somewhat of a slowdown before the recent spike but it’s not much, certainly very little compared to other US cities.

          Leaded gasoline was introduced well before that. In the article he only stated that the amount started increasing after WWII.

          His claim was that there a dramatic increase in lead starting in the late 40’s, which was what lead to a generation of criminals starting in the late 60’s. The question is still the same: why did homicides starting dramatically increasing as early as 1963?

          The lead-crime hypothesis only seeks to explain the large crime wave from the 1960s to the 1990s. Obviously there are going to be other crime rate fluctuations in the meantime that are not related to lead.

          But if the decline and then increase can be explained through other theories, then lead can at best only explain the increase from the late 60’s through the 70’s. And if that’s true, the evidence for it is much weaker.

          • maintain says:

            >On Baltimore, it did have somewhat of a slowdown before the recent spike but it’s not much, certainly very little compared to other US cities.

            “That guy that got hit by a car did get slightly better after he was given antibiotics, but not much, certainly very little compared to other people who were given antibiotics.”

            >His claim was that there a dramatic increase in lead starting in the late 40’s, which was what lead to a generation of criminals starting in the late 60’s. The question is still the same: why did homicides starting dramatically increasing as early as 1963?

            Are we looking at the same charts here? Lead started increasing a little in the 40s. Crime started increasing a little in the 60s. Lead had increased a lot by the 50s. Crime had increased a lot by the 70s. There were some minor fluctuations, but crime was high and stayed high until about 20 years after leaded gasoline was phased out.

            At this point, it just takes more effort for me to disbelieve the lead crime link than to believe it. If you put lead into the environment, people are going to experience the symptoms of lead poisoning. It’s pretty simple.

            You can also google Steven Pinker’s thoughts on the lead-crime hypothesis. He says some stuff that is skeptical of the theory that should make anyone who supports the theory pause and think. I’d really like to see a good debate between the two sides.

          • Wrong Species says:

            On Baltimore, the thesis is that lead explains the majority of the rise and fall of violent crime, let’s say 95% of it. So if New York crime rises by 95%, we’ve got a good confirmation of the theory. But if Baltimore crime only drops by 5%, then at the very least the theory is missing something. If Baltimore still has level high levels of lead, then that explains it. But if levels of lead dropped like in NYC but there wasn’t a corresponding drop in crime, then somethings wrong.

            On the graph, I looked at it but I was mainly thinking about the US homicide rate. There you can clearly see where the rate starts increasing and the noticeable drop in the 80’s. But of course, the graph measures violent crime, not homicide, something I wasn’t thinking about. It’s weird that the increase happened earlier and quicker than the increase in violent crime.

          • albatross11 says:

            Wrong Species:

            I think homicide tends to be better reported and less subject to gaming by police departments who know they’re being judged by the crime statistics. So it’s possible that violent crime went up overall, but many police departments tried to keep a lid on the bad statistics[1] for a couple years till things got bad enough that they couldn’t do it anymore.

            [1] I think a common technique for this is to dissuade people from filiing reports for minor crimes, and to reclassify major crimes down–the attempted murder becomes assault, for example.

          • maintain says:

            Yeah, that’s a good question. I do wonder what is up with Baltimore.

      • maintain says:

        >I’m betting that the percentage of older criminals is fairly stable across time periods, regardless of lead.

        I’m not sure I understood you correctly in that paragraph you wrote, but if you scroll down to the chart that says Change in Imprisonment Rate by Age it says that the percentage of older criminals has not been stable. Older people now (who were born at the height of leaded gasoline usage) are way more likely to commit crimes than older people born before leaded gasoline.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I interpreted that graph as meaning “change in incarceration rate by age”, meaning that rate at which those people by age were in jail, not the rate they were being arrested and then put in jail. You may be right though. Looking back, I’m not sure.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’d noticed in a vague way that there seem to be a few older violent criminals, and I’ve wondered whether it might be that people are healthier later in life.

          • rlms says:

            I just found out recently that the perpetrators of possibly the largest burglary in English history were 75, 61, 67 and 76 at the time.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’ve always heard the claim that most people age out of violent crime. One obvious reason is physical–if your job involves a lot of getting into fights, beating people up, running away from the cops, etc., that’s going to be a lot harder for a 50 year old than a 20 year old. But there also seems to be some kind of change in aggression level as young men get older, which you see in everyday life as well as in crime stats.

          • Aapje says:

            Perhaps it’s mostly that testosterone goes down, plus that most of these men do end up with relationships & children and may think that they have something to lose because of that.