SELF-RECOMMENDING!

OT103: The Curse Of Tutancomment

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread (there are also hidden open threads twice a week you can reach through the Open Thread tab on the top of the page). Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server. Also:

1. I’m on vacation for the next few weeks. I might schedule a few drafts to auto-post just so things won’t be totally quiet, but don’t expect to hear much from me until late June.

2. I’ve gotten a few comments and emails from people who are visiting the Bay Area and want to know how to meet the rationalist community there. Your best bet is to check the schedule for the community center and show up there when something interesting is happening (or just drop by whenever and hope for the best). If you’re really interested, you can stay in their guest rooms for a few days. You can also see bayrationality.com for (slightly) more information and event dates, or check the LW meetups page for more on meetups in San Francisco, San Jose, etc. I would like for there to eventually be a better and longer-term solution to this problem, but this’ll have to do for now.

3. Some people have complained that they like an SSC post and want to send it to their friends, but some of the comments are so bad that they’d be embarrassed for their friend to see them. Evan recently reminded me that there’s a Link Without Comments button at the bottom of every post.

4. Comment of the week is Aurel presenting some evidence against the lead-crime connection. Any thoughts?

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

1,042 Responses to OT103: The Curse Of Tutancomment

  1. Noumenon72 says:

    Link without comments button only shows when you click through to the post, not on the main page.

  2. proyas says:

    Since 2005, futurist Ray Kurzweil has repeatedly predicted that solar power is growing so rapidly that the world will soon get 100% of its energy from that source alone. As this simple record of his own words shows, his forecast date for a “100% solar-powered world” has shifted.

    https://www.militantfuturist.com/all-of-ray-kurzweils-predictions-about-when-well-get-all-our-energy-from-solar-power/

  3. proyas says:

    Going back to a SSC blog entry several weeks ago about DC Public School graduation rates, here’s a recent article about chronic student absenteeism (defined as missing at least 10% of the school year) in Maryland public schools. Reading the article, I can tell you no one needs to do a statistical analysis of the results to tell you that the rate strongly correlates with the incomes and races of the students.

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/education/k-12/bs-md-chronic-absenteeism-20180604-story.html#nt=oft12aH-1gp2

  4. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    What do people think of the voting system in _the Probability Broach_ where everyone forms whatever voting coalitions they want (geographic, professional, ideological, demographic….), and politicians are only in office as long as they get enough votes?

  5. Speaking (as I did above) about strange political bedfellows, we had an odd situation here in Michigan over the past few weeks.

    A proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in the state was submitted with sufficient signatures to make the November, 2018 ballot. It provides for a 10% excise tax on marijuana products, and specifies how those tax revenues would be used: 35% for K-12 education, 35% for roads, 15% to the communities that allow marijuana businesses, and 15% to counties where marijuana business are located.

    The Michigan Constitution offers three options to the Legislature in this situation:

    (a) enact the proposed law, word-for-word (which would cancel the statewide vote on the issue)

    (b) put a competing proposal on the ballot, or

    (c) do nothing.

    Some Republicans in the Legislature were interested in the first option: pass the proposed legislation. Not because they wanted to legalize marijuana, but because they didn’t want it on the ballot.

    It’s assumed that marijuana legalization supporters will turn out to vote “yes”, including lots of young voters who will probably also vote Democratic. Hence, Republican candidates would be less likely to win. Taking the issue off the ballot would presumably ease that threat.

    Another reason is that (if it passed) a vote of the people would make the law very difficult to amend, requiring three-quarters vote of both houses. If the Legislature were to pass the exact same proposal that was petitioned for, they can later amend it by simple majority.

    Such an amendment could easily nullify the entire proposal, by, say, indefinitely delaying the effective date. Or providing that marijuana legalization in Michigan wouldn’t happen until the US Congress legalized it nationwide. Or raising the excise tax to 100,000 percent.

    Meanwhile, Democrats were happy to see the proposal make the ballot, based on the same theory that it would result in more votes for Democratic candidates. Hence, Democratic members of the House and Senate were unanimously opposed to the Legislature doing anything. Any action would have to be done on Republican votes alone.

    So we had the odd situation of Republicans rounding up votes for marijuana legalization, while Democrats stood staunchly against it.

    In the 38-member State Senate, a majority (all Republicans) were ready and willing to vote to pass the legislation, and then nullify it.

    But Republicans in the 110-member House balked. Many of them were so strongly opposed to legalization of marijuana that they would not vote for the bill, even strategically to prevent legalization and protect Republican control of state government.

    Word was that the House was more than 20 votes short of a majority for this strategy.

    No action was taken before the Tuesday midnight deadline.

    I bet Michigan voters will approve the proposal.

    * Voters will decide marijuana legalization after Legislature fails to act (Detroit Free Press)

    • Murphy says:

      Somehow this reminds me of some old Yes Minister episodes…

      kinda wonder how many normally “tough on drugs” Rep candidates will have their vote in favor of this thrown at them as a result. Trying to explain that “oh we were just trying to circumvent the state constitution” doesn’t feel like something they would be very willing to say out loud in order to explain themselves.

      • kinda wonder how many normally “tough on drugs” Rep candidates will have their vote in favor of this thrown at them as a result.

        Of course, since they didn’t have the committed votes to pass it, the bill was never officially voted on. So there is no action to throw at anyone, except maybe the Republican caucus leaders who were openly pushing this idea.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      What a fascinating story, thank you.

    • James says:

      On January 27, 1994, the Barbados national football team and Grenada national football team played against each other as part of the qualification round for the 1994 Caribbean Cup. Due to an unusual scoring rule, as well as the two teams’ respective positions in the tournament, it was alternately in Barbados’s, then Grenada’s, best interest to score an own goal. The result has been described as “one of the strangest football matches ever”.

      (source)

    • Jiro says:

      and specifies how those tax revenues would be used:

      Money is fungible, so no it doesn’t.They can just reduce the other money paid for those things by the same amount, essentially letting them use the marijuana revenue for anything they want.

      • Money is fungible, so no it doesn’t.They can just reduce the other money paid for those things by the same amount, essentially letting them use the marijuana revenue for anything they want.

        That’s true in general, of course, but if the proposal passes, there isn’t any obvious way for the legislature to prevent a significant amount of money being funneled to specifically those city governments which choose to allow marijuana sales. The fewer such cities there are, of course, the greater the bonanza per city.

      • BBA says:

        It does set a minimum funding level, though. I remember a case of one of California’s maze of twisty little dedicated funds (all different) getting more revenue than it had eligible recipients to pay, so the state just had a pile of money they couldn’t touch.

    • Nornagest says:

      Another reason is that (if it passed) a vote of the people would make the law very difficult to amend, requiring three-quarters vote of both houses.

      California’s rules regarding public referenda are similar. It always struck me as kind of perverse.

  6. @ dndnrsn

    I think the emblematic thing is the way that David Frum, especially, has been embraced by some mainstream left-wingers… I’ve seen various people I know, liberals all, praise his anti-Trump articles. David Frum probably has more Muslim blood on his hands than Trump does, given his role in propagandizing for a war that saw the peace bungled, leading to chaos.

    I think this is about where the thread crossed over from discussing the ideology and behavior of SSC commenters to arguing US foreign policy.

    Responding to the quoted section: there is a sharp distinction between agreeing with or praising a piece of writing, versus endorsing every unrelated thing the writer has done or said.

    Back in the 1960s and 1970s we had conspicuous examples of folks like senators J. William Fulbright (widely hailed on the left for opposing the Vietnam war) and Sam Ervin (acclaimed over his conduct of the Nixon/Watergate hearings) — who both had long and undeniable histories as advocates of racial segregation. We understood that (say) Fulbright-on-Vietnam could be appreciated as an ally without accepting Fulbright-on-Jim-Crow. I’m sure you could find essays on foreign policy by Fulbright in liberal magazines of that time.

    In this era, there seems to be growing notion that an author’s (prior or later, real or perceived) crimes automatically refute or make worthless each individual thing he or she has written.

    • dndnrsn says:

      So, I don’t think that everything Frum says should be read through the lens of “this guy is a fairly low-level war criminal” but when he’s talking about stuff that’s relevant? Take his most recent article – about how Trump is a threat to decency, in part because of how he abuses his opponents, and his followers also. Did Frum not play a part in making political discourse cheaper and worse in the early 2000s? Was he not a part of the zeitgeist of “oppose invading Iraq? Why do you want the terrorists to win?”

      Here’s something to bear in mind: During Soviet times, the communist authorities expressed themselves in operatically vehement language. Noncommunists were denigrated as hyenas, jackals, vultures, and other disgusting animals; as bandits, fascists, Nazis, and other enemies of humanity.

      This is written by the guy who is often credited with coming up with “Axis of Evil” – operatically vehement much? Maybe not as imaginative as High Communist jargon, sure.

  7. Mark V Anderson says:

    Have you all heard the news about the Koch Brothers starting a big campaign in favor of free trade?

    Think of the humorous ramifications to those leftists that base their ideology mostly on opposition to the other side. Trump is pushing hard for tariffs, but the Kochs are against them. Trump and the Koch Brothers are the two biggest bogeymen to opposition leftists, so what can they believe? If they are for “fair trade,” they seem to be siding with Trump. With fair trade, they go with the Kochs. I look forward to weasel words to get out of agreeing with either side.

    Actually, I kind of wish the Kochs were having their big campaign against free trade. Then it’d be easy for the opposition leftists to make a decision, and free trade would get a big group on their side. Do the Kochs realize how many people think they are the epitome of evil? Any time they announce a big campaign, they’ve already pushed a large crowd in the other direction before a penny is spent. Maybe the Kochs are playing three dimensional chess and really are against free trade.

    • Michael Handy says:

      Leftists have been here before (for left of Social Democracy values of leftism.) Standard explanation is a conflict between factions of the ruling class. Petty Bourgeoisie is with Trump for tarriffs (Protectionist nationalism is often framed as an ideology of the middle classes under threat.), the Haute Bourgeoisie is for free trade. So they’ll look to seeing how they can make the split worse.

      Bernie-crats were always going to be in favor of tarriffs, people at points left are probably wondering how to bring this to open conflict on the right and/or general strike conditions. If the Right-democrats support Koch and free trade it will go some way to splitting open the political sphere completely.

    • Have you all heard the news about the Koch Brothers starting a big campaign in favor of free trade? … Do the Kochs realize how many people think they are the epitome of evil?

      I don’t care for the Koch brothers, myself, but it is logically impossible for them to always be wrong in my eyes. Same with Donald Trump. Not everything boils down immediately to red/blue or left/right polarities.

      For example, I cheered and appreciated Phyllis Schlafly’s opposition to endless copyright extension. This kind of thing happens often enough that there ought to be some kind of saying about politics and bedfellows.

      • I actually met and talked with Phyllis Schalfly, and was positively impressed.

        The Koch brothers have been libertarians for a very long time–David Koch ran for VP as the LP candidate. The fact that people on the left think they are conservatives reflects the inability of those people to understand ideas they disagree with.

        • The fact that people on the left think they are conservatives reflects the inability of those people to understand ideas they disagree with.

          Given that the policy choices they advocate are well known, does it matter specifically which ideology motivates them?

          • Enkidum says:

            Only to the extent that you’re interested in accurately modelling reality?

          • quanta413 says:

            It does because a lot of their advocacy and policy choices aren’t well known or understood. The media situation with the Kochs is as if George Soros was consistently reported as being a communist. Some of my extended family is politically well informed (journalist or journalism related, and of the respectable type largely focused on politics) and was unaware that the Kochs are libertarians and surprised the Kochs had been advocating for criminal justice reform.

            If you even google for it, mentions of it are mixed with silly conspiracy theories about Koch motivations, but they’ve given to causes like this for a while and it makes perfect sense if you have the slightest clue about libertarians.

          • I don’t think the policy choices they advocate are well known among the people who demonize them.

            Googling around on [Koch marijuana] I find, in a story correctly reporting their position on that issue:

            The Koch’s brand of conservatism leans a little more heavily into the libertarian end of things than do Trump’s and Session’s, it seems

            Does the person who wrote that realize that David Koch ran for VP on the libertarian ticket? That the brothers have been hard core libertarians for decades?

            Another page introduces the fact that the Koch brothers are pro-immigration with:

            “The Koch brothers are going rogue.”

            What does the author of that think the LP platform position on the subject was when David Koch was the LP candidate for VP?

          • John Schilling says:

            Given that the policy choices they advocate are well known

            I’m not sure that’s a given. The Kochs are broadly perceived as being Generic Boogeyman Conservatives, and I don’t get the impression that their critics are making any great effort to distinguish between the strains of conservative wrongthink that the Kochs actually advocate and those that they don’t.

            How widely known do you think it is, for example, that the Kochs are advocates of criminal justice reform?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Let’s get the Koch Brothers and Soros to do a collaboration on something. It will be grand.

          • Steven J says:

            “Let’s get the Koch Brothers and Soros to do a collaboration on something. It will be grand.”

            Already happening. The Koch Brothers and Soros are currently both sponsors of the ACLU’s Campaign Against Mass Incarceration.

            https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/do-the-koch-brothers-really-care-about-criminal-justice-reform/386615/

            https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2014/11/14/50-million-soros-grant-to-fund-aclu-for-reduction-of-incarceration/

          • quanta413 says:

            Yeah, Soros and the Kochs agree on a lot of what could be described as the elite consensus.

            This makes perfect sense to people who know that Soros is pretty much an arch-capitalist (and not a secret communist) and that the Kochs are libertarians (and not secret baptist white supremacists).

    • IrishDude says:

      The Kochs are also pro-immigration and have supported efforts to save the Dreamers with DACA. The Kochs were opposed to Trump’s nomination, due to some deeply held ideological differences. They are supportive of the deregulatory agenda and tax reform though, and interestingly just spent money on an ad for North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp for her support for helping roll back some of Dodd-Frank.

      Their basic position is they’ll unite with anyone to ‘do right’.

    • Randy M says:

      I look forward to weasel words to get out of agreeing with either side.

      Oh that’s easy, the classic “It’s all a fake debate meant to distract us from the real issue of …”

    • secondcityscientist says:

      I’m kinda curious how your mental model of “leftism” works. “Leftists are reflexively opposed to both Donald Trump and Charles Koch, but now Trump and Koch are advocating different sides of a policy, so the leftists’ heads must explode”? Yes free trade in general is a wedge issue for the left. There are people who opposed free trade from the left in 2015 who continue to oppose it from the left in 2018. There are other, different people on the left who supported free trade for a variety of reasons in 2015 who continue to support free trade in 2018. Neither the opposition nor the support were absolute, but more a matter of how to make sure the benefits of free trade were shared and the suffering caused by free trade was ameliorated. Of course, the specifics of how free trade agreements are implemented or destroyed are important for both domestic and foreign policy. Trade isn’t something I care deeply about, but it’s definitely possible to think that the specifics of Charles Koch’s vision for free trade would be bad while thinking that the carelessness with which Donald Trump has tried to destroy free trade agreements is also bad.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I’m kinda curious how your mental model of “leftism” works.

        I thought I was pretty careful breaking out “opposition leftists.” I realize that I just made up this phrase for the post, but I tried to be clear that I was talking about those folks who seem to derive their positions by the people they oppose. I doubt that any of these people are on SSC, because the point of this blog is to actually think about positions. But I do think there are a substantial group of leftists that define their positions as being against whatever the bad guys are for. I think this is true because of the constant drumbeat of people that bring up either the Kochs or Trump as the evil other side for every post they make. I suppose to some extent this is these leftists just making up the beliefs of Trump or Kochs so can oppose them, and not actively trying to find out their positions to determine what they must oppose. (Since few of those who vilify the Kochs seem to know their true positions, based on discussion above). But still it is true that these that must oppose Trump/Kochs in every case will have difficulty when it becomes well known when the two disagree.

  8. Gerry Quinn says:

    I think those folks worried about comments should trust their friends to be able to deal with non-phatic conversation – or they would hardly be interested in the posts here in the first place.

  9. IrishDude says:

    Anyone tried Beeminder? I’m looking for effective ways to battle akrasia and stay on top of a few weekly goals that I haven’t been too successful keeping up with. So, if you’ve used beeminder and can share your experience, or have other suggestions for techniques/apps that help with akrasia, I’d appreciate hearing about it.

    • Callum G says:

      Haven’t used it personally, but I remembered this post on Less Wrong where some people talk about it. Hope it helps.

      • IrishDude says:

        There’s lots of useful reviews and additional suggestions there. That really helps, thanks!

    • xXxanonxXx says:

      I’d recommend it. I had a very productive month using them, though I did eventually get lazy and lose my money. A possible problem is that I really liked their product and felt they deserved the money anyway, lessening my incentive to not lose it.

      There’s probably room in the market for an alternative service where you put something like $10,000 in escrow. In the event you fail to meet your goal they keep $4,000, donate $5,000 to NAMBLA in your name, and use the remaining $1,000 to rent a billboard with your picture and donation amount.

      • IrishDude says:

        Did you stop using it after a month?

        • xXxanonxXx says:

          I did, but I’d consider using it again in the future (with a much higher dollar value) if I were to fall into a rut. As it stands it got me into a habit that I was able to continue on my own. Granted, the money was lost, but having experienced the initial success it was simple enough to kickstart it again. Instead of meditating every morning on lost money, meditate every morning on the future where you wake up 12 months from now and realize another year is gone with nothing to show for it.

  10. johan_larson says:

    Here’s a question. What’s the least cool instrument one can play?

    Proper instruments only, please. Dead-simple musical tools like the triangle, that are only one of many contraptions in the arsenal of a percussionist, don’t count.

    I’m gonna say banjo, the official instrument of squealing like a pig, boy.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Octobass. Not because it isn’t a cool instrument, but because it is impossible to be cool playing it.

      • johan_larson says:

        Well, since there are only seven of them according to Wikipedia, at least it’s a very localized uncoolness.

      • BeefSnakStikR says:

        I was imagining a bass guitar with eight necks. Now that would be cool.

    • IrishDude says:

      I’m into bluegrass so a banjo is cool to me. Plus, I think Jason Bateman looks cool playing banjo here.

    • Wander says:

      Banjos have been popular hipster instruments for a while, though.

      • johan_larson says:

        Doesn’t that sort of prove its uncoolness, though? Hipsters are all about trying to revive things that are deeply, deeply out of fashion, like one-speed bikes and waxed mustaches.

    • Rex says:

      Acoustic guitar.

    • BBA says:

      I’m going to take the obvious answer: the accordion.

    • Michael Handy says:

      Viola. As evidenced by the jokes.

      “What’s the definition of a minor second?”
      “Two Violas in unison”

      “What do you do if your 4th Viola dies?”
      “Move him forward a desk.”

      “Why did the thief break into a home, steal nothing, and smash the viola?”
      “He’d been sentenced to community service.”

      • rlms says:

        My favourite one is

        A viola player decides that he’s had enough of being a viola player–unappreciated, all those silly jokes. So he decides to change instruments.

        He goes into a shop, and says, “I want to buy a violin.”

        The man behind the counter looks at him for a moment, and then says, “You must be a viola player.”

        The viola player is astonished, and says, “Well, yes, I am. But how did you know?”

        “Well, sir, this is a fish-and-chip shop.”

    • toastengineer says:

      Kazoo.

    • BeefSnakStikR says:

      Xylophone.

      Reasons:
      1) Felt-tipped mallets
      2) Often color-coded and therefore dumbed down for children, and 2a) Very hard to play professionally
      3) Used in the “Sex and the City” theme song

      • WashedOut says:

        Xylophone.

        You clearly haven’t heard In My Arms, Many Flowers.

        I was imagining a bass guitar with eight necks. Now that would be cool.

        And it would only weigh 50 kg!

        My vote goes to the hurdy-gurdy. I think the sample photos of the players say more than enough.

    • SamChevre says:

      I’ll nominate the harpsichord. (And I have a good friend who’s a harpsichord player.)

      Approximately no cool people play harpsichord: it’s pretty much all music geeks who like Renaissance music.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Just for the record, I play the five string banjo. But bluegrass; I’m not a hipster.

      And in college I absolutely used it to pick up chicks. They see your fingers moving that fast and it gets ’em thinkin’.

    • Orpheus says:

      Anything that is part of a bass section, with the tuba being particularly likely to get a wedgie.

    • maintain says:

      8 string bass guitar detuned, played while wearing track pants and adidas shoes

    • rubberduck says:

      I really want to say “anything with a double-reed”- who’s ever been impressed by a bassoon?- but I’m biased because I had to play the oboe in middle school and I really, really hated it.

      A close second would be those sad, cheap, tinny-sounding electric keyboards with three octaves and no dynamics or pedals. I used to teach piano and it hurt my heart when a student’s parents were willing to invest in private lessons but wouldn’t get their child a proper keyboard/piano. Even if you are a master pianist, you will sound like a child on one of these.

      • James says:

        Even if you are a master pianist, you will sound like a child on one of these.

        Hey! I resemble that remark!

      • johan_larson says:

        I’ve heard some double-reed instruments, notably shawms, are really loud. Perhaps they would score highly if we were looking for the most annoying instruments.

        • SamChevre says:

          Alle angels in the sky
          Maken loude melodie
          With harp, sackbut, shawm and drum
          Ad terrorem omnium.

          Drayneflete Carol

        • Our encampment at Pennsic is called the Enchanted Ground. The Enchanted Ground Defense Force is armed with shawms.

          A shawm can drive a bagpipe from the field.

        • rubberduck says:

          I dunno, does a vuvuzela count as an instrument?

    • johan_larson says:

      No one is willing to step up and take a swing at the pipe organ? Or recorder?

      • SamChevre says:

        It would depend on what you mean by cool, but a pipe organ is amazing and lots of people still play them and enjoy them.

        I mean, look at and listen to this: Organ and Choir.

      • roystgnr says:

        I was going to vote recorder! I say this as someone who owns sopranino/soprano/alto/tenor, who taught recorder classes in middle school, and who played in a church recorder quartet in high school: no matter how nice your instrument is or how well you play, people will have to make a conscious effort not to hear echoes of a class of six year olds making cheap plastic screech.

      • Nornagest says:

        I dare you to listen to the intro to “Mr. Crowley” and say that the pipe organ isn’t cool.

  11. Vincent Soderberg says:

    What are the best rationalist community articles about these subjects? : Art, entertainment, passion/personal fit,

  12. Vincent Soderberg says:

    Anyone here that plays fortnite? I would like to add you as a friend in the game if so.

    My username is: Vater1234

  13. CheshireCat says:

    Some people have complained that they like an SSC post and want to send it to their friends, but some of the comments are so bad that they’d be embarrassed for their friend to see them.

    What? Comments on SSC have consistently been better than… pretty much every single other comment section on the internet I’ve ever seen.

    • Viliam says:

      Perhaps there are people for whom that is the problem.

      Let’s taboo “better”: Smart comments? Probably not a problem. Different opinions? Uh-oh.

  14. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    I did something very uncharacteristic recently and voluntarily watched a Nostalgia Chick video. Specifically, about the ideology or lack-thereof of the First Order and by extension the Empire. One question which was obviously missing in that analysis, and which I would like your collective input on, was this: how comfortable was the average human subject of the First Order or the Empire before it?

    Most people aren’t fanatics. They’ll nod along with propaganda but if you want them to do more than mouth slogans they’re going to have to have some skin in the game. So what did the First Order and the Empire actually offer their subjects?

    It’s actually very unclear! I tried to summarize what we do know below, based on the films and animated series. It looks like the First Order contains at least pockets of affluence and security, although they really seem to hate kids (maybe one of them made fun of Snoke’s goofy name?). The Empire, by contrast, has the nicest city we see outside of their area of control and what we do see of a core world makes it look like a hellhole. In either case the vast majority of the places we visit are lawless borderlands which have seemingly changed little since the Old Republic.

    Life Under the Empire

    In the original trilogy, we only actually see three settlements on inhabited planets: Mos Eisley spaceport on Tattooine, Cloud City on Bespin, and the Ewok village on Endor’s forest moon. Both Tattooine and Bespin are nominally ruled by the Empire, but they only actually show up at either because they’re looking for fugatives. So while we see Stormtroopers running around setting up checkpoints, searching homes, and man-handling people that’s clearly an extraordinary occurrence in those places.

    In the “Star Wars Stories,” Solo and Rogue One, we also see Jedha City on Jedha, a spaceport on Corellia, a mine on Kessel, and a village near an abandoned refinery on Savareen. This has a bit more meat, since we now get to see two worlds under direct imperial rule: the mid rim world Jedha and the core world of Corellia. The outer rim worlds are depicted similarly to those in the original trilogy and so aren’t really worth getting into.

    Jedha City, AAK the Holy City, was a center of pilgrimage to the “ancient religion” of the Jedi, AKA the traitors who tried to seize power and assassinate the Emperor. The imperial occupation and mining of the Khyber crystals naturally doesn’t sit well with the populace and when we enter the story the insurgency there is too “extreme” for the Rebel Alliance to feel comfortable working with them directly. Imperial rule is a brutal occupation which ends in a wholesale massacre, but it’s far from clear how the Empire could have avoided an insurgency after the destruction of the Jedi.

    Corellia is more interesting to me. Armies of human street children are controlled by alien mob bosses, evidently with the cooperation of corrupt imperial authorities. The Stormtroopers are nearly as obnoxious and incompetent as the TSA, hassling everyone who tries to get on a transport off-world. You can get out within a matter of seconds by joining the Imperial Military but the majority of recruits get sent to Planet Vietnam.

    I haven’t seen Rebels, which probably depicts more worlds.

    Life Under the First Order

    In the two movies of the Disney trilogy we have so far seen a lot more settlements on inhabited planets but only one, Canto Bight on Cantonicna, which is actually under First Order rule. The vast majority of their territory is either newly conquered or in the Uncharted Regions although we can make some inferences given Finn’s backstory.

    Canto Bight is the nicest place we’ve seen so far in the Star Wars universe after the end of the Prequel Trilogy but we’re obviously supposed to disapprove of it. The mall cops who run the place will tow your spaceship without a valid landing permit, but otherwise seem content to sit back and eat donuts quietly. There are Saudi Arabian style child slaves as jockeys for their Chocobo races, which is obviously bad. Supposedly all of the wealthy residents made their money through war profiteering, which seems unlikely but whatever.

    We never see the Uncharted Regions but the First Order evidently has a devshirme system similar to the Ottoman Empire. They take children away from their parents and raise them from infancy on Star Destroyers to be the next generation of Stormtroopers. This is notably different from the Empire which, if Solo is to be believed, filled their ranks at least in part with teenage volunteers.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Don’t forget the Christmas Special! We see the Stormtroopers searching a wookie house, as well, so maybe that is just how they operated.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        That’s a very good point, I had forgotten about the Holiday Special.

        The Empire broadcasting Bea Arthur’s Goodnight but not goodbye as required viewing for all Imperial subjects should qualify as a war crime on the scale of the destruction of Alderon. I barely survived it myself.

        That said, I’m not sure whether their treatment of Chewie’s family differs from what we’ve seen before. They’re looking for fugatives again, and it was unclear to me whether Kashyyyk was actually under imperial control in more than name.

    • James C says:

      how comfortable was the average human subject of the First Order or the Empire before it?

      Actually that’s a really interesting question. Good analysis too. I’d also point out a few of the softer implications that fall out from the grand military strategy of the Empire. And I don’t just mean their strategy on saving training dollars by teaching stormtroopers to shoot at carnival arcades.

      The entire military strategy of the Empire hinges on massive, overwhelming and perpetually undeployed force. A Death Star is a nuclear bomb equivalent, and while using it once proves you both have the will and capacity to use such weapons, actually using them on your own civilian population regularly is a great way to ensure that you have no civilians when the dust settles. It is explicitly stated that the Death Star is there to save money on troops and ships required to garrison planets traditionally, which strongly implies that intimidation is the goal rather than actually popping planets.

      The fact that the Empire is willing to spend so much on a superweapon for mere intimidation purposes is telling of their popular support. Or rather, their lack of faith in their popular support. Actually, it sounds more like they’re worried about being murdered in their beds by a popular uprising at any second.

      Given their economy hasn’t imploded from rebellion, however, we can infer that there are power blocks within the Empire that wholeheartedly support the regime. Maybe cynically, maybe actually believing the hype. These are most likely the ruling classes of various planets as otherwise the Rebellion wouldn’t have nearly the fodder it has nor would the Empire need worry about a popular rebellion. But, given Alderans fate, its also clear that not all blocs are convinced and some are actively working against the Empire.

      For the civilians it’s going to depend a lot on what kind of regime they live under. Collaborating governments’ citizens probably only see the lighter side of the Empire’s governance. Though they may grumble about their taxes being spent on Death Stars, they’re ambivalent to supporting of the regime. Neutral planets, those that the Empire doesn’t care about for some strategic reason, likely never see more than a star destroyer showing the flag. Their citizens either dislike the Empire or just don’t care. Their governments resent paying what is essentially protection money but don’t have the ability to do anything about it other than slip the Rebelion a few credits under the table.

      There are no openly hostile governments. Not any more. But there’s plenty of places that had them and are now under direct rule. The Empire is not great at direct rule and tends to lead people at blaster point in every example we’ve seen so they are highly resented. However, these planets have little in the way of resistance so this is fine as long as the local rebels don’t get access to anything more powerful than anti-tank weapons.

      Overall then, I’d expect there to be a few diehard Empire supporters. A majority of people in the ambivalent to disliking the Empire band. And a violent and angry minority.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      As I said here after watching The Force Awakens (no interest in seeing TLJ), it looks like the New Republic was only ever a star-state, controlling one system with several habitable planets that we see Starkiller Base blow up. This implies that every star system is independent, groups like the First Order notwithstanding. The heroes of the OT created something that looks like the Warlords Era of China but with tens of billions of warlords. The First Order must operate by sending starships from system to system on a circuit of “tax collecting”, and planets could remain sovereign by building their own ships.
      Basically, Tarkin was right. Galactic-scale government was only kept in existence by the fear of the stellar governors that supporting a rebellion would get their planet blown up.
      Now the really interesting question is how did the old Republic collect taxes?

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        The whole thing with Starkiller Base and the Hosnian system hurts my brain. It’s a perfect example of why JJ Abrams needs to be kept as far away from established SF feanchises as possible. It’s Red Matter all over again.

        That said, the explanation we got in the film for why losing one key system could cripple the New Republic sort of makes sense if you squint at it.

        The Old Republic didn’t have a standing army and didn’t seem to see the need for one. We saw in Episode I that the Senate’s response to one member blockading another was to send in a pair of Jedi and there’s nothing in the dialogue to indicate that this was an unusually meager response. That was the whole impetus for Darth Sidious to mastermind the Clone Wars: he had to create a crisis serious enough that even the Jedi would have to sign off on his Grand Army.

        The Rebel Alliance was never a particularly large force. Their fleet started out small and stayed that way right up until the Emperor’s death in Episode VI. Compare the fleet in Rogue One, which is not that huge to start with and is nearly destroyed by the end of the movie, to General Grevious’s fleet in the beginning of Episode III.

        The beginning of Episode VII established three things immediately. First, that the New Republic doesn’t take the First Order seriously as a military threat. Second, that the New Republic’s nascent fleet, likely built around the core of the Rebel Alliance fleet, suffered huge losses in the Battle of Jakku which ended the war. Third, that when the New Republic was threatened by the revanchist First Order, General Leia saw building an entirely new Resistance fleet from scratch as a more viable plan to defeat them than to fight for war in the Senate.

        So the New Republic started with what was probably a fairly small Starfleet. It suffered heavy losses in order to secure (seemingly) final victory over the New Republic’s only real threat. And the Starfleet circa the start of Episode VII is unprepared to defend the galaxy from a major military threat. From this we can infer that the New Republic doesn’t see the need to rebuild, much less expand, its relatively small fleet but keeps it around as a combination of nostalgia and as a Praetorian guard for the capital. They prefer a soft-power approach, like the Old Republic, but using local irregular forces instead of Jedi.

        If that’s accurate, it makes sense that crippling the nucleus of the New Republic Starfleet and simultaneously decapitating the government before it could vote to rapidly raise more armies (a la the Clone Wars) would be a deathblow. If the First Order can fight one system’s defensive fleet at a time instead of facing a second Grand Army of the Republic, it makes sense that they would be able to chew through most of the galaxy off-screen by the opening crawl of Episode VIII.

        • cassander says:

          I hate that scene so much. When they blow up that capital, I actually broke out laughing in the theater it was so absurd and hamfisted. the comparison to the destruction of alderaan couldn’t be more striking.

          • engleberg says:

            @it was so absurd and hamfisted. The comparison to the destruction of Alderaan couldn’t be more striking.

            Yes! That was when I quit Star Wars. Expensive incompetence is annoying. It’s not like there aren’t any amazing astronomy pictures out there aching to be stuffed into space opera battle scenes.

          • proyas says:

            When I saw that scene in the film, I didn’t understand which planets had been destroyed or why they were important. I think I assumed it was a random terror attack (considering the average IQs of the guys in charge of the First Order, firing their weapons at random planets would be in character). A few weeks later, I looked it up on Wikipedia or something.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I don’t buy that the New Republic ruled the galaxy. Leia was supposed to be the Sun Yat-Sen of the rebellion against the Emperor. Even though Mom Mothman was apparently Chancellor, Leia was central enough that she would have been nominating her brother Senator for Tatooine, her husband Senator for Corellia, etc. But if “the New Republic” only controlled the Hosnian system, these positions would be a bad joke, which explains why Han would F off to become a smuggler again and Luke a hermit.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I guess I have to disagree.

            I absolutely buy that the New Republic as depicted rules the core worlds, and that their rule may even extend out as far out as it did in the days of the Old Republic. They don’t seem to have much of a standing army, really just the one fleet, but that’s seemingly more than what the Old Republic had prior to the Clone Wars.

            Think about it like the EU. The military forces directly available to Brussels are embarrassing for a supposedly continental government. The European Union’s military manpower is only slightly greater than that of the NYPD. But if the European Commission decides that bananas beyond a certain curvature are illegal, member states may grumble but they go ahead and start throwing out illlegal bananas.

            Why did Han and Chewie leave the Republic to become smugglers again? There’s no good answer in universe because it was a dumb attempt to pander to our nostalgia. Even if he did get sick of galactic government, it would have made infinitely more sense if he had set himself up like Lando on some pleasant but out of the way colony where he could run things his way. But there are limits to how far I’ll bend over backwards in my head-canon to accommodate dumb filmmaking.

          • albatross11 says:

            I also have mostly lost interest in Star Wars after the two Disney main-line sequels. The last movie was just embarrassingly dumb and bad, with giant logic holes at every level. The last movie I thought was any good in that series was _Rogue One_.

          • John Schilling says:

            Think about it like the EU. The military forces directly available to Brussels are embarrassing for a supposedly continental government.

            The military forces directly available to Brussels include the most powerful army, navy, and air force on the planet. Possibly that wasn’t the Brussels you were thinking about, but it is not a coincidence that it is Brussels.

            A republic, federation, league, or union, that has to call on its member states for armies and navies is a plausible arrangement. But if your republic/federation/league/union/whatever is faced by an explicitly military threat from essentially the same people they defeated in an existential military conflict a generation ago, then either there is a vast army and navy available to crush the revanchists, or the republic is a joke. If the republic is a joke, then the story should be about the real powers in the game, the Core Systems or Sector Governments or whatever, and at minimum we should be seeing how they deal with ridiculosities like the “New Order”.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @John Schilling,

            Excellent point vis-a-vis Brussels and the central role of NATO defending Europe.

            I can’t argue that it isn’t a joke by your criteria. I guess I just don’t share your annoyance with that. If someone made a movie set in the late 18th century that involved the assassination of the Holy Roman Emperor as a prelude to invading Germany, I wouldn’t be upset that we don’t get the play-by-play of how Prussia reacts. The focus of the story isn’t on the relationships between the German princely states, so that can be in the background.

            Almost all of the scenes involving the New Republic were cut from the theatrical release. It’s not taking up a huge amount of narrative space that would justify getting into the nitty-gritty of how it’s governed. That would be cool to explore but that’s something I don’t fault the film for avoiding after the endless Senate scenes in the prequels.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I just realized I’ve made this unnecessarily confusing by referring to the Galactic Republic as the Old Republic. Blame my bad memory, I forgot that those were two different things.

    • Erusian says:

      A lot of Star Wars political weirdness makes sense when you realize its influences. Star Wars is heavily influenced by two things: The Hidden Fortress and American reactions to Vietnam. The Hidden Fortress takes place in Warring States Era Japan.

      Star Wars is thus originally politically: “What if the Shogunate suffered a democratic insurgency.” The prequel trilogy is: “What if the Shogunate were a quasi-democratic government representing the daimyos, merchant democracies, peasant collectives, etc.” The sequel trilogy is: “What if the Shogunate suffered a fascist insurgency while the fascists simultaneously suffered a democratic insurgency.”

      But in all cases, it remains the Shogunate. It has a central han (Coruscant, Imperial Center, Hosnian Prime). It has tozama and fudai daimyo/systems (Alderaan is tozama, naturally). It has directly administered han with some key military bases. It tries to play local lordly politics (such as by disbanding the Senate and replacing them with new overlords, the Moffs). And so on. Each of these individual entities is individually centralized but the overall system is feudal.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        It has a central han

        Just one. By itself.

        • Erusian says:

          Yes. Just as the US has one capital, by itself.

          This is entirely consonant with the Japanese experience. When the Asakura Shogunate’s capital burned down, the entire country fell into chaos. If one of the two factions fighting over it had definitively won the battles of the Onin War, they probably would have dominated the whole island afterward. But they fought to a draw and led to a century of civil war.

        • xXxanonxXx says:

          You might say it was solo.

  15. sunnydestroy says:

    Those in the SF Bay Area, it’s voting day!

    Anyone have strong opinions on any of the ballot measures?

    I’m thinking over Regional Measure 3, the $3 increase to bridge tolls, and wondering if anyone has any good analysis on this?

  16. rlms says:

    Germaine Greer attempts the rare reverse motte-and-bailey:
    Not all rape is really terrible, therefore rape in general isn’t that bad.

    • Randy M says:

      There’s downsides to making a category so broad all examples are non-central.
      That is to say, perhaps the distinction between violent coercion and cajoling is bigger than that between eager and reluctant.

      But is this really a fault in the law, or just popular discussion of the morality of it all? Surely the law is already capable of distinguishing violent rape from date rape from asking harshly etc. down the line, colleges withstanding perhaps?

      • Thegnskald says:

        As far as I am aware, no; there aren’t degrees of rape, except insofar as some might get prosecuted as sexual assault instead, of which there is a little more give to the laws.

        I’d say it is less to do with the law as written, and more to do with fifty years of creative reinterpretation of the concept of rape to include as much bad sex as possible.

        • mdet says:

          Have there really been fifty years of creative reinterpretation of rape?

          —Violently assaulting someone to get sex is the central example of “rape”.
          —Deliberately drugging someone to get sex fully deserves the same stigma.
          —Seeking out sloppy drunk people at a bar / club / party because they are very easy to manipulate, even if you don’t personally drug them or use any physical force, is a little less central but still deserves heavy stigma.
          —Blackmailing / coercing someone into sex with non-violent threats, such as a boss saying that they will only promote an employee if they get “a little something in return”, is a non-central example, and isn’t technically “rape” if you insist on a very strict definition, but still deserves a much harsher label than “bad sex”
          —Two individuals consent to sex. Things take a turn / one of them changes their mind, and they speak out about it. The other individual doesn’t stop. This might be non-central, but is justifiably described as rape.
          —Two individuals consent to sex. One of them changes their mind or has some reservations, but they don’t speak out in the moment. I understand that a level of fear and social conditioning can make it hard for someone to speak out in the moment, and I also understand not wanting to accuse someone of a crime if they didn’t know they were doing wrong. (Affirmative consent standards try to mitigate this by encouraging communication, but miscommunications and misunderstandings will always be inevitable, especially when intoxication and inexperience are involved)

          This last example is the only scenario I know of where a “creative interpretation of rape” can end up netting you a lot of what’s simply “bad sex”. I might be wrong, but I think the past fifty years have mostly been spent pushing back against the other four examples in between that and outright violent assault. (Forgive me if you were just being hyperbolic with the phrase “fifty years”)

          • Thegnskald says:

            I was not being hyberbolic; the idea that rape is non-consensual sex is a change from what it originally referred to, which was something more like cattle rustling.

            As our attitudes towards women’s rights / human dignity changed, the conceptualization of rape as non-consensual sex became the dominant way of thinking, which triggered sudden social changes when the implications of this started to fall out.

            But our social attitudes are still informed by something more like “Stealing a valuable and irreplaceable commodity” than “Battering someone in a specific way”. Our social attitudes still reflect women-as-property ideals; they’ve been made into their own property, and thus the crime is against them, but otherwise attitudes haven’t actually changed that much. There is thus a horrible mismatch between our moral attitudes towards rape as a concept, and our moral attitudes towards the central example of rape, which at this point is probably more like “two people drinking and having sex” than “violent sexual assault”.

          • mdet says:

            I guess I see what you mean. I had interpreted your comment as “fifty years of reinterpreting ‘rape’ to mean sex that is merely unenjoyable”, which I don’t think is true at all. Also, I think the large number of people complaining that rape accusations now frequently cover “two people drinking and having sex” means that it isn’t the central example. In the Me Too discussions, I’ve heard plenty of people suggest that my third example — blackmailing and coercing someone into sex with non-violent threats — doesn’t even qualify as rape, because those women could have just said no, they could’ve walked out the room, they could’ve reported it immediately, but they chose to go through with it. I could be mistaken, but I think I even saw a woman on Fox News making this argument. The use of physical force / drugs is still pretty mainstream as a central example.

          • Thegnskald says:

            mdet –

            I may be misusing terminology; by central example, I am thinking of “The most common case as law defines it”, not “The example somebody thinks of”.

            So there is a mismatch between those.

        • I’ve heard plenty of people suggest that my third example — blackmailing and coercing someone into sex with non-violent threats — doesn’t even qualify as rape, because those women could have just said no, they could’ve walked out the room, they could’ve reported it immediately, but they chose to go through with it.

          Do you count sex with a prostitute as rape? If not, then sex with a superior who will give you a promotion, or the Hollywood casting couch, or similar implicit quid pro quo transactions, probably shouldn’t be counted either.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’d say those are different cases. A prostitute is in a situation where the exchange of sex for money is established at the beginning.

            A boss making a change in an implied contract which didn’t include sex for money/promotion isn’t the same. It might not be rape, but it’s some sort of defection.

          • I agree that if it is introduced as an additional term it may be a form of contract default. But that doesn’t apply to all the examples, and it isn’t rape.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There’s kind of this spectrum of sleaze, maybe we can call it the Harvey Hierarchy

            1) Hey little girl, make me happy and you’ll go places.

            2) You want this part in my movie, get on your knees and perform.

            3) You ever want a part in any of my productions, you’ll put out whenever I call for you.

            4) You don’t put out, I’ll make sure you never work in this business again.

            The second is transactional. The last is properly termed rape, I think.

          • mdet says:

            I am uncomfortable with the comparison (not sure how I feel about prostitution, but I definitely think exchanging sexual favors for promotions and benefits at work is bad), but I’m not sure how to resolve it.

            The only differences I can come up with at the moment are Nancy’s point about a change in the contract (“You didn’t tell me when I was hired that I’d have to give head to get ahead”), and a possibly related point that if sleeping with the boss is not an option for every employee, then there’s some discrimination going on. So if the boss tells everyone from the start “Sexual favors are a/the route to raises and promotions”, then the job is comparable to prostitution, but if it doesn’t come up until later then it’s (literal) sex discrimination / violation of contract? Ok, I guess…

          • John Schilling says:

            The only differences I can come up with at the moment are Nancy’s point about a change in the contract (“You didn’t tell me when I was hired that I’d have to give head to get ahead”), and a possibly related point that if sleeping with the boss is not an option for every employee, then there’s some discrimination going on.

            Working as a prostitute isn’t an option for everyone, so working as a prostitute/secretary isn’t an option for everyone either. But the same is true for basically every other job; some people can do [X], some can’t. Fortunately, there is a diversity of jobs so this shouldn’t be a problem.

            The bit where approximately nobody ever honestly advertises for a prostitute/secretary is, legitimately, a dealbreaker. Or nearly so; I can steelman scenarios where the social stigma around prostitution leads to economic advantage for tacitly negotiating camouflaged sex-for-benefits arrangements over explicitly negotiating prostitution deals. But tacitly negotiating sexual consent is tricky enough even if there isn’t money involved, and in practice there’s usually a strong element of fraud involved in such arrangements.

    • Aapje says:

      Is this the backlash by second wave feminists of later generations framing bad sex as rape?

    • quanta413 says:

      That’s not quite how I read her although your analogy is clever. I think she’s just being intentionally provocative about the subset of cases where there’s a lot of fog so it’s not clear what happened.

      I think by her serious reasoning, as far as I guess tell violent cases or cases where violence was threatened would still be assault, battery, etc. which are pretty heavily punished.

      On the other hand, she’s clearly just provoking people when she says things like “I reckon 200 hours of community service will do – would do me. ” in reference to “In case you’re wondering whether with my apparently flippant attitude I actually have any understanding of the gravity of the crime of rape, I was violently raped days before my 19th birthday. I was beaten half-unconscious.”

      I think what she’s saying is less crazy than it sounds. A trade-off of some more reliable and rapid but lesser punishment (like community service) in unclear hazy cases that a lot of people wouldn’t call rape (like some mutually drunken hook-ups) might be better than the current regime of very unlikely but large punishments. It’s less unfair to accidentally punished innocents, so it seems more reasonable to lower the standards of evidence.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I have heard from a number of people that they would never pursue rape charges against their rapists, given the disparity of the sentence to what they experienced.

        Doesn’t sound crazy to me at all, although I’d favor rape be broken up into first degree, second degree, third degree, and misdemeanor, or something along those lines, if we don’t just treat rape as the less significant crime than the violence or druggings sometimes associated with it, and push for the heavier sentencing to fall on those other things instead.

        • LadyJane says:

          Doesn’t sound crazy to me at all, although I’d favor rape be broken up into first degree, second degree, third degree, and misdemeanor, or something along those lines, if we don’t just treat rape as the less significant crime than the violence or druggings sometimes associated with it, and push for the heavier sentencing to fall on those other things instead.

          Virtually all municipalities in the U.S. already do this, and have done so for decades if not centuries.

          • quanta413 says:

            My vague impression upon googling is that those don’t cover as far as modern feminism and changing social mores would cover.

            For example, this website says that in Washington third-degree rape “still involves “clearly-expressed” lack of consent or threat of harm to the alleged victim’s property”.

            I can’t find any examples of misdemeanor rape except for some forms of statutory rape (which may be consensual, and thus when an 18 year old and a 16 year old have sex, it’s not clear to me how more recent mores would compare to the law).

            There’s still a clear gap at least between Washington state law and modern college campus theory that sex is rape without an explicit verbal yes.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It all depends on your jurisdiction, and different rules apply. In my state there’s no such crime as “rape.” The crime is “sexual assault,” with the violent type being “first degree sexual assault” and the drugging / coercive type being second degree. Unwanted touching without penetration is “sexual battery.” Having sex with a person who consensually got drunk and is now so far gone they cannot possibly know what they’re doing but doesn’t slur out a “no” is not a crime in my state.

            On the other hand, in Arizona, having sex with someone who you know or should reasonably know is too intoxicated to consent, regardless of your own intoxication, is one form of criminal sexual assault that can be punished.

            I think it’s that sort of case people would like a different name and a lesser sentence for. I can agree that’s behavior that should be curtailed, and there would probably be a lot less outrage generated in lightly punishing such behavior if it weren’t called “rape,” which people equate with knife wielding psychos in a dark alley.

  17. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve been getting 504 errors (took too long to load) sometimes when I reload ssc. Weirdly, they can show up in less than a second.

    SSC becomes available reasonably soon– sometimes on an immediate second reload. Still, is anyone else getting this? What might be going on?

    I forgot to mention– my comments do go through.

    I use Chrome.

    • quanta413 says:

      Just got that this morning. But I think that’s the first time it’s happened (at least for a while).

    • Randy M says:

      Yes. However, when seeing this while posting comments, the comments do go through.
      It appears to be resolved.

  18. Conrad Honcho says:

    So the gay wedding cake decision is out. The short version is they didn’t decide whether or not a person can be compelled to provide services for gay weddings against their sincere religious belief or not, or whether or not creating something for such a service constitutes “speech.” They decided that in this instance, they can’t compel this baker, because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission displayed such hostility to religion that he did not get a fair or impartial hearing. The counterfactual in which they made the same ruling but were not so openly hostile to religion is left up in the air. I’m a little bothered by that because 1) Ginsberg and Sotomayor disagree and say you can be just as hostile as you want so long as you rule in favor of the gays and 2) Kagan and Breyer say you still have to rule for the gays you just can’t be such a dick about it (or do a better job of masking your hostility). That’s not looking good for the freedom of religion / association / speech side.

    As SSC has an interest in modeling thought process, extending charity, and detecting fallacious arguments, I thought it might be interesting to discuss the mode of thought of the commissioner who said:

    “I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting. Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be—I mean, we—we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to—to use their religionto hurt others.”

    This seems to imply that Christian opposition to gay marriage is mere rhetoric. Christianity doesn’t really oppose gay marriage, some homophobes are simply using Christianity as an excuse to do what they really want to do, which is hurt gays. I was immediately reminded of Fetal Attraction: Abortion and the Principle of Charity.

    • Randy M says:

      Freedom of religion was used to justify the holocaust? I’m going to need a cite for that.
      Also,

      The short version is they didn’t decide whether or not a person can be compelled to provide services for gay weddings against their sincere religious belief or not, or whether or not creating something for such a service constitutes “speech.”

      I know the court only decides on cases before them, but they know that any loophole that they leave will only lead to another similar case in a very short time that they will have to take. Would it really be a blow to the rule of law to say “We do/do not think the law compels the actions in the general case, and in this particular instance, there are mitigating factors” rather than just pronounce the latter and let lower courts speculate on the former?
      Actually it sounds like that is what they did, but perhaps not in an official matter?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        They could have done half of what Ginsberg and Sotomayor wanted to do, which was to ignore the comments of the commissioner, because they’re either irrelevant in application of the law, or they’re irrelevant because the other 2 bodies deciding against Phillips did not show such hostility. From my understanding, the complaint of discrimination was first made to the Commission (where the hostile comments were made), which found probable cause of discrimination, and then they referred the case to an Administrative Law Judge, who ruled against Phillips (but there’s no record of this judge showing such hostility). This decision was appealed to the State Court of Appeals, which also ruled against Phillips.

        So, sure, the Commission did bad with their bias, but that seems irrelevant when the judge and the appeals court ruled the same way without the open hostility. Were they right or wrong in their decisions? I think the SC could have answered that question one way or the other and given at least this one battle in the interminable culture war some closure.

        • gbdub says:

          Wasn’t part of the evidence for the commission’s “hostility” not merely their comments, but that they ruled in other cases that bakers were NOT compelled to produce cakes with messages they disapproved of? In other words, the ruling itself, regardless of the commentary that went into it, was not content neutral and indicated a particular hostility to religious beliefs.
          So the punt it not just “this time be nice”, but “this time come up with a compelling constitutional reason to rule differently in this one case”.

        • Randy M says:

          I think the SC could have answered that question one way or the other and given at least this one battle in the interminable culture war some closure.

          Right, that’s exactly what I’m getting at. I think they are trying to pass the buck. Maybe they think the law is unclear, in which case they should pass it back to the legislature explicitly saying so. But “we’re only ruling on a technicality; find a perfect case and bring that to us, then we can rule on the law” seems useless and cowardly stance.

          Perhaps it is due to some internal politics and some judges think a delay is the best they can do, or perhaps they see the principle differently and are extremely hesitant to overstep their role. I can understand and agree with them not wanting to make law, but eventually they or their successors will rule on the constitutionality of it.

        • J Mann says:

          @gbdub:

          Wasn’t part of the evidence for the commission’s “hostility” not merely their comments, but that they ruled in other cases that bakers were NOT compelled to produce cakes with messages they disapproved of?

          The cases weren’t exactly the same. Masterpiece Cakeshop wouldn’t sell cakes or cupcakes at all for gay wedding receptions, whether or not the cakes had messages. (The baker took the position that any cake was his artistic creation and would have involved him in the ceremony). The in the other three cases, a guy asked for a cake with an open Bible, then asked for a decoration with two groomsmen covered by a red X, and a quote from Leviticus condemning homosexuality. I believe all three bakeries said they would do a Bible cake, but not the X, and some said they wouldn’t do the Leviticus quote. (One bakery offered to give the guy a piping bag so he could do it himself). So those were arguably much more clearly about compelled speech.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I had a comment about this but I think it got eaten. I think that activist screwed up. He should have requested a “gay wedding cake” (white frosting, three tiers, little groom and groom figurine on top) because his Christian group was going to smash it in public as a statement against same-sex marriage and then seen what happened. Then it wouldn’t be an issue of “cake they wouldn’t sell to anyone” (cake with anti-gay statements on it) but a cake they would happily sell to people who didn’t wish to express the religious message the activist wanted to convey. Maybe they would still sell it to him, but I bet he could find some who wouldn’t, and there’s your apples-to-apples comparison.

            But I also agree with Thomas, that it doesn’t matter that there wasn’t necessarily writing on the cake Phillips was asked to make. The courts have long held that many, many more things besides words count as speech.

          • gbdub says:

            I’m not saying there aren’t ways to distinguish the cases, some of them might even be constitutional. I’m just saying that my impression was that part of the Supreme Court’s basis for “hostility” was that the commission had failed to articulate those reasons adequately.

            Anyway I agree with Conrad that the activists on the other side screwed up and overplayed it.

            To me (and apparently at least Thomas) whether the cake has words ought to be irrelevant. A wedding cake is not “just a cake” any more than black armbands or red banners are “just pieces of cloth” or parades are “just people walking in a line”. They are inherently symbolic, and symbols have almost always fallen under “speech” for the purposes of 1A jurisprudence.

          • J Mann says:

            I’m normally pretty close to a speech absolutist, but I think buying a cake off the shelf is closer to renting a space than it is to requiring a minister to conduct the ceremony. Yes, having a gay wedding at your restaurant or reception hall might be seen as endorsing the wedding, but you’re not actually speaking.

          • gbdub says:

            Wedding cakes are very rarely “cakes off the shelf”. You don’t go to a place like Masterpiece unless you want custom work. And usually the bakery will at least show up and stage the cake, sometimes serve it (if it’s complicated) so it’s arguable that they would need to participate in some way.

            But even then, “a cake at a wedding” is still a symbol, and once you’ve declared its purpose you’re asking the baker to be party to that purpose. An interesting example that was brought up was the discussion over whether designers ought provide clothes to Melania Trump for the inauguration – no one would argue that a generic “dress” is inherently political, but getting involved in tailoring a dress for a political event was (not too controversially) seen as political speech (or at least very very close to it).

            I mean if the compromise was “I’ll bake you a plain tiered cake, but you have to do your own delivery and any custom decorations” I’d mostly be fine with that, though I don’t know how you get that into law or set a standard for other cases, and I’m not sure Masterpiece still wouldn’t have been smacked by the CO commission if they’d insisted on that.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            He was willing to sell them a cake off the shelf. He was not willing to create a custom cake for the ceremony.

            The culinary arts in general are clearly arts. Go watch Master Chef or something and listen to how the judges and contestants describe the vision they have for the flavors and presentation they’re creating. They clearly see this as an artistic endeavor. Cake making specifically is artistically judged, probably more so than other types of food preparation as flavor is often sacrificed to use materials better suited to aesthetically pleasing artistic construction.

            Wedding cakes specifically are valued for their artistry. People spend more money on their wedding cake than probably any other single food item they will ever purchase. They meet with the cake maker, discuss their ideas, look at samples and photographs and follow trends. The mere presence of a wedding cake at a social gathering lets anyone who walks by and glances in immediately know they’re looking at a wedding and not a birthday or bar mitzvah or retirement party. People comment on the cake, photograph the cake, compliment the bride and the cake maker on its beauty, and clap and cheer when the cake is cut. This is clearly a meaningful symbol, imbued with purposeful communication.

          • Iain says:

            He was willing to sell them a cake off the shelf. He was not willing to create a custom cake for the ceremony.

            I do not think this is true. From the decision:

            Craig and Mullins filed a discrimination complaint against Masterpiece Cakeshop and Phillips in August 2012, shortly after the couple’s visit to the shop. The complaint alleged that Craig and Mullins had been denied “full and equal service” at the bakery because of their sexual orientation, and that it was Phillips’ “standard business practice” not to provide cakes for same-sex weddings. The Civil Rights Division opened an investigation. The investigator found that “on multiple occasions,” Phillips “turned away potential customers on the basis of their sexual orientation, stating that he could not create a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony or reception” because his religious beliefs prohibited it and because the potential customers “were doing something illegal” at that time. The investigation found that Phillips had declined to sell custom wedding cakes to about six other same-sex couples on this basis. The investigator also recounted that, according to affidavits submitted by Craig and Mullins, Phillips’ shop had refused to sell cupcakes to a lesbian couple for their commitment celebration because the shop “had a policy of not selling baked goods to same-sex couples for this type of event.” Based on these findings, the Division found probable cause that Phillips violated CADA and referred the case to the Civil Rights Commission.

            Note also Footnote 5 in Ginsburg’s dissent:

            But recall that, while Jack requested cakes with particular text inscribed, Craig and Mullins were refused the sale of any wedding cake at all. They were turned away before any specific cake design could be discussed. (It appears that Phillips rarely, if ever, produces wedding cakes with words on them — or at least does not advertise such cakes.) […] The distinction is not between a cake with text and one without; it is between a cake with a particular design and one whose form was never even discussed.

          • gbdub says:

            I think the potential confusion is that he did not have a general policy against serving gay clients for non-wedding events, but would not sell ANY items for gay wedding events (apparently he also wouldn’t do Halloween cakes – so whatever you think about his religious beliefs, they seem to be sincere and affected the business for more than just gay weddings).

            The particularly odd part about the whole thing is that the wedding in question happened 2 years before Colorado recognized same sex marriage, and 3 years before Obergefell. So in some sense Colorado was punishing Phillips for engaging in discrimination that the Colorado government was simultaneously engaging in!

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Iain

            I stand corrected on selling cakes off the shelf.

            @gbdub

            Yes, Kennedy mentioned that. The decision is especially useless for guidance given the time frame.

          • Nick says:

            Iain and gbdub are correct, although it’s worth noting that Waggoner conceded the case of already baked cakes in oral arguments. See pp. 4–6, in fact the very first question raised:

            JUSTICE GINSBURG: What if — what if it’s — if it’s an item off the shelf? That is, they don’t commission a cake just for them but they walk into the shop, they see a lovely cake, and they say we’d like to purchase it for the celebration of our marriage tonight.
            The Colorado law would prohibit that. Would you claim that you are entitled to an exception?
            MS. WAGGONER: Absolutely not. The compelled speech doctrine is triggered by compelled speech. And in the context of a pre-made cake, that is not compelled speech.
            Mr. Phillips is happy to sell anything in his store, including -­
            JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, didn’t -­ didn’t he express himself when he made it?
            MS. WAGGONER: Yes, he did express himself when he made it. And the purpose for which he expressed it is important to the compelled speech doctrine and how it applies, but when you -­
            JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: I’m sorry, he did refuse to sell -­
            JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, could I — but could I get the answer to the question? So -­ so — so if it — if you agree that it’s speech, then why can he not refuse to sell the cake that’s in the window according to Justice Ginsburg’s hypothetical?
            MS. WAGGONER: Well, in the context of if it’s already been placed in the stream of commerce in a public accommodation setting, his speech has been completed. He — he intended to speak through that cake with the purpose of whatever it was when he created it.
            In contrast, though, when he has a different purpose, and is expressing a message through a cake, it would render a different result. It’s still speech.

            I’d say this is a tactical retreat from what Phillips actually said to the couple at the time.

          • helloo says:

            I think at this point it starts to become tangled in another mess – IP.

            There’s been cases where some meme creators and/or those depicted in them have tried to limit/remove their use in certain areas. I don’t think they’ve been particular successful in them but the internet is a bit harder to play gatekeeper than a store.

            Could the baker state that his “works” are being placed in areas which he is against their use and push against this in terms of IP?

      • albatross11 says:

        I think there are at least three separate questions that come up here:

        a. What is the right way for the baker to behave?

        If I were the baker, I’d bake the cake, because I don’t think gay marriage is evil. On the other hand, I don’t think less of the baker for refusing business in order to stay true to his religious beliefs–in fact, that raises my opinion of him a bit. Like a business staying closed on Sunday even though it costs them a lot of money, it’s a costly signal that they mean what they say about their beliefs.

        b. What should the law compel the baker to do?

        I’d rather see the baker free to refuse any business he finds offensive to his beliefs. I’ll agree that this means he can refuse to bake and decorate cakes for interracial marriages, and point out that it also means he can refuse to bake and decorate cakes for the local Nazis’ celebration of Hitler’s birthday[1]. And I’ll also point out that there is no indication that gays have any trouble buying wedding cakes–we’re not trying to break Jim Crow in the South in 1950 here. This is an exercise of state/community power over the conscience of this individual baker. This is something we’d be better off with less of, not more.

        It seems to me like freedom to follow your own conscience in what jobs you will take on is pretty fundamental. Compelling people to do stuff against their conscience in the name of antidiscrimination law seems like a power that can be abused a lot of ways.

        c. What does the constitution say on the matter?

        I’ve long since stopped expecting the Supreme Court to just be looking at the letter of the constitution rather than their policy preferences when deciding on culture-warry cases, but ideally, they’d restrict themselves to what the constitution and existing precedent say, rather than making policy themselves. My not-too-well-informed guess is that in this case, the court is divided over what policy they think would be best.

        That said, I don’t really know what the right ruling w.r.t. the constitution would be. (Though it’s really hard to believe that the constitution required gay marriages for all these years, but that was only noticed a couple years ago. That was another decision where the justices decided what policy they liked best. I agree with them on the policy, but IMO they massively overstepped their proper role. But that ship, like the one about wanting congress to declare wars, has long since sailed.)

        [1] Though I don’t think political belief is a protected class the way race, religion, language, ethnicity, etc., are.

        • Nornagest says:

          Though I don’t think political belief is a protected class the way race, religion, language, ethnicity, etc., are.

          Depends on the jurisdiction. Political activities and affiliations are protected classes in California, for example; as far as I’ve been able to tell with five minutes of Google they aren’t in Colorado, although I did turn up one reference to “lawful conduct outside of work”. Suspect that might just be for employment law, though.

          (I don’t think language is a common protected class either, although national origin is.)

        • Orpheus says:

          A fourth question comes to mind: why would you even want to buy food from someone who openly hates you? Who knows what unsavory things he has done to it…

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well, they didn’t. It was a setup by activists. They knew before they went into the shop that they were going to be denied. The issue is not about helping beleaguered gays who cannot get cakes for their weddings because of rampant bigotry. I think one of the amicus briefs stated there were something like 67 other bakeries in the area who would make cakes for gay weddings. The point is to seek out and punish the tiny minority of conscientious objectors.

            Also, while the gays might believe Phillips “openly hates them,” having heard Phillips talk, I don’t think that guy hates anyone.

          • Iain says:

            Well, they didn’t. It was a setup by activists. They knew before they went into the shop that they were going to be denied.

            Source? I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but I don’t recall ever seeing any evidence for it.

        • A fourth question is what should the customer do. Is it right to try to force someone to provide a service that he does not want to provide because he views it as inconsistent with his beliefs?

      • Iain says:

        I know the court only decides on cases before them, but they know that any loophole that they leave will only lead to another similar case in a very short time that they will have to take.

        The Supreme Court doesn’t have to take anything. Less than 1% of petitions to the court ever make it to oral argument. SCOTUS could easily have declined to grant certiorari to Masterpiece Cakeshop, in which case the decision of the lower court would have stood.

        Cases appear before the Supreme Court when at least four of the justices agree that they are worth considering. In this case — given that the lower court had ruled against the baker — it’s pretty clear that Alito, Roberts, Gorsuch, and Thomas voted to grant cert hoping that they could convince Kennedy to join them in a broad decision in favour of the baker. They were wrong, and had to settle for a much narrower holding.

        As a result, the status quo remains in place, but with a warning that officials have to take freedom of religion seriously. Unless there’s a circuit split I don’t know about, I think that implies that bakers are still not allowed to refuse to bake cakes for gay weddings.

        • Randy M says:

          Okay. The previous summary made is sound more ambiguous (to me). Thank you for the clarification.

        • hls2003 says:

          For the record, I agree entirely with Iain’s comment here, and in particular his last sentence regarding the import of the Masterpiece decision. Mr. Phillips is off the hook. Future bakers in jurisdictions with broad anti-discrimination laws, not so much. It will take years before a circuit split develops on this issue, if ever, and even after that the Court can continue ducking the issue if they don’t have a broad consensus.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      The decision looks like a victory for PC– it’ll cost you if you can’t manage at least a display of tolerance. This may be a good thing.

      I agree that it’s at least dubious that freedom of religion or religion itself was used to justify the holocaust. That was probably justified in terms of freedom of race.

      • quanta413 says:

        Arg, please don’t shove that square peg in that round hole.

        I don’t think “at least dubious” even comes close to how incredibly wrong the original statement is either. Executing specific religious groups is exactly the opposite of freedom of religion. The Nazis weren’t big on religious ideology either. The whole quote makes about as much sense as saying “freedom of religion or religion itself was responsible for the Soviet gulags”.

        EDIT: I later realized that “freedom of race” may actually be some sort of dark humor.

        • Randy M says:

          And even if some Nazi had at some point uttered the phrase “freedom of religion” we can’t sacrifice words, let alone causes, because they are sloppily applied as cover for evil. We have to consider whether it is logically applicable, whether it is still an important principle within limits even so, etc.
          If I start a murder spree slaying florists and say it is because flower arrangements offend my sense of beauty, that doesn’t imply society should start making the world ugly. My making an absurd leap of logic doesn’t invalidate the entire concept.

    • gbdub says:

      Off topic a bit, but this case reminds me why I hate “test cases” and really wish there was some way to deal with the issue of “standing” that didn’t require activists to target individuals.

      Regardless of how you feel the issue ought to be decided, Masterpiece and its proprietor have been dragged through hell basically as a sacrifice to force clarification on a law everybody knew was going to be challenged up to the USSC in one way or another.

      Frankly, I think the mere fact of being granted cert at the SC ought to prove that the constitutionality of the issue in question was doubtful enough to absolve the defendent. Especially in an issue like this where the defendent was an unwilling “test case” being used to apply an existing law to a novel purpose. Basically, the question of “do anti-discrimination laws compel artistic cake makers to serve gay weddings” was open enough that it seems really unfair to punish Masterpiece.

      It really seems like it would be more just if there were a way to “pre-interpret” laws like this, rather than force activists to dragoon involuntary test subjects, who face real and potentially life altering consequences even if they win, to try out a legal theory.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        This is even worse in criminal cases, where you maybe spend a few years in prison before the supreme court gets around to hearing your case.

      • Randy M says:

        It really seems like it would be more just if there were a way to “pre-interpret” laws like this, rather than force activists to dragoon involuntary test subjects, who face real and potentially life altering consequences even if they win, to try out a legal theory.

        I hear you. I think the objection to that would be some combination of “the particulars matter” and “we have enough to do with real cases now you want us to spend our time on hypotheticals?” even though if they did that it would cut down on the cases they needed to rule on.

        • gbdub says:

          I mean obviously you would need to have some sort of filter, maybe an appointed or elected body of legal scholars whose job it is to come up with (hypothetical) test cases.

          But whatever you choose, a filter that literally requires basically innocent people to be harmed in order to ask a question everyone wants asked anyway has to be one of the less good options?

          • I believe Mark Twain’s suggestion somewhere was that when Congress passes a law it should go to the Supreme Court to decide whether it was constitutional and only then come into effect.

            But I can see some pretty obvious problems with that approach.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I think the biggest problem would be the commitment of the Court’s time. Since there’s already a distinction between facial challenges (contending that there is no way that the law could be applied constitutionally) and as-applied challenges (contending that the law is not applied constitutionally in practice, I think it’s at least plausible for all laws to go through some sort of facial challenge prior to enactment.

        • David Speyer says:

          I believe the legal term here is “advisory opinion”. They do exist in some countries, of which Canada is probably the most respectable.

          I also hate this aspect of the current system. Looking for arguments for it, though, I suspect the government would win even more cases when there wasn’t an actual injured party to show how their nice sounding laws were applied in practice.

      • Iain says:

        The prohibition on advisory opinions comes out of the Case or Controversy Clause in the US Constitution. It is justified as a separation of powers concern: a Supreme Court that can make up its own cases out of thin air is dangerously close to a second executive / legislative branch.

        Nevertheless, other jurisdictions do allow advisory opinions. In Canada, for example, they take the form of a reference question, and can only be requested by the federal government or a provincial government.

        • gbdub says:

          The Candian approach seems like a good compromise. There is still separation of powers, because the Court can’t invent questions for themselves. By requiring the questions come from the legislative branch, they also let the legislatures do the filtering – if you want to bring a case you don’t otherwise have standing for, you’d need to petition your legislator.

          The one potential downside with such a system I could see is that if you had a fairly cowardly legislature, they could put any controversial issue into a highly ambiguous law and then force the court to eat the blowback from taking a side. But allowing the court to reject questions (basically requiring cert) or to rule very narrowly should probably corral that.

          • hls2003 says:

            In my opinion the Case or Controversy requirement is a good check on a Court that has too few nowadays. But I do think that it served a useful purpose even back in times when the Court was less active. It helps avoid unintended consequences of “general principles” decisions when you require, as a matter of jurisdiction, that at least some of the consequences be demonstrated prior to taking the case.

          • gbdub says:

            I’m not saying it doesn’t have a purpose, or that it doesn’t serve as a check. I’m just of the opinion that there ought to be a way to achieve the same check without waiting until some private citizen is directly harmed by a known ambiguity in the existing jurisprudence.

      • hls2003 says:

        Bear in mind that judges often love “facts and circumstances” analyses, multi-factor tests, etc. because they allow more judicial freedom and fewer hard cases (where a bright-line rule hurts a sympathetic litigant). Yes, such standards tend to create significant litigation costs due to uncertainty over the outcome, but it’s not the judges paying. (And the money flows to lawyers, and judges are all lawyers, so there’s a probably-subconscious thought process of “no harm done” in increased fees).

        But in this case, I think there is a separate incentive for Kennedy to be vague and fact-dependent: exactly the chilling effect you are describing. I believe Kennedy wants to discourage future religious challenges asking for exemptions from anti-discrimination laws; he wants to protect Obergefell and he sees that too many exceptions could undermine his preferred rule. The best way to do that, without appearing too heavy-handed? Make it a “facts and circumstances” test. Then if a religious person wants to challenge it, he knows that he can’t win cheaply and easily by appealing to a bright-line Supreme Court rule that says he’s entitled to an exemption. Instead, he needs to be prepared to litigate all the way up to the Supreme Court and pray that he’s one of the tiny fraction of cases granted certiorari by the Court. There are going to be vanishingly few religious exemption claimants who are prepared to shoulder that uncertain process, which is exactly what Kennedy wants.

        • gbdub says:

          I’m not worried about chilling people who want to go through the whole process of appealing to the Supreme Court. I’m worried about people like the proprietor of Masterpiece who are basically sacrificial lambs for the sake of some other activist’s standing. (Yes, Masterpiece was the defendant here and could have renounced their right to appeal, but they were only brought into this in the first place because local gay activists wanted to resolve the open question in CO).

          • hls2003 says:

            Right, I don’t disagree. Specifically, I think that the majority opinion leaves future religious dissenters in the position where they have to knuckle under unless they are prepared to be the sacrificial lambs and go all the way. The process is the punishment. Hypothetically, had the decision been broader (e.g. the Thomas concurrence), a religious baker confronted by an activist complaint could, fairly cheaply, hire a lawyer to write a letter citing that broad decision and telling the Commission / activist to get lost. Now, it’s true that the process could still be long and painful and expensive (this is the basis of lawfare) but it would be for both sides, and one side would know it was very likely to lose eventually, making lawfare litigation an unattractive proposition in the long run. In the current model, though, there’s no such certainty, so lawfare remains an attractive option.

            Activists can always find test cases to fight other activists. And people who don’t have objections will just comply. A clear rule won’t change the behavior either of those two classes of people. But a religious objector who has two kids to feed and a $1,200 litigation budget? With a clear rule in favor of religious exercise, he might hold up the case and invoke it in his favor, at least at first. With the actual facts-and-circumstances rule, he’s more likely to keep his head down and keep quiet. Which, I believe, is exactly the outcome Kennedy and the liberal concurring justices want.

          • I’m worried about people like the proprietor of Masterpiece who are basically sacrificial lambs for the sake of some other activist’s standing.

            I tend to agree about Mr. Phillips. That said, being a party in a famous case is not all pain and suffering and bankruptcy, especially given how easy it is to fundraise over contentious issues. A lot of famed test cases involved people who knew exactly what they were getting into: for example, John Scopes agreed to be charged with the crime of teaching evolution.

      • John Schilling says:

        It really seems like it would be more just if there were a way to “pre-interpret” laws like this, rather than force activists to dragoon involuntary test subjects, who face real and potentially life altering consequences even if they win, to try out a legal theory.

        The problem comes when we have to transition from legal theory to legal practice, to decide e.g. who the police are going to arrest today.

        It is rare for a legislature to pass laws whose every possible application would be blatantly unconstitutional. Occasionally you’ll get something like an anti-flag-burning law, but those are mostly symbolic gestures that aren’t expected to have practical effect. If the law is intended to actually do anything in the field, it will be written to at least fit into a grey area where it isn’t slam-dunk unconstitutional across the board.

        By the same token, it is basically impossible to pass a law whose every possible application would pass constitutional muster. See, e.g., the present example, because no matter what you think about about who should be forced to bake cakes for whom, if the implementation is “…on careful examination, we find that you are a Damn Dirty Christian, and therefore you have to bake the cake” then we’ve got a problem. And the enforcement is not decoupled from the law; having a Civil Rights Commission determine who has to bake cakes is going to lead to different results than having a Fair Business Practices Commission make the determination.

        So either,

        A: The court has to figure out in advance all the ways the law is going to be applied in the field, in which case they are going to miss a lot of important stuff, or

        B: The court has to rule in favor of any law that would allow for some constitutionally legitimate application, in which case a lot of blatantly unconstitutional crap is going to go down under cover of “…and the Supreme Court said this was legit, so there!”, or

        C: The court has to rule against any law which could possibly be applied in an unconstitutional manner, in which case we basically don’t get to have any new laws, or

        D: The court has to wait and see how the law is actually implemented.

    • Brad says:

      By prior precedent Ginsberg and Sotomayor are right. There’s a specific test for dealing with bias from a one member of a multi member panel to see whether it was outcome dispositive. See Mt. Healthy School District v. Doyle. Once again Kennedy went with his gut.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I agree with that. There was no reason to rule this narrowly. The Commission was biased, sure. And I think one can say “the commission” without having to say “one or two commissioners” because no one objected to the extreme anti-religious statements. In a decision-making body, silence does kind of imply consent. And regardless, the administrative law judge and the appeals court both ruled against the baker, and there’s no sign of bias from them, so were they right or wrong? Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Kagan and Breyer think they were right, Gorsuch, Alito and Thomas think they were wrong, how about you, Kennedy and Edwards? Can’t you just decide this thing for us already? Nope. Forever Culture War.

    • lvlln says:

      “I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting. Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be—I mean, we—we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to—to use their religionto hurt others.”

      This seems to imply that Christian opposition to gay marriage is mere rhetoric. Christianity doesn’t really oppose gay marriage, some homophobes are simply using Christianity as an excuse to do what they really want to do, which is hurt gays.

      I’m not sure I agree with that. It’s saying that it’s rhetoric, sure, but I don’t think it’s saying that it’s mere rhetoric. I think the claim is that Christianity (as these people practice it) does really oppose gay marriage, and thus acting Christian in this manner hurts gays. Christianity isn’t the excuse to hurt gays, it is hurting gays.

      The big problem I have with the quoted argument is that it’s begging the question – presuming at the start that this discrimination is wrongful discrimination of the same sort as the Holocaust and slavery, when that’s the very issue being adjudicated (something which I actually think is true, but which I believe needs to be properly argued for). And also a “Hitler ate sugar” sort of argument – presuming that it’s true that religion/freedom of religion were historically used to justify wrongful discrimination in the past, it doesn’t then follow that the next piece of discrimination that’s justified by religion/freedom of religion is wrongful. It doesn’t even follow that it’s a useful heuristic to err on the side of believing that it’s wrongful, not without additional data about overall wrongful/rightful rates of all the discrimination that’s been justified by religion/freedom of religion.

      • mdet says:

        I think there ARE people who think it’s mere rhetoric. There are many Christians who are totally fine with same sex marriage and relationships. I’ve heard some of them say / some people point to them and say that any Christian who *isn’t* totally fine with same sex marriage and relationships is making a choice. “I’m choosing to love all people like Jesus said, you’re choosing to hate people because of some outdated line in Leviticus.”

        In the case of Christians who oppose same sex marriage but accept contraception, I think this claim might be correct, but Catholics and others who go by natural law ethics are pretty consistent and coherent in their belief that sexual acts which aren’t consistent with procreation (including, but not limited to, same sex relationships) is wrong.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          There are many Christians who are totally fine with same sex marriage and relationships.

          Yeah, a subset of fuzzy-headed Protestants. If you could let Martin Luther use a time machine, he’d recant and kiss Cardinal Bellarmine on both cheeks.

        • Nick says:

          In the case of Christians who oppose same sex marriage but accept contraception, I think this claim might be correct, but Catholics and others who go by natural law ethics are pretty consistent and coherent in their belief that sexual acts which aren’t consistent with procreation (including, but not limited to, same sex relationships) is wrong.

          Catholics who are coherent in their belief aren’t amenable to this objection, but as long as we have prominent dissenters like Nancy Pelosi that’s not saying much—and we will always have Catholics like Pelosi. In fact, it may not help at all, because some will simply insist, “Those devout Catholics over there think contraception and same-sex marriage are awesome, and anyway Pope Francis said not to judge, so what are you doing living in the past?” Or compare the emails from Hillary’s server about founding Catholics United to change the Church, or the comments that social conservatism is “an amazing bastardization of the faith.” Color me pessimistic whether being Catholic is going to be a defense for long.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Sooo, Eastern Orthodoxy then?

          • Nick says:

            Jaskologist is welcome to correct me, but I suspect Orthodoxy will fare no better here. They don’t have Pope Francis or bishops like Cupich, but unless I’m mistaken they don’t have the same philosophical, canon law, etc., resources to draw on either.

          • mdet says:

            I was speaking for myself in that paragraph. If someone says “I live my life by natural law, including not using contraception”, then I’ll easily agree that they are not being “hateful” or “bigoted” or whatever by opposing same-sex relationships. Natural law passes my criteria for a sincere and deeply held religious belief that should be respected when possible, since Aristotle & St. Thomas Aquinas probably didn’t spend their lives writing countless ethical and philosophical arguments just so that, hundreds of years down the line, someone could have an excuse to not sell a cake. Anyone who thinks the pope’s “Who am I to judge?” meant Catholicism approves of homosexual acts obviously does not understand why the Catholic Church disapproved in the first place.

          • Nick says:

            I was speaking for myself in that paragraph. … Anyone who thinks the pope’s “Who am I to judge?” meant Catholicism approves of homosexual acts obviously does not understand why the Catholic Church disapproved in the first place.

            I agree. All I mean is that while you’re making (imo) a more reasonable judgment, most people won’t, and Catholicism’s at least as incomprehensible to progressives as other socially conservative Christianity. The distinction isn’t a difference to folks who think it’s a cover for bigotry or mere rhetoric, so in practice Catholics are in the same boat as conservative nondenominational or evangelical Christians.

            Sorry if I’m talking past you here, mdet—we may just be speaking to two sides of the same problem.

    • hls2003 says:

      In my opinion, I think the decision has all the hallmarks of being motivated transactional reasoning, designed for future unrelated fights, and actively hostile to Free Exercise protection in future battles.

      Start with the majority opinion. Kennedy wrote it, which is clear from the sentimental tone and invocation of feelings as the highest good. Note these inclusions:

      “The first [principle] is the authority of a State and its governmental entities to protect the rights and dignity of gay persons who are, or wish to be, married but who face discrimination…”

      “Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.”

      “if that exception were not confined, then a long list of persons who provide goods and services for marriages and weddings might refuse to do so for gay persons, thus resulting in a community-wide stigma inconsistent with the history and dynamics of civil rights laws…”

      It seems to me that Kennedy’s opinion is explicitly crafted to enshrine the feelings (“dignity”, “stigma”, “social outcast”) of gay couples as a compelling government interest. This means that, in the future, citations to Masterpiece will primarily be for the principle that it is a compelling government interest to bar any action which homosexual persons deem offensive enough to their dignity to make them “social outcasts.” It seems to encourage state laws to make social affirmation of homosexual persons mandatory (as opposed to behavior making homosexuals feel like “social outcasts”, which “cannot” be allowed). It is careful to reaffirm the means of doing so, anti-discrimination laws, and approvingly recites Employment Div. v. Smith to confirm its applicability to exactly this situation. The opinion even goes on to discuss hypothetical future cases, indicating that a pastor declining to perform a same-sex marriage is “clearly religious,” but that everyone below that level is up for grabs (i.e. hung out to dry).

      So why does Phillips win at all? Look to the strategy of Marbury v. Madison. In Marbury, the Court created the right of judicial review by affirming it as a principle in a decision which reached the preferred result for the Court’s political opponents. Marbury, who was suing the Court’s political enemies, lost – but lost on the basis of the Court declaring its power to judge statutes unconstitutional (which was what the Court wanted in the long run). It was a “concede the battle to win the war” case. This looks the same. Kennedy clearly articulates every principle necessary to penalize future post-Obergefell Christians for refusing to embrace gay marriage (note that Kennedy emphasizes that Phillips’ objection occurred preObergefell as a mitigating factor), while emphasizing a narrow window of victory for Phillips himself (the “animus” claim) adopted wholesale from Church of Lukumi v. Hialeah.

      But why Church of Lukumi? And isn’t it encouraging for religious liberty that two liberals (Breyer and Kagan) signed on to give Phillips the win? These two questions are conjoined, and the division of the Court’s various opinions gives a strong clue how and why. Church of Lukumi is heavily cited by Kennedy’s majority opinion and Kagan’s separate concurrence relies solely upon that point for her vote. But Kagan’s concurrence primarily makes the argument that Phillips should have lost. Kagan argues that the Colorado Commission was correct to sanction Phillips and also correct to exonerate the pro-gay bakeries who refused to bake a cake with an anti-gay message. She then gestures in the direction of Lukumi and states that because Colorado did not rely upon the “obvious” distinction Kagan makes (in her argument with the Gorsuch concurrence) but instead relied on a non-content-neutral test of “offensiveness of message” (forbidden, she says, by Lukumi) then Colorado should lose. But note that this is a 7-2 decision. If Kagan’s concurrence were instead a dissent, Phillips still would have won, and perhaps on stronger ground.

      Consider the following. Kennedy clearly considers Obergefell to be his legacy. He wants to protect it, and he considers the best way to improve its long-term enshrinement is to have the first decision after it be reassuring to religious libertarians while also discouraging future challenges for exemptions by religious persons. To do that he prefers to engender support amongst both the liberal and conservative wings if possible. So he determines that Phillips will win, on the narrowest possible grounds he can think of – Lukumi animus grounds – while reaffirming the validity of Obergefell while also including lots of language signaling that future religious plaintiffs (other than actual pastors / priests) would almost certainly lose. Since the conservative wing of the Court (represented by Gorsuch’s concurrence and Thomas’ concurrence) would have ruled with him on broader grounds, Kennedy could have created a 5-4 win and had his narrow Lukumi-based plurality opinion (compared with the Gorsuch / Thomas wider-scope concurrences). But plurality opinions are somewhat thin gruel for a “solidifying” decision designed to cement the legacy of Obergefell. Instead, he would prefer a full majority opinion on narrow grounds. But how to get the extra votes?

      Knowing all this, Kagan and Breyer made a pragmatic decision. Based on Kennedy, they were going to lose anyway on narrow grounds, but rather than alienate Kennedy by provoking a 5-4 split, they chose to woo him by pretending to give him a stronger majority. In exchange, they no doubt encouraged him to beef up the language regarding gay persons’ “dignity” and the dicta which will be cited to shoot down cases brought by future religious persons. I fully expect that they also encouraged him to beef up the Lukumi language. But why would Kagan and Breyer want stronger Lukumi emphasis, since Lukumi is pro-Free Exercise? Because Kennedy’s opinion emphasizes not the language regarding religious freedom rights of citizens, but rather language on the government obligation of “religious neutrality.” This means that Kagan and Breyer (and Kennedy, for that matter) are looking ahead to the Trump Travel Ban case. Note that Kennedy makes sure to invoke “neutrality” heavily and includes the following quote: “Factors relevant to the assessment of governmental neutrality include “the historical background of the decision under challenge, the specific series of events leading to the enactment or official policy in question, and the legislative or administrative history, including contemporaneous statements made by members of the decisionmaking body.” This is the portion of Lukumi – taken rather out of context, I might add, given the facts of Lukumi – cited most often in the briefs against Trump’s travel ban. Kagan and Breyer are trading an essentially meaningless vote (instead of 5-4, the 7-2 Masterpiece vote on extremely narrow grounds that reaffirm pro-gay public accommodations laws and will help approximately zero future religious persons) in exchange for locking Kennedy into a strong emphasis on “religious neutrality” looking at “contemporaneous statements.” Kagan’s concurrence signals this by spending its entirety trying to address the Gorsuch concurrence, while explicitly stating that she believes Phillips violated the law. Basically, they give Kennedy a meaningless boost on Masterpiece in exchange for a very consequential Kennedy vote on the Travel Ban case which will probably lead to a 5-4 ruling against Trump.

      TLDR: The Masterpiece case is good for Mr. Phillips, bad for religious liberty, and bad news for the Trump Administration in the upcoming Travel Ban decision. To be clear, my testable predictions are (in decreasing order of certainty): (1) district and appellate courts will interpret the Masterpiece decision narrowly, and bakers/photographers/etc. will continue to lose in state and federal courts in the near future; (2) the next Phillips-style religious objector to be granted certiorari by the Court will – in the absence of a substantial Court restructure, i.e. assuming same current composition – will lose on the basis of Employment Division v. Smith; and (3) Kennedy will join with the liberal wing to strike down the Trump Travel Ban.

      • Randy M says:

        This is the portion of Lukumi – taken rather out of context, I might add, given the facts of Lukumi – cited most often in the briefs against Trump’s travel ban. Kagan and Breyer and trading an essentially meaningless vote (instead of 5-4, the 7-2 Phillips vote on extremely narrow grounds that reaffirm pro-gay public accommodations laws and will help approximately zero future religious persons) in exchange for locking Kennedy into a strong emphasis on “religious neutrality” looking at “contemporaneous statements.”

        Interesting analysis, thanks.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        That was an insightful read. Thank you.

        ETA: Yeah especially the part about the “contemporaneous statements.” That’s exactly how they’re going to use Trump’s “ban muslims” statements as justification for ruling against the travel ban.

        ETA 2: Except Trump also had several other statements affirming his love and respect for muslims, knows many muslims who are wonderful people, etc etc. You don’t have to believe him, but there’s at least attempts at mitigation that there was not from the Commission. Shockingly, Trump is more nuanced than the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

        • hls2003 says:

          If you read Church of Lukumi v. City of Hialeah, they describe a very different set of facts from Trump’s pre-election rambling to demonstrate animus. The city council was extremely determined, in their official legislative capacity, to bar the Santerias from the town. It’s not worth a whole review here but it’s a textbook case for a reason.

          Personally, I had been hoping that the Travel Ban case might get a 9-0 or 8-1 decision in favor of the Administration, simply to send the message to the forum-shopped Resistance courts to cut it out with the “explicit plenary authority depends on whether you are a Good Person” stuff. I find that particularly corrosive to the rule of law, and I thought that the Court might want to signal the lower courts to calm down (since the Travel Ban is almost moot at this point). But reading this decision, I suspect we’ll get the opposite. In the long run, I expect that to be more consequential for the culture wars than the Masterpiece decision – people get madder if they perceive that only one side is allowed to win.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I just read the Wikipedia entry on the case. Yes, very different.

            I’m not sure that will apply to the travel ban. From the article:

            Kennedy read the Smith decision as requiring a compelling governmental interest if a law is not of neutral and general applicability. Kennedy went on, in a section Souter and White refused to join, to conclude that although the ordinances were facially neutral, they were religiously “gerrymandered with care” to only apply to religious killings.

            Well, stopping travel from war zones / terrorist hot spots / failed states where we cannot get documentation in order to properly vet people is a compelling government interest, beyond any dislike of Muslims. So the problem in Lukumi was that there’s no compelling government interest beyond dislike of Santeria. I don’t think that’ll be a problem with the travel ban case.

    • Lillian says:

      Rather disappointed by the result, as not a single one of the Justices used the reasoning that art by commission constitutes speech rather than public accommodation and is consequently protected by the First Amendment. To me it seems obvious that is should be the case both on Constitutional and practical grounds. The Constitutional argument is fairly straightforward: Since art is speech, it stands to reason that art by commission is itself also speech, and compelled speech is a violation of free speech rights, ergo individuals cannot be compelled to make artistic works without violating their free speech rights.

      The practical side of it is somewhat more complicated. Without diverging into a long discourse into the nature of rights, i’ll just say that i don’t see the notion of protected classes as expressing and protecting some fundamental aspects of human liberty, but rather standing directly in opposition to it. It is a compromise, based on the observation that allowing all individuals to wield their freedoms of expression and association unfettered can lead to collective injustice. It’s a concession to the fallen nature of Man, a lesser tyranny acceded to in order to prevent a greater one. This means that it is entirely possible for it to grow into a greater evil than that which it was meant to defeat. Indeed it’s quite possible it has been so since the moment of its inception, though at present i do not believe that.

      What i do believe is that since the idea of protected classes stands in opposition to some fundamental human liberties, great care must be taken in managing the tension between the two. There has to be some give in both directions, lest one or the other be so compromised as to be worthless. The concept of public accommodations exists to manage that tension, it provides a clear and coherent guideline of when to give to one side, and when to give to the other. The Masterpiece Cakeshop case is precisely the kind of situation where such a guideline is useful. It allows us to chart a course that protects public access to services, while still giving some refuge of self-expression to those who provide such services. In this specific case, it means that a bakery cannot refuse to sell cakes, but can refuse to sell custom cakes. This, i think, is a decent and workable compromise.

      • hls2003 says:

        Justice Thomas’ concurrence was essentially making this point – wedding cake baking as expressive conduct equivalent to speech, the Colorado law thus forcing speech in contradiction of, inter alia, Boy Scouts v. Dale.

        • Lillian says:

          Yes i noticed that after writing my post. Normally i completely ignore Thomas, but this time it seems his reasoning was close to mine. It’s a pity his concurrence stands alone in that regard.

    • Nick says:

      So setting aside Kennedy and Ginsburg a moment, what do folks think of the argument Gorsuch and Kagan are having in their opinions? It interested me when I read the opinions Monday, but I didn’t linger on it as I was at work. So here’s some not very organized thoughts on it now.

      If I read Gorsuch right, he believes the Phillips case and the Jack cases both have the form:
      1. The one requesting the cake is in a protected class, in one case sexual orientation, in the other religion;
      2. The request is for an act of expression which would violate the requestee’s “personal conviction[s]”;
      3. The rejection is not because of the requestor’s being in the protected class, but rather the content of the expression being requested (p. 4).

      Interestingly, Gorsuch believes this is a case of the doctrine of double effect, although he doesn’t call it that in his opinion. (I’m here paraphrasing from the SEP’s discussion.) The doctrine of double effect was introduced by Aquinas in discussing certain ethical cases where there are intended consequences as well as unintended but foreseen consequences, with the result that evil but unintended consequences do not always make the act itself wrong. There are four conditions in Catholic moral theology for an act with double effect to be permissible, which the SEP quotes from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

      1. The act itself must be morally good or at least indifferent.
      2. The agent may not positively will the bad effect but may permit it. If he could attain the good effect without the bad effect he should do so. The bad effect is sometimes said to be indirectly voluntary.
      3. The good effect must flow from the action at least as immediately (in the order of causality, though not necessarily in the order of time) as the bad effect. In other words the good effect must be produced directly by the action, not by the bad effect. Otherwise the agent would be using a bad means to a good end, which is never allowed.
      4. The good effect must be sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect (p. 1021).

      For the Catholic, therefore, Phillips’ case looks easy (though I am not a theologian!). Not baking a cake for someone is of itself morally indifferent. The bad effect (of refusing a service to a protected class) is foreseen but not willed. The good effect (acting in conscience) follows immediately, while the harm to a protected class is secondary. And acting in conscience is sufficiently grave to warrant the harm. Of course, Gorsuch is not Catholic, but he studied under John Finnis, a major figure in the “New Natural Law” camp, so it’s interesting to see the influence here. Gorsuch writes that the distinction is sometimes made in law, and in his reading of the Commission’s decision on Jack’s cases they relied on it (pp. 4–5).

      Whether I’m right here hinges most on 4: is protecting Phillips’ conscience more important or less than protecting the dignity or the public accommodation of Craig and Mullins? I think so, but this where all the talk of the government having a compelling interest and stuff come in. It’s easy to see how one could come to a different conclusion depending on how serious the stigma or the inconvenience for gay couples is, though.

      Continuing through Gorsuch’s opinion, I think he’s right to find this logic bad: “[The Commission] concluded … that an ‘intent to disfavor’ a protected class of persons should be ‘readily … presumed’ from the knowing failure to serve someone who belongs to that class.” Gorsuch goes on to suggest that objections to same-sex weddings follow from one’s religious beliefs in the same way that the same-sex wedding follows from one’s sexual orientation (5–6). (Whether a same-sex wedding follows from one’s sexual orientation was discussed obliquely in oral arguments; see pp. 86–88. By analogy with interracial marriage at Bob Jones University, if I understand them right, it doesn’t work to say that marriage is just something that you’re doing rather than someone you are.) If this is true, it makes the analogy between the two cases stronger for sure; it makes me wonder whether Gorsuch’s use of language like “personal conviction” above understates his case.

      Anyway, the disagreement between Kagan and Gorsuch appears to be about how to characterize the act itself: is he refusing to bake them a wedding cake simpliciter, or refusing to bake them a wedding cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding? That is how Kagan reads Gorsuch, anyway, in her footnote on p. 3, writing further that Phillips would not have sold a cake that is perfectly suitable for either a same-sex or opposite-sex wedding. This can’t be quite right, because while Phillips said as much at the time, Waggoner admits in oral arguments he would have had to sell them a cake from the store window. (See Iain, gbdub, and I above about that.) But more importantly, if Phillips is to be compelled to make identical cakes this runs afoul of an example Gorsuch raised in oral arguments: suppose they sell a cake with a big red cross on it to the Red Cross or some other humanitarian organization (84). Now suppose the KKK asks for a cake with the same design. Same cake, completely different meaning. Cole pointed out the KKK isn’t a religion and hence not a protected class, but it’s not like it couldn’t be. Breyer makes the same point on p. 88, and Cole admits that if so he’d have to sell them that cake too.

      So my final read on this is that I think Gorsuch has the better of it. That’s not to say it matters, of course. I think the point hls (and many others) have made about the composition and content of the majority is right and indicates this is no win for religious liberty. But it was an interesting case to read all the same.

      • skef says:

        That is how Kagan reads Gorsuch, anyway, in her footnote on p. 3, writing further that Phillips would not have sold a cake that is perfectly suitable for either a same-sex or opposite-sex wedding. This can’t be quite right, because while Phillips said as much at the time, Waggoner admits in oral arguments he would have had to sell them a cake from the store window.

        If Kagan’s point relates to what actually happened, Waggoner cannot alter those facts with whatever later concession. (And, while I’m certainly not a lawyer, I would be very surprised if a laywer in a Supreme Court case can do anything but suggest. Her saying that can’t put any requirements on her client; only the ruling can. If Phillips today feels required to sell prepared baked goods to gay weddings (is that clear?) it’s not because of anything his attorney said.)

        But more importantly, if Phillips is to be compelled to make identical cakes this runs afoul of an example Gorsuch raised in oral arguments: suppose they sell a cake with a big red cross on it to the Red Cross or some other humanitarian organization (84). Now suppose the KKK asks for a cake with the same design. Same cake, completely different meaning. Cole pointed out the KKK isn’t a religion and hence not a protected class, but it’s not like it couldn’t be. Breyer makes the same point on p. 88, and Cole admits that if so he’d have to sell them that cake too.

        There may be no legal or philosophical conflict here, depending on how much work the “in the window” metaphor is meant to do.

        If the Red Cross asks me to make them a cake with their symbol, and I do it for them, the expression is arguably a kind of utterance that traces back to the organization. That’s not quite the same thing as my having a red cross cake on display, or even my having a design book that includes a red cross. Or in another case, I might have a promotional deal with the Red Cross (including token donation) to sell cakes with their design on it.

        In these other cases there is room to argue that I have less standing to object to the Klan buying a red cross cake. If I have the cake on display or the design book available I have indicated a willingness to produce such a cake without attaching any particular meaning to the symbol. In the case of the promotional deal it may just not be my business at that point if the Klan intends to subvert the symbolism.

        I don’t mean to suggest that there is a bright line here. If my design book had a cross on one page and a color option of Red on another*, do I commit to putting those together on a cake for anyone? If that’s true of letters in a font then I’m also required to say anything a customer wants me to say, which goes against the premise. However, this seems like a reasonable test: if I’m willing to make and sell the thing knowing nothing (relevant) about the customer, then it’s plausible that I should be legally required to sell it to any customer no matter what I know about them. If, on the other hand, a request for a red cross cake raises enough suspicions that I ask “what do you want this for?”, then it’s arguable that I shouldn’t be compelled to make it on grounds of free expression.

        Where would this distinction come down with wedding cakes? It seems like it would go like this: I could avoid baking a wedding cake for whatever reason as long as I was a busybody with all of my wedding cake clients.

        * This was the original example I wrote out, but on reflection it seemed too ambiguous.

        • Nick says:

          If Kagan’s point relates to what actually happened, Waggoner cannot alter those facts with whatever later concession. (And, while I’m certainly not a lawyer, I would be very surprised if a laywer in a Supreme Court case can do anything but suggest. Her saying that can’t put any requirements on her client; only the ruling can. If Phillips today feels required to sell prepared baked goods to gay weddings (is that clear?) it’s not because of anything his attorney said.)

          It’s possible I’m misinterpreting or misremembering Phillips’ remarks at the time, though I agree that from what I remember Phillips refused selling them, say, cupcakes for the wedding. But looking at the petitioner’s reply brief, Waggoner et al. write,

          Nor does the compelled-speech doctrine shield refusals to sell premade speech that has been offered for sale. In such situations, the speech is already completed, and the public-accommodation law’s application does not compel expression. This highlights the difference between regulating the creation of expression, which the Commission has done, and its mere sale.

          It’s baffling that Phillips’ lawyers would be allowed to say this here and in oral arguments if it really didn’t apply. Thomas also writes in his opinion,

          While Phillips rightly prevails on his free-exercise claim, I write separately to address his free-speech claim. The Court does not address this claim because it has some uncertainties about the record. See ante, at 2. Specifically, the parties dispute whether Phillips refused to create a custom wedding cake for the individual respondents, or whether he refused to sell them any wedding cake (including a premade one). But the Colorado Court of Appeals resolved this factual dispute in Phillips’ favor. The court described his conduct as a refusal to “design and create a cake to celebrate [a] same-sex wedding.” Craig v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, Inc., 370 P. 3d 272, 276 (2015); see also id., at 286 (“designing and selling a wedding cake”); id., at 283 (“refusing to create a wedding cake”). And it noted that the Commission’s order required Phillips to sell “‘any product [he] would sell to heterosexual couples,’ ” including custom wedding cakes. Id., at 286 (emphasis added).

          Is this really how this works? The Court of Appeals “resolved” the issue, so that’s the line SCOTUS takes too? I am definitely confused here.

          Your analysis of the whole “in the window” thing I mostly agree with. I agree there’s a spectrum here where refusing to bake a premade, extremely generic cake should be unprotected, provided we’re not throwing out public accommodation (and I should mention I’m generally in favor of public accommodations laws). And if I read them right, Waggoner et al. say the Commission actually permits refusing, say, a rainbow cake (pp. 12–13 of the petition brief above). So the gray area is cakes that could conceivably be sold to either a same-sex or opposite-sex couple. (It’s not clear whether Craig and Mullins wanted a cake like that vs e.g. a rainbow cake. They brought a folder of stuff, apparently, but it was never opened and specific designs never discussed.) The brief seems to think that doesn’t matter, on the grounds that context could change the meaning of one’s ‘speech’ in the same way the red cross cake’s meaning could be totally changed (24–27). I’m inclined, given what I said about Gorsuch’s arguments above to say this is right, but I acknowledge that this is tough to delineate.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Is this really how this works? The Court of Appeals “resolved” the issue, so that’s the line SCOTUS takes too? I am definitely confused here.

            The Supreme Court’s stated rules include that they won’t resolve a dispute they don’t have to.

            These rules are more like “guidelines”, and if the Supreme Court wants to make a broad, landmark, decision, they will. But if they don’t, for various reasons (e.g. not being able to get enough justices to sign on to enough parts one way or another), they can always dodge any questions they don’t want to deal with.

          • Controls Freak says:

            The Court of Appeals “resolved” the issue, so that’s the line SCOTUS takes too?

            The usually words people use for this distinction is that the lower courts are “fact-finding” courts, while the upper courts are concerned with interpretation of the law. The idea is that determining the facts of a disputed matter is rather tough. The lowest court was likely most involved in what could be an incredibly detailed record – immediate witness statements to law enforcement, physical evidence, later competing statements, and a whole host of credibility judgments. And even then, most determination-of-fact is done by juries, in a process that isn’t transparent to scrutiny by appellate courts.

            The Circuit Courts are a little closer to all this action, but the Supreme Court is pretty divorced from it. They pretty much never even receive these detailed records. They’re usually going off the Circuit Court opinion (sometimes digging down to the opinion of the district court; and things are a little different for appeals from state courts) and briefs filed specifically to address the “Question Presented” (the official legal question the Supreme Court has set out to try to resolve).

            It’s not uncommon for this to result in the Supreme Court deciding an issue, but not actually resolving the case. They’ll say something like, “The Circuit Court got the law wrong here, so we’re vacating their decision. The correct way to interpret the law is [something hopefully like, “If A is true, rule for X, but if B is true, rule for Y”]. We’re remanding the case to the Circuit Court to reconsider in light of this.” Even then, sometimes the Circuit Court will find itself kicking the case back down to the trial court for more fact-finding.

            If the Court is comfortable that the lower courts did explicitly find a fact that is on-point, they may use it (as we see here), but the records differ on how clear the lower courts were in establishing particular facts.

      • hls2003 says:

        Thanks for this analysis. I thought Thomas had the best stand-alone concurrence but the Gorsuch vs. Kagan dialogue was interesting. I also thought Gorsuch had the better of it. The part comparing religious beliefs to same-sex orientation was interesting. You used to see the argument more frequently back before a lot of states (and Supreme Court precedent) were trying to apply sex discrimination prohibitions to protect against sexual orientation discrimination. For example, in the Goodridge v. Massachusetts case, it was the Massachusetts ERA that was at issue, not any statute barring discrimination against gays. The argument brought by the petitioners was that barring same-sex marriage was sex (not sexual orientation) discrimination because a man could marry a woman but not a man. Opponents pointed out that there was no sex discrimination because both sexes were treated equally – a woman could marry a person of the opposite gender just as well as a man. Some opponents also opined that there was no sexual orientation discrimination either, because a gay man had exactly the same right to marry a woman as a heterosexual man. It looks sort of similar to Kagan’s argument – we’re not forcing Phillips to sell a same-sex marriage cake, he can just sell a heterosexual marriage cake to a gay couple.

        • Nick says:

          Thanks; I should mention I thought your analysis above was great, especially because I hadn’t thought about the impact on the travel ban case at all. And I liked Thomas’s concurrence too—I was disappointed neither Alito nor Roberts joined it.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Good analysis. I’d like to touch on the Catholic morality. I am also not a theologian, but I am a practicing Catholic, a photographer, and have photographed two gay weddings for hire and attended a third as a guest, all before Obergefell. My moral reasoning for participating was that the actual sin involved is non-procreative sex acts or sex outside of heterosexual marriage. Being gay (or having same sex attraction) is not a sin, and a ceremony expressing your commitment to the person to whom you have same sex attraction isn’t probably not a sin, either. The sin is the act they were going to do in private after the ceremony, had almost certainly been doing long before the ceremony, and would continue doing whether or not I photographed the ceremony or whether the ceremony happened at all.

        I felt like that put me pretty far removed from the sin in question, and without any culpability for it (as I said, the sinful act would happen even if the ceremony did not take place). I wouldn’t see it any different than, say, photographing a heterosexual wedding of people who used contraception for non-marital sex before the wedding, and were planning to use contraception for marital sex after the wedding. If I’m going to apply the rules to gays, it practically comes down to “don’t do business with sinners,” which means my only clients are Mary and Jesus and neither of them have ever tried to hire me.

        Phillips obviously has a more strict interpretation of Christianity than I do.

        • Aapje says:

          isn’t probably not a sin

          Freudian slip? 🙂

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I saw that as soon as I posted but for some reason the edit features aren’t working 🙁

            I meant “probably isn’t a sin.”

        • albatross11 says:

          Well, Jesus might have been able to hook you up with a wedding photographer job at Cana–he *did* cater the wine, after all. (Or at least the good stuff they served later on.)

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I’m kind of curious about this response because I had always been under the impression that (non-cafeteria) Catholics took the distinction between ‘real’ versus ‘fake’ marriages very seriously.

          Every so often you hear about Catholic not recognizing marriages, mostly when it comes to remarried divorcees. From what I hear that was a big part of why the current Pope is so controversial.

          My traditional Catholic friends are generally too smart to talk about their beliefs in public, so I can’t say for sure how common it is among the laity. I may well be mistaken here.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, the gay “marriage” isn’t “real” because it isn’t performed by the Catholic Church in accordance with the requirements for Catholic marriages. But there’s no Catholic prescription against attending or providing services for weddings that don’t meet Catholic standards. There’s no difference between a gay wedding and a Protestant wedding. Both are not the Catholic sacrament of marriage.

            For my own wedding, I was a lapsed Catholic when I married my wife in a Lutheran church (just because it was pretty). When I came back to the Church later, my priest performed the Catholic sacrament of marriage for us so we were good in the eyes of the Church.

            ETA: Yes, when you say Catholics take the distinction between “real” versus “fake” marriages very seriously, we’re talking about the marriages of Catholics.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Thanks, that makes sense.

            For my own wedding, I was a lapsed Catholic when I married my wife in a Lutheran church (just because it was pretty). When I came back to the Church later, my priest performed the Catholic sacrament of marriage for us so we were good in the eyes of the Church.

            When you do something like this do you have to do penance or something for ‘living in sin’ for the years that you weren’t in a sacramental marriage? Or is it retroactively licit because you got the blessing eventually?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well, I was an atheist for a good 15 years so I had a loooooooooooooot of sins to confess when I went back. It wasn’t retroactively licit, it was sinful and forgiven.

          • mdet says:

            There’s no difference between a gay wedding and a Protestant wedding. Both are not the Catholic sacrament of marriage.

            According to wikipedia, marriages performed by other Christian denominations are still sacramental according to the Catholic church, and marriages between non-Christians are recognized, but not “sacramental”

            I think the comparison to a couple using contraception is good though.

  19. johan_larson says:

    Gwynne Dyer, a Canadian military/political columnist, has some things to say about the connection between migrant flows and global warning.

    What we are seeing now, however, is a foretaste of the time when the migrant flows grow very large and the politics gets really brutal. In the not too distant future the Mediterranean Sea and the Mexican border will separate the temperate world, where the climate is still tolerable and there is still enough food, from the sub-tropical and tropical worlds of killer heat and dwindling food.

    This is a regular subject of confidential discussions in various strategic planning cells in European governments, and also in the grown-up parts of the US government.Ten years ago a senior officer in the intelligence section of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff told me that the US army expected to be ordered by Congress to close the Mexican border down completely within the next twenty years. And he was quite explicit: that meant shooting to kill.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Ten years ago a senior officer in the intelligence section of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff told me that the US army expected to be ordered by Congress to close the Mexican border down completely within the next twenty years. And he was quite explicit: that meant shooting to kill.

      This little detail convinces me the author is a liar and not worth listening to. (or ridiculously credulous and still not worth listening to)

      • johan_larson says:

        Gwynne Dyer (he’s a man) has been writing for a long time and seems pretty darn credible on other political issues. I’m not saying he’s right on the political risks of climate change, but you are dismissing him on the strength of very little indeed.

        Here’s Dyer on a broader range of issues, if you want a sampling:
        http://gwynnedyer.com/2014/2014-year-ender/

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      That’s bullshit but I believe it.

      • albatross11 says:

        My guess is that her source was thinking in terms of some kind of massive collapse of order in Mexico, with the government ending up more-or-less taken over by the narcos or just falling apart. In that case, you can imagine huge floods of refugees coming to the US, and chaos spilling over into the US. Both of those might plausibly lead a president (not just Trump) to deploy the military (probably National Guard rather than regular Army) to the border to close it up.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Yeah, but I want the military stationed on the border now shooting anyone who crosses illegally, so, sure I think it’s unlikely, but it did give me one of those wistful sighs.

          • albatross11 says:

            Why shooting anyone who crosses illegally, rather than just arresting them and ultimately deporting them?

            I mean, this is not some shocking new policy that nobody’s ever done, it’s the normal way illegal immigration is handled by everyone–you just turn them away at the border or arrest them, hold them for awhile, and deport them. At most, maybe jail people who are repeat offenders. This has the benefit that you don’t, say, kill a family including the little kids crossing the border illegally–something that even your allies (that is, the majority of people who want immigration laws enforced) will not support.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m mostly engaging in political hyperbole. Mostly.

          • Let him that hath two coats shoot the guy who wants to borrow one.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think it’s more like “let he who hath two coats shoot the guy who tries to steal one.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            Do we need to even have joking about this?

        • John Schilling says:

          My guess is that her source was thinking in terms of some kind of massive collapse of order in Mexico, with the government ending up more-or-less taken over by the narcos or just falling apart.

          If Gwynne’s source says he is concerned that the Army will be ordered to close the border because of a narcoterrorist takeover of the Mexican government, and Gwynne reports that the Army believes it will be ordered to close the border because of refugees from global warming, that still doesn’t leave Gwynne with much credibility on this issue.

    • Randy M says:

      killer heat

      I thought projections were something like 2-3 degrees per century. I realize this could have side effects but it seems like hyperbole or oversimplification to imply killer heat is a realistic forecast.
      Am I wrong? Is the science actually predicting large swathes of uninhabitable lands in “the not too distant future”?

      • johan_larson says:

        I think the worry is crop failure, particularly in the tropics, where craptastic agriculture already struggles to feed the population.

        • Randy M says:

          Is there a projection, IPCC or something, suggesting globally food production is going to be unable to meet demands? I think the population graphs are going to matter more than the temperature graphs in that case, especially if elevated CO2 levels promote agricultural growth in the more temperate regions.

          Also, rain forests are incredibly fecund. I know this isn’t equivalent to growing grains, but it does suggest that the solution is to adjust crops grown, as clearly there are crops that thrive in very warm climates, right?

          • johan_larson says:

            Here’s a very high-level summary from the IPCC 2015 Synthesis Report: Summary for Policy Makers. I can’t even begin to assess the credibility of these claims.

            Rural areas are expected to experience major impacts on water availability and supply, food security, infrastructure and agricultural incomes, including shifts in the production areas of food and non-food crops around the world (high confidence). {2.3.2}

            Aggregate economic losses accelerate with increasing temperature (limited evidence, high agreement), but global economic impacts from climate change are currently difficult to estimate. From a poverty perspective, climate change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger (medium confidence). International dimensions such as trade and relations among states are also important for understanding the risks of climate change at regional scales. {2.3.2}

            Climate change is projected to increase displacement of people (medium evidence, high agreement). Populations that lack the resources for planned migration experience higher exposure to extreme weather events, particularly in developing countries with low income. Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks (medium confidence). {2.3.2}

          • Randy M says:

            Thanks. That sounds reasonable, or possible at least, but it does sound more like climate change accelerates problems that will occur eventually and we had no plans for dealing with at any rate, rather than being a cause for novel suffering.

          • cassander says:

            god damn does that phrase “limited evidence, high agreement” raise my hackles. I mean, the whole paragraph is sketchy (further erode food security is particularly rich), but I am hard pressed to come up with a phrase more calculated to make me mistrust someone’s analysis.

          • Aapje says:

            @cassander

            High agreement that there is limited evidence, but the evidence that exists suggests conclusion X, seems like a reasonable statement, no?

          • cassander says:

            @Aapje

            To me, the answer suggests “we all want to think this, so we’re going to say it, even though there’s no real evidence for it”.

          • Aapje says:

            @cassander

            They could instead ignore the evidence that exists, but why would that be better?

          • John Schilling says:

            They could instead ignore the evidence that exists, but why would that be better?

            Individuals will vary in their weighting and interpretation of evidence. If the evidence is “limited” in the usual sense of the word, that should lead to some interpreters – considering all of the evidence, ignoring none – coming to a contrary conclusion. And many more concluding that there is naught but noise or having insufficient confidence to agree with anything. “Limited evidence, high agreement” almost certainly means that there is groupthink or worse enforcing a single interpretation of that limited evidence.

          • cassander says:

            @apje

            John Schilling has it exactly.

          • Aapje says:

            @cassander & John

            Openly stating that the evidence is limited can be read as a call for more research and as a warning to not trust this claim too much. It definitely seems way more ethical than to present poor evidence as a solid fact, which is a rather common way by which a a single interpretation of the evidence is presented as fact (not necessarily on purpose, but often due to bias/ideology).

            I feel that you guys are getting upset over a red flag that was intentionally placed.

            Perhaps you guys think that the red flag is insufficiently overt, but can you agree that the intent is good?

          • cassander says:

            @Aapje says:

            Perhaps you guys think that the red flag is insufficiently overt, but can you agree that the intent is good?

            Yes and no. Admitting where your evidence is weak is definitely good, but making strong statements on insufficient evidence is bad. Including the “Aggregate economic losses accelerate with increasing temperature,” clause makes me feel they’re trying to create that impression then protect themselves by following with a red flag that they know will probably have less impact than the foregoing clause. It feels weasely to me. I think the most honest way to write that sentence would have been “Global economic impacts from climate change are currently difficult to estimate.”

          • John Schilling says:

            Openly stating that the evidence is limited can be read as a call for more research and as a warning to not trust this claim too much.

            Right. I have absolutely no problem with the “limited evidence” part. I agree with you that the “limited evidence” part, should translate to “do not trust this claim too much”.

            My problem is, individual variation in the assessment of a claim that people do not trust too much, will lead to a significant fraction of the individuals not trusting the claim at all, and that therefore the “high agreement” part should not be possible.

            Among actual humans, the only way you can get high agreement on a claim that people do not highly trust, is if they are not individually assessing that claim.

            Perhaps you guys think that the red flag is insufficiently overt, but can you agree that the intent is good?

            The intent of the “limited evidence” warning flag is good. The problem is that, even after raising that flag, the community fails to recognize that it is not heeding that warning.

          • Aapje says:

            @John Schilling

            Among actual humans, the only way you can get high agreement on a claim that people do not highly trust, is if they are not individually assessing that claim.

            I disagree. Let’s say that you only have one, n=10 study that shows a huge effect of an intervention. I think that people can then individually decide/agree that the study shows a strong effect, that there are no obvious flaws, but that due to n=10, the error bars are enormous.

            The intent of the “limited evidence” warning flag is good. The problem is that, even after raising that flag, the community fails to recognize that it is not heeding that warning.

            That is not criticism of the IPCC report though, but of the community who interpret the report.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think that people can then individually decide/agree that the study shows a strong effect,

            But they won’t agree that the effect is real, which is what the unqualified phrase “strong agreement” is understood to mean. “Study reporting X at p>0.2, is understood to report X”, is a tautology not worth mentioning.

            That is not criticism of the IPCC report though, but of the community who interpret the report.

            Yes, exactly. Well, except for the detail that the report is a product of that same community. But the IPCC report has the virtue of accurately reporting the appalling behavior of its own community. And it is the community behavior, as illustrated by the report, that we are criticizing.

    • In the time span he is discussing, global warming might be as much as one degree Centigrade. That doesn’t make Mexico intolerably hot, or close to it.

      And insofar as we have a basis for a prediction on food supply, it is that it will continue to rise, in part because a higher CO2 concentration increases plant yields. I know nothing else about Dyer, but this quote makes him sound like a nut.

      I got interested enough to go to his web page and look at the archives, in the hope of finding past predictions old enough so we could see if they came true. So far the closest I came was one from February 2000:

      It is effectively the death knell for international trade in GM products, at least for five or 10 years, and North American farmers will react fast; this spring’s planting will show a dramatic collapse in the use of GM seeds.

      I haven’t been able to find sales figures for 1999 and 2000, but looking at Monsanto’s sales in the seeds and genomics segment more recently they seem to be trending up, currently at about ten billion dollars a year, which suggests that the collapse predicted did not happen. Also, there were record sales in 2017, and 2005 was the date in which the billionth acre of biotech crops was planted. According to one webbed source, “GMOs are overwhelmingly dominant here [the U.S.] among the major crops, representing more than 90% of corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets, and canola.”

      Perhaps someone else can find better data, but it looks to me as though that confident prediction turned out to be wrong.

  20. FXBDM says:

    Can anyone recommend a good book, article or blog on Edmund Burke ? I’m looking for something that addresses his political philosophy in an introductory way but goes beyond the Wikipedia level

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Ironically, Reflections on the Revolution in France was the 1790s equivalent of a long blog post. Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of (Wo)Man were blogged in response to it. They weren’t the only ones; the flurry of responses to other’s articles was called the Pamphlet War.

    • Michael Handy says:

      I can second “Vindication of the rights of (Gender Identity)” as well. It’s a fairly easy read for 1794.

  21. J says:

    A while back Scott asked for insights into why melancholy depressed people have so much trouble in the morning. I’ve paid attention since then, and if Inside Out is right about the five fundamental emotions, I’d have to say Disgust is the part of my brain working overtime in the mornings. Which is interesting because I don’t think I could have named it otherwise, and now when I look back at other tough times, it seems like Disgust would also have been a good label.

    Does this ring true for anyone else, and does anyone have other data or insights into the phenomenon?

  22. le4fy says:

    I made a webpage that will let you jump to a random SSC article. https://random-ssc.herokuapp.com

    • beleester says:

      Neat. Any chance you could make it filter out open threads? Those are the majority of the posts on this site, so the odds of getting an actual article are slim.

      • le4fy says:

        Oh good call. Yeah that shouldn’t be too hard. I’ll post here when I get that done, probably tonight.

      • le4fy says:

        I updated the app to filter out open threads and links posts. Lmk about any other suggestions!

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Make the ssc link be https
      (Where are you getting your list from? If you use https to connect, it will give you an https list)

  23. Error says:

    What is the technical difference between drug use and drug abuse?

    Context: I sometimes hear that “[recreational drug X] can’t be used, only abused”, usually in drug war propaganda. I’ve previously assumed that “abuse” just means “use that the System doesn’t approve of.” But I’m wondering whether there’s a real well-defined distinction that, say, doctors would recognize; given drug A with pharmacology B inducing behavior C, could a doctor distinguish “use” from “abuse” without reference to the political status of A?

    • AKL says:

      Can’t say I find the source to be ideal but:

      Substance use disorders span a wide variety of problems arising from substance use, and cover 11 different criteria:

      1: Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than you’re meant to.
      2: Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to.
      3: Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance.
      4: Cravings and urges to use the substance.
      5: Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school because of substance use.
      6: Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships.
      7: Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use.
      8: Using substances again and again, even when it puts you in danger.
      9: Continuing to use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance.
      10: Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance).
      11: Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance.

      … Two or three symptoms indicate a mild substance use disorder; four or five symptoms indicate a moderate substance use disorder, and six or more symptoms indicate a severe substance use disorder.

  24. Thegnskald says:

    Pondering a complaint a thread or two ago, about the group way “SJW” is used here…

    On the one hand, I think it is a reasonable shorthand to describe a set of bad behaviors. It is useful in a “jargon” sense – it skips over a lot of unnecessary specification, because people who discuss these matters generally know what it means.

    On the downside of that – there are probably people who don’t know what it means, and use it in a looser sense to refer to a broader constituency – that is, everybody with social justice values, rather than the specific subset who misbehave. This provokes a motte and bailey effect.

    On the flip side of that, there is a problem in that such misbehavior is generally dismissed as insignificant by those who share the values but not the methods. I’ll set that aside for the moment.

    Suppose, for a moment, we coined the term “social justice bully” – that wouldn’t resolve the problem, it would just add a couple of extra steps until discussion returned to the same equilibrium it began at. We could substitute in some completely ambiguous terminology, and ban the common referents, so that conversations became sufficiently cryptic such that those who don’t understand the reason for banning the word are effectively kept out of the conversation.

    So there is the start to my thoughts. Somewhat disconnected thought, however, arising from consideration of the use of such jargon:

    I have frequently heard feminist terminology defended as being jargon, shorthand that becomes offensive when removed from the context in which it has a different meaning. So, given how annoyed such jargon makes me, I can see how the use of reciprocal jargon would annoy other people. (And maybe, if “SJW” pisses you off, maybe consider how jargon like “patriarchy” pisses other people off, because it is the same damned thing.)

    But taking this a step further, if we imagine the Scott Aaronson equivalent of SJ, who is terrified of being the terrible person described by SJW, and is given incredibly vague and unhelpful advice like “Well, you aren’t one of them”, but always gets the sense he is being talked about anyways – and, because of aforementioned people who aren’t actually very specific about how they use the word “SJW”, is in fact being talked about…

    Well, then, we have another working example of the sort of behavior we would like to be able to point at and identify as the problem. Our model gets a little more complete.

    The question is – what is our more complete model useful for? We need another input. Something like a social power differential, but the problem with that is that the struggle immediately becomes to claim weaker status. Punching up / punching down are likewise flawed.

    From a social perspective, is there a viable input? Is there a way of determining when “fighting back” is just “fighting”?

    What norms can we possibly establish that forbid all of social justice bullying, and the sort of bullying social justice bullying is nominally trying to stop, and also anti-social-justice bullying? Because at a certain point, we are trying to bully perceived bullies into not bullying other perceived bullies, and that is, on consideration, not likely to solve anything.

    • dndnrsn says:

      It’s a snarl word, and it reduces meaning. There’s a group it gestures towards, but you also identify yourself as a member of another group that maybe is not so nice when you use it. If you mean to gesture towards, say, a certain type of left-wing activist, maybe just describe the type of person/group you’re gesturing towards. Sure, it isn’t snappy, but any snappy term could turn into a snarl word, as you note.

      Why not just describe the behaviour, in any case? That’s probably better than what I tend to do, which is lazily gesture towards “that kind of campus left-wing activist, you know, the annoying ones, you know” or whatever. Because it’s clearly about behaviour, not beliefs; it’s not necessarily the content of any particular person’s belief that makes them the kind of person who you can’t discuss things with, who does purge-lite type stuff, etc. Some beliefs are more likely to produce that than others (eg, right wing or left wing authoritarians generally have more of a problem with opposing views than mushy-middle types) but there is a strange thing I have noticed where, out of people I actually know, it’s safer to express disagreement to actual radical leftists than people with fairly mainstream opinions. The majority of the people I know who give me that struggle session vibe have opinions that are not radical, even if they think they are radicals.

      EDIT: One of the problems with this place is that standards of charity, precision, etc markedly decrease when “The Leftists” are the topic of discussion.

      • John Schilling says:

        If you mean to gesture towards, say, a certain type of left-wing activist, maybe just describe the type of person/group you’re gesturing towards.

        This is not a reasonable request. If a particular term is particularly offensive and there’s a different term you’d like people to use, then that is reasonable within limits. But nobody is going to describe a group or set every time they want to talk about that group or set; that’s basically why we have names – or, indeed, nouns – to begin with. And if the real objective is for people to not talk about the group for lack of appropriate terminology, to pretend that there is no group and that any relationship between the various members is entirely coincidental, then that’s not going to happen.

        And if it is the case that any term for a group will turn into an insult, then either there’s something fundamentally wrong with the group or there’s fundamentally something wrong with the surrounding society. In neither case will attempts at language-policing lead to a desirable outcome.

        • albatross11 says:

          The problem I see with SJW as used in SSC comment threads is that it sometimes ends up as a kind-of blanket dismissal. Some people with this label are busting heads at political rallies or trying to get people fired for their twitter comments, therefore let’s bash some other SJW types whose main offense is having ideas we disagree with[1].

          I think it’s important to distinguish between bad behaviors (online bullying, rioting, trying to get people fired for their views) and ideas. One important reason for that is that I’d like to know what ideas I’m missing out on by being turned off by the visible bad behavior. Another reason is that those behaviors are tactics with no inherent connection to any ideology–I’m not any more okay with online bullying as done by people on the right than I am with it as done by people on the left.

          [1] As best I can tell, I’m in broad agreement with a lot of what I take to be SJW goals–I’d like gays, transpeople, nonwhites, etc not to get bashed or hassled by the cops or otherwise mistreated, I’d like women and nonwhites to be welcome in all fields according to their abilities, just like men/whites, I’d like the police to be less likely to bash/shoot people and to have less impunity when they do, etc. But I think I have a radically different model of the world, which means that I tend to think of a lot of the SJW-ish ideas about how to accomplish those goals as being all wrong. However, I also have a kind-of hard time knowing how well I understand the best thinkers along SJW lines. Probably not too well, honestly. The craziest and least thoughtful people tend to be the ones who get the most attention.

          • Iain says:

            Indeed. Some people use SJW to describe tactics, some people use SJW to describe goals, and some people try to muddy the distinction and use the former to discredit the latter.

          • mdet says:

            If we’re discussing terminology, I would call the person literally busting heads at a rally “antifa” rather than “SJW”. Although I’m not sure to what extent “Antifa” is a group with formal membership vs any radical leftist comfortable with street violence (whether against property or people) as a tactic.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @mdet

            One thing that is extremely cringey is when centrist (usually right-of-centre) or right-of-that sources talk about antifa as though there’s some unified group, let alone some kind of central organization. Ditto black bloc tactics.

            Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the pseudo-radical types talk shit about antifa as an example of “toxic masculinity” which is… Well, wait until they found out what it took to defeat the real Nazis, who were considerably tougher customers than the guys nowadays.

          • lvlln says:

            I think it’s important to distinguish between bad behaviors (online bullying, rioting, trying to get people fired for their views) and ideas. One important reason for that is that I’d like to know what ideas I’m missing out on by being turned off by the visible bad behavior. Another reason is that those behaviors are tactics with no inherent connection to any ideology–I’m not any more okay with online bullying as done by people on the right than I am with it as done by people on the left.

            I think this distinction between behaviors and ideas is a good point, but I also think one problem in this case is that the behaviors and ideas do have some inherent connection with each other. That is, SJWs aren’t just people who believe in accomplishing social justice goals (something many anti-SJW people agree with) but happen to behave in violent/bullying/shaming ways to accomplish them. It’s that they’re people whose belief in social justice leads them to behave in violent/bullying/shaming ways. The ideology informs the behavior.

            As someone broadly aligned with SJ goals, I too find it frustrating at times when “SJW” is just thrown around to describe any sort of pro-SJ person, but I put most of the blame on both the SJWs themselves for encouraging this conflation (e.g. “SJW is just another term for decent human being”) and non-SJW pro-SJ people for not distancing ourselves enough from SJWs. That said, I find SSC to be extremely good in general about making this distinction.

          • One thing that is extremely cringey is when centrist (usually right-of-centre) or right-of-that sources talk about antifa as though there’s some unified group, let alone some kind of central organization.

            You got the same pattern on the other side with regard to the Tea Party.

          • Viliam says:

            they’re people whose belief in social justice leads them to behave in violent/bullying/shaming ways. The ideology informs the behavior.

            It is possible that it is actually the other way round? The ideology saying “it is okay to be violent / bully / shame, as long as you do it for the Greater Good” could be quite attractive to naturally violent people, who find it convenient to have a shield to hide behind.

            (“Hey, I am improving the world by punching Nazis.” “How do you define a ‘Nazi’?” “Any person who disagrees with me, of course. I am the good guy, so by definition anyone who opposes me must be the bad guy. Now excuse me, there goes someone who was criticized on Twitter, I will try to break his skull.”)

        • dndnrsn says:

          @John Schilling

          I don’t want to keep the group in question from being discussed; I mean, it’s a group I talk about. I know some really annoying-to-nasty people from university. But “SJW” as a term is now a sibboleth; it says as much or more about the speaker as it does about the subject. I think there probably is something wrong with the surrounding society; witness the euphemism/dysphemism treadmill in general.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t want to keep the group in question from being discussed; I mean, it’s a group I talk about.

            It won’t be discussed by having people type out a fourteen-word phrase every time. It’s either SJW, or some other word/abbreviation, or no discussion, and it’s not going to be no discussion. So unless you’ve got a brief alternative that will produce more clarity than confusion, and won’t have the same problems as SJW once clearly understood, then SJW it shall remain.

          • dndnrsn says:

            That’s a good point. I suppose I should try to think of something.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @John Schilling

            The best I can come up with is “pseudo-radicals” – they have a philosophy they believe is radical. But when you look at it, it’s often easy to integrate with the way things are already, it often wouldn’t remake society in any serious way, and it often amounts to demands for jobs, from administrative groups especially. However, this is a critique from the left, by and large.

          • pontifex says:

            I’ve been wondering about this myself. Most political movements have a word they prefer to use for themselves– as Nornagest says, an “endonym.” I haven’t really seen anything like that for SJWs, which is very strange. Maybe “woke”… but I haven’t seen this used that much.

            Also, is “SJW” even a sneer word? There is a ton of approving discussion of “social justice” online.

          • John Schilling says:

            The “Social Justice” part is definitely an endonym, and I’ve had people tell me unprompted that they were e.g. “into Social Justice”, so it’s probably appropriate to fold that into whatever subgroup name winds up being used. The question is, of the people who consider themselves “into SJ”, how many would also see themselves as “Warriors” for the cause, and how many of those are not also what the rest of us would call “the annoying ones, you know…”

          • johan_larson says:

            “Social Justice Activist” would fit, but I don’t know if that’s what they actually calls themselves.

          • Randy M says:

            So now you are impugning everyone who wants to organize for justice?

            SJW may be applied too liberally (pardon the pun) but it seems generally accurate (people who pursue social justice goals with a warrior mentality) and minimally offensive (outside of somewhat patronizingly implying that these people are hyperbolic, none of the terms are prima facie offensive).

          • Nornagest says:

            “Pseudo-radicals” misses the mark. Some really are radicals, as I’ve said below, though most probably aren’t; but most of the objections to them that I’ve heard have nothing to do with their exact political stances and everything to do with their tactics for achieving them and their tolerance for people outside them. A term that doesn’t capture that isn’t going to be successful.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nornagest

            Don’t radical tactics/strategies in general involve the acceptance of breaking eggs to make the omelette, a conviction that those on the outside are enemies or fools, etc?

          • Aapje says:

            The issue with the self-description ‘Social Justice’ is that it has the opposite problem that a snarl word has: it has a strong positive valence.

            So while some terms may be biased against the group, that term is biased for them.

            Who wants to oppose (social) justice?

          • Nornagest says:

            @dndnrsn —

            You have to believe in some of that to be a radical, but you don’t have to be a radical to believe it. And maybe more importantly, you can compartmentalize it: I’ve met some remarkably civil people who nonetheless held positions implying the overthrow of the United States Government. The “Social Justice Warrior” label gets a lot of its rhetorical punch from connoting that the people under it don’t compartmentalize in that way.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nornagest

            But does that compartmentalization actually make them safe to others? If a ‘Bob’ votes for, gives money to or otherwise aids people with clubs who insist on smacking you on the head, Bob may not be a danger to you if you talk to him, but he does move a society towards being more dangerous for you.

      • Nornagest says:

        It’s a dysphemism, and I try to avoid it if I want to reach the people it describes, but I don’t think it’s just a snarl word. We are ultimately objecting to a pattern of bad behavior, but that bad behavior is facilitated by a political culture, and that political culture is tightly correlated with the (modern instantiation of the) concept of social justice. I think we’d lose real information if we restricted ourselves to the behavioral side: do that and we drop the implication that social justice activism has a problem. And that’s an important implication — it’s what a lot of people are mainly concerned with, in this venue at least.

        I’ll grant that “the leftists” is overbroad, and I don’t use it. I’ve been tempted to use it, though, because this particular activist culture enjoys so much hegemony over the politically active left in my neck of the woods.

        (I don’t necessarily mean anything particularly radical when I say “activism”, though. Most of the ones I know in person really are radicals, but that’s probably an artifact of my social circles.)

      • Michael Handy says:

        there is a strange thing I have noticed where, out of people I actually know, it’s safer to express disagreement to actual radical leftists than people with fairly mainstream opinions. The majority of the people I know who give me that struggle session vibe have opinions that are not radical, even if they think they are radicals.

        This is my finding as well. It’s way easier to have a coherent argument with a Trot or a left-Anarchist than with someone who’s just joined the (Australian) Greens.

        • Possibly because the Trot and the left anarchist are actually interested in arguing about ideas. Most people aren’t.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I suspect this has much to do with the fact that, by nature, mainstream movements will tend to pick up more “normal” people, who are not strongly ideological. No one who isn’t a standard deviation or two away from the mean on the interested-in-political-ideology chart would ever become a Trot, so you will only ever meet Trots who are interested in political ideas.

            Meanwhile, mass political movements, by nature, appeal to people who have a more normal level of ideological engagement with political ideas. I also suspect that, precisely because Trots are so rare, they are basically unable to use gang tactics. Meanwhile, a movement with broader political appeal will find it much easier to use such tactics.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The values lead to the behavior. Specifically, the values that no one who does not share those values is a decent person, and no one who is not a decent person should be tolerated in any context. That’s what gets you your “warrior”; the SJ comes from the rest of it. This group has no useful endonym; as several have pointed out, if they do refer to themselves it’s generally with a phrase meaning “the decent people”.

      I have frequently heard feminist terminology defended as being jargon, shorthand that becomes offensive when removed from the context in which it has a different meaning. So, given how annoyed such jargon makes me, I can see how the use of reciprocal jargon would annoy other people.

      The difference is that feminists appear to deliberately pick jargon for that purpose, as “Social Justice and Words, Words, Words” goes into to some extent. There’s no plain meaning of “Social Justice Warrior” that’s more offensive than its meaning as referring to that group.

      • Randy M says:

        There’s no plain meaning of “Social Justice Warrior” that’s more offensive than its meaning as referring to that group.

        This is what I was getting at in a recent thread decrying conservative commenters use of labels. There is a difference between a label acquiring ill repute after being associated with a group and a group acquiring ill repute after being associated with a label that has a preexisting connotation.

        Granted, over broad application of a label to figures not exhibiting the central tendencies moves from the first to the second.

        We need to be able to talk about people collectively; people do take collective action. But we also need to be able to distinguish degrees, because actions exist on a spectrum with important distinctions.

    • Viliam says:

      Suppose, for a moment, we coined the term “social justice bully”

      I like that one. I also like “authoritarian left”.

      1) There should be a word pointing directly at the aspect we don’t like (bullying, authoritarianism). “Warrior” is too general metaphot; it can also be turned around as a good thing. If you would call yourself e.g. a “warrior for equality”, there is no inherent stigma in that. Calling yourself proudly a “bully for equality” does not sound the same.

      2) There needs to be a part that says “left” or something like that. Not because the right wouldn’t have its own bullies and authoritarians, but because those are simply a different group. Also, if you just say “bully” without further clarification, you are inviting the stereotypical general excuse: “you cannot call me a bully, because according to my ingroup’s private science, bullying equals bullying plus institutional power, and us demisexual otherkins do not have any institutional power; therefore I am free to bully you as much as want because it does not count as true bullying, but if you try to pay me back in my own coin, that would be bullying, and you would get banned from all places with anti-bullying code of conduct”.

      • toastengineer says:

        I like that one. I also like “authoritarian left”.

        That makes people think of Hillary Clinton rather than the people you’re actually taking about.

        • The Nybbler says:

          One version is “ctrl-left” (by analogy to “alt-right”) but it didn’t really catch on.

      • Fluffy Buffalo says:

        Some people refer to the group in question as “regressive left”, or “regressives”, to point to the irony that self-styled “progressives” are now defending political Islam (and all the regressive aspects it contains), calling for racial segregation and supporting restrictive codes of behavior with respect to sexual contacts of all kinds. I think it was started by Maajid Nawaz and taken up by Gad Saad and Sam Harris, among others.

    • toastengineer says:

      Saying “SJW” has become bad signalling, so I try to make a joke out of referring to them, or say “those social justice types” or just say “those folks” and let people figure it out from context.

    • BBA says:

      Speaking as a vaguely SJ-aligned type person, I favor “woker-than-thou.”

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Gonna remember that one.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Surely that’s more snarly than “SJW.”

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Sure. But it captures the essence so much better than SJW, and points out a really telling analogy to its namesake.

          The only downside is the detail where the analogy breaks down: the holier-than-thou rarely break heads.

      • engleberg says:

        I like ‘woker than thou’. I was thinking ‘cosplay Stalinist’. This stuff is theater.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      It’s a slur like “bible-thumper” with about the same value to offer discussions – a way for people to signal their contempt for the outgroup, facilitate motte-and-bailey maneuvers, and fill people roughly in the target area with ambiguous discomfort (“I’m religious – are they talking about me?”).

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m swimming against the stream a bit here but the word SJW is useful exactly for the reason that you don’t like it. It doesn’t separate SJ politics from the bullying and gossiping of SJWs and it shouldn’t. They are inseparable.

      I’m not claiming to be an expert but roughly half of my labmates and about the same proportion of my friends are SJWs. I don’t know what people are saying and doing at Berkeley or Oberlin but I can’t help but know what they’re saying and doing around me.

      This is going to make my comment less accessible, but the best way I can come up with to describe the effect of SJ politics on the character of people I know is that it’s the purest form of slave morality. Everything that makes you stronger and more beautiful is problematic and thus opens you up to attack; everything that makes you uglier and weaker is safe. Instead of developing their best qualities and encouraging others to do the same, they build identities around their worst qualities and try to pull down anyone who is better than they are. It’s a total inversion of values which encourages a crab bucket mentality.

      • James says:

        Incidentally, I’m very slowly reading Beyond Good and Evil at the moment and I guess it’s partly due to you.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Thanks, that’s actually really heartening to hear.

          Beyond Good and Evil is actually my favorite book of Nietzsche’s. Unfortunately I have to rely on memory because my copy was stolen by a girl I hooked up with in college. There’s symbolism there but I’m not quite sure what it is.

          Anyway I hope that you advance past where I am in terms of understanding Nietzsche. I got a lot out of them but didn’t have the time or patience for an in-depth study and the language barrier is still a problem. There’s definitely way more there that went over my head.

          • James says:

            Anyway I hope that you advance past where I am in terms of understanding Nietzsche.

            Not likely! I too am getting a lot out of him but I can easily sense that there’s a lot there that I’m not understanding and would warrant study. But that’s tricky when one has a full-time job, a time-consuming major project outside of work and other difficult reading.

          • Enkidum says:

            It is perhaps worth noting in this context that while Nietzsche definitely had an enormous problem with slave morality, he also is quite explicit that it is one of the main elements leading to some of the most beautiful advances in culture and moral development. This is what The Genealogy of Morals, my personal favourite book of his, is about. For this reason, I think he might have a far more nuanced opinion of SJWs than you might think, although I’m sure it would be very critical.

      • mdet says:

        I’m not sure whether this contradicts or corroborates your point, but one thing that I really like about the social justice circle that I don’t see anywhere else is that they can be incredibly supportive people. Like one story I saw get picked up by SJs recently where some internet rando said he hated it when women would comment compliments on other women they don’t know, and so he inspired a backlash where… dozens and dozens of women went around complimenting and encouraging each other. I know of multiple Social Justice accounts that make sure all their posts are accessible to blind users. Concern about toxic masculinity usually goes hand in hand with encouraging men (and people in general) to open up to their friends if they’re feeling troubled or upset, and sharing resources about how to see a therapist for cheap.

        These are all objectively good things to me, and I know of no other political persuasion that takes the time out to do stuff like this (maybe religious conservatives who pray together?). I’m not sure whether encouraging fragility & victimhood as SJs sometimes do creates a need for a supportive and encouraging atmosphere, or whether “encouraging fragility” exists on the same spectrum as “being extra supportive” as a simple difference of degree, or what. But it seems not-unrelated to what you describe as the slave morality aspects

        • Aapje says:

          @mdet

          Like always, it is important to have a balance in things. Social Justice seems to have a tendency to create these collective reactions, where people are not supposed to question them. This can create a very supportive environment, but also an environment where people with bad ideas/beliefs don’t get push back. It can also lead to witch hunts, rather than support, especially as strong support for one side in a conflict usually leads to strong opposition to the other side.

          Also, a culture of extreme accessibility tends to create huge burdens on other people to accommodate. Here again I would argue that there needs to be a healthy balance.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        In re SJWs using everything that would make a person’s life better as grounds for attack: I’m not sure I’d call it slave morality. I hate it, but I also find myself admiring the cleverness of it.

        Also, if you start with great power implying great responsibility, it seems to lead to people claiming that they have no power, and therefore no responsibility for whatever damage they do.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Also, if you start with great power implying great responsibility, it seems to lead to people claiming that they have no power, and therefore no responsibility for whatever damage they do.

          A claim that is self-contradictory, as the ability to do damage is in itself power.

    • gbdub says:

      On the one hand, “SJW” can certainly be used overbroadly to tar adjacent ideologists that don’t deserve it.

      On the other hand, arguments against using SJW can easily go overboard into being either standard euphemism treadmilling or a no-true-Scotsman attempt to shut down criticism of a group by requiring any mention of it be caveated by a string of a dozen adjectives.

      On the gripping hand, there probably is a group to which “SJW” (or some very similar label) could be applied with reasonable charity, and such a label has value in describing a distinct set of ideologies (self-described as Social Justice) married to (and inspiring / justifying) a particular set of tactics for furthering those ideologies. If the problem is less the label, and more that the label is being abused – let’s police the use of the label rather than try to force a friendlier euphemism for the same thing.

      If alternatives are a must, perhaps “Social Justice By Any Means Necessary”, or “SJ-BAMN”. Unfortunately, BAMN is already a distinct group, but then again BAMN is kind of a poster child for what people are gesturing at when they use the label SJW.

    • LadyJane says:

      The problem is, the Anti-SJW movement treats SJWs the same way that SJWs treat social conservatives: vastly overestimating their social, cultural, and political power, to the point of dismissing perfectly valid statistical data and scientific research as enemy propaganda; seeing signs of their influence everywhere, to the point of constantly looking for enemy influence in completely innocuous pop culture works; assuming they’re automatically wrong about literally everything, to the point of reflexively opposing everything they support.

      I also think there’s an important distinction to be made between social progressives in general (people who believe in egalitarianism, recognize that our society is not yet a fully egalitarian one, and understand that systematic discrimination exists and is a problem that needs to be dealt with) and left-identitarians (proponents of identity politics, who see people as fundamentally defined by their identity groups, view society primarily and perhaps even solely through the lens of identity-based hierarchies, and subscribe to an identity-based form of conflict theory). The term SJWs seems to be used to refer to both groups, without meaningfully distinguishing the first from the second. At best, there might be some acknowledgement that not everyone in the first group uses the extreme tactics of the second, but that still paints it as purely a difference in methods, without recognizing the difference in worldview.

      I generally agree with social progressives, but I utterly abhor left-identitarians (though probably less so than a lot of the other people here, since I see them as more of a harmless nuisance than an existential threat to civilization, and far less dangerous to democracy and freedom than their counterparts on the social/cultural right).

      • dndnrsn says:

        This is true; I’ve gotten into disagreements here or on the Discord over their reach and abilities. It’s very easy to make a sort of nega-bubble where all you hear about is the all-powerful enemy.

      • Nornagest says:

        vastly overestimating their social, cultural, and political power

        Yes and no. The liberal view of social conservatives isn’t a bad fit to what’s going on — but it’s closer to the social conservatism of George W. Bush’s first term, or parts of Bill Clinton’s, than today’s. There aren’t a whole lot of them, they only have a few closely aligned politicians in office, and their ability to drive major change has so far been limited. But they’re seen, rightly or wrongly, as the face of their coalition by a lot of people outside it; their rhetoric is far more widespread than the culture that originated it; and they have politicians falling all over themselves to signal to them. There’s even a pretty good analogue to today’s media controversies: remember Jack Thompson?

        It’s not a perfect analogy: social media is playing a role that’s totally new, for example. Insofar as we can follow it, though, it suggests that the people who’re worried about the hairdye Gestapo kicking down their doors in the middle of the night most likely have nothing to worry about. But on the other hand, it also suggests that the people who’re worried about what this is doing to the broader culture may well have a point — we’ve still got a hangover from the Moral Majority, almost forty years after its founding.

        Myself, I think the movement may be past its peak. But I’m less concerned about its ability to do direct damage (though I’ve lost a few friends to it, and I definitely hold a grudge) and more concerned about the broader tendency towards totalizing politics that it’s contributed to.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I worry far, far more about the backlash than the thing itself, to be quite frank. Annoying campus people with a hard time harming people outside of their own clutches, who probably do more harm to themselves than to their opponents (both in the sense of “left wing circular firing squad” and in the sense that the equivalent of gang tats is shaving away emotional defences, because if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention) – but some people have gone waaaaaay too far in the opposite direction in, as it were, reaction. There are non-zero numbers of people whose reaction to being annoyed has been pretty disproportionate, to say the least.

          • IrishDude says:

            How much is the SJW movement moving outside of student activists and into administration and bureaucracy at universities or in corporate HR? University of Michigan has 100 diversity, inclusion, and equity staff with total compensation around $11 million. I don’t know the particulars of their responsibilities, but my limited interaction with diversity, inclusion, and equity programs is they have heavy overlap with SJW ideas.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @IrishDude

            This is where I start talking about “pseudo-radicals” – where are those staff getting hired from? When the students run into the president’s office shouting how they want more of those staff, they are effectively demanding jobs for themselves within a preexisting institution – hardly a radical demand!

            (An aside: I think this is an unfortunate result of the vast bloat in administration at the expense of teaching staff: consider that U of M has just under 7k teaching staff and just under 19k admin staff.Iif that hadn’t happened, maybe the smarter ones of them would have a clear work-hard-and-network route to getting good tenured jobs as profs; instead, with all the proliferation of Assistant to the Secretary to the Assistant Dean jobs, the route to getting a decent job is different.)

            However, here’s the thing. It’s just ass-covering. Universities are businesses; the biggest ones (not just private ones) have endowments with heavy investment, often to the point that the best-paid person on staff is the person who handles the investments. U of M has an endowment of $10.9 billion and a yearly budget of $9.5 billion – that 100 admin staff and $11 mil is a drop in the bucket.

            So, I don’t think it’s ideology driving this, not ideology on the part of the admins. The senior admins will always follow the easiest route to protecting the endowment of what amounts to a peculiar sort of business, and the junior admins brought in because they have the right opinions will be turned into endowment-protectors because that’s where their paycheque comes from. In a way, it’s a real victory of capitalism.

          • quanta413 says:

            In a way, it’s a real victory of capitalism.

            This is silly. Universities aren’t run in a capitalist manner. And they function in a market with hordes of government barriers and subsidies to protect their position and fill them with cash. Even command-and-control set ups have to worry about budget or resources since the finiteness of resources is a fundamental limitation of the world.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            This is silly. Universities aren’t run in a capitalist manner. And they function in a market with hordes of government barriers and subsidies to protect their position and fill them with cash.

            Unlike, of course, any other industry.

            Universities are still competing with other universities for students, and if they have infinite government money, why do my alma maters (matri? matrae?) keep hitting me up for cash?

          • IrishDude says:

            I don’t have any thoughts on whether the diversity, inclusion, and equity (DIE) bureaucracy is radical or not, or ass-covering or not, but I do think this bureaucracy can have broad impacts that extend the reach of SJW ideas. This makes SJW a bigger deal than “Annoying campus people with a hard time harming people outside of their own clutches”.

            Haidt and Lukianoff had an article on The Coddling of the American Mind that talked about how, in the name of protecting marginalized group, solutions such as trigger warnings, safe spaces, and focusing on microaggressions actually creates fragility, victimhood mentality, and inability to engage with critiques and a diversity of ideas:

            “A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.”

            How much is DIE bureaucracy creating programs or spreading solutions that end up causing harm to students, both those ‘being protected’ as well as those accused of microaggressions? How does spreading the idea that any disparity in any group implies a presumption of oppression affect the minds of students, both those looking for disparities (and therefore oppression) and those who are part of groups with disparities?

            Campus culture doesn’t stay on campus either, as students at elite universities absorb (to some extent) the campus milieu and then go on to prominent roles in government, corporations, non-profits, and the media. If DIE bureaucracy negatively impacts campus culture, that will have ripple effects across society.

            I recently watched a 1996 video of Peter Thiel debating political correctness and multi-culturalism, and it was eerily familiar to the discussion happening two decades later. Here’s one point he raised, which kind of addresses your “When the students run into the president’s office shouting how they want more of those staff” comment, with the context being why there’s more gender studies classes than economics classes, even though only a handful of students were gender studies majors and there were a magnitude greater number of economics majors:

            “I would like to suggest to you is that this phenomenon is not being driven by a demand by radical students. I think it’s primarily a supply-side problem. It’s a problem that we have an oversupply of left-wing faculty who want to teach feminist studies classes and the way they teach them when people don’t want to take them is they institute graduation requirements. In Stanford they instituted a graduation requirement in gender studies a couple of years ago, though only about 30% of students even wanted to take it. I’m not sure that’s always the best indicator but it was not being driven by student demand, it’s a supply-side problem. Basically the radicals of the 60s got their PhDs in the 70s, they were associate professors in the 80s, and they have tenure in the 90s and it’s going to be with us for quite a while.”

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            Unlike, of course, any other industry.

            Cats and elephants both have mass, so one jumping on you is no different from the other!

            Degree matters. The government of course affects all industries, but it affects some more than others. Education is one of the least capitalistic industries out there.

            Universities are still competing with other universities for students, and if they have infinite government money, why do my alma maters (matri? matrae?) keep hitting me up for cash?

            quanta413 didn’t say anything about unlimited government money. The opposite in fact. As for competition, the various US military services compete over funds as well, that doesn’t mean that they’re behaving capitalistically.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @IrishDude

            At this point, if you’re on a university campus, yeah, that’s the kind of territory this stuff happens. And I noted earlier, they’re often doing harm to themselves: you’ve got people who maybe already are more likely to have depression, anxiety, getting in a feedback loop about how awful the world is, and how only external change can fix individual problems, etc etc etc.

            I question, though, the idea that people just absorb this stuff in university then carry it out. A lot of people just keep their head down and ignore it, a lot of people nod enough to get by then go and do whatever. People get more conservative as they age.

            One of the reasons that universities turn out so many academics is a business reason: they can get PhD students to teach for a lower price than contract faculty, who will teach for a lower price than nontenured profs, who will teach for a lower price than tenured profs.

            @cassander

            There is clear businesslike behaviour on the part of university; sure, it’s not unfettered capitalism, hardly, but arguably universities at least feature more competition than the archetypal public-private mishmash monopolgy (like, say, privatizing hydro power or whatever).

            What I’m saying is: protecting the university is different from Advancing The Cause. The universities now are practically hedge funds. Their investments are massive. If it became a better way to get enrollment, protect the endowment, etc, they’d all start creating degrees in Shitlord Studies and whatever. People are ultimately more self-interested than they are ideological crusaders; they are also very good at convincing themselves that their self-interest is an ideological crusade. One manifestation of this are the students screaming at the chancellor about oppression when what they want is jobs sitting in an office somewhere.

          • cassander says:

            @dndrsn

            There is clear businesslike behaviour on the part of university; sure, it’s not unfettered capitalism, hardly, but arguably universities at least feature more competition than the archetypal public-private mishmash monopolgy (like, say, privatizing hydro power or whatever).

            Protecting and advancing one’s institution is not a businesslike behavior, or even a capitalistic one. It’s something all institutions do all the time, regardless of circumstances. The best you can do is try to channel that drive, not eliminate it.

            What I’m saying is: protecting the university is different from Advancing The Cause. The universities now are practically hedge funds. Their investments are massive.

            There are about 10 universities with an endowment of above 10 billion, and about 100 above 1 billion. Harvard is practically a hedge fund, but almost no other school is. And even if we’re talking about Harvard, I fail to see what you think that proves. How would things be meaningfully different if these institutions didn’t have those endowments? What Cause?

            If it became a better way to get enrollment, protect the endowment, etc, they’d all start creating degrees in Shitlord Studies and whatever. People are ultimately more self-interested than they are ideological crusaders; they are also very good at convincing themselves that their self-interest is an ideological crusade. One manifestation of this are the students screaming at the chancellor about oppression when what they want is jobs sitting in an office somewhere.

            I agree, but again, so what?

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            Unlike, of course, any other industry.

            Universities are still competing with other universities for students, and if they have infinite government money, why do my alma maters (matri? matrae?) keep hitting me up for cash?

            There are massive quantitative differences between the amount of subsidies and protections for various industries, and I’m pretty sure you know that. Universities are unusually highly intertwined with non-free market modes of resource distribution. Much like defense contractors are.

            Your insinuation that I implied they have infinite money is ridiculous. I specifically said they were resource constrained because every system is resource constrained. I’ll quote the post you were responding to in case you don’t want to scroll up.

            Even command-and-control set ups have to worry about budget or resources since the finiteness of resources is a fundamental limitation of the world.

            If you want to make a serious argument for why universities should be considered primarily a capitalist form of organization, kindly do so instead of just lying about what I said.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            Protecting and advancing one’s institution is not a businesslike behavior, or even a capitalistic one. It’s something all institutions do all the time, regardless of circumstances. The best you can do is try to channel that drive, not eliminate it.

            However, they are operating as a business – they’re seeking customers, etc. Talk to professors, especially professors who have been around a while – they really don’t like the shift that’s come (in recent years, they would at least say) to thinking of students as customers who need to be kept at least minimally happy.

            There are about 10 universities with an endowment of above 10 billion, and about 100 above 1 billion. Harvard is practically a hedge fund, but almost no other school is. And even if we’re talking about Harvard, I fail to see what you think that proves. How would things be meaningfully different if these institutions didn’t have those endowments? What Cause?

            There’s a different dynamic of endowments vs tuition paid by students vs tuition paid by the state. The endowment of these is the easiest to protect – the legislature could cut funding, the student enrollment could drop, but a billion dollars is a billion dollars.

            (Also, flipping to Canadian universities – I see that the admin to teaching staff ratio is rather lower than comparable American universities. I wonder what’s up with that?)

            I agree, but again, so what?

            My point is that something that is often presented as this ideologically-driven thing is just the money getting followed. What a lot of people here see as an ideological takeover of university administration, I see as a domestication of something that maybe once was radical.

            @quanta413

            There are massive quantitative differences between the amount of subsidies and protections for various industries, and I’m pretty sure you know that. Universities are unusually highly intertwined with non-free market modes of resource distribution. Much like defense contractors are.

            Certainly – but would anyone say that this showed that defence contractors were not capitalist enterprises?

            Your insinuation that I implied they have infinite money is ridiculous. I specifically said they were resource constrained because every system is resource constrained. I’ll quote the post you were responding to in case you don’t want to scroll up.

            If you want to make a serious argument for why universities should be considered primarily a capitalist form of organization, kindly do so instead of just lying about what I said.

            I misread your post; it’s my fault for rushing. Could you cool the tone a little?

            I don’t think they’re primarily capitalist organizations. But I think that there has been an increasing sense of schools as businesses. While it was never the days that old professors talk about, where they were like gurus sitting at the tops of mountains, there’s more of a sense of students as customers, more competition for students, more of a focus on the material benefit students get from going to university, etc. At the same time there’s been a shift towards squeezing more work from lower-paid academic staff, and a huge bloat in administration.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            However, they are operating as a business – they’re seeking customers, etc. Talk to professors, especially professors who have been around a while – they really don’t like the shift that’s come (in recent years, they would at least say) to thinking of students as customers who need to be kept at least minimally happy.

            If talking about customers is enough to get you called a business, then most of the US government is a capitalist enterprise, which is clearly absurd. You’re setting the bar way too low. Like I said, ALL institutions have sources of revenue that they cultivate and clients that they serve.

            There’s a different dynamic of endowments vs tuition paid by students vs tuition paid by the state. The endowment of these is the easiest to protect – the legislature could cut funding, the student enrollment could drop, but a billion dollars is a billion dollars.

            If this were true, we’d see dramatic differences in the behavior of public vs. private universities in the US. For the most part, we don’t.

            My point is that something that is often presented as this ideologically-driven thing is just the money getting followed.

            It’s both.

            What a lot of people here see as an ideological takeover of university administration, I see as a domestication of something that maybe once was radical.

            I believe we’ve had this debate before. Just because the radicals don’t get everything they’re asking for doesn’t mean that there can’t be radical change, especially if you look over time.

          • dndnrsn says:

            If talking about customers is enough to get you called a business, then most of the US government is a capitalist enterprise, which is clearly absurd. You’re setting the bar way too low. Like I said, ALL institutions have sources of revenue that they cultivate and clients that they serve.

            I think it is far to say that universities behave more like businesses than they did 50 or 100 years ago.

            If this were true, we’d see dramatic differences in the behavior of public vs. private universities in the US. For the most part, we don’t.

            To what extent do private institutions benefit from public spending, though? There are also public institutions with large endowments – take the U of M.

            It’s both.

            I think it is primarily following the money. The admins, the student activists… Here in Canada we have the CFS/FCEE, the big student union. Their language is all social justice, but their behaviour is like some feudal lord; it is very hard to leave, even with a majority vote. The way they handle money is sketchy. They do sketchy stuff to get their preferred slates elected in subordinate student union elections. The student union leaders talk a great game about social justice, but when you look at their behaviour, they give themselves inflated salaries, they play fast and loose with other people’s money, and there’s this pipeline from the student unions to other sinecures. Not hugely charitable on my part, but I find it hard to believe they are motivated primarily by the cause.

            I believe we’ve had this debate before. Just because the radicals don’t get everything they’re asking for doesn’t mean that there can’t be radical change, especially if you look over time.

            If it happens slowly, in drips and drabs, over time, by definition it’s not radical change.

          • quanta413 says:

            I misread your post; it’s my fault for rushing. Could you cool the tone a little?

            Sure. Sorry, I may have gone a little overboard. I only expressed anger because I’ve found that if I respond to snide remarks politely I get ignored. It’s hard to hit exactly how much anger to express to get someone’s attention but not so much as to be counterproductive.

            Certainly – but would anyone say that this showed that defence contractors were not capitalist enterprises?

            Good question. They certainly have a lot of capital. But in this case, I wouldn’t imply that their behavior was some sort of feature of capitalism. I believe they would behave in an extremely similar way in a command-and-control situation.

            I don’t think they’re primarily capitalist organizations. But I think that there has been an increasing sense of schools as businesses. While it was never the days that old professors talk about, where they were like gurus sitting at the tops of mountains, there’s more of a sense of students as customers, more competition for students, more of a focus on the material benefit students get from going to university, etc. At the same time there’s been a shift towards squeezing more work from lower-paid academic staff, and a huge bloat in administration.

            I think this shift in behavior though is largely because their subsidies and funds increased (in the form of federal loans to students, the NSF, NIH, etc.). The extra money and rules attracted bureaucracy like food attracts flies.

            Students aren’t really in a customer-like relationship exactly even if someone thought that was a good metaphor for the changes they’ve made.

            I think it is primarily following the money. The admins, the student activists… Here in Canada we have the CFS/FCEE, the big student union. Their language is all social justice, but their behaviour is like some feudal lord; it is very hard to leave, even with a majority vote. The way they handle money is sketchy. They do sketchy stuff to get their preferred slates elected in subordinate student union elections. The student union leaders talk a great game about social justice, but when you look at their behaviour, they give themselves inflated salaries, they play fast and loose with other people’s money, and there’s this pipeline from the student unions to other sinecures. Not hugely charitable on my part, but I find it hard to believe they are motivated primarily by the cause.

            If following the money was the main motivation, universities wouldn’t be ideological monocultures (to a first approximation). The ideology they chose makes sense in the political context they already had since the 60s. They could siphon money off with a totally different ideology or a mixture, but they don’t.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn

            I think it is far to say that universities behave more like businesses than they did 50 or 100 years ago.

            they’re much bigger now, that makes their behavior more visible, but I don’t think it’s materially different controlling for size.

            To what extent do private institutions benefit from public spending, though? There are also public institutions with large endowments – take the U of M.

            A lot, but a lot less than public universities do.

            Not hugely charitable on my part, but I find it hard to believe they are motivated primarily by the cause.

            you already summed it up when you said people “are also very good at convincing themselves that their self-interest is an ideological crusade.” One can be a sincere crusader and trying to line one’s pockets at the same time. In fact, I’d say that’s how crusading usually works.

            If it happens slowly, in drips and drabs, over time, by definition it’s not radical change.

            This is nonsense. Cars are a radical change in society from horses, even though the transition from cars to horses took decades.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Good question. They certainly have a lot of capital. But in this case, I wouldn’t imply that their behavior was some sort of feature of capitalism. I believe they would behave in an extremely similar way in a command-and-control situation.

            I think I got into this argument with, uh, cassander, was it? There’s capitalism the ideology/system, and there’s capitalism, which is what capitalists do. It’s hard to say a CEO isn’t a capitalist, even if he uses every trick in the book to capture government, glom onto subsidies, throw up regulatory obstacles to competitors, which is hardly in line with what a dedicated ideological capitalist would want.

            I think this shift in behavior though is largely because their subsidies and funds increased (in the form of federal loans to students, the NSF, NIH, etc.). The extra money and rules attracted bureaucracy like food attracts flies.

            We’d have to look at the timeline of this in different places though – it might just be that administration is fated to increase no matter what. See Parkinson’s Law.

            Students aren’t really in a customer-like relationship exactly even if someone thought that was a good metaphor for the changes they’ve made.

            I think universities spend a lot more time trying to keep students happy; at least, based on my experiences and war stories from profs, that’s what I think. Possible biased sample, of course.

            If following the money was the main motivation, universities wouldn’t be ideological monocultures (to a first approximation). The ideology they chose makes sense in the political context they already had since the 60s. They could siphon money off with a totally different ideology or a mixture, but they don’t.

            Universities were more ideologically diverse in the 60s than today; a lot of the things which we ascribe to the 60s commonly happened in the 70s. I also wouldn’t say universities are an ideological monoculture, so much as right-wingers have seen their numbers dwindle. Why, they’ve got both kinds of ideology – liberals and leftists!

            More seriously, I think there was a snowball effect. The early student radicals, who actually kinda were radicals, actually were fighting the power. The history of radicals actually getting power – any power, including extremely piddly power like command of a student union – is of those radicals ceasing to be radicals. They keep talking radical, but are quickly replaced by a combination of weaselly careerists and dead-eyed apparatchiks.

            @cassander

            they’re much bigger now, that makes their behavior more visible, but I don’t think it’s materially different controlling for size.

            Universities are qualitatively different than they were 100 years ago, probably starting post-WWII. Places that used to be more or less finishing schools now attract aggressive keeners.

            A lot, but a lot less than public universities do.

            Including more diffuse sources of public funding?

            you already summed it up when you said people “are also very good at convincing themselves that their self-interest is an ideological crusade.” One can be a sincere crusader and trying to line one’s pockets at the same time. In fact, I’d say that’s how crusading usually works.

            I think someone is only truly sincere if their words and actions really line up. That they think they do isn’t enough.

            This is nonsense. Cars are a radical change in society from horses, even though the transition from cars to horses took decades.

            Political radicals usually want some decisive break, though. Had there been car radicals, they would have demanded all the horses shot, and if that meant there weren’t enough cars to go around and some people had to walk, well, it will be worth it when everyone has a car.

          • quanta413 says:

            I think I got into this argument with, uh, cassander, was it? There’s capitalism the ideology/system, and there’s capitalism, which is what capitalists do. It’s hard to say a CEO isn’t a capitalist, even if he uses every trick in the book to capture government, glom onto subsidies, throw up regulatory obstacles to competitors, which is hardly in line with what a dedicated ideological capitalist would want.

            The word capitalism is perhaps too unspecific due to being used in many different ways. Capitalist is an even more poorly specified word.

            Defense contractors are more capitalist than a state owned enterprise, but on the other hand, they’re a lot less capitalist than most other industries.

            But even if they are partly capitalist, I don’t think they’re good examples of it. And even less so for universities. Most universities are have plenty of similarities to their colonial or medieval forebears and are sometimes the same institution.

            Universities were more ideologically diverse in the 60s than today; a lot of the things which we ascribe to the 60s commonly happened in the 70s. I also wouldn’t say universities are an ideological monoculture, so much as right-wingers have seen their numbers dwindle.

            Even in the 60s, my hazy recollection is left wing outnumber right wing 3 or 4 to 1. And the university right wing is not as hard right as its left was hard left. The hardest left of universities consists of apologists for communism in practice. Chomsky engaged in apologetics for the khmer rouge even after significant reports of how horrible they were; it took some serious piling up of evidence for him to admit they were not so good although he still claims his evaluation at the time was fine given the evidence available. And Chomsky is relatively honest and principled. The outnumbering of left to right is what now? Ostensibly something like 10 or 20 to 1? That’s less of a dwindling than an exclusion.

            More seriously, I think there was a snowball effect. The early student radicals, who actually kinda were radicals, actually were fighting the power. The history of radicals actually getting power – any power, including extremely piddly power like command of a student union – is of those radicals ceasing to be radicals. They keep talking radical, but are quickly replaced by a combination of weaselly careerists and dead-eyed apparatchiks.

            I mean, if you count those radicals being replaced by weaselly careerists who are themselves maybe this is true (Dohrn and Ayers for example).

            Becoming the power isn’t necessarily a sign you gave up on the fight etc. It can also be a sign you won. And at universities, I think this is largely true. The center of politics at a university is what used to be radical.

            Every ideology in practice is full of humans using it for greedy ends so the existence of careerists doesn’t seem like very convincing evidence to me that people who follow a social justice ideology aren’t about as sincere as the average person or maybe even a little more so.

          • Even in the 60s, my hazy recollection is left wing outnumber right wing 3 or 4 to 1.

            In 1964, the Harvard Crimson poll found about 19% of the students supporting Goldwater.

            I was astonished that it was that high.

            The left wing included Maoists, but I don’t think they were a large fraction of it.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            I think that the radicals are very good at creating a fear culture, based in part on more moderate leftists who have some distance to the issue having a strong tendency to pick sides with the activists based on their rhetoric.

            For example:

            But it seemed like people didn’t want to engage publicly: “I did receive private responses from people who wanted to participate but who were afraid to do so,” she said. One student drafted a comment but deleted it “because I realized it wasn’t worth the risk of having basically 80 percent of my social circle vilify me for my opinion on an honestly relatively minor issue.”

            It seems to me that there is also a strong tendency on the left now to see various issues as relatively minor, that I think matter greatly.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            The word capitalism is perhaps too unspecific due to being used in many different ways. Capitalist is an even more poorly specified word.

            Defense contractors are more capitalist than a state owned enterprise, but on the other hand, they’re a lot less capitalist than most other industries.

            But even if they are partly capitalist, I don’t think they’re good examples of it. And even less so for universities. Most universities are have plenty of similarities to their colonial or medieval forebears and are sometimes the same institution.

            What would you say is the best currently-existing example of capitalism?

            Even in the 60s, my hazy recollection is left wing outnumber right wing 3 or 4 to 1. And the university right wing is not as hard right as its left was hard left. The hardest left of universities consists of apologists for communism in practice. Chomsky engaged in apologetics for the khmer rouge even after significant reports of how horrible they were; it took some serious piling up of evidence for him to admit they were not so good although he still claims his evaluation at the time was fine given the evidence available. And Chomsky is relatively honest and principled. The outnumbering of left to right is what now? Ostensibly something like 10 or 20 to 1? That’s less of a dwindling than an exclusion.

            I’m not going to defend that; the lack of right-wing profs and students is an issue (for self-interested reasons: I’ve met so many left-wingers who can’t argue their positions for shit, because they’ve never had to) but I think you’re underestimating the gap between liberals and leftists (or, the shitty half-and-half types who seem so common).

            I mean, if you count those radicals being replaced by weaselly careerists who are themselves maybe this is true (Dohrn and Ayers for example).

            Dohrn and Ayers and the others of their ilk are a great example of people getting conservative as they age. When they were kids they were willing to go underground and fight the system; they’re still left-wingers but now they’re basically reformists. The working-class and especially the black radicals, they mostly ended up in prison, dead, or exiled – Angela Davis is the only counterexample I can think of off the top of my head, and she was from a middle-class, educated family.

            Becoming the power isn’t necessarily a sign you gave up on the fight etc. It can also be a sign you won. And at universities, I think this is largely true. The center of politics at a university is what used to be radical.

            But their ability to get radical demands fulfilled has disappeared. The student union types who march every year for free tuition (which they will not get) talk about tearing down capitalism, but what they are really demanding is that the 80% of the population who do not have a university degree pay for the 20% who do, which seems like the opposite of progressive.

            Every ideology in practice is full of humans using it for greedy ends so the existence of careerists doesn’t seem like very convincing evidence to me that people who follow a social justice ideology aren’t about as sincere as the average person or maybe even a little more so.

            I don’t think they’re less sincere than the norm. But I think that the standard is higher for people who say “we’re sincere! We’re the good ones!” I expect a higher standard of behaviour from a priest than from Gordon Gekko.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The student union types who march every year for free tuition (which they will not get)

            No? NJs governor is trying to do it for community colleges.

            And when they ask for things like more grievance studies requirements, more diversity programs, or segregated dorms for black people, they tend to get it.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            the lack of right-wing profs and students is an issue

            The data actually shows that the number of moderates have declined with the same amount of percentage points as conservatives and I would argue that this is an even bigger issue, as moderates are the glue that keeps conservatives and progressives connected. It’s way easier to get bubbles and hard Overton Windows when there are two distinct groups, rather than a spectrum.

          • dndnrsn says:

            No? NJs governor is trying to do it for community colleges.

            Community colleges are cheaper to run, I presume. Here in Canada, all the good universities are public and receive a lot of money already, and budgets tend to be tight. I would be extremely surprised if universal free tuition becomes a thing.

            And when they ask for things like more grievance studies requirements, more diversity programs, or segregated dorms for black people, they tend to get it.

            How common are these things? Back when I went to school, they just made us take one each of humanities, social sciences, and sciences, and had lots of “x for non-x” courses. Now it looks like they have some sort of cockamamie scheme involving more categories, but they’re all vague, and it looks like it’s just a formality. Segregation in dorms here is mostly for women’s dorms.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            What would you say is the best currently-existing example of capitalism?

            Keeping in mind the nonexistence of totally unregulated industries, the restaurant industry strikes me as being as close to the textbook many competitors, low barriers to entry ideal as it gets. Outside of all the standard regulatory cruft that anyone with employees or a building has to deal with, there’s not too much more besides health regulations. And restaurants come into existence and go out of business all the time.

            The tech industry giants (Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft) seem pretty capitalist as well even if they do some government business. They serve enormous consumer markets. But they operate in a space with much higher fixed costs and very strong network effects, so their industry looks nothing like textbook examples of perfect competition. Still, Amazon is famous for being brutally competitive about lowering margins to win the competition.

            Certainly compared to universities, my examples are vastly more affected by the incentives of a relatively free market system. I dunno if these industries are the most capitalist. I don’t have a system or knowledge to rank things that tightly. But they’re pretty capitalist as far as existing things go.

            I’m not going to defend that; the lack of right-wing profs and students is an issue (for self-interested reasons: I’ve met so many left-wingers who can’t argue their positions for shit, because they’ve never had to) but I think you’re underestimating the gap between liberals and leftists (or, the shitty half-and-half types who seem so common).

            I don’t think I am. I just don’t really think the gap is that relevant to figuring out to what extent modern university politics is caused by money grubbing vs sincere ideology. The liberals like Christakis might be numerically more common, but they seem to have habit of ignoring problems until it’s too late. I think the most common position is just a sort of nonspecific leftism, similar to how most groups are filled with people who aren’t super into whatever the exact philosophy at hand is but just sort of go with the flow.

            Dohrn and Ayers and the others of their ilk are a great example of people getting conservative as they age. When they were kids they were willing to go underground and fight the system; they’re still left-wingers but now they’re basically reformists. The working-class and especially the black radicals, they mostly ended up in prison, dead, or exiled – Angela Davis is the only counterexample I can think of off the top of my head, and she was from a middle-class, educated family.

            Sure, he moved from violent insurrection towards peaceful means. But he still calls himself a communist and I see no reason not to believe him. His blog is slightly more conservative than Marx. I don’t think his change in behavior is a sign he became more conservative in political views. It’s a sign he pulled his head out of his ass and realized how to actually make progress towards his goals. This is an improvement for his goals.

            But their ability to get radical demands fulfilled has disappeared. The student union types who march every year for free tuition (which they will not get) talk about tearing down capitalism, but what they are really demanding is that the 80% of the population who do not have a university degree pay for the 20% who do, which seems like the opposite of progressive.

            I don’t think they ever had that ability on their own in the first place. The idea that they were moral crusaders for justice fighting the man who swept evil before them is just romanticizing what happened after the fact. Far left wing thought isn’t that popular in the U.S. and probably wouldn’t be doing so well if they hadn’t shifted tactics and captured universities.

            I don’t think they’re less sincere than the norm. But I think that the standard is higher for people who say “we’re sincere! We’re the good ones!” I expect a higher standard of behaviour from a priest than from Gordon Gekko.

            In theory, I agree that would be ideal. In practice, I don’t think it really holds.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t think I am. I just don’t really think the gap is that relevant to figuring out to what extent modern university politics is caused by money grubbing vs sincere ideology. The liberals like Christakis might be numerically more common, but they seem to have habit of ignoring problems until it’s too late. I think the most common position is just a sort of nonspecific leftism, similar to how most groups are filled with people who aren’t super into whatever the exact philosophy at hand is but just sort of go with the flow.

            Most people who go with the flow are going to go with the flow wherever they go.

            Sure, he moved from violent insurrection towards peaceful means. But he still calls himself a communist and I see no reason not to believe him. His blog is slightly more conservative than Marx. I don’t think his change in behavior is a sign he became more conservative in political views. It’s a sign he pulled his head out of his ass and realized how to actually make progress towards his goals. This is an improvement for his goals.

            His goals were a cockamamie scheme in which a bunch of university kids bombing draft centres would cause black people and blue collar whites to rise up and overthrow capitalism, of course with said university kids as the leadership. He’s still a communist, sure, but is communism capable of happening by process of reform?

            I don’t think they ever had that ability on their own in the first place. The idea that they were moral crusaders for justice fighting the man who swept evil before them is just romanticizing what happened after the fact. Far left wing thought isn’t that popular in the U.S. and probably wouldn’t be doing so well if they hadn’t shifted tactics and captured universities.

            But in so doing, it largely abandoned real radicalism, except rhetorically. They’re not bomb-throwers any more, they’re careerists; their shtick is screaming about smashing the white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy while simultaneously trying to shake down any elements of such within easy reach.

            In theory, I agree that would be ideal. In practice, I don’t think it really holds.

            In practice, it holds if we hold it. I’ll take the business students over the hustlers who deny being hustlers.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Annoying campus people with a hard time harming people outside of their own clutches

          Tell it to the List of Usual Suspects in tech.

          That they also harm themselves is scant comfort.

          • dndnrsn says:

            That planes are relatively safe isn’t much of a consolation to people who die in plane accidents, but that doesn’t change that plane accidents are not a hugely productive thing to be afraid of. This is the sort of place where usually people will say “rationally, you should not be afraid of xyz; it is not very likely” but the Hairdye NKVD is feared.

          • Thegnskald says:

            dndnrsn –

            I think a more substantial issue, to people, is that this wasn’t something they had to fear at all just a few years ago.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Huh. Can’t edit the last comment.

            The other side of that is that what they have to fear is – being targeted for exactly the thing many people insist they have no valid reason to fear being targeted for, even as they are lambasted for group responsibility for other members of their group – who they are insistently told aren’t a real group but the default – doing exactly the same thing.

            They’re told it’s super-bad when any group -except theirs- is targeted for being a member of their group. They’ve been raised being told how uniquely evil groupism is, how much people suffer from it, how if we aren’t constantly vigilant then groupism will come hurtling into our society and suddenly we’ll be shoving people into concentration camps or whatever.

            You tell them all of this, insistently and loudly and authoritatively – and then act surprised when they treat members of their group being targeted as a big deal?

          • The Nybbler says:

            We have neither numerator (heretics burned) nor denominator (total heretics), so it seems to me it’s hard to say this isn’t something for a heretic to be afraid of.

          • 10240 says:

            @dndnrsn In the USSR, after Stalin, the vast majority of people, with the exception of loud dissidents, didn’t have much reason to fear the NKVD/KGB. But the fact that (would-be) loud dissidents had to fear it contributed to maintaining a system that was shitty for all.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Thegnskald

            Who’s this “you”? I would prefer to live in a world without the sort of political tribalism where the bad stuff that affects us is nuclear, the bad stuff that affects them is imaginary. Vary who “us” and “them” are depending on bubble or whatever.

            In a perfect world, maybe people would be saying “let’s make it harder to fire people for stuff not directly linked to job performance” or something like that. But in a perfect world, maybe also people wouldn’t wait until after the identity of the shooter/bomber/bus driver had come out to figure out whether it’s a serious problem that needs attention or something to be swept under the carpet.

            @The Nybbler

            We don’t have any evidence either way – so let’s go with what you said? How do you feel about people on the opposite side of the aisle making political hay about their constant fear of threats that are, statistically, very minor?

            @10240

            I am pretty sure that it is safer to be a computer programmer who likes Jordan Peterson or whatever than a dissident in the USSR post-1953. Just a hunch. Both in terms of one’s chances of getting caught, and in terms of how bad the outcome is if caught.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The “you” is led by an implied “if”, and refers to society in general, not you specifically.

            An equivalent construct would be “You punch someone, you get punched”.

            I am not saying it is desirable. But it is important to diagnose the issue as a fully general one with the current approach to politics – telling white men “You shouldn’t be worried about this” when everybody else has been worried about this for years is just… unhelpful? You are just reinforcing the idea for them that they are particularly and specially valid for targeting because when they are targeted it is uniquely invisible as a social problem. You are singling a group out for complaining about being singled out.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Sure, it’s a fully general problem. I also look at this more on a meta than object level; I really like a bit from one of Ozy’s articles.

            So one of the things I want out of my ethical system is that it fails gracefully. If it turns out I’m wrong about everything– if future generations will look at my morality in horror, if people like me are going to be used as the caricatured villains in TV shows– I want to cause as little harm as I can.

            The people who say “fire them for their bad opinions” (regardless of their own politics; you get to see the right-wing version of this every time some 31-year-old contract instructor at a state school posts some spiciness on social media and a bunch of people start screamin’ ’bout firin’ that essjaydubya; for those with tenure, the history of academic freedom is more about conservatives trying to get leftist profs fired than vice versa) either assume that they could never be the victims of that, or that they’re already under threat and the other side started it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            We don’t have any evidence either way – so let’s go with what you said? How do you feel about people on the opposite side of the aisle making political hay about their constant fear of threats that are, statistically, very minor?

            I was in a place where the threat from the SJWs was in fact quite significant. They still talked about their constant fear of threats that were very minor. The actual level of the threat does make a difference; to use real examples, pretending you’re threatened by the mere fact that a lot of men are discussing an issue on a mailing list is a lot different than actually being threatened by HR.

          • dndnrsn says:

            But what’s “significant”? Are we talking 1% per chance per person with heterodox opinions to lose their job? 0.1? Is it significant enough to justify the amount of hate/fear?

            I think also “pretending you’re threatened” is the wrong way to think about it. If it’s advantageous to feel threatened, rather than pretend to feel threatened, people appear to unconsciously self-modify to actually feel threatened. This is what I mean when I say they’re doing themselves harm; other people on the opposite side of the fence doing that isn’t good for themselves either.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’ve told you before I’m not buying “We’re just alike, you and I”. I’m also not buying “there’s no real threat” based on just throwing around uncertainty about quantification. I know there’s a real threat because I’m personally aware of multiple people who got fired and more who got warnings from HR. I know of exactly zero who suffered measurable harm from microaggressions or any of the other “threats” that group uses to justify their rhetoric and actions against others.

            That both sides make claims that can, if you squint a whole lot, be fit into the same form does not mean the claims are equivalent.

          • 10240 says:

            @dndnrsn Sure. Then again, you were obviously exaggerating when claiming that anti-SJWs claim that they are afraid of the hairdye NKVD coming after them. I’m not sure we disagree about the facts here.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m not sure about the numbers of people actually fired or otherwise overtly disciplined. But I do think it’s important to remember that you can’t always measure how big a deterrent effect is by how many cases show up in the news, nor even by how many times some overt spectacular punishment is applied.

            As one example of that, I’ll point out that there have not been all that many instances of government whistleblowers being sent to prison or having thelr lives wrecked by a multi-year investigation that costs their whole life savings to defend. Would you take that as evidence that there is no deterrent effect happening from those very visible cases where a whistleblower ends up in prison for a couple decades?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybbler

            I’m not talking about microaggressions. I’m talking about, say, anti-gun kids saying they feel unsafe in school, are scared someone is going to come in and shoot them. When, once you crunch the numbers, the chances of that happening are extremely low – the fear is extremely outsize to the threat.

            @10240

            We have in this comment section at least one person, who clearly isn’t a dummy (I mean, I don’t know how to make lightning boxes go, right) saying that the threat is real.

            @albatross11

            OK, that’s a good point. At no point have I said that it’s a good thing that this happens; I would prefer to live in a world where people only get fired for their views if their views are actually heinous (like, real Nazis, or real Stalinists, let’s say, not “round up to nearest totalitarianism”). But I think the amount of fear-reflex is outsized to the threat.

          • 10240 says:

            @dndnrsn Some threat? Sure. NKVD-analogous threat? I don’t think anyone claimed that. (As for my own NKVD analogy, I didn’t claim that the threat was equivalent to the NKVD, only that if there’s little threat for most people, that doesn’t imply that everything is OK.) (I don’t understand your “lightning boxes” phrase.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            “Hairdye NKVD” is just my pet phrase. “Lightning box” is what I call computers when I’m making fun of the fact that I was an arts major.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Huh, I always attributed the term to BBA, now I’m afraid all the leftist commenters are blending in in my mind due to my old age.

          • dndnrsn says:

            A leftist? Me? Why, I’m just an innocent little liberal!

          • BBA says:

            I have borrowed the term once or twice. Give me a heads-up if you start charging royalties for it.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            A leftist? Me? Why, I’m just an innocent little liberal!

            Sure you are, Iain.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          I think the comparison to the Moral Majority and the religious right is good; it’s my preferred comparison. But I think there are some important differences, most importantly that social justice has not shown any of the organizational capacity or the crossover into mainstream politics that the religious right did.

          For example, I can’t think of a social justice organization comparable to the Moral Majority, nor can I think of any social justice activist comparable in stature to Jerry Falwell, nor can I think of any major politician who owes their success to the social justice coalition in the way that Reagan or Bush II owed their success to the Evangelical vote.

          Some of this is just due to the fact that social justice is more diffused throughout the culture, and perhaps some is due to the role of social media which allows for less top-down organization to exert pressure, but I still think that’s a disadvantage when it comes to actual political change. It will be interesting to see if that changes in the near future.

          • SamChevre says:

            That’s an interesting comparison, and I think makes sense–but it definitely looks different depending on where you look from.

            From my perspective, the Moral Majority was an attempt to change/manage the culture via politics, and had very little impact. The SJW-and-adjacent movement is an attempt to change the culture via the bureaucracy and the legal system, and has had huge effects. I don’t remember, and can’t imagine, that many Fortune 500 companies were actively supporting the Moral Majority via their HR policies: I expect that the majority of Fortune 500 companies have an officer in charge of diversity and HR policies aligned with SJW-ish goals.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            As a rough proxy for the cultural penetration of each, I’ve checked to see what percentage of people today consider themselves “feminist”, versus what percentage considered themselves “born again” in 1980. I find that apparently 1/3 of men and 3/5 of women regard themselves as feminists as of 2016. Other sources come out with only 18% which sounds low to me, but I’m recording it here just in case. As of 2002 the previous all-time high for feminist self-identification was 33% in 1992.

            Apparently, as of last year 29% of Americans identify as born again. Gallup combines “born again” and “evangelical” and gets 42% of current Americans. Annoyingly, I can’t find the data back to 1980, but at the same link I see that 40% of Americans thought the Bible was the actual word of God in 1980, which should hopefully not be a terrible proxy. The percentage never goes below 24% (in 2017).

            I take this as evidence that the cultural penetration of social justice currently is on the same scale as that of the religious right in the Reagan era; and if that 18% is a more accurate number for self-identified feminists, it would seem to mean that religious identity still has more cultural penetration than social justice.

            I think to a large extent, people have simply forgotten how powerful the religious right could be, but they absolutely did get corporate America to yield to their threat of boycotts, and were able to influence pop culture in their preferred direction.

            I would guess the HR policies have more to do with discrimination law than with the cultural penetration of social justice, but I’ll let someone who knows more than me comment.

          • SamChevre says:

            I would guess the HR policies have more to do with discrimination law than with the cultural penetration of social justice

            I think of social justice as the weaponization of (anti)discrimination law.

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            The size of a group doesn’t necessarily match their (cultural) power. This is social justice 101 🙂

            Different messages and actions may also differ in their effectiveness. Lots of white people listen to ‘gangsta’ songs, but fairly few of them mimic the trappings of that lifestyle.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Obviously not, but it’s a first approximation. If you have some countervailing evidence to suggest that the religious right was less powerful culturally and politically at its peak than social justice is now, then I’m certainly interested in it.

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            When was the religious right at it’s peak in the US? 1770? I’m not going to argue that the religious right wasn’t very powerful before large scale secularization.

            If you are arguing about the period of the Moral Majority, then I would argue that they didn’t have the kind of domination of institutions like Hollywood, universities and such that the left does now, so there are far fewer informal checks and balances to social justice overreach.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            The religious right may not have had Hollywood, but they certainly had their own media networks with non-trivial cultural reach; I annoyingly can’t seem to find viewership information for the 700 Club around 1980, but for example the Left Behind books appear to have sold about as well as the Hunger Games and Game of Thrones.

            The religious right also had (and has) their own universities, and dominate(d) other institutions with wide cultural importance, notably Churches. The era of the Moral Majority was an era of religious dominance in American political culture: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan were both born again; three US Senators (including currently sitting Orrin Hatch) were on the board of directors of Christian Voice, the first major Christian Right organization; in the 1994 Congressional Elections 27% of the electorate identified as evangelical or born again. Here’s an article from the era that gives a flavour of how powerful the religious right seemed politically.

            Does it compare to social justice today? I think it’s at least a plausible comparison, though obviously better numbers for both movements would help. But I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the comparison.

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            All of those things you name are aimed at and consumed almost solely by the religious right and thus at most reduce defection. Pillarisation is fundamentally defensive and anti-apostasy, not proselytizing.

            For example, I have high confidence that the number of progressives at Liberty University is way smaller than the number of conservatives at Berkeley. The current situation exposes conservatives to progressive beliefs way, way more than vice versa.

            Furthermore, those religious universities are ranked very poorly. If we would treat the religious right as a minority, their segregation in these shitty universities would be slam dunk evidence that we need to start busing students to aid educationally disenfranchised conservative Christians 🙂

          • albatross11 says:

            Aapje:

            That sounds plausible, but I wondered if it was true, so I looked around for data.

            First, I found this from Liberty University:Article about the voting precinct in which Liberty University resides. This showed a really amazing skew toward Republicans–to the extent it correlates with how students feel about politics (probably pretty far), it makes the case that there probably aren’t actually many Democrats (or even moderate Democrats of the kind who might be expected to be happy to vote for Hillary over Trump, but maybe not Sanders over Jeb Bush, say). The totals there were 2739:140 ~= 20:1.

            This article says that the vote in Berkeley went about 90% for Hillary and 3% for Trump. So about a 30:1 ratio.

            Neither of these results are perfect–I think Liberty University is a heavily commuter campus (so lots of students don’t live or vote on campus), so lots of students voted elsewhere. And it’s in an extremely red part of the country, so any non-students in that same district are probably skewed pretty far toward Trump vs Clinton. Berkeley’s results are for (I think) the whole town, so catch a lot of non-students, and Berkeley is a famously liberal place.

            What I think we can take from the numbers I could find in a quick Google search: The actual ratios of conservatives:liberals at Liberty University and liberals:conservatives at Berkeley are probably pretty similar. Based on this limited data, I’d imagine heavily overlapping posterior distributions on that ratio.

          • albatross11 says:

            Addendum:

            The Liberty article also gave numbers for third-party candidates: 137 for Johnson, 156 for McMullen, 4 for Stein.

            If we put the support for McMullen into the “right wing” bin[1], we still get about the same ratio. (Even if we add Johnson into the right-wing bin, we don’t change the ratio much.) The biggest ratio I can get from this data is

            (Trump+Johnson+McMullen) : (Clinton+Stein)
            ~= 21:1 conservative:liberal votes.

            From the Berkeley results

            Clinton. 57,750 90.4%
            Stein 2,947 4.6%
            Trump 2,031 3.2%
            Johnson 884 1.4%
            La Riva 298 .5%

            If we add up all the left wing votes (Clinton, Stein, La Riva[2]), and all the right-wing votes (Trump, Johnson), we get ~= a 21:1 liberal:conservative vote ratio.

            So basically, they’re about the same proportion.

            Also, it’s interesting to note that among college freshman, things are not nearly so skewed. This poll shows about 35% of incoming freshmen are broadly on the left, an about 23% are broadly on the right. (There’s also increasing polarization, as I think shows up in most surveys of voters.)

            [1] Johnson doesn’t really fit there, especially when we’re considering evangelical Christians, who are unlikely to be big fans of his support for gay marriage and pot legalization.

            [2] La Riva is a Communist, so it seems safe to put her on the left.

          • Aapje says:

            I expect the city-wide figures to be more extreme than the student figures, since presumably some students will accept temporarily living in hostile territory to get a top education.

            The Berkeley College Republicans is one of the largest and most active student run organizations at UC Berkeley and is the largest College Republican organization in the state of California. BCR offers right-minded Berkeley students the opportunity to gather behind enemy lines for a truly open discussion of the issues.

            https://callink.berkeley.edu/organization/berkeleycollegerepublicans

            Of course, I presume that it is merely one of the largest because progressive students feel secure enough to spread out over many different student run organizations, while conservatives tend to feel beleaguered and seek each other out for comfort, but still…

            It was the fall of 2008, and Liberty University suddenly found itself dealing with a problem it had never before encountered in its more than 40-year history:

            College Democrats.

            The largest evangelical Christian university in the world, whose doctrinal statement at the time declared its “strong commitment to political conservatism, total rejection of socialism and firm support for America’s economic system of free enterprise,” had never had a chapter of the student organization on its campus.

            https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/08/07/why-liberty-university-is-requiring-its-students-to-attend-a-bernie-sanders-speech/

            Of course, it may very plausibly be the case that progressives are more beleaguered at Liberty, so they hide much more.

            PS. I have switched from the religious right to ‘conservatives’ to make my claim, which may be a mistake. Perhaps a large percentage of Republicans at Berkeley’s University are libertarians or other not-so religious right-wingers. Perhaps the religious right is more self-segregated than I think?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            All of those things you name are aimed at and consumed almost solely by the religious right

            Sure, but on the other hand, the institutions that are/were under religious right control were much more dominated by them than Hollywood and universities are by social justice today. I’m sure that Liberty University is more doctrinal at teaching Christianity than any secular university, and I’m sure the 700 Club was more on-brand promoting their version of Christianity than Hollywood is at promoting social justice. I’m open to a model where social justice has wide but shallow dominance and the religious right had narrower but deeper dominance; I think that sounds plausible to me.
            But there’s still the fact that, as indicated by the Left Behind sales, that there are still a lot of consumers of that media. Religious right stuff may have had a narrower reach than social justice, but it still had a very big reach, and a pretty impressive political and cultural clout.

          • albatross11 says:

            By the numbers I quoted before, about 30% of the total right-wing votes went to Gary Johnson, and there appear not to have been any votes for McMullen (the “I want a conservative who’s not so Trumpy” vote) or the Constitution Party. So my first cut guess would be that a largish fraction of the right in Berkeley are probably more libertarian than religious right. But this is where better data would come in handy….

            I think the data I’ve seen so far suggests about equal ratios at the two colleges. (That is, probably around 20:1 left:right at Berkeley and 20:1 right:left at Liberty.)

          • albatross11 says:

            How would we determine whether Liberty or some other religious university is more effective at indoctrination of their students in religious right/evangelical Christian views than some left-leaning university is at indoctrination the other direction? I wouldn’t be surprised if you were right, but it’s not obvious to me.

            A quick bit of web-searching suggested to me that you’re probably right, at least in terms of course requirements. Georgetown (a Jesuit university) requires about 5% of your coursework be in theology, and another 5% in philosophy. So at least 5% of your coursework could possibly be thought of as indoctrination (though probably more of the “you will have to learn and understand this material” kind than the “here’s what you are to believe, any questions, go ask the Dominicans and they’ll show you the instruments” kind. It looked like Liberty University required about 10% of your total coursework be religious instruction.

            By contrast, it looked like Berkeley had *one* required course (American Cultures) that was pretty obviously SJW-oriented. Thinking of colleges recently in the news, I looked up Evergreen (no required courses at all) and Middlebury (I couldn’t find anything like a social-justice required course, but had a hard time figuring out if I was seeing everything.)

            Among more standard state universities, Univ of Maryland has two required courses in basically diversity–that’s the same as Georgetown has in theology, which seems kinda appropriate to me as a comparison. From what I could tell, Univ of Missouri didn’t have any such requirement. (Though both also included humanities and social sciences requirements–I’m assuming you can do music and econ in those and dodge any further attempted indoctrination.

            So my guess is that Liberty University is a bit of an outlier here. Other colleges seem to give you one or two required indoctrination[1] courses (theology, american cultures, diversity studies) and then a laundry list of optional courses, some of which will add on more indoctrination if you want them.

            As another aside, I looked at Hillsdale College–another famously conservative college. They’re clearly trying to indoctrinate you into Western culture and the Western Cannon, but had no religious or theological requirements.

            [1] This is judging entirely by their names; I have no idea how much these are open-ended discussions or how much dissent is acceptable. I’d expect the Georgetown theology courses to be pretty good at accepting dissent if it was well-expressed and well-reasoned, and the Liberty U and Berkeley/UMD diversity courses to be less tolerant of dissent, but that’s my impression, not based on any data.

          • Aapje says:

            I forgot that the progressives/Democrats at Liberty are not necessarily SJ advocates. So this issue would happen on both sides (but not necessarily to the same extent.)

          • Nornagest says:

            By contrast, it looked like Berkeley had *one* required course (American Cultures) that was pretty obviously SJW-oriented.

            Those are mostly four-unit courses. At Berkeley you need 120 units to graduate, so the American Cultures requirement represents 3.3% of your time there — not so far off from the 5% for theology at Liberty.

            I went to a different school in the UC system, and my requirements included five credits in social justice topics — I forget the exact phrasing. But also five credits in political and cultural topics, and almost all the courses that counted for that were at least SJ-adjacent: I took an introductory political science class for it that ended up being centered around the history of popular revolutions and activism. There were a number of other requirements that could be difficult to satisfy without some level of indoctrination, although it was technically possible.

            (This was several years ago. Things may have changed since then. And I was in a technical major — I’d expect a lot more indoctrination if I was in the humanities or, especially, some of the social sciences.)

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I am curious about something, Lady Jane. And I guess it is a question for all of those who advocate SJ while being wary of the SJW extreme. I would like to know your take on the below.

        One thing that really annoys me about the left politically is the strong tokenism. When a Black person runs for office, often the race of the candidate is treated as one of the major positives. Similarly for women running for office. I am constantly amazed at how often I hear someone say something to the effect that “oh yes, that person is a good candidate, but I would much prefer a woman.” And this blatant racism and sexism is said without embarrassment by educated people. And then there are corporations that brag about how many women or minorities are on their board of directors. It always amazes me that people think this affirmative action is so important that it is more important than getting the best people to run important institutions like government and large corporations.

        So my question for you, Lady Jane, and others, is your take on doing affirmative action type hiring on ALL positions, no matter what level. The reason I ask in this thread is that I often hear in SSC that SJW’s are really just a small segment of leftism. But the sort of thing I describe is very prevalent on the left in the US.

        • brmic says:

          This is complex, but I’ll try:
          1) I agree it’s annoying and cringeworthy when the underlying preference is expressed in sexist/racist terms.
          2) The underlying preference is based on at least two components:
          2a) representation being a good thing in itself as it adds viewpoints/experiences and provides role models for the future
          2b) The assumption that someone who is equally ‘best’ but from a disadvantaged background is actually either better because they got to the same point from a worse starting point and/or has other, unobservable good traits, for instance ‘grit’.
          2c) AFAICT this is really no different from the conservative preference for christians, successful businesspeople, gun owners/hunters, married hetereosexuals, and people with a rural background. Except in that the left prefers (among other things, such as a working class background) persons from historically marginalized groups, which opens them up to the charge of racism/sexism.
          2d) Specifically the Democratic Party in the USA may be following the simple incentive that providing opportunites for the groups that vote for you is a reasonable strategy to ensure they keep voting for you.

          Considering your second point: “It … amazes me that people think this affirmative action is so important that it is more important than getting the best people to run important institutions” I suggest you’re bumping up against an unstated premise or rather using one yourself. Namely that at whatever point in the selection process you happen to be at, (a) there’s a meaningful difference in quality of applicants that’s (b) likely to have a noticeable effect on outcomes. This frankly is not my experience in life generally and most especially not with political candidates. At any stage, I experience the field of candidates as containing some obviously unqualified/unsuitable people and a field of candidates who could all do the job and I won’t kid myself into thinking any of them is vastly superior*, except maybe superior in appealing to my biases. Plus, even the ‘best’ will be working in an environment which I can only mentally model on a basic level and will be faced with future challenges and opportunities I can barely anticipate.
          So, at that point, the notion that my subjective estimate of ‘best’ overrules the aspect of equal representation seems sketchy to me, at best. At worst, it’s an attempt to wrap a potentially unconscious bias for white males in the guise of ‘objective’ assessment.

          * If there really is, he/she is likely to move on to bigger and better things soon, so support in the present depends on the expected time to departure and benefits during that time over someone who I expect to stick around.

          • Aapje says:

            The assumption that someone who is equally ‘best’ but from a disadvantaged background is actually either better because they got to the same point from a worse starting point and/or has other, unobservable good traits, for instance ‘grit’.

            This assumption is racist, because it assumes that a ‘disadvantaged background’ equates to race, gender or other one-dimensional trait.

            A white Appalachian man from a trailer park is is probably more disadvantaged than many blacks.

            AFAICT this is really no different from the conservative preference for Christians, successful business people, gun owners/hunters, married heterosexuals, and people with a rural background. Except in that the left prefers (among other things, such as a working class background) persons from historically marginalized groups, which opens them up to the charge of racism/sexism.

            Most of those examples are choices and/or are linked to ability, not traits like skin color that in themselves don’t make one more or differently competent.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I’d like to expand on brmic’s points a bit:

            brmic’s point 2a) representation is good in itself–

            The argument here is that, especially in representative systems, it’s important that citizens be represented by politicians who share their interests, and more importantly, black people/women/gay people have enough shared political interest– that are not necessarily shared with the rest of the population!–that they will be best represented by politicians from similar backgrounds.

            For example, a black politician is, all else being equal, more likely to understand the challenges and issues facing black constituents. Perhaps more important than understanding the issues is prioritizing them. While it’s possible for a straight politician to understand gay issues, if they are not personally affected they may be more willing to de-prioritize them and trade concessions on gay rights for support elsewhere.

            For both these reasons, one can think it is an active good to have politicians who represent groups that have a history of being disadvantaged politically, or that have not been well-served by the political process.

            Since, as an example, black people and women were denied the vote, and have been subject to onerous laws that white and male politicians were willing to change only reluctantly, making sure there are black and female politicians is important as a safeguard against other similar injustices.

            I like brmic’s analogy to small-business owners. A conservative might think it’s important to have politicians who have actually been in business, since they are more likely to understand instinctively the possibility that high taxes and regulation can be onerous and harmful, and are more likely to prioritize those interests. One might also argue that they have an expertise born of experience in business-related issues that other politicians can’t get (or can’t get easily) just by studying; a business owner is more likely to reliably support the interests of business as a politician.
            The same idea holds for representation: a gay politician has an expertise born of experience in issues affecting the gay community, and is more likely to reliably support the interests of that community. This is especially important if non-gay politicians have a history of being unreliable in supporting these interests.

            It may help to move away from American examples to find better analogies. I suspect that most Americans, including conservatives, would view very positively the development of a significant number of Christians being elected to Pakistan’s National Assembly, or being made government ministers. This is because Christians are discriminated against heavily in Pakistan, can be executed for blasphemy, and are currently not allowed to serve in high offices. The only major Christian politician I can find in Pakistan after a quick Google search is a mayor of Karachi who died in the 1920s. So, even if any particular Christian Assemblyman is a bit of a dud politically, it can still be an important and positive step for the Christian population of Pakistan to take some control over their political destiny, especially since non-Christian politicians don’t have a great track record at standing up for their Christian constituents.

            The points above are all about politicians, but the argument can be adapted to corporate boards of directors and other scenarios, although not everyone will find each version of the argument equally convincing.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Eugene –

            Would you be comfortable if everybody followed this line of reasoning? If white people has gone “Obama is a fine candidate, but he is not going to represent white people as well as a white person would have”? Minorities depend on majority support; this argument suggests majorities shouldn’t support minorities in pursuit of their own rational self-interest.

            More, it has broader societal implications about the validity of segregation, as it implies self-interest is best served through homogeneity.

            This isn’t a norm I want normalized.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Pakistan has some prominent Christian politicians, the problem is they tend to get shot by their own bodyguards.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @Thegnskald
            I have a few answers to this:

            1) This depends on the extent to which white people have common interests as white people. I, and I think most people, don’t find it particularly awful that “ethnic white” or white immigrant communities vote for people like them. I am not aware of much opposition to Polish communities supporting Polish politicians, Jewish communities electing Jewish politicians, etc.
            Even for non-hyphenated white Americans, I think shared culture or region are valid reasons to support a politician. I certainly have no problem if Appalachian voters prefer Appalachian politicians, and if Appalachia were solely represented by carpet-bagging politicians from outside the region, I’d think there’d be merit in supporting a politician from the region.
            The concern is with elevating a “white” identity over these sub-identities, and assuming that Irish, Italian, Polish, … communities have a set of shared interests, and that they do not share these interests with blacks.

            2) This is why I think marginalization is important. If “white” voters as a class had a history of being shut out of the political process, until recently (or even currently) there had been only a handful of white politicians on the national stage, and non-white politicians had done a poor job of representing the interests of white people, I think there would be a legitimate argument that there is a class of “white” voters who share common interests exclusively. But, I think the evidence is very thin that this is the case. All but one president of the United States so far has been a white man; all but ten senators have been white; white men have had the vote since 1856 while blacks did not gain it until 1965; and on and on.

            To an extent, a shared history of marginalization and disenfranchisement is what gives a bloc of voters a shared interest. Of course, shared culture, geography, and history matter too, which is how someone might regard “black voters” as a natural interest group despite their internal diversity in a way that “white voters” aren’t. Since all black people were, as a group and collectively, denied rights, they have a collective interest in fighting for their rights and fighting to maintain their rights. The same is not true of white voters.

            This is obviously context-dependent: I think there’s an argument that white voters in Zimbabwe do share political interests. There are also edge-cases and judgement calls to be made. But I think there is basically no serious argument that “white male Americans” have been historically disadvantaged and that their interests have been underrepresented in American politics.

            3) I think many white Americans do, in fact, vote based on their perceived racial interests, and have for a long time. Your phrasing seems to suggest that white Americans developed (or are developing) a racial political consciousness in response to a similar movement among black voters. I’d argue this is precisely backward: for most if not all of American history, the racial consciousness of white voters was one of the most important political forces, and black voters have had to develop their own as a response. In short, I think you are not giving due to consideration to the hypothesis that “vote for those racially like you” already was the norm.
            This is less true for male voters and straight voters, but I still think more true than the opposite.
            EDIT: to add as evidence the fact that in 1983, only 29% of voters would vote for a homosexual for president, and as recently as 1999 it was only 59% who said they would. Women do better, passing 50% in 1955, but it’s not until 1987 that the percentage of people who would vote for a woman reaches the lowest percentage recorded for those who would vote for a Baptist.

            4) Finally, the argument I give in the previous comment doesn’t imply that black, transgender lesbians can only be represented by black, transgender lesbians any more than the argument that we need some business owners in Congress to represent business interests means that if you own a business, you should consider no other criteria. All it means is that, in a world where there are no or very few business owners in Congress, you should be happy to see one elected to Congress, all else equal.
            I don’t think anyone thinks that black people should only ever vote for black candidates, or gay people for gay candidates. But, as mentioned above, there have been 10 black senators in all of US history. I believe there have been two openly gay senators (one of whom came out after his term was over). I don’t think it’s absurd to think that, this is too small a number to ensure that black or gay rights are reliably represented, and that on the margin, a few more black and gay politicians being elected is a step in the right direction.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Eugene –

            From my perspective, the dramatic decline in white-as-as-interest-group has been a really good thing. The fact that we’ve had any black politicians at all is probably dependent on this.

            Because a 20% minority, assuming as I believe you indicated that politicians at that level are basically interchangeable, is otherwise never going to be represented in that fashion; if everybody gives a 5% qualification nudge for having the same characteristics as themselves, the majority identities are going to win almost every voting contest, save the rare one where circumstances align such that randomly, there are either no majority identity candidates worth voting for, or where a candidate with sufficient minority identity groups can thus represent the largest voting block. So a gay man couldn’t get elected, but a lesbian black immigrant woman might.

            Which is a parody of the root justification; if the long-term consequences of black identity is to ensure black politicians can’t get elected, because white people defect in the same sense, that isn’t a success for black people.

          • Enkidum says:

            @Eugene super +1 on your most recent post. It’s rare to see this articulated this carefully and explicitly.

            @Thgnskald
            Your reductio doesn’t really work for the simple reason that there clearly are racial (and other) voting preferences that get people elected (or are at least a very important part of what gets people elected). Unequal geographical distributions of different groups is one of the obvious reasons why this can happen, there are others.

            In a perfectly rational spherical cow world (aka a “post racial society”) of course it would be wonderful if different interest groups did not need to preferentially vote in their own members in order to ensure a certain degree of genuine representation of their interests. But we don’t live in such a world, and until we do there’s going to be a fundamental asymmetry in which those from disadvantaged groups have a practically- and morally-justified reason to preferentially support candidates from their own group, while those from the dominant groups do not.

            This asymmetry is closely parallel to the reasons why “cracker” and the like are not equivalent to “n*****”.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Enkidum –

            I am not arguing that there aren’t racial preferences, I am arguing they have declined, which has enabled more proportional representation.

            If we acknowledge the reason black politicians have had trouble getting elected is that white people prefer/preferred to vote for white people, the argument that increased identitarianism will result in more proportional representation falls apart – that is what we had before, when no black politicians could get elected to a national level, and it clearly didn’t work that way.

            We could restructure voting laws so that districts are created along more explicitly racial lines, so black people can vote in black candidates – but at this point we are just back to segregation as a solution.

            This isn’t a solution, it is a regression to the problem we have been moving away from, with no explanation on why things will go differently this time.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            if everybody gives a 5% qualification nudge for having the same characteristics as themselves, the majority identities are going to win almost every voting contest, save the rare one where circumstances align such that randomly, there are either no majority identity candidates worth voting for, or where a candidate with sufficient minority identity groups can thus represent the largest voting block.

            Surely this depends on the voting system? In black majority districts, we should expect black politicians to be elected? This was indeed an aim of the Voting Rights Act, to make sure that white politicians wouldn’t gerrymander their way into never having a black politician elected.

            Anyway, the original question was asking why social justice people celebrate when a black candidate wins, all else equal. The answer is that, because it represents a tiny improvement over the status quo in terms of minority representation. I agree a world in which everyone votes strictly in terms of identity self-interest is bad: that’s why social justice white people think it’s good to vote for a black candidate every now and then!

            It also, of course, isn’t an excuse to only run lacklustre candidates who have the right identity. All of what I said above holds only as long as everything else is held equal. I definitely think you should prefer (your preferred good white male candidate to avoid running up against political differences) over Marion Berry; but if your choices are Marion Berry and Rob Ford, or (very god white candidate) and (very good black candidate), it’s not illegitimate to consider the criterion “will this improve representation for a historically under-represented group?” when making your decision.

            I think our difference is: you are concerned that establishing the norm “if you feel like you’re oppressed, feel free to lean a little heavier on perceived racial/identity similarity when voting”, even if well-meaning for black people, will simply result in a white backlash. To some extent I share this concern, and I would definitely count myself as someone who finds a lot of current social justice rhetoric overheated, alienating, and counter-productive even when I agree with it (and I don’t agree with all of it). But I also think that identity is too ingrained to ever disappear as an electoral force, and to some extent it will be necessary to support candidates from excluded and marginalized identities in order to obtain fairer representation for those communities, and a greater chance of their interests being looked after.

            It’s not the only, or primary concern, but it’s a concern, I think it’s valid for people to hold it, and I agree that arguments for it shouldn’t alienate people from other identities; but that’s true of all politics. Elsewhere we’re discussing the comparison of social justice folks to the religious right: the religious right certainly provoked a backlash, but I think that had more to do with their style than their aims, and I think even those like me who disagree with their aims would concede that it’s valid for religious voters to consider religious criteria when voting. They just shouldn’t be obnoxious about it. But “don’t be obnoxious about your politics” is a good idea in general, and one that is surprisingly often ignored.

          • Enkidum says:

            The way I see it…

            Some racial voting preferences (specifically, those of white people) have declined. Others have not, or at least not by nearly as much. White preferences declining was probably a necessary condition of getting more black candidates elected, and is A GOOD THING. But because of fundamental asymmetries which Eugene has done a very good job of articulating, we should not expect/want the same to be true of non-white preferences.

          • representation being a good thing in itself as it adds viewpoints/experiences and provides role models for the future

            If that were the grounds for affirmative action, the pressure to hire people with different political, philosophical, and religious viewpoints from those currently dominant in the organization would be stronger than the pressure to hire people of a different race or sex.

            At least in the academic world, which is what I have most direct experience with, the pattern is the opposite. In a department with zero Republicans, the fact that an applicant is a Republican isn’t likely to be treated as a plus. In a university where there is no faculty member willing to argue in favor of South African Apartheid, the fact that an applicant was willing to do so would be treated as a strong minus.

            2b) The assumption that someone who is equally ‘best’ but from a disadvantaged background is actually either better because they got to the same point from a worse starting point and/or has other, unobservable good traits, for instance ‘grit’.

            If that were the case, outcomes such as bar passage or graduation rates for students admitted due to affirmative action would be as good as for other students. They aren’t.

            And if that was the motive, people observing outcomes would abandon their support for affirmative action. They don’t.

          • Randy M says:

            But because of fundamental asymmetries which Eugene has done a very good job of articulating, we should not expect/want the same to be true of non-white preferences.

            Even as the demographics change?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            This depends on the extent to which white people have common interests as white people.

            By setting out “white people” as the one group which doesn’t have “shared history of marginalization and disenfranchisement” and therefore isn’t supposed to have shared interests, you have given them common interests.

            Once you say “OK black people, you’re allowed to have your interests” (which presumably conflict in some way with non-black interests, or they wouldn’t be specifically black interests), “Hispanic people can have theirs, and LGBT, and everyone else except non-marginalized people” you’ve now created a white-person-shaped hole begging for a constituency. There’s only so long you can play identity politics only for favored groups.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Why do you think white people are the only such group? I doubt many people think that tall people, or brunettes, or people whose name begins with ‘S’ share common political interests. More to the point, I think there is room for white political to have common political interests at a lower level than ‘white’–I’ve said that I think that Polish, or Italian, or Catholic people can have common political interests, as well as people grouped geographically, linguistically, or culturally. I guess my question is: what are the common interests that all white people (or white Americans) share, in distinction to other groups?

            As an example, black Americans share (or, if you prefer, shared until recently–recently enough that the political effects haven’t worn off) the interest of not being collectively disenfranchised based on their collective identity as black people.

            Hispanics, like Italians, Eastern European Jews, etc. share interests arising from their status as recent, culturally and linguistically distinct immigrants into America.

            To answer the question for white people, I’d want to know: what culturally, religiously, linguistically, or historically, separates white people out from non-white people, in the way a shared immigrant experience carves out various immigrant groups, or the experience of slavery and Jim Crow carves out the black experience in America?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I wanted to edit, but can’t seem to, so I’ll add as a separate comment: even if you want to grant that white Americans have their own distinct interests, it still is moot for the purposes of this discussion, as they are clearly well-represented politically, and so there is no need for anyone to think that it’s necessary for proper representation to elect more white people.

          • The Nybbler says:

            To answer the question for white people, I’d want to know: what culturally, religiously, linguistically, or historically, separates white people out from non-white people, in the way a shared immigrant experience carves out various immigrant groups, or the experience of slavery and Jim Crow carves out the black experience in America?

            The acceptance of discrimination against them for the purposes of “diversity”.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            That’s a fair answer, although I have heard that for example Asian Americans are also affected, and so I’m not sure if this necessarily isolates white people as the affected group. But accepting it in the spirit in which it’s offered, I would suggest a social justice response as follows:

            1) That discrimination is an attempt to rectify a prolonged period of even more serious discrimination against others, and so while there may be a shared interest, it’s not one that we should find politically very compelling; a social justice activist would regard it similarly to how a libertarian would regard the shared interest among the poor of redistributing everyone’s money to them: it’s unjust and so not a legitimate political interest.

            2) Again, seeing that white people are quite well-represented politically, even for white people who think this is a legitimate interest, there’s little reason to prioritize voting for white politicians on the margin.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That discrimination is an attempt to rectify a prolonged period of even more serious discrimination against others, and so while there may be a shared interest, it’s not one that we should find politically very compelling

            This is just special pleading. We stopped talking about justice and started talking about group interests a whole bunch of posts ago. Switching back to justice when you don’t like the interests of the group doesn’t work.

          • albatross11 says:

            A specific answer here applies to affirmative action.

            Right now, whites are massively outcompeted at the high end by Asians. We, in turn, massively outcompete blacks and hispanics.

            Right now, affirmative action programs in education seem to harm whites relative to blacks and hispanics, but benefit us relative to Asians.

            This makes whites an interest group with a shared interest–I’d like my kids to get into better colleges and get better scholarships, and so would a lot of other whites. So on this issue, we can probably make some kind of common cause–the optimal policy for whites being that we keep the de facto discrimination against Asians but eliminate the de facto discrimination in favor of blacks and hispanics.

            Now, I prefer truly race-blind admissions to college–I think it’s morally and practically the better policy. But I don’t think there’s anything inherently *more* evil about whites trying to organize around college admissions policies that benefit them, than about blacks, hispanics, or Asians.

            A claim that organizing to campaign for stuff that benefits your race over the common good is wrong seems pretty easy to defend, to me. A claim that it’s morally acceptable or good seems wrong, but at least logically coherent. But a claim that it’s evil when done by whites, but good when done by nonwhites, seems logically inconsistent.

          • quanta413 says:

            To answer the question for white people, I’d want to know: what culturally, religiously, linguistically, or historically, separates white people out from non-white people, in the way a shared immigrant experience carves out various immigrant groups, or the experience of slavery and Jim Crow carves out the black experience in America?

            This is applying a standard that could rapidly make any group questionable. No group is perfectly coherent. Why should an African-American who descended purely from African slaves and grew up in the South be grouped with someone with 1/8 African ancestry who grew up in a nice progressive upper class neighborhood and could easily pass for white, and be grouped with a recent Nigerian immigrant to Chicago. These three people likely have massive differences in culture, religion, language, and life experience. And the historical experience of a group is a metaphor that definitely doesn’t hold across individuals in a group.

            The idea of a “shared immigrant experience” is begging the question. Some East Asian immigrants emigrate to Silicon Valley, make six figures, and are part of a larger group that dominates their local polity. Others East Asian immigrants immigrate to the cheap parts of LA, run corner stores, and don’t dominate their local government.

            The boring answer is that racial groups are mostly coherent in the sense they are more genetically related to each other in some way than to outsiders. Overall genetically someone inside a group may be more closely related to an outsider (like our 1/8 African African-American) but there’s still some difference typically. This is definitely an example of the social classification making weird cuts compared to ancestry. But notice that there is still a limit. Rachel Dolezal doesn’t count as black.

            As intermarriage increases enough, a racial group ceases to be coherent and likely forms a new ethnoracial groups. Like Spanish + Natives Americans of Mexico + a few Africans = Mexicans. So culture can clearly form new population groups or obliterate old ones. This social change tends to be tied to intermarriage or the lack thereof though so that the genetics of populations also change due to populations merging or splitting which can be more of a cultural phenomena.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            This is just special pleading. We stopped talking about justice and started talking about group interests a whole bunch of posts ago. Switching back to justice when you don’t like the interests of the group doesn’t work.

            I agree I got side-tracked on the matter of interests in general, so I’ll clarify: the reason social justice-types care about some group interests and not others is because of justice concerns.

            The Mafia are a group who might well be able to come up with some common interests that they would like to be politically represented more. The mere fact of having interests isn’t enough to compel us to want more representation for a group, though, so we don’t need to worry that we’re committing an injustice by not electing mobsters to the Senate.

            To tell if it promotes justice to have more representation for a group it matters how well the group has been represented previously, how strongly the group has collective interests that won’t be addressed without representation, and what those interests are. These are related criteria: we expect that historically marginalized groups will have been unrepresented, have interests that are less likely to be be addressed without representation, and by demanding an end to unjust marginalization, have more compelling interests.

            But any of these criteria can be absent. The Mafia might satisfy marginalized, in a certain sense, and maybe under-represented (though maybe not, given the operation of certain urban machines), but doesn’t have very compelling collective interests.

            White people as a group are not historically marginalized, are well-represented, and the common interest offered above would not convince a social justice activist of its justice.

            Even if you accept the latter, the first two points might be enough to suggest that someone who wants to promote social justice can give “elect more white people” a miss as a priority.

            A claim that organizing to campaign for stuff that benefits your race over the common good is wrong seems pretty easy to defend, to me. A claim that it’s morally acceptable or good seems wrong, but at least logically coherent. But a claim that it’s evil when done by whites, but good when done by nonwhites, seems logically inconsistent.

            I think this really misunderstands the social justice position. The argument is that affirmative action benefits the common good because it replaces the previous system where whites reserved access to college/public spaces/voting to themselves. It’s not that it’s good for black people to get jobs they don’t deserve, but bad for white people to do the same–it’s that for two centuries black people were denied the opportunity to get the jobs they deserve, and affirmative action is a correction to this.

            You may disagree that this is the case, but this is the social justice position.

            I’d also just like to emphasize that this started as an answer to the question of why social justice activists, prefer, all else equal, diverse candidates, so wandering into affirmative action takes us a little bit away from that. You don’t have to support affirmative action in all circumstances to think that it can be good to give some weight to the diversity of a candidate when evaluating them, as a way to try and promote representation for previously unrepresented groups.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            No group is perfectly coherent. Why should an African-American who descended purely from African slaves and grew up in the South be grouped with someone with 1/8 African ancestry who grew up in a nice progressive upper class neighborhood and could easily pass for white, and be grouped with a recent Nigerian immigrant to Chicago. These three people likely have massive differences in culture, religion, and language. And the historical experience of a group is a metaphor that definitely doesn’t hold across individuals in a group.

            I think this is probably the best objection to the social justice position, along with the question of how to tell when justice and redress have been achieved. However, one can still maintain a (weaker) belief that social justice necessitates voting for candidates from marginalized backgrounds, just with more restrictive criteria for satisfying membership in such a group.

            Ultimately, I suspect that most people go with a “know it when you see it” criterion; it’s unsatisfying but I’m not sure there’s anything better available.

            EDIT: to add that of course, in the social justice view, we can tell who is marginalized etc. by who would be affected by ongoing attempts to continue that marginalization (which, of course, social justice activists usually believe is still ongoing). So for example, if you would be disenfranchised by a proposed change to election law or affected by a bathroom bill you count as marginalized.

            Of course, opponents of social justice will have reasons why this does not count as marginalization, and that’s fair enough, but everyone’s worldview is to some extent self-reinforcing. If you think voter ID laws are onerous and disproportionately affect black voters, then you’ll think anyone affected by those laws is marginalized, and hence there should be more effort to get representation. If you disagree, none of that follows. Obviously, to some extent if you reject the premises of social justice, you’ll reject social justice.

            I just want to emphasize the logic, and gesture in the direction of why people find the premises convincing.

          • mdet says:

            1) I agree with most of what Eugene has said, and Iain’s explanation below, although as policy I prefer class based affirmative action. I’d add that at a more emotional level, if you regularly hear about (or worse, live in) stories about “Black people still disproportionately impoverished, less healthy, less educated, and more likely to commit / be a victim of crime.”, then you can’t help but cheer when you hear a story “Black person has opportunity to become very successful, respected, and influential”, even if their competitor is equally talented, even if this specific black person didn’t personally start from the bottom. I know black people who dislike race-based affirmative action but would still say “We need more black people in office, in administrations, in boardrooms”. Is saying “That person is a good candidate, but I would rather see a successful [marginalized person]” still tokenism if you remove actual affirmative action biases?

            “If [representing minority viewpoints] were the grounds for affirmative action, the pressure to hire people with different political, philosophical, and religious viewpoints from those currently dominant in the organization would be stronger than the pressure to hire people of a different race or sex.”

            I agree that intellectual & ideological diversity is more important than race or gender diversity, with the caveat that it’s much more acceptable to declare an idea to be dumb or beyond the pale than a demographic. I don’t think being a Republican is beyond the pale, I do think favoring South African Apartheid is beyond the pale. I support correcting for academia’s bias against Republicans with a mild, informal minority-viewpoint bias.

          • albatross11 says:

            mdet:

            It sure seems like there’s a big difference between:

            a. Thinking that the election of Barack Obama as president was a heartening sign w.r.t. US race relations.

            b. Choosing which candidate to vote for primarily or largely on racial lines.

            In the case of (a), you’re thinking this is good news because it suggests that a lot of previously-very-strong barriers to black success have been lowered. (In the sense that there’s probably no way a black president could have been elected in, say, 1970.)

            In the case of (b), you can imagine thinking there’s some reason why electing a black president would be an especially good idea, but you can equally imagine thinking there’s some reason why electing a white president would be an especially good idea. (Though “because we’ve never had a white president before” wouldn’t be one of the reasons you’d come up with for voting for the white guy.)

          • quanta413 says:

            I think this is probably the best objection to the social justice position, along with the question of how to tell when justice and redress have been achieved. However, one can still maintain a (weaker) belief that social justice necessitates voting for candidates from marginalized backgrounds, just with more restrictive criteria for satisfying membership in such a group.

            I’m not sure what I said is an objection to “core” premises so to speak rather than an objection to peripheral premises that are mostly held for convenience sake. It’s pretty irrelevant politically since most people aren’t deeply concerned about consistency of categorization. Like you said a lot of it is “I know it when I see it”. But less charitably at the margins between groups there’s “how should I identify to benefit myself”.

            To extend the objection, it would probably be that giving in to tendencies to socially categorize this way (even if it has an obvious connection to ancestry or history etc.) is a mistake because it inevitably divides people into very solid conflicting interest groups. It’s less fluid and people feel a lot more strongly than an interest group of fishermen or hunters or what have you. I’d prefer strong norms towards not only blinding people to less relevant traits but getting them to blind themselves when possible out of habit. This is tricky though because complete blinding is often impossible and partial blinding is tricky. A complementary strategy is take make decision processes more explicit and interpretable by people outside of the decision making body so that it’s harder to hide biases and easier for people to challenge problems where they are by making it easier to understand the process.

            Some reasons for ethnic or racial interest groups are good though. I don’t think total elimination of this sort of thing is possible; I think you could only really say that has been achieved when two groups are no longer really distinct due to heavy intermarriage. But then new groups form anyways etc. I just have a preference for less of it or a different form of it. India style tribal politics is sort of a nightmare scenario from my point of view. I don’t have any reference for any place that has no ethnic or racial politicking.

          • mdet says:

            It sure seems like there’s a big difference between:

            a. Thinking that the election of Barack Obama as president was a heartening sign w.r.t. US race relations.

            b. Choosing which candidate to vote for primarily or largely on racial lines.

            I’m thinking specifically of a black conservative friend of mine, whose position is along the lines of “Having a black person in office is good not just as a symbolic milestone, but because they will hopefully bring different perspectives and priorities to the job [Would a white Democrat have responded to Black Lives Matter the same way Obama did?]” but also “Affirmative action is bad because it promotes underqualified black people [as in your example of your black coworker who was put in a position she wasn’t ready for out of tokenism]”.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            To extend the objection, it would probably be that giving in to tendencies to socially categorize this way (even if it has an obvious connection to ancestry or history etc.) is a mistake because it inevitably divides people into very solid conflicting interest groups. It’s less fluid and people feel a lot more strongly than an interest group of fishermen or hunters or what have you. I’d prefer strong norms towards not only blinding people to less relevant traits but getting them to blind themselves when possible out of habit. This is tricky though because complete blinding is often impossible and partial blinding is tricky.

            I basically agree with everything in your comment. I much prefer politics that doesn’t rely on “oppression Olympics”-style competition to discover who has been the most marginalized and therefore the most deserving of redress now. I much prefer a politics that emphasizes its benefits for everyone and that, if it targets the marginalized from improvement, does so generally, targeted at all marginalized groups equally. The catch is your last quoted sentence:

            social justice advocates think that people are not, in actual fact blind to race and other identity, and so accurately identifying who has been/is marginalized requires some acknowledgement of the political salience of race/identity. We want to move past it, but think it is necessary to identify it correctly in order to redress it.

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            social justice advocates think that people are not, in actual fact blind to race and other identity

            This may be true for race, but for gender there is a decent amount of evidence that this model is wrong.

            For example, (partially) gender-blind hiring processes seem to have minimal impact on the gender imbalance of the people who are hired & in quite a few cases, it actually increased the gender imbalance (a little).

            Female politicians in the US also seem to have an equal chance to men at getting elected, the real difference seems that fewer women become candidates. There is also evidence that this is mainly or solely caused by women’s reluctance to run for office.

          • albatross11 says:

            Entertainingly, at least one reason I’ve seen bounced around for why more women don’t run for office is that, in our culture at least, having a powerful position makes a man more attractive to a lot of women, but that doesn’t seem to work the same way for a woman.

            I have no idea how important this is–probably not all *that* big a deal.

        • Iain says:

          I agree with what brmic has said above. In addition, I think there’s an even simpler explanation. From the viewpoint of the left, a truly meritocratic system is expected to select a variety of candidates, and diversity is seen as a sign that the system is working.

          Less than a third of the US population is white men. White men hold the majority of positions at all levels of government. (On the Republican side, 97% of elected politicians are white, and 76% are male.) Unless you have a strong prior that the “best people” are all white men, this is evidence that the selection process is somehow biased.

          When a corporation brags about having women and minorities on the board, it is saying: “look, our selection process is truly meritocratic, and you can tell because we have not just picked a bunch of white dudes”. People celebrate black candidates and female candidates because they see it as a sign that the barriers that were previously keeping those candidates out are being broken down.

          It’s not that the left doesn’t care about finding the best people; there’s just a disagreement about how to find them. (And, as people have argued above, what “best” means.)

          • Aapje says:

            this is evidence that the selection process is somehow biased.

            This depends on how broadly you define ‘selection process.’ Is it just the process of picking between candidates or does it extend to the way in which people become candidates?

            A reason for a disparity may be that some groups have less chance to achieve the level necessary. Then you will get disparate outcomes even if the process that selects the winner from the candidates has no bias at all. Furthermore, one would expect that introducing bias at that level to counter the lower chance would then result in the selection of poorer quality candidates.

            A reason for a disparity may be that capable people from different groups make different choices that are more or less equally challenging and important, but different. If capable women choose to be a pediatrician more often than men, but choose to be a politician less often, then making more capable men be a pediatrician and more capable women be a politician can have no effect on the quality of either profession, or can shift the quality of workers in both directions.

            A reason for a disparity may be that capable people from different groups have different desires to use that capability to the maximum extent. Is there an obligation that a person with certain capabilities uses that to the maximum extent? Does society have a right to the best politicians that (can) exist? What if an optimal politician has to work 60 hours a week? Is a group that is less willing to work 60 hours a week the victim of discriminatory enculturation? Or is the group that is more willing to work 60 hours guilty of having internalized toxic meritocracy?

            I could go on.

            When a corporation brags about having women and minorities on the board, it is saying: “look, our selection process is truly meritocratic, and you can tell because we have not just picked a bunch of white dudes”. People celebrate black candidates and female candidates because they see it as a sign that the barriers that were previously keeping those candidates out are being broken down.

            These conclusions are only valid if certain axioms are true. The evidence suggests that they aren’t.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            When a corporation brags about having women and minorities on the board, it is saying: “look, our selection process is truly meritocratic, and you can tell because we have not just picked a bunch of white dudes”. People celebrate black candidates and female candidates because they see it as a sign that the barriers that were previously keeping those candidates out are being broken down.

            Yes this is exactly what I hear people constantly say in my very Blue city. But I presume most people in SSC are smart enough to see how illogical that comment is. When you are picking people to run a large corporation, the best choices to do this should be people with skills in business areas such as law, finance, marketing, etc. What proportions of White people to Blacks or men to women have the highest skills in these areas? I would be very surprised if anyone says that the ratio of White men having these skills to Blacks or women is anywhere near to the same ratio as in society in general. Whether this has occurred because of racism or sexism or self selection is irrelevant to the company looking for a talented Board of Directors. Therefore, those companies that have a ratio of minorities and women on their Boards are almost surely purposefully picking members for affirmative action reasons instead of competence. To me the implication is that Boards don’t really matter — they are merely symbolic. And this is part of the reason that Boards are so weak so they can’t control management — they are picked for reasons other than competence. And the same rationale could be made for picking politicians based on skin color genetalia. I disagree with whoever said it above that candidates are pretty much equal, so we might as well pick based on such trivialities. Maybe that explains bad government in the US a bit.

            Also, I read a few comments about how picking Blacks or women because they understand better the people with the same skin color or genitals. That sounds so backward to me. Something that would have been popular in the 19th Century. I grew up in a very Blue environment where I was taught that we shouldn’t judge folks based on trivial characteristics such a skin color or gender. I guess I’ve taken it to heart. It makes sense. And then I hear “well, except for these people, they should be picked BECAUSE of their skin color or gender.” This is exactly the wrong way to end racism and sexism.

          • albatross11 says:

            There is a common failure mode of these efforts, where someone in a protected category (say, a black woman) is promoted way faster than she’s prepared for so the organization can get credit for the diversity of their top-tier people.

            I know a woman this happened to, an old coworker of mine. She is a very smart, competent person, who was promoted into a moderately high-visibility management job as a token, probably about a decade before she would have been ready for the job. She was then given zero management responsibilities–sensibly, since she didn’t have the decade of experience needed to do the job. She eventually left to do some kind of other work. (I hope something that used her excellent mind to solve problems, rather than just her skin color to make numbers come out right.) IMO, the management at my organization kind-of screwed her over–if they wanted her in a management position, they should have put her in the management track and brought her along at the normal pace, so she could end up in that high-visibility management position when she was ready to do the job.

            This is how Goodhart’s law interacts with affirmative action, and IMO it’s pretty destructive.

          • albatross11 says:

            If you accept the premise that blacks and whites (men and women) have more-or-less the same abilities, inclinations, interests, etc., then it totally makes sense that you would interpret biases on outcomes (more whites than blacks graduating college, more men than women in STEM) as strong evidence of some kind of discrimination somewhere in the system. And you see this in the wording used by people thinking this way–there must be some roadblock keeping women from STEM careers, so let’s find it and eliminate it.

            When you question that premise, that still doesn’t tell you that the differences in outcomes are *not* due to discrimination. It’s quite possible that you have both lots of overt discrimination and differences in abilities. But it now becomes an actual question–is this difference in outcomes due primarily to some kind of structural barriers/discrimination/etc., or is it primarily due to differences in abilities or interests?

            I’d be a lot more comfortable with what I understand as the SJW-affiliated line of argument here, except that it seems to go along with being okay with overtly shutting down anyone questioning those premises. Lots and lots of people cheered the firing of Damore for raising those questions[1], and the outrage at Larry Summers for raising them at an academic conference about women in the sciences. And lots seem pretty comfortable with Charles Murray being excluded from the public square over raising the questions w.r.t. racial differences in intelligence. Rioting to stop Murray from speaking is a minority of people with SJW-affiliated beliefs; supporting no-platforming him seems to me to be supported by a majority, though I don’t have hard data on that.

            [1] Of course, he didn’t raise them perfectly or in a perfectly diplomatic neutral tone. But nobody holds the other side of that discussion to those standards, so this is a pretty classic isolated demand for rigor.

          • mdet says:

            I read a few comments about how picking Blacks or women because they understand better the people with the same skin color or genitals. That sounds so backward to me. Something that would have been popular in the 19th Century. I grew up in a very Blue environment where I was taught that we shouldn’t judge folks based on trivial characteristics such a skin color or gender. I guess I’ve taken it to heart.

            Not everyone believes that you literally should never consider race or gender. Dr. King is famous for saying “not for the color of their skin, but for the content of their character”. On the other hand, when he wrote about the Black Power movement in his book Where Do We Go From Here, he said that he disagreed with the explicit or implicit idea that any demographic could succeed on their own because at the end of the day we’re all interdependent, but supported the idea that black people need pride in themselves, their history, and their culture in order to counter the loss of dignity suffered during slavery and Jim Crow, and that “Black Power, in its broad and positive meaning, is a call to black people to amass the political and economic strength to achieve their legitimate goals. No one can deny that the Negro is in dire need of this kind of legitimate power”. So even Dr. King wasn’t 100% colorblind. [Disclaimer: I haven’t read the entire book, but I have read this excerpted chapter]

            I don’t think it’s racist to say that different groups of people grow up in different environments and have different histories and cultures that shape them and their life experience. The rapper Killer Mike recently did an interview with a black NRA member [spokesperson? vlogger?] where Mike talked about how the experiences of his black friends and family in particular, and black history in general, are what led him to be a passionate gun rights supporter. Now of course there are white gun rights supporters too, but Mike’s reasoning and motivations drew on a particular history, culture, and life experience, that overlapped with but wasn’t entirely the same as the things white gun rights supporters talk about (in my experience).

            So yeah, that’s my defense of “seeing race”.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            Therefore, those companies that have a ratio of minorities and women on their Boards are almost surely purposefully picking members for affirmative action reasons instead of competence.

            It depends what the ratio is. Your argument is that, whether due to discrimination or otherwise, we should expect black women to be a smaller share of the population of “competent board members” than white men than would be suggested by looking at their prevalence as a share of the population as a whole. If black women are 20% of the population and 1% of the “competent board member” population, any ratio of <1% black female board members would not count as evidence that competence was compromised in their attaining their position.

            But if previously the percentage of black female board members was 0%, and is now .7%, it is completely reasonable for a social justice advocate to
            a) celebrate the rise in black woman board members as a sign that discrimination and other barriers are being overcome
            b) in the short- to medium-term try to promote a few more black female board members on the margin
            c) ask that in the long run, the share should approach 20% (although maybe not for a while).

            I think the biggest issue dividing social justice and non-social justice folks is whether black women aren't on boards in proportion to their share of the population is due to discrimination, but even putting that aside, it's possible to believe that black women are under-represented even relative to their share of the "competent" population, and were even more underrepresented in the past, and so increases in the share of black women in such positions is worth celebrating as a sign of the downfall of unjust discrimination.

            Also, I read a few comments about how picking Blacks or women because they understand better the people with the same skin color or genitals.

            This is a serious mischaracterization of the social justice position; akin to saying it’s absurd that French people understand each other better because they happen to live inside the same set of arbitrary lines drawn on a map of Europe, or people who live in the arctic understand the experience of living in the cold better simply because all of their addresses have a latitude coordinate of greater than 66 degrees north.
            The answer is that latitude, or living in the borders of France, are proxies for in the first example a shared set of living conditions including long winters, extreme cold, etc., and in the second example for sharing a culture, language, history, and to some extent a set of shared experiences.

            The argument is not that sharing a skin colour means that people understand each other better, it’s that skin colour, especially dark skin colour in the United States, is a proxy for membership in a group that has a shared culture, history, and experience.
            It is of course not a perfect proxy, and one might wish that the connection between shared experience and culture on the one hand and skin colour on the other might go away. But similarly, France contains multitudes, and one might wish that national identity should one day disappear–and yet still agree that the category “French people” makes sense for now, and that on issues that affect Europe, “ask a French person” is a reasonable way to get a sense of how “French people” might experience those issues.

            To return to my example before: imagine a Pakistani Muslim saying: “so Christians should vote for Christians because they somehow have some mystical understanding? Just because they both wear cross necklaces and pray in Latin instead of Arabic? Maybe Christians think that religious identity is important enough to vote on, but I don’t”.

            Would you think this is a fair characterization of the position that Pakistani Christians have common interests by virtue of sharing a religion, and a social and political position in Pakistan?

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            The argument is not that sharing a skin colour means that people understand each other better, it’s that skin colour, especially dark skin colour in the United States, is a proxy for membership in a group that has a shared culture, history, and experience.

            It is of course not a perfect proxy

            An issue with this is that the proxy is used in an attempt to correct for the lesser chances that some groups have or are assumed to have, to achieve merit.

            However, the outliers who are least negatively affected, probably because they life experiences are atypical, benefit the most from this, so you mainly help atypical people, undermining the entire goal of helping people who are representative for their group.

            For example, let’s assume that some people voted for Obama to give a bigger political voice to a person with the “shared culture, history, and experience” of black Americans.

            Obama is not descended from slaves, this is atypical for American blacks. He was raised in Hawaii & Indonesia, which are atypical places to grow up for American blacks. He is half-white, with a white mother, which is an atypical for American blacks. His parents divorced when he was young and his mother remarried with an Indonesian man, so Obama was raised by white and Indonesian (surrogate) parents. This is extremely atypical for American blacks, who are typically raised by African-American parents or less often by African parents, but rarely by white parents and even more rarely by an Indonesian parent.

            It seems hard to find an American-born person with black skin who has less shared culture, history, and experience with African-Americans than Obama.

            So if Obama speaks for black Americans, is his ability to do so not primarily dependent on his ability to empathize with those very different from him? If so, would a high-empathy white person with exposure to black culture necessarily do worse?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            It seems hard to find an American-born person with black skin who has less shared culture, history, and experience with African-Americans than Obama.

            Of course, although he still would, in a counterfactual world where Jim Crow-type discrimination returns, still be affected by it; his wife and children are more typically connected to the American black experience, but he clearly shares common interests with them. He also, based on his looks, might have suffered racial prejudice or discrimination, and probably at least was more attentive to the possibility of such based on his looks, all of which would count as “sharing the black experience”.

            But yeah, that’s all true, and worth keeping in mind when thinking about representation. The idea that a white politician might resonate strongly with the black community isn’t exactly alien; representation is funny like that. Here’s a JPost article calling Obama the first Jewish president. I still think it will be legitimate for Jews and Jewish groups, as well as social justice-aligned people to think it’s a big deal and (all else equal) a good thing when the first actual Jewish president is elected.

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            Sure, but…

            John McCain has a fairly dark-skinned daughter (although from Bangladesh, so not of African and/or slave descent, but perhaps she is treated like she is in the US?).

            Bill de Blasio has a black wife.

            So if you accept that Obama can learn from people close to him, then why not white geezers like McCain and De Blasio? And why would such learning be limited to spouses and children? Many people have very close friendships.

            I still think it will be legitimate for Jews and Jewish groups, as well as social justice-aligned people to think it’s a big deal and (all else equal) a good thing when the first actual Jewish president is elected.

            I suggest William Cohen, he is Jewish and has a black wife, so 2 for the price of 1 😛

            It would also be highly symbolic, since they were present when a racist and antisemite person attacked the U.S. Holocaust Museum.

          • albatross11 says:

            To use another example, it appears that a fair number of middle/working class whites from flyover states chose Donald Trump as the guy to represent their interests. Trump’s life experiences are at least as far from those of the average working-class/middle-class white guy as Obama’s are from those of the average working-class/middle-class black guy.

          • Iain says:

            Some responses:

            Q: “What if it’s a pipeline problem, not a problem with the process of picking between candidates?”
            A: Many of these issues are presumably pipeline problems. But the emergence of seemingly qualified minority candidates is itself evidence that progress is being made on pipeline issues. If primary voting is not sexist, but we’re seeing more women win primaries because more women are running, that’s still worth celebrating.

            Q: “What if there are other factors, and the selection process isn’t actually biased?”
            A: Hypothetically, there could be other evidence that explains the results we see without resorting to bias. Nevertheless, such a large gap is at least prima facie evidence of bias. (Note that I deliberately avoided the word “proof”.) You might personally interpret the sum of the evidence to indicate that there’s no real bias — but recognize that well-informed people can disagree in good faith.

            Q: “What about Goodhart’s law? What if we overshoot and start selecting underqualified candidates?”
            A: Goodhart’s law is a problem whenever we measure anything of value. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong to value that thing. In the long run, companies and political parties who simply promote underqualified tokens will lose to those that make a legitimate investment in finding and nurturing talent. Furthermore, the comparison isn’t against some perfect hypothetical; it’s against the status quo ante, in which qualified minority candidates were being passed over. It may be unfair when somebody is promoted a decade before she’s ready, but it’s more unfair if two decades later she still hasn’t been promoted.

            Q: “But aren’t successful minority candidates mostly outliers?”
            A: Well, yeah. If you’re talking about positions where the public is paying attention, pretty much all successful candidates are outliers. Donald Trump, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and George W. Bush are hardly a representative sample of the American people. If the left is correct that minority groups face disadvantages, then it’s hardly surprising that the minorities who manage to excel are disproportionately people who manage to avoid some of those disadvantages. Nevertheless, it’s not unreasonable to predict a correlation between the ability of exceptional minorities to achieve exceptional success, and the ability of ordinary people to achieve ordinary success.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            I agree with what you say, if ‘evidence for’ is interpreted in pretty much the weakest possible way. The outcomes are evidence for the explanations you claim they are evidence for, but they are (generally equally strong) evidence for alternative explanations.

            Unfortunately, many people are content when evidence matches the explanation that fits their ideology and don’t actually notice that it also fits other ideologies and (thus) also don’t go looking for more evidence that actually shows which ideology is right.

        • @Eugene:

          What is your view of affirmative action as applied against Asians? If the underlying motive is making up for past mistreatment rather than producing equality of outcome, shouldn’t they count as a group that should be discriminated in favor of, not against? The Nisei have a more recent history of being badly mistreated than blacks, and Chinese immigrants were being pretty badly treated at least through the 19th century.

          And wouldn’t the same apply to Jews–again if the objective is to make up for past mistreatment rather than to produce equality of outcome?

          • albatross11 says:

            I suppose the other part of affirmative action that doesn’t fit with the “repairing the damage of past discrimination” model is that a lot of the recipients of AA are first- or second-generation immigrants to the US. If your whole family moved here from Nigeria 10 years ago, then whatever else may be said about your family’s history, it’s pretty clear that US racial discrimination in education in the first 70 years or so of the last century probably doesn’t play a large part.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I didn’t mean to defend affirmative action in my post; I only meant to point out that Albatross11’s characterization of the rationale for affirmative action was missing an important point.

            If pressed for an answer though, I think I would say that social justice reasoning would say that some kind of redress for Asian-Americans and Jews is just, but that for various reasons, affirmative action might not be the best kind of redress for these groups.
            To connect to where this thread started, I certainly think it’s legitimate for someone interested in social justice to want to see, on the margin, Jews and Asians holding elected office, for example.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I suppose the other part of affirmative action that doesn’t fit with the “repairing the damage of past discrimination” model is that a lot of the recipients of AA are first- or second-generation immigrants to the US. If your whole family moved here from Nigeria 10 years ago, then whatever else may be said about your family’s history, it’s pretty clear that US racial discrimination in education in the first 70 years or so of the last century probably doesn’t play a large part.

            Repairing past damage is only part of it though: part of the social justice worldview is that, absent anti-discrimination law and so forth, racial discrimination would still persist (and in fact does still persist)–this would justify affirmative action for Nigerian immigrants because in the counter-factual world without affirmative action, they would be affected by discrimination.
            As an example, Homer Plessy, he of Plessy v. Ferguson was 7/8 white, and phenotypically white, and still subject to Jim Crow laws. Hence, though it may seem unfair for someone who can pass as white to identify as black, I think the fact that such a person would, in the counterfactual world where Jim Crow continued to exist, be discriminated against by Jim Crow it isn’t necessarily unfair for that person to benefit from anti-discrimination law.

            Of course, this doesn’t necessarily hold true for all groups of immigrants, etc., I don’t meant to argue that literally anyone who can plausibly claim to be black should get affirmative action–only that it’s not so unreasonable as you might think, at least if you accept certain premises that are widely shared by social justice advocates.

            Of course, whether those premises are true is very much at issue.

      • gbdub says:

        I see them as more of a harmless nuisance than an existential threat to civilization, and far less dangerous to democracy and freedom than their counterparts on the social/cultural right).

        The problem is, the left-identitarians delegitimize the very standards that protect them from right-identitarianism. You really, really, don’t want to wake up white, straight, Christian identitarianism – the biggest victory of the civil rights (and gay rights) movement was largely breaking that up as a key bloc for identity politics. And the left will eat their own, since they are themselves a coalition of many identities with often conflicting goals. It’s hard to see how it’s a winning strategy in the long term.

      • 10240 says:

        The problem with distinguishing social progressives and SJWs is that most people (claim to) support equal opportunity, and much of the disagreement is over the extent that goal is not already reached.

        Person A wants equal opportunity, and thinks it has already been mostly reached (or perhaps flipped over in some cases by affirmative action). He doesn’t loudly demand equal opportunity, as it’s unnecessary.
        Person B assumes that equal opportunity would result in equal outcome, so from the lack of equal outcome he infers that we’re very far from equal opportunity. (This kind of thinking is very common on the left, and perhaps parts of the right.) He loudly demands equal opportunity, and is not going to stop demanding it until outcomes are equal. (Another reason A doesn’t loudly demand equal opportunity is that most people will confuse him for B.)
        In A’s view, B is demanding equal outcome for all intents and purposes, and is likely to support measures (such as affirmative action and the disparate impact doctrine) that will, in A’s opinion, effectively lead to discrimination against men and white people. As such, in A’s view, there is little practical difference between B and left-identitarians, except that B has a lot of power, while the latter group perhaps doesn’t.

    • Aapje says:

      @Thegnskald

      I have frequently heard feminist terminology defended as being jargon, shorthand that becomes offensive when removed from the context in which it has a different meaning.

      I’ve looked at a bunch of original sources and typically, it is offensive from the very introduction of the term. Even if the definition is technically neutral, it is typical that the examples are biased, the evidence is cherry picked to make one gender out to be the perpetrator, bad experiences are defined as structural when experienced by one gender and defined as incidental if the other gender, etc. At most one can argue that these sources are less offensive than the mainstream material, but it is really not fundamentally different. It’s more a matter of degree.

      Ozy of the thingofthings blog has made an attempt to steelman feminism (across many blog posts), but she couldn’t do that by merely pointing to gender studies studies (sorry). Instead, she had to come up with her own arguments, which IMO is quite damning to gender studies as a discipline. An amateur blogger doing far better work than professors…

      • mdet says:

        Are any of those posts of hers still up?

        • Aapje says:

          Ozy made many of these posts on Tumbler and then reposted them on thingofthings during 2014-2015. Unfortunately, they were not properly tagged, so it’s hard to find them. Here are a few decent ones:

          On creepiness, where it is recognized that male sexuality is more easily seen as predatory and degrading and that the term also suffers from other ‘isms’ in how it is used. Furthermore, there is a recognition that female judgment is subjective and not automatically correct/just/etc.

          Here Ozy addresses the wage gap, where she fairly present the common progressive anti-feminist view next to a more defensible feminist view.

          About callout culture.

          Intent is magic.

          It’s all relatively philosophical and less grounded in data than some of Scott’s posts about the validity of Social Justice claims, but the writing actually addresses criticisms that come from anti/non-feminists.

          PS. Ozy: “I use gender-neutral pronouns”

    • helloo says:

      Just a little side note/peek at the past –
      The W in SJW stands for Warrior.
      It was originally worded like that as an ironic pejorative – the people it was trying to describe were very vocal but in no way action-oriented. Somewhat similar to what armchair-activism means now.

      The various negative associations such as bullying, doxing, and so forth came from when various members of the community that were described as SJW actually went and did those things.
      By the time they did, they already have fallen off the original definition of SJW as they were actively participating in prompting their philosophy albeit still relatively passively.

      I’m not sure if that really requires a new term to describe this evolution but it has long since moved past its original meaning.

      Another interesting tidbit – once a time Tumblrites referred not some SJW synonym/adjacent, but rather the various common stereotypes of sad lonely female teenagers on Tumblr that were using it as a diary similar to Myspace or such. There was once a small meme that tried to “ship” the stereotypical sad lonely males on 4chan with Tumblrites. The meme was short-lived but given the change, I think they might have taken away some lessons from Anonymous during their time together.

      • albatross11 says:

        I don’t know if anyone else has linked to this, but this article is what looks to me to be an SJW-ish person (Nathan Robinson) defending the broad SJW movement while pointing out and disagreeing with its excesses. I disagree with a couple of the object-level issues he raises here, but at least this article seems to be laying out beliefs and a way of thinking that’s worth engaging with. (And ISTR that he and Scott have interacted via article/blog post on a few occasions.)

        SSC people who lean SJW-ish (whatever that means): Is he a reasonable person to read to understand at least the sort of direction of your ideas? (The way a human b–diversity person might point to Steve Sailer or Greg Cochran, not as “this person speaks for me in all cases,” but rather as “this person is a reasonable representative of this set of views.”)

        • Iain says:

          Assuming that you intended to link to this article (which is linked in the first sentence of your actual link): yes, that is quite a good summary. In general, I think Nathan Robinson is worth reading.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      I refrain from using SJW because it’s both too aggressive and not aggressive enough.

      In a hostile environment, it’s a useless term because it’s too broad: everyone who’s left-of-center on social issues gets called a SJW, and no productive exchange can be had.

      In a friendly environment, it’s also useless, but because it’s too narrow: It focuses on the actions of really bad people while letting the ideas that motivated those actions off the hook, and terefore minimizes the problem by ascribing it to “just a few crazies”.

  25. Neutrino says:

    Start with a survey of music to see what you like, then branch out. One way I approach classical music is to use the Schirmer’s Library browsing method. Schirmer is a music publisher and you may recognize their buff and black covers for works by many composers. You may use software such as HookTube to find a Best of compilation, of which there are many for most composers, and for singer/songwriters and groups of all sorts.
    You may find some favorites, with music that touches you, challenges you or transports you in some way, then use that to explore similar works. That is a highly individual approach, but why not?

  26. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I don’t understand how Soylent is an actual food product IRL.
    Do SF fans like being as ironic as hipsters?

    • Wrong Species says:

      How do you define “food”?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Complex organic molecules necessary to sustain animal life, i.e. some combination of carbohydrates, protein and fats. Such as human meat.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I think I misunderstood your question. Are you asking why people consider Soylent to actually be food? Or are you asking about why anyone thought it was a good idea to make it?

          • ohwhatisthis? says:

            ITS PEOPLE! Soylent is made out of people!

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Or are you asking about why anyone thought it was a good idea to make it?

            This! Who thought it was a good idea to make a bland technocratic meal replacement and market it under the name of PEOPLE! from an SF film?

          • Nornagest says:

            Because if you give it a name that makes it sound like you’re committing cannibalism, it seems more interesting than the actual experience of drinking it?

            Not that that’s a high bar. It’s a lot like drinking cold Wheaties slush, and it’s about as uninteresting as it’s possible to be without actually dying of boredom.

          • Lillian says:

            Someone who understands that both ironic and referential humour have a long and enduring positive track record, and could not resist the opportunity to deploy both at once?

            Also i kind of feel like the Soylent Corporation could have avoided the brouhaha by just putting the plot twist in the brochures. Just wax poetic about how environmentally friendly and efficient it is to reprocess the bodies of the dead for the nourishment of the living instead of letting it all go to rot. It’s not cannibalism, it’s recycling!

            Sure people will meet with revulsion at first, but that’s fine, those who find it unsettling can simply continue consuming Soylent Red and Yellow. Over time people will get used to the idea and the better taste and nutrition of Green will slowly win people over. It’s not like it looks or tastes like human flesh, or really flesh of any kind. It’s easy to just think of it as reprocessed product. Before long only a minority would be refusing to eat it.

            The whole stupid conspiracy of lies covered up with murder was just completely unnecessary. Ultimately Soylent Green is a tale about the futility and stupidity of defrauding your costumers about your product instead of being up front and honest about it.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Imagine that every time you were hungry, you could press a button and then suddenly you would be full. Not only that, but it would give you all of the nutrients you need. That would be pretty handy, right? You would no longer have to worry about food. You would only eat food that you really wanted to eat, not something to keep you going through the day. Soylent isn’t about replacing your favorite restaurant. It’s about replacing microwave meals. That’s especially appealing for a single person who hates cooking.

    • Randy M says:

      I think it is enough that there are a contingent of irony lovers who are also fans of sci-fi.
      It also helps that it’s referencing a campy movie and not any actual incidence of cannibalism.

    • Well... says:

      Do you mean you don’t understand how a food product could be successfully marketed under that name? Or that you don’t understand how a bland powder-based nutrient mixture intended as a meal replacement could garner enough interest to become commercially viable?

      Both are, for me, the kinds of things I could understand if I wanted to, but I don’t want to.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      “I just love Soylent. I’m losing weight, it’s affordable, it’s easy, and it’s fast.

      I’m not somebody who hates food. I am somebody who loves it way too much. The best compliment I give to Soylent is that it is unoffensive. This meticulously well balanced human fuel is so delightfully bland in both flavor and texture that it triggers absolutely no desire to have a second bottle. It’s hands down the most successful meal replacement I’ve ever had.”

      Looks like a decent weight loss aid for the wealthy.

    • Eric Rall says:

      From what I gather, Soylent started out as a personal curiosity project by a random blogger, and he named it as a self-deprecating joke. When he turned it into a commercial venture later, he kept the name so he could leverage the attention he’d already gotten rather than starting over and establishing a new brand from scratch.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Ah, so the ironic joke was personal and by the time he could commercialize it he needed to keep the name.

        • toastengineer says:

          Even if it wasn’t an injoke I’d still call it that; the people going “hurr hurr it’s people” all over the place won’t actually convince anyone not to try it who wasn’t already never going to, and they’re giving you free advertising.

          Which do you think goes better with the journos, “some nerd is making some weird meal replacement powder on his blog, don’t meal replacements already exist, whatever” or “someone made a food alternative and they’re calling it Soylent, there’s a headline.”

    • toastengineer says:

      I went on a Soylent variant because I thought I could lose weight by taking 2/3rds dose of it (didn’t) and because, hey, $100 for six months worth of food!

      If you’re in a “I need to sacrifice literally everything to achieve [goal]” sort of mode, Soylent is a good and extremely cost-effective replacement for food.

      • drunkfish says:

        Are you missing a zero? When I looked into it I remember it not being all that cheap without making it oneself. Maybe things have changed though…

        • toastengineer says:

          Well, official Soylent in bulk is $120 for 70 “meals” today, and I was only eating two a day, so I was off by a factor of two, but that’s still pretty good.

          • About a factor of six, I think.

          • toastengineer says:

            Right, that’d be 35 days. Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense. I definitely remember a $100 package lasting a couple months at least, at two meals a day.

          • drunkfish says:

            I’m not sure “$100 for six months worth of food” and “$100 for a box of food that lasts six months” are the same. At 400 calories per bottle, surviving for 6 months on 70 bottles would not go well at all.

            Sorry if I’m being pedantic, I’ve just never understood the “It’s cheap” argument for soylent when $10-15/day doesn’t even outcompete some fast food.

  27. veeloxtrox says:

    Random question related to evolution:

    Context: Humans have 46 chromosome I have looked briefly into how we got that number it appears to be two less than our previous ancestor. The best explanation I have found is that two chromosomes fused in a way that was viable for life so there was a population where some had 48, some had 47, and some had 46. Finally the two populations split.

    Does there exist a current animal population that has an odd number of chromosomes in some members of the species? It seems to me that with the vary different number of chromosomes among different species there should be some that we know about that are in transition. Is that an unreasonable assumption?

    • baconbits9 says:

      Mules could be an example on the spectrum that you are looking for, as horses have 1 more chromosome than donkeys which is one of (the primary?) the reasons that their offspring (mules) are sterile. They are however close enough evolutionary to each other to create a sterile, but otherwise healthy offspring, making them a potential example of what it would look like if the group that humans split from was still in existence.

      However this circles back to the question of how could the new human population have still bred with the old pre human population if having an extra unpaired chromosome can make you sterile.

      • veeloxtrox says:

        While that is an example you acknowledge that a mule is sterile. I assume that if it is possible for there to be a viable population with a mixed number of chromosomes that it exists somewhere on the planet and if it exists that we would have found it. Those might both be unreasonable assumptions. It is a questions I have been wondering for a couple years now and thought this would be a good place to ask it.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          It’s unreasonable to expect we’d have found that viable population with a mixed number of chromosomes. We’re still finding new species, and population studies of all known species just aren’t feasible.

        • Andy Bethune says:

          Ah but mules (and hinneys, another donkey / horse cross) are not ALWAYS sterile, and female mules are more likely to be fertile than male ones. If you take the definition of a species to mean unable to interbreed, it seems that horses and donkeys are not quite separate species yet. So they are on your scale of a population with two different chromosome numbers in the process of splitting.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Eusocial insects such as bees, wasps and ants have different numbers of chromosomes within the species.
      There are also insects and other species with X0 sex determination (where males only have one sex chromosome). But that may not be what you are looking for.

      • veeloxtrox says:

        That is the start but I was hoping for something a little bit more advanced than insects.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      It’s easy to get away with an odd number of chromosomes if you reproduce asexually. This crayfish has 3 copies of each chromosome, although the number of types of chromosome is even. This dog has 57 chromosomes.

      People with Down syndrome have reduced fertility, but aren’t nearly as infertile as mules; nor are mules entirely infertile. I think that there are examples like mules that are fairly fertile, but I don’t know what they are.

      • veeloxtrox says:

        Thanks for the examples but both of those fail to find what I am asking for, neither of them support the idea that the number of different species with different numbers of chromosomes could come about through either means.

        Also, I think that reduced fertility rate of Down syndrome (and the other issues that come with it) would be very heavy selected against in a natural setting.

        • albatross11 says:

          Are there versions of having one copy of some chromosome (other than X or Y) that don’t cause major problems in humans, and that leave the holder fertile? If so, you could imagine some situation where, say, hominid X has 22 chromosomes, humans have 23, but a human/hominid X cross sometimes ends up being okay with only one copy of one of the chromosomes, and then maybe having other offspring with hominid X with one or zero copies.

          • James C says:

            Right now I don’t believe common genetic screens would pick up chromosome duplication. There may be a population of healthy carries that have not been identified, but so far I know of no cases where duplication have been found without symptoms.

      • Lambert says:

        Wow. That’s a rather… noncentral example of a dog.

    • moscanarius says:

      I should be able to answer this question better than I will, but let me try:

      On the first question: humans are one of the many species that can have odd chromosome numbers. Robertsonian translocations between the acrocentric chromosomes (whose short arms are there mainly for rRNA coding, and are present in multiple chromosomes, so if two of them are lost not much is lost) can create viable, normal-looking individuals who may produce normal 46-chromosome offspring, “normal” 45-chromosome offspring, and “”normal”” 44-chromosome offspring (when mated with another person with the same translocation – see here, and here, and here). Fertility is lower, but not nonexistent.

      Other species have even greater toleration for karyotype variation. In house mice, there are well-known chromosomic races created mainly by recent events of Robertsonian translocation, which are interfertile among races but less than within races. Some Hemiptera (and no doubt many other insects) have large variation of chromosome number within species; given insects tend to have very large fertility, it may well be that a fertility penalty imposed by a hybrid karyotype is not so straining if it can be counteracted by an advantegeous new genotype. Some species have holocentric/polycentric chromosomes that grant them greater tolerance for chromosomal rearrangements. In general, it seems like intra-species kayotype diversity can be more easily found in species that can make asexual reproduction, species with very high fertility, or species subjected to strong selection in diferent directions.

      As to the second question: your idea is not unreasonable, but following it would not be a good heuristic to find species close to breaking away. As I said above, some groups of organisms are much more tolerant of karyotype variation than others, so finding it in them is hardly an important signal of speciation; and some are really, really intolerant of messing up the karyotype, so whatever chromosome number alteration happens will either be eliminated or fixed in few generations – likely before you can observe it.

      The role of chromosomal rearragements in speciation has been discussed by biologists, but the picture is not very clear. A fertility penalty for inter-chromosomic-race crossing exists, but there is not much consensus as to how relevant it is, in practice, for evolution (there are many other factors around). If you like this topic, you can find some good discussions on the following links: Ayala 2005, Bakloushinskaya 2016, White 1969, Guerra 2016.

      • veeloxtrox says:

        This is exactly the kind of answer I was looking for. Thank you very much for taking the time to write up this response. I cannot say much other than this is what I was looking for, thank you again.

  28. Chevalier Mal Fet says:

    Last open thread I posted what I thought was an interesting seed for discussion:

    “What if you could send a package (let’s say suitcase-sized) to [any year in the past]? It will arrive at today’s date, minus however many years. You can have it sent to whomever you like, but you can’t personally hang around and make sure it gets used properly. There’s nothing about this delivery that will convince the recipient that this package is from the future. There won’t be any flashing lights or vortexes or portals for them to see. All they see is the package on their doorstep, and they have no special knowledge of this experiment or your efforts. It’s up to your packaging to motivate the people of 1977 or whatever to open it and pay attention to the contents.

    You also can’t enlist any large-scale help to fill this suitcase. You can’t call on NASA, or launch a “Help Save the Romans” Kickstarter. You don’t magically have access to classified data or government funding. Filling this suitcase comes down to you, your wits, and however much you’re willing to put on your credit card. (If you’re well-off then maybe limit yourself to 10k in spending, just so you’re working on the same problem as the rest of us.) For the purpose of the exercise, imagine you have a way to send the package, but there’s no way to prove this to anyone here in 2017.

    What do you put in the package? What items or information will benefit them most? How will you get that information, how will you package it, and how will you entice the recipient to take it seriously?

    I don’t want people to respond with what’s in their package just yet, I just want folk to think about. To sum up, the questions we’re trying to answer:

    1)Who gets the package?
    2)How will you entice this person to examine the package, take it seriously, and act according ot your wishes?
    3)How do you store information in the suitcase? What format do you use?
    4)What information do you send?”

    So! Now is the time f or answering. When do you send your suitcase? To whom? How do you make sure they open it and pay attention? What storage medium do you use, and what information do you send?

    • Randy M says:

      My thought, since I don’t really have a good idea how to prevent world war I (it seems to me that given the alliances and opinion of warfare at the time, preventing the inciting incident would only delay the conflict) was to send something like Ken Burn’s Civil War documentary to perhaps Ben Franklin or George Washington. I think their natural curiosity would get them to check it out, and even if they didn’t believe in it, it would show a plausible story of a war more vicious and deadly than the one they had just come out of occurring within the lifetime of people they cared about. They wouldn’t need to remember any technical specs to have motivation not to kick the slavery can down the road.

      Even in retrospect I don’t know what could have been done to prevent the US civil war, and just saying to the people founding the country “Hey, can you try harder to ease the tensions in the country please?” might not actually do anything that dampen their optimism at even trying to construct a government, but I would assume they would be better able to see potential solutions and possibly better able to envision and promote compromises to spare a lot of misery.

    • cassander says:

      I still say that the most reliable method remains sending a bomb to someone you think really fucked things up shortly before they started fucking things up. Gavrilov Princip, Hitler, Lenin, Woodrow Wilson, all good targets.

      That’s not the most efficacious solution possible, but it is the most reliable. The most efficacious package I think would be sending guns (I’m thinking flintlocks, but could be persuaded that something mechanically simpler might be better), powder, and instructions on how to make more back to the classical era. Primitive guns and powder are not particularly difficult to make, but are a decidedly non-obvious technology that took a long time to evolve. I’m not a big believer in technical determinism of history, but I will make an exception for guns, which I think were genuinely transformative because they ended the ability of non-settled peoples to stand up militarily against settled peoples. The trouble is I don’t have a reliable method for making the person I’m sending the box to take it seriously. So I go with the bomb.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Would upper class people open their own packages?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Depending on the era, you could possibly get something that doesn’t look like a bomb past the initial package-openers, but that raises the question of how you know you actually have the real target. In theory facial recognition software could identify when Woodrow Wilson is in the room, but can you train that software sufficiently from historical photographs?

          Well, that was the era of the anarchist bombings, so I picked the worst possible target. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1919_United_States_anarchist_bombings The White House would be on high alert for anything weird.

          A bomb-drone might do the job, since they would have no concept at all of the threat. Historical records could give you a good window of when he will be out in the open, but algorithimically verifying the target becomes harder.

          • John Schilling says:

            I really don’t think you can trust any contemporary AI for this job. Particularly one you can procure by your own efforts and/or with a $10K budget. Your best bet would probably be to find a contemporary enemy of your target and give them some appropriate modern weaponry and whatever actionable intelligence you can find.

        • cassander says:

          Wilson you’d want to get while he was still a professor. And depending on the exact rules, you could just send your package to somewhere where you know the target will be and have it explode immediately.

      • hyperboloid says:

        Gavrilov Princip, Hitler, Lenin, Woodrow Wilson

        Woodrow Wilson? It’s very strange to see a historical death list including a terrorist, two dictators, and the Democratically elected leader of one of the entente powers. If your conservative convictions lead you feel the need to murder a Democratic president then surely the safe bet is Andrew Johnson.

        Though I’m the last person who should be calling out typos, It’s Gavrilo, as the man was a Bosnian Serb. Gavrilov is a Russian surname.

        • bean says:

          Woodrow Wilson is far and away the most responsible for the terrible way that the end of WWI was handled. Getting rid of him and putting in place someone who actually has the faintest understanding of international politics would have potentially gotten rid of Hitler and WWII in Europe.

        • cassander says:

          What bean said. It has nothing to do with democrats vs. republicans or even liberalism vs. conservatism, Woodrow Wilson was a monster in human form whose bungling got millions of people killed while totally failing to accomplish the few goals he had that were actually laudable. And the guy he beat in 1916 would later prove to be one of the most successful diplomats in american history.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Woodrow Wilson was a monster in human form

            whose bungling got millions of people killed while totally failing to accomplish the few goals he had that were actually laudable

            Quite agree with the latter. What is the evidence for the former? IMHO, gross incompetence != monster

          • John Schilling says:

            His views on race relations, including support / glorification of the KKK, would certainly be considered monstrous by most of mainstream society today. It may have been possible for a non-monstrous person to hold those views in the first decade or two of the 20th century, depending on what lies they had been told and by whom, but between supporting the KKK when the KKK was still a real thing, and maybe bungling a World War or two, I might just turn a blind eye to the proposed temporal letterbomb.

          • cassander says:

            As John Schilling points out, woodrow wilson was uncoothly racist by the standards of 1915. He was also an enthusiastic eugenicist, a fairly ardent prohibitionist, and such a preening moralist that he actually said that he was invading latin american countries “in order to teach them to elect good men.” He was so sanctimonious in his dealings that Georges Clemenceau referred to him as Jesus Christ (JC) in his private correspondence. Wilson was really just a combination of all the worse aspects of the american psyche, the racism and parochialism of the south combined with the self righteous puritanism of the north.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodrow_Wilson#Race_relations

            Wilson had racist policies as well as racist ideas.

            “During Wilson’s term, segregation was ordered in the Washington offices of the Navy, the Treasury, and the Postmaster General, and photographs became required for all new federal job applicants. When a delegation of black professionals from the National Independent Political League, led by newspaper editor William Monroe Trotter, protested the discriminatory actions, Wilson told them “segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen”, explained he was trying to “reduce friction,” and that he “sincerely believe[d] it to be in their interest”. When Trotter countered by arguing that it was “untenable… to maintain that the segregation is simply to avoid race friction” as black and white clerks had worked together harmoniously for fifty years, Wilson rebuked him, stating that if the League wanted to meet with him again “it must have another spokesman. Your manner offends me”. Trotter was then ordered to leave the White House.[293][275] Under Wilson, racial segregation was quickly implemented at the Post Office Department, and many African-American employees were downgraded and even fired. Employees who were downgraded were transferred to the dead letter office, where they did not interact with the public. The few African Americans who remained at the main post offices were put to work behind screens, out of customers’ sight.[294] The Wilson administration’s pro-segregation positions were criticised not only by black leaders, but by their white allies: journalist Oswald Garrison Villard suggested that the administration had “allied itself with the forces of reaction, and put itself on the side of every torturer, of every oppressor, of every perpetrator of racial injustice in the South or the North”. Although Villard subsequently corresponded with and met with Wilson about the issue, no change in policy was forthcoming.[275]?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Huh, TIL. Thanks everyone!

        • Protagoras says:

          Indeed. Speaking for such of the left as are willing to let me speak for them, I will say that contempt for Wilson is one of the few things cassander and I agree on.

        • hyperboloid says:

          Woodrow Wilson is far and away the most responsible for the terrible way that the end of WWI was handled

          No that was the French. Wilson was in many ways overly idealistic and an inept diplomat, and consequently the most important parts of his agenda were largely ignored by the other allies at the Versailles peace conference.

          In 1918 Wilson made a speech before congress outlining US war aims as follows:

          The program of the world’s peace, therefore, is our program; and that program, the only possible program, all we see it, is this:

          1. Open covenants of peace must be arrived at, after which there will surely be no private international action or rulings of any kind, but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.

          2. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.

          3. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.

          4. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest points consistent with domestic safety.

          5. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the population concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.

          6. The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own political development and national policy, and assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.

          7. Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be evacuated and restored, without any attempt to limit the sovereignty which she enjoys in common with all other free nations. No other single act will serve as this will serve to restore confidence among the nations in the laws which they have themselves set and determined for the government of their relations with one another. Without this healing act the whole structure and validity of international law is forever impaired.

          8. All French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted, in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interest of all.

          9. A re-adjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.

          10. The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity of autonomous development.

          11. Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied territories restored; Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea; and the relations of the several Balkan states to one another determined by friendly counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be entered into.

          12. The Turkish portions of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.

          13. An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.

          14. A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

          Some of these principles, in particular point one, are naive to the point of being unworkable. While others like point four on mutual disarmament would require very careful consideration for the needs of the various parties, as the superior industrial strength of Germany would give them a huge advantage over her neighbors even if both sides agreed to beat their swords into plowshares.

          Nevertheless, when the Germans first sent out peace feelers they sought to use the fourteen points as the basis for negotiation. And if they served as the foundation for a post war world order it is likely that WW2 could have been avoided,

          The essential cause of WW2 was Germany and Japan’s belief that having been frozen out of global markets by depression era protectionism, they had to seize territory to support their resource hungry economies. Whether in the Nazi dreams of lebensraum, or in Japanese imperial schemes in china and the pacific, it was this desperate hunger that drove the horrors of the nineteen thirties, and forties. A commitment to free trade and national self determination might well have avoided them.

          • cassander says:

            No that was the French. Wilson was in many ways overly idealistic and an inept diplomat, and consequently the most important parts of his agenda were largely ignored by the other allies at the Versailles peace conference.

            Wilson took actions that enabled the french to do what they did, then failed to stop them out of his own ineptitude. Had he done nothing, you get a very different ending to the war. he is responsible for the consequences of his intervention.

            Some of these principles, in particular point one, are naive to the point of being unworkable. While others like point four on mutual disarmament would require very careful consideration for the needs of the various parties, as the superior industrial strength of Germany would give them a huge advantage over her neighbors even if both sides agreed to beat their swords into plowshares.

            these factors were knowable and known in 1918. Wilson should have taken them into account, he didn’t.

            And if they served as the foundation for a post war world order it is likely that WW2 could have been avoided,

            No, they couldn’t, because they were totally unworkable as you’ve already said. You can’t say “if we had done this impossible thing everything would be fine, so the fault isn’t the person trying the impossible thing.” Good diplomats, like charles evans hughes, realize that people besides themselves have motives, desires, and needs, and take them into account when designing their program. Wilson got his program directly from his own sense of righteousness and nowhere else.

            A commitment to free trade and national self determination might well have avoided them.

            Then it’s a shame wilson didn’t commit to either of those things.

          • Eric Rall says:

            I see Wilson’s three biggest bad moves with regards to the end of the war as the following:

            1. Insisting on the abdication of the Kaiser and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as preconditions for peace negotiations. For all the Kaiser’s and the Hapsburgs’ respective flaws and crimes, constitutional monarchy is a significant and underappreciated stabilizing influence, and the dissolution of the Hapsburg monarchy destroyed the closest thing Southeastern Europe had to to a functioning multi-ethnic state.

            2. Promising Germany that the final peace treaty would be negotiated on the basis of the Fourteen Points, and making this promise without consulting with France or Britain when they (France in particular) would have considered such a basis completely unacceptable. When France and Britain presented harsher demands at Versailles, as they did not consider themselves bound by Wilson’s unilateral promises, it seemed like a perfidy from the German perspective, and contributed substantially to the stab-in-the-back legend.

            3. Explicitly calling for the establishment of monoethnic nationalist states (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, etc) as a war aim. Since the ethnic communities didn’t actually form the clean lines on the map that Wilson might have imagined, this was a recipe for ethnic cleansing, marginalized ethnic minorities, and irredentist grievances. It also carved up Eastern Europe into a bunch of small states that lacked the ability to defend themselves against aggression by Germany or Russia without a lot of support from the other Great Powers. And it served as a legitimizing endorsement of ethnic nationalism: it’s no accident that Hitler’s claims against Czechoslovakia and Poland were couched in terms of oppressed German minorities and ethnic self-determination. Wilson didn’t invent militant nationalism by any means, but he did give it a pretty strong push.

      • Another Throw says:

        No no no! You’re going about it all wrong.

        The thing you have to realize that our current timeline is the result of someone else going back in time and giving Teddy Roosevelt 20 extra pages for his speech to save him from an assassin’s bullet so that he could go on and win a third term and save us from Taft’s mismanagement of the early part of the war. But when our antecedent timetraveller returned to the future, he discovered the world went terribly, terribly wrong.

        His historical engineering attempt resulted in the biggest political upset in history: some crazy professor named Woodrow Wilson won with only 40% of the vote. He was such a clueless idiot that he mismanaged the war even worse that Taft did, which went on to result in a second war.

        And because TR wasn’t assassinated, his cousin FDR went into politics and totally mismanaged that war as well. Mostly by being senile and having a white house full of——Oh yeah, that historical footnote about communism? That turned into a real thing that took over a bunch of countries and killed tens of millions of people——communist sympathizers. And because TR wasn’t assassinated explicitly because he was running for a third term, it never re-cemented the two term limit norm and this FDR character went on to serve four. Don’t even get me started on his threatening to pack the Supreme Court which resulted in their abandoning the duty to be a full and equal check against the legislature and executive. Also, introducing watered-down communism into the US as part of a “New Deal.”

        If that wasn’t bad enough, WW re-segregated the government and military and overtly supported the KKK, setting back race relations 50 years. This resurgent racial animus was never adequately addressed and simmered for another 50 years before boiling over during a period of social unrest (about, among other things, a war against these communists that were trying their damnedest to kill tens of millions of people), amplifying it, and tearing the fabric of civil society apart.

        Also, Trump.

        Our only hope of restoring the timeline to its rightful flow is to go back and give John Flammang Schrank a more powerful pistol capable of penetrating TR’s eyeglasses, previously-increased-to-50 page speech, as well as his heart. A few million extra causalities here or there during the Great War is nothing compared to that.

    • John Schilling says:

      As I said at the time, this is going to depend on the time-travel model we assume. If we go with the stated “Back to the Future” model, it’s got to be past-me that gets the package, because there’s nobody farther back that I can trust not to muck things up for present-me and I don’t feel like altruistically taking one-shot stabs in the dark for the sake of a hopefully better world exclusively for people who are not me.

      But I don’t like “Back to the Future” style time travel, except for good silly fun. Where it excels. For more serious thought-experimentation, I’m going to have to insist on a consistent universe. And since I am presently unaware of any time travel in my history – indeed, have clear knowledge of a very detailed universe that includes no visible evidence of time travel – I’m limited to things that don’t change any part of history that I know about and don’t require past-me to know that there’s any time travel going on. That’s going to make it much trickier for me to do any clear good, and in particular erasing major past catastrophes is right out.

      Mostly, I’m going to have to set up good things going forward, best accomplished by delivering great power to someone I trust to do good works in the future. But since I can’t handle the past agency parts myself, I’m going to need a different agent for that. I’ve got someone in mind, but since I’m posting under my real name I’m going to be vague and just say it’s a friend or family member that I trust to act in my interests, that I am reasonably sure will trust a letter from me with some strange requests, and who hasn’t interacted with me so strongly in recent years that their having acted as my agent would require extraordinary deception.

      This simplifies the “make sure they open it and pay attention” part. Also the storage-medium question; CDs with ascii text and back-compatible document and image files should suffice if I need more bandwidth than paper will supply. I’ll be targeting maybe ten years in the past, though I’ll want to double-check my diary to see if there’s anything in my relation with [Agent] that would cause problems on that schedule. And I’ll include some newspaper headlines, etc, for the days and weeks following the package’s arrival. Also an up-front request for extreme secrecy, even from past-me.

      First item, and filling most of your $10,000 cost allotment, ten one-ounce platinum coins (minted before 2011!) with detailed instructions to sell them in January 2011 and buy ~35,000 bitcoins. Also details on redundant secure storage from 2011 to present, for delivery to me immediately after I send out the package. This should net me a quarter of a billion dollars or so. I’d like it to be more, but I need something with adequate liquidity, vanishing into enough market capitalization that history won’t be distorted, and that won’t set off money-laundering alarms when I cash in. Well, nothing that can’t be explained away, at least, and it isn’t totally implausible that I’d have taken a $10K gamble on bitcoin in 2011 and sat on it ever since. But cashing out will still require great caution.

      Also some mundane stock tips for [Agent], with instructions to use as needed for something like [Agent kids] college fund and to finance some of the agent-work I am going to be asking of them.

      I can’t make disasters not happen, and I can’t mitigate the ones I know too much about, but there’s a fair number of disasters I don’t know much about. And Wikipedia seems to use a standard template including “number of fatalities” as a standard item. I think I can write a bot to do a crawl and use a probability function to pick out a few hundred of the worst-ish disasters of the past decade and provide a truncated summary (e.g. the stat block including date but not death/injury toll, and the “background” section). Then I cull the list for ones I already know about (sorry, can’t help you guys) and instruct [Agent] to send anonymous warning letters to the relevant authorities a few weeks ahead. The disasters will be the kind where a warning can’t or won’t stop them altogether or reduce them to non-noteworthy status, else Novikov and my random number generator would have selected them out of the list, but maybe it will knock the death toll down a bit.

      There haven’t been any great personal tragedies to hit me or any of my friends/family in the past decade, or at least none that can’t be fixed with a few bitcoins today, so that part is easy.

      Scientific progress I can maybe push forward five years or so wherever I bother to take the effort. Download copies of the most groundbreaking results of the past five years, and edit them into cheat sheets to be sent to disconnected and historically unsuccessful rival research teams 1d10-1 years before original publication. That can’t happen if the rivals will just do a quick replication and publish ahead of the original, so the die will have to come up “1” for the teams that would have done that in spite of my nudges to the contrary. Mostly, the rivals will turn out to have been historically unproductive because they were busy working on the next step with a ~5-year head start, and the next five years should see a significant uptick in productivity.

      A collection of now-hopelessly-obsolete zero-day exploits, and detailed instructions on exactly when and how to use them to secure back-door root access to an assortment of interesting computer systems. Possibly including the NSA, though that might lead to an interesting loop where some exploit that I learned from Snowden and Snowden learned from the NSA, the NSA itself only learned when they found it embedded in one of their systems in 2012. So, maybe not. Ideally, I set this up in the form of a preloaded vintage laptop that can be abandoned in a ~2010 Starbucks, to minimize risk to [Agent], but I’m not sure my own hack-fu is good enough for that. But [Agent] knows trustworthy people who can do first-rate work, if it comes to that.

      [Redacted because I’m posting under my true name]

      Finally, and possibly most important, a description of events leading up to my being offered the opportunity to send this suitcase, ideally including photos of the people who made the offer. Take some of those stock-market profits, [Agent], and hire some investigators to see if you can find any of these people in the past. Say, working at a physics lab on some project that might lead to time travel, or boarding one of those special flights to Area 51. Do not interfere, but observe and report. Possibly infiltrate, if not personally then at least with that collection of zero-day exploits.

      Because this is one gift horse that definitely deserves a thorough dental examination, and the sooner the better.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        You don’t have to teach your target about safe key storage. You can generate the Bitcoin address now, keeping the key for yourself, and just give the recipient the address to move the keys to. He has no need to get anything back to you.

        For fun, you can generate a key tonight, and then see if it has a bunch of bitcoin from years ago already, meaning that at some point in the future you sent the address to [Agent].

    • Rowan says:

      The plan I originally had in mind, since your last post on the topic, was to send some of my old physics and maths textbooks, and a collection of printed-out Wikipedia articles, to Isaac Newton circa 1666. Mostly I anchored on the textbooks because they were the first part I thought of, and “Isaac Newton before he invented calculus” would be the earliest human who could plausibly understand what he was reading.

      Besides that, my reasoning was to change history early and substantially, bootstrap technology while also strengthening Britain and the British Empire because of course that’s the alt-history I’m into as a Briton.

      But then I thought a bit, and even though Back to the Future rules are sticky, there’s still a lot of ways that that plan fucks things up and stops me being born, or worse.

      .

      So, instead, I’ll send a letter to my dad a few years before I’m born, just to set up myself and my family for a much better life. Tell him about decisions he will have regretted making, stock tips, the usual future-advice package, and then also some advice on what I’d like changed about my upbringing.

      Also, because it’s “Back to the Future rules” (a phrase I’ll quote), I’ll ask him not to be hostile when his son gets overwritten by me in 2018.

  29. J Mann says:

    Any opinions on Yemen?

    I hadn’t realized how bad things were, but for anyone else who hasn’t been following, there’s a civil war going on between the Saudi/US backed government and Iran based rebels, and a substantial portion of the country is literally starving to death – the Saudis have blockaded the county to block Iranian weapons shipments to the rebels, and while there is apparently a lot of aid, the country side is contested enough to make it difficult to distribute.

    Anyone have a more informed background, or proposed solutions?

      • bean says:

        Please, just no. War Nerd is someone who usually manages to mangle things in the most bizarre way imaginable. His takes on the A-10 and the fate of the carriers are almost painfully wrong, and I don’t see any reason to trust him on anything after that.

        • aNeopuritan says:

          I *was* wondering whether you’d say anything stupid. You know, even if you happen to be right about the hardware, what do you understand about … anything else the War Nerd has written about?

          • bean says:

            I’m not going to claim that one mistake makes someone totally unreliable on everything ever, but when someone has been totally wrong on every issue I do understand, I see no reason at all to assume that he’s worth listening to on stuff I don’t. And given his credentials, some of the errors he’s made make me very suspicious of his intellectual honesty.

          • Alphonse says:

            I *was* wondering whether you’d say something stupid.

            Can we have less of this sort of thing please? I don’t have any object level opinion about whether this “War Nerd” person is credible or not, but this is a needless response that just makes me find you less credible.

            I get that maybe you disagree with Bean’s assessment, but it’s perfectly fair game for him to make that point. Even if one wanted to engage in tone policing, I don’t think the point was phrased unreasonably.

            If you want to defend the value of a source you link to, maybe do that, instead of making ad hominem criticisms of people who don’t share your view.

          • One of my rules for evaluating information sources is to find somewhere that what they are saying overlaps with what you know and judge them by that. Bean is doing so, which strikes me as sensible. It isn’t guaranteed to give the right answer, but it’s a good deal better than nothing.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Banned for three months

    • quaelegit says:

      There was (is?) a cholera epidemic in 2017. (Or apparently, started in 2016 and still ongoing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016%E2%80%9318_Yemen_cholera_outbreak). Everything I know comes from NPR and BBC radio segments and scanning Wikipedia. I remember a big deal last summer/fall about (trying to?) open up the blockade to let medical workers/outbreak response people in.

      If its a struggle between KSA and Saudi over whose puppet sphere of influence Yemen is in, it seems the best way to help the average Yemeni is to push the country into one camp or the other as quickly as possible so that people in the country can switch from destroying infrastructure to rebuilding it. However, I don’t understand the geopolitical implications of this, so maybe those would outway the lower-level positives? Also it did start as a civil war (I think?) so settling things internally might also involve killing or expelling a lot of people.

    • Iain says:

      Daniel Larison at the American Conservative has been yelling into the void about Yemen since 2015. Here‘s a recent retrospective.

      • Protagoras says:

        The cynic in me wonders if the reason there isn’t more discussion of the Yemen situation is that liberals and conservatives can agree that we shouldn’t be involved, and everybody would rather talk about something they can fight over.

    • Tenacious D says:

      No proposed solutions, but here’s a bit on the background:
      During the Arab Spring, Saleh, the president for the past 34 years, was “encouraged” to retire in the interest of regional stability. His VP, Hadi, became his replacement. This transition was with the backing of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). In my opinion, part of the reason that Hadi was seen as a suitable candidate for a transitional leader was that he can’t muster much of a fighting force that would be loyal to him personally (he’s from South Yemen but sided with the North during the last civil war in 1994), so there was little risk that he would set himself up as a new strongman. He probably also didn’t have much of a chance at holding the country together. Due to some long-standing divisions in Yemen, the talks for setting up a new constitution fell apart and one faction, the Houthis, seized the capital city of Sana’a. Hadi fled. At some point (right before the Houthis took Sana’a, I think), Saleh had his loyalists (see the part above about fighting forces with personal rather than national loyalty) throw in with the Houthis. After the Houthis and Saleh loyalists had taken control of most of the populated western part of the country (they were at the gates of Aden, the former southern capital), the GCC (everyone mainly refers to Saudi, but the UAE is heavily involved too) intervened on behalf of Hadi. They had some initial success at recapturing territory, but for the past two plus years, the frontlines have been pretty static to my recollection. Compare the zones of control to an elevation map of Yemen and it is not hard to see why.
      The Houthis are Shi’a, which contributes to the civil war in Yemen being seen as a proxy conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Houthis are led by members of the former ruling caste before North Yemen became a republic so they weren’t simply imported by Iran though. Another aspect to keep in mind is that the governates of Saudi Arabia that border Yemen also have significant Shi’a populations and Riyadh doesn’t want them getting any ideas about independence.
      Last year, it looked like Saleh was open to peace talks but then he was killed by his Houthi allies of convenience.
      As you say, it’s a humanitarian disaster, with the stalemate functioning like a siege (and a siege within a siege for anti-Houthi districts within their zone of control).
      The best outcome might be to divide the country again, but I don’t know.

    • sfoil says:

      The Saudis intervened/invaded to prevent their neighbor’s friendly government from being replaced by an Iran-friendly government that would quite likely promote unrest in its own territory by its mere existence. After their army proved unable to restore friendly/puppet control of the country, they shifted to a blockade/starvation strategy coupled with standoff tactics in order to reach their goal. I don’t believe for one minute that the “difficulty” of getting “aid” to the “countryside” (rebel-held or contested territory) is anything other than an intended component of the basic strategy.

      The problem with a formal partition is the difficulty of enforcing the Saudi/Houthi border, which is somewhat analogous to the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. (nb: “North Yemen” is in the West, “South Yemen” is in the East. I don’t know how this came about.) The Saudis seemed to be more or less fine with the status quo ante, but I suspect that after the rebels got a taste of victory against both the Yemeni national government and to a lesser extent the Saudi ground forces they want more than what they started with. Unfortunately it’s going to take an awful lot of starvation for them to lower their expectations to whatever is acceptable to the Saudis, and I couldn’t say exactly what that is. The Saudis are quite patient at any rate.

      That Iran pretty openly supports the rebels goes only so far in explaining the apathy of the “international community” towards the conflict. The Saudis have spent quite a lot of time and effort (and money, of course) on public relations/information warfare; generally nobody cares about Saudi Arabia’s activities in Yemen for the same reason they don’t care about its in-my-opinion comically oppressive domestic policies. From a military standpoint I find the evolutions of strategy by a well-equipped but very tactically-inept war establishment rather fascinating. Equally so, though I don’t know as much about them, the development of the Houthi rebels, and particularly their abortive attempts to develop a standoff capability of their own.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I have a lot more questions than answers on this one. It has been my impression that the Saudis have been the evil interlopers on this one, so why does the US support them? We should be trying to get the Saudis to back off, and treat this somewhat like the Myanmar issue.

      Not that I know a whole lot about the status of Yemen and Saudi Arabia (or Myanmar for that matter). But at this point I don’t understand why the US supports the Saudis, even on a realpolitik basis.

      • 10240 says:

        I don’t know too much about the situation, but the two obvious reasons are
        * Saudi et. al. are allies of the US, Iran is enemy. A Houthi victory expands the Iranian sphere of influence, and possibly causes instability in countries that are US allies.
        * The Hadi government the Saudis et. al. support is the internationally recognized government of Yemen. The US, and the “international commuity” in general, usually supports the status quo, i. e. the same government they had recognized before the conflict, under the doctrine of sovereignity, unless they have a very good reason not to. The legitimate government of a country is considered to have the right to form an alliance with other countries, and to allow them to fight invaders or rebels in its territory. In this sense the Saudis are not interlopers, but operate in Yemen with the consent of the Yemeni government.
        Exceptions to the above principle of status quo and sovereignity happen when e. g. an evil dictator is butchering its own people, and revolutionaries are demanding democracy (of course informed by geopolitical interests and alliances). E. g. in Syria, protesters originally demanded democracy, and got shot at. But in Yemen the Hadi government was itself intended to be a transitionary government towards democracy (not that this has ever had much of a realistic chance, and I guess plans of any such transition were put on hold with the renewed civil war), and the Houthis never had any pretence of demanding democracy.
        So, while the Hadi government is far from being unambiguously the good guys, the credentials of Hadi as the evil dictator, and the credentials of the Houthis as the good guys are not strong enough to clear the very high bar required to suspend the status quo / sovereignity principle.

      • Reasoner says:

        I would assume because (a) Saudi Arabia is a US ally (b) Iran is a US enemy (c) Yemen is a state that’s directly adjacent to Saudi Arabia, so Saudi Arabia would really not like to have an enemy regime there.

      • Orpheus says:

        I am guessing that it is because the Saudis have oil.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          I don’t think that’s it.

          Before the 2012-2016 embargo, Iran was the world’s third largest exporter of oil.

          Nine percent of U.S. oil imports come from Saudi Arabia. That’s not a trivial amount by any means, but it hardly gives the Saudis the whip hand.

          If Iran got into a dustup with Canada, that would be another matter…

        • John Schilling says:

          Iran also has oil, and the US imports very little (<2% of total consumption) from either. It is important for the global economy, and thus for the US even if Trump et al don't want to admit it, that both Iranian and Saudi oil make it to some market, but there’s basically no chance that e.g. China is going to turn down Saudi or Iranian oil if it is offered. Thus no problem if the US wants to piss off one government or the other by taking whichever stand it pleases in Yemen, or even imposing a unilateral oil embargo.

          As 10240, there are preexisting alliances and enmities that have more to do with flag-burning mobs than with oil reserves, and a strong status quo bias w/re sovereignty in international affairs.

      • J Mann says:

        My take on the pro-Saudi side: it sounds like the rebels aren’t too sympathetic – they’re not open to democracy or peace talks, and they are supported by Iran. It seems reasonable to assume that if an Iranian-supported antidemocratic ruling clique takes over a country next to Saudi Arabia, then Iran will increase efforts to overthrow or influence Saudi Arabia as well.

        My take on the pro-rebel side: Maybe the rebels are bad guys, but the Saudis are no prize either. We haven’t been successful in helping the recognized government win the war, so maybe if we help the rebels win the war (at least through inaction), the collateral civilian damage will come to an end.

        Neither one of those is very satisfying – the status quo seems to be resulting in years of civilian suffering, but if the result of letting the rebels win is to move the civil war over to Saudi Arabia, I’m not sure that’s a net win.

        • Protagoras says:

          Unless you’re actually sending in your own people to run them (or at least actively meddling to choose who runs them), client states tend to be only truly loyal when they are weak and dependent on your support (in which case they are also often more trouble than they’re worth, requiring constant effort to prop up). The rest of the time, they’ll only side with you when it suits them (and sometimes not even then; being seen as a puppet of foreign powers is almost always terrible optics for domestic politics). So if the rebels win, the benefit to Iran will probably be smaller than you imagine.

  30. JohnNV says:

    I’ve never been a true professional musician, but in my 20s, I was gigging enough that it was about a quarter of my income. I could have survived on it if I had to. It’s really a matter of getting to know the bar owners in your area. I played with several different bands of several different styles and knew most of the owners/managers of live music venues in my area. I’d end up playing gigs until 1 or 2am a few times a week, and then working a regular 9-5 job on top of that. I miss it, but it’s not something I could get away with now that I’m 40 and have two kids.

    • JohnNV says:

      This was supposed to be a reply to the person asking about pro musicians. Not sure why it posted as a top-level comment, sorry.

  31. broblawsky says:

    Re: Aurel’s comment on the lead-crime hypothesis: while lead levels in Polish people may be elevated, this study suggest that their levels aren’t ludicrously high – a median level of ~ 9.4 ug/deciliter for children near lead emissions sources. That’s high enough to be concerning by modern CDC standards, but not nearly enough to qualify for chelation therapy.
    Moreover, that research also suggests that lead exposure in the former Soviet Union is related to point emissions sources – zinc and copper mills, meaning groundwater contamination. Moreover, the Soviets apparently banned leaded gasoline in major cities in 1956. Is it possible that lead exposure via the atmosphere is somehow neurologically worse than groundwater exposure?

    • SamChevre says:

      Point emissions sources vs atmospheric exposure–that sounds likely to make a large difference.

      Groundwater exposure will tend to be concentrated, while atmospheric exposure will be much less so. So you’d expect more-severe damage, to fewer people.

      Think of lead as affecting impulse control, somewhat like alcohol. Two really drunk people in a crowd of 200 might fight each other, but it won’t cause a big problem. 200 slightly drunk people, on the other hand, can make fairly terrible decisions.

  32. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Excuse me if this has been brought up, but what if UBI *both* releases a lot of creativity and leads to more people who just drift?

    • albatross11 says:

      This seems likely to me–it would mirror a lot of other shifts in our society. For example, my impression is that the relaxation of enforcement on a lot of social norms surrounding sex, marriage, and children simultaneously[1]:

      a. Did a lot of harm to people at the bottom.

      b. Didn’t do much harm to people at the top, and may even have helped them.

      ETA: Not to push this into CW territory–my point is just that there are a lot of changes to society that work out differently for different people. Maybe a less contentious example is easy availablilty of online lectures and papers and classes and such: it’s pretty obvious that this benefits the subset of people who have the interest and personal initiative to use those resources to learn new subjects; most people won’t be all that interested in immunology or game theory or whatever, and so won’t bother. Every major change in society probably creates relative winners and losers within the society, even if it also raises all boats.

      [1] With the caveat that gays and lesbians are probably a whole lot better off not being socially required to marry someone they’re not romantically or sexually interested in, across the board.

      • Every major change in society probably creates relative winners and losers within the society, even if it also raises all boats.

        Any change produces relative winners and losers, unless the effect on everyone identical. What was interesting about your initial example was that it was presented as a situation where some people were absolute losers.

    • Aapje says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz

      That seems likely, but I’d argue that greater creativity is not always positive. If loads of people give up their jobs that may be unpleasant, but actually help others, in favor of writing books that no one reads, making paintings that no one likes, being in bands that no one listens to and such, then doesn’t necessarily make society better off.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      That depends on two big questions:

      1. What exactly do we mean when we say that “creativity” is being released?
      2. What is the proportion of creatives to drifters?

      If creativity means people developing new tech startups or discovering scientific breakthroughs in math or computer science, that would certainly be valuable. Doing science properly is more expensive than ever but there are some fields, mostly where math and/or computers come in, where you really can make a discovery with an ordinary budget and an extraordinary mind. Likewise, there are a lot of barriers to entry in most industries but it looks like tech is still relatively open to newcomers.

      If creativity means several hundred square miles of graffiti street art and a million new garage bands, maybe not quite so valuable. It might be fun for the participants but the net value is neutral if not negative. That sort of creativity isn’t worth subsiding more than it already is.

      Once we’ve answered that question, we can work backwards to see what the minimum tolerable ratio of creativity to drifting is. If we got one new Google per ten thousand drifters that might actually still be a good deal, from a cold-blooded financial standpoint anyway. If we got ten buskers for every one guy drinking himself to death quietly that would be a horrible deal from any standpoint.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        There are a couple of more categories. One is useful but not especially creative unpaid work. For example, someone might throw parties. There’s nothing unusual about the parties, but they make life better for the people who show up. (We will optimistically assume that the parties aren’t annoying to people nearby.) See also putting on conventions.

        Another possibility is malevolent creativity.

        • Nick says:

          One is useful but not especially creative unpaid work. For example, someone might throw parties. There’s nothing unusual about the parties, but they make life better for the people who show up. (We will optimistically assume that the parties aren’t annoying to people nearby.) See also putting on conventions.

          True. I for one would like time to spend with my friends doing board games/RPGs/whatever that isn’t completely eaten up by work or school obligations. In general the possibilities for lazy people like me would be a lot better than just video games and pot provided that we take the opportunity to rebuild relationships, families, communities, etc., which have been strained by things like work and financial problems.

          • I point out, again, that such discussions fail to distinguish between UBI at a level which is financially plausible today, which would be a few thousand dollars a year, and UBI at a level people would be reasonably content to live with, which would be something more like twenty thousand dollars a year–a level that is plausible only if we assume enormous increases in productivity first.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Somewhat related thoughts on UBI.

      It is fairly obvious that we need combinations of traits to survive, a society of people working constantly would be awful and would be very limiting, but being extremely lazy is also awful. As importantly you need that balance within at least most individuals for it to work. 50 violent sociopaths and 50 extremely empathetic pacifists doesn’t not a well balanced society of 100 people make, but you can have 1 violent sociopath, 1 empathetic pacifist and 98 people with some combination of those traits functioning all together.

      I think this extends to most, if not all, traits. There are two basic ways* to fail to finish a project, the first is simply to not put in the effort to complete the last steps needed the second is to obsess over perfection to a degree that it makes finishing functionally impossible as you perpetually add steps as you make progress. Working with an extreme of either type of person can be maddening, and there will come a point when you are simple better off without their help but that is only true from the point of view of someone who has both traits in some kind of balance. The urge the complete and the willingness to let go. From the extremely lazy person’s POV it is maddening to have to work with someone who constant tries to push them to do their job, they have been around and they know that their effort level barely impacts what gets done and everything necessary seems to get finished anyway. The perfectionist finds it irritating that you keep restricting their access to resources and preventing them from adding or subtracting features or polishing already finished sections.

      The rub is that I don’t think that it is exactly set where on the scale you, or anyone else, will exist, but a range of where you can end up. I don’t think many people here would disagree that indulging a lazy person is probably going to make them lazier, but I don’t think that many would admit to considering that indulging the creative/industrious in the wrong way could basically lead them to compulsive behavior.

      A concern, maybe the major concern, of mine about UBI is that it will amplify both groups. The lazy, it is obvious, have an opportunity to become lazier, but I don’t think enough credit is being given to the obsessive workaholic gaining more power. The more that the first group drops their productivity the more that the latter group will be relied on, and the more influence that they will have. This happens for two reasons, the obvious one is that the economy needs more productivity to support the growing, for lack of a better term, indolent class, but the less obvious reason is that the middle ground people, those who were motivating the lazy and moderating the obsessive lose half of their value.

      In the long run the economic power shifts heavily toward the compulsive, and the political power towards the lazy and the middle class of conflict resolution specialists drop slowly out of sight.

      *3 if you include incompetence and an inability to learn.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      That’s a bet of mine. Unleashes a lot of creativity, and a lot of people quitting their jobs and going on the Xbox.

      I wonder how the people that will use it for drugs/weapons effect any UBI. Will they break the system with a few horror news stories? Or would it be relegated to people over 25 or even 30 with no violent criminal history? Since a few of those can wreck the whole thing.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Seems likely it would.

      By the way, I think that during the last conversation about UBI, a lot of people focused on whether people who are currently in the very low social class would suddenly deeply better themselves given an income (and, kind of implicitly, not much else in the way of change). I don’t think that’s the likely route to “releasing a lot of creativity” for the UBI.

      Rather, like everything, it would work on the margin.

      So there is currently a large class of people who are either college-educated or have some weird background that more or less classes them with college-educated people and who have some creative aspirations (whether those are artistic or entrepreneurial), but who are not terribly financially secure in their 20’s. A large percentage of them take the safe play and get conventional jobs. And then the line moves. As they get promotions and such, they give up a larger income if they want to take a couple of years to try to do their dream thing. They get married and start families. Etc. It’s not a stretch to say that a large percentage of them find that they are never in the right position to break out of “regular jobs.”

      You don’t have to believe that there are great numbers of untapped geniuses in ghettos to believe that you’d see an increase in creative endeavors under UBI.

      And maybe, if the numbers add up right, if there are a decently large number of people who currently enter the white-collar workforce who instead do creative stuff under UBI, that also pulls up some people who are currently on the cusp between “basically lucrative career” and “lower-middle class or lower class employed but without long term career prospects” into the career bucket in order to make up the deficit of solidly career people (who are now going off to do creative stuff, and/or creating new career jobs). And then maybe you pull some people who are on the cusp of “lower-middle class or lower class employed but without long term career prospects” and “underemployed” into “employed” to make up that deficit. And so forth.

      I’m not certain that that would happen. It probably depends a lot on how much money you think there is on the table for people to seize if they could just be more entrepreneurial in their 20’s. But it’s definitely the more plausible story than, “And suddenly all the kids in the ghettos are building billion dollar businesses.”

      It seems impossible to me that there aren’t people who are currently on the margin between “underemployed” and “truly unemployed” who wouldn’t tip over into “truly unemployed” as a first-order effect of UBI. The question is whether the first effect would ultimately, after it all shook out for a couple of decades, overwhelm the second effect, or vice versa.

    • proyas says:

      “Excuse me if this has been brought up, but what if UBI *both* releases a lot of creativity and leads to more people who just drift?”

      I think that’s the most likely outcome. UBI will just magnify/unmask the existing differences in innate creativity, work ethic, and leisure preferences across the population. It’s useful to research what people who are assured of financial comfort–such as trust fund babies, lottery winners, non-disabled lawsuit winners, and people who retire early and in good health–do with their time.

      Some of them throw themselves at work they are passionate about, and a minority of those attain success. Most of them spend their time indulging in hedonism or entertainment (there’s a lot of world travel and hanging out with friends and family), and maybe spending time on hobbies they’re passionate about that make them little or no money.

      The hard truth is that, even if you are passionate about something and try to make a career out of it, there’s no reason to expect anyone else to value the fruits of your labor enough to pay you for it. Moreover, even if you’re excellent in the field of work you’re passionate about, the odds are that you’re still not among the best, which is what you’ll need to be if you want to be truly successful. The world is littered with millions of great artists, poets, authors, inventors, game app designers, and other creative people who followed their passions and never got any real recognition or success (go to an art festival, identify the most talented artists, and then watch to see how much of their product they actually sell).

      And if tomorrow machines liberated humans from drudge work, and the government provided a UBI, leaving everyone free to pursue their passions full-time without risk, finding ways to stand out would actually get even harder. You would get the chance to finally focus on writing that book, opening that indie coffee shop, or doing artistic photography, but so would hundreds of millions of other people. The competition would be incredibly fierce (also, there’s no economic law that says demand for “creative” goods has to increase 1:1 with the supply of those goods), the market for whatever zany good or service you have a passion for selling would be glutted, and the same ultra-talented, sickeningly ambitious, status-seeking people who succeed today would rise to the top of the pack in the New World Order as well. And of course dumb luck would continue to be a major factor.

      Finally, what happens if machines become creative and start muscling humans out of those jobs? In that case, future people will REALLY have nothing productive to do, unless they find satisfaction in the act of making pottery, art, or music, etc. knowing full well they’ll probably get no money for it since machines do it better.

      • Randy M says:

        You would get the chance to finally focus on writing that book, opening that indie coffee shop, or doing artistic photography, but so would hundreds of millions of other people. The competition would be incredibly fierce

        I think what you would see is a lot of very niche communities. “I write fanfiction based on the role-playing games designed around the spin-off to the version of Harry Potter where only even numbered books are canon” You have an audience of 12 or so, but they are passionate and interact a lot (which is good, since the whole goal is to use up free time). Maybe someone somewhere contributes art or science that lasts centuries, but for most people we are happy if they are able to find peaceful contentment.

        Finally, what happens if machines become creative and start muscling humans out of those jobs?

        Then we have thousands of youtube channels devoted to criticisms of art produced by Siri and Alexa’s descendants, and what the works say about our collective humanity.

        they’ll probably get no money for it since machines do it better.

        In the post scarcity future, it’s “+1″‘s all the way down.

  33. johan_larson says:

    How does one create a military from scratch? Suppose you are one of those countries like Costa Rica or Iceland that doesn’t have a military, and you’ve soberly decided you need one. Presumably you aren’t starting from zero in the men-with-guns department; you probably have police units, including some pretty darn hard-core police units, but you want something more than that. So how to go about it?

    • albatross11 says:

      Wouldn’t the natural first step be to try to use your connections with some friendly country (US, UK, France, Russia) to get advisors to help train your army, or to get to send your future officers there for some kind of training? You’re going to be buying a lot of expensive military equipment, so probably lots of countries have some incentive to help you with your army-building process, even if they’re not looking for local allies in their bigger struggles.

      • bean says:

        There’s a lot of capability in the US in particular invested in building armies. The Green Berets are intended to be able to go into a country and build at least a light military force from scratch. That said, if you’re Iceland or Costa Rica, a better solution might be to hire Blackwater or the like. They’ll recruit a bunch of retired military people who have the skills you want, and send them over. This is increasingly common even as a way of training US special forces, because the instructors continue to impart their knowledge, but also can be home every night.

      • Eric Rall says:

        There’s also been at least a couple cases of countries having some success hiring mercenaries as military advisers when they couldn’t find a suitable patron country to provide the advisers. The South African company Executive Outcomes was hired by Angola and Sierra Leone in their respective civil wars during the 1990s. In both cases, EO performed some direct operations (looks like mostly commando raids and operating the occasional tank or aircraft), but especially in Sierra Leone, a big part of what they were hired to do was train and organize new military units for the host government.

        In both conflicts, the side of the civil war that hired EO won enough success on the battlefield to negotiate a favorable truce, which promptly fell apart into a new round of civil wars once EO withdrew (it sounds like this happened under international pressure, since EO wasn’t terribly popular with major governments) and was replaced with UN peacekeepers. I don’t know enough of the details to say with confidence how much the failures of the peace treaties reflects EO-trained units only being effective while EO’s personnel were still around to take an active hand, and how much was due to problems with the UN peacekeepers.

    • Aapje says:

      @johan_larson

      Iceland does have a military, consisting mostly of the coast guard and special forces. I’d build on these and get outside help from a country with a better army where possible.

      Costa Rica has a small military that they don’t call a military. I’d build on these and get outside help from a country with a better army where possible.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      The easy way is giving your national resources and opening up a base to a major power like the US/Russia/china as part of an alliance. Isn’t that how some got kickstarted in the 1900’s?

    • Anonymous says:

      You can look up what Singapore did. One of the first things LKY did was organize a militia, after all.

  34. rlms says:

    Who said which:

    The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities…

    Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole…

    Adam Smith or Karl Marx?

    (I cheated with the second quote, but the first is still interesting).

    • Orpheus says:

      I assumed Adam Smith wouldn’t use the term “Capitalist production”.

    • Rowan says:

      Well, obviously the first is Smith and the second is Marx just because the reverse wouldn’t be “interesting”.

      That said, as Orpheus pointed out “capitalist production” is a dead giveaway in the second quote – that’s “capitalist” as in the adjectival form of “capitalism”, which is an anachronism. And correct me if I’m wrong, but communists before the USSR and “socialism in one country” leaned a lot more AnCom, so it would seem weird to me if Marx said something that strongly pro-government.

    • The first quote is from Smith, part of a discussion where he argues that the first maxim of taxation is tax burden proportioned to income–the equivalent of a flat tax, except that he isn’t proposing an actual tax on income and does not, like most modern commenters, make the mistake of assuming that the burden of a tax on someone is measured by the amount he himself pays.

      The second cannot be Smith, might well be Marx.

  35. rlms says:

    Paper claiming that a reasonable chunk (up to 13%) of the black-white academic achievement gap is caused by differences in temperature.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Grasping at straws, I think. The US scatterplots are rather scattered (note the enormous variation in the 60-70 degree range), and they make judgements based on average outdoor annual temperatures when most schools are out over summer and in cold areas there’s heating. All they’re picking up on, I think, is that test scores in the South are lower and that the South is hotter.

      • Iain says:

        They make judgements based on average outdoor annual temperatures when most schools are out over summer and in cold areas there’s heating

        Where are you seeing this? From the abstract:

        Weekend and summer heat has little impact and the effect is not explained by pollution or local economic shocks, suggesting heat directly reduces the productivity of learning inputs. New data providing the first measures of school-level air conditioning penetration across the US suggest such infrastructure almost entirely offsets these effects.

        Similarly, your bit about the South does not seem compatible with stuff like this:

        We then document that school air conditioning is less prevalent in cooler parts ofthe US and that heat is particularly damaging to the achievement of students in these regions.

        • albatross11 says:

          I’m skeptical that this will replicate. On the other hand, the obvious policy to pursue here is broadly reasonable anyway–install AC in more schools. So at least doing that wouldn’t do any harm.

    • quanta413 says:

      The direction of the main effect (too hot –> students do worse) is plausible. Unfortunately, all of my instincts upon reading it scream “Garden of Forking Paths”. If you haven’t read Gelman’s blog, this is where the number of choices that can be made in analyzing the data allow the researcher a lot of degrees of freedom to find a “positive” result even in noise. We should figure a lot of their estimates would drop if someone tried to replicate (basically, when data is noisy, statistically significant estimates tend to over rather than underestimate magnitudes). They have a large sample, but immense amounts of uncontrolled systematic measurement errors between what was measured and what would matter.

      For example, “We assign each high school to the nearest weather station, resulting in an average distance of 9.7 miles between a student’s test site and weather station being used to measure temperature at that site.” Ok, 10 miles is not a short distance. You can get temperature differences between buildings on the same block. This might not be a huge deal, but the way they’ve decided to instrument for temperature is pretty specific and could be sensitive to 1 degree swings (they look at maximum and at temperatures crossing a threshold). They later make a comparison limiting their sample to schools within 5 miles and say the effect gets a little bigger. But I highly doubt this is kosher, schools within 5 miles of a weather station are not otherwise identical to schools within 10 miles of a weather station. What happens to the number of urban vs rural schools, etc. etc. They really ought to show a plot of how estimates change as you go from within 1 mile of a weather station, 2 miles, 3, etc.

      We construct two primary measures of cumulative heat exposure experienced by a student: the average daily maximum temperature and the number of days that temperature exceeded a given multiple of 10◦ F in the 365 days prior to the test

      Maxima are notoriously noisy compared to means (although they then mean over a maxima because why the hell not? There’s no substantive theory here). And taking a continuous variable and switching it to # of days it exceeds certain bins is super sketchy. There’s no sensible justification for this.

      Why not just use mean temperature over each school day or the temperature at noon? Why not bin on multiples of 5? How much do these totally arbitrary changes of specification affect the results? Garden of forking paths.

      Their measurements of air conditioning penetration are super sketchy. Just read the section. It’s significantly worse than the temperature data. They change a categorical response to a numerical variable and average over it. That’s several free parameters right there alone. Not even counting how noisy they admit the measure is. Incidentally though, if you look at their maps, it looks like it basically flips the map of actual temperature.

      Anyways, reading through the whole thing, there are more gems like

      In column 5 of Table 3, we include controls for heat exposure in school years two and three years prior to taking the test. When measuring heat exposure by average school day temperature, including those lags has no impact on our main estimate and the lags themselves do not appear to affect achievement. This is consistent with the possibility that either the PSAT tests material taught very close in time to the test (unlikely given test design) or that some of the negative impacts of much earlier heat exposure can be partially mitigated by students and teachers in the intervening time. However, when measuring heat exposure by school days above 90◦F, including lags increases our main estimate by 40 percent and the lags themselves are large, negative and statistically significant.

      Theoretically, there are no solid quantitative reasons to prefer one of these strategies for changing the temperature measurements over time to a single variable. However, depending on the specification, you get drastically different results. This is a sign of the garden of forking paths affecting results.

      I haven’t yet read through the entire section on air conditioning. I may get to it later, but I’m not super hopeful about that turning out to be worth my time.

      But my overall thought right now is that the effects they are most excited about are sort of difference in difference in difference type things that we should be extremely skeptical about when there’s no substantive quantitative theory at hand. The boring already known results of higher temperature –> lower performance look solid, but no one really knows the cause of that. Notice though that their air conditioning “theory” kind of contradicts the primary result. If air conditioning worked, why do all the hot areas with plenty of air conditioning do terribly? The lack of air conditiong is worst where it is the coolest!

      An interesting idea, but I think it’s unlikley the data is up to the task due to a lack of substantive theory and problems with the garden of forking paths and other systematic issues.

      • helloo says:

        They did mention that the effect seems to be greater for schools closer to the weather stations which they reasoned as reduced measurement errors.

        I think it is certainly possible, just as cold and cloudy days seem to make people more depressive. Not sure if this paper proves it though.

        There’s fact they are using data from people who take PSAT multiple times (wait you can take it multiple times?) and not consider population bias…

        I’m not sure if I buy the whole different ethnicities have differing effect rates for temperature explanations they give. Shouldn’t differences in income levels and housing take account of that? The fact they don’t include Asians also seems somewhat suspicious.

        Plus I expect a decent location based variable to be included in most regressions and to have high covariance with temperature, making it hard to compare their estimate and previous ones.

  36. rlms says:

    How much did the US government pay for Barbary pirates not to attack American ships in the late 1700s? When I initially saw this Wikipedia page, I read it as being 20% of the federal budget each year, but on closer inspection it seems to be a total amount that is 20% of the yearly budget. But I can’t make either interpretation fit with the claims about Washington’s salary here.

  37. Vincent Soderberg says:

    I have a lot of problem with motivation/feel goodery. I am considering taking L-tyrosine. anyone taking it here with any advice?

    Info about me: i live in sweden, havedepression, high functioning autism. i am on fluoxetine 60 mg

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Have you tried changing your diet first instead of adding supplements? I think tyrosine is high enough in commonly eaten foods that supplementing with it is unnecessary.

  38. Levantine says:

    David Friedman expresses a strongly negative view on revolutions. David, I wonder what’s your take on the American Revolution.
    For fun, I will guess: the word “Revolution” here is a misnomer.

    • I don’t have a strong opinion on whether things would have turned out better or worse without the revolution, depending in part on what the alternative was. Adam Smith proposed giving the colonists seats in parliament proportioned to their contributions to the revenue of the empire and casually added that if that was done, in a century or so the capital would move to the New World. Canada and Australia didn’t have revolutions, and didn’t turn out strikingly worse than the U.S.

      But I agree that the American Revolution wasn’t a revolution in the sense I was thinking of, since it was mainly against a foreign ruling power rather than an attempt to overthrow the existing local government–although, of course, there was a substantial fraction of the population supporting British rule.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Yeah, the American Revolution had its roots in a disagreement over the legal and moral status of the colonies with respect to Britain. The colonials saw themselves as having a status something like a modern Dominion (i.e. a state that owes allegiance to the British Crown and follows British foreign policy as a junior partner, but which otherwise functions as an independent state), but the majority faction in Parliament saw the colonies as being fully under the jurisdiction of the British government and having limited local self-government only on sufferance.

        The ambiguity had existed from the get-go, but communication lag, difficulties in projecting power across the Atlantic, and Parliament’s lack of interest in trying to assert power in the colonies all aligned to keep it pretty much academic until the mid-18th century, when Parliament noticed that it could and did send fleets and armies across the Atlantic, and that the economies of the colonies had become a big enough part of the Empire’s overall economy to be worth the trouble of a serious attempt to tax and align with Britain’s mercantilist trade policy.

      • Anthony says:

        I’ve seen an analysis which said that the American War for Independence occurred between 1775 and 1781, while the American Revolution was a mostly political affair, happening mostly between 1781 and 1792, with some stirrings in 1776.

        • cassander says:

          I’d be curious to read that analysis, really any good look at the “domestic front” of the american revolution, on either the british or american side. Any suggestions?

          • Anthony says:

            Sorry, I don’t remember where I read that. I don’t quite have a photographic memory, but I really don’t have a bibliographic memory.

  39. Andrew Hunter says:

    A random thought I had: many people complain that the rent is too damn high, and a general principle of economics is that if you tax something you get less of it. But I’ve never heard anyone propose putting high taxes on rent payments.

    A) Why not?

    B) Has this happened?

    C) What would the first/second order economic effect if San Francisco, say, charged 25% “sales” tax on all rent payments (assuming landlords didn’t find some trivial labeling workaround?) Obviously it would encourage more owner occupancy, but there’s only so much of that being desired. I also am not sure what effect it’d have on sale prices.

    • 10240 says:

      You would get less rental housing, not less high rents. If you tax something, gross prices will be higher than the original price, while net prices will be lower. If gross prices ended up lower (and of course net prices even lower), then demand would be higher than in the original situation, and supply would be lower, so such a price can’t be market clearing, assuming that the original price was market clearing.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        I believe you’re agreeing with me in different words.

        • Iain says:

          If you agree that taxing rent just means less rental housing without also decreasing the price, why do you find it surprising that nobody has ever tried a rent tax?

          • quanta413 says:

            I too am confused. Unless the goal is to shift even more people into buying houses? But that’s already even more expensive.

            The market is so constrained by regulations in this case, I’m not sure what else we’d see besides more roommates and extended families.

        • analytic_wheelbarrow says:

          What 10240 and Iain said. They’re not agreeing with you. A tax on rents would raise the amount people pay and would decrease the quantity supplied of housing.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I expect it would decrease housing prices, since it would reduce the rent landlords could collect and thus make houses less valuable for use as an income stream. It would encourage conversions of apartments to condos as well.

      Biggest losers are renters, who will be paying more. The SF market is so hot I expect the landlords would be able to pass most of the tax along.

    • baconbits9 says:

      One of the main things to consider when talking economist speak is that “costs” and “prices” aren’t quite interchangeable. As an example if you lived in a highly communist country they would often issue bread coupons, allowing a person to go to a store and exchange it for a loaf. In this context the “price” of a loaf of bread was one coupon, however the “cost” was often standing in line for several hours, or traveling a large distance to the store or both.

      Taxes shift how those non monetary costs are experienced. In economic terms a tax on rent would be a form of rent control, where an absolute cap on rent would be modeled in an equivalent way to a 100% tax on rent over a level of X, so you idea has been tried in practice under a different name. Rent control leads to obvious outcomes, first is the decline in competition, second is a decline in the quality of the goods and third is an increase in the non monetary costs of the good. Each of these encourages graft and corruption.

      For predicted effects on prices it is difficult to put a direction as you have to separate out the quality of the housing stock now with the quality later. The lack of competition restricts supply and pushes prices up, the lack of profit reduces the value of rental units and pushes competition for them down, pushes prices down. The lack of profit and competition reduces the pressure to maintain the units and encourages cost cutting as well, reducing the value of the units and pushing prices down.

      The specifics would be determined by how the legislation was written and local factors but what you expect with such efforts is a combination of longer waiting times to find a place to live and lower quality of such places, I believe this is well documented in the literature on rent control.

      • 10240 says:

        It’s not exactly the same as rent control, though. Rent control results in demand exceeding supply, as the market clearing price is illegal, so some people just can’t find an apartment even if they could afford the market price (assuming the rent control is fully enforced). A tax below 100% doesn’t have this effect, as rents can be increased until demand decreases and/or supply increases (in theory; taxes close to 100% might have a similar effect).

        • baconbits9 says:

          As I said a 100% tax on rents above a certain level would work the same as rent control, a lesser tax rate would expected to have the same type of effects, but of a different magnitude.

          Rent control results in demand exceeding supply,

          Taxation can have the same effect. If the market clearing price for an apartment is $2,000 a month a 25% tax rate would mean that the landlord would only receive $1500 a month and you would expect supply not to meet demand.

          A tax below 100% doesn’t have this effect, as rents can be increased until demand decreases and/or supply increases

          The effect is the same. If the market clears at $2,000 a month and landlords see their returns on the same apartments drop from $2,000 to $1,500 then the supply of housing should drop. If the original market clearing price was based on a competitive market a significant tax increase will always lead to a shortage when compared to that price as landlord’s revenue will drop.

          • Rent control results in demand exceeding supply,

            Taxation can have the same effect. If the market clearing price for an apartment is $2,000 a month a 25% tax rate would mean that the landlord would only receive $1500 a month and you would expect supply not to meet demand.

            You are forgetting that quantity demanded is a function of price. Without rent control, quantity supplied goes down, price goes up, and it keeps going up until quantity demanded is equal to quantity supplied, just as without the tax.

            The difference is that the price paid by the tenant is now higher than before, price received by the landlord (net of tax) is lower than before, and quantity is lower than before.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You are forgetting that quantity demanded is a function of price. Without rent control, quantity supplied goes down, price goes up, and it keeps going up until quantity demanded is equal to quantity supplied, just as without the tax.

            A rose by any other name. In the above description the price rises because the supply drops, under rent control the non monetary costs rise and/or the quality of the good drops. Under taxation we classify the shortage as “dead weight loss”, but the effect of both situations is similar for the consumer. Under rent control you get less housing at higher costs with non monetary costs dominating, and under increased taxation you get less housing at higher costs with monetary costs dominating.

          • but the effect of both situations is similar for the consumer. Under rent control you get less housing at higher costs with non monetary costs dominating, and under increased taxation you get less housing at higher costs with monetary costs dominating.

            You earlier wrote:

            If the original market clearing price was based on a competitive market a significant tax increase will always lead to a shortage

            Rent control leads to a shortage–quantity demanded is higher than quantity supplied, so people willing to pay the legal price are sometimes unable to find anyone willing to rent to them at that price.

            A tax on rent leads to a higher price of housing.

            Both make potential tenants worse off, but in different ways. Only one produces a shortage, which is not the same thing as a high price. There is no shortage of diamonds, although they are expensive.

            And rent control makes many current tenants better off by a transfer to them from their landlord, which is one reason it is often politically popular.

            You wrote:

            and you would expect supply not to meet demand.

            With the tax, supply is meeting demand–at a higher price.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ DavidFriedman

            You are using price, when you need to use cost.

            Lets say I run a promotion for my store where everyone who shops there gets a free cookie (limit one per customer, no purchase necessary yada, yada, yada). I consider 2 options, first is that I will staff a table by the entrance offering every customer who comes in a cookie, the other is to have cookies at every register and give them to every customer as they check out, so anyone who wants their free cookie has to wait their turn in the check out line. The number of cookies ‘demanded’ will be a function of the price + the non monetary costs involved.

            Demand is a function of cost of which price is one factor. When you can draw a supply and demand curve using price you are implicitly assuming that all non monetary costs are held constant. If my grocery store drops prices by 10% and you graph my demand curve to figure out my personal elasticity you are assuming that their location, availability, customer service quality etc all did not change.

            When rent ceilings are put in place you get a ‘shortage’, that is there are more people who want to pay $1,000 a month for an apartment than there are apartments available to them. The price of getting an apartment is $1000 a month, the new cost of getting an apartment is 5 years on a waiting list and $1000 a month.

            Rent control leads to a shortage–quantity demanded is higher than quantity supplied, so people willing to pay the legal price are sometimes unable to find anyone willing to rent to them at that price.

            Lets say I pay $2,000 a month for an apartment, and the city passes a 90% tax on all rent > $1,000 a month. Will I expect to be able to rent the same apartment after the tax increase at $2,000 a month? It is a legal price to charge and to pay.

            From an economist’s point of view what is the difference between causing a shortage by making something strictly illegal, and by reducing demand by making it a practical impossibility to provide a good at the previous market price?

            With the tax, supply is meeting demand–at a higher price.

            With rent control I can just claim that supply is meeting demand at a higher cost, and the the cost now just includes price+waiting for 5 years for an apartment.

          • From an economist’s point of view what is the difference between causing a shortage by making something strictly illegal, and by reducing demand by making it a practical impossibility to provide a good at the previous market price?

            In the case of a tax, the increased cost is going to the government as revenue. In the case of rent control, it’s being dissipated in waiting times and the like.

            You earlier wrote:

            If the market clearing price for an apartment is $2,000 a month a 25% tax rate would mean that th