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Open Thread 104.75

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

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808 Responses to Open Thread 104.75

  1. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Hey, I just finished Cobra Kai and suspect I should say something about it before the next OT, because Culture War. Isn’t it sad that talking about a TV series has come to this?

    That. Was. Fantastic.
    How could a TV sequel to a film from more than 30 years ago, which itself was just the Rocky for Teenagers Picture Show, be this good? Well, two reasons. One, they’re taking their dramatic beats from Shakespeare rather than action movies. Two… it’s topical.
    34 years after losing the under-18 karate tournament to Daniel Larusso, Johnny Lawrence is a working class deadbeat dad living in a poor neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley. Daniel is a new car dealer with a wife and two children in a good school district of the Valley (and you know what that means). The girl they fought over in high school left California after going to UC Whatever medical school (Johnny: “I knew she was smart, but I thought she was smart and hot enough to not have to work”).
    Johnny learned that if violence isn’t the answer, you didn’t ask a coherent question. He’s also sexist, dislikes immigrants, and bad at the internet. So one night he’s buying dinner from a convenience store like the loser he is when his teenage Latino neighbor Miguel gets beat up in the parking lot by boys from school. Instead of dialing 911, he shoves one boy away from his Pontiac Firebird they were smacking Miguel into and when ganged up on, all his karate training comes back. As an economically insecure WWC man who just lost his job, he takes the unsolicited loan from his rich, verbally abusive stepfather (Ed Asner!) to open a dojo. Miguel becomes his best student, followed by an overweight black girl who loves science and a Jewish boy with a deformed lip. These are the kids who get tormented in high school and the leftist faculty has no clue how to stop it.
    One of the cleverest parts is that Johnny starts out as an awful teacher. He tries to turn away a female student and he calls the Jewish boy “Lip.” He has to become PC enough to run a popular business or he won’t be able to pay the rent. But make no mistake: Johnny is the sympathetic POV and progressives get some serious mockery. It’s all about finding your balance?
    Cobra Kai is sort of a comedy, but it has a dramatic heart, and as I said the dramatic beats are cribbed from Shakespeare. How does Johnny’s son Robbie fill the void of an absent father and a mother who splits her attention between him and going to bars on dates? By dropping out of school to work for Larusso Motors, where he studies karate under Daniel for brownie points and to anger his father. Who is Miguel’s love interest? Daniel’s daughter, of course.
    The students take the confidence and discipline they learn from Sensei Lawrence to solve their problems with bullies, which is gloriously subversive of Hollywood morality. But Johnny hasn’t really redeemed his life, because his best student Miguel has learned everything he has to teach, including lessons from The Karate Kid villain Sensei Kreese that Johnny didn’t mean that way. “My Cobra Kai is different.”

    • cassander says:

      I’ve just finished watching it myself, and I have to say that as much as I love the subtle subversion of traditional movie morality, from a writing perspective the part I find most impressive is how it manages to make Johnny and Daniel sympathetic, flawed, and sensibly motivated antagonists. Their conflict drives the story, and it arises out of legitimately perceptions of how things are happening in ways that are very plausible, if a bit convenient.

    • J Mann says:

      I also just finished and loved it too. (From what I read here, Impulse is good enough to keep your Youtube Red subscription going.) I think part of the reason it works so well is that it’s on Youtube Red, so when something seems a little contrived, you just think “well, it’s on Youtube, I should really just relax.”

      Something I think is probably clever: (1) the kids often fall prey to the classic Ebert 1980’s “idiot plot,” where if they took a minute to talk through their problems, they would realize they don’t have any; (2) Johnny and Daniel often almost fall for an idiot plot, but being adults, they usually avoid it when someone else (typically Daniel’s wife) tells them “you’re grown men – maybe discuss your problems.”

      It’s in a little bit of an alternate universe – Miguel mentions MMA once, and then it never comes up again. My family studies at a strip-mall dojo, and MMA has affected pretty much every school. Even you don’t have “Tae Kwon Do (or whatever)/MMA” on your sign, which you probably do, your sensei probably watches MMA, your students watch it, and the training has been modified by what works and doesn’t work in MMA fights.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Something I think is probably clever: (1) the kids often fall prey to the classic Ebert 1980’s “idiot plot,” where if they took a minute to talk through their problems, they would realize they don’t have any; (2) Johnny and Daniel often almost fall for an idiot plot, but being adults, they usually avoid it when someone else (typically Daniel’s wife) tells them “you’re grown men – maybe discuss your problems.”

        Yeah, it’s smart writing how teenagers get into the classic “idiot plot” and it’s echoed but averted by their mentors.
        Speaking of how teenagers think, I enjoyed how Eli “Hawk” Mascowitz has a rationalist-adjacent friend. “Why don’t you join Cobra Kai?” “Because I don’t like getting hit in the face, it costs money, and by hanging out with you I’m already getting the advantage of not being bullied.”

        It’s in a little bit of an alternate universe – Miguel mentions MMA once, and then it never comes up again. My family studies at a strip-mall dojo, and MMA has affected pretty much every school. Even you don’t have “Tae Kwon Do (or whatever)/MMA” on your sign, which you probably do, your sensei probably watches MMA, your students watch it, and the training has been modified by what works and doesn’t work in MMA fights.

        Yyyeah, that’s noticeably wonky. Another “alternate universe” bit is how car insurance doesn’t seem to exist.

        @cassander:

        from a writing perspective the part I find most impressive is how it manages to make Johnny and Daniel sympathetic, flawed, and sensibly motivated antagonists. Their conflict drives the story, and it arises out of legitimately perceptions of how things are happening in ways that are very plausible, if a bit convenient.

        Yes. There’s a key turning point where Johnny is a bad teacher and businessman and has to reform quickly to pay the rent. The way it’s set up, it would have been so easy to make it “he’s a bigot and deserves his suffering unless he learns to be progressive”; but he doesn’t. Instead of making a 180 degree turn in his life, he makes more like a 135 that attracts bullied minority kids while remaining flawed, sensibly motivated working class Johnny.
        And I love how Daniel is sympathetic and flawed. The 17-year-old fatherless Jersey kid who found Mr. Miyagi as a surrogate father is disciplined, loves cars and is a bit of a otaku. He stopped practicing karate and has leveraged his former champion status into a gimmick for car ads. When his daughter brings home an Asian-American boy, he tries to show how hip and affluent he is by preparing fresh sashimi with authentic cutlery, being oblivious that the boy is thoroughly American and a bully.

        • cassander says:

          Instead of making a 180 degree turn in his life, he makes more like a 135 that attracts bullied minority kids while remaining flawed, sensibly motivated working class Johnny.

          Exactly. He turns his life around by doubling down on the things that made him a villain in the movie then teaching it to a bunch of kids, and it’s portrayed sympathetically! It’s fantastic.

    • Randy M says:

      But Johnny hasn’t really redeemed his life, because his best student Miguel has learned everything he has to teach, including lessons from The Karate Kid villain Sensei Kreese that Johnny didn’t mean that way.

      It was a good series, a lot more nuanced than you’d expect from a young adult martial arts flick like the one it follows up on.
      It’s clear that in the last episode Johnny’s students internalized “no mercy” a lot more than he had intended, and in the process subverted both the underdog makes good story of his starting the dojo, and the revenge of the nerds plot of the outcast students.
      Daniel starts out unsympathetic but you rapidly see that he’s not the obvious villain the show could have made him and the reconciliation the two former rivals have is a believable fake out in the penultimate episode .

  2. johan_larson says:

    Has anyone here seen Solo? What did you think of it?

    I watched it this afternoon, and it seemed, well, OK. I don’t regret seeing it, but I certainly won’t be seeing it again. The film seemed a bit too frantic, running from scam to scam, and it had a couple too many double-crosses to be really believable. Its attempt to have that bit about “making the Kessel run in 12 parsecs” make sense seemed sort of forced; better to have left it as an attempt by Han to bullshit an old man and a naive youngster from the sticks. But Han did shoot first this time, and it made sense that he did.

    • John Schilling says:

      They got the characters of Han, Lando, and Chewie approximately right, aside from Ehrenreich not being a lookalike for Young Harrison Ford. But then, neither was Sean Patrick Flannery, and that worked OK-ish. And they wove the three into a semi-decent heist flick with some decent new characters, which was my minimum bar for “not bad”.

      But that’s about all they did. To have gone beyond that to “really good”, they needed:

      1. A suitably impressive villain for the heroes to contend with over the course of the film. Paul Bettany’s crime lord doesn’t count; he’s basically on the protagonist’s side except for the token “of course I’ll kill you if you don’t replace the shipment you lost”. Jabba the Hutt at least sent bounty hunters. The last-act betrayals by Jbbql Uneeryfba and Rzvyvn Pynexr aren’t much help either, in that they also spend most of the movie on the hero’s side. And the less said about Qnegu Znhy the better. Basically, the bulk of the movie was about the protagonists contending against the wholly impersonal security forces of two targets, and the wholly impersonal (also random and arbitrary) second group of thieves.

      2. Less pandering to hard-core Star Wars geeks and their continuity fetishes. Yes, Han shooting first was a nice touch, and they did a decent job of his winning the Millenium Falcon in a card game. The whole bit with the fanwanked(*) explanation for the “Kessel Run” was tiresome. And the bit where one of the final-act villains is completely misplaced unless you happen to have watched the fourth season of the second animated TV series in the Star Wars continuity that Disney was supposedly ditching anyway, no, none of that please.

      3. It needed to have been more fun than “Guardians of the Galaxy”, which is the obvious baseline for comparison. If you’re going to expend – and at this point I think they have been pretty much expended – some of the most mythic characters in the genre on a “let’s have some charismatic rogues do a sci-fi heist” flick, you really ought to do a better job of it than the team that used a third-rate comic book as their source material.

      But I really did like Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, and a particular shout-out to Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the “l337” droid with the accidental revolution. And if we are going to have more of these, I don’t mind seeing Emilia Clarke added to Star Wars continuity. Particularly if she can invoke a dragon or three to eat, incinerate, or otherwise properly kill off you-know-who and stand in as a decent villain for the sequels.

      * And on that fanwank: The original script explicitly follows that line with the direction, “Ben reacts to Solo’s stupid attempt to impress them with obvious misinformation”. Possibly Guinness should have done more than just a subtle eye-roll at that point. But this movie should definitely have left it as stupid misinformation, possibly a shit-test by Beckett or Calrissian that Solo passes by calling them out on.

      • johan_larson says:

        I’m with you on Glover as Lando Calrissian. I just wish Sabacc hadn’t so obviously been space-poker.

        Emilia Clarke needs to learn to do fierce or threatening better. For some reason she made it work in GoT, but she couldn’t do it again in Terminator: Genisys and she couldn’t do it in Solo either, and she really needed to.

        The newcomer I’ll be watching for is Erin Kellyman.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        3. It needed to have been more fun than “Guardians of the Galaxy”, which is the obvious baseline for comparison. If you’re going to expend – and at this point I think they have been pretty much expended – some of the most mythic characters in the genre on a “let’s have some charismatic rogues do a sci-fi heist” flick, you really ought to do a better job of it than the team that used a third-rate comic book as their source material.

        I haven’t seen the last two Star Warses, but this pretty much says it all. Disney doesn’t even need Star Wars unless it makes way more money than that third-rate comic book team that just made them $864 million. Now obviously even the controversial The Last Jedi beat that by a country mile, but if Ep9 doesn’t, stop beating this dead tauntaun. I knew by the time Starkiller Base blew up the Hosnian system that this has zero value as science fiction or as coherent art. Nothing of value will be lost if your $800+ million space operas are based on a Marvel comic instead of George Lucas’s work.

    • fion says:

      I liked it. I agree with most of your and John’s criticisms. The Kessel Run thing might have been the worst.

      I thought both Han and Lando (especially Lando) were pretty great and convincing. I thought the plot was entertaining and the holes in it were tolerable. I like that they mostly managed to resist the temptation to over-fit it into the Star Wars universe. By that I mean there was very little mention of the Jedi/Sith, the Empire was just “an oppressive and militaristic government” rather than “this great big super-evil galactic thing” and we didn’t see many younger versions of existing characters (apart from those who actually should have been there). Instead it was just one of the stories that could be told in that universe, which is what I think it should be. Contrast to Rogue One, where they took what could have been a fun heist story and turned it into Episode 3.5, complete with Vader, Tarkin, Leia, Butt-Chin and a great big fucking space battle that totally hadn’t happened in the original trilogy.

      I also liked seeing the shipbuilding at the start, and I wish there’d been more of that.

      • johan_larson says:

        The returns from Solo are disappointing, so Disney will probably change plans somewhat. One thing they might do is to make the next back-story film with a lower budget, which would force the directors to focus more on the characters and less on big-ass space-whoo. Solo cost $300 million. I wonder what it might have looked like for the $75 million that was spent on Deadpool.

        • fion says:

          I’d never really thought about it like that before, but yeah, maybe a big budget is a bad thing for these films.

      • Lillian says:

        Can’t hate Rogue One for giving me more Vader and Tarkin, i love Vader and Tarkin, and i’m always up for more Vader and Tarkin. Also the movie works really well as Episode 3.5. You can finish watching Rogue One, start watching A New Hope, and enjoy a fairly smooth transition from one to the other.

        Frankly my personal canon as it currently stands is: Episodes I-VI, Rogue One, and both Clone Wars cartoons. Oh and also the Dark Empire comics because i have terrible taste.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I haven’t watched the longer Clone Wars cartoon, but that sounds correct.

        • fion says:

          Fair enough. It felt shoe-horned to me.

          As for watching Rogue One into Episode IV, I actually think it’s not at all smooth. Leia claimed her ship was on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan, and Vader wasn’t like “Dude, we literally just saw you escaping from the fleet we just beat the shit out of. Also gosh I feel tired. I guess I won’t be doing any lightsaber-fighting as energetic as I just did five minutes ago. I’m gonna spend the next few years resting…”

          And then later somebody says “here are the Death Star plans – many Bothans died to bring us this information.” She doesn’t then go on to say “…in that great big fucking space battle that most of you were probably present at.”

          Maybe I’m just being too nitpicky, though. 😛

          • johan_larson says:

            The Bothans died to bring the rebels information about the second Death Star, in Return of the Jedi, not about the first Death Star, in A New Hope.

          • fion says:

            :O

            Well that’s embarrassing.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Leia claimed her ship was on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan, and Vader wasn’t like “Dude, we literally just saw you escaping from the fleet we just beat the shit out of.

            Vader’s response was: “You are part of the Rebel Alliance and a traitor! Take her away!” He didn’t roll his eyes because

            a) It’s undignified and

            b) His mask wouldn’t show it anyway.

          • Lillian says:

            Yeah, Vader’s response is actually perfect in the context of the fact that her transport just fled a Rebel Alliance capital ship. Her protest is clearly 100% bullshit, she’s just stalling for time.

          • John Schilling says:

            There was presumably at least one hyperspace jump between Scarif(?) and Tattoine, so Leia trying to sell “Not us, we’re a harmless diplomatic mission, you’re looking for the other courier ship, they went thataway” was a reasonable bluff that Vader reasonably rejected.

            The bit where Vader phones in his lightsaber duel in ANH, and delegates most of the rest of the fighting to nameless Stormtroopers, is a legitimate discrepancy. They should have upped the ending to have Jyn and Cassian escape the Imperial facility to hand-deliver their data to the Rebel Flagship – and then get cut down effortlessly by Vader, along with the rest of the Rebel Scum, because they’re the B team going up against Darth Freaking Vader. But Cassian can get in a shot that visibly wounds Vader before being bisected, and Jyn can be the hero who hands off the Secret Plans(tm) through the blast door before the wounded but relentless Vader catches up with her. Instead, meh, we get the sappy sunrise-on-the-beach death scene ending.

            It was still a pretty good movie, and it mostly works as a prequel.

          • Lillian says:

            Yeah having Vader get injured in Rogue One would have been a good way to explain his poor fighting in A New Hope.

            That said, as cool as it was to watch Vader do the unstoppable walk of doom against the rebel scum, that whole sequence was basically fanwank. In the original trilogy Darth Vader is a deadly starfighter pilot who also happens occasionally indulge in laser sword duels in the manner of his ancient religion. He never engages in ground or boarding combat, nor shows any interest or inclination towards doing so. He doesn’t even draw his weapon outside of duels. Why would he? He’s a pilot, not a commando, and he has legions of elite mooks to handle infantry combat for him.

            However, since i happen to like fanwank Vader, i am not complaining about his inclusion over OG Vader in Rogue One. Though yes, it does introduce some inconsistencies with the rest of the story.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I thought it worked as well as a film that had its history (director change, re-writes and re-shoots) probably can be expected to.

      Unlike others, I don’t care about the making parsecs work in context of Kessel run. Fine, but make it work. But, I’m getting very tired of using ground bound action tropes try to work in space. Between the “bombers” in Last Jedi, and the “space tunnels” in Solo .. just ugh. The mine fields in fucking Galaxy Quest made more sense.

      But, the fundamental problem with the movie is that they fuck up the arguably most important relationship in the whole movie, which is the one between Solo and the character played by Jbbql Uneeryfba. We get only the barest hint of why Gunaql Arjgba would essentially commit suicide for him/them. And the emotional impact the script requires to make it work just never materializes.

      Deaths have to be earned in stories, or they do not work.

      • fion says:

        Kind of agree about the ground bound action tropes -> space. But haven’t they been doing that for all of the Star Wars films? Dogfights between fighters look just like they would in air, despite the fact that turning circles are not (or shouldn’t be) a thing in space. And there seems to be an awful lot of landing and fighting on planets considering all the space lasers they have kicking about.

        The impression I got of the character who sacrificed themself was that it was necessary to save everyone else. I’m struggling to remember the details, so I could be mistaken, but wasn’t it a case of “either I kill myself now or all of us including me die very shortly”?

        EDIT: Also, I like the triple-layered spoiler proofness. Refer to characters by the actors’ names, rot13 them AND spell one of the names wrong. 😉

        • cassander says:

          IIRC, the train wrapped around both sides of the track, so to get the car they needed to get it off the rails, and the only way to do that was to blow it up. And if they didn’t get the cargo, the gangster was going to murder them all anyway, or if not all of them, at least woody harrelson

          • HeelBearCub says:

            And we don’t find out that last piece of information until well afterwards, which is still weak sauce.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          But haven’t they been doing that for all of the Star Wars films?

          Sure, Star Wars has always played that game. All of sci-fi has played that game. For many reasons, not the least of which is that effectively simulating weightlessness is expensive, for many meanings of expensive.

          But, they usually try and make a space ship look likes it’s lodged in a mine tunnel *in the middle of space*. They make it land on asteroid. The story-boarding and special effects were more “Hanna-Barbera cartoon” than big budget sci-fi special effect extravaganza. It was just extremely lazy.

          As to the death, you don’t learn of a plausible motivation for it until well after the event. Thus, in the moment, you are simply thinking “well, there is an action movie trope. The ancillary team member sacrificing themselves”. It’s completely flat because we have no emotional investment in the need for it at that point.

  3. johan_larson says:

    You have the opportunity to send a message to the past. The message may go to any identifiable historical person at a time in their life chosen by you. The message will be conveyed to them in a manner that inspires trust. The message must be in English, and fit within the old Twitter character limit of 140 characters. It will of course be translated into a language the recipient understands.

    What message do you wish to send, to whom, and when should they receive it?

    • Anonymous says:

      Kaiser Wilhelm, ca 1916. “The Bolsheviks and any other communists are not your friends. Do not fund them. Arrest and execute any you find, especially Lenin.”

      • Brad says:

        You and everyone you know would never be born. Would you do it anyway?

        • Anonymous says:

          Any interference in the past like this will prevent me from existing in the presumed ‘overwrite’ model of time travel. Even if the message would be to myself – the point is to make some change, rather than just shitposting at historical figures for lulz.

        • johan_larson says:

          Let’s suppose this scenario comes with a guarantee that you will have a place in the revised timeline. The “you” in the new timeline will be as much like you in this timeline as possible given the changes in history, and will remember his or her life in this timeline.

          • Brad says:

            I acknowledge that this is your thought experiment to do with as you wish, but I’m not even talking about some butterfly effect thing here. The calamities of the first half of the 20th century directly and massively influenced the lives of my great-grandparents and grandparents. There is no way that one set of my grandparents would have ended up in the same city if they had not occurred. And even if by some bizarre coincidence they had the many traumas one of my grandfathers suffered profoundly shaped his personality when my dad was growing up which in turn had a huge impact on my dad’s personality which in turn had a huge impact on mine.

        • johan_larson says:

          I’ll answer your question.

          No. I would not make a change to history so extensive that no plausible version of me would exist in it. I would settle for something more modest. For example, I could send the message to myself at 10 or 14, to reset some life choices I regret. But I would really like to do something more ambitious than that, although I’m not sure of what would do some real good.

      • DeWitt says:

        Presuming the trust inspired by the note is strong enough, do you think there is any one message you could send anywhere to stop Communism from coming about?

        • johan_larson says:

          Tell Marx that the ideas he is writing about are going to inspire a movement that with the best of intentions will bring tyranny, famine, and war on a vast scale. Tell him to write less about what is wrong with capitalism, and more about how it should be fixed. Suggest something like social democracy or the US New Deal.

          With more guidance from their prophet, the Communists probably won’t go for what Lenin and Mao brought about in our history.

          • DeWitt says:

            So Marx doesn’t write Das Kapital, the communist manifesto, what have you, and lives out his life in Trier quietly. How do you think this will change the future history of some literal hundreds of millions peasants in Russia, China, Ethiopia, various colonies, all of whom have no middle class to ‘civilise’ a revolution?

          • cassander says:

            Tell Marx that the ideas he is writing about are going to inspire a movement that with the best of intentions will bring tyranny, famine, and war on a vast scale.

            Marx dedicated his life to creating war and tyranny on a vast scale, in order to usher in the glorious utopia that would follow them. I don’t think this would dissuade him.

          • johan_larson says:

            So Marx doesn’t write Das Kapital, the communist manifesto, what have you, and lives out his life in Trier quietly.

            I’m a bit fuzzy on this, but my impression is that Marx was mostly a really potent critic of the capitalism of his day. He didn’t have a lot to say about that should replace it. And he was no great fan of what the Communists had in mind.

            I’m hoping that if he spends a bit more time on what should replace capitalism and how to get there, he, as a bourgeois European, will suggest something more humane than the Russian and Chinese revolutionaries came up with on their own.

            There will still be revolutions. I recognize that. I’m just hoping the resulting governments will be a bit more humane. And if the intellectual founder they are pointing to offers more guidance, I think they might be.

            Would it work? No idea.

          • fion says:

            @johan_larson

            Might be tricky to fit into the character limit. I think if we could send Marx a brief history post-him then he’d write differently. I’m sure he’d be fascinated to learn that the revolution didn’t happen in advanced countries first, that modern capitalism actually has a mostly ok standard of living and so on.

            @cassander

            No, he didn’t. Marx was of the (mistaken) belief that the revolution would be relatively peaceful and the transition period to the utopia would still be better than the war and tyranny that was the bread-and-butter of capitalism.

            If you could actually convince Marx that so-called socialist countries were actually in some cases worse than capitalist countries his views would definitely change significantly.

          • cassander says:

            @fion

            No, he didn’t. Marx was of the (mistaken) belief that the revolution would be relatively peaceful .

            This is flat out wrong. Marx explicitly envisioned a revolution modeled on the french revolution complete with its own terror. to quote him

            “[The working class] must act in such a manner that the revolutionary excitement does not collapse immediately after the victory. On the contrary, they must maintain it as long as possible. Far from opposing so-called excesses, such as sacrificing to popular revenge of hated individuals or public buildings to which hateful memories are attached, such deeds must not only be tolerated, but their direction must be taken in hand, for examples’ sake.”

            The purposeless massacres perpetrated since the June and October events, the tedious offering of sacrifices since February and March, the very cannibalism of the counterrevolution will convince the nations that there is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror.

            We have no compassion and we ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror.

            A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?

            the last is engels, not marx, but I think the point is clear. there was absolutely nothing peaceful about Marx’s revolution, it was explicitly violent not just in the sense of overthrowing an existing regime, but also in perpetuating mass killings on the model of the french revolution.

          • DeWitt says:

            There will still be revolutions. I recognize that. I’m just hoping the resulting governments will be a bit more humane. And if the intellectual founder they are pointing to offers more guidance, I think they might be.

            That’s about as fair of a deal as you might hope for, I suppose. Fair enough.

          • fion says:

            @cassander

            Wow, thanks for the correction. I’m very surprised that I managed to get such a wrong impression from talking to so many Marxists. Where are those quotes taken from?

          • Eric Rall says:

            I’m a bit fuzzy on this, but my impression is that Marx was mostly a really potent critic of the capitalism of his day. He didn’t have a lot to say about that should replace it. And he was no great fan of what the Communists had in mind.

            He was fairly specific that capitalism would/should (*) be replaced by a “dictatorship of the proletariat”, where the machinery of the state and other major institutions (Marx’s collective term for these is the “Superstructure”) would be seized by the working class, and that the transition would come in the form of a violent revolution.

            The Russian Revolution tracked Marx’s prescribed revolution and Dictatorship of the Proletariat pretty well. The biggest departure Lenin made from Marx was the idea of a “revolutionary vanguard” dominating process: Marx was non-specific about the actual governing mechanisms by which the Proletariat would wield power, and may have envisioned a bottom-up system of workers’ council. Lenin’s system did have workers’ councils (the “soviets”), but they were eclipsed in importance by the Communist Party, which saw itself as acting on behalf of the interests of a Proletariat that wasn’t quite ready to wield power directly. Opinions differ over how big a departure this was.

            Where Marx was really vague, and what you’re probably thinking of, is what would come after the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Marx predicted/prescribed that the State would wither away and be replaced by “True Communism”. He offered no details on how the State would wither away, and explicitly refused to describe True Communism on the grounds that it was too far away to predict clearly. Obviously, the Soviet state failed to wither away and be replaced by True Communism.

            (*) Marx had a persistent tendency to equivocate between descriptive and normative claims.

          • cassander says:

            @fion

            In order:

            Address to the Communist League (1850)
            the victory of the counterrevolution in vienna
            Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 301
            the engles bit is from “on authority”

            There has been a lot of white washing of marx by marxists, claims that it was lenin or stalin who introduced mass terror, but while lenin was more explicit about it than marx was, it’s simply wrong to say that marx didn’t envision and call for mass killing.

        • Anonymous says:

          Presuming the trust inspired by the note is strong enough, do you think there is any one message you could send anywhere to stop Communism from coming about?

          I don’t think so. Communism is just an instance of a recurring phenomenon in human history, when a civilization gets too civilized, and wraps around into evil. But even if I’m right in this, attempts must be made even when can there be no hope.

      • cassander says:

        Kaiser Willy probably would have agreed with that sentiment, and in any case wasn’t the one who decided to fund the Bolsheviks, Arthur Zimmerman was. You’d have better luck with a message that said “Your idiot foreign minister is funding the Bolsheviks and communists, you should sack him.”

        • bean says:

          I’m not sure that would be enough to make a material difference. “Replace your brain, and then your entire government.” would be useful, but it’s hard to implement.

          • cassander says:

            It’s not enough win the war, but it might be enough to keep Lenin off that train.

        • Lillian says:

          Honestly, “You should sack your idiot foreign minister” is just good advice for Kaiser Wilhelm in general.

          On a related note, here is my time travelling tweet, intended for General Helmuth von Moltke the Younger to receive when he wakes up on August 1st, 1914: “The Kaiser will demand that you send the army east in order to avoid a two front war. It can be done. Hermann von Staabs is brilliant, trust that he is up to the task.”

          This is the best bet i have for ending the First World War early. Yes with a German victory, but honestly i think the fate Europe rests not in who wins, but how quickly. The faster the war ends, the lower the chances that her grievously wounded powers will descend into utter madness. A plan for the Triple-Entente to win quickly would work just as well, but i don’t have any that can be compressed into a tweet.

          • cassander says:

            >Honestly, “You should sack your idiot foreign minister” is just good advice for Kaiser Wilhelm in general.

            Ugh, isn’t that the truth. You can be Bismark all you want, but a good foreign policy is one that can survive being handed off to a Caprivi.

            But if a quick end to the war is all you need, I think kicking the can down the road a few years is probably good enough. 5 ish years and armies will have started mechanizing in a serious way, Austria hungary be weaker, russia will be stronger, and the brits will be more in bed with the french. And to do that, you’re better of sending a tweet to gavrilo princip about 10 minutes before the Archduke shows up in front of the deli saying “The authorities are about to raid this building, run!” Or, if not that, telling franz joseph to accept the serbian response to his ultimatum.

          • a reader says:

            @Lilian:

            This is the best bet i have for ending the First World War early. Yes with a German victory, but honestly i think the fate Europe rests not in who wins, but how quickly.

            Why not prevent WWI altogether, by preventing archduke Ferdinand about the atentate that will happen in Sarajevo? That would probably be my option if I were a Westerner. I hesitate because I am an Eastern European and for much of the Eastern Europe, the end of WWI and decomposition of Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires had some good outcomes, resulting in many smaller nations becoming independent or entire. Maybe if I can put in 144 characters both the info about Gavrilo Princip’s atentate and a convincing enough advice to federalize the empire when he becomes emperor, giving everybody / any ethnicity equal rights and large autonomy in areas were it’s a majority – so that the Empire becomes a kind of European Union with a monarch. But I doubt that would work.

          • Creutzer says:

            It seems hightly implausible to me that remaining in the Austro-Hungarian Empire would have been worse, or even nearly as bad, for the various countries involved than becoming part of the Soviet Union was.

            Preventing WWI would prevent both the Soviet Union and the Nazis probably – both of which were extremely bad for Eastern Europe.

          • Lillian says:

            @Cassander: The Second World War was pretty damned mechanized, happened two decades later, and lasted five and a half years in Europe. Pushing the first round back five years might not be enough to make it quick.

            @a reader: Europe was a powder keg. If one thing hadn’t set it off, it would have been another. Even during its most peaceful times Europe would still have a great power war every few decades, and there were no real mechanisms around to truly prevent another one. Nor has there been enough of a shock to the system for Europeans to be properly terrified of having great power wars in the first place. Averting the First World War isn’t an option, at best you can avert the specific form it took.

            Also you don’t need to convince the Archduke Franz Ferdinand to federalize the Empire, he’s already on board with that. According to historian Leo Valiani:

            “Baron Margutti, Francis Joseph’s aide-de-camp, was told by Francis Ferdinand in 1895 and–with a remarkable consistency in view of the changes that took place in the intervening years–again in 1913, that the introduction of the dual system in 1867 had been disastrous and that, when he ascended the throne, he intended to re-establish strong central government: this objective, he believed, could be attained only by the simultaneous granting of far-reaching administrative autonomy to all the nationalities of the monarchy. In a letter of February 1, 1913, to Berchtold, the Foreign Minister, in which he gave his reasons for not wanting war with Serbia, the Archduke said that “irredentism in our country … will cease immediately if our Slavs are given a comfortable, fair and good life” instead of being trampled on (as they were being trampled on by the Hungarians). It must have been this which caused Berchtold, in a character sketch of Francis Ferdinand written ten years after his death, to say that, if he had succeeded to the throne, he would have tried to replace the dual system by a supranational federation.”

            You might actually be best served by preventing the Archduke’s assassination. What happens after that is going to be very high variance, but as Creutzer says it would be hard to be worse off than being occupied by first the Nazis and then then the Soviet Union.

          • cassander says:

            @Lillian

            5 years doesn’t sound like a lot, change is happening incredible fast in this period. In 1910, there are less than a half million cars in the united states. In 1916, ford makes more than a half million model Ts. By 1920, they’d be making more than a million a year, and costs would have fallen more than half in nominal dollars and almost 80% in inflation adjusted dollars.

            The armies of europe would not be mechanized by 1920, not even close. They weren’t even mechanized by 1939. But in 1920, the possibility of mechanization would be realizable in a way that it just wasn’t in 1914. Cross terrain trucks, artillery tractors, and maybe even armored fighting vehicles would be on the drawing boards if not actually in production, and the industrial techniques needed to mass produce them would have been widely disseminated. Assuming the armies would go to war largely unmechanized, they would almost immediately run into the 50 miles beyond the railhead problem, and unlike in 1915, trucks would be a viable solution to the problem. One of the armies would put together enough trucks and operational doctrine to achieve meaningful breakthroughs

            I’ll grant you that 1920 is about the earliest possible date for this to happen and it might be a bit optimistic, but the sea change that made it possible happened in the US in this period despite the war.

            As for ww2 taking 5 years, those are some very different dynamics at play, in particular a far wealthier (relatively) US funding the war effort. the actual fighting in ww2 was far more decisive, most spectacularly the battle for france, but also in lesser theaters.

          • Lillian says:

            It’s too high variance, you can very easily have a long destructive war that drives Europe completely off the cliff of sanity in 1920. There is zero gurantee that you won’t, just the hope that greater motorizatoin will somehow make it go by faster. The lowest variance way to get a short war is to send the German East. Even that is no grantee, but it’s got the best odds.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think part of the trouble was that the whole funding and helping the Bolsheviks and Lenin was seen as worth it on the grounds that “they’re trying to destabilise Russia, if this works we can waltz in and scoop up all that Pan-Slavic sphere of influence they’re trying to build for ourselves”.

          If you can convince via a tweet that yes this will destabilise Russia but you really don’t want that to happen with these guys left in charge, good luck.

      • fion says:

        If WW2 ended up happening, we’d probably lose it. Whether or not Hitler was allied with Russia or betrayed them part way through or whatever, the military power of Russia would be much less if it had never had the revolution. And Russia was mostly responsible for Germany losing. I’d be here in the UK speaking German.

        • dndnrsn says:

          How do the Nazis come to power in this scenario? A big thing driving Nazi recruitment and driving the belief among the conservatives that they could use the NSDAP to ward off communism. Without the communists to create the fear of communism, you don’t have the Nazis able to appeal to voters from classes that stood to lose or thought they stood to lose from communism, and you don’t have conservatives who think they can use Hitler while keeping him in line.

          A Germany that is embittered after losing WWI (which presumably would still happen one way or another) but doesn’t have the rise of right-wing paramilitary elements to fight communist revolutionaries immediately post-war, doesn’t have the fear of what’s going on in the USSR, doesn’t have a USSR-aligned communist party to create even more fear, is still going to be screwed up (it’s not as though the existence of the USSR led to the economic problems in the early 20s or the Depression). There’s not the path that took the Nazis to power, however.

          It was, by and large, the Nazis who wanted another war. The conservative elites who made up the pre-Nazi leadership, and who throughout 1933-1945 made up the bulk of the generals (at least, in the army), generally did not want another war. Had it not been for the Blomberg and Fritsch affairs and the events of the late 30s to 1940, the generals would not have fallen into line behind Hitler to the extent they did.

          • fion says:

            Oh yeah, good point…

            But… there are still communists other than those inspired by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, right? As you put it, Germany is still going to be screwed up, it’s going to have extreme left and extreme right elements both trying to bring down the very weak government… If the extreme left loses their inspiration in the form of the USSR they’re still going to be there. And so’s the extreme right. I feel as though the “make Germany great again” will still be an incredibly strong feeling, and some form of nationalists are still liable to take power.

          • dndnrsn says:

            There were other communists, yeah, but Lenin’s path to power – vanguard-led revolution amidst the collapse of the old system – seems to be the one that works for communists. Without the USSR to point to as some kind of glorious worker’s paradise or whatever, it’s hard to see communists being able to attract the support they did. I don’t think a left-wing dictatorship in Germany would be that likely.

            Conservative nationalists existed in Germany and would have existed following a WWI defeat, even without the fear of the Soviets. They did not do too badly seeking power electorally – eg, the DNVP got a fifth of the vote at one point. An authoritarian conservative nationalist dictatorship in Germany would be a possibility there.

            When you look at the authoritarian right-wing governments in Europe, they simply weren’t as dangerous to world peace as the fascists in Italy were (it is often forgotten how nasty they were in attempting to build a colonial empire) let alone the Nazis. Their evils were primarily done in alliance with the Nazis. They were anti-Semites, but they were not exterminationists to anywhere close to the degree the Nazis were (and they often refused to hand over Jews with their national citizenship to the Germans – consider what happened to Hungarian Jews, who were relatively safe until the Germans seized control of Hungary following an attempt by the Hungarians to settle with the Soviets, and then were mostly murdered); their territorial expansionism was mostly limited to claiming land that they considered ethnically theirs (whereas the Nazis wanted not just to claim lands in Poland they considered German, but conquer pretty much everything east of a certain point, starve huge numbers of people to death, eliminate the intelligentisia, and reduce the remainder to slaves).

            What would the outside goals of an authoritarian conservative nationalist government look like in Germany? They would likely be pan-Germans – but the majority of what they want would be what Germany had gotten by some point in 1938. Maybe they would push for some territory in Poland hard enough to start a war, and maybe they would really really want Alsace and Lorraine to be Elsass and Lothringe again enough to start a war. But Nazi Germany’s war aims went significantly beyond that.

            Likewise, this government would definitely be anti-Semitic, but the attempt to exterminate the Jews (first by pipe-dream plans of mass deportation that would result in mass death, then by mass murder) was a Nazi thing, and a Nazi thing that did not escalate to the point of indiscriminate mass murder until 1941 – you can’t decouple the movements towards the building of death camps and deportation to them and the increasingly indiscriminate activity of death squads in the USSR from the war with the USSR (especially in fall-winter 1941 when it became increasingly obvious that quick deportation to the east would not be possible) and from the three million or so Jews who fell into German hands following the invasion of Poland (an authoritarian right-wing government might go for ethnically German parts of Poland, maybe a few other choice bits, but would be far less likely to invade the whole country). Imagine that this hypothetical government would not go further in anti-Semitic legislation than was in Germany in 1938 – that was still less harsh than black people experienced in the southern US into the decades after WWII.

            National socialism was evil in a way that an authoritarian right-wing government would not be evil. We’re talking “greatest monsters of history” territory versus “tin-pot dictator” territory.

          • fion says:

            Thanks for taking the time to explain that. It made for interesting reading.

            So would it be correct to say that the following two differences existed between Nazi Germany and other authoritarian nationalists?

            1) Greater degree of expansionism – other authoritarian nationalists might have had an appetite for ‘recovering’ ‘German’ land, but wouldn’t have had the ‘take over all of Europe’ ambitions that the Nazis seemed to have.

            2) More willingness to engage in mass-murder – other authoritarian nationalists might have disappeared some people and generally used fear as a means of maintaining control, and might also have passed oppressive laws against a whole group of people (such as Jews) but would not have escalated into extermination as the Nazis did.

            (Obviously I’ve simplified what you said, but I guess I’m asking whether I’ve distorted it or whether this is basically what you were getting at?)

        • Whether or not Hitler was allied with Russia or betrayed them part way through or whatever, the military power of Russia would be much less if it had never had the revolution.

          I don’t think that’s clear–it depends on what happens instead of the revolution that did happen. I may be mistaken, but my impression is that Russian economic growth during the decades before WWI was quite good, much better than in the decades after. So cancelling the revolution might well have resulted in a considerably more prosperous and advanced Russia.

          That leaves the question of what the political system would have been, whether it would have been as capable of building a military and conducting war as Stalin’s government was. It isn’t an exact comparison, but it’s worth remembering that the attempt at conquering Europe in the previous century was also ended by a failed invasion of Russia.

          Under the Tsars.

          • bean says:

            I don’t think that’s clear–it depends on what happens instead of the revolution that did happen. I may be mistaken, but my impression is that Russian economic growth during the decades before WWI was quite good, much better than in the decades after. So cancelling the revolution might well have resulted in a considerably more prosperous and advanced Russia.

            Russian economic growth in the early 20th century was very high. At one point before the revolution, they had the 4th-largest economy in the world, after Britain, Germany, and the US.

          • cassander says:

            A czarist russia in 1939 would almost unquestionably have been a more prosperous place, but it also still likely would have been ruled by Nicholas II, who would only be 71. There’s no reason to assume that he wouldn’t show exactly the same weaknesses as a leader he’d shown his whole life. I think it’s an open question whether a materially better off but less ruthlessly governed Russia is better at winning the war than what we actually got.

          • Nick says:

            There’s no reason to assume that he wouldn’t show exactly the same weaknesses as a leader he’d shown his whole life.

            Can you expand on this?

          • DeWitt says:

            Lenin not being smuggled in by the Germans and being stuck in Switzerland seems dubious – entirely possible, or even likely, that he finds a way back home regardless. It also only prevents the October revolution, and not the February revolution in the first place. You’re still left with the Czar getting deposed and the chaos that follows taking place, as well as the crazies being the most likely to take over the mess that follows.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Would a Czarist Russia have had better, or worse, generals than the USSR had once Stalin eased off a little on political control of military decisions, and once doctrine discredited by association with guys who got purged had been brought back in?

          • fion says:

            @DavidFriedman @bean @cassander

            It seems a little unreasonable to compare Russian growth before and after the first world war. The war hit everybody, and so did the depression that followed.

            I accept that it’s not obviously true that Russia would have been less advanced without the revolution (although I must confess this is the first time the alternative has been put to me), but I maintain that it’s not obviously true that they would have been more advanced either.

        • cassander says:

          Putting aside dndnrsn’s excellent point about how the nazis come power without ww1, you’re misreading the international situation in 1939. First, russia was the fastest industrializing power in the world in 1913. Given the immense damage done by the war and the russian revolution, the decade of industrial stagnation that followed, and the tens of millions who were killed by lenin and stalin, the bland assertion that russia was stronger in 1939 because of communism cannot be sustained. the most you can claim is that the soviet political system was more able to impose sacrifices on its people than the czarist one was. Nicholas II was a famously weak ruler who would have been only 70 in 1938, so he might very well still have been alive.

          Two, according to paul kennedy, the US alone possessed about 40% of the world’s industrial warmaking potential in 1939, and that is largely why the west won the war, not russia. Russia killed the most germans, but the western allies destroyed vastly more materiel. And the german killing the russians did was done with massive quantities of american equipment and raw materials.

        • bean says:

          I’d be here in the UK speaking German.

          Only if the Royal Navy all decided that it wasn’t worth showing up for work, and the US decided to leave Germany in charge of Europe. Neither of these was going to happen.

    • DeWitt says:

      Location and person: none in specific, but any ruler of any bronze age polity at all.

      Forget bronze; melt the shiny, red ore into stronger metal. Inbreeding is awful for children’s health. Women equal men in smarts and virtue.

      • Lillian says:

        Congratulations, you just completely wasted the message to no benefit. Bronze is stronger than wrought iron, and also easier to work since it requires lower temperatures. The iron age started because the tin trade routes got disrupted, meaning that people were forced to use the inferior wrought iron in preference to the superior bronze. It’s only when iron is carburized to make steel that you get a better metal. Good luck trying to explain how to make steel using a single tweet.

        Also it’s not like getting to the Iron Age earlier is going to boost human development. The Chinese tin supply was not disrupted, so they stayed in the Bronze Age much longer, to no disadvantage in technological development and sophistication.

        • DeWitt says:

          Ah, but I get to decide where I send the message, and bronze is a very inflexible metal insofar production is concerned. Working iron provides no benefit to someone who has ready access to bronze, which per definition is someone with good access to the wealth needed to get both copper and tin; if I can get the message delivered to someone who cannot easily trade, who is at the mercy of his neighbours who do have bronze, introducing iron is a very good way of ensuring history can ‘move along’ quicker than it otherwise might have.

          • Lillian says:

            Again, things will not move along any faster as demonstrated by the Chinese, who were slow to give up bronze and did not at all suffer in their development for it. Moreover your proposed poor and/or isolated tribe that you intend to inspire to try producing iron will be immediately stymied by the fact that in order to work iron they need what are to them advanced high temperature furnaces, something their neighbours are more likely to have than them. This is why societies that skipped the Bronze Age tend to lag behind those that didn’t. Your effort is doubly futile, you can’t get people to take up iron earlier than they did, and even if you could it would not change the grand arc of human progress.

          • a reader says:

            If it succeeds, it would just give to a random local bronze age ruler power to conquer other populations, in a time when that usually meant robbing and enslaving the defeated (the message said nothing about slavery).

          • DeWitt says:

            Furnaces should be very well in reach of any settled peoples, and the furnaces to melt it down can be fueled with mere charcoal if you’re not trying to forge steel. I’ll grant, though, that it’s likely the tweet won’t change human progress very much; I might have been better off trying to get people to boil their water/make tea or some other similar technological matter instead.

      • Anonymous says:

        Inbreeding is awful for children’s health.

        They most likely know this. It’s not like they don’t have domesticated animals they breed and observe.

        Women equal men in smarts and virtue.

        Why would you lie to them?

        • DeWitt says:

          They most likely know this.

          ‘They’, generally, don’t.

          Why would you lie to them?

          I wouldn’t be. If I were, it’d be a lie with positive effects; I wouldn’t feel very bad about sending a tweet telling them that if you steal and cheat and murder in life, you will ABSOLUTELY suffer in the afterlife, either.

          • Anonymous says:

            ‘They’, generally, don’t.

            If you mean specifically the rulers, rather than whoever the court horse breeder or whatnot is, then fine. They might not know.

            I wouldn’t be.

            Ah, OK. Mistaken, not lying.

            If I were, it’d be a lie with positive effects;

            Doubtful.

            I wouldn’t feel very bad about sending a tweet telling them that if you steal and cheat and murder in life, you will ABSOLUTELY suffer in the afterlife, either.

            How utilititarian.

    • Well... says:

      Someone asked something a lot like this not too long ago. I don’t remember who.

      I would deliver a message to myself as a teenager. The message would contain mostly advice, and very little or nothing in the way of specifics designed to make me instantly rich (lottery numbers, etc.).

    • bean says:

      Richard Nixon, early 1960:
      “Kennedy will try to steal the election in Illinois. Don’t let him. McNamara is a communist.”
      Only the first part is true, but I want two strings on my bow, and I have no compunction about lying to keep McNamara far away from the Pentagon.

      • Lillian says:

        Accusing McNamara of communism might backfire in the face of the fact that the’s clearly not, which may cast the rest of your message in a poor light. You would be better served by telling him that McNamara is unfit for public service, which is absolutely true.

    • BBA says:

      Hillary Rodham, 1971: “He’s not good enough for you.”

      • quanta413 says:

        Maybe it’s just me modeling her wrong, but judging by Hillary’s ambitions I think she got more of what she wanted out of life from Bill Clinton than she would have from any other man.

        Like what other man would have been such a perfect stepping stone for Presidential ambitions (even if she didn’t quite get there)?

        • BBA says:

          Precisely.

          • quanta413 says:

            Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. You are very clever.

            And here I foolishly thought you were being nice.

          • BBA says:

            Who says I’m not being nice? National politics is hell, just ask John Boehner. This would spare her from becoming Satan incarnate to half the country and the punchline of a thousand jokes. And I’m sure Bill and Hillary would do just fine without each other, as lobbyists or appellate judges or whatever. (Somehow I doubt Bill would stay in electoral politics after losing the 1980 election for governor without Hillary pressing him on.)

            In the grand scheme of things, I think politics over the last 30 years would look much the same, just without a bunch of idiotic scandals. Then again, Jerry Brown might’ve become President Moonbeam, so who knows.

    • yodelyak says:

      Something small enough to leave the larger timeline intact, but still likely to save 10,000 lives or more: Prevent the Musket Wars in New Zealand by ensuring a significant number of St. Patrick-like Christian missionaries get to New Zealand in the mid-1800s. Convert enough of the Maori to something like Christianity at that time, and the cataclysmic meeting of Maori culture and cheap rifles happens much less disastrously.

      Alternately, the germ theory of disease to whoever is best situated to write that down in a place where it’ll be widely disseminated and remembered. Jesus comes to mind, somewhere further East and earlier is probably even better. That breaks the timeline completely tho.

  4. ana53294 says:

    I had high hopes that after Brexit, the EU would produce a more sensible CAP policy. The reasons I think it is possible are these:
    1) Brexit is going to blow a big hole in the CAP budget, and the rich EU countries are unwilling to increase payments.
    2) Emmanuel Macron won in France, while farmers were more supportive of LePen.
    3) Farmers have become a much smaller part of the population, so they are a less powerful voting block.
    4) The country that gains the most from CAP payments, Poland*, is highly unpopular in the EC.
    5) Britain opposed CAP reform that would limit the payments to big rich landowners, because if these payments were removed, the balance of payments to the EU would increase further.
    6) Productivity in the farm sector in the Netherlands is very high, hopefully showing that you don’t need subsidies to produce food even in a country as small as the Netherlands.
    But then, after the migration talks this week, I am losing hope. Do you think we will be able to achiev something sensible, or at least smaller?
    Is Britain going to have a more sensible agricultural policy after Brexit, when they will have to pay it with their own government’s money? The disfunctional nature of the current Tory governmen doesn’t give me much hope.

    *EDIT: as a total, not as a percentage.

  5. HeelBearCub says:

    If Roberts is concerned about the institutional reputation of the court, I really can’t imagine a worse time to revisit the 100+ year old precedent concerning whether separate federal and state charges constitute double jeopardy.

    • The Nybbler says:

      You mean because Charlottesville? IMO, unless they have some sort of evidence that hasn’t yet been revealed that the killing was deliberate, neither the first degree murder charges nor the hate crime charges should result in conviction.

      I suspect that what the prosecution(s) want(s) to do is introduce a whole bunch of evidence that the guy’s a racist, then the evidence that he killed the girl, and use that the prejudice the jury into ignoring the lack of proper mens rea for 1st degree murder in the first place.

      • quanta413 says:

        Are you responding to the right post? Did you read the link?

        If yes to both, then clue me in as to what you’re talking about.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m not sure if it’s what HBC means, but the most likely reason I can think of that _now_ is a particularly bad time to revisit the dual-sovereign precedent is the Charlottesville driver who killed a protestor being charged with a federal hate crime.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Do I really have to explain why this is particularly worrisome and germane at this moment in time?

            Fine. I think you are trolling, but sure.

            Mueller can only charge people in federal court. Trump can pardon anyone Mueller charges. However these individuals can also be charged in state court and Trump wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.

            Unless the Supreme Court were to suddenly upend the precedent.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not sure I want to see federal politicians being charged in state courts for matters that are pretty clearly of federal interest. I’m not sure you’re going to want to see it either, when it’s your team’s turn.

            Just for example, Hillary Clinton’s infamous email server was located in New York, New Jersey, and Delaware over the course of its lifetime. I’m fairly certain all three of those states have transparency laws that make it a crime for politicians to hide government records from public view. Do we really want to say it only takes one state AG with a compliant grand jury to indict Hillary Clinton and maybe put her behind bars for the 2016 campaign season?

            I’m certain you can come up with a bit of legal gerrymandering that says the precedent you are trying to set only applies to the politicians you hate, not the ones you like, but I’m not optimistic about that being the stable solution. And being the state AG who brought down the Other Tribe’s most hated politician, strikes me as a powerfully motivating sort of career-maker.

            Not doing that, is one of the many, many norms that we will regret doing away with even if it does somehow get rid of Trump a few years earlier than a fair election would have.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @JohnSchilling:
            This ain’t that. Mueller is and has been a Republican. He isn’t on anything like a political witch hunt. The leverage he has comes from the cooperation he has with the authorities in jurisdictions where the crimes occurred (most of them being related to the primary in the same way tax evasion was to Capone).

          • yodelyak says:

            @John Schilling
            Everything you say makes sense, but are you really saying our alternative is to have incoming Presidents be able to pardon any and all crimes that got them into office, and the only possible sanction is impeachment by Congress?

            Maybe the norm of only using a joint state-federal investigation (whether for Hillary or Trump) is our solution here.

            Right now we have a Congressionally approved federal investigation, which is partnering with state prosecutors to ensure that violations of state law are prosecuted where necessary to achieve justice and protect our elections. In the future, if we continue to have some good semblance of independence and professionalism at the U.S. DoJ, and the norm is that the DoJ goes *first*, but states participate… does that work for you?

          • John Schilling says:

            Everything you say makes sense, but are you really saying our alternative is to have incoming Presidents be able to pardon any and all crimes that got them into office, and the only possible sanction is impeachment by Congress?

            Impeachment is a somewhat weaker(*) protection than I would prefer, against abuse of presidential pardons. Fifty state AGs, or even sixteen, gunning for any administration official they can find a vaguely-plausible nexus to prosecute, is too much by far.

            In particular, consider the necessary countermeasures that both parties will implement. Me, I think it’s a good thing that we can have a Republican president who hails from blue-state New York, or a Democrat from Arkansas. Bill Clinton didn’t have to face seeing his career torpedoed at the gubernatorial level because he didn’t go all-in on gun control, and Trump never faced an abortion litmus test beyond “at least he’s not Hillary”.

            Going forward, when any Blue-state AG can indict any Red ham sandwich and vice versa, the only safe policy is for future Republican presidents to come from, and recruit their personal and professional staffs entirely from, Red-state residents with no strong Blue-state ties. And vice versa.

            I’d rather see Manafort, Cohen, et al fully pardoned, than see that going forward. Because once you do that, there’s probably no going back.

            * or at least clumsier by its all-or-nothing nature

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @JohnSchilling:
            Are you really saying that the 100+ year old precedent should be over turned by the Supreme Court specifically so that Trump can pardon his allies? Is that why you think the case has been taken up? Because, I really didn’t think you were that far gone.

            Remember, if the state AGs really do go on a partisan witch hunt, that is still subject to final judgement by the Supreme Court, based on the particulars of the case. Bush v. Gore is even precedent (even though the Supremes declared it was no precedent).

          • yodelyak says:

            @John Schilling
            Hm.
            I understand your concern about further fracturing politics into red states vs blue states. As you see it, state prosecutions of high-ranking members of presidential administrations would mean not only can’t you hire someone from the other party (who might be a leak) you can’t hire anyone from a state whose AG is from the other party (they might prosecute, which might mean subpoenas and etc., which is as bad as a leak), and that’s bad for political moderation.
            I think a strong norm against frivolous prosecution, and a weak norm against politicized prosecution, and the general wisdom behind the rule that one should vet people thoroughly before you hire them to sensitive positions, and the risk that politicizing important governmental powers like prosecution can backfire–that’s all we’ve ever had, and it’s been sufficient and can continue to be sufficient.
            In particular, I think this wasn’t a problem under Clinton or Obama or either Bush because no state AG really was so desperate to make their already-made political career that they saw advantage to risking a spurious criminal prosecutions. I mean, it’s not that NY or CA might not enjoy trying to prosecute Kissinger for something or other… the reason they haven’t, I’d assumed, was that he didn’t break the law.
            Do you think there was lots of breaking of state law by previous presidential administrations, that other-party AGs knew about but didn’t prosecute, because of a norm?

          • John Schilling says:

            Are you really saying that the 100+ year old precedent should be over turned by the Supreme Court specifically so that Trump can pardon his allies?

            I don’t see how that’s a charitable or even remotely plausible reading of my comments. I don’t even mention Trump, and you conclude that I am “specifically” seeking to defend or empower him? I think I have been quite clear that my concern is with the long-term consequences of the ruling that you want for the sake of a one-time win.

            SCOTUS should decide this case specifically on the basis of whether federal and state prosecutors should be able to double-team some schmuck from Alabama in order to turn a lame-ass broken tail light traffic stop into a five-year prison sentence. Because that’s, you know, the specific case actually before the court. Or maybe you didn’t know.

            If, along the way, the court should notice that there are high-level political implications, then I would say that the court should consider the long-term consequences, and not just the specific question of which ruling favors the Forces of Goodness vs. Donald J. Trump, in one skirmish of that crusade.

            Because, I really didn’t think you were that far gone.

            Right back at you. Because what I’m seeing here is full-blown Trump Derangement Syndrome.

            Terance Gamble faces five years in prison, and you don’t even care whether that’s just or not, only whether the same law can be used as a weapon against Trump. If thousands more like him are given a double dose of mass incarceration, if the next Democratic president and his administration face retaliatory prosecution and persecution from red-state AGs, if the polarization of American politics is ratcheted another notch, that’s all collateral damage; the only thing that matters is Bringing Down Donald Trump, no matter the cost.

            And if anyone dissents from your fanaticism, arguing that the cost is too high for the benefit you seek, you conclude that they are “specifically” seeking to enable some bit of petty villainy by Donald J. Trump.

            You are not even trying to argue in good faith here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            First off, your argument about the merits of the case:

            Terance Gamble faces five four years in prison, and you don’t even care whether that’s just or not

            The principle that’s being argued here isn’t about whether Gamble deserves to be in prison. He was convicted of to being a felon in possession of a firearm, nor is anyone at the moment challenging whether four years is an unjust sentence for said crime. He hasn’t been acquitted, retried and then convicted.

            It does seem to be true based on the petition that Ginsberg and Thomas both wanted to look at the separate sovereign exception. I can certainly see an argument that the Feds might come along behind the states and prosecute cases that were easy victories in order to apply harsher penalties and rack up wins for their prosecutors.

            Now, on to the broader issue:

            I don’t see how that’s a charitable or even remotely plausible reading of my comments.

            The very first sentence you wrote in this sub-thread was:

            I’m not sure I want to see federal politicians being charged in state courts for matters that are pretty clearly of federal interest.

            You didn’t seem to care at all about Mr. Gamble, and saw this solely in terms of what it might mean for federal politics. In other words, you think my reading of the concerns about the potential over-turning of the precedent is germane.

            And my question, specifically, was why is the Robert court taking this challenge up right now. The contention above was that Roberts cared a great deal about the institutional reputation of the court and how it appeared to outsiders. It does not seem that the case in question is particularly novel, so why grant cert now?

            This question was about the reputation of the court and how much Roberts cared about it. We don’t know who voted for or against cert, of course. Perhaps Roberts voted against cert. Given the petition, perhaps Ginsberg and Thomas were the prime movers.

            But the appearance right now is not good. It’s a bad look. Which doesn’t stop the justices from taking it up and voting on it, nor determine how they will vote. So arguments about “institutional reputation” ring hollow when applied to claims about how justices will vote in future cases.

          • J Mann says:

            @HeelBearCub – Terance Gamble is serving two consecutive prison sentences for the same crime. He was put on trial twice and sentenced twice – both a one year sentence in Alabama state court and a three year sentence in Federal court.

            It’s tough. It feels unfair to me, and contrary to the Fifth Amendment, but on the other hand, if you told me that someone was tried and acquitted in France of a crime under US jurisdiction, I wouldn’t want to surrender the ability to try her here.

      • yodelyak says:

        It seems to me that a lot of SSCers, and perhaps especially the ones in this sub-thread, would enjoy “The Downfall Dictionary” a pretty regular blog covering how different U.S. politicians met their downfalls via scandal, violence, or criminal charge.

        Reminds me of the saying, “Historians are just gossips with exceptionally broad tastes.” Anyway, it’s fun.

    • BBA says:

      As a matter of legal principle, it should be double jeopardy. An acquittal on one charge should preclude being tried again on a fundamentally identical charge for the same incident, regardless of whether a different sovereign is bringing the charges. Correcting this ugly loophole in criminal procedure is well worth increasing the chances that certain individuals avoid consequences for their crimes from 98% to 99%.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        An acquittal on one charge should preclude being tried again on a fundamentally identical charge

        Did you even read the article? There was no acquittal in this case. It was a conviction for multiple different charges, some federal and some state. As noted, this is precedent that is over 100 years old.

        And the reason is this is particularly important is what that may mean for Trump’s ability to pardon his cronies for federal crimes and then render them immune from state prosecution.

        Are people paying any fucking attention?

        • BBA says:

          A conviction absolutely should preclude further prosecution for the same conduct.

          Don’t think this is what means Trump and his cronies will walk. They were always going to walk. Impunity at the highest levels is as American as baseball and apple pie.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            They were both charged at the same time. His argument is simply that since the state sentenced him to one year, the feds can’t sentence him to four. If the Feds had sentenced him to one and the state four, he’d be arguing to throw out the state conviction.

            Regardless, the question is not “what should the ruling be in abstraction” but rather “if Roberts is actually concerned with institutional reputation (as asserted in threads above) why would they be taking this up 100+ year old precedent right now”

          • quanta413 says:

            They were both charged at the same time. His argument is simply that since the state sentenced him to one year, the feds can’t sentence him to four. If the Feds had sentenced him to one and the state four, he’d be arguing to throw out the state conviction.

            So what? This has nothing to do with the legal validity of the claim that separate state and federal trials are double jeopardy. Miranda was later re-convicted of kidnapping and rape, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t win his Supreme Court Case.

            The people whose cases are test cases for civil rights are often not sympathetic or honest people. And lawyers aren’t famed for being sympathetic or honest either. Doesn’t matter.

            Regardless, the question is not “what should the ruling be in abstraction” but rather “if Roberts is actually concerned with institutional reputation (as asserted in threads above) why would they be taking this up 100+ year old precedent right now”

            The articles you linked have given an answer. They say both Ginsburg and Thomas may have been signaling they’d like to overturn the precedent.

            Not everything is about Trump.

        • bean says:

          The fundamental concept behind separate federal and state charges on the same issue being a double jeopardy violation seems sound to me, regardless of conviction or acquittal. I don’t follow these kind of issues closely enough to have any idea how specific to Trump this coming up is. But I’m a bit confused by the state crimes aspect of the Mueller investigation. What state charges would be involved? And to be blunt, what reason do I have to believe that the state charges wouldn’t be essentially retaliatory in nature, New York or California expressing their displeasure with Trump’s pardon?
          (My prior is slightly towards the latter, but I’m not a lawyer, and I’m genuinely curious on this.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I take it you aren’t following the Mueller probe at all.

            One of the key facets of the criminal investigation of any sort of organization is encouraging lesser participants to testify to what they know. The possibility of conviction on serious charges is always an inducement to doing so. Trump is in the fairly unique position of being able to pardon people who would be so charged. That significantly lessens the leverage Mueller could have against the multiple people he has already indicted, as well as those he may indict in the future, and the many who have already plead guilt to lesser crimes.

            But, most/all of these people have committed state crimes as well as federal. This has been clearly signaled to all involved. Therefore Trumps pardon power looks less tempting to those who have yet to cooperate.

            Merely taking this case raises the possibility that Trumps pardon power may be absolute.

          • Deiseach says:

            But, most/all of these people have committed state crimes as well as federal. This has been clearly signaled to all involved. Therefore Trumps pardon power looks less tempting to those who have yet to cooperate.

            Remember the double-edged nature of such instances; great, we have to do this and over-ride double jeopardy in order to defeat the ogre Trump.

            Wonderful. And five/ten/thirty years down the line, when the Other Side are using this as blackmail/leverage against political enemies who are on your side? ‘Co-operate or we’ll stitch you up with the double whammy?’ you really think there won’t be any deal-cutting, and people too stupid/honest to lie about “oh yes indeed Smith told me Jones was a Moldovan government minister!” will be hit with “you want to serve two sentences, and we’ll make them not concurrent but consecutive, and we’ll make sure to push for the toughest sentencing in both the federal and state cases, and by the way we’re also going to try and get as many separate states as possible in on this”?

            Hard cases make bad law, and so do panicky reactions about “but the ogre! we have to kill the ogre right now!”

          • bean says:

            I haven’t been following it that closely, no. But you didn’t really answer my questions. What state charges are they potentially facing? I’m sure that some state could come up with something, but how likely would they (whoever they are) be to face state charges in a more normal investigation of this type?

            Look. I can think of concerns about overturning this that have nothing to do with Trump, and make me broadly sympathetic to the current state. The separate sovereigns doctrine meant that the Feds could charge people acquitted of lynchings by all-white state juries. And if we take a hard line that any acquittal means you’re forever protected, the situation very quickly becomes one where any level can effectively hand out pardons. That’s not a good thing. But if you want to convince people this is bad, you should do it that way, and avoid making it all about Trump. Because making it about Trump means a lot of people are instantly opposed, and even I’m suspicious that the state charges you talk about are essentially being filed out of spite. Which is the essence of double jeopardy.

          • Brad says:

            @Deiseach

            Remember the double-edged nature of such instances; great, we have to do this and over-ride double jeopardy in order to defeat the ogre Trump”

            That’s a misreading of the situation. The status quo ante is to allow prosecution by both the state and federal governments, and has been for 150 years.

          • yodelyak says:

            There’s a lot more here than even an average lawyer could helpfully answer.

            1) What was the intent of the framers’ with the double jeopardy clause as written? To what extent will the court use stare decisis or related doctrines to skip even asking that, and just keep doing what courts have all been doing for 100+ years?

            My humble opinion: laws are easy to change, so when the court gets a question of statute wrong, and sees (or thinks it sees) the mistake later on, it should usually just stick to the mistake, and let the legislature fix it. The Constitution is very much not not not easy to change, so when the court realizes it made a mistake (or maybe even when it realizes it can make a minor improvement in the direction of “let’s not have slavery” say) the Court should correct the mistake, because otherwise we’re stuck with it.

            2) What are the optics of tweaking double-jeopardy concerns right now, given that everyone is suddenly noticing how expansive the pardon power would be if not for the current double-jeopardy rule? There are a number of things in the Constitution that aren’t very good, but have never been fixed. The state-federal distinction from 100 years ago may or may not have noticed the way that the pardon power overlaps with this question.

            My humble opinion: the optics stink, but damn the optics. What actually matters is the *power*. The pardon power should not be extended to allow the President to pardon his own or his cronies’ crimes. I don’t see another way to achieve that result except to view the power to pardon/prosecute for state crimes should remain exclusively with the states’ governors or other state authorities as provided by state constitutions and laws, and double jeopardy doesn’t attach to bar state prosecution after federal pardon. This is true for obvious separation of powers reasons. I don’t care when the Court takes up the issue, as long as it gets the right answer; I’d be really pleased to see the court get the right answer *now* by way of a footnote or mild hypothetical.

          • quanta413 says:

            The pardon power of the President should never have existed in the first place. It a complete mockery of the rule of law.

          • yodelyak says:

            To your “retaliatory in nature” question…

            1) If Russia moved money to pay for meddling in an election via a bank in NY, that’s quite likely going to involve some real crimes that harmed NY’s interests, such as its interest in not having its banks facilitate Russian payments to undermine the integrity of NY elections. It’s not “retaliatory in nature” if NY prosecutes people who (purely, purely, purely a hypothetical, of course, of course, of course) enriched themselves while committing crimes under NY and federal law by facilitating Russian payments to illegally interfere in U.S. election.

            Some simple phrases to highlight the crimes potentially involved: wire fraud, money laundering, (mis)-use of state banking to commit crimes, tax evasion, perjury in sworn documents, racketeering.

            This isn’t “come up with something” territory, at least for Manafort and some other major Trump campaign players. It’s a question of how many counts stick, and whether those counts are sufficient to get these people to turn state’s witness and cooperate.

            Edited to add: From wikipedia: “On October 30, 2017, Manafort surrendered to the FBI after a federal grand jury indicted him and his business associate Rick Gates. The charges arose from his consulting work for the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine before Yanukovych’s overthrow in 2014. The indictment had been requested by Robert Mueller’s special investigation unit. The indictment charged Manafort with conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, being an unregistered agent of foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, and false statements. Manafort pleaded not guilty, and was placed under 24-hour GPS-monitored house arrest due to the weight of evidence in the cases against him. On June 15, 2018, Manafort’s bail was revoked and he was sent to jail due to charges of obstruction of justice and witness tampering that is alleged to have occurred while he was under house arrest. He pled not guilty to these additional charges, and as of June 2018 is currently awaiting trial in the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia.”

          • yodelyak says:

            @bean

            You might also find the wiki page on Rick Gates pretty helpful.

            Edited to add: Even better, actually, is the wiki page on “Links between Trump Associates and Russian Officials”

            That’ll link you to the Manafort and Rick Gates pages, but also the Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, and several other pages. Possibly nothing will stick to Trump or Kushner, but I think there may be a few more shoes to drop, and betting markets still seem to put some real odds on Trump being impeached in his first term, which I have to assume is mostly predicated on the Mueller investigation. This isn’t just spite.

          • bean says:

            @yodelyak

            My question is not “did these people do bad things?”. It’s “did any of the bad things these people did normally fall under state law?” I doubt that the State of New York normally prosecutes people who fail to register as foreign agents. Maybe I’m wrong on that. And I’m sure that they can find a few charges which will stick. But from my perspective, your case looks more like “let’s see if we can find a way to get around Trump’s pardon power” than anything remotely fair-minded. Again, I’m certainly not in favor of making a change to the existing law/precedent on the basis of it helping Trump. There look to be good reasons for the status quo which have nothing to do with him either way. But you’re making a substantial portion of me want SCOTUS to overturn, and I don’t even like the man.

          • yodelyak says:

            Also, “retaliatory” does not seem like the right word for a state prosecutor who prosecutes in this situation.

            By analogy… Let’s say you owe me $500 to cover an injury you caused me by driving recklessly, and you also owe $500 to someone else (call them C) who you also injured with the same or related conduct. I knew that C had a more expensive lawyer than me, so I expected they’d make sure you regretted your behavior and stopped… but then I learn that C and you are family, and maybe they knew all along that you’re a reckless driver and you were driving recklessly in their employ, so they’re not charging you at all, but are instead deliberately letting you off the hook. So, I decide to steadfastly bring my own claim… am I retaliating? Or am I simply bringing a suit to vindicate my rights? Your prior seems to be that anyone who could be pardoned by the president should then not be subject to prosecution by a state that doesn’t like the president. But if Trump pardons Bob Loblaw of any federal crimes he may have committed, that doesn’t mean California can “retaliate” against Bob Loblaw–first Bob Loblaw has to actually break the law in California.

          • bean says:

            Also, “retaliatory” does not seem like the right word for a state prosecutor who prosecutes in this situation.

            If not retaliatory, then politicized. I’m sure that there are state charges which technically apply. I’m almost as sure that in most similar cases, the state doesn’t bring them if the person in question beats the federal charges. John Schilling said this better than I could. The endgame here is that every state Attorney General starts looking for ways to bring charges against the other side. This is not a situation we want.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t see how this works in practice. Even now there are cases where a state and the federal government tussle over who goes first. That’s going to get even worse when it is who gets to go at all.

            And this goes both ways, consider the case of a billionaire that owns a major employer in a particular state being investigated for a federal crime. As soon as news leaks, the state government can effectively immunize him from federal prosecution.

          • yodelyak says:

            @Bean,

            You are right in your concern–and also that John articulated it quite well. I think politicization is the right word.

            I don’t think the solution is to bar states from prosecuting violations of their laws when those laws happen to touch federal candidates or their campaigns, *and* when the federal government has brought charges and decided to involve state charges as well. If Donald Trump, two days before his inauguration, actually shot someone in public, as he famously bragged he could do with impunity, I think his prompt disarming and arrest by whatever law enforcement arrived first (including the secret service), and his subsequent prosecution by the feds–well, that sounds right. And if he pardoned himself upon taking office on January 21, then the state where the murder occurred could and should bring the charge that the feds could no longer bring.

          • bean says:

            @Brad

            I already noticed that problem, which is why I’m not in favor of a really strict Double Jeopardy standard. It leads to all sorts of weird/perverse/bizarre incentives. But that’s exactly why you shouldn’t make this case all about Trump. Because I can feel it pushing me into wanting a bad decision, and I don’t really like him. Make it about lynchers and corporate executives who are powerful in their home states instead.

            @yodelyak

            The problem is that (to simplify slightly) half the country is certain that the Trump Campaign is guilty of everything up to and including sedition, while the other half is certain that they’re as innocent as the driven snow. If Trump shot someone on TV, that probably wouldn’t be the case. Again, I’m not in favor of total immunity from state prosecution for anything touching on politics. But I think that New York going after people Trump pardons sets a really bad precedent.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @bean:
            Well, right now that the potentially biggest fish on the hook, from what little we know, is probably Michael Cohen, Trump’s putative lawyer.

            Given that he has not seemed to actually be acting as Trump’s actual lawyer, much of what was seized from him in searches conducted pursuant warrants seems to have been admitted as evidence.

            It is well within the realm of possibility that credible charges of money laundering for the mafia could result. That is certainly the kind of thing that NY prosecutors would generally be involved in prosecuting.

            That’s only one of many possible non-political charges that could stem from the Mueller investigation.

            You can also look at this list and see that much of what is being charged is bank fraud and identity theft, which is decidedly not “failing to register as a foreign agent” and the kind of thing that states frequently do prosecute.

          • Brad says:

            @bean
            I agree it’s a bad precedent. But I don’t think it is in the same league as Trump pardoning Manafort in the first place. We are already in the system is spinning out of control territory at that point.

            As HBC points out elsewhere, everyone involved is a Republican: Mueller, Rosenstein, even the judge overseeing the trial. Whatever this is, it isn’t sour grapes from the party out of power. So we’d have a president using the pardon power to directly protect himself from an investigation that is not a partisan witchhunt.

            I think worrying about some second order thing like a NY prosecution is presupposing that we will recover from the first order problems and return to some semblance of normalcy where second order problems are a serious concern. That’s not obvious.

          • albatross11 says:

            bean:

            The good and bad news is that this allows the feds to take another whack at you when they think the state court decided the case incorrectly. The good news is, sometimes the state court really did find you not guilty in error or by ignoring the law. The bad news is, sometimes the state court got it right, but the result looks bad politically so the feds decide to try to put you in jail anyway.

            IANAL, but this seems kinda like the whole point of forbidding double-jeopardy. Courts can get the wrong answer, but they ought not to be able to keep prosecuting you until they manage to get some jury somewhere to convict you on something.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad:

            Why isn’t this argument equally persuasive against double jeopardy within either a state or the federal court system? A corrupt prosecutor can bring charges and intentionally lose them against their favorite billionaire within this state, and thus block any other prosecution by honest prosecutors within the state, right? Or maybe the corrupt prosecutor will eventually be voted out of office, and we’d like the new honest prosecutor to retry those cases and win them this time.

          • yodelyak says:

            @Bean

            “did any of the bad things these people did normally fall under state law?”

            I missed this direct question, sorry. It looks like HBC and some others may have answered this, and maybe I answered it by accident already. FWIW, my understanding is that NY’s charges/potential charges are all of the form “money laundering,” “bank fraud,” and “tax evasion.” So, yes, I think all of those are very much so normally within the scope of NY law.
            I think some federal laws have no good state analogue, and some of the actions involved may not have taken place in NY, so NY can’t bring those charges. E.g. I’m not sure if “crimes against the united states” or “failure to register as a foreign agent” or “lying to the FBI” really have direct analogues–likely if Trump offered a pardon for those, it would stick if that was all there was. Those were, I think, the substance of what Rick Gates plead guilty to.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @yodelak:
            Rick Gates was also charged with bank fraud and money laundering. No surprise since he was in partnership with Manafort.

          • Some Troll's Serious Discussion Alt says:

            It seems like we’re going to break something important here no matter what.

            Unless the SC upholds the status quo and Trump goes on to just let enough people fry that there isnt motivation for a state level accounting.

  6. littskad says:

    Is there a name for the opposite of the typical mind fallacy? Where you believe that thought is culturally conditioned to such an extent that, in reference to the Huey tzompantli you’d be able to say:

    It’s hard for me to imagine that people *wanted* to be sacrificed, but that’s my own biases and cultural conditioning talking. How I see the world, filtered through centuries of colonial oppression and destruction, is irrelevant to understanding how they saw the world.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      The view from nowhere?

    • Deiseach says:

      There should be a name for “a decent argument ruined by a gratuitous jab at the enemy du jour“, since that sentence is a prime example:

      How I see the world, filtered through centuries of colonial oppression and destruction, is irrelevant to understanding how they saw the world

      Leave out the colonial clause, and you have a reasonable sentiment: how I see the world is irrelevant to understanding how they saw the world.

      Leave in the White Man’s Evil stuff and you have only “I may have benefited from this and continue to benefit from this since I am, after all, a college-educated white woman with a white collar career but this lets me signal my wokeness without having to sacrifice anything”.

      As she points out in her other tweets, lots of cultures practiced something similar for similar reasons. She acknowledges that she can’t put herself into the mindset of someone who would be willing to die for the greater good, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be so.

      However, she then fails at the hurdle of applying such impartiality evenly: she won’t judge other cultures and times because that would be bad, and we can’t say that “killing people is bad” if the people doing the killing had very good reasons to think it wasn’t bad, but we can make judgements about the badness of other cultures and times as long as we’re talking about (our 21st century definition of what counts as) white cultures. I’m pretty sure she has no intention of including Aztec or Carthaginian ‘colonialism’ in her basket of deplorables: “But this was not a cynical use of some outdated or fringe religious belief during an imperial power grab. The religious function of sacrifice was the basis of everything”. You’re an Aztec noble engaging in Flower Wars to get victims for sacrifice (which has the convenient side-effects of keeping the enemy state in constant low-level attrition), that’s A-okay! You’re bringing True Gospel Religion to enlighten the Dark Continent, you’re cynically engaging in an imperial power grab, even if the British Protestant believed every bit as fervently as the Aztec that this was for the higher good.

      I think the Carthaginians were a great people. I also think we can indeed judge that “sacrificing babies to Moloch is bad”, regardless of the fervent belief that this was for the good of the people involved (I’m also fairly sure Ms Wade would not be so tolerant about not making judgements of the past when it came to the question of burning heretics on the part of the Inquisition).

      • quanta413 says:

        Yeah. The sentiment is not as unreasonable at it seems, but the speaker is so wrapped up in woke politics that she doesn’t really make the obvious connections about how empires or religions exhibit if not human universals, human “really-super-common behaviors”.

        She later pulled it back a bit, but being twitter, the first stupid thing you say is always going to get more attention.

        • Deiseach says:

          She contradicts herself in the very sentence: she’s quite happy to make judgements about the 19th century scramble for Africa being bad (“centuries of colonial oppression and destruction”), and it doesn’t matter that this is coming from a 21st century American viewpoint, but we cannot say that human sacrifice by 16th century Aztecs was bad because that was another time and another country (and besides the wench is dead).

          16th century Cortez and the Conquistadores taking on the Aztec Empire: bad! 16th century Aztec Empire sacrificing prisoners of war: it’s all culturally relevant and not our place to judge!

          • Lillian says:

            If she considers herself part of a broader white culture that is responsible for the Conquistadors and the Scramble for Africa, and she believes that you may not criticize any culture but your own, then her position is consistent.

          • albatross11 says:

            A charitable reading suggests that she’s making a sensible statement (I can’t imagine volunteering to be a human sacrifice, but people in a very different culture and set of beliefs may well have done so), and then tossing out some red meat for the more doctrinaire of her readers by making reference to colonialism or white supremacy or whatever. Yes, the beliefs of the doctrinaire readers may be silly. Yes, her beliefs may be, too, for all I know. But it’s 100% reasonable to recognize that people in a completely different culture with completely different beliefs and experiences might do stuff you’d never consider doing.

    • Viliam says:

      It’s hard for me to imagine that people *wanted* to be sacrificed, but that’s my own biases and cultural conditioning talking.

      I guess I should suppress my evil white male biases and accept that people in Nazi Germany’s sphere of influence wanted to be gassed, or people in Soviet Union wanted to be worked to death in gulags. That’s exactly the same logic — hey, it happened to them as a part of their culture, therefore they surely wanted it.

      The opposite extreme of “typical mind fallacy” is “I don’t consider those strangers to be really human”. (Horseshoe theory predicts that only racists and truly woke people would believe this.)

      Imagine a parallel world where widow-burning was not made illegal in India by British government. In that parallel world, the woke people today are probably tweeting about how being burned as a widow is a sacred cultural tradition, perfectly voluntary, and should be considered an example of feminism.

      • No. The real world example is female circumcision, and I don’t thing the woke people are on board with that.

        For a possibly fictional picture of how widow-burning might be voluntary, see Kipling’s poem The Last Suttee.

        • Viliam says:

          Recently I am not in contact with the young generation of woke people, but a few decades ago it was like this:

          First there was a huge wave of outrage against female circumcision. It was assumed (I guess this is a default assumption for everything) that it is a horrible thing that men do to little girls. The woke people expressed proper outrage, and some said that men who do this should be punished severely.

          After getting some more information, it turned out that it is actually something that women do to little girls. Suddenly there was no more talk about severe punishment of perpetrators; now it was a problem of the patriarchal culture. Then gradually the woke people stopped talking about this topic entirely.

          ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      • The Nybbler says:

        Imagine a parallel world where widow-burning was not made illegal in India by British government. In that parallel world, the woke people today are probably tweeting about how being burned as a widow is a sacred cultural tradition, perfectly voluntary, and should be considered an example of feminism.

        Or, in the real world, as seen on the subreddit:

        https://www.worldcrunch.com/culture-society/in-brazil-activists-defend-infanticide-among-indigenous-tribes

  7. Zephalinda says:

    Let’s say I’m interested in reading strongly left-oriented discussions of issues, but with SSC-style rhetoric/epistemology– that is, hard-headed, data-driven, dispassionate rationality, with minimal appeals to pathos.

    (Obviously, all discussion needs some background ethical assumptions, but I’m talking about minimizing strictly emotional appeals to pity/concern/anger/disgust as somehow implying policy conclusions: “If we really care deeply about this group, we need to…”, or “I feel [compassion/indignation], screw you for not feeling that too,” “if you really love humanity and agree that X are humans, then…”, “I feel sorry for this entity, Y would harm them, therefore we must in turn harm Y”, etc..).

    Plenty of this type of argumentation turns up in discussions here at SSC, of course, but are there openly left-identified spaces online that do even more of it? Freddie used to be my best candidate, but he doesn’t post much anymore.

  8. Brad says:

    In the wake of Trump’s election someone came up with the description of “this is how the white working class riots”. I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate, but I thought it was an interesting take.

    With the Kennedy resignation I got to wondering, what does it look like when the Blue Tribe riots? And by Blue Tribe I don’t mean the entire Democratic coalition, or everyone left of center, but specifically the arugula eating, Prius driving, thinks they should be watching the World Cup version of the concept.

    • Aapje says:

      Trump’s election doesn’t actually have the properties of a riot (a violent public disturbance), so presumably the person you quote actually meant something like ‘revolt.’

      If so, a similar revolt would be to back an anti-establishment politician with a different and more extreme agenda compared to the Democrat establishment and using language that makes them upset by being too extreme, while being adored by a relatively small, but very committed subset of the left*. However, the arugula eating, Prius driving, thinks they should be watching the World Cup people are quite pro-establishment, no?

      So it seems more reasonable to argue that the revolt would come from black Democrats (Alicia Garza?), working class Democrats (Freddie deBoer?) or angry women (Suzanna Walters?). The arugula eaters would presumably ‘revolt’ by electing another Barack ‘Hope’ Obama.

      * Of course, this won’t actually work, because the Democrat primaries heavily favor establishment candidates, unlike the Republican primaries. So a Trump scenario probably can’t happen to the Democrats.

      • Alphonse says:

        Perhaps an example of that kind of revolt would be the recent primary victory by Ocasio-Cortez in NY. She defeated a twelve-term incumbent Democrat, and apparently the general election in that district is basically never competitive, so she’ll be headed to Congress soon. See Atlantic article.

        Of course, her policies strike me as pretty much a comprehensive list of “things that would mostly be nice if we had infinite resources with which to buy them,” but the arugula eating, Prius driving, World Cup watching people that I know seem quite happy about her electoral victory, so I think it fits.

        • Nick says:

          Megan McCardle made basically this point about Ocasio-Cortez, h/t to Rod Dreher. I considered posting it when I saw Brad’s post but wasn’t sure to what extent social justice/democratic socialists really qualify as the arugula eating Prius drivers Brad meant, but, well, if someone else is going to say the same thing….

          Super long quote from McCardle, with what I consider the most relevant bits bolded:

          Democrats are about to experience the madness that has beset the Republican Party over the last eight years.

          Back when I was first blogging as Jane Galt, lo those many years ago, I coined “Jane’s First Law of Politics”: “The devotees of the Party that holds the presidency are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the Party that doesn’t hold the White House are insane.” I have never had cause to revisit this observation.

          So when liberals spent years trying to diagnose the unique psychological disease that seemed to have beset the Republican Party–Acute Chronic Racism, or perhaps Psychosomatic Obstructionitis–I have always suspected that the fervent devotion to pointless and often counterproductive obstruction was less a Republican disease than a symptom of a larger structural problem in our politics. As people have geographically sorted themselves into partisan enclaves, partisanship has risen dramatically; the culture war has taken the kind of fierce battles that rocked the country during the civil rights era to all 50 states, rather than concentrating them on a handful of states and cities; and perhaps most importantly, a century of “good government” initiatives, from primary elections to campaign finance reform to anti-earmark legislation, have gutted the parties as a source of political discipline and political deal-making. These weak parties were unable to mount any kind of coherent response to the social media revolution, which allowed candidates and activists to do an end-run around the party professionals who would have stopped them in an earlier era.

          The result is a fundamentally broken politics. But that politics is not broken because of something that “Republican elites” did. Liberals have been very fond of arguing that those elites somehow encouraged the growth of these destabilizing influences by not shutting down … well, name your candidate: right-wing talk radio, the tea party, obstructionist forces in Congress, Donald Trump. Liberals are about to find out what those Republicans have long known: they had no power to shut them down. All the tools they might have used had been taken away decades ago, mostly by progressives.

          For exactly the same structural forces are at work on the left. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. Those forces have been masked by Democratic possession of the presidency, which is a unifying force far out of proportion to its actual usefulness. As long as your party holds the White House, you feel like you have a shot at getting things done, and you are willing to cut a great deal of slack to your leadership. Prepare to see Republicans get a lot quieter and more cooperative, and the obstreperous forces on the left to get angrier and more intransigent.

          In 2012, in the wake of their presidential loss, Republicans looked at what had happened and concluded that building a coalition that could take the presidency was best done by moderating on immigration in order to try to sweep socially conservative Latinos into the fold. This made a portion of the party base explode. In the wake of this election loss, in which a mainstream candidate tossed the presidency to the candidate with the highest unfavorables we’ve ever seen in a presidential election, professional Democrats are going to want to do a similar analysis. That analysis is almost certainly going to come up with an answer that’s intolerable to large portions of their base: that they need to back off the identity politics and embrace a more old-fashioned national greatness campaign mixed with pocketbook issues.

          The activist groups in the base who are most heavily invested in identity politics will (correctly) read this as a decline in their power and status. They will be incandescent. And they will put exactly the same sort of pressure on their politicians that the Tea Party put on Republicans. They will want to see their politicians blocking Trump even if it hurts the party overall, even if it means sacrificing bits of their legislative agenda that they could get done. They will demand costly symbolic acts that function as a repudiation of Trump, and a show of fealty to party interest groups. They will care more about those things than any substantive legislative achievement. I’m not saying they won’t care about legislative achievement, but I suspect that it will be symbolism first, achievement later. Because that’s where our politics is in 2016, on both sides of the aisle. Centrist, process-oriented Democrats will now discover the joys that their counterparts on the right have known for years: of screaming fruitlessly that this sort of thing is hurting the alleged policy goals of the people demanding it, and being told for their troubles, that they’re just DINO sellouts.

          I don’t know how we fix this. I don’t know if it can be fixed. But a healthy first step is for center-left folks to stop pointing and laughing at the Republican Party, and issuing faux-solemn, joyously incredulous diagnoses of “the problem with the Republican Party”. The Republican Party doesn’t have a problem. American politics has a problem. And everyone in America is going to have to figure out how to fix it.

          • Gossage Vardebedian says:

            The way to fix it is to form a pragmatic, centrist third party, which in the US is difficult but not impossible.

          • Matt M says:

            The way to fix it is to form a pragmatic, centrist third party, which in the US is difficult but not impossible.

            Strong disagree. The problem isn’t that we don’t have a “pragmatic, centrist party.” The problem is that we have two of them, and don’t have anything else.

          • Gossage Vardebedian says:

            The problem is that we have two of them, and don’t have anything else.

            I guess I can agree with that, but that’s maybe pointing toward the same thing. The problem is that two parties can’t give adequate voice to the breadth of opinions out there. Clearly there are pressures being exerted from the edges that the parties are having trouble controlling. I would argue that sure, these pressures are coming from fairly small minorities within the parties, but these are motivated, vocal people, and as a result they have outsize effects, and will likely continue to. The media will continue to feed the fire of polarization as well. I would prefer it if we had parties that explicitly represented these people and their views. I understand that without a parliamentary system this is likely to revert to a de facto two-party equilibrium. Failing that, we will continue to have two parties that are going to be herding increasingly feral cats.

          • Alphonse says:

            Nick,

            That was an interesting read; thanks for sharing it. I pretty much agree with the diagnosis. I’ll agree with Iain below that it’s important not to over-generalize from this one race — I don’t think the far-left reaction is not at the same level of influence as the Tea Party yet (although I partially think that’s because the mainstream of the Democratic party was more sympathetic to the far left than the mainstream of the Republican party was to the far right, but that may just be my perspective).

            It does seem increasingly difficult for elected officials to focus on incrementalism / good governance. It seems like we now have large swathes of the populace where one side wants a substantial changes in one direction and the other side wants at least as substantial changes in the other direction, and neither side is willing to commit to incremental change: the other side is evil and must be utterly defeated. I think shifting more and more of the work of society into the government is just going to make this problem worse, and I don’t see any slowing in that tendency.

        • Iain says:

          I like Nate Silver’s take on Ocasio-Cortez:

          Most of these articles drawing lessons and takeaways from NY-14 are bad. If you’re generalizing from it, you also have to explain the 99% of the time that the incumbent *doesn’t* lose. Bonus points if you can also distinguish near-misses (e.g. NY-11) from the didn’t-come-closes.

        • Brad says:

          At the risk of making myself easier to dox, I’m in that district and I voted for Ocasio-Cortez. But consider that I’m more politically informed than most and I had no idea of her positions when I pulled the lever for her. Basically all I knew is that she wasn’t Crowley. And my problem with Crowley wasn’t that he was insufficiently left or wasn’t resisting Trump hard enough. It’s that he helped lead an old fashioned political machine, complete with patronage judgeships.

          I wouldn’t have voted for a Trumpist over him, but I’d have strongly considered a Kaischite.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Thanks Brad for an inside view. It’s kind of like discussing why people voted for Trump — there’s almost as many reasons as voters. We should be careful of making broad judgments.

        • John Schilling says:

          Of course, her policies strike me as pretty much a comprehensive list of “things that would mostly be nice if we had infinite resources with which to buy them,”

          More to the point, Ocasio-Cortez’s polices strike me as a list of things that Blue Tribe directly wants for their own sake, which makes her election the figurative opposite of a riot.

          Rioting is when you do things that are directly harmful to your own interests, because you think they are even more harmful to the outgroup’s interest and because you’ve given up hope for anything better, with maybe a side order of wishful thinking that maybe the outgroup will go away or start respecting you and somehow this will make your life better, but mostly because it feels good.

          To the extent that Trump is about building a wall to keep out the Mexicans and the Moslems, about taxes and tariffs to punish the fat-cat capitalists, and above all else about saying coarse words that make the liberals and the RINOs and the media recoil in the full apoplectic symptoms of Trump Derangement Syndrome, none of these things directly serve any interest of an unemployed auto worker in Gary, Indiana. And while there may be people who are primarily motivated by their considered judgment that the indirect effects of these policies might end with someone offering them a good job, really, come on. Michael Moore has it right. People did this because hurting the outgroup felt good. For a day. And that’s the essence of a riot.

          There’s no electoral equivalent for liberals that I can see. Something might come about, but it’s hard to imagine what form it would take given the fundamental asymmetry that the right wants less from government and mostly isn’t getting what it does want, so it’s harder to use the government as a tool to hurt them more than it already does. Not impossible, but the most effective tools to that end would probably be the judiciary and the bureaucracy and those are by design almost immune to riotous pressure.

          Punching “Nazis” in the street, or cheering others doing the same, is classical rioting, but that only appeals to the younger and more extreme subset of liberals.

          The bit where we chase Trumpists out of restaurants, etc, and ridicule them on the intertubes and on TV, is probably where we are now. The next step would I expect be to take this into the professional arena, demanding that known or suspected Trumpists be fired from any job where “decent” people work. Self-destructive, but it will hurt the outgroup and it will feel good.

          Still, we should be looking for possible electoral manifestations, because Trump surprised the hell out of me and is causing a great deal of harm, so I’d rather not be blindsided by the left-wing equivalent. Ocasio-Cortez isn’t it; she’s just trying to build a better world that she can’t afford and that’s not the same thing.

          • Alphonse says:

            You raise a good distinction. I mentioned Ocasio-Cortez as an example of the type of electoral revolt Aapje posited, but I think you’re correct that it’s meaningfully distinct from the populist pushback we’ve seen on the right with Trump, at least in its intentions/motivations (I’m not convinced that seriously attempting to implement Ocasio-Cortez’s policy wishlist wouldn’t be destructive to the very people who elected her, not unlike increasing tariffs hurting some of the people who voted for Trump).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @John Schilling

            If a riot is something that a group does that they think hurts their outgroup, but also to themselves, because it feels good, does this mean that barely-controlled mob violence exclusively against the outgroup aren’t riots? Pogroms, one-sided incidents of communal violence, etc?

          • John Schilling says:

            Violence always directly hurts both sides, albeit asymmetrically. And “barely-controlled” violence by people who consider themselves society’s losers, is almost certainly going not going to leave them unscathed.

            If you’re talking about something like lynching or Krystallnacht, yeah, riot probably isn’t the right word there.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What about the classic pogrom – European peasants deciding based on some rumour or accusation or whatever to go bust up the Jewish part of town or a nearby Jewish village or whatever, and the local authority not helping because they can’t or don’t want to? Those peasants are not on top of society, but does the pogrom hurt them?

    • johansenindustries says:

      Actually moving to Canada.

      • Brad says:

        I’m not sure if this was intended to be serious, but I do think there’s something to it. It’s what the analogous groups have done in places like Turkey or Israel, just left.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I think Aapje has it right. Basically, if we’re taking the “tribe” definitions seriously instead of just shorthand for left-wing or right-wing, or just the white versions of those – Prius-driving elitists vs pickup-driving good-ole-boys – by most definitions the “Republican elite” are relatively blue tribe. They can simulate red-tribishness as needed, but professional politicians tend to be fairly urbane, cultivated people. The average Republican leadership type person is probably more likely to go to the opera than the average Democratic voter.

      After the 2012 election, one popular conclusion in the Republican leadership was that they needed to do a better job of attracting minorities, but especially Hispanics. Bush II had done quite well with Hispanics, and the hope was that someone like his brother could push it past 50% and set the Republicans up to win a majority of a fast-growing voter demographic group in future.

      The sort of white people who reliably vote Republican tend either to be legitimately “red tribe” or to imagine themselves as such (middle-class guy in a Texas suburb who owns a pickup truck for the weekends, say – he likes to play at being blue-collar). They chose a candidate who didn’t want to go with “Plan Jeb!” – it was a revolt by the base (that looks to have picked up some of the remaining red-tribe Democrats).

      The way the Democratic voter base works is different from the Republican. There’s more groups you can point to as big parts of the Democratic voter base. There’s no direct analogue to “working-class and wannabe-working-class of one demographic group doesn’t like the idea of their party tacking to appeal to another group” – I don’t think a coalition of multiple groups saying “the party leadership doesn’t prioritize us enough” could hold together (who do you prioritize?), and no one group is strong enough to make the Democrats a party focusing on that group.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I’m the one (or one of the ones) who called it a WWC riot. If you want to say “revolt” instead that’s fine.

      The characteristics I used were:

      1. a group that feels like it has lost. The other side has gotten all the victories and we’re losing.
      1.1 note that it doesn’t matter too much whether it’s true or not. It’s obviously more likely for them to feel like they’re losing or have lost if it’s true, but it’s neither necessary nor sufficient.
      2. the group takes actions to lash out at their outgroup
      3. the actions are quite likely to not actually address or improve the issues in point #1 (burning down your own neighborhood, voting for trade protectionism that leads to job losses)
      4. if the rioters are your outgroup, you will use the fact that they have harmed themselves more than you as proof of how stupid they are and how it’s not worth bothering reasoning with them. However, there is a socioeconomic explanation for how this is rational. I couldn’t find the term last time (think it was a Haidt or McArdle or TNC essay explaining riots, but I couldn’t find it using google) but it’s basically expensive signalling. “Yes, we caused 8 utils of harm to ourselves to only cost 5 utils of harm to you, but that’s how angry we are. Even though you have more utils than us and could win a war of attrition, we are still going to make you feel the pain we feel.”

      So what does this mean for the arugula-driving and Prius-eating group? My first guess is more things like kicking people out of restaurants, spitting in the faces of people wearing MAGA caps, getting into negative-sum doxxing wars (see https://www.texasmonthly.com/politics/houston-lost-mind-trump-shirt/ where everyone in the immediate scene lost), blocking people you don’t like from campus or kicking them off social media, calling everyone a Nazi. At the higher level there will be moves to vote in more extreme-left politicians, which the DNC will partially be able to resist. The major political parties have lost a lot of their power over the past generation so it’s not as easy for either of them to keep out the crazies.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think calling this a riot is trying to import a bunch of emotive language to skew thinking. Of all the ways people can agitate for change in the world, the one we most want to encourage is organizing political movements and voting. The alternatives are all a whole lot worse.

        • Matt M says:

          Agreed. The calm and orderly and legal election of someone you don’t like is not a “riot” no matter how much you disagree with the outcome.

          If you want to point to a right-wing riot, I dunno, maybe look more at Charlottesville (although they were certainly met by an equal-if-not-superior force of lefties)?

        • Randy M says:

          Agreed. The calm and orderly and legal election of someone you don’t like is not a “riot” no matter how much you disagree with the outcome.

          I thought that was the point?

          edit: To expand, I thought “Trump is what a white working class riot looks like” meant that “these people don’t run around breaking things when they are angry or depressed, so you might overlook them, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook those feelings for they can manifest in tangible, if non-overtly destructive, ways.”

          I’ll grant that you probably can find instances of organized violence by wwc, but the quote is implying it doesn’t happen with the same frequency or via the same provocation.

      • Brad says:

        So what does this mean for the arugula-driving and Prius-eating group? My first guess is more things like kicking people out of restaurants, spitting in the faces of people wearing MAGA caps, getting into negative-sum doxxing wars (see https://www.texasmonthly.com/politics/houston-lost-mind-trump-shirt/ where everyone in the immediate scene lost), blocking people you don’t like from campus or kicking them off social media, calling everyone a Nazi.

        Do these fit the pattern though? Do they hurt the people doing the kicking off social media more than the people being kicked off?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Kicking people off social media probably does not fit the pattern of causing more harm to self than the other (unless it leads to an evaporative cooling cycle where you keep on kicking out the most right-wing who remain, which is possible but not required).

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I have one more idea of blue-tribe riot:

          Arguing for packing judge, WHILE THE OTHER SIDE HAS ALL THREE BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT.

          • yodelyak says:

            Jane’s law: “The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.”

            Jane’s law was derived from experiences of a political reporter in the 1990s and early 00s.

            With the further fragmentation of media consumption (yay Facebook) in this country, the law is now: “The devotees of both parties will be smug and arrogant in describing/defending their insane plans for what to do with the power they do not have enough of.”

          • CatCube says:

            @yodelyak

            It’s from Megan McArdle, who was blogging as “Jane Galt” at the time she proposed it (I was reading her at the time of the original post). She didn’t get her start as a journalist until 2003, at The Economist.

          • yodelyak says:

            @CatCube

            Thank you for the correction. It’s funny, not only did I already know it was Megan McArdle who’d coined Jane’s Law, I’d even flipped to and skimmed her Wikipedia page a couple times when quoting her law, which I have cited a handful of times. What’s funny is, somehow I had always missed that she’d had a previous career including a world-view-breaking (lefty ->libertarian) at Nader’s PIRGs and an MBA before becoming a journo. I’d just seen she was born early enough to have finished college 10 years before she coined the law, and seen a line that she was a “journalist for __” at the time she coined it, and apparently just assumed the gap.

            Oops.

          • yodelyak says:

            I do think my proposed modification is a needed update. Trump derangement syndrome (I think that’s John Schilling’s phrase?) is enjoyable, but really both sides seem (from my bubble, anyway) to be retaining smugness, arrogance, and derangement.

          • CatCube says:

            Well, your comment makes me feel a little bit better, because I was just going through Google to find a previous comment I had made (regarding the brouhaha on the current OT) and stumbled across our previous discussion of Jane’s Law that I had completely forgotten about. I felt like an asshole for a patronizing tone in my previous comment in this thread when your comment was obviously a simple mistake and you already knew who coined it.

            I also agree that the Law is being bent beyond recognition by the devotees of the party in power being insane as well as smug.

            And the “Derangement Syndrome” has been a feature of at least the last three administrations. I recall when it was referred to as “BDS” for “Bush Derangement Syndrome”, exemplified by Dan Rather getting conned by Memogate. ODS’s exemplar is birtherism.

          • John Schilling says:

            Yeah, much as I’d like to take credit for them, “Trump Derangement Syndrome”, “Obama Derangement Syndrome” and “Bush Derangement Syndrome” have been around long enough that I’m not sure who started it and who I cribbed it from.

            I don’t think I heard anyone talk about “Clinton Derangement Syndrome” during Bill’s presidency, though there were certainly elements that would later become recognizable symptoms.

          • Brad says:

            Apparently Bush Derangement Syndrome was first, coined by Charles Krauthammer in a Washington Post column in late 2003.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      The college-age portion of the Blue Tribe riots by rioting. The others riot by cheering them on.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Unless we’re just using “blue tribe” as shorthand for “people who vote D, or would, if they voted”, this isn’t true. Even if, it might not be true.

        • johansenindustries says:

          Do you not think that colleged-age protesters – famous examples being Antifa and black bloc – in America come from blue-tribe backgrounds? Surely, they’re not red or grey.

          • dndnrsn says:

            A decent number of them are older than college-aged, and I don’t think even a slim majority of D voters approve of Nazi-punching when it’s not of people who are unquestionably Nazis or close (basically, Charlottesville yay, assaulting the prof who was debating with Charles Murray boo) nor of the classic “protest international capitalism by throwing a newspaper box through a Starbucks window” blac bloc style thing.

            Further, is that the median riot in the US today, or the median riot by people who can plausibly be sided with the Democrats?

            Using “blue tribe” as shorthand for “left wing” means you have a hard time placing people who aren’t latte liberals, but also aren’t tobacco-chewin’ good ole boys.

          • johansenindustries says:

            ‘Further, is that the median riot in the US today, or the median riot by people who can plausibly be sided with the Democrats? ‘

            I think so. the alternative is presumably race riots, but I think the college and economic ones are more common. Even if there not, I don’t think that is relevant to whether the blue tribe does riot by rioting.

            ‘and I don’t think even a slim majority of D voters approve of Nazi-punching when it’s not of people who are unquestionably Nazis or close’

            But do you think a slim majority are ‘rioting’. It is only the actions of those that are rioting that are actually relevant.

            (The best example of the ‘punch a Nazi’ is probable the original, Spencer who is certainly not ‘unquestionably a nazi’ – aside for literally in certain circles where questioning it is proof that you are also a Nazi nor particularly close; doesn’t support conquering Europe, gassing the Jews, probably is a supporter of the Autobahn. But that’s not really relevant either.)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I assume that blue tribe includes not having a taste for personal violence. Am I missing something?

          • johansenindustries says:

            I assume that blue tribe includes not having a taste for personal violence. Am I missing something?

            Why do you think that? (I tried to find Scott’s original post on the issue, but couldn’t so perhaps there’s something in that that I do not understand.)

            Having a moral objection to violence is very provincial (as well as racist) as one looks to the European continent to find your original Antifa etc.

            The worry that if you’re violent then the other side will be violent so society will collapse is very non-blue.

            To practice violence as a trade – maybe, is boxing particularly split? -or against animals is very un-blue, but this is violence for politics which is quite different.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Regarding the most common riots, college “riots” tend to be pretty piddly; a bunch of scream-crying students yelling in the face of a prof is far more common than balaclava’d guys punching people who came to a Milo Yiannopoulos event. Even the latter are pretty piddly by the standards of political violence overall. I’m not sure what you mean by “economic riots.”

            The % of Democrats who approve of whatever sort of riot is relevant, because the initial claim was that the blue tribe (used possibly as shorthand for Democrats) cheered the riots on.

            I’d call Richard Spencer unquestionably close to a Nazi. Those were my words. He’s a white nationalist, which I think is pretty dang Nazi-adjacent. If we’re using a historical definition, sure, we can argue over what fascism, national socialism, are, we can compare what white nationalists want or say they want to what Nazis wanted, said they wanted, did. But I think that “Richard Spencer is a Nazi” is truer and contains more useful information about Richard Spencer than “Charles Murray is a Nazi” or “Donald Trump is a Nazi” are and contain about their subjects.

            EDIT: And “blue tribe” is groaning under the weight here. It’s not “people who vote left” it’s a particular SES, set of aesthetics, etc. The corporate boss is blue tribe, the guys in balaclavas trying to wreck his limo, are they blue tribe? How do they feel about opera?

          • johansenindustries says:

            Regarding the most common riots, college “riots” tend to be pretty piddly; a bunch of scream-crying students yelling in the face of a prof is far more common than balaclava’d guys punching people who came to a Milo Yiannopoulos event. Even the latter are pretty piddly by the standards of political violence overall. I’m not sure what you mean by “economic riots.”

            By ‘economic riots’ ar mean the 1%, Occupy sort of thing. The piddliness is irrelevant.

            The % of Democrats who approve of whatever sort of riot is relevant, because the initial claim was that the blue tribe (used possibly as shorthand for Democrats) cheered the riots on.

            No, the initial claim is that blue tribe rioting looks like support for riots. UNless you want to claim that most blue tribers are rioting then most blue tribers not supporting riots is not unexpected.

            I’d call Richard Spencer unquestionably close to a Nazi. Those were my words. He’s a white nationalist, which I think is pretty dang Nazi-adjacent. If we’re using a historical definition, sure, we can argue over what fascism, national socialism, are, we can compare what white nationalists want or say they want to what Nazis wanted, said they wanted, did. But I think that “Richard Spencer is a Nazi” is truer and contains more useful information about Richard Spencer than “Charles Murray is a Nazi” or “Donald Trump is a Nazi” are and contain about their subjects.

            I might allow that Richard Spencer is the closest remotely major figure to being a Nazi, but ‘they only supporting hitting their enemies who are closest to being Nazis’ is an entirely different willingness to violence than ‘who are close to being Nazis’

            EDIT: And “blue tribe” is groaning under the weight here. It’s not “people who vote left” it’s a particular SES, set of aesthetics, etc. The corporate boss is blue tribe, the guys in balaclavas trying to wreck his limo, are they blue tribe? How do they feel about opera?

            THey’re not wrecking the ‘coporate boss”s limo. They’re wrecking the small business owner’s limo.

            They might dislike the opera but for different reason than the Red Tribe. And their parents go to the opera. And they’ll go to the opera once they grow up. So I’d call that pretty blue tribe. You, to my eyes, are the only one who seeks to conflate the terms. I wouldn’t even expect the bluest of black bloc to even vote.

          • Brad says:

            Do you not think that colleged-age protesters – famous examples being Antifa and black bloc – in America come from blue-tribe backgrounds? Surely, they’re not red or grey.

            From a blue tribe background is not the same as in the blue tribe. Those guys left and joined some wacky subcultures rather than sticking with their parents’ culture. Maybe they’ll come back some day, and maybe not.

          • dndnrsn says:

            By ‘economic riots’ ar mean the 1%, Occupy sort of thing. The piddliness is irrelevant.

            Was Occupy a riot?

            No, the initial claim is that blue tribe rioting looks like support for riots. UNless you want to claim that most blue tribers are rioting then most blue tribers not supporting riots is not unexpected.

            And I doubt that initial claim.

            I might allow that Richard Spencer is the closest remotely major figure to being a Nazi, but ‘they only supporting hitting their enemies who are closest to being Nazis’ is an entirely different willingness to violence than ‘who are close to being Nazis’

            Well, Charles Murray is clearly on the “liberals get upset if you try to punch him” side of it – the New York Times defended the guy, even.

            THey’re not wrecking the ‘coporate boss”s limo. They’re wrecking the small business owner’s limo.

            “His limo” as in the one he’s sitting in.

            They might dislike the opera but for different reason than the Red Tribe. And their parents go to the opera. And they’ll go to the opera once they grow up. So I’d call that pretty blue tribe. You, to my eyes, are the only one who seeks to conflate the terms. I wouldn’t even expect the bluest of black bloc to even vote.

            Blue tribe was originally a cultural term more than a political term, though.

          • John Schilling says:

            Was Occupy a riot?

            It was at least similar. Get together with like-minded people to publicly express displeasure with the outgroup in a manner that hurts both the outgroup and the protesters, because they no longer have any real hope of not getting hurt.

          • Deiseach says:

            “His limo” as in the one he’s sitting in.

            The point being, if you smash the windows of the limo, the corporate oligarch will simply switch to another limo hire company at the cost of some trivial inconvenience, while the small business owner of the franchise (be that a Starbucks which got its windows smashed in or a limo hire business) bears the costs of repairs (and maybe has to lay off staff/not give that pay increase/ask his employees to come in and work for nothing on their day off to clear up the mess).

            The enthusiastic idiots who thought breaking the windows of businesses really meant injuring large corporations at all, and who jeered about those only concerned with “violence against garbage cans and glass” were clueless. They didn’t do anything except cause trouble for ordinary people, while the large corporations and banks just went on with business as usual.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @John Schilling

            Sure, there were similarities (large # of people in a place refusing to leave) but it seems to me that the defining characteristic of a riot is the mob violence. If there’s no people attacked, property damaged, etc, is it a riot?

            @Deiseach

            Sure, depending on who owns the limo, who’s going to pay for what, it’s harmful to the little guys. I imagine there’s an intellectual justification for it, but I would bet that some % of the people involved are attracted mainly by cathartic violence. Smashing stuff is fun.

          • Viliam says:

            I assume that blue tribe includes not having a taste for personal violence. Am I missing something?

            I think the difference is more about not getting their own hands dirty.

            I don’t know how often do red tribe members vs blue tribe members decide to hurt their opponents, but I believe that when they do…

            …the red tribe aesthetics is: “I’ll go and do it myself (or take my friends with me)”, and

            …the blue tribe aesthetics is: “I’ll ask the policeman / employer / teacher to go and do it”.

            Of course there are exceptions on both sides.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          At the very least, we must be using “blue tribe” as shorthand for “however much of the blur tribe for which it makes any sense to generalize about how they riot”.

          ETA: I am, however, forced to admit the unwitting accuracy of my “blur tribe” typo.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The hypothetical in the parent of this thread said

            And by Blue Tribe I don’t mean the entire Democratic coalition, or everyone left of center, but specifically the arugula eating, Prius driving, thinks they should be watching the World Cup version of the concept.

    • Matt M says:

      what does it look like when the Blue Tribe riots? And by Blue Tribe I don’t mean the entire Democratic coalition, or everyone left of center, but specifically the arugula eating, Prius driving, thinks they should be watching the World Cup version of the concept.

      It looks like Portland.

    • Zephalinda says:

      Point for point, the Blues have been hewing culturally pretty close to England’s 17th-century Puritan bourgeoisie. So my money would be on an English-Civil-War-style orderly revolt:

      –several years of mounting paranoia about Papists and the Antichrist in positions of power
      –growing millenarianism creating a sense that traditional norms no longer apply
      — seize the first legitimate political victory and leverage greater economic strength + urban strongholds to expand emergency powers
      –bureaucratic coups/purges as needed, but in the name of excluding bad actors from government
      — possible short period of open violence/ police actions; possible single, symbolic assassination of an outgroup leader
      — possible emergency rule of a Cromwell-esque anointed dictator, if somebody sufficiently godly emerges
      — once Overton window has sufficiently shifted to exclude outgroup, reinstate older governmental structures with appropriate adjustments to permanently disempower the cultural opposition (in America, this would probably look like revisions to shift power strongly towards urban centers and away from rural areas).

      • Deiseach says:

        Don’t forget that, once in control of the levers of power, the extreme radicals who call for the implementation of all the policy promises about overthrowing privilege and establishing a new just order get disenfranchised and if they become troublesome, you execute a representative few to cool the ardour of the rest (“it was all the fault of the BernieBros/Jill Stein voters/white feminists that Hillary lost!”), while you then rally the troops with the fear of a resurgence of the enemy (Trump 2020 as the escape of Charles I?).

      • Brad says:

        I’m not how accurate this prediction and the premises it flows from is but I enjoyed the post.

        • dndnrsn says:

          My reaction to this post is the words “Woke Cromwell” – I thought of this, and now you all have to know about it too.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        I don’t fancy the Woke Model Army’s chances against the regular Army.

  9. Jo says:

    I have some questions about blogging. I would love to know more about your decision to blog anonymously, and whether this is a) stressful (because you always have to decide whom you tell what you posted), b) unsatisfying (because you don’t get the whole fame for you blog under your own name). Moreover, when you write blog posts close to your own field, I would like to know how you decide what becomes “just a blog post” and what you would instead write for a journal, a newspaper, anything else. (This seems an even harder choice because using it for both would reveal your real name.)

    • quaelegit says:

      I’m neither Scott nor a blogger, but on your last question: Scott has re-purposed some of his field related papers as blog posts: see the post “The Case of the Suffocating Woman”. There was another post where he referenced a journal-published paper that lists his real name among the authors (I think), but did not link it directly and asked people not to link it directly or mention it by name in the comments. As far as I saw people complied (and I didn’t try to look for the paper so no idea how easy it is to find).

      I think his old blog was less anonymous and that’s why he took it down.

    • Viliam says:

      I guess that in an alternative universe, where Scott is blogging under his real name, he is much more stressed now.

      (My point is that something can be “stressful” and simultaneously “less stressful than the alternative”.)

      • Jo says:

        Yes, and remember that usually there are more than 2 alternatives (e.g. not blogging, or only blogging about things you are sure you would post them under your own name.)

  10. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    My impression is that at least American leftwingers (for whatever reason, I do think leftist is hostile and leftwinger is at least milder) tend to want Sweden but be weirdly fond of authoritarian communist countries. I’ve seen a shift from fondness for China to fondness for Cuba.

    • cassander says:

      They want the things they like about Nordics, like the high spending. Not the things they don’t like, like lots of local control, high degrees of business and labor freedom, and relatively low regulation.

    • hyperboloid says:

      I’ve seen a shift from fondness for China to fondness for Cuba

      That’s weapons grade bullshit, and you know it.

      The largest political organization in the US that advocates a system anything like that in Cuba has a national membership of five thousand. The major center left party in the US as a membership of forty four million.

      The idea that the American left are Communist is a sacred belief among conservatives that is immune to all evidence to the contrary. It doesn’t matter that Harry Truman created the marshal plan over republican objections. it doesn’t matter that Kennedy Tried to kill Castro, or that Lyndon B. Johnson dropped metric tons of napalm on the Vietnamese, or that Jimmy Carter tacitly supported CIA backed death squads in Central America.

      It persists because conservatives know that very few people would support their ideas if they did not think the alternative was Stalin. Because It’s either that or n*gger n*gger n*gger.

      The only way the American left can be said to be sympathetic to Communist states is that some of us objected to the US government’s Cold War era policy of visiting indiscriminate brutality on innocent people because they might, possibly, have been sympathetic to some cause supported by Communists.

      I don’t support the system of government in Cuba, I also don’t support destroying democratically elected governments because they were insufficiently enthusiastic about the anticommunist cause.

      • The idea that the American left are Communist is a sacred belief among conservatives that is immune to all evidence to the contrary.

        The only way the American left can be said to be sympathetic to Communist states …

        How about the idea that the American left has a long history of holding an unreasonably sympathetic attitude towards communist tyrannies? From “I have seen the future and it works” to Noam Chomsky writing apologetics for the Khmer Rouge. When Mao died, The Economist, not U.S. or particularly left but echoing a very general bias in the intellectual world, praised him for ending famine in China.

        For the pattern in the British left, read Orwell’s letters and essays. The American left lost a good deal of its respect for Stalin’s government after he allied with Hitler, but recovered much of it a little later. It’s true that parts of the American left, in particular the labor unions, were anti-communist, but other large parts, most notably the academy, were not.

        It is perfectly normal in American universities for students to wear shirts with pictures of Che Guevara, not all that odd to wear pictures of Karl Marx. Compare to the response to someone wearing a picture of Hitler.

        • arlie says:

          Don’t we have a whole thread above about the “American left” not being remotely monolithic? If this is OK, surely it’s also OK for me to attribute to the “American right” a habit of murdering counterdemonstrators (Charlottesville), supporting polygamous sex/marriage to girl children who are barely nubile (one nut ball I read about on wikipedia, who got thrown out of the US libertarian party only after running for office on their ticket), and of course nazism (various neo-nazi groups) – plus any other atrocity I can think of ever committed by anyone who ever called themself Republican.

          And truthfully, in some cases – not the first two I picked – some pretty bad things have been supported by loud groups claiming to be mainstream. You’ve got in-group bias – anything part of the outgroup does, with some support, and some opposition, is supported by most of the outgroup. Anything a member of your group does is only mainstream if you personally support it. I have the same kind of blindspots. But this is, frankly, getting old.

          If we include everything that was ever popular among the American mainstream – never mind the American right wing – then you personally are responsible for kidnapping people in job lots and working them to death – assuming they didn’t simply die in transit. Or at least, this is what you favour, and would do again as soon as you felt you could get away with it. You certainly favour interning everyone whose families ultimately came from Asia. Etc. ad nauseam.

          This is a bad argument, and you really ought to be able to see through your own blindspots well enough to realize that.

          • I was responding to a post which said, among other things:

            The only way the American left can be said to be sympathetic to Communist states is that some of us objected to the US government’s Cold War era policy of visiting indiscriminate brutality on innocent people because they might, possibly, have been sympathetic to some cause supported by Communists.

            That is not true if large parts of the American left were sympathetic, at various points, to Stalin and Mao, which they were. It isn’t even true if one figure prominent on the left wrote in defense of the Khmer Rouge after there was good evidence that they were engaged in mass murder–as he did.

            As you can see by reading my comment, I explicitly said that not all of the left was sympathetic to communist states. But it doesn’t have to be all for the passage quoted above to be false.

            The statement “the American right has a history of opposition to legal abortion” is true even though there have always been some on the right who did not share that position.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Were “large parts” of the American left sympathetic to Stalin and Mao? What’s a large part, what are we counting as the American left, etc?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            The post you responded to also said

            The largest political organization in the US that advocates a system anything like that in Cuba has a national membership of five thousand. The major center left party in the US as a membership of forty four million

            already acknowledging 5000 examples of leftists who support a Communist state. In context it’s clear that the argument isn’t that no one on the left supports or supported Communists, it’s that a small unrepresentative fraction do. Your examples don’t do anything at all to argue that Noam Chomsky or Lincoln Steffens or radical professors are a large or representative segment of the left.

          • The post you responded to also said

            The largest political organization in the US that advocates a system anything like that in Cuba has a national membership of five thousand. The major center left party in the US as a membership of forty four million

            In context it’s clear that the argument isn’t that no one on the left supports or supported Communists, it’s that a small unrepresentative fraction do.

            And my response started with:

            How about the idea that the American left has a long history of holding an unreasonably sympathetic attitude towards communist tyrannies?

            There is a considerable gap between advocating communism and holding an unreasonably sympathetic attitude towards communist tyrannies, and it was the latter I was referring to.

            My claim isn’t about a small and unrepresentative fraction. It’s that a large and prominent part of the left has, historically, taken an unreasonably sympathetic attitude towards communist tyrannies.

            Would you agree that praising Mao at his death for, among other things, ending famine in China–when he was responsible for one of the largest famines in Chinese history—fits the description of “unreasonably sympathetic attitude,” even if those who did so did not advocate the adoption of Maoist policies? And that was from a relatively centrist publication.

            I pointed at Orwell’s writings for evidence for the British case. It’s pretty clear from those that he wasn’t talking about a small and unrepresentative subset of the British left but about the dominant view among left wing intellectuals at the time.

          • DeWitt says:

            If the worst you can come up with ‘these people have strange sympathies’ as a response to the post that started this chain, it somehow doesn’t seem so bad.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            There is a considerable gap between advocating communism and holding an unreasonably sympathetic attitude towards communist tyrannies, and it was the latter I was referring to.

            That’s fair, though it still doesn’t demonstrate that widening your consideration to “unreasonable sympathy” enlarges the share of the left who are pro-Communist to an appreciable share.

        • bean says:

          It is perfectly normal in American universities for students to wear shirts with pictures of Che Guevara, not all that odd to wear pictures of Karl Marx. Compare to the response to someone wearing a picture of Hitler.

          If I’d ever gotten a roommate who did that, I was actually planning to get a Hitler shirt/poster in response.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          Without meaning to downplay the leftist sympathy for Communists, it’s important to ask how representative Lincoln Steffens and Noam Chomsky are of the American left, since this is what’s actually at issue. It’s obviously true that of the Americans who have supported Communist states, almost all have been leftists, but that’s not sufficient to establish that the “left has a long history of holding an unreasonably sympathetic attitude towards communist tyrannies”; at most it shows that some on the left have such a history, but what’s at issue is whether this characterizes the left as a whole, or only a faction. And if a faction, how big and powerful is this faction. This is why the original comment’s citation of the anti-Communist actions of the left when actually elected is important: it’s evidence that the Cuba-loving faction of the left was not big or important enough to influence policy.

          Compare with the American right: Henry Ford met with a representative of Hitler, Brent Bozell supported Francoist Spain, William Buckley wrote a defense of apartheid for the South African Information Ministry, etc., etc., etc. Do we conclude that the American right “has a long history of holding an unreasonably sympathetic attitude towards right-wing tyrannies” and so therefore we can minimize the intellectual distance between the average Republican and Pinochet, or Hitler?

          • I agree that a few prominent people are not sufficient evidence to support my claim, but I don’t think it was or is limited to a few prominent people. Again, compare the response that a college student wearing a Che Guevara or Karl Marx shirt gets to the response he would get wearing a Hitler shirt. The student isn’t the evidence I am offering. The university community’s response is. Support for a communist revolutionary and Cuba is within their Overton window. Support for Hitler is not.

            Chomsky is, I concede, an extreme case–not many on the left supported the Khmer Rouge after evidence of what they were doing was out. But the fact that his doing so didn’t result in the sort of response from others on the left that a published defense of Hitler would provoke from either the left or the right is evidence. He retained his position as “radical but respectable guy on our side.”

            Have you read Orwell’s four volume Letters and Essays? One of the many things that comes up repeatedly is the unwillingness of his fellow British left wingers to condemn Stalin or even openly concede what they knew about what he had done. It was Orwell who was the exception, not the others.

            So far as the case of Henry Ford, “met with a representative” doesn’t amount to support. Ford was an antisemite, and Hitler courted him early on, probably in the hope of getting money for his movement. I don’t believe he got any, and I’m not aware of any public support for the Nazis by Ford once they were in power and doing things.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            The student isn’t the evidence I am offering. The university community’s response is. Support for a communist revolutionary and Cuba is within their Overton window. Support for Hitler is not.

            This clarifies your position, but to my mind introduces an extra unstated premise that I am doubtful of: that the action of university administrators owes to their ideological commitments, or to their own idiosyncratic Overton window. Do you think, for example, that right-wing spaces would regard a Che shirt as on par with a Hitler shirt? Or would they too treat Che as less offensive than Hitler? If so, does this mean that right-wingers, by having an Overton window that is more inclusive of left-wing atrocity, are apologists for leftist atrocities?

            As for Chomsky, note also that he has also been entangled in a Holocaust-denial scandal, and a Srebrenica-denial scandal, both of which are atrocities associated with right-wing groups; and yet Chomsky remains “radical but respectable”, so it is not clear that it is his defense of specifically communist atrocities that make him borderline-acceptable to the left.

            Finally, w.r.t. Orwell, the issue is not whether Orwell was an outlier in terms of the leftists he interacted with, it’s whether the leftists Orwell interacted with were outliers in the broader left.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            To clarify my position a little, since I don’t want to actually end up defending Chomsky or Che or whoever:

            I disagree with the original comment that fondness for left-authoritarian regimes is completely marginal in the “American left”, whatever that is. I think there are real segments of the American left that a) apologize for the horrors of Communist regimes for ideological reasons and b) apologize for the horrors of regimes that have been opposed by the US for anti-imperialist reasons, regardless of the ideology of the regime in question.

            These segments are not completely trivial, though I agree with Hyperboloid that their influence is often overstated; still they’re worth paying attention to and countering. However, the response above seems to me to make two mistakes:

            First, the two factions are conflated with each other (there is of course overlap, but they’re still distinct), which leads to arguments that I think imply absurd results. The implicit argument seems to be that if one is an apologist for the crimes of a Communist government, one is sympathetic to Communism as an ideology. But the people in Group 2 are apologists for the crimes of all sorts of regimes, not just Communists, and so the argument runs into problems.

            Second, and more importantly, for reasons probably stemming back to the alliances in WWII, Nazism is more taboo in the west than Communism. This means that the pro-Communist western leftists are more vocal and apparent than pro-Nazi rightists; but this doesn’t mean that they are more powerful or influential within the left, only that there is less of a taboo on their visibility. In countries outside of Europe and North America, the taboo on Nazi insignia is less strong, and you do in fact see it being used as a way to be “edgy” and “provocative”. But I think it would be a mistake to attribute this to South Korea or Thailand’s greater ideological affinity for Nazism.

          • a reader says:

            @David Friedman:

            Again, compare the response that a college student wearing a Che Guevara or Karl Marx shirt gets to the response he would get wearing a Hitler shirt. The student isn’t the evidence I am offering. The university community’s response is. Support for a communist revolutionary and Cuba is within their Overton window. Support for Hitler is not.

            I think to react at Che Guevara or Karl Marx as to Hitler would be overreaction. Che Guevara didn’t kill millions and Marx didn’t kill anybody and would probably be shocked to see the deadly fruits of his idea. Maybe if the student had a Stalin or Mao t-shirt…

            But I think you have a point. It would be interesting to see how people would react to a t-shirt with general Lee on it. Both Che and Lee were military commanders that allegedly had some personal qualities, but fought for very wrong causes – communism and slavery. Now maybe the comparison is unfair to Lee, because Che was an enthusiastic supporter of communism (he was the main cause why Cuba is communist, as I said before), but Lee allegedly disliked slavery, according to some of his letters. Also, I don’t know if Lee ordered any execution; Che surely did.

          • dndnrsn says:

            How many deaths can be directly blamed on Che? He’s pretty small potatoes by the standards of mass murderers. Anyone on the authoritarian or totalitarian right who would be recognizable by sight to the average person has a larger death toll – Hitler, obviously, and Mussolini also (smaller death toll than Hitler, but still pretty large once you include Italian attempts at colonial conquest); I’m not sure if there’s anybody else from that category as recognizable as Che, and plenty less recognizable with considerably greater body counts (hell, there are random SS NCOs with considerably greater body counts). So it’s hard to find someone who is both significant enough that there’s a decent photo of them, but who has what amounts to a fairly piddly body-count by the standards of 20th-century totalitarian evil. Is someone going to put on their Corneliu Codreanu shirt and scandalize the Eastern European History department?

          • johan_larson says:

            The proportionate counter to Che is Pinochet.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Really? Aren’t over a thousand deaths laid at Pinochet’s door? Still not much by the standards of national-leader-level mass murderers (again, there’s SS NCOs who directly killed more people than that, let alone people who ordered murders) but isn’t Che blamed for dozens or low hundreds?

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn

            Pinochet’s regime killed about 3,000 people. Castro’s regime killed a minimum of around 10,000 after coming to power. They also sent che around africa and latin america stirring up revolutions with little success. Che didn’t personally order most of those deaths, but then neither did Goebbels, and we don’t consider that to let him off the hook.

          • a reader says:

            @dndnrsn:

            How many deaths can be directly blamed on Che? He’s pretty small potatoes by the standards of mass murderers. Anyone on the authoritarian or totalitarian right who would be recognizable by sight to the average person has a larger death toll […] Is someone going to put on their Corneliu Codreanu shirt and scandalize the Eastern European History department?

            Corneliu Zelea Codreanu (the Romanian far right leader you mentioned) killed “only” 3 people: a police chief with his own hand and two others – a prime minister and a student who left his movement – sending death teams. After these, he was arrested and killed (strangled) in prison together with his two death teams.

            The number of people executed by Che Guevara can’t be known for sure before communism will end in Cuba and their archives will be open, maybe not even then, but it is surely at least about 60. He organised the summary trials and executions in the prison-fortress La Cabaña, in the first months after the victory of the revolution – and the prison’s priest said he assisted at 55 executions:

            https://filmfreeway.com/atnightfall

            He also executed a few people before victory, one of them (a traitor) with his own hand. Here is a list of his alleged victims, including some biographies (the youngest is 19 years old):

            http://cubaarchive.org/home/images/stories/che-guevara_interior-pages_en_final.pdf

          • ana53294 says:

            A lot of people on this thread seem to assume that a student would wear a Che T-shirt but punch you for wearing a Pinochet T-shirt is a result of a comparison between them, however irrational. That looks too generous to me. I think the reason for this is quite simply ignorance. I don’t know about American schools, but in Spain, what you learn about Che Guevara is a big fat 0. You don’t even learn much about Franco, as this is still too politicized. So unless you go study on your own, you will have a vague idea from songs, pop art and TV. Which means you will hear Che was some kind of hero who went fighting against regimes, and not about the people he executed.
            If you go to countries that did not experience or witness Hitler’s atrocities and do not have a significant Jewish presence, you will get the romantization of Hitler.

          • ana53294 says:

            What I find really weird is the fetishizing of Stalin in Russia, by the very people who suffered it. There will be a repressed person in almost every family in Russia, and even though these things are not talked about, it’s not possible to not know what happened. It’s not like most of them actually want to go back to communism; my best guess is that it is the same nationalistic pride that makes the French like Napoleon, even if he wasn’t a particularly nice guy.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander,

            Most people wouldn’t recognize Goebbels on a t-shirt either. I don’t think it’s a great comparison either. Goebbels would have hanged at Nuremberg; a decent number (dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? I’m not sure how I’d estimate) of Germans who were directly responsible for the deaths of 3,000 or 10,000 people who got away at most with a sentence that was quickly commuted away to be three or five years.

            @a reader

            I picked Codreanu because the best-known picture of his is rather similar in its general composition to the Che photo, they’re both youngish, etc.

            @ana53294

            People seem, after the fact, to like leaders who delivered nationalistic pride, yeah. On Stalin’s watch the USSR ended controlling half of Europe and being one of two great powers.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I said I think the American left wants Sweden, and I meant it. However, there’s still this weird fondness for authoritarian Communist states which I don’t think is likely to lead to action. It’s a matter of corrupted imagination, but I’m not sure how much difference it makes.

        As for who counts as a central example of a contemporary left-winger, how about Terry Gross?

        Do you think that starting off with an insult makes your argument more convincing?

        • cassander says:

          I said I think the American left wants Sweden, and I meant it. However, there’s still this weird fondness for authoritarian Communist states which I don’t think is likely to lead to action.

          How much does this fondness contribute to disasters like what we see now in venezuela, which was loudly applauded by much of the american left prior to the inevitable collapse? I don’t mean to imply that the US left is responsible for the decisions made by venezuelans, but it seems inarguable that if Chavez had gotten even as much criticism as, say, Pinochet got, his regime would not have gone as far, achieved as much, or brought as much ruin to Venezuela as happened. those sympathies might not lead to a communist revolution in the US, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have consequences.

          • quanta413 says:

            I have strong doubts as to whether verbal or written criticism would make much difference to a regime in another country. Maybe there’s some sort of more aggressive action that would make a difference, but I don’t think I’d call it criticism.

          • cassander says:

            It’s not just verbal criticism. It’s Jimmy Carter certifying their elections, it’s political parties being able to travel and raise money abroad, it’s not having a spanish judges order you arrested for war crimes and the london police to take them up on the offer. The left believes that their criticism can affect regimes like apartheid south africa, and I think they’re right, and it would affect regimes like Chavez’s.

  11. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Would it make sense for people to get a stool sample for themselves before a course of antibiotics so they can repopulate their gut microbiome?

    • James C says:

      I’d guess it very much depends on the intensity and duration of the course, but I’m not qualified to give that kind of medical advice.

    • rahien.din says:

      Only to the extent that you
      A. cared about having the exact same microbiome you had before
      B. could precisely identify your pre-antibiotic gut microbiome
      C. could take exactly the right probiotic to reconstitute it.

      Or maybe D. you were willing to preserve a culture of your *ahem* gut microbiome, and thereafter perform a fecal autotransplant.

      I don’t think that you have to care about that, though. Just take some decent, cheap probiotics. Or eat some yogurt.

  12. johan_larson says:

    The recent documentary series “The Vietnam War,” by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, is now available on Netflix. I just finished watching it, and believe it is the best documentary series ever made about that war. It is better than “The Ten Thousand Day War” and better than “Vietnam in HD,” the two earlier contenders.

    It got me wondering whether there was anything the US could realistically have done differently to actually win the war. The one thing that comes to mind is closing the Ho Chi Minh trail by invasion, which would have made a huge difference by denying supplies going to VC and NVA troops fighting in the south.

    The US certainly had enough troops in country — some half a million by the end of the decade — and US morale remained good until quite late in the war. Was there any reason this was not done?

    • bean says:

      The US could have done what it did in 1972 a lot earlier. We were able to force a settlement by bombing Hanoi, and put South Vietnam in a place where they could have held out if given supplies and air support. If we’d done that at a time when there was political will to keep supporting South Vietnam, then the war would have turned out very differently.

      • johan_larson says:

        Could you elaborate? Suppose the US had bombed Hanoi in, say, 1967. Are you thinking that would have forced the north to ramp down its effort in the south enough that the south could have succeeded without US soldiers in the field? Or do you think there could have been some sort of settlement that ended the war earlier?

        • bean says:

          More of the latter. Particularly after 1968, the VC were gone, and the US was fighting the NVA directly. Forcing the North to stop sending their troops south would have ended the war, and did for a couple years. The South might have held out if we’d resupplied them and sent carriers and B-52s. In 1972, we proved that we could bomb them flat if we needed to, and that nothing they could do would stop us. (Seriously, the North Vietnamese invented integrated air defense networks as we know them today. Hanoi was better-defended than Moscow then.) Doing that in 1967 would have cut the support going to the VC a lot. Either it would have been a manageable insurgency or a complete victory.

          • John Schilling says:

            Possible problem in that the North Vietnamese had SA-2s and MiG-21s and combat-proven IAD in 1968, while the US was still tinkering with first-generation Wild Weasels and SEAD doctrine. Rolling Thunder was bloody expensive for the USAF, and it’s not clear that scaling it up to 1972 levels wouldn’t have resulted in the US rather than NV calling the whole thing off.

            But if the US could learn fast enough to make it work at a tolerable cost, you’re probably right as to the consequences.

          • bean says:

            Rolling Thunder was famously conducted under the RoE that we couldn’t attack SAM sites that were under construction or inactive. That does not imply that the air campaign was being taken seriously. The B-52 wasn’t sent north for fear of escalation. The bit where Johnson doled out targets slowly, making sure that the North Vietnamese had plenty of time to adapt and prepare themselves also doesn’t speak highly of his planning.

            If they’d taken the gloves off in 1968, mined Haiphong and bombed Hanoi, I think it would have worked. Would the losses have been heavier than they were during Linebacker? Yes. But losses can be sustained so long as the other guy runs into trouble first. The strategy used during Rolling Thunder was almost deliberately engineered to make sure that didn’t happen.

          • John Schilling says:

            Possibly, but “they didn’t really try, so they failed” is not evidence that they would have succeeded if they had tried harder. The USAF and USN tried hard enough to lose a thousand planes in the process, and I’m not convinced that this was even mostly due to the ROE.

          • bean says:

            The USAF and USN tried hard enough to lose a thousand planes in the process, and I’m not convinced that this was even mostly due to the ROE.

            The USAF and USN tried hard enough to lose less than a plane a day across more than three years. 1000 planes is a lot, but spread across enough time that I’m not sure it’s proof of trying that hard. Add in the utterly idiotic way Rolling Thunder (and the rest of the war) was handled, and I find it hard to believe that we couldn’t have done a much better job and forced a stalemate. How many mines were dropped in Haiphong Harbor during Rolling Thunder? How many B-52 sorties went north of Route Pack One? McNamara systematically mismanaged everything he touched, and I see no reason to assume that he didn’t take a winnable situation and lose it for us. (Seriously, I just read Friedman’s account of TFX, and the man was worse than I thought. Which is saying something, because part of me already suspected he was from the future, sent back to destroy our defenses. But the British are as screwed up as we are, and they never had his like.)

          • Protagoras says:

            I don’t know. The stories of the American officers in Vietnam just remind me a little too much of all the German generals who insist they could have won the war in the East if Hitler hadn’t meddled so much. And just as those German generals greatly exaggerate how much Hitler meddled and how bad his ideas were, as well as how great their own ideas would have been, I can’t help but be skeptical of the claims of the American generals about how Vietnam would have gone if they’d gotten their own way. It’s entirely possible that the situations aren’t really parallel, but history is almost always more complicated than the narratives invented later.

          • bean says:

            @Protagoras

            I can see where you’re coming from, but Vietnam was bad. I mean really bad. There were times when rudder orders were being issued to the ships off the coast from the White House situation room. Once, someone mistook the carrier USS Constellation for a Constellation AWACS plane, and ordered her to orbit at 30,000 feet.

      • cassander says:

        This would be my answer as well. The Johnson administration’s gradual escalation, and frequent de-escalations, were just about the worst possible way of going about things. I remain somewhat amazed that LBJ of all people approved such a policy. the man understood leverage and negotiation, was legitimately brilliant at it, but utterly failed in vietnam.

    • sfoil says:

      The “official consensus” as reflected in Harry Summers’ On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War is that the pro-South side should have extended the Vietnam DMZ across the 17th Parallel all the way to Thailand, shutting down communication into the South as you point out. This would have required completely abandoning Laotian neutrality, the details of which Summers doesn’t adequately reckon with in his book.

      Why this wasn’t done is basically because the US didn’t want to “escalate” the war. If this sounds stupid, it was, and there is a rich literature attempting to explain how this happened.

      While this would be the ideal solution, I think if the propaganda aspects of the Tet Offensive and the PAVN presence in South Vietnam in general had been better managed then the 1972 Paris Accords could have been reached earlier (~1968-9) by a similar increase in strategic bombing of the North, and the South could have plausibly held on indefinitely with the sort of limited support they did receive with much less risk of it being cut off.

    • Atlas says:

      It got me wondering whether there was anything the US could realistically have done differently to actually win the war. The one thing that comes to mind is closing the Ho Chi Minh trail by invasion, which would have made a huge difference by denying supplies going to VC and NVA troops fighting in the south.

      I asked this very question in an OT back when the documentary was still airing on PBS, I’ll try to link the responses to it later.

      But what I’m wondering is, suppose that the US blocked off the Ho Chi Minh Trail or took some other action to seriously change the course of the war. Would that have led China to intervene the way it did in Korea, or would the calculus have been different for Beijing?

      • bean says:

        I think the calculus was very different. Korea was essentially Stalin’s war. At the time, he was the undisputed leader of global communism. He was almost certainly responsible for the Chinese intervention, and was definitely the one who kept the war going. The war ended only five months after he died, despite there being no major change in circumstances on the ground for at least a year before.

        AIUI, Vietnam got aid by playing off China and the Soviets, who by that point had split. But they were too smart and too nationalistic to want the Chinese actually in the country en mass.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Did the US want to win the war? Wasn’t Korea the model outcome we were pursuing?

      • johan_larson says:

        The Korea-style compromise division had already been made when north and south Vietnam were created and separated by the DMZ. The US was fighting to keep South Vietnam from being overrun.

  13. Atlas says:

    Anyone here a fan of the Cormoran Strike novels?

    Because if so, I was just thinking: various characters ridicule Matthew’s jealousy of Strike, and insist that he has nothing to worry about. However, upon reflection it seems to me that Matthew does in fact have good reason to be suspicious, though his behavior is counterproductive and he’s sort of jumping the gun.

    Strike has a dangerous, exciting career that happens to be the exact career that Robin has always fantasizing about having. He is extremely practically competent and worldly—that is to say, Strike is really good at the whole fixing things/killing things/finding things memeplex that is masculinity. He’s got a good bit of fame from both his parentage and his achievements as a detective. He’s moderately older than Robin and Matthew. The women he’s slept with that we and Robin know of, Ciara, Elin and Charlotte, are all very high value, so mate choice copying is another point in his favor. And to cap it all off, he’s even taller than the already tall Matthew.

    Add to all this the fact that he and Robin are spending lots of time alone but for each other, occasionally under high stress conditions, and indeed it seems quite natural for Matthew to be suspicious. While Robin castigated Sarah Shadlock towards the beginning of A Career of Evil for listing some of these facts, despite her unsavory motives Shadlock was making some pretty good points.

    Unlike Matthew, we have a direct window into the thoughts of both Strike and Robin. And it seems pretty clear to me that, while Matthew is being premature and juvenile in his response, Robin and Strike are developing a mutual attraction behind their self-imposed barriers. And furthermore that Robin is coming to consider Strike to be a superior capital M Man than Matthew, and feels unconsciously that her professional/personal relationship with Strike is at least, if not indeed more, important than her engagement.

    I think it’s perhaps significant that Rowling’s own first marriage ended acrimoniously, and, moving into the realm of wild unfounded speculation, I suspect that Robin is a bit of a stylized author avatar for Rowling, as I suspect Hermione was. And, to speculate even more wildly, I suspect that Strike is sort of Rowling’s vision of the ideal man—good at lots of macho stuff like boxing but also highly intelligent and moral.

    • brmic says:

      You’re not considering all of Strike’s faults here. Some of them make him great boss/detective but lousy romantic partner material. Plus his track record in romantic partnerships.

      But nevermind that. In my opinion, the point is exactly that while they admire each other deeply, as is quite likely in such a situation of frequently intense and dangerous cooperation, they repeatedly decide against adding a romantic angle to their relationship. Which is all that can be asked of anyone, unless you expect Robin to totally suppress the side of herself that wants to be a detective. So I disagree that Matthew has ‘good reason to be suspicious’ unless the presence of another attractive man in Robin’s life counts as ‘good reason’, which is a weirdly possessive way of thinking. In fact, we are shown several times how Matthew learns that something that made him suspicious was in fact the result of Robin’s drive to become a detective, not a romantic interest in Strike or an attempt by Strike to draw her closer.

  14. Mark V Anderson says:

    Myth #6. That the rich have more influence over the free market than over the government. What determines the products for sale in the supermarket? It is the consumer who buys the products. If consumers in America all get cravings for apples, the stores will soon be sold out of apples. The stores will all clamor to get more apples, more apples will be imported, and as many as possible will make it to the stores. If this apple craving lasts for years, then more farmers will change over to apples, and the stores will have more apples on a permanent basis.

    It is not the rich who determine what is being sold in the stores. It is the mass quantity of consumers. For almost all consumer goods, the rich buy only a small portion of the goods for sale, and so have only a small influence on what is in the marketplace. Only for luxury goods do the rich have a disproportionate impact on what is for sale.

    Some will object that it is the rich who own the businesses that determine the structure of the free enterprise system. It is true that the rich own the businesses (for the most part. There are large investments in the corporations in this country by mutual funds and pension plans, which are mostly composed of investments of the middle class). But each business will only remain successful if they sell products that are desired by consumers. So these businesses are at the mercy of the large body of consumers.

    It is clear that consumers determine what is sold. How about the prices? Any economist will tell you that an individual business cannot set its own prices. In order to sell its goods, it cannot sell above a range dictated by the market or it won’t be successful in selling its goods and will go bankrupt. This price will be only a little above cost, or else competitors will lower their prices to grab more business. There is a market price for investment returns, just like other parts of the market. If an industry provides more return than other industries, then companies will enter the industry to grab the extra profit while they can. Some of these new companies will grab business by lowering prices, which will eventually result in that industry making the same return as other industries. So all industries end up with similar returns on their investments. Therefore, margins (prices above costs) in all industries are dictated by the market of investors, and no industry can charge prices much above their costs.

    Of course this is only the case where industries are competitive, and when other companies can enter the industry at will. So consumers don’t have as much effect on highly regulated industries such as utilities and banking. But almost all markets in which the middle class spends money are competitive. Consumers can easily switch to other companies if they are paying too much for food, clothing, apartment rentals, autos, or hardware. You may think these items are all too expensive, but they are sold for as little as they can be, compatible with an average profit margin. It is not the rich who decide what is sold or for how much.

    However, the rich do have a disproportionate effect on the government. The rich own the media corporations that provide information to everyone in the country, and also provide most of the opinions that we all see. There are millions of news feeds and opinions available that don’t make the cut by the media, so the media definitely controls what the public sees. Some of the media owners claim that they don’t get involved in the media content, but overall, it appears that the rich have quite a bit more influence over the media than the rest of us. And even the rich that don’t own media companies often have a disproportionate effect on information disseminated to the public, because advertisements and other information outlets are expensive.

    The rich also have more direct access to politicians through lobbying. It takes money to create lobbying groups. Also of course politicians need money to run campaigns, and they may easily become beholden to those rich people that provide most of their funding.

    One solution to the problem of the political power of the rich may be to nationalize media companies and provide public funding of political campaigns. Unfortunately, that would cause even more problems by increasing the power of the political elite. If all the money for the media and political races came from the government, the government would be regulating itself. Such a situation always results in bad results. Better to have the rich holding the government accountable than nobody. At least in our current situation, the rich and government elite jostle for power. Having the government fund its own watchdogs and political races subtracts power from the rich, but does not add power to anyone but the government elite. That would create even more imbalance of power. At least now the rich can sometimes topple the political elite.

    • IrishDude says:

      “Treat all economic questions from the viewpoint of the consumer, for the interests of the consumer are the interests of the human race.” – Frederic Bastiat

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Votes are worth something, and those are distributed pretty equitably.

      Also, if business owners can coordinate then consumers don’t necessarily dictate everything. Arguably there’s a historic undersupply of right-wing media, for instance, for this very reason.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Votes are not distributed equitably, if it were true you wouldn’t have large swaths of the population having to fight to get the right to vote, and you wouldn’t have large swaths of the population without the right to vote.

    • Deiseach says:

      It is not the rich who determine what is being sold in the stores. It is the mass quantity of consumers. For almost all consumer goods, the rich buy only a small portion of the goods for sale, and so have only a small influence on what is in the marketplace. Only for luxury goods do the rich have a disproportionate impact on what is for sale.

      Compare Dorothy Sayers in Murder Must Advertise:

      Like all rich men, he had never before paid any attention to advertisements. He had never realized the enormous commercial importance of the comparatively poor. Not on the wealthy, who buy only what they want when they want it, was the vast superstructure of industry founded and built up, but on those who, aching for a luxury beyond their reach and for a leisure for ever denied them, could be bullied or wheedled into spending their few hardly won shillings on whatever might give them, if only for a moment, a leisured and luxurious illusion. Phantasmagoria — a city of dreadful day, of crude shapes and colours piled Babel-like in a heaven of harsh cobalt and rocking over a void of bankruptcy — a Cloud Cuckooland, peopled by pitiful ghosts, from the Thrifty Housewife providing a Grand Family Meal for Fourpence with the aid of Dairyfields Butter Beans in Margarine, to the Typist capturing the affections of Prince Charming by a liberal use of Muggins’s Magnolia Face Cream.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Could you please make your point instead of just quoting an overly stylistic mystery writer?
        I see why I never started reading Sayers.

        Are you saying that the poor are somehow directed by advertising for all their consumer demands? That sounds very unlikely to me.

    • arlie says:

      What determines the products for sale in the supermarket? It is the consumer who buys the products.

      Interesting question.

      One thing I’ve noticed is that, particularly with concentration of ownership, every damn store sells substantially the same things, and getting what I actually want – rather than the least undesirable of what’s available – requires considerable time and effort. To the point where I often either “settle” for what’s available (if it’s something like food) or simply buy nothing at all.

      I suspect that what’s going on is group think among the not-so-high-level employees making purchasing decisions, and additional group think among the producers, rather than e.g. some dastardly plot 😉 Every once in a while some new provider addresses a large unserved niche, does well for a while – and then gets purchased by the existing establishment and/or hires too many people trained in the existing establishment, and reverts to the norm.

      At any rate, it’s one reason I favour measures against concentration of ownership. Lots of small stores, buying from lots of small manufacturers, gives me more chance of getting something I actually like ;-(

      If consumers in America all get cravings for apples, the stores will soon be sold out of apples. The stores will all clamor to get more apples, more apples will be imported, and as many as possible will make it to the stores. If this apple craving lasts for years, then more farmers will change over to apples, and the stores will have more apples on a permanent basis.

      So the consumer gets a craving for apples, the stores run out, and the consumer has a choice between pears, oranges, plums or nothing. The store runs out of all fruit by the end of the day, and its buyers conclude that their current mix of fruit is working, and orders the same thing the next day.

      My version of the story looks like what I routinely see at all 3 of my local grocery store chains. Except that I see it less in the fruit section, and more in others. And I suspect that wholesalers paying for “product placement” is part of the cause, not just loss of information due to sloppy monitoring and status quo bias.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        So the consumer gets a craving for apples, the stores run out, and the consumer has a choice between pears, oranges, plums or nothing. The store runs out of all fruit by the end of the day, and its buyers conclude that their current mix of fruit is working, and orders the same thing the next day.

        I don’t think store managers are quite this stupid. If the apple craving did extend to all fruit in the absence of apples as in your example, the store would at least up the purchases of fruit, at least if it happened every day for a week. At some point they would discover that apples were always sold out even if other fruit went un-bought. Perhaps the food merchants in your area are pretty dense, but it doesn’t take a lot of intelligence to figure out the basic trends of consumer demand. Maybe not as quickly as you’d like. And of course maybe not to your desired ends, since your tastes may not match those of most other consumers.

  15. Controls Freak says:

    Two interesting charts I saw this week. First, this chart from this paper. The background is that the author is the same guy who wrote this paper, arguing that the climate models don’t tell us much about policy choices (I agree with him on this, but I don’t think he quite groks the underlying theoretical issue completely). In any event, this motivated the paper which produced the headline chart, and his solution to the climate models not being very useful was to instead attempt to estimate the Social Cost of Carbon simply by asking experts some questions which would allow him to compute an estimate of SCC. (I have definitely expressed my displeasure with the “opinion poll model of science” here before, which frankly is the reason why I hadn’t seen the chart earlier; I didn’t bother to read the rest of the paper after having read the abstract.)

    So anyway, when I saw the chart, I was instantly curious. It instantly made me think of a funnel plot, but it’s not really a funnel plot. Plus, it’s weird that everyone seems kind of comfortable with the fact that the answers span three orders of magnitude, and a large portion of them think it’s pretty close to zero… but yet, somehow, no one thinks the SCC is negative. I mean, you can’t get even one rando to say “$-1”, but you can find someone to say “$1000”?

    I had two competing hypotheses – that he had put a really weird constraint in such that people couldn’t respond with negative answers or that there was some very strange group psychology going on. When I dug into the paper, I discovered it was the former.. In a parenthetical on page 14, he says, “[A]nd I impose a probability of 1 that the impact will be 0% or greater.” I want to say something strong about how I feel sad for the state of this science, but I’m pretty sure you can fill in that sentiment by now.

    All this led to this week’s second chart (from here). It’s actually a funnel plot! I hadn’t seen one of these yet. I’m really not sure I want to comment much besides, “It’s nice to see a funnel plot,” and, “Boy, where’s the other side of that funnel plot?” Maybe I’ll end with a reference to, “This is what I’m talking about when I talk about how the dynamic IAMs are basically just taking a static, positive damage function and amortizing it. When you assume a positive damage function, you get positive damage. Uh, duh.”

    • Matt M says:

      I don’t have any links handy, but Robert Murphy has done a lot of work in this space. I seem to recall him suggesting that the IPCC estimates of the SCC use a discount rate that is much more aggressive than the government typically requires for long-term forecasting, and that if they used the “normal” discount rate, the SCC estimates would include negative values.

      • Controls Freak says:

        Yeah, Pindyck (the author of the first paper) harps on discount rates, too.

      • Jon Gunnarsson says:

        If by “aggressive” you mean a high discount rate, then you’ve got things backwards. Most of the expected really bad effects from global warming are far in the future, whereas the short term effects may well be positive on net. So if you use a high discount rate, those far off bad effects don’t play as much of a role and you get a low (or perhaps even negative) social cost of carbon.

    • Colonel Hapablap says:

      I don’t see why the social cost would ever be negative, but I suppose it depends on what you want to use it for. For example:

      FAA requires some new aircraft regulation that will increase fuel burn by X amount. The airlines are not happy and they want to make a submission on the new regulation, stating that the direct costs will be Y and the Social Cost of the extra carbon emissions will be Z, and so the total cost of the regulation will be Y + Z.

      In that context the Social Cost of Carbon should only include harmful effects, since the only benefit of the extra fuel burn would be related to the new regulation.

      • I don’t see why the social cost would ever be negative

        The social cost of carbon is negative if the benefits of climate change due to CO2 are larger than the costs. Is there some reason why that is impossible?

      • Colonel Hapablap says:

        I didn’t think of that. It doesn’t seem plausible since the vast majority of possible shocks to a system should be negative, but I suppose it is possible.

        • Controls Freak says:

          Good news! Basic timescale analysis from dynamical systems theory implies that we shouldn’t treat climate change as a shock! It’s a slow parameter in the economic/political systems, and the biggest theoretical problem with most people’s intuition (and behind all the IAMs that I’ve seen) is that they do the timescales the wrong way ’round like this.

          Since my degrees are in aerospace departments, I like to give the analogy of fuel usage in airplanes. It’s a slow parameter to the fast system (of velocities/orientations). If we’re thinking about it the wrong way ’round, we can imagine it being a shock; heck, I can even simulate such shocks in flight sims (causing all kinds of problems, including instability). Nevertheless, that view is fundamentally wrong, and it leads to wrong conclusions in the case of powered flight. I’m not arguing that the effects of CC are negative/positive/zero; I’m arguing that the analysis most people use to get to one of those conclusions is badly broken, and we don’t actually have much reason to believe that we know which category it’s actually in.

  16. helloo says:

    For those who have a strong moral sense of animal suffering – what is your take on what humans should do for them (in regards to reducing suffering), particular wild ones?

    This is NOT the whole cliche “why are you ignoring/not stopping predators from eating prey”. Rather that’s only a small part of it.
    I’m asking of all the things humans do to reduce human suffering, what should be extended to animals/other life forms?

    Humans spend a lot of effort to reduce human suffering. If people feel animal suffering is something people should be concerned with, how much of this effort could/should be extended to animals?
    Some examples are thus –
    Medicine – cures? vaccines? parasite reduction? CRISPR type genetic modifications?
    Basic life amenities – Shelter, food, water – disaster recovery, drought, famine
    Fairness/opportunity – comparative habit size, one species dominating over another

    There’s a huge part in the preservation and restoration of natural habitats and species, but not much I’ve seen regarding improvement besides pollution reduction. Most ecological changes are for benefits of humans rather than the wild animals. Only one I can think of is the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone parks and even then that’s mostly for restoration.

    The major argument/stance is responsibility (as in, only responsible for human actions/human caused suffering) and a sense to leave things alone. But how well has those arguments been played in regards for interventions regarding human suffering?

    • Matt M says:

      Most ecological changes are for benefits of humans rather than the wild animals. Only one I can think of is the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone parks and even then that’s mostly for restoration.

      IMO, this is also “for the benefit of humans” in the sense that humans really like the idea of “natural” spaces for animals. Once upon a time, humans didn’t care for wolves running about, so we shot them. Now our values have changed, and we want the wolves back, so back they come!

    • drunkfish says:

      This is a question I’ve found really interesting since I learned about https://was-research.org/. I’m far from any useful conclusions, but I have some immediate concerns about it (which hopefully are relevant to your question?). For context I’m a morally motivated vegetarian, though my conclusions on that front are pretty fuzzy and I’m mostly coming from a “killing fewer things for food is very unlikely to be a mistake” angle. I’m also pretty comfortable with the focus on non-wild animals, since it seems like (though this might not be a very utilitarian stance) not doing harm is a decent first step to focus on prior to eliminating extant harm.

      As far as what to do for wild animals, I think the most important thing would be to first make sure no interventions just make things worse. Humans have a bad track record when it comes to shepherding ecosystems, and it scares me to think of people who think they’re doing good but are actually causing harm. “Prey animals are suffering” is almost certainly true, but preventing them from being eaten and causing an ecosystem to collapse is likely to still be net negative. “lets vaccinate animals” sounds like a fine idea, but only after ensuring that infections aren’t somehow playing an important role in ecosystems (possible hypothesis: if you assume predators need to eat, maybe the existence of infections biases that consumption toward the ‘weakest’ animals, measured in some darwinian sense).

    • Aapje says:

      @helloo

      Evolution doesn’t minimize suffering, so if you let nature run its natural course, you get animal behavior that we would call horrible animal abuse if people did it to animals.

      However, nature is very complex, so interventions are likely to backfire. For example, if you kill predators, you may get a lot of slowly starving animals which is probably a lot more cruel than a fairly rapid death at the claws of a predator.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’ve seen a suggestion to make suffering less for both humans and animals by lowering susceptibility to pain by using genetic engineering.

        • albatross11 says:

          I know there are disorders where people don’t feel pain, and I think those people tend to die young through not noticing dangerous injuries, and to accumulate a lot of damage through not noticing continual minor injuries.

          OTOH, just turning the pain signal down a bit might work. It seems like you’d do just as well with a pain system whose signals went from “Everything’s fine” to “Uncomfortable and annoying” rather than from “Everything’s fine” to “Huddled on the floor whimpering for someone to please put you out of your misery.”

          • quanta413 says:

            It seems unlikely to me this is a good idea.

            Pain tolerance already varies between people. I think it’s likely this is at least partly because some people literally felt less pain.

            If there was an advantage to feeling less pain in terms of reproducing, we’d probably already feel less pain. I don’t feel that confident that our environment is fundamentally different enough from a few thousand years ago to be worth turning that signal down even if we could.

          • beleester says:

            Events that cause crippling pain tend to also be events that just plain kill you, so I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of evolutionary pressure to turn down pain at the upper end of the scale.

            However, modern medicine is incredibly good at handling trauma, so I would bet that a modern person does have a better chance of surviving to reproduce than a caveman would have, if they’re able to fight through the pain and get themselves out of that situation.

            It could also be that the evolutionary disadvantage is in engineering complexity rather than health benefits – i.e., it’s easier for evolution to design a pain sensor that scales linearly with the amount of injury, than to design one that has a cutoff at a certain level. If that’s the case, then it might be hard to implement such a change, but there isn’t a disadvantage if you have the tools to do so.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s actually kind-of weird to me that our pain system can do a denial-of-service attack on our brains, to the point that something can be painful enough to make someone lose consciousness or become incapacitated. It sure seems like there’d be a survival advantage to being able to say “yeah, that really hurts, but I’m going to go ahead and finish bashing your head in with my club before I worry about it.” And indeed, it seems like sometimes this actually happens, but other times, intense pain seems to actually incapacitate someone.

            Maybe that means it was easier for evolution to do linear scaling than putting a ceiling on it, but it’s also possible that there’s not any point at which putting a ceiling on the impact of pain actually makes you more fit. (For example, continuing to run on a broken leg is probably not very good for your survival prospects, unless there is something chasing you that will certainly kill you, and that you can outrun on a broken leg. Maybe getting that signal to say “stay put and stop making your injury worse, dumbass” is a better choice.

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            That mechanism already exists and is called adrenaline. I can speak from experience that it greatly reduces felt pain. It also increases focus, strength and other things that are helpful when bashing in heads.

            It is temporary though, which seems like a very good idea, because it discourages people from ignoring the need to rest/heal.

            Pro athletes already show the capability to ignore medium-grade injuries and it is quite common for them to end up with permanent and fairly severe damage, which demonstrates why it is not a great idea to be able to ignore pain more easily.

            I don’t expect the average person to make better decisions (or even be aware that they are making a decision) than the human body.

        • Aapje says:

          @Nancy

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

          It is common for people with the condition to die in childhood due to injuries or illnesses going unnoticed.[1][2] Burn injuries are among the more common injuries

          Because children with the disorder cannot feel pain, they may not respond to problems, thus being at a higher risk of more severe diseases. Children with this condition often sustain oral cavity damage both in and around the oral cavity (such as having bitten off the tip of their tongue) or fractures to bones.[2] Unnoticed infections and corneal damage due to foreign objects in the eye are also seen.

          I’d rather feel pain.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I was thinking in terms of lowering pain signals to low-normal, not turning them off completely.

      • helloo says:

        There’s plenty of cases where trying to be charitable resulted in some unknown/unexpected negative consequences.

        Donating cloth to developing countries pretty much prevented any possible emergent textile market and often reduced or eliminated existing local production.
        Reducing parasites seems to be one of the possible causes in the increase of allergies in the modern world.

        Calls to stop donations or increase parasites are pretty much always seen as minor or extreme.
        Why would humans be this cautious regarding animal suffering to the point of not doing anything?

        A mirror might be with GMOs and “organic” breeding methods. We seem to want much more strict and longer testing regarding the former, but I believe quite a few people here are confident with the existing tests to deem current GMOs “safe enough”.

  17. baconbits9 says:

    Does anyone have an interest in defending Nick Rowe’s position here? Skimming the comments only one person (Nick Edmonds) seems to touch on what I think is a fatal flaw in the thought experiment but the post is 2 weeks old so I don’t expect any reaction from a reply. The flaw is here

    But suppose the apple producer prefers eating bananas; the banana producer prefers eating cherries; and the cherry producer prefers eating apples. And the Wicksellian triangle (lack of coincidence of wants) means they use money to buy and sell fruit, because it is difficult for all three agents to meet at the same time at a central Walrasian market and trade all three fruits simultaneously. Then a shortage of money (an excess demand for the medium of exchange) would cause a decline in the volume of trade. Unable to sell as many apples as he wants to sell, the apple producer buys fewer bananas than he normally would. So the banana producer is unable to sell as many bananas as he wants to sell, and buys fewer cherries than he normally would. So the cherry producer is unable to sell as many cherries as he wants to sell, and buys fewer apples than he normally would. Each is stuck consuming too much of his own fruit, and too little of the fruit he prefers to eat.

    The “shortage” of money only creates a recession if prices can’t move or “shortage” means zero money, AND the three producers cannot effectively create their own money through credit. Here is what should happen in the stripped down economy. The apple grower wants to sell his apples for enough money that will allow him to buy his desired amount of bananas, the banana grower the same but with banana and cherries and the cherry grower the same but with cherries and apples. All that matters is that the relative prices of the three goods remains the same and that each participant has access to the prices of his preferred good. If there is less money bidding on the apples then the price of apples drops, which reduces the amount of money bidding on bananas so their price drops, which reduces the amount of money bidding on cherries.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I think it is true that a sudden blip in the quantity of money might well cause a recession. Not because there is a “shortage” of money, even if the quantity of money goes down a bunch. It is because the communication power of pricing is messed up for a while, and before everyone gets it straightened out people buy less because of the uncertainty makes everyone more cautious. Even if the quantity of money goes down, it gets eventually sorted out by simply lowering the prices of everything. There are always smaller denominations one can use, so it doesn’t really make sense to have a shortage of money.

      Nick Rowe seems to be implying no use of money at all in his parable. Yes, the economy greatly benefits from the use of money in eliminating friction. But what does that have to do with the modern world?

      • If you think that proportional deflation of all prices can fix this problem, I’m afraid that you are abstracting away from an important feature of capitalist production: the possibility of hoarding money.

        Let us imagine that all three of the fruit producers have invested 100 units of some money at the start of a year in order to commence their fruit production. Imagine that, during the year, prices across the board deflate by half. Nevertheless, each of the fruit producers manages to recoup 60 units of their money at the end of the year, or products that are exchangeable for 60 units of money.

        You might say that their “real” wealth has increased because now they can buy 20% more of what they want. But their nominal wealth has decreased, and this is a problem because capitalists are not forced to invest in anything at all. They can simply hoard money. And in this situation, it would have been optimal to simply hoard their 100 units. Their “real” wealth would have in that case doubled. And if they foresaw a good chance of a similar thing happening the next year, then they would be smart to hoard even if they made a mistake the first time.

        This is why, regardless of what you think is capable of functioning as money (whether dollars, gold, etc.), society must see to it that the aggregate stock of money is always continually increasing. Only with an aggregate increase in the nominal stock of money is it possible for everyone to be able to make a nominal monetary profit on average. With a stagnant or decreasing stock of money, it may be possible for some producers to still make a profit, but only at the expense of others suffering a nominal loss somehow in their stock of money. To have any hope of making a nominal monetary profit, you would have to hold out hope that you are so much more efficient or savvy than the average producer. If you, instead, realize that not everyone can be above average, and that if you are a typical producer your expected value from investing in production rather than hoarding will be negative, you will wisely hoard.

        And this is a problem, regardless of whether these producers judge that their (diminished) money can now purchase more use-values (utility). Even if this is the case, then it is still a fact that they would have been able to purchase even more use-values if they had hoarded their money, assuming average success in production.

        But you might object, “At least if you engage in production, you might have inventories of real useful wealth, which you will not have if you simply hoarded your money.” Yes, and what good is it to you, a capitalist producer? If the combined exchange-value of those inventories is less than the exchange-value of the money that you would have retained had you simply hoarded that money (as is true by definition according to the parameters of our thought experiment where we invested 100 units of money but ended up with either 60 units of money or commodities exchangeable for 60 units of money), then you would still have more exchange-value, and thus more access to the real useful wealth (utility) on the market that you cared about, if you had just hoarded money.

        Only if you directly produced the full suite of utilities that you personally cared about, and desired to consume, would it matter what kind of real useful wealth you had produced. Otherwise, the price the product fetches on the market is all that will matter to you.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Hmm, you make a good point, but I need to think about this.

          Okay, here is my thought.

          It seems to me that if a currency is going to have any dramatic change in value, in either direction, and an individual knows this it the case, then it doesn’t make sense for this individual to invest in production. If the value is going to be radically deflated, then the individual should hoard cash, as you say. If the value is to be radically inflated, the individual should obtain as much debt as possible, and use this debt to buy assets that will not decrease in value. So it is a bad thing for the economy if people expect a radical increase or decrease in currency value, regardless of whether it does so. SO this indicates a reason beyond the uncertainty it causes for changes in currency value to cause recessions; since any increase or decrease will make it appear more likely to do so in the future.

          Beyond this additional bad result of a currency shock, I’m not sure what your comments are telling me. You give me the bad results that occur when producers predict the a rapid devaluation, and so stop producing. If no one predicts it, then hoarding does not increase, and the devaluation occurs as I stated in my comment, although likely only after everyone figures out the new equilibrium.

    • quanta413 says:

      My (poor) understanding of the real world is that empirically speaking prices are sticky against downward movements. So despite the theoretical beauty of your solution, for whatever reason that doesn’t work out in the short run.

      Consult a real economist for a better answer.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Yes that is one explanation for what happens in the real world, but since it is not an assumption in the thought experiment you can’t use it there. Rowe is attempting to show that a shortage of money will cause a decline in trade without any extra conditions.

        • quanta413 says:

          I think Rowe is assuming it (since it’s empirically observed and it makes his claim make sense) but forgets to mention it.

          I agree that without additional assumption(s), what he says is not true. It’s not false either though. You still have to make additional assumptions about how markets actually function to make it false. What you say should happen is only true in a specific economic model.

          So I guess I would say that as posed, his thought experiment contains insufficient information to answer what would happen.

          • Nick Rowe says:

            quanta413: “I think Rowe is assuming it (since it’s empirically observed and it makes his claim make sense) but forgets to mention it.”

            That is correct.

            But a better way to think about it is to ask whether sufficient price flexibility (hypothetically) could prevent a shortage (excess of demand over supply) of money. And that’s less obvious. Because (depending on the monetary system) a fall in prices might reduce the money supply too. And a fall in prices might lead people to expect prices to fall further, which would increase their demand for money. And I wanted to duck questions like that, because they distracted from the main message of the post, as well as being a bit hypothetical, since prices (including wages) seem to be not very flexible.

          • baconbits9 says:

            quanta413: “I think Rowe is assuming it (since it’s empirically observed and it makes his claim make sense) but forgets to mention it.”

            That is correct.

            If this is true then we have to assume all facts that are empirically observed, and in this situation we have a monopoly seller of apples, one of bananas and one of cherries so we should be discussing their behaviors in the terms of monopoly pricing. Doing so would mean our results don’t generalize, so it would be petty to do so.

            But a better way to think about it is to ask whether sufficient price flexibility (hypothetically) could prevent a shortage (excess of demand over supply) of money. And that’s less obvious. Because (depending on the monetary system) a fall in prices might reduce the money supply too. And a fall in prices might lead people to expect prices to fall further, which would increase their demand for money.

            since prices (including wages) seem to be not very flexible.

            I’m confused. Prices tend to be sticky, but people also would expect them to fall, to the point where they change their behavior in anticipation of that fall? That is like setting up a model with irrational expectations.

      • John Schilling says:

        My (poor) understanding of the real world is that empirically speaking prices are sticky against downward movements.

        Wages are very sticky, prices much less so. Which disconnect can cause no end of trouble.

        People being loss-averse, we(*) remember price increases much more than we do price decreases, which leads to the perception that the latter never happen. But see e.g. your local gas station, for prices that show no stickiness against downward movements when that’s what microeconomic forces call for. Better still, your two local gas stations on opposite sides of the same corner.

        * The “we” that aren’t merchants, at any rate.

        • quanta413 says:

          Thanks. That clarifies a lot.

          I didn’t realize that, but your example makes it so obvious that I feel a little foolish for not seeing differences. I remember gas prices from enough years ago, but the thought wasn’t going to occur to me without it being pointed out.

    • helloo says:

      Not sure how well the producers can coordinate the price change.

      Suppose all three grew 2 fruit and needed to eat 2 fruit per harvest.

      If the initial price was $1 and they all have $2 to start with, they can all buy 2 and sell 2.

      If they all have $1 to start with, a Nash equilibrium exists with buy 1 eat 1 sell 1 as if they sell their good for less than 1 or more than 1, then they might not expect to buy any next round.
      Only if they somehow coordinated to lower their price to 1/2 could they return to the utility of the previous case, but not sure if there’s any incentive to change individual prices.

      • baconbits9 says:

        How did they coordinate the initial price? What ever mechanism they used for that first price should still exist for setting the second price.

        • helloo says:

          Who said they coordinated the initial price? How does ANY product come to an initial price? Actually, where did you even come up with the “second” part? It wasn’t necessarily meant to be a continuation.

          That just may be how things turned out to be based on historic values, heuristics or costs of similar products even if they never interacted in the market.

          Here’s a possible scenario –
          So possibly the apple grower first priced their good at 1 based on say the market value of pineapples despite never wanting to buy them. The banana grower may then also price theirs at 1 to insure they could get 2 fruit regardless of how many they sell. And so on.
          But then suddenly a money bug came and ate half the money after the prices came to be.

          And say they did in fact come together and talked to agree to a price initially. Who says they will ever do so again? or how long it will be between such meetings?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Who said they coordinated the initial price?

            If there was an initial price it had to be coordinated in some way (different from collusion). An offer has to be accepted for a price to be set.

            So possibly the apple grower first priced their good at 1 based on say the market value of pineapples despite never wanting to buy them.

            How is there a market for Pineapples? If there is one then the market price for Pineapples should fall when the money supply falls, meaning the apple grower will cut his prices, which means the banana grower will cut his market prices, and we have trade again.

            You have to come up with an explanation where the prices are set by a very fragile system (ie not S&D at all), demonstrating that a fragile system can be broken brings no insight to the matter.

          • helloo says:

            The initial price was arbitrarily set. If you have a preferred way to initially set it, state it.
            The whole point of the pineapple is that it’s a completely separate market that they got a number from – it’s not a substitute good or intersects with this market at all.

            Prices are changed “through” a coordination game with Nash equilibriums.

            Not sure what you mean by S&D.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The initial price was arbitrarily set

            Hypotheticals that depend on arbitrarily set prices won’t generalize to those that don’t. If the example only tells us “economies without pricing mechanisms won’t adjust to changes” then it is a low value thought experiment for application in our world.

          • helloo says:

            Seriously? I’m not sure if you are just looking past this or if there is something I’m not reaching to you.
            The linked hypothetical does not use arbitrarily set prices.
            *I* used them to create a textbook problem with actual numbers.

            The mechanism to change them is the one YOU mentioned. Or the market, or whatever.

            I’m just noting that individually, they might not want to lower prices as that will reduce their capacity to buy the thing they want. AND are pricing it at where IF they sold them, would have gotten them everything they want.
            That is “If there is less money bidding on the apples then the price of apples drops” doesn’t happen as if the price of apples drop, then the number of bananas bought from the profit from selling apples is also lowered AND THIS IS EASIER TO SEE WITH NUMBERS (or for you to argue against this with your numbers/strategies). And before you start saying that the price of bananas will also drop – the next example would be when only one of the three occurs a money loss.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I’m just noting that individually, they might not want to lower prices as that will reduce their capacity to buy the thing they want. AND are pricing it at where IF they sold them, would have gotten them everything they want.

            So last year how did they know the price they needed to take that would allow them to buy what they wanted?

            If I want to get enough money for my bananas to buy a certain weight of cherries then before I go to market with my bananas then I need to be able to figure out the price per pound of cherries before I sell my bananas. If I can do this in year 1 to set the price then you have to specify in the example that I cannot make that same action in year 2. If I can make it then it is easy to coordinate the whole banana/cherry/apple triangle with the lower amount of money. If I cannot use it then the issue is not the decline in the money supply but the inability to convey information. Stopping information flow while holding the money supply constant will have the same effect, I will go to market blind with no way to know what price I need to buy to gain the amount of cherries that I want.

            The linked hypothetical does not use arbitrarily set prices.
            *I* used them to create a textbook problem with actual numbers.

            The linked hypothetical does use arbitrarily set prices.

          • helloo says:

            They have information regarding the current prices, just not the future ones or overall money supply. If there is a method you want them to have to predict future prices or the overall money supply, state it. If you want no indeterminate states, just have it so that the prices and products are produced sequentially rather than all at once. As in, apples are harvested in time 1, B in 2, C in 3, A in 4, etc.
            If you have in mind a particular way they want to price it initially or otherwise, explain how it would work. I really do not think it is necessary to explain the given state of a thought experiment, but go ahead.

            There are ways to undermine it, but I’m not sure if those are any more applicable. For example – one way this can be broken is to have all the members borrow up to whatever their previous steady state was and just ignore all money supply changes. There are people that do that in the real world, but I doubt it is hardly what is expected of people by economists.

            I did not see any numbers used in the article linked. It did not mention anything regarding pricing at all actually.

          • baconbits9 says:

            They have information regarding the current prices, just not the future ones or overall money supply.

            Prices don’t just exist though, they are set by market forces. Either the 3 people are the sum total of the market, or there are others in the market and the 3 use the market prices for their trades. Either way the complaint still holds. If they have access to current prices then the banana seller can look at the price of cherries before he decides to sell his bananas or not. If the 3 are the only people in the economy then each of them is a price maker and a price taker, and each has communication with the other 2, allowing for them to contact and find out the price of each of the three fruits.

            The only way to make the example as stated to work is to artificially restrict access to information by market participants.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If you want no indeterminate states, just have it so that the prices and products are produced sequentially rather than all at once. As in, apples are harvested in time 1, B in 2, C in 3, A in 4, etc.

            In such a scenario the 3 people could never have come to an agreement on prices in the first place. This is just another example of “assume that the markets worked, then assume they don’t work, then cut the money supply, see the markets stopped working!”.

  18. sfoil says:

    Harlan Ellison died at the age of 84.

    What were your favorite stories of his, especially ones that were underrated/not “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream”?

    Aside from “Adrift Just Off The Islets of Langerhans”, which I think is pretty well known, I loved “Grail”, about a man who consorts with a minor demon in search of True Love. The contrast between the everyday world — even when it’s pretty bad — and the demon Surgat is appropriately jarring. And Ellison gets the horror aspect just right.

      • quaelegit says:

        I’m only somewhat well-read in classic SciFi but all I can remember about Ellison is “Have No Mouth” and “was a huge asshole”. Like I *know* he comes up in history-of-sci-fi and hugo discussions but I can’t remember any of his other works…

        Okay, I just checked his bibliography on Wikipedia and “City on the Edge of Forever” rings a bell… (I’m on the younger side of the age distribution here and I watch very little TV so I haven’t seen it.)

        • sfoil says:

          He apparently wrote over 900 stories, many of them great, but he’s increasingly remembered for being an ass. Lesson in there somewhere.

          • Protagoras says:

            Don’t focus on short stories if you want to be a famous author? People do seem to take novels most seriously, and for some reason seem to hold the longer ones in higher esteem.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Protagoras — worked for Conan Doyle though!

            In Sci Fi (… I think?), Shirley Jackson is known primarily for short stories, but maybe that’s just because every U.S. high schooler reads “The Lottery” in English class.

            @sfoil’s actual point — Are there any artists that are particular remembered for being nice people, or does legacy also suffer from a toxoplasma-type-problem? (Does Mr. Rogers count?)

          • sfoil says:

            @quaelegit Heinlein’s reputation looks like it might have been boosted a bit by his gracious/pleasant attitude, especially at cons.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      I forgot the name (though I have a collection of his short stories I’m too lazy to find) of the specific story, but it’s of an ugly child in the land of the beautiful, who couldn’t leave the house.

    • James says:

      Obviously his greatest work is his performance as the voice of AM in the videogame I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty

    • John Schilling says:

      Hmm. Does this increase or decrease the probability of Last Dangerous Visions ever being released?

      All joking aside, I think he was at least as important as an influence on other writers (editorially or otherwise) and on the SF community, as for his own writings.

      • sfoil says:

        I’ve heard the same thing, but I have zero personal engagement with either Fandom or SF writers’ circles as they stand now, much less in Ellison’s heyday and can’t speak much to it.

    • add_lhr says:

      I loved the atmosphere and style of On the Downhill Side.

  19. fion says:

    Silly hypothetical:

    What would be the most good you could do if you had the ability to travel back in time 24 hours?

    I’m using the model of time travel where you stay in your body but have the future-you’s memories (like About Time or Prince of Persia). But you can only go 24 hours (or less) and you can’t take anything back with you except what you remember. You can do it repeatedly, but not to get back earlier than 24 hours. (If you don’t see what I mean by this, it’s effectively a 24 hour cool-down. You could live the same day again and again, but you could never go back to the day before yesterday.)

    The best I’ve come up with is making lots of money by ‘predicting’ the stock market and then donating to charity. But how quickly could you get rich? What’s the maximum return you could expect to get on your investments if you know which things are going up or down in the next 24 hours? I don’t really know enough about the stock market to answer this.

    Any better/more inventive ideas?

    • hls2003 says:

      You’d do much better with lotteries and other gambling mechanisms than the stock market, in a 24-hour period.

      • fion says:

        What about winning the lottery once and then investing your winnings? As Gobbobobble notes, winning the lottery multiple times will draw attention to yourself immediately, which might be a bad thing.

        Online gambling might be a good way to stay anonymous and also win a lot…

        • Protagoras says:

          I assume that like casinos, online gambling establishments consider consistent winning as conclusive evidence that cheating is going on, and have some methods of detecting and stopping such consistent winners.

          • fion says:

            But unlike casinos, I’d expect it to be fairly trivial to set up a new account and win again. Also unlike casinos, less risk of physical harm… but then maybe I’ve watched too many movies.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        This is a question I have thought about a lot, for a long time. Like, at least 3 decades:

        Even if you go back in time and try to change as little as possible, will the lottery still pick the same numbers?

        I think sports gambling is less likely to be affected by the tiny changes you do in your day.

        • fion says:

          Are you saying the air I move when I walk around has a chaotic effect on the machine that tumbles up the little balls in such a way as to effectively re-randomise it every time I rewind? I’m not sure I have an answer to that. Maybe? I guess it’d be the first thing I’d find out.

          Or did you mean something else?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Basically, yeah. I suspect the lotto machines are so random and so chaotic that they wouldn’t end up in the same position, based on your movements. Something based on radioactive decay, ironically, might be more predictable to a time traveller, although obviously we don’t know that.

            I go back and forth on this every few years.

          • fion says:

            I go back and forth on this every few years.

            :O

            (Your secret is safe with me.)

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If I were to time travel to play the lotto numbers, here is the strategy.

            1. Pick a lotto as far from you as physically possible (while still legal to collect your winnings).
            2. Travel to the latest possible time to buy tickets. If the drawing is at 8:30pm and ticket selling cuts of at 8:00pm (it’s like they are defending against time travelers!), you would want to ‘beam in’ around 7:40.
            3. Hire someone to buy tickets for you. They should be physically far from you and physically far from the ball machine.
            4. Email or text them a list of numbers to bet. A list of 5 sets of numbers can provide you some noise.
            5. Have him drop the tickets into an overnight FedEx store before the drawing.
            6. You sit as still as possible for this entire thing.

          • albatross11 says:

            How do you imagine the changes caused by your time travel affecting the lotto draw or the stock market or the outcome of a sporting event? I’d expect that to happen from chaotic effects on the atmosphere eventually, but that should take a longish time to have a big effect.

            I think the Powerball lottery drawing happens somewhere on the East Coast, but a little Googling to find out for sure mainly netted me lots of state lottery sites and articles about how to pick winning numbers. If so, why not go back 24 hours in Southern California, where atmospheric changes will presumably not be able to reach the drawing site for quite awhile? Ideally, go back just before the deadline for buying a winning lottery ticket.

            Sports betting is even better, since I’m pretty sure you can bet on events on the other side of the globe. No way are any changes you make by placing a bet in Australia going to reach the site of the next Superbowl in less than 24 hours.

            I’m sure there are plenty of other chaotic unpredictable things going on, but probably also with low probability of changing an event like this within 24 hours. (Like, your bet slightly effects the gambling market/odds offered, but that probably doesn’t have time to change the behavior of the winning team in the Superbowl or the winner of today’s World Cup match or the next Powerball drawing or whatever.)

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I think that sporting events are much less likely to change if I time travel, at least at any significant level. The pitcher might throw the ball a little higher but the batter will swing a little higher and it’s still a homerun whether he hits it 452 feet or 453 feet.

          • Matt M says:

            And keep in mind, even if you DO change the outcome of the sporting event… you can just travel back and then not place that bet anymore and bet on a different one.

            This only presents a problem if you think that you will end up changing the outcome of every bettable sporting event. Which is not plausible.

          • actinide meta says:

            I think the “chaoticness” of a lottery machine can be roughly quantified. I’m imagining something like an air blower machine, where a lot of little balls are bouncing off each other every ~100ms for tens of seconds. (I will make up a lot of specific numbers for my back of the envelope calculation, but the bottom line result is extremely robust to the choice of all these numbers. If there’s a problem with this line of reasoning, it’s conceptual rather than quantitative.)

            When two spheres bounce off each other elastically, a difference in the direction of travel of either sphere is roughly doubled – a 1 degree delta becomes a 2 degree delta. After a second collision, a 4 degree difference. The lottery machine does hundreds of successive collisions of each ball.

            A 1 gram object on the other side of the Earth (from the lotto machine) produces a gravitational acceleration on a lotto ball (or anything else nearby) of 4 x 10^-28 m/s^2. Shifting the 1 gram object 1mm farther away from the lotto ball changes this acceleration by 6 x 10^-38 m/s^2. After a typical free path of 100ms, the velocity of the lotto ball will be affected by 6 x 10^-39 m/s. Let’s say that shifts the direction of the lotto ball by about 10^-40 radians. After 13.2 seconds (132 collisions per ball, multiplying this angular delta by a factor of 2^132) we expect this to have completely randomized the motion of balls in the machine.

            Basically, when comparing an exponentially growing effect with merely linear or quadratic effects, the exponential always wins.

            The real situation is undoubtedly “worse” than this. All highly chaotic systems in the vicinity of Earth are interacting gravitationally at the speed of light. I expect that moving a single atom anywhere will, well within a minute, have completely randomized all of them. And this is all assuming a classical, deterministic physics – subjectively nondeterministic quantum effects presumably randomize all of these systems quickly no matter what you do or don’t change.

            If your model of time travel is a consistent one – e.g. “worlds” in which time travel works consistently are postselected from the wavefunction – you might be able to predict lotto numbers with a time machine. But in the type of inconsistent model you are imagining, no way. Everything that’s chaotically random will diverge from your “memories”.

          • Colonel Hapablap says:

            Now that was an interesting post, Actinide. Reminds me a bit of David Deutch’s Beginnings of Infinity which I’m currently trying to read.

          • fion says:

            @actinide meta

            Thanks for your comment. That’s a really striking conclusion. Like, nevermind whether your body is close to the machine, or whether it’s an hour or ten hours between you buying your ticket and the draw… if your reasoning is correct then me lifting my finger on the other side of the world as the draw starts completely randomises the result in the time it takes light to travel 13000km?

            I’m not 100% sure I trust that, but at the same time, I can’t see a problem with your reasoning.

            If your reasoning is sound, then it’s a very lovely demonstration of the power of exponentials!

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            That comment was wonderful and resolves a question I’ve had for the longest time. SSC gold to you, sir!

    • Randy M says:

      How possible is it to make a lot of money on the market with a days foresight? If you see an unusual spike in the price of the stock of a medium to large company and go back that morning and want to put in as much cash as you can get your hands on, what is the maximum you could buy in it? And how would the sudden demand for that stock effect the price? What’s the maximum amount you can put it before it changes the valuation one way or another to an unpredictable degree? And how much would you have to make doing this before attracting (presumably unwanted) attention to yourself?

      • fion says:

        Yes, these are the right questions!

        (No idea about the answers…)

      • rahien.din says:

        How possible is it to make a lot of money on the market with a days foresight?

        You would be immune to the basic risks. Read the paper at the end of the day and identify a good rate of return on some stock. Go back to the beginning of the day and buy all the shares you can. Once you identify that stock will go bad, go back to the appropriate time and sell it, buying shares in something else. If you keep moving your money around like that, you could assure yourself continual gains. If that could persist, you don’t need a big seed to make a lot of money in a damn hurry.

        For instance, if you start with $1,000, and you average a 6% rate of return (which shouldn’t be hard), you clear an order of magnitude about every 40 real days. Meaning, on day 41 you have $10,000, on real day 81 you have $100,000, on real day 120 you have $1,000,000, etc. You could be a quadrillionaire in under a year. Even if you hit the lottery and you invest a $10,000,000 seed, that’s simply a 160 day head start.

        Granted, this would totally warp the economy and probably end up inciting all kinds of nastiness, and as such it probably couldn’t persist.

        • fion says:

          6% rate of return every day? How’d you figure that?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Assuming you don’t care if you attract the attention of the SEC, 6% per day isn’t hard at all. Here’s the list of yesterday’s biggest stock movers in percentage terms: http://www.barrons.com/public/page/winlose-nyse.html

            Obviously, lots of those stocks don’t have the market cap to support a lot of movement so you couldn’t double your way to a trillion dollars every 40 days. At a certain point, simply knowing that you could generate magic money from the stock market if you need it would make you decide you have enough.

          • massivefocusedinaction says:

            Yeah, I learned that lesson when we simulated stock trading in history class, trading on prices from the previous day’s paper. The teacher collected the papers from me, the library aid, every morning as I replaced them with the current day’s papers.

            I was always surprised that he didn’t catch on to my method.

      • Chalid says:

        With perfect foresight, if you didn’t mind calling attention to yourself, you could get multiples of your money every day by using stock options. I don’t know how big the multiplier would be but it would certainly be very large – on a good day 20x or more. Of course if you did this too much you’d wipe out the whole options market, and no one would sell them anymore.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I think the SEC will destroy you. Even if your powers are secret.

          They won’t know how you are doing it, but once they decide you are doing something nasty, they will just investigate you ruinously.

          • albatross11 says:

            If you’re willing to steal a page from Scott’s book (from his story about the different pills with magical powers), you can chain together 24-hour time jaunts of time travel to create a way to send messages back as far as you like.

            Start now and commit to spending the next 30 days on the project. A simple, slightly non-optimal version: At 8PM each day, you stand around in your living room waiting for your future self to show up and hand you a letter. Then, you immediately go back 24 hours and hand yourself that letter. On the last day of the project, you write your 30-days-past self a letter telling you want to you to have done.

            This has the problem that you’ve got 30 days for chaotic effects of your choices to change things, but the benefit that you’ve got 30 days of lead time to make your killing in the stock market or whatever, instead of needing to do it in one day.

            A fun version of this is that it’s just a veto function on the way the world has turned out for you. Let’s assume that chaotic effects on the atmosphere eventually change everything. I set up this channel to my past self that goes back N years, and commit to myself about how bad things must be before I want to erase the last N years. At the end of that time, if I’m unhappy with how things have turned out, I go out and buy a handful of firecrackers and send it back in my envelope. The N-years-ago me goes outside and sets them off, rerandomizing the world. Continue until I’m happy with how things ended up or something has broken the chain of transmission (I dropped dead from a heart attack, a plane crashed into my house, etc.)

            If I want to end up in a world where things have gone well for me, I need to come up with an evaluation of “good last N years” that has a much higher probability of coming true than some random thing breaking the chain.

            The obvious problem there is that I have to be willing to commit suicide for the last N years in the interests of another version of me being happy. Intuitively, I think I’d be willing to do this for a short span (like a week), but not for a long span, unless my last N years had really, really sucked.

          • Lillian says:

            This doesn’t work at all with the proposed method of time travelling, because it only sends information back to your past self. You can’t hand yourself a letter, you can’t even meet yourself, the only thing being sent back is your memories, and you can’t send information any further back than 24 hours before the furthest point you’ve advanced in the timeline. This means there’s no way to bypass the limitation.

          • fion says:

            @albatross11

            I thought of that story when I was writing my comment. Still one of my favourites. I almost explicitly said “no doing that thing Scott did in his pills story”, but as Lillian says, I think my rules make it impossible anyway.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Assuming that the “random number seed” of the world is preserved, buying a lottery ticket on the day of the drawing would yield results faster the stock market. Would likely arouse suspicion to do so repeatedly, though.

      For more long term schemes, with enough planning and patience you can cram the learning of several years into one day.

      • fion says:

        you can cram the learning of several years into one day.

        Only up to a point. You can certainly learn a lot of background stuff in a day, which is probably what you meant (reading, googling etc.) but you can’t try something and see what happens unless that something only takes a day to yield results.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          True, I wasn’t thinking of actual research. Just getting a very broad base of knowledge and developing self-learning ability.

    • pjs says:

      The scheme (stock market prediction) is morally equivalent to theft, IMO.

      And even if you don’t care, because you think you’re stealing from the rich to give to the poor (*), there’s some economic damage. Other investors find the stock market slightly less profitable, which will affect capital allocation/investment decisions – are you sure the net cost of this is so slight? (Predicting lottery numbers is still theft, but probably has less adverse consequences than playing the stock market – especially given how few times you’d be able to do it for large prizes.)

      (*) But if it’s still a net moral good, let’s decide it democratically. If we want, we can collectively decide to impose a tax on stock market transactions and direct the proceeds towards charitable ends.

      To answer your question: in terms of doing good to others, and trying to avoid long term pitfalls (how long do I live after my gift is discovered?), I announce – then quickly prove – the ability to predict imminent natural disasters (and only those; I am careful never show my ability in any obvious way that contradicts that limitation.)

      • fion says:

        Good point to question the morality… I guess I consider stock market and lottery cheating to be less bad than other kinds of gambling. Perhaps because you’re stealing a little from many people rather than a certain amount from one person?

        In any case, “morally equivalent to theft” doesn’t actually mean anything to me. “Theft” is not a single moral value. Ok, perhaps it’s always wrong, but sometimes it’s a little wrong and sometimes it’s very wrong. Jean Valjean is less evil than Charlie Croker.

        I would have thought that one person cheating on the stock market would have a very small effect on the overall economics of it… I’m certainly not sure of this, though.

        “But if it’s still a net moral good, let’s decide it democratically”

        I mean, taxing the rich to spend on charity is probably something I’d vote for, but what if I lived in a society full of perfectly selfish people who would always oppose such redistribution? I don’t believe morals are decided by vote; if the majority of people are opposed to charitable taxes that doesn’t make them wrong. And if I have the ability to impose such measures without anybody knowing, shouldn’t I do it?

        • pjs says:

          Your first objection is entirely right; I should have just said “is theft” (i.e. is an instance of theft, whatever variable significance that may have).

          ‘Shouldn’t I do it?’. You _can_ do it, and if it makes you feel good about yourself and is right by your standards, we can’t stop you (I think we should try, though), so go ahead. But it’s a bit cheeky to appeal to the outside world and ask for its approval!

          A lot of taxes we raise go to ‘charitable’ ends (I’m counting redistribution in this); you happen to want more charity than we have, and are gifted with a magic ability to make this happen in effect. I don’t have to agree that societies chosen point is too little.

          And even if I very strongly agreed with your desire for more charity, I can feel extremely unhappy that you do an magic end-run around democracy to get your way (effectively, impose a financial transactions tax). Rather, we should condemn this as strongly as possible no matter what your motivation. Even I happened to agree with your decisions, we don’t all the _other_ possible people with such superpowers mucking with society unilaterally based on their individual preferences.

          Finally, and related to my previous point, if you have some awesome powers what about a bit of precautionary modesty? Do you really know the economic consequences of your act? You might not get enough money out of the stock market to affect it “much”, but isn’t plauslble that you reduce long term growth by 0.01%? (I don’t know, but I suspect you don’t either.) And would the economy-wide compounded effects of that loss really be smaller than your charitable deeds? Might they not possibly be far larger?

          Perhaps the right answer to your question is: make no plan at all, other than spending countless 24-hour cycles educating yourself, building models, consulting experts, and so forth, so that when you do decide to fix the world only 24 actual hours will have passed, but you then will have a much-better thought out and closer-to-optimal plan (whatever it may be). Could even be your stock market scheme in the end, but now it’s been thought through.

          • fion says:

            make no plan at all, other than spending countless 24-hour cycles educating yourself, building models, consulting experts, and so forth

            Aw, but that’s *boring*! I want to be a super-hero *now*!

            On a more serious note, your point is well-taken. Regarding the first bit of your comment, I think I have a bit more of an ends-justify-the-means attitude than you. The reason I normally oppose ends-justify-the-means-type arguments is because they break rules that I don’t want to see broken, because without those rules society would be worse. However, I think such arguments don’t apply when you can break the rule without anybody knowing you’ve done so (which isn’t ever really true in the real world, but perhaps it is in my hypothetical).

      • phi says:

        I don’t quite understand how using time travel to predict the stock market is morally equivalent to theft. The stock market seems to me like it is set up to pay large amounts of money to people to encourage them to make its predictions as accurate as possible. By accurately predicting the stock market one day in advance, I am effectively selling my skill at market prediction in exchange for monetary compensation.

        In particular, how is performing vastly better than other investors because I own a time machine morally different from performing vastly better than other investors because I am good at statistics? (I’m assuming here that you think it’s okay to make money in the stock market by being good at statistics.)

        • Matt M says:

          If you believe this, then insider trading should probably be legalized (an argument that has been made coherently by a number of libertarian economists)

          • phi says:

            I’ve never come across a good moral argument for making insider trading illegal (though I’m very open to hearing one), so I guess I’d agree with those economists. 🙂

          • Steven J says:

            There is a good argument for making some, but not all, insider trading illegal. Consider an investment banker working for the buyer in a merger that is not yet public knowledge. Trading on that information would raise the price of the target company, contrary to the interests of the bankers’ client. This is a violation of the banker’s duty of care to his client. More generally, if insider trading by an agent harms the interests of the principal who gave the information to the agent, than that trading is morally wrong. Whether this should be considered criminal, or merely a civil tort is a separate question.

            Obviously, this doesn’t apply to the time travel scenario.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ve never come across a good moral argument for making insider trading illegal

            I’ve never come across a good argument that insider trading even is illegal, except that the SEC will devote a lot of legal firepower to your ruin if they catch you at it.

            But the central example of illegal trading that most people agree ought to be illegal and will get you the most adverse SEC attention, is trading on information you or one of your co-conspirators have a fiduciary responsibility to keep quiet. If I am president of (publicly-traded) XYZcorp, I have an obligation to keep our impending acquisition of ABCcorp secret, that third parties won’t use that knowledge to bid up the price of ABC. That would be detrimental to the balance sheet and thus the stockholders of XYZ when the sale goes through. So, my private purchase of ABC stock, which will not likely go unnoticed, is a breach of trust and a harm to my stockholders.

            That’s the “insider” part of insider trading. It’s not a blanket prohibition on outsiders who know a lot about a company using that information to make better decisions than outsiders who know less.

        • pjs says:

          The lottery and the stock market are both systems governed by rules, and people participate (at the risk of losing money) assuming everyone is generally playing by these rules. Using statistics is a given.

          Insider trading? Maybe it’s not an economic harm (those arguments don’t convince me) but if it’s allowed, surely everyone would want it to be known to be allowed. If it’s illegal, and I’m caught, I don’t regard it as a useful defense even if you could find every economist in the world in consensus that it was desirable to allow insider trading; the fact is, other people traded assuming this was (even if unwisely) forbidden.

          Likewise, and I guess debatably, I regard time travelling as ‘obviously’ against the rules. We just don’t write it down because it seems impossible (or already against the rules of nature). But ask yourself: if it were possible, would other investors/lottery plays want to know it was possible, and would they alter their behavior. _Of course_. Yes it is ‘technically’ within the rules; you might attach some weight to that argument (I wouldn’t).

          The lottery is interesting because if I pick the jackpot numbers and end up splitting the price with some other non-time-travelling better, I can point to a specific person and say ‘I stole this specific amount of money from him’. Well I would, you might not; there’s no rule against using time travel to pick the winning numbers after all!

          • pjs says:

            Less abstractly, suppose _you_ are the one doing the research, the statisics, and are going to trade on that. I look into the past, and see your research (if published) or at the very least see the trades and positions you take, and front-run you. Less/no profit for you, more before me, and I’m entirely parisitic on your effort. This doesn’t seem moral to me. It also shows how it will have an adverse affect on the market (who will actually do the hard work, if someone can peer over their shoulder and exploit their work before them?)

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        The scheme (stock market prediction) is morally equivalent to theft, IMO.

        Content warning: violent and sexual crimes below

        .
        .
        .
        .

        Is it moral to kill someone and then go back in time and undo it?

        Is it moral to rape someone and then go back in time and undo it?

        • pjs says:

          Probably not, but what’s the connection? I think these sound awful, but in neither case is the ‘someone’ worse off _in the eventual timeline_ than they would be without your actions. If I split a lottery jackpont with someone who would have been an eventual winner, they are actually worse off in the new timeline than theu would have been without my actions. Likewise if I front-run someone’s hard-earned stock market research. Whatever your views on the morality of the various cases, this seems like an unarguable qualitative difference to your ‘undo’ hypotheticals so I don’t see the relevance.

          • Adrian says:

            I think these sound awful, but in neither case is the ‘someone’ worse off _in the eventual timeline_ than they would be without your actions.

            By that argument, it wouldn’t be immoral to torture or rape someone in the real world if you knew that they would die an hour later (because, say, they’ll be executed): they won’t be worse off in the “eventual timeline” (i.e., the only timeline), because they’ll be dead.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Adrian, there’s an sf story where it makes emotional sense to keep doing science even as the earth is about to be destroyed. I thought it was Bones of the Earth, but probably not. Maybe it’s in a timeline which is about to disappear, maybe I’m completely wrong.

            There might be another story about doing science even as expansion is accelerating– fast.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I didn’t necessarily mean to connect it to your theory about the morals of the market. But it’s a question raised by the ability to replay your day.

          • By that argument, it wouldn’t be immoral to torture or rape someone in the real world if you knew that they would die an hour later

            According to Maimonides, killing someone who is dying of an incurable disease isn’t murder.

            I didn’t realize he was posting here.

          • Adrian says:

            According to Maimonides, killing someone who is dying of an incurable disease isn’t murder.

            I didn’t realize he was posting here.

            I hope you don’t mistake me for holding that opinion? I was merely following pjs’ line of reasoning to its logical, absurd conclusion.

          • Nick says:

            I didn’t realize he was posting here.

            If you’re perplexed, I heard he has a guide for that.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Nick — I appreciate this joke and that it finally got me to go read up on Maimonides 😛

          • The passage in question is worth reading. The logic goes as follows:

            1. A witness whose false testimony leads to an innocent person being convicted of murder and executed is himself guilty of murder.

            2. That fact is the reason we can believe the testimony of witnesses in a murder case.

            3. Killing someone who is dying of an incurable disease is not murder.

            4. Hence if someone who is dying of an incurable disease is falsely accused of murder, convicted, and executed, the witnesses whose false testimony led to that result are not guilty of murder.

            5. Hence a court cannot trust testimony of a witness who claims to have observed a murder by someone dying of an incurable disease.

            6. Hence someone dying of an incurable disease cannot be convicted of murder on the basis of the testimony of witnesses.

            7. Hence someone dying of an incurable disease cannot be convicted of a murder unless he commits it in the presence of the court.

            Maimonides is a lot of fun.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            For All the Rude People

            A man with an incurable disease and a mission.

        • Randy M says:

          No. Creating stable time loops dooms the universe.

        • John Schilling says:

          Is it moral to rape someone and then go back in time and undo it?

          It is somewhat less harmful to cause a rape that someone will experience briefly, than to cause a rape that someone will experience briefly and remember for a lifetime.

          That this even might be morally OK to do, is something only a consequentialist would try to calculate and is part of the reason the rest of humanity basically thinks it is moral to round up all the consequentialists and put them in camps.

          • albatross11 says:

            Well, maybe. Can we do a cost-benefit on that first?

          • fion says:

            It is somewhat less harmful to cause a rape that someone will experience briefly, than to cause a rape that someone will experience briefly and remember for a lifetime.

            So I think I agree with this, but I think it implies that raping somebody and then murdering them is less harmful than raping them and not murdering them. And I don’t think I do believe that. Am I missing something?

          • John Schilling says:

            You’re missing the harm caused by murder(*). This would be like breaking someone’s leg, then breaking their neck so that they don’t have to feel the pain of the broken leg and proclaiming “Yay Me! I’m so much more considerate than all the other leg-breakers out there!”

            * I hope you don’t need an explanation of why murder is generally considered harmful.

          • fion says:

            So what if I believed that the harm caused by murder was significantly less than the harm caused by rape? If I am somewhat reducing the latter by committing the former, then it could still work out

        • Lillian says:

          Better question, is it moral to reset all 7+ billion people on the planet to the point they were 24 hours ago without their consent? Are you even resetting all people on the planet to the point they were 24 hours ago? Perhaps the power be usefully conceptualized as virtual projection of how the world will develop in the next 24 hours, and there is no “true time” until it passes beyond your ability to affect.

          The answers to these question will have bearing on the answers to yours.

    • Matt M says:

      Putting all the financial stuff aside, there are probably loads of preventable deaths you could stop.

      Convince people who die in auto accidents to stay home that morning? Inform the police about murders that are going to happen?

      Of course, establishing your credibility would be quite difficult. And whether you even want the authorities to know you have this power is probably questionable (based on what I’ve learned from the X-Men, the government doesn’t tend to respond well to this sort of thing).

      You could always resort to doing slightly immoral things to save lives. Sabotage the car of the person who was going to die in the auto accident. Random 911 call to the scene of the murder shortly before it happens.

      It wouldn’t be easy to do, but saving a human life is a pretty big deal. Even if you only got one a week, that’s definitely making the world a better place.

      • fion says:

        I think this is harder than you make it sound. You admit that establishing credibility would be difficult, but I think a better way to put it is that nobody would pay any attention to me unless they knew I was a time traveller. The person who dies in a car accident doesn’t stay home because a stranger says “I’m from the future; don’t drive today!”

        I was about to say “I don’t know how to sabotage a car” but then realised I’d get *loads* of practice if I wanted it, so maybe things like that and anonymous 911 calls would do it…

        I suppose one thing I could do (if I hadn’t seen X Men) would be to let the secret service be aware of what I can do and then they can use their clout to save people/inform the police etc. Of course, I definitely wouldn’t do this because I have seen X Men.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          I was about to say “I don’t know how to sabotage a car” but then realised I’d get *loads* of practice if I wanted it, so maybe things like that and anonymous 911 calls would do it…

          Easiest option (doesn’t require the car keys or any tools other than a matchstick, does no lasting damage, will work on most cars) is to let down some or all of the tyres.

          Of course, this won’t delay the driver by very long, but I imagine it would be long enough that they avoid the accident. Also, it stops the car from moving *at all*, whereas something like putting sugar in the fuel tank (as used by WW2 Resistance saboteurs), as well as doing permanent expensive-to-fix damage, will allow the car to move initially- possibly enough to get into the accident, if it doesn’t cause an accident by killing the engine in high-speed traffic.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Most car accidents involve complex patterns of traffic. If Joe gets into his car at 8:30 and drives to work, at 8:50 gets stuck behind Larry who is aggravating because he’s soooo slooooowww, and tries to pass and crashes at 8:50 into Brenda, who wasn’t driving defensively enough. It is probably sufficient to just delay Joe by 1 minute. Or Brenda. Or Larry.

          If you were to replay the day over and over, you would find that there are all sorts of things you can do everywhere that increase or decrease total traffic deaths that day in that city. Since the baseline is 100 deaths per day across the US, most cities will have zero on most days, so simply “re-rolling” by messing with any participants is usually enough to get the death rate to zero.

          • fion says:

            Yeah, that sounds like it’d work.

            I’d love to see confused pundits discussing the fact that one city’s road traffic accidents have gone down to zero ever since such-and-such a date, politicians claiming credit, the city getting a reputation for being careful and respectful…

          • Matt M says:

            Also keep in mind that you could easily target the “low-hanging fruit.” Complex accidents may be hard to fully solve or prevent, or you might just change who dies and who doesn’t.

            But things like “a drunken trucker killed a family of 3 by running a red light on a remote rural road at midnight” are probably preventable.

            Or accidents in general. Small children drowning in pools? Call the parents beforehand! They don’t believe you? Defecate in their pool!

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            This should have been every episode of “Early Edition.”

        • John Schilling says:

          Eliza Dushku didn’t have too much trouble with it, and left an entertaining series of instructional videos. Well, OK, it started getting troublesome when that guy from Beverly Hills showed up with his own time machine, but we never did learn his agenda.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Having never seen it, is that show any good? I’ve never been much impressed with Dushku in e.g. Dollhouse (Buffy she was OK–one note, but a good note) but I certainly want it to be good.

          • John Schilling says:

            I enjoyed it, but I enjoyed Dollhouse as well so YMMV. She definitely wasn’t playing Faith.

    • John Schilling says:

      You can give people advance warning of Very Bad Things about to happen, and eventually establish a reputation as a reliable prophet “short-term superforecaster”. Probably best to do this anonymously. Whether you eventually want to trade on that reputation by making a few carefully chosen false prophecies forecasts is an interesting question.

    • rahien.din says:

      This tangentially reminds me of Ted Chiang’s story Understand.

    • Chalid says:

      From the pure money-making perspective, the stock market isn’t the way to go – your activities are visible and if your returns are suspiciously good the government will want to have a word with you. Stocks might be ok for making your first few millions, but in the long run you’d want to get into something like currency markets – they have the capacity to absorb extremely large bets and no one suspects insider trading there.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        If you run as a day-trader, you might be able to mask your really good picks in a sea of noise.

      • fion says:

        Currency markets are a good shout.

      • pjs says:

        Done well, you look like a secretive hedge fund with real ‘alpha’. Billions or tens of billions over a (say) ten-year horizon could be easily made acceptable, but
        have to know what you are doing. Forex is a good idea though. Simply massive bets
        (e.g. well out-of-the-money derivatives) whose success depend on natural disasters would invite scrutiny, but you’d probably be able to survive the governmental kind because how can you be an insider? (There are other risks though.)

        I still think an effective way is to prove/sell yourself as a reliable predictor of natural disasters (and only them) and though that might be good enough in itself, if you want more cash just charge a huge fee for your services (even contingent: buy my services, and if I predict disaster level X for your country, you pay me $Y(X) if I’m right, but get paid $Z(X) if I’m wrong; once I have a good track record, no-one will not be rationally willing to enter some such deal [and so in equlibrium I do all the good I would do even fully altruistically, but get paid as well])

    • James C says:

      You could probably wrangle a large retainer to, under no circumstances, provide military advice to any country. Then give that retainer to charity.

      Or, you could go on a world conquest spree. In any other period but ours I’d say a 24 hour rewind would guarantee you winning any war you happened to lead. These days one day battles are less important but a complete strategic immunity to surprise attacks is one hell of an advantage. Not sure you can do much good with that ability, but if you fancy that you’d make a better despotic ruler than the alternative…

    • Lambert says:

      Didn’t the Other Scott or someone prove that you can use this to solve PSPACE problems in polynomial time?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        You could solve any brute-forceable algorithm. As long as you can order the inputs, you can tell the computer at the start of the day “this is day N, go.”

        This brings up another way to make money: crypto currencies. It’s been a while since I wrote any software here, but last I did, mining a block depends on solving a Very Hard Problem By Bruteforce, but that problem is well-defined by the answer to the previous block. So you could check that the problem was at the start of your time-travelling day, precalculate the next N blocks, and then go.

        Someone more involved in the crypto currencies could tell me how full of shit I am here.

        • albatross11 says:

          It won’t work to reuse someone else’s calculations for Bitcoin block hashes, because I’m pretty sure the block hash includes the Bitcoin address to which the mining rewards will go. Changing that to your address means the block hash isn’t good anymore.

          OTOH, if you have mining hardware, you can spend 24 hours trying to compute the next block hash, then send that information back in time to yourself. Assuming your process for finding the next block hash is deterministic, this won’t mess up your calculation. You can also use the chaining trick, above, to get as big a multiplier as you need to get that block reward.

          • dick says:

            Yes, this (that a BTC solution claim includes the claimant’s address, keeping you from presenting someone else’s solution as your own) is essentially true. The iterative approach is technically possible, but impractical – back of the envelope, a million bucks worth of ASIC miners would get you about 1/4000th of the BTC hashrate, meaning that you’d have to re-live nearly a subjective month to win a 10-minute $10,000 block. That’s a looooot of time to think up ways to persuade the SEC you’re just really good at picking penny stocks.

          • John Schilling says:

            Hmm, what happens if there’s an address collision, two people claiming the same address at very close to the same time? If Alice is observed to use an address to receive but not spend BTC on The Day, can Bob copy their work at the end of the day, go back to the start, have spurious BTC sent to Bob@alicesaddress, and then spend them for something suitably untraceable before Alice notices?

            A quick google suggests that while addresses aren’t supposed to be reused, there are some careless Alices out there who do it anyway, and may present an additional attack surface for this.

          • Iain says:

            @John Schilling:

            Bitcoin addresses are 160-bit cryptographic hashes of a public key. To claim the rewards, you need the associated private key. Without a fundamental break in elliptic-curve cryptography, you can’t steal somebody else’s address, and without a truly phenomenal amount of work (much larger than just mining a block) you can’t find a hash collision that lets you use a different keypair for the same address.

            Address reuse has serious failure modes, but I don’t think any of those failure modes become extra-vulnerable to people travelling back in time.

    • rahien.din says:

      The more I think about this, the more limited it seems.

      I feel like there is some analog of the Nyquist limit at play. You can only detect signals that arise within 24 hours. Your error-detection is “bandlimited.” Moreover, unless you are willing to find and integrate an enormous amount of information, your SNR is probably not going to be very good. All this despite being able to exert very powerful control over your sphere of influence, and being able to expand that sphere of influence through riskless gambling. So I worry that you could unknowingly work your way into an inescapable and broadly-reaching consequence, with no way to foresee or correct it. It’s Goethe’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. You would have to exercise a great deal of caution whenever you attempted to bend the world to your will.

      You would also have to be very, very careful with partaking in any sort of worldly pleasures. As long as you came to within 24 hours, you could buy any drug, eat any food, drink any drink, take any risk, sleep with any person, and never have to turn into a pumpkin worry about any consequence. You could binge on any pleasure, and then rewind to before the binge, having scratched the itch psychologically. Your main-sequence life could be one of perfect virtue. But, you would still have the memory of those binges, and the subsequent grooves ground into your psyche could be difficult to escape. You would have to be extremely judicious about hedonic experiences, and would not be able to – or even want to! – escape the potential for regret.

      Now, by replaying interactions over and over, you could learn what makes any particular person tick, and you would never be ambushed in any interaction. Effectively, this would give you a great deal of charisma. There would be far fewer missteps, because you could basically simulate every interaction as many times as you wanted. This would also provide you with a great degree of equanimity, for you would be confident that you could achieve an optimal outcome to any interaction. But, this too would become wearying, to yourself and to those around you. You would never know exactly when to stop iterating, and when to accept the outcome of an interaction, and so would live countless simulated days for every main-sequence day you selected for. And, the specter of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice would continually loom over you. Particularly because those around you would either get fed up with you always being right and always getting your way, or, they would latch onto you and become unhealthily dependent on your uncanny prowess.

      There would be no escape from the burden – you would be Laplace’s demon with human emotional frailty and both hands tied behind your back.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        If people have weird reactions to you always being right, you can do more iterations until you’ve folded in the right amount of error.

        I’m not sure if there are any interesting problems associated with not being inspired enough to invent the variations that will lead to what you want.

        • fion says:

          But what if the weird reactions only really become apparent after at least 24 hours?

    • Walter says:

      It feels like the money thing is a red herring.

      Like, clearly Groundhog Day you can make all the money you could ever want, but ultimately that is just another Bill Gates situation. Time Travel should be able to give you better outcomes than some rich guy deciding to help.

      What about spending the day obsessively gaining every shred of information about anyone who got into an accident or got crimed, and then going back and attempting to warn them? Then see how the warnings were received, initiate Groundhog Day.

      Shoot for a day where you mitigated or prevented every tragedy you were able to gain information about. Then do it again the next day.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I got reminded by my conservative friends how many people get murdered in Chicago last weekend. Develop a good mnemonic for compressing that data so that you can remember it for one day, and you could tell the cops exactly when and where each murder will happen.

        It would take some time to develop the reputation to be believed, but you just need to get email access to one officer with predictions that come true and he’ll take you seriously.

  20. bean says:

    Naval Gazing returns to fire control with a discussion of methods of rangefinding.

  21. dick says:

    Does this comment section have an atypical shared definition of “leftist”? As someone who’s relatively new to the comments, this is the most discordant thing I’ve noticed – “leftist” being used as if it were a specific group with a shared ideology, rather than a broad swath of humanity that includes a variety of conflicting ideologies. My bias, coming in here, was to assume that the sort of people who read a lot of Scott Alexander essays would eschew broad statements about vague group nouns, or at least aspire to, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      We’re highly educated contrarians. Those of us who don’t subscribe to an ideology within the narrow Overton Window (Overton Slit?) accepted by university administrators would lump that set of ideologies as “the left”, since it’s obviously not “the right.”

      • dick says:

        That doesn’t answer my question. Does “leftist” include everyone from Mao to Bernie to Stalin to JFK, or doesn’t it? I try not to say things like, “Leftists tend to…” or “Conservatives tend to…” but that’s because I value clarity and constructive dialogue, not because of my political opinions.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Mao to Stalin to Bernie. College-approved opinions. JFK would be centrist.

          • dndnrsn says:

            You don’t find many actual Stalinists on college campuses. Mao is more popular for a few reasons. Bernie is a social democrat by most standards; whether social democrats are leftists depends on who you ask.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            My impression is that “social democrat” kind of smears across the spectrum in Western Europe. What distinguishes France’s Socialists from the Front Nationale is Culture War, not social intervention in the economy.
            Here in America, it’s to the left of Hillary Clinton.

        • Deiseach says:

          When I say “leftist”, I do mean “a broad range of people from the left-of-centre huddling down in the very middle all the way out to the ‘Enver Hoxha was the only true communist’ types” and not one monolithic entity that marches in lockstep and holds the same opinions on the same topics.

          But when I see people talking about “the right”, they do seem to regard it as one big monolithic bloc of same talking, same thinking, same goose-stepping marching in unison, and whether you call them “Republicans” or “Nazis” it’s the same thing.

          Which is really damn irritating when you’re a Republican but not an American Republican!

          • Matt M says:

            My own personal heuristic for whether or not someone is a “leftist” is how they answer the following question:

            Do you think the fact that some people are very rich and other people are very poor is a problem that government should attempt to solve?

          • fion says:

            @Matt M

            That’s an interesting heuristic, but I feel as though it’s a lot broader than most people’s use. In the UK, I think about 80% of the Conservative Party are “leftists” by your heuristic.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            Is that relative to the current level of redistribution or compared to a situation with no redistribution at all?

            As Fion argues, if it’s the latter then nearly everyone is leftist. If it is the former, then it’s little more than a statement on where you stand relative to the status quo. The exact same person can then be a leftist in the US and a rightist in Sweden.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Do you think the fact that some people are very rich and other people are very poor is a problem that government should attempt to solve?

            As others have pointed out, this is almost certainly too broad: If I’m reading it right, this recent paper suggests that “substantial minorities” of Republicans support the proposition that “Government should reduce differences in income between rich and poor people”. Presumably these people should not count as the left.

          • albatross11 says:

            Aapje:

            +1

            I think it’s useful to distinguish between political beliefs that are about the endpoints (what does your ideal society look like?) and beliefs that are about direction (given what our society looks like, which way should we move things?)

            Put me in the US in 1900, and I’ll be a radical feminist, civil-rights extremist, crazy tree-hugger who thinks the government should care about pollution beyond nuissance law, etc. But here in the modern 2018 US, none of those labels really apply.

          • John Schilling says:

            Maybe it works better if we take out the very poor people (which everyone agrees is a problem) and just ask, “Do you think the fact that some people are very rich is a problem that the government should attempt to solve?”

            Or perhaps use “unreasonably” instead of “very”. Most people will at least wonder what’s inherently unreasonable about being rich and balk at the proposition; a “leftist” will implicitly invoke all the unstated very poor people and blame that on the unreasonably rich.

            At least I think so, but I haven’t thought about this one very much.

          • Matt M says:

            There’s a lot to address in the replies here – but I’ll go for a few things.

            1. IMO, the point of emphasis in my statement isn’t the “very rich” part, but the “government should solve” part (which certainly implies re-distribution). The point is to identify, via direct example, those who see economic equality as a terminal goal, as opposed to those who do not see it as such. That is, in my opinion, the major and most significant difference between left and right. If you see a really rich person and a really poor person, and your reaction is that this is morally wrong and that someone should do something about it I consider you a leftist. Period. If your reaction is that it’s wrong, but intervention is not appropriate, or that it’s not wrong at all, I consider you on the right.

            2. The fact that this may imply that 80% of people are leftists does not concern me. Perhaps that is, in fact, the actual proportion of leftists in society. I personally believe that to be about right. I think a whole lot of people who are conventionally thought to be “right-wing” are actually economic leftists.

            3. I’m not certain that seemingly quite different leftists actually disagree on the endpoints at all. I don’t think Hillary Clinton and Chairman Mao have significantly different concepts of what the ideal society actually looks like. I think they have tactical disagreements on how to best achieve that society, and they have moral disagreements on what tactics are acceptable in order to bring it about. But I remain almost wholly unconvinced that even moderate U.S. democrats have any particular moral respect for free trade, private property, freedom of association, etc. If you gave Hillary the opportunity to flip a switch that would transform the world into a fully Marxist society without any violent revolutions or concentration camps or whatever, I think she flips it. I don’t think she hesitates and says “Wait a minute, state-owned farming has proven to be a bad idea!” Anyone who has come to realize that state-owned farming is a bad idea is already basically out of the leftist category in the first place.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Period. If your reaction is that it’s wrong, but intervention is not appropriate, or that it’s not wrong at all, I consider you on the right.

            In the paper I referenced, people were asked to rate their agreement with the proposition “Government should reduce differences in income between rich and poor people” from 1-100. Do you have a sense (even a rough one, I don’t need a hard cut-off) of where you would draw the line for someone to be a leftist? Is any answer higher than 1 sufficient?

            The fact that this may imply that 80% of people are leftists does not concern me. Perhaps that is, in fact, the actual proportion of leftists in society. I personally believe that to be about right. I think a whole lot of people who are conventionally thought to be “right-wing” are actually economic leftists.

            Well, surely the issue is whether “economic leftism” is necessary and/or sufficient to be a leftist. We might suppose that someone can be an economic leftist and a cultural rightist or vice-versa; whether such a person is then a “leftist” simpliciter will have consequences for the sorts of judgments one can make about the class “leftist” without being too general.

            Finally, if you concede that 80% of humanity can be leftists, then I think you should agree with the original poster that ““leftist” being used as if it were a specific group with a shared ideology, rather than a broad swath of humanity that includes a variety of conflicting ideologies” is a pretty useless term; it is almost impossible for me to imagine that the term “leftist” as you define it can be useful for non-trivial generalizations about the group as a whole.

          • Matt M says:

            Eugene,

            1. It makes little sense to me to use a 100 point scale for that particular question. As a result, it’s hard for me to answer. That’s why in my framing, I simply ask yes or no – leaving it up to the respondent to decide their own cut-off, whether it’s 1 or whether it’s 10 or whether it’s 50 or whatever.

            2. I focus on economic left/right because I think that’s the only area where there is a consistent and logical framework in play. Cultural issues are just a downright mess with no sensible overall framework to use at all. Being a “cultural leftist” simply means “agreeing with the majority of economic leftists on most cultural issues.” I think it’s simpler to just strip the cultural stuff out and define left/right in economic terms. Yes, this can be problematic in terms of trying to describe say, anarcho-socialists or other incredibly fringe groups, but so be it.

            3. Once again, I see no point in focusing on the size of the group. If the criticism of “leftist” as a term is that it’s not nuanced enough to define very small groups of people, then fine. I agree. But it’s not intended to do that. Is “Christian” a problematic term? Does it not fully capture the nuances of differences in beliefs, doctrine, and practice between Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Calvinists, Orthodox? It surely doesn’t, but it does separate people based on one simple and essential question: Do you believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, died for our sins, and was resurrected? (please rate your belief on this on a scale of 1-100 – just kidding!)

          • quaelegit says:

            @ Matt’s Christian example —

            I think if “Christians” were regularly discussed here in a negative light an no one pointed out that this covers a really wide range of beliefs and is obscuring important differences between, e.g. Roman Catholics, Lutherans, U.S. Evangelicals, and Mennonites, that would be a problem.

            Instead, when Christians are discussed on here people are usually very good about being specific about which group they are discussing.

          • a reader says:

            Judging by Matt’s question:

            “Do you think the fact that some people are very rich and other people are very poor is a problem that government should attempt to solve?”

            I am a leftist too – like everybody here…

            If some people really are very poor – that meaning lacking their basic needs, for example having malnourished children – I thing that really is a problem that justifies some kind of governmental intervention.

            But if the difference between “poor people” and “rich people” is that poor people have less cool (older) cars, TVs and smartphones than rich people – I think that is the case of some “poor people” in the West – I don’t think that justifies more government interventions. So, by John Schilling’s modified variant, I suppose I’m not a leftist.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            1. It makes little sense to me to use a 100 point scale for that particular question. As a result, it’s hard for me to answer. That’s why in my framing, I simply ask yes or no – leaving it up to the respondent to decide their own cut-off, whether it’s 1 or whether it’s 10 or whether it’s 50 or whatever.

            2. I focus on economic left/right because I think that’s the only area where there is a consistent and logical framework in play. Cultural issues are just a downright mess with no sensible overall framework to use at all. Being a “cultural leftist” simply means “agreeing with the majority of economic leftists on most cultural issues.” I think it’s simpler to just strip the cultural stuff out and define left/right in economic terms. Yes, this can be problematic in terms of trying to describe say, anarcho-socialists or other incredibly fringe groups, but so be it.

            3. Once again, I see no point in focusing on the size of the group. If the criticism of “leftist” as a term is that it’s not nuanced enough to define very small groups of people, then fine. I agree. But it’s not intended to do that. Is “Christian” a problematic term? Does it not fully capture the nuances of differences in beliefs, doctrine, and practice between Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Calvinists, Orthodox? It surely doesn’t, but it does separate people based on one simple and essential question: Do you believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, died for our sins, and was resurrected? (please rate your belief on this on a scale of 1-100 – just kidding!)

            I’ll begin by addressing the Christian analogy. First of all, Christians comprise roughly 31% of the world’s population–so your proposed group of leftists is, by your own estimation, twice as big, which presumably means it’s twice as hard to generalize about. But the point stands: it is certainly meaningful to judge membership in a group with a yes/no question. The question is, is it useful? Does it tell us much about membership in that group? Do you think there are statements more general than “Christians believe in Jesus Christ” that can be made of the group “Christians” without further qualification?

            This question is especially pertinent if we leave your central examples of Christianity and ask about Gnosticism, Jews for Jesus, The Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ, Positive Christianity, Theosophy, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, etc., etc.

            Would it sound reasonable to you for someone to say, “I’m not certain that seemingly quite different Christians actually disagree on the endpoints at all”, and say that Torquemada, Hong Xiuquan, and Mother Theresa are in basic agreement on the important things, and only disagree on matters of emphasis, or tactics?
            As a reminder, Christians are a group half as big, by your estimation, as leftists. I see no reason why you shouldn’t think that leftists should admit some non-trivial proportion of the variety exhibited by Christians.

            As to numerical rating, I agree without an operational meaning it’s hard to know what the numbers mean, but as an example they can represent priority of an issue–so someone who believes the government has an interest in redistribution but attaches very little importance to this, and only enters into political coalitions with voters who share other preferences and are economic rightists–that person might be a leftist by your reckoning, but they shouldn’t count as much of one. They will take no action to advance economic leftism, and will enable others to roll it back.

            Finally, whether or not you think economics is the only important dimension, other people often do not (I would guess, though don’t have any evidence, that culture is more a driver of political attachment than economics); if you include as “leftists” people who don’t consider themselves leftists, it will be very hard to generalize about the group; you argue that “cultural leftism” is just the cultural beliefs shared by economic leftists, but that only makes sense if such a set of cultural beliefs exists–the whole point of the argument is that they almost certainly do not. Hence, generalizing about “leftists” defined in your way is almost certain to miss a huge amount of variation.

          • Aapje says:

            @a reader

            But if the difference between “poor people” and “rich people” is that poor people have less cool (older) cars, TVs and smartphones than rich people

            Isn’t the real debate between those who want to heavily tax the rich and those who want to minimize their taxes, on whether the positive externalities of rich people’s spending outweigh the negative externalities?

          • This definition of left and right leaves out the possibility that someone might be against government redistribution on the grounds that much of it will go to rich people, sometimes from poor people, and that there will be large dead weight costs.

            One problem with a lot of political argument is that it is put in terms of whether you favor the objectives of some policy, not whether you favor the policy–it ignores the possibility that policies may have different consequences than claimed by their supporters.

            An example is the minarchist/anarchist controversy among libertarians. Minarchists tend to state their position in terms of what they want the state to do, what laws they want passed. That assumes that a state set up in the way they want will act in the way they want, a somewhat odd assumption for libertarians to make.

          • Incurian says:

            Hence, generalizing … is almost certain to miss a huge amount of variation.

            Yup.

    • Erusian says:

      I try not to use it as anything but a broad term. But sometimes the broad term is an easy way to bypass decision making about specific groups who definitely exist but whose borders are irrelevant to the point. I made a comment in the last thread about how Piketty was basically mythmaking for a section of the Left. I couldn’t easily tell you with pinpoint precision what parts of the left. If you concede that this group exists, though, that’s sort of irrelevant until someone starts discussing which parts of the left.

      • dick says:

        Agreed, I was not complaining about your comment. But to be fair, that comment wasn’t exactly making a controversial claim – your conclusion was essentially, “if you assume Piketty is correct, then the beliefs of the people who agree with Piketty start to look pretty believable!”.

        More generally, I think that broad assertions about group nouns tend to be bad except when they’re axiomatic, and your comment was the latter. It’s the former kind that I’m complaining about, and not just in the “someone said something mean about me” sense, in the “not contributing to a useful and constructive argument” sense.

    • fion says:

      This is a good question. I sometimes get a bit confused about what people here mean when they say ‘leftist’ but I guess I put some of that down to folk here mostly being American. (Your left is our centre and that sort of thing…)

      I suspect you’re right that there’s a bit of outgroup homogeneity bias where most people here aren’t leftists so people on the left look more similar than they really are. As for your point about trying to eschew broad and vague characterisations of groups… Perhaps to be charitable to the commenters we could say that different discussions call for different levels of precision. Sometimes it’s very important to distinguish between the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front, but other times they can be grouped together without losing much of the point.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Yes. One of my major beefs here is that “leftist” gets used broadly to mean “everybody on the left” – while this is one colloquial meaning, a better definition is “communists, anarchists, and anyone who uses ‘liberal’ as a snarl word from the left rather than the right.” Further, you identify this also, the comment section here tends to see norms of charity and precision fall to pieces when the left is discussed.

      • Randy M says:

        “leftist” gets used broadly to mean “everybody on the left”

        … Can you suggest another term to mean “everybody* on the left”?
        Fill in the blank:” _______ usually support higher minimum wages and often worry about the effects of prejudice.”

        *I don’t think anyone ever says anything about every anything, really; generalities are known to admit exceptions.

        (Yes, including that statement)

        • dndnrsn says:

          “Left-wingers” works just fine. I don’t talk about “rightists” to refer to all right-wingers, because besides “rightist” being an unusual word, lumping together mainstream conservatives with authoritarian conservatives with fascists involves an enormous deal of historical ignorance. Likewise, lumping together Democrats (who would be considered on the right if you plunked them down in most western countries) and revolutionary communists ignores that there’s a lot separating them.

          • Randy M says:

            “left-winger” okay, if you like. I thought leftist, in addition to being more succinct and a near synonym, was more value neutral–probably because it’s used in formulations like “crazy wingnut” and so on. I’ll stand corrected, although miss the virtue of brevity.

            Likewise, lumping together Democrats (who would be considered on the right if you plunked them down in most western countries) and revolutionary communists ignores that there’s a lot separating them.

            Sure, and for a lot of contexts it would be absurd, and for some few others reasonable.

          • John Schilling says:

            Help me out here. I’m literally not seeing a difference between “left-winger” and “leftist”, or the basis for being upset that one term is being used in place of the other. What roughly defines the set of people who are “left-wingers” but are not “leftists”?

          • Tatterdemalion says:

            Help me out here. I’m literally not seeing a difference between “left-winger” and “leftist”, or the basis for being upset that one term is being used in place of the other. What roughly defines the set of people who are “left-wingers” but are not “leftists”?

            Neither is a rigorously-defined term, but I think that if you say “left-wingers” you’re likely to be talking both about liberals and about the people I think of as “leftists”, who often use “liberal” as a perjorative.

            To pick some well-known rationalist examples, I would tend to refer to unitofcairing and Scott Aaronson as left-wing, but not as leftists.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M

            It’s a near-synonym by some colloquial definitions, but by other definitions, often a bit less colloquial, it’s a different thing. All liberals are left-wingers, all leftists are left-wingers, but not all left-wingers are either, and liberals are not leftists. The use of “leftist” to generally mean left-wingers seems kind of an American English thing, maybe?

            @John Schilling

            The majority of American left-wingers are liberals, with some people you could count as social democrats in most first-world countries. Liberals never minded capital that much, and social democrats have made their peace with it. Leftists tend to dislike capital and want to really change the way that production of resources works. The liberal would, these days, tax the owner of the farm and use the money to pay for a social safety net, etc. The social democrat of today would go further and tax more, to have public funding of more comprehensive cradle-to-grave social programs, etc. Depending on which kind of leftist you’re dealing with, they’d have different answers, but most of their answers end with the landowner no longer owning the land, at least not fully.

            Some count social democrats as leftists, and they often started off as leftists, but got considerably more moderate as they actually gained power. People who identify as leftists usually have a grudge against the social democrats for not supporting various revolutionary attempts.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Well, what’s going on is that Marxism empirically failed. Leftists became anti-anti-Communists rather than Communists and pinkos. Foucault is the pivotal figure here. In 1979, the left acted as cheerleaders for the Soviet war against Islam in Afghanistan. After 1979, they slowly came to agree with him in being pro-Islam and in favor of skimming the productivity of markets rather than command economies.
            If you say “McCarthy” with a smile to a member of the Blue (Wo)Man Group, you expect to be attacked, but it would be an error to conclude from that data point that they’re Stalinist.

          • moscanarius says:

            OK, I may be losing something on translation, but aren’t “Leftist” and “Left-winger” essentially the same thing? They are both terms we would use to lump together people from USA Democrats to Communists, even though there is a distance between them (because there are also some characteristics that differentiate them from the Right, which is also a lumping up of people with different views).

            Rightist is a clumsy word that may be a bit ambiguous (“right-winger” or “defender of Rights”?), but I see nothing of sort in Leftist. Does it have some pejorative sense in the US that Left-winger does not?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @moscanarius

            It’s not pejorative, but it creates confusion when used to describe everyone from US Democrats to actual communists, to say the least. It also makes equivocation impossible to avoid. Talking about what “the leftists” want makes it seem like the Democrats and actual communists are some kind of good-cop bad-cop scenario, which is pretty inaccurate.

          • fion says:

            …makes it seem like the Democrats and actual communists are some kind of good-cop bad-cop scenario

            We should totally try this!

          • Randy M says:

            Help me out here. I’m literally not seeing a difference between “left-winger” and “leftist”

            If it makes you feel better, neither does google:

            left·ist
            noun
            1.
            a person with left-wing political views.

            Or maybe dndrsn is saying left-wingers don’t have left-wing political views, but merely align with those who do for political reasons? Which is quite confusing.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The definition you get through Google is the colloquial American definition. But someone who calls themself a “leftist” is signalling more than “left-winger.”

          • Dan L says:

            @John Schilling

            This, mostly. Equating contingent support with ideological commitment isn’t that far from sneaking in a presumption that a group is definitionally irrational.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s not pejorative, but it creates confusion when used to describe everyone from US Democrats to actual communists, to say the least.

            The difference between US Democrats and actual communists is primarily not a difference in type, but rather a difference in degree.

            If someone hands me a cup of coffee, I might describe it as “hot.” If someone asked me to characterize the temperature on the surface of the sun, I might also describe it as “hot.” This does not make “hot” a useless concept. The coffee is hot compared to other liquids you typically drink, the sun is hot compared to the atmosphere of celestial bodies you are used to standing on.

            Conversely, Barack Obama is leftist compared to the typical US Presidential nominee, while Fidel Castro is leftist compared to the typical violent revolutionary.

            I don’t necessarily see a problem here.

          • johansenindustries says:

            Is Fidel to the left of typical violent revolutionary?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            Is the difference between Pinochet and the average Republican a difference of degree, not kind?

          • John Schilling says:

            I get the difference between “liberal” and “leftist”, at least in a fuzzy-bordered sense. But it is my experience that colloquial American usage of “left-wing” matches much closer with “leftist” than with “liberal”.

          • Matt M says:

            Is the difference between Pinochet and the average Republican a difference of degree, not kind?

            Maybe? I don’t really know much about Pinochet. I’d suspect probably this is mainly accurate, so long as we exclude explicitly libertarian-leaning Republicans.

            Based on what I do know, I’d be fine lumping George W Bush and Pinochet into the same general category that way, sure. But not Ron Paul.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think you are falling victim to outgroup homogeneity bias. It’s not a difference in degree between “tax the factory owner more, and pay out more welfare” and “take the factory away from the owner and run it as a collective or through the state or something.”

            The factory owner might piss and moan about higher taxes and more government regulation, and might consider that tantamount to the means of production getting seized, but really, it’s not. The swing of modern liberalism and social democracy leads to annoyed factory owners who maybe make less money; communism leads to factory owners dead or in exile.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s not a difference in degree between “tax the factory owner more, and pay out more welfare” and “take the factory away from the owner and run it as a collective or through the state or something.”

            Isn’t it though?

            Is the difference between a 99% tax and a 100% tax all that significant?

            At what level of taxation do we suddenly flip from degree to type?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Because “100% tax and then it’s parcelled back to you in various ways” is still different from “you better hope you can flee before you are seized by the secret police; maybe you can fit some diamonds and US dollars in your underpants, but you sure ain’t gettin’ that factory back.”Communism has thus far only come to power through revolutions or foreign imposition, and so hasn’t really done much boiling the frog. “Kill the landlords and collectivize the farms” are fairly early steps.

          • Matt M says:

            Because “100% tax and then it’s parcelled back to you in various ways” is still different from “you better hope you can flee before you are seized by the secret police; maybe you can fit some diamonds and US dollars in your underpants, but you sure ain’t gettin’ that factory back.”

            You can take someone’s factory from them without killing them – and the method for doing so is the same method as for taking 99% of the income their factory produces without killing them. To me, the question of “whether it’s appropriate to kill them or not” is a separate question – of degree. It’s not a question of what the end-state should be (the state gets the factory) but rather of how far one is willing to go to achieve the end-state.

            Communism has thus far only come to power through revolutions or foreign imposition, and so hasn’t really done much boiling the frog. “Kill the landlords and collectivize the farms” are fairly early steps.

            In the case of farming, you may very well be right. But history is full of plenty of nationalizations of entire industries, as well as specific assets, that proceeded without large-scale violence. They managed to get Suzette Kelo’s house without killing her, didn’t they? If she would have had some guns and told them to fuck-off, would they have given up? Let’s go ask one of the Branch Dividians – oh wait! Did that take place under a full communist regime? Or under a Clinton?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Look, if you think that the path that liberalism in the US or social democracy elsewhere has taken, is just a slow way of taking the factory, I don’t know what to tell you. Social democracy gets you to Scandinavia or Britain back when Labour was actually social democratic or whatever.

            Kelo was not the means of production being sized by the vanguard of the revolution or whatever. It’s eminent domain used to take something from one private entity, and give to another, ostensibly for economy development. I’m not sure what the Branch Davidians have to do with revolution or nationalization of resources. They were a cult that was accused of child abuse and illegal weapon modification; the response by the government was bungled in several ways and it led to a bunch of people getting killed by the government.

          • a reader says:

            @johansenindustries:

            Is Fidel to the left of typical violent revolutionary?

            Fidel Castro wasn’t actually very leftist before the influence of Che Guevara – more like center-left. If he didn’t meet and associate with Che Guevara, he would have been probably a “normal” Latin-American dictator, maybe like Peron in Argentina. There is on Youtube an interview from his first days in power, when Fidel Castro says – in English! – that he doesn’t want communism and that there will be free elections.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5xRho3TauQ

            Che Guevara, who had a great charisma and acquired a great influence on him, pushed him gradually to the left, until Fidel Castro understood that the power of a communist dictator is substantially greater that of a “normal” dictator – and from then on, he became a convinced communist.

          • moscanarius says:

            @dndnrsn

            I just don’t see how this confusion would be dropped by saying “left-winger”. Sounds just the same to me.

            Talking about what “the leftists” want makes it seem like the Democrats and actual communists are some kind of good-cop bad-cop scenario, which is pretty inaccurate.

            I’m not so sure of that, but even if you are right… who are communists more likely to support, the Democrats or the Republicans? Which part is more willing to concede to (some) of their demands?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @moscanarius

            “Left-winger” means everyone on the left, “leftist” is best used to describe people who have a particular view of who should control the means of production, generally. (It gets a bit complicated when you add anarchists.)

            Historically, the conservatives cooperated more with fascists, where fascists actually got power (as opposed to where authoritarian conservatives coopted or suppressed them, or where they never got a whiff of power in the first place), than the liberals and social democrats did with the communists. Communists are often rather bad at getting power through the system – they won’t bargain with more moderate left-wingers, or those won’t bargain with them, or either.

            Where communists do get power, it’s usually through revolution, in which case it’s not going to be about who concedes with what demands: both communism and fascism only get a serious chance at getting power when things are already not in good shape. But communism is either total or near-total collapse and the communists seizing power, historically, or in some cases foreign invasion (or “liberation” in the case of Eastern Europe in WWII, etc). In the two cases where unarguable fascists have taken power, it was more conservatives thinking they could control a fascist coalition partner to keep the communists out.

          • I think part of the problem in this discussion is not distinguishing between different ways in which people can be similar. If the distinguishing characteristic of Pinochet is that he seized power in a military coup and then killed a significant number of his opponents, then he is no closer to Republicans than to Democrats but is closer to communists than to either.

            If his distinguishing characteristic is that he implemented economic policies that were considerably more pro-market than those of the government he replaced, then he is more like Republicans than Democrats.

            Similarly, if the distinguishing characteristic of communists is that they seize power by force and murder lots of people, then they are similar to neither Republicans nor Democrats. If it is that they want economic decisions made by the state, on the other hand, then they are like Democrats but go much farther in the same direction.

            So far as “leftist” being a pejorative term, I think it’s the other way around. The people who most care about the distinction between leftist, left-winger, and liberal are the leftists.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s not that it’s pejorative, it’s that using it flattens out reality. It leads some people to a state of mind where “the leftists” have this grand plan and they’re all part of a coalition. It echoes the sentiment some people on the left have, where the conservatives are just the friendly face of fascism. It isn’t more correct when one side thinks this rather than the other.

        • Dan L says:

          @Randy M

          Fill in the blank:” _______ usually support higher minimum wages and often worry about the effects of prejudice.”

          I’m going to cheekily assume I can take a slim majority as constituting usually, and suggest “Republicans”. I’ll echo dndnrsn here in saying “left-winger” works better, because it casts the Left/Right divide as the conflict between political alliances it actually is, rather than a fundamental disagreement over ideology or even policy.

        • dick says:

          Can you suggest another term to mean “everybody* on the left”?

          That’s what I think “leftist” means, I just don’t find many reasons to use it. What can you say about a group that includes Hillary Clinton and Chairman Mao and Jesus Christ and a couple billion other people that isn’t either wrong or tautological? It’s just not a very useful label to use in a fair, constructive, mutually respectful debate.

          In an unfair, unproductive, and mean-spirited debate on the other hand, vague group nouns are great! You can find something nasty about a subset of leftists and ascribe it to “leftists”. You can construct a motte-and-bailey, varying your definition of “leftist” as needed. You can make subtle jabs at the outgroup to recenter your ingroup’s opinion of them.

          Or, possibly worst of all, you can just say something that’s true for some definitions of leftist and false for others (“Leftists want to censor the internet!”) and then abandon the forum, never to return, leaving a pointless and unproductive semantic argument in your wake over what “leftist” really means. And in my opinion, arguing semantics over the internet is The Worst Thing In The World, so, I think of the value of narrow and precise labels and clear language as being self-evident, and I imagined that the sort of people who’ve read “weak men as superweapons” and “how an algorithm feels from the inside” and “i can tolerate anything except the outgroup” would already be with me on that. In fact, I’m super surprised that there’s not a norm around using “blue tribe” to mean “everyone generally on the left” since it was invented for that purpose, as opposed to “leftist” which could mean one thing to an academic and another to a US blogger and another to a Persian retiree and so forth.

          • moscanarius says:

            What can you say about a group that includes Hillary Clinton and Chairman Mao and Jesus Christ and a couple billion other people that isn’t either wrong or tautological?

            If these people form a loosely bound confederation willing to put their internal disputes on hold to fight that other loosely bound confederation known as The Right, the terms can be useful even if not super-precise.

            (that is, after we finish debating the boundary between them)

          • JulieK says:

            I don’t think what terminology we use matters so much; the problem is our habit of getting into stupid arguments along the lines of “Who is a bigger danger to free speech, leftists or rightists?” Substituting some other broad term for “leftist” in the previous sentence is not going to help much.

          • Aapje says:

            “Who is a bigger danger to free speech, leftists or rightists?”

            Yes.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @moscanarius

            Have they?

          • johansenindustries says:

            ‘What can you say about a group that includes Hillary Clinton and Chairman Mao and Jesus Christ and a couple billion other people that isn’t either wrong or tautological’

            Nothing very much hence the desire of a word like ‘left-winger’ or ‘leftist’ so we discuss the group that includes Hillary Clinton, Chairman Mao and a couple of billion other people.

            As mentioned before no category is perfect, but it seems to me that although the hard left and liberals differ on some issues (I can only think of ‘ought liberals be shot’ at the moment, but I expect there are others) for most issues* if you were tell me a handful of his positions people would be able to say if the person was a ‘liberal or hard left’ but not which.

            * Is there much of an attitude on the hard left of actually being against liberal-supported policies like higher minimum wage? My prejudice is that even if one did say ‘that’s not enough we need to overthrow the system’ that come a public referendum, they’d shuffle in and put a check next to ‘yes’.

          • moscanarius says:

            @dndnrsn

            Jesus? Certainly not 😉

            Are people who support Hillary more likely to support those who support the set of (Mao, Bernie, Fidel, Chavez, Morales) than the set of (Pinochet, Stroesser, Salazar, Franco)? Yes.

            I (think I) get what you mean: Left and Right are both not homogenous, and there is more variation within the groups than between them. Which is true, but does not make the grouping useless. Within the group, as diverse as they may be, they still display more solidarity towards the radicals labelled as “Left” than to those labelled as “Right”.

            The labels are not perfect, and if one keeps only them in mind (without also thinking about more-or-less orthogonal authoritarianism, degree of respect for law, compassion, etc) they can be misleading. But that can be said of many other labels commonly used in these discussions, which nobody would try to throw away. We talk about countries as “the West” and “MENA”, even though the groupings are imperfect and debatable and the countries are diverse, for example.

          • dndnrsn says:

            But that can be accomplished with “left-winger” and “right-winger”; broadly, everyone on the left shares some sort of levelling instinct. I would prefer to live in a society where Joe Average has a decent standard of living and I think it’s fine to tax and spend if it accomplishes that. I also worry about the impact of some people being insanely rich. But I don’t have a problem with some guy owning the factory and him being rich, as long as the factory is regulated, the workers have it decent, people aren’t starving on the streets, the factory owner isn’t completely cut off from the rest of society by his vast wealth, whatever.

      • Can you give a simple descriptions of different sorts of leftists, beyond more and less extreme? To me, liberals (modern American sense) come across as slightly watered down social democrats. What are the categories on the left that can’t be fitted into that sort of pattern?

        In the case of the right, one obvious division is libertarian vs traditionalist. Some libertarians are more extreme than others—anarcho-capitalists vs minarchists vs limited state classical liberals—but all of those differ from traditionalists in the same way, just with varying degrees. On some issues, such as drug laws or immigration or the draft, libertarians are more like people on the left than like other people on the right.

        What do you see as well defined divisions of that sort on the left? Freedom of speech liberals, the traditional ACLU position, vs Antifa leftists?

        • dndnrsn says:

          You could draw the line at whether their attitude towards rich people owning factories is degrees of “tax the factory” or degrees of “take the factory away from them” to be really crude.

          The traditional ACLU position is exactly the sort of thing that leftists and non-leftists tend to disagree over. The leftist cluster tends to view laws that, as written, protect everyone equally, serve to protect the bad guys and the interests of the powers that be. Liberals, social democrats, etc tend to view those laws as important to uphold and that if there’s a problem it can be solved with being more fair in interpreting the law equally for everyone. If some group has to be treated better, it should be dealt with by little patches.
          Leftists are far more likely to want to have radical change where the existing order is really smashed up. Liberals and modern social democrats tend to be reformist.

          Something I think is common is leftist rhetoric with social democrat or liberal substance. American free speech discourse is a lot more absolutist due to the text – American free speech advocates would be foolish to give ground on the 1st. Canada has much less robust free speech laws, we have hate speech laws, but consider that a certain controversial Canadian prof who will remain nameless is fine with prohibited speech in the sense of Canadian hate speech laws, last I checked.

          • IrishDude says:

            a certain controversial Canadian prof who will remain nameless is fine with prohibited speech in the sense of Canadian hate speech laws

            Having watched some recent interviews of his, he opposes hate speech laws, but less vociferously than laws that he feels compel speech. In particular, though he acknowledges downsides of hate speech, he notes that state regulation of hate speech also has downsides and considers them worse.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            He’s also suing people for associating him with evil people, even though he associates his outgroup with evil people.

            I get that no one likes being associated with evil people, but I lost a lot of the free-speech cred I had for him for that.

          • albatross11 says:

            Edward Scissorhands:

            I think most (but not all) free-speech advocates still support libel laws, and I don’t think that’s inherently contradictory. (Though there’s a point at which libel/slander laws become a means for wealthy people to censor some kinds of speech, that’s an issue that someone like Ken of Popehat thinks a lot about, and also that judges and legal scholars in the US have thought a lot about.)

          • Nick says:

            It’s also possible Peterson’s changed his views on prohibited speech. We’ve been back and forth here several times trying to figure out his views on using trans folk’s pronouns—for all that he claims to be very precise about what he says, it’s hard sometimes to fit it all together.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Nick

            We’ve been back and forth here several times trying to figure out his views on using trans folk’s pronouns—for all that he claims to be very precise about what he says, it’s hard sometimes to fit it all together.

            In this clip his position seems pretty clear. He opposes laws that compel speech. When it comes to addressing trans by their preferred pronouns:

            Bari Weiss: You are often characterized, at least in the mainstream press, as being transphobic. If you had a student come to you and said and they said to you I was born female I now identify as male I want to go I want you to call me by male pronouns would you say yes for that?

            Jordan Peterson: Well it would depend on the student and the context and why I thought they were asking me and what I believe their demand actually characterized in all of that. Because that can be done in a way that’s genuine and acceptable in a way that’s manipulative and unacceptable. And if it was genuine and acceptable then I’d have no problem with it and if it was manipulative and unacceptable then not a chance.

            So and you might think well who am I to judge? Well first of all I am a clinical psychologist and I’ve talked to people for about 25,000 hours and so and I’m responsible for judging how I’m going to use my words. I judge it the same way that I judge all the interactions that I have with people which is to the best of my ability and characterized by all the errors that I’m prone to. So you know I’m not saying that my judgment would be unerring but I have to live with the consequences. So I’m willing to accept the responsibility.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            They compared him to Adolf Hitler. That sucks, and it’s stupid, but free speech means I get to call you Hitler and you get to call me Hitler.

            It’s Canada, where hurting someone’s feelings is illegal[1], so he has a good chance of winning. But it’s bullshit from a free-speech perspective.

            If you gave me this quote and told me it was from a SJW, with just a few noun substitutions, I would totally say that it’s in violation of free speech.

            So I think this is a warning, let’s say, to other careless administrators and professors who allow their ideological presuppositions to get the best of them to be a bit more careful with what they say and do.

            or his lawyer

            These are professors and head of gender equity studies making comments that are atrocious about Dr. Peterson who is one of if not Canada’s most prominent intellectuals.

            [1] I exaggerate a bit.

          • Iain says:

            @IrishDude:

            But see also the follow-up discussion Peterson has with John McWhorter about how you can tell whether a demand is genuine, as transcribed near the bottom of this article from Conor Friedersdorf. Friedersdorf’s summary:

            I agree with McWhorter that Peterson was talking around his question—Peterson neither withdrew the claim that he possessed psychological expertise relevant to the matter at hand, nor clarified its nature in any sort of persuasive manner, nor articulated any reason to conclude that being manipulated into pronoun usage by a student falsely claiming to be trans is a likely or harmful event. Peterson’s posture seems more like misplaced stubbornness than anything else.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Iain
            Well, I basically agree with this youtube comment from a video of the interview (never thought I’d say that!):

            “Firstly, Peterson did answer eventually – the devil’s in the details. There aren’t any given psychological ‘tools’ because the variance from person to person is practically infinite. How do you apply a general tool in situational contexts? There’s a concept in psychotherapy termed by Irvin D. Yalom – “Create a new therapy for each patient”. Whilst this is not necessarily the case, the point is that each person has their own unique set of problems, personality, experiences and so on. So when you try one intervention which works on one person, it might fail on the next or work to a lesser degree because of the variance from person to person.

            As a result, any psychological ‘tool’ to help identify genuine pronoun users from attention-seeking SJW quite simply isn’t demonstratably accurate to any real degree. You notice multiple signals simultaneously – body language, tone of voice, facial expression and so on – but there isn’t really a universal application that is accurate to everyone. You interpret them subjectively and reach a conclusion of your own.

            Psychological ‘tools’ in the sense that the linguist is asking for is susceptible to the risk of over-generalizing. Peterson is fine accepting the responsibility for his judgement, but he doesn’t really want to give people things from the discipline that are very easily misapplied (even by professionals). It’s extremely easy to misuse so honestly speaking, I definitely understand why Peterson would also be hesitant to talk about specific ‘tools’ had they even existed. People are very ignorant to how clinical psychology works, so it’s very understandable that people think that there are specific ‘tools’ and ‘techniques’ like a surgeon uses, but actually therapists often try to avoid confining their clients within a box which has an ‘appropriate treatment’ which will sometimes limit the therapeutic process.

            Finally, there’s also the fact that this fine-honed sense of other people comes from years and years of clinical experience AND THERE’S NO SUBSTITUTE FOR IT. Honestly. The theories you study are worthless when you’re actually confronted with the patient and suddenly everything you’ve learnt from a textbook goes out the window. Yes, you can learn theories and case examples, etc, but, as I said, people are infinitely variable. What applies in one case may not apply to another even if they are similar. Thus, there is no replacement short of actually conducting a clinical practice yourself. And even seasoned therapists with decades of experience will commit even basic errors.”

            Note also that Peterson says in the video that so far, he has never denied a request to use a trans person’s preferred pronoun. He just wants to reserve the right to do so in the future, if his judgment suspects manipulative behavior.

          • Nick says:

            IrishDude, my point was that it’s not easy to fit everything he’s said together. Of course one comment at one time is going to say one thing, but how do you put that up against what he’s said elsewhere?

            Douglas Knight and I went back and forth on this a few months ago, and we weren’t entirely sure by the end. Douglas can weigh in if he’s more certain now; I think he has once before, but I can’t find it.

          • Iain says:

            To my mind, the key phrase in Friedersdorf summary is “…nor articulated any reason to conclude that being manipulated into pronoun usage by a student falsely claiming to be trans is a likely or harmful event.” In that light, Peterson’s big claims about his ability to handle a situation in which he’s admittedly never found himself aren’t a point in his favour.

            McWhorter’s being very Socratic here, and letting the audience work out the conclusions. Unpacking his argument more explicitly: Peterson claims that some people make pronoun requests in a “genuine and acceptable” way, and some people make pronoun requests in a “manipulative and unacceptable” way. McWhorter agrees that this is, in his experience, probably true — but that he consistently errs on the side of assuming people are asking in good faith, because he can’t be certain and the harms of getting it wrong are higher on one side.

            How, he asks, do you reach a level of confidence where you are so certain that your interlocutor is full of shit that the potential emotional costs of misgendering them are outweighed by the costs you pay by saying “they”? What are Peterson’s tricks? Can other people attain the same level of confidence? Peterson is not just arguing for his own conscience — he’s arguing about what the law should be. If these situations are so rare that even Pterson, a brilliant clinical psychologist, has never seen a situation that would justify refusing to use somebody’s pronouns, and he can’t give any advice on how we mere mortals should assess that situation, then maybe the risk that somebody somewhere gets away with being called “them” does not justify Peterson’s Martin Luther act.

            Peterson tries to circumvent the questions about his expertise by saying that he’s not guaranteeing that he’s right:

            I would be comfortable in making the judgment and taking the consequential risk. I’m not saying I would be correct. That’s not the same thing at all. I’m willing to suffer the consequences of my error. That’s not the same as being right. And so if I feel a student is manipulating me I’m not going to go along with it. I might be wrong about that and hurt someone who is genuinely asking me for something that they need. But I’m also, what would you say, sensitive to the error of allowing manipulation to go unchecked.

            This is, in one sense, quite admirable. At the same time, though, proclaiming your willingness to suffer the consequences of your error is more impressive when you aren’t campaigning against the system that would impose said consequences. What consequences is he actually willing to suffer?

          • IrishDude says:

            @Nick

            Of course one comment at one time is going to say one thing, but how do you put that up against what he’s said elsewhere?

            If you provide a specific quote of his that seems to contradict what I provided we can discuss, but the quote I provide is consistent with the view I’ve seen him espouse on other occasions: he’s opposed to compelled speech but open to pronoun requests on a case-by-case basis, using his judgment of which requests he considers good faith or not.

          • Nick says:

            If you provide a specific quote of his that seems to contradict what I provided we can discuss, but the quote I provide is consistent with the view I’ve seen him espouse on other occasions: he’s opposed to compelled speech but open to pronoun requests on a case-by-case basis, using his judgment of which requests he considers good faith or not.

            Did you click the link to the old thread? It’s a few posts down before I quote him, but I do:

            Newscaster: But would you use alternate pronouns if a student asked you to?
            Peterson: I think I’ve made my position on that clear already.
            ….
            Newscaster: Would you use alternate pronouns?
            Peterson: No.
            Newscaster: And why not?
            Peterson: Because I don’t believe that other people have the right to determine what language I use, especially when it’s being backed by punitive legislation, and when the words that are being required at the constructions—they are artificial constructions of people I regard as radical ideologues whose viewpoint I do not share.

            This sounds like a hard no. If this were the only quote from Peterson you’d heard, I think you could reasonably conclude he wouldn’t use them at all, which is in complete contradiction to what you’ve quoted. Now, we speculated after that that by “alternate pronoun” he just means neologisms like “ze/zir” and not “pronoun alternative to what the person looks like,” but that’s surely not obvious from the context.

            Another one from that post:

            … I regard these made-up pronouns, all of them, as the neologisms of radical PC authoritarians….

            If this were all you’d heard from Peterson, you might reasonably conclude he has a big problem with made-up pronouns, and you wouldn’t have any idea how he feels about other requests. Again, maybe this can be made consonant with the rest of what he’s said, but 1) he’s obviously not just saying the same thing every time, and 2) you do have to sit down with all the quotes and work out what his view really is. And that’s not even getting into the possibility his views have evolved over time, if you find it impossible to reconcile it all.

          • toastengineer says:

            Semi-devils advocate; isn’t JP comparing folks to Soviets and folks comparing him to a neo-nazi substantively different libel-wise, because a ton of people literally believe it when people say he is one?

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m not a particular fan of Peterson (but I haven’t read/listened to/watched much by him, so maybe I’m missing the boat), but I thought the specific issue that raised this discussion was a law that Peterson believed would require him, by law, to use someone else’s desired pronouns. And I can absolutely understand a willingness to do something as a courtesy combined with an unwillingness to have that same courtesy imposed by force of law.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Iain
            From my recollection, Friersdorf’s quote ““…nor articulated any reason to conclude that being manipulated into pronoun usage by a student falsely claiming to be trans is a likely or harmful event.” didn’t reflect a question from McWhorter (I think it was Weiss’ question amidst the questions coming from McWhorter?), as McWhorter’s question seemed to me to more directly probe Peterson’s claim that his extensive clinical psychology experience informed his judgment of when a request might be good-faith or manipulative, and whether Peterson could share his ‘tools’ so everyone else could have that informed judgment. To which Peterson’s response that the devil’s in the details seemed reasonable to me. I’d be interested in a long form conversation between the two where they could more deeply discuss this and other issues.

            In that light, Peterson’s big claims about his ability to handle a situation in which he’s admittedly never found himself aren’t a point in his favour.

            Pretty much every situation someone finds themselves in is one they haven’t encountered before, as context always changes slightly. Instead, people use similar prior experiences to inform their judgment, and in Peterson’s case this would be his thousands of hours of clinical psychology experience that inform his judgment of whether someone is being genuine or manipulative. Just because that experience of detecting manipulation might not have occurred in a context of a trans person asking for a preferred pronoun yet, doesn’t mean his prior experience won’t be useful at some point in the future. The point for Peterson is that he wants to retain his right to use his own judgment rather than have the state impose on him to compel particular speech.

            If these situations are so rare that even Pterson, a brilliant clinical psychologist, has never seen a situation that would justify refusing to use somebody’s pronouns, and he can’t give any advice on how we mere mortals should assess that situation, then maybe the risk that somebody somewhere gets away with being called “them” does not justify Peterson’s Martin Luther act.

            The use of nuclear weapons is extremely rare but their existence changes the calculus of actions around the world. A decision to disarm yourself, because you’re unlikely to use nuclear weapons, will have an impact and not necessarily in a positive way.

            A policy to always use a person’s preferred pronoun has the potential for negative consequences, and retaining the right to not use a pronoun, even if this right is rarely used, seems to me a good protection against manipulative behavior.

            At the same time, though, proclaiming your willingness to suffer the consequences of your error is more impressive when you aren’t campaigning against the system that would impose said consequences. What consequences is he actually willing to suffer?

            The State is only one system that doles out consequences, social judgment is another. Peterson is opposed to the first system and seems open to the second, should he err in his judgment.

          • lvlln says:

            If these situations are so rare that even Pterson, a brilliant clinical psychologist, has never seen a situation that would justify refusing to use somebody’s pronouns, and he can’t give any advice on how we mere mortals should assess that situation, then maybe the risk that somebody somewhere gets away with being called “them” does not justify Peterson’s Martin Luther act.

            The risk isn’t “somebody somewhere gets away with being called ‘them'” – I don’t believe Peterson has ever said anything that indicates that he has anything against someone “being called ‘them.'” The risk is somebody somewhere being legally compelled to call someone else “them” when they don’t want to, for any reason whatsoever. It doesn’t matter if literally every time he’s asked to, he concedes to using someone’s preferred pronouns, the point is that he gets to make that choice. And if he suddenly has an aneurysm or some cosmic particle randomly hits his brain and causes him to refuse someone’s preferred pronoun in the future, he should be free to act on that decision and face the social consequences of doing so, without the government stepping in.

            This is, in one sense, quite admirable. At the same time, though, proclaiming your willingness to suffer the consequences of your error is more impressive when you aren’t campaigning against the system that would impose said consequences. What consequences is he actually willing to suffer?

            He’s not campaigning against the system that would impose said consequences. He’s campaigning against the system that would impose legal consequences, which are distinct from the system that imposes social consequences, which unavoidably emerge in any social interaction involving 2 or more individuals. Of course, it’s understandable how if one sees the world in terms of power differentials between groups rather than in terms of individuals, that one might not be satisfied with the social “consequences” he would face in this situation and thus want legal recourse.

            (Aside: I personally don’t think this distinction is as much as people tend to make it out to be; punishing someone socially – including merely avoiding contact with them – for having bad opinions is almost as reprehensible as punishing them legally in my view – but I accept that reasonable people find this distinction very important)

            Given his perspective, it seems pretty clear to me that his lawsuit against Rambukkana is very hypocritical, and if there’s anything that his detractors should hammer him on, it’s this lawsuit. Not that being a hypocrite weakens his prior arguments about compelled speech, but it certainly discredits him as a principled defender of free speech going forward. I mean, I guess I’m open to an argument for how what Rambukkana said is libel, but the idea that comparing someone to Hitler (an opinion) in what he thought was a private conversation (not meant to defame) could come anywhere close to libel seems so absurd that I wouldn’t know where to start in making such an argument. Which I guess makes me really curious as to what his lawyer will come up with. Also, I’m not familiar with Canadian law.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Nick

            Peterson: … I regard these made-up pronouns, all of them, as the neologisms of radical PC authoritarians….

            Nick: If this were all you’d heard from Peterson, you might reasonably conclude he has a big problem with made-up pronouns, and you wouldn’t have any idea how he feels about other requests.

            I don’t see an issue if from one quote you only know how he feels about one issue, and not another related issue. And I don’t see anything from the two quotes you linked that contradict the quote of Peterson’s I posted.

            From your quotes, he seems opposed to alternate pronouns and neologisms, and as I further watched the link you posted he talked about ‘otherkins‘ and how some people wanted to be referred to as “worm-self”. He probably has a strong presumption that requests to use these particular pronouns aren’t in good faith, as opposed to a trans woman asking to be called “her/she” which is more likely in good-faith.

            He also seems to be more highly sensitive to other pronouns like zie/zir that he seems to think are linked to radical political activism and power plays.

            1) he’s obviously not just saying the same thing every time,

            Right, he seems to address some aspects of the issues in some interviews and other aspects in others, so depending on what issue he’s addressing he’ll have different things to say.

            2) you do have to sit down with all the quotes and work out what his view really is.

            As you do with anybody. Give someone a sentence and you’ll know a tiny bit about their views. Give them a paragraph and you’ll know more. Give them wide-ranging long form interviews across time and you’ll really start to understand the nuance of their views.

            This is why I like Joe Rogan’s long-form podcasts that go 3 hours and don’t like news interviews that last 5 minutes. You miss tons of nuance and context without asking lots of probing follow-up questions and giving people time to elaborate their answers.

            And that’s not even getting into the possibility his views have evolved over time, if you find it impossible to reconcile it all.

            This is certainly possible! Since I’ve followed him his position has seemed consistent to me, but it’s possible I missed some growth in his views or it’s possible he had different views before I started following him.

          • IrishDude says:

            @lvlln

            I mean, I guess I’m open to an argument for how what Rambukkana said is libel, but the idea that comparing someone to Hitler (an opinion) in what he thought was a private conversation (not meant to defame) could come anywhere close to libel seems so absurd that I wouldn’t know where to start in making such an argument.

            Agree, particularly your point about the absurdity of private conversation bring considered libelous. I’m always interested in hearing more details, but on the face of it the libel suit seems poor form.

          • Nick says:

            IrishDude,

            First, thanks for engaging with me on this. If I sound annoyed with you here, sorry and I’m really not. I’m more annoyed with myself for bringing this up again and starting this argument all over again. And sorry again, but post is in the same semi-exasperated tone, because I’ve written all this now and I’m not rewriting….

            I don’t see an issue if from one quote you only know how he feels about one issue, and not another related issue. And I don’t see anything from the two quotes you linked that contradict the quote of Peterson’s I posted.

            Okay, but the line between using regular pronouns vs “made up” pronoun is one drawn by Peterson, not by us. Sure, we might agree with him when we hear where and why he’s drawing this line, but it’s not as though if we hear him say he’d honor a request he thought was genuine we would conclude “Ah, of course, Peterson is here only talking about ordinary pronouns like he and she and not singular they or ze/zir.” So I don’t think we can just say one statement was about one issue and the other was about a related issue. They are, viewed from an uninformed lens, just the same issue.

            Let’s look at another case, which was also brought up in that thread: the channel 4 interview with Cathy Newman. There the exchange goes:

            Newman: You have voluntary, … You have voluntarily come into the studio and agreed to be questioned. A trans-person in your class, has come to your class and said they want to be called “she”.
            Peterson: That’s never happened. And I would call them “she”.
            Newman: So you would? So you’ve kind of changed your tune a little bit, …
            Peterson: No. No. I said that right from the beginning. What I said at the beginning, was that I was not going to cede the linguistic territory to radical leftists. Regardless of whether, or not, it was put in law. That’s what I said.

            Now again, since you’ve heard a lot from Peterson on this, you can hear this and say, “Ah, Cathy’s example used ‘she.’ See, Peterson was just being precise, and if you drew a conclusion to pronouns like ze/zir you’ve misinterpreted him.” Well, how the hell am I supposed to know I’m misinterpreting him? I didn’t know I was supposed to distinguish the two. How could I know, when he doesn’t even bring it up there? Was all that stuff at the end there about “ceding the linguistic territory” about the neologisms, or is it just about the acceptability of demanding she instead of he?

            As you do with anybody. Give someone a sentence and you’ll know a tiny bit about their views. Give them a paragraph and you’ll know more. Give them wide-ranging long form interviews across time and you’ll really start to understand the nuance of their views.

            This is why I like Joe Rogan’s long-form podcasts that go 3 hours and don’t like news interviews that last 5 minutes. You miss tons of nuance and context without asking lots of probing follow-up questions and giving people time to elaborate their answers.

            I agree that if Peterson had just fifteen seconds or something to speak it wouldn’t be fair to assume that was the entirety of his views, and longer interviews are definitely better. But you started by posting a 75 minute interview and Q&A, and then a clip from a 90 minute conversation at the Aspen Institute, and meanwhile in that old thread I linked to a TV discussion that was only a few minutes long, but also an interview that was 30 minutes long. So on the one hand, okay, maybe my first TV discussion link wasn’t an appropriate place to expect to get the totality of Peterson’s views. But surely in that 30 minute channel 4 interview Peterson’s got the time to be more clear about his views, maybe say something like “Now saying I would call her ‘she’ doesn’t mean I would call her ‘ze’ or ‘xe,’ I won’t use made-up pronouns” instead of (presumably) only gesturing in that direction with stuff about ceding the linguistic territory to radical leftists, or even just mention his distinction between genuine and manipulative requests, which also don’t come up there. Or in either of those more than hour long interviews he can clarify that he’s not going to use made-up pronouns.

            Peterson’s frustrating habit, if I were to diagnose it, is assuming that precision in one context is all he is required to do to be understood. It’s emphatically not. Even for well intentioned, sympathetic people like us who know how to read and to apply the principle of charity, it’s remarkably easy to misunderstand him, as the thread I linked earlier should demonstrate: Aapje, Douglas, and I all have different readings. The obvious solution to this sort of problem, as used by everyone else in the world, is to preempt and rebut common misunderstandings. Peterson never seems to do this.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Nick
            Our discussion seems civil to me so no worries. 🙂

            The obvious solution to this sort of problem, as used by everyone else in the world, is to preempt and rebut common misunderstandings. Peterson never seems to do this.

            It seems to me that Peterson finds certain aspects of the trans pronoun issue most salient (compelled speech, power plays by radical activists) and, in shorter form interviews focuses sharply on those aspects. In longer form interviews with probing questions from the audience, he discusses his nuanced view on other aspects (e.g., how do you decide when to use the preferred pronoun?).

            I can understand why someone with an uninformed opinion might not understand context (like what a neologism is) when trying to interpret Peterson’s views, or why an informed person might not understand all aspects of his view from his responses in one particular interview, but that just doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. While I might appreciate Peterson writing an essay on the topic that discusses all the nuances of his views, or providing comprehensive responses within an interview, I don’t think he has any obligation to do so. And no matter what he says or writes, there’s likely to be someone out there that doesn’t feel he addressed some aspect that seems important to them.

            I think a reasonable person interested in good faith understanding of his views can look at a few interviews and get a pretty good idea of where he generally stands on trans pronouns, though of course on a complex topic there’s always room for misunderstanding and it’s possible that my interpretation of him is incorrect.

          • Brad says:

            While I might appreciate Peterson writing an essay on the topic

            On any topic whatsoever as far as I’m concerned.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad

            Sorry, we’re back to oral tradition as normative.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nick

            I think that Peterson has the issue that he likes to reason out things afresh, making him somewhat inconsistent.

            @Brad

            Perhaps an article on the mating rituals of the north american wasp.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Brad

            On any topic whatsoever as far as I’m concerned.

            He’s written two books, which are extended essays on topics that he finds important.

            Here’s a shorter essay called “Peacemaking among higher-order primates” I found by googling. I haven’t read it so can’t attest to its quality, but it satisfies your request for him to write an essay on “any topic whatsoever”.

            I’ve got a tab open of a journal article of his entitled “Neuropsychology of Motivation for Group Aggression and Mythology” that I have yet to read, but you might find also satisfies your request.

            @dndnrsn

            Sorry, we’re back to oral tradition as normative.

            Peterson has interesting thoughts on podcasts/youtube/etc., considering them doing for the spoken word what Gutenberg’s press did for the written word. He finds this new medium particularly appealing because, unlike the written word, people can do other things while absorbing information transmitted orally. You can commute, do dishes, and cut grass while listening to a podcast, allowing the every day person an opportunity to learn new things without having to give up any of their other normal activities; it’s a powerful new technology for transmitting ideas that he’s keen to exploit.

          • Brad says:

            I suppose technically correct is still the best kind of correct.

            That aside I strenuously disagree about the value of podcasts, and even worse, talking head youtube videos. Beyond aesthetics and efficiency, as discussed a couple of open threads ago, I find the insistence on mediums where charisma is an important factor to be suspicious.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Brad

            I suppose technically correct is still the best kind of correct.

            If you’re interested in his written thoughts on topics, you’ve got hundreds of pages of material out there in two books, many scientific journal articles that evaluate evidence on psychological phenomena and articulate his conclusions, and at least one essay tackling his pet subject on how groups with differing values can coexist peacefully. Yet you still seem dissatisfied, which, I guess is okay but doesn’t make complete sense to me.

            If you want more writings from him, here’s his blog which has short writings from him and transcripts of his audio interviews.

            That aside I strenuously disagree about the value of podcasts, and even worse, talking head youtube videos.

            There’s all kinds of podcasts and youtube videos out there, from cat videos and RPG podcasts to complete college video lecture series on youtube and historical analysis podcasts. For those interested in using the audio format to educate themselves when they’d otherwise be zoning out on hour commutes, the existence of interesting and informative audio on just about any subject is a modern wonder.

            I find the insistence on mediums where charisma is an important factor to be suspicious.

            This critique seems misplaced, as it seems to imply that charisma isn’t an important factor in writing. The visual medium, from pictures to text, is full of opportunity to use emotional persuasion. Anyways, there’s no ‘insistence’ on oral mediums, just a note that modern technology has made it an additional avenue to absorb information that has a unique positive characteristic (you can listen and learn while washing dishes).

    • ilikekittycat says:

      The standard for left here is something like “how closely it resembles the opinion of the privileged Yale student Hillary voting purple hair SWPL SJW” and you get more “moderate” the more you disagree with that sort of person. Including an argument from Marx or Lenin etc. is generally less provocative than unironically agreeing with Lena Dunham or talking about privilege theory

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I don’t remember much Leninism here, but I bet people are more willing to listen to Marx than SJWs because he was so analytical.

      • Dan L says:

        “how closely it resembles the opinion of the privileged Yale student Hillary voting purple hair SWPL SJW”

        Bit of a tangent, but I have the suspicion that said stereotype would be less common at more prestigious universities. That goes for the critical-theory-professor archetype, too. I’d love to see some data one way or the other.

        • Aapje says:

          I have no solid data, but an interesting exercise when encountering one of the more extreme critical-theory professors is to look them up on Rate My Professor. I’ve found that their ratings are generally quite poor (and reading the comment entertaining).

          Suzanna Walters (of the WaPo piece on hating men). Multiple raters make statements like: “Do you want a good grade in her class? Then, agreeing with her is mandatory.”

          George Ciccariello-Maher (of the “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide” tweet). Multiple raters call him disrespectful and rude.

          So (extreme) critical-theory ideology may result in and/or attract the kind of people who are poor at teaching. The more prestigious universities may not be willing to tolerate this.

          PS. It’s interesting to contrast these ratings with SJ-critical firebrands, like Jordan Peterson and Bret Weinstein.

          • a reader says:

            Or with Jonathan Haidt, the founder of “Heterodox Academy” (that tries to protect freedom of thought in universities).

            Suzanna Walters – 1.7 (most ratings Awful, 1 Poor and 1 Awesome)

            George Ciccariello-Maher – 1.0 (all ratings Awful)

            Jonathan Haidt – 4.5 (most ratings Awesome or Good, although a few raters say he is too “arrogant” or “cocky”)

          • brmic says:

            ermh *headdesk*?!!
            (1) Your sample size sucks
            (2) Your measurement sucks (both in terms of distortions through fame/attention, i.e. you’d have to use pre-prominence data and in terms of these rate-your-X site generally having poor reliability and known biases and thrid in the raters not being the same people)
            (3) Your theory sucks (at best something like critical theory ~> classroom behaviour ~> ratings, with maybe a sideorder of ‘personality type’ somewhere in there. Massively underspecified, not paying rent in experience at all)
            (4) You have a forking paths problem. At the very least in that an opposite finding could have gone unreported (Not accusing you of dishonesty at all. But this is the sort of cutesy finding which people in general report and repeat when it comes out in line with their biases and conversely are likely to dismiss as semi-serious, flawed attempt not work reporting/repeating, when it doesn’t allign with their biases) and that theory is sufficiently weak that an opposite finding could have been explained as (i) caused by pre-selection of students, (ii) preaching to the choir (iii) data for Peterson and Weinstein corrupted by SJW etc. Also, subject removals/inclusions on non-pre-registered grounds.

            In short, yes, this is totally uninformative and a waste of everyone’s time. If the above is not convincing, consider what it would take to fix the flaws in data collection and measurement, imagine spending 2-6 weeks on the project and whether, given an unchanged theory you’d then consider the result worth anything.

          • Aapje says:

            @brmic

            1. It’s a hypothesis, not a theory
            2. I added quite a bit of caveats and assume that most people here are wise enough to not believe that my hypothesis has strong evidence for it
            3. It was mostly intended as a bit of levity

            PS. FYI, I didn’t cherry pick. The four people that I presented are the first 4 that I came up with and the only ones that I looked up.
            PS2. It is possible that Peterson and Weinstein have non-student fans that leave ratings despite not taking their classes.

          • dndnrsn says:

            If one is assessing a professor who has become heavily involved in the Culture Wars, one should probably make the cutoff for prof-rating sites before they became involved – so, for example, cutting out Peterson reviews from after he got in the news (in which case, what you’ll see is a lot of undergrads who really liked his intro to psych or whatever course).

          • Nick says:

            You can filter out the noise from fans/haters by only looking at the data before they got famous and then run the numbers again yourself. It’s really annoying, but it’s doable.

            Walters, for instance, has four reviews from the last few weeks, all after her Washington Post article, and three reviews from 2013. The three from 2013 are awful, awesome, and poor.

            Edit: Dammit, dndnrsn beat me to it.

          • a reader says:

            The 4 most recent ratings of Suzanna Walters are probably not genuine: they appeared this month, after her article about men-hating in Washington Post, and 3 of them are very short. But the other 3 seem genuine – they are from 2013, long before the scandal – and they are more bad than good: 1 Poor, 1 Awesome and 1 Awful. And the ratings of George Ciccariello-Maher seem genuine, they appeared along 2017, long after his “white genocide” tweet from December 2016. and most are quite long and informative.

            3 more data points for the most extreme SJW professors:

            Jessie Daniels 4.2 (many Awesome)

            Jessie Daniels wrote on twitter:

            White people: do you own your home? When you die, where’s wealth in that house going? If it’s your children, you’re reproducing IneQ
            […]
            Part of what I’ve learned is that the white-nuclear family is one of the most powerful forces supporting white supremacy
            […]
            I mean, if you’re a white person who says they’ve engaged in dismantling white supremacy, but +
            you’re forming a white family + reproducing white children that “you want the best for” – how is that helping + not part of the problem?”

            Piper Harron 3.5 (1 Average, 1 Good)

            Piper Harron proposed that:

            If you are a white cis man (meaning you identify as male and you were assigned male at birth) you almost certainly should resign from your position of power. That’s right, please quit. Too difficult? Well, as a first step, at least get off your hiring committee, your curriculum committee, and make sure you’re replaced by a woman of color or trans person.

            Rochelle Gutierrez 2.8 (very divisive – quite as many Awesome as Awful)

            Rochelle Gutierrez wrote that:

            On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White […]
            curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans.

            Afaik, those professors kept their jobs and didn’t have to confront angry mobs of students, like Bret Weinstein.

          • albatross11 says:

            I agree with brmic: I doubt we can learn very much about anything from this data. Even restricting it to pre-internet-fame data, I doubt this teaches us much.

          • Cliff says:

            Well, most of these SJW people are infamous for writing terrible crap and the right-wing people you mention (actually not sure how right-wing they are really) are famous for being brilliant thinkers, so it hardly seems a fair comparison.

          • Aapje says:

            @Cliff

            Can you come up with examples of SJ-critical professors who are crappy and who were at the center of controversy?

            Due to the current situation in academia, I would expect SJ-critical professors to be far more wary about speaking out, leading to a selection effect.

            PS. My comparison was not left- vs right-wing, but pro-SJ vs SJ-critical. I would argue that the latter distinction doesn’t map cleanly on the former, but that the currently dominant left- and right-wing narratives are pro-SJ and SJ-critical, respectively.

            PS 2. I don’t rate Camille Paglia that highly as a thinker and she has a 3.5 rating as a professor (what is that? mediocre or decent?)

          • Protagoras says:

            The research tends to find a negative correlation between student evaluations and teaching effectiveness. So while it’s interesting that the conservatives are more popular with their students (may indicate that some assumptions about what students are like on average are wrong), it probably doesn’t show what a lot of people here seem to be suggesting it would show.

        • BBA says:

          For that matter, in my mind the stereotypical “purple hair SWPL SJW” either voted for Jill Stein or rejects voting altogether as participating in an inherently corrupt, patriarchal system.

    • Dan L says:

      I remarked on this yesterday in a different thread, so I feel like it might be worth restating my complaint here: that “Leftist” as it’s often used here is a case of sloppily grouping over a century’s worth of ideology and political alliances under the same label. It’s an even more egregious form of the “Statist” label Scott criticizes in the opening of the Anti-Libertarian FAQ.

    • Brad says:

      I haven’t been participating much in the last few months but on the basis of the prior couple of years, all and anyone left of center-right on social issues is part of the homogenous hated outgroup and any of Scott’s writings on steelmanning or charity or so on are totally disregarded. You can see some of that in some of the terrible responses you query has already generated.

      It’s pretty exasperating.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      The reason you can’t figure out what the definition of “leftist” is here is because it’s more often than not just being employed as a boo light. The most frequent type of commenter here is “people who really don’t like feminists and other people who are SJWs”. Even the people who are ostensibly left of center are far more left-libertarian than center-left.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Does describing oneself as an “ist” make one feel a part of a group? I suppose that’s useful when you need to vote in a coalition. But why elsewhere?

    • quanta413 says:

      It’s a uselessly vague grouping most of the time.

      I was surprised how strong the reaction against Piketty was since economics is normally less of a nerve here, but a lot of the commenters were not the ones I usually see. I think the signal to noise ratio was worse than usual although some of the signals were pretty good.

      In a more typical thread averaging across commenters, there’s a strong net dislike for typical social justice things here but not as much argument about economics. I suspect this is partly because a lot of the people here disagree with SJ but live in communities where it’s a strong ideology. You could think of SSC as partly functioning as argument club but partly functioning as safe space for nerds who are near to but are the outgroup of social justice. Even a significant chunk of “leftists” here have only a sort of half-hearted love for typical social justice.

      • Randy M says:

        I was surprised how strong the reaction against Piketty was since economics is normally less of a nerve here

        But bad statistics is definitely a nerve. I don’t know if those accusations are correct or even objectively raised, but it seemed that a lot of the objections were about him doing the math wrong rather than making unwarranted conclusions. That’s very much the kind of thing that will get objections around here.

        • quanta413 says:

          I did not find the claims of bad statistics that convincing. Even if Piketty made mistakes, they weren’t egregiously bad. They were more inside baseball empirical issues than outright mathematical mispractice.

          Except maybe his claim that there are a horde of undetected super-rich heirs. That’s less statistical malpractice than conspiracy theory though.

        • J Mann says:

          As with leftists, let’s not inappropriately conflate different types of Piketty critics. IMHO, there were two relevant groups of reactions to Piketty.

          1) People who found at least one of the points Scott summarized implausible or unsupported and challenged that point, and:

          2) People who were surprised or outraged that anyone is still taking Piketty seriously after some critics found what they asserted were bad-faith inaccuracies in the book.

          IMHO, Group 1 was much larger, and is pretty typical for this forum. If you assert a statement of fact, someone is bound to show up and want to discuss whether that fact is accurate.

    • albatross11 says:

      I think there’s an interesting parallel between this and the “is race a valid scientific concept” discussion above. In both cases, “left/right” are fuzzy categories that lose a huge amount of resolution, and yet are sometimes useful for describing or predicting things.

    • J Mann says:

      Does this comment section have an atypical shared definition of “leftist”? As someone who’s relatively new to the comments, this is the most discordant thing I’ve noticed – “leftist” being used as if it were a specific group with a shared ideology, rather than a broad swath of humanity that includes a variety of conflicting ideologies.

      I think that’s a problem with any group. “Libertarians” or “Alt-righters” or “Communists” or “Taylor Swift fans” are just buckets of people with different opinions. Sometimes, people make the mistake of actually assuming that all the people in one bucket actually hold a coherent opinion, but more often, I think that it’s just loose speech.

      Generally, IMHO, if someone says something like “leftists are comfortable chasing people off campus for disagreeing with them”, they really mean “many leftists” or “apparently a lot more leftists than non-leftists,” but I agree more precision would be good.

    • ana53294 says:

      Don’t a lot of the proposed definitions for “leftist” include the pope?
      Sure, he is pro-life, anti gay marriage and does not support divorce (although he does try to reapproach divorced people to the church). But other than that, he does try to support the poor, the immigrants, and he does acknowledge our responsibility to the environment.
      It is my understanding that there are several pro-life Democrats, Obama was not too keen on gay marriage in 2008, and most people don’t like divorce, even if they think it should be legal.
      I can’t say about pope (ex-pope?) Benedict XVI, because he wasn’t there for long, but John Paul II was definitely leftist if being pro-refugees, poor people and anti-war is being leftist.

    • Viliam says:

      As a first approximation, how about defining “leftist” as a person who, if they lived half century ago, would post blogs about Soviet Union being a paradise on Earth, and all rumors about communist death camps being merely American propaganda.

      Trying to find a similar example today… I guess something like “white people have never been slaves / only white people owned slaves”, “Islam respects women”, etc. Something not merely wrong, but aggressively the exact opposite of reality; aimed against the western civilization. — Which does not imply that those people do it knowingly; most of them truly believe it, and feel morally superior to muggles because of that belief.

      It is not 100% correct, but I suspect that as a first approximation it fits better than what most people would propose as a definition.

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        As a first approximation, how about defining “leftist” as a person who, if they lived half century ago, would post blogs about Soviet Union being a paradise on Earth, and all rumors about communist death camps being merely American propaganda.

        Probably the biggest difficulty here is that it’s a completely counterfactual criterion. I would like to believe that I wouldn’t have believed Communist propaganda, but how do I know? This also seems insanely restrictive: a Trotskyist in 1968 could have believed every bad thing about the USSR, and so by your criterion would not be a leftist.

      • cassander says:

        how about a person who, 5 years ago, praised Hugo Chavez’ economic agenda? That seems to require a lot fewer hypotheticals.

      • As a first approximation, how about defining “leftist” as a person who, if they lived half century ago, would post blogs about Soviet Union being a paradise on Earth, and all rumors about communist death camps being merely American propaganda.

        That doesn’t work for two reasons. First, only a small minority would have seen the Soviet Union as a paradise on Earth, although a sizable number would have seen it as something more attractive than it was—an imperfect attempt at building a better society. Second, a large number, although perhaps a minority, of left of center people then were critical of the communist societies, Orwell being a notable example a little earlier.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @Viliam

        Historical quibble: gulags were concentration camps, not death camps. People were worked until they died of starvation/disease/the elements, but there was a continuous prisoner population. Death camps didn’t have this – the only prisoners kept alive were the ones forced to do stuff like deal with the bodies (they were generally later killed themselves) and most people who were shipped there were killed fairly quickly upon arrival.

        • Viliam says:

          Yeah, it’s not exactly the same.

          Death camp: You have 10000 prisoners. You try to kill them all during this month, because the next month you get 10000 new prisoners to kill.

          Gulag: You have 20000 prisoners (and food for 10000). You try to work to death half of them during this month, because the next month you get 10000 more prisoners (and no more food).

          And, technically, the prisoners in gulag are there for limited time, so if they survive enough rounds of elimination, in theory after 10 years they are allowed to go home. (In practice, after 10 years they will get 10 more years and stay where they are, because we do not want to spread the information about gulags to the average population. Also, slave labor is convenient for the socialist economy.)

    • Walter says:

      I use it as a synonym for “progressive”. To me, if your primary motive is reducing suffering, you are ultimately on the left. If it is reducing unfairness, you will end up on the right. The sorting process may be longer than the human lifespan tho.

      • yodelyak says:

        @Walter
        I can’t fit “primary motive” in my model for people at all. That’s not how we work.
        I do think people on the right are more likely to have a strong “disgust” reaction. Libertarians are outliers on the right because they are right-leaning, but don’t have that disgust reaction.

        Toward the original post, I see “left” and “leftist” as ambiguous terms, and immediately look for more contextual clues to indicate what’s meant. It can mean something very similar to “anti-fa” or “marxist” where the struggle–and the only struggle–is between labor and capital. Or it can just mean people who currently own/project an identity that puts them on the leftward side of many issues, such as being pro-choice or anti-death penalty or favor state-funding of [anything but the military]. I think if you want to understand what’s different about the SSC commentariat compared to other commenters, I think the fact that we’re relatively good at noticing ambiguity might be a good thing. This is the sort of place where people start by acknowledging that the rest of the world needs to be more libertarian, but that the sort of people who read anti-libertarian FAQs do, in fact, generally need to be less libertarian.

  22. Erusian says:

    With the last thread, we spent a lot of time bagging on Piketty. And, to be fair, I think he deserved it. I don’t think all left-wing economics is bunk though. So, who wants to talk about the things left-wing economists get right or right-wing economists get wrong?

    • Brad says:

      I’m convinced that MMT is basically correct. It may be in governments’ interest to pretend that money spent must be raised or borrowed but that’s not how it “really” works.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Are MMTers considered leftist? Do they consider themselves leftist?

        • Brad says:

          I don’t think MMT is an inherently leftist project, but I do think most or all MMTers are left of center, some quite a bit.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        That really only works for 1st world countries. The US may be able to print money with reckless abandon, but when Argentina tries it, you end up with 20%+ inflation rate.

        • Brad says:

          I think you are somewhat mischaracterizing the theory, or at least portraying a version of it pushed by enthusiastic but ignorant boosters.

          I take the most basic conclusions of it to be:
          1) the constraint on money creation is inflation–not anything else, and
          2) no economic theory (including MMT) currently has a good model for predicting inflation rates, so policy makers should observe it empirically and react accordingly instead of trying to use various purportedly predictive proxies

          I don’t think anyone denies that net money creation should be reined in or reversed in the face of observed inflation.

          • John Schilling says:

            no economic theory (including MMT) currently has a good model for predicting inflation rates, so policy makers should observe it empirically and react accordingly

            This assumes that empirical observation is a good model for predicting inflation rates, which is increasingly unlikely to be the case as you depart from boringly conservative economic policies.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If would think that the people would have given up on this idea after the Fed and the Treasury managed to successfully pull off everything they did post 2008.

            Certainly printing money can lead to inflation, there are too many examples of this to deny it. But at some point the cries of “this will surely cause inflation” should start to seem ridiculous. Fear of large numbers seems to play a part as well. Everyone loves to report things in nominal dollars, which really does no one any favors.

      • cassander says:

        I think this depends on the version of MMT you’re talking about. There is a version I hear that amounts to “Debts don’t matter if they’re issued in your own currency because a currency issuer can never go bankrupt.” This is technically accurate in the sense that the US government can never run out of dollars, but that doesn’t mean the government can’t run out of purchasing power. The consequences of defaulting on debts are effectively identical to those of printing money to cover those debts. The former means paying people pennies on the dollar, the later means paying them in dollars that are worth pennies.

      • Cliff says:

        Is MMT the same as Market Monetarism? Because I’m definitely persuaded of the latter but it doesn’t seem to fit with your conclusion (central bank magically creates free stuff?) or left-wing ideology, so I guess not.

    • Aapje says:

      @Erusian

      The idea that lowering income tax will increase government revenue. The economists who argue for that seem especially popular among Republicans.

      Now, you don’t even need a leftist economist to debunk that, but a right-libertarian one is sufficient. He is opposing very high taxes in that article, but he accepts that current taxation levels are below the revenue maximizing point. He just argues that the government should not maximize revenue, but the GDP, which he equates with quality of life, which is a subjective/debatable claim.

      Interestingly, the implication of the Laffer curve being different between nations and for different kinds of taxes is that there is no optimal level of income taxes in general, but that the specific taxes, policies, culture and/or other things matter to what extent the taxes suppress the GDP.

      For example, I think that people are less prone to feel that taxation is unfair in a Nordic Model where a considerable part of the government spending benefits everyone, not just the poorer people.

      • John Schilling says:

        The idea that lowering income tax will increase government revenue. The economists who argue for that seem especially popular among Republicans.

        Agreed, at least in the short term. The Laffer Curve is unambiguously true, but it’s virtually impossible to stray onto the right side of it without promptly falling off the cliff into total fiscal or economic collapse. So if you’re in a society that’s not yet in the abyss(*), you’re almost certainly on the part of the curve where if you reduce taxes you reduce government revenue at least a little bit.

        You may still be in the relatively flat area where any increase in taxes risks finding that cliff, and where reducing taxes reduces state revenue only a little while massively increasing private wealth, so there’s still an argument for lowering taxes. But you have to either cut spending or expect an increase in next year’s budget deficit. We’re looking at you, Kansas.

        * If you are in the abyss, the point is moot because you can’t pay for honest tax collectors any more.

        • Cliff says:

          I don’t think you fall off a cliff. Wasn’t the 80% tax rate of the U.S. on the right side? And the 75% rate in France? Wasn’t Piketty explicitly arguing for a tax rate on the right side of the laffer curve?

          • Aapje says:

            Revenue falls off a cliff when you tax everyone at that rate. If you merely tax a small elite at that rate, you only lose a fraction.

            Furthermore, those people will start evading taxes if they can, so their effective tax rate is likely to be less than the official tax rate.

          • John Schilling says:

            As Aapje notes, those rates were a polite fiction that basically said “do something we like with your bags of money, or hide them out of our sight, we won’t be looking too hard”. Government revenues as a fraction of GDP, which are a pretty good proxy for average tax rates actually paid, stayed at or below 20%.

          • fion says:

            Cliff says:

            I don’t think you fall off a cliff.

            Well you’re the expert!

        • cassander says:

          Let’s not repeat myths about what happened in Kansas. Despite popular reporting, kansas did absolutely nothing radical, and suffered no radical consequences. Kansas had budget deficits, at the peak, of less than four hundred million in state that had a cash balance of almost 800 million,and which spends 18 billion a year. Just counting general fund (with is only 1/3 of the kansas budget) revenues were above pre-cut peaks within 4-5 years of brownback’s supposed massive cuts, and spending basically only went up. There was no grand experiment in Kansas, there were some really very modest tax cuts that shockingly produced deficits when combined with spending increases and which got blown way out of proportion by innumerate reporters ideologically pre-disposed to love writing stories about how tax cuts are terrible.

      • Cliff says:

        Taxes are much less progressive in a Nordic model. For many EU countries, top tax rate is quite similar with the U.S.

      • He just argues that the government should not maximize revenue, but the GDP, which he equates with quality of life, which is a subjective/debatable claim.

        GDP may be a poor measure, but if a large increase in tax rates results in a tiny increase in revenue, it’s pretty obviously bad thing.

        I don’t think many economists believe that tax rates are usually above the revenue maximizing level, although it’s obviously possible for them to be. Adam Smith discussed that in the context of customs duties so high that everything got smuggled and Ibn Khaldun mentioned the idea of higher taxes producing less revenue long before Smith.

        • Alphonse says:

          Adam Smith discussed that in the context of customs duties so high that everything got smuggled

          To extend on this point, I recall a recent discussion here where it was pointed out that it can be hard to compare relative tariff burdens between countries, since high enough tariffs just kill the trade altogether, which can then be excluded from the measurements.

          E.g. if you put a 5% tariff on cars imported from another country, you probably won’t kill the importation market altogether, so observers have a fair amount of data with which to analyze the tariff. But if you put a 200% tariff on cars imported from another country, then you’ll probably get zero cars imported, which can end up making it appear that the tariff doesn’t impose any costs.

          I expect people would notice that problem if they looked carefully at each individual tariff, but that it will be easy for individual items to get lost in the mix of complex tariff regimes. I recall someone here saying that Canada, for instance, exempts a certain amount of a specific good (milk?) when imported from the US, with an extremely high tariff on any overage. That makes it look like the tariff isn’t imposing costs, since no one will do any importation beyond the exempted amount.

  23. DavidS says:

    Any views on Kenan Malik in general or this piece in particular? Not sure if he’s great or I’m overexcited by finding someone who is pro free speech and open debate, on the left, and willing to talk about the more contentious issues. But those things aside it does seem to explain some things helpfully e.g. That races can differ on average but this doesn’t mean our categories of race break humanity down in a logical way biologically

    ttps://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/why-both-sides-are-wrong-in-the-race-debate/

    • quanta413 says:

      While he is more accurate than most, Malik is kind of rambling so it’s not clear to me what’s he for exactly.

      Malik is wrong that scientific terminology has to be precise or that the system used to define species is precise, accurate, and a true reflection of reality. Even if he had been more concise and clear about what he was arguing for, this still would have given me a lot of pause about his other arguments.

      Science isn’t always precise. The concept(s) of species suffers exactly the same problems as the concept of race. It’s fuzzy, imprecise, ill-defined, has many inconsistent definitions, etc. Are species defined by morphological differences? Paleontologists sometimes use a “morphological species” definition because that’s all the data they have to work with. Sometimes two fossils are mistakenly thought to be separate species but then turn out not to be when more fossils are dug up. Are species defined by the ability to interbreed? In that case, the species relationship isn’t transitive. There exist some gull populations far north where population A breeds with B and B with C and C with D but not A with D even though A and D live right next to each other. It’s basically a cline of variation on a circle. Is species defined by genetic similarity? No. Bacteria of the same “species” can share a smaller percent of their genome than chimps and humans.

      The principle that works best for organizing things is to try to make sure that where life has an ancestry structure that’s tree like (which is almost all of life now) that a species (and other higher taxonomic units) doesn’t include only parts of two separate branches of the tree of life. See cladistics. This doesn’t cleave reality at the joints perfectly, but it doesn’t violate the best organizing principle we have for understanding natural history (evolution). This organizing principle does run into issues when we get to tiny sexually reproducing branches of the tree of life because your ancestry isn’t really a tree. Since animals that reproduce sexually have two parents etc., there can be complicated interconnections. With sex, you get weird things like the gulls mentioned above. It gets less useful and more fuzzy as a lone organizing principle if you want to define subspecies (which is a level of difference a lot like race).

      So basically, the race realists who want to define races in terms of inbred family groups have the most biologically defensible idea although that idea of race should be understood to be pretty fuzzy. You’re making categories by basically drawing shapes around parts of an interlinked tree-ish structure, where branches can merge at any time. This definition might not always divide things up the way people care about.

      We could invent an entirely new word to mean “populations with mostly distinct ancestry that are genetically different enough in some way that someone would care”, but it wouldn’t change much. For cultural affiliations, the government uses the term ethnicity, so we’ve already got a good term for people sharing language, beliefs, etc. even when those people are less genetically related than randomly selected humans.

    • fion says:

      I thought a lot of the points he made were good, but found the piece distractingly long and rambly. Not surprising given that it’s a (albeit edited) transcript of a talk. I think it would benefit from being re-written into a proper article.

    • albatross11 says:

      All models lie; some models are useful.

      It’s certainly true that social categories of race are fuzzy and imprecise. But they’re still quite useful for many purposes. Your doctor should pay attention to your race when diagnosing and treating some illnesses–declaring the concept of race meaningless would make him less good at those jobs. Based on what we can observe in the past, if you want to predict how the grandchildren of some immigrant population to the US will do in school, race (a fuzzy and imprecise category we can all agree isn’t all that great) will help you make better predictions. Observationally, some Olympic events seem to be dominated by people from the same racial group[1] in ways that are hard, but not impossible, to explain by cultural factors. Observationally, the population of Eastern European Jews[2] (like 20 million people mostly spread out over a couple dozen countries) has more Nobel prizes and Fields medals than whole large countries and continents. Observationally, populations derived from sub-Saharan Africa seem to be doing pretty badly relative to everyone else, whether in countries where they’re the whole population or in countries where they’re a minority[3].

      If you want to make correct predictions about the world, right now, race is a highly useful category to include. Finer gradations than are usually thought of as race are often even more useful, if they’re available. And maybe what we’d really like is a DNA test, but that’s not always available and doesn’t really work for talking about large amorphous groups (“which kids in Portland, Oregon will get at least a 3 in AP Calculus?”).

      IMO, the strongest reason to want to discard race as a concept in science is that it imports a bunch of assumptions that may not be correct in many cases. But the reason to retain it is that there are a lot of cases where it’s imparting useful information that’s cheaply available, even though it’s imprecise and fuzzy as a concept. There are places where it makes a big difference. ISTM that the right answer here is to know the limitations of “race” as a category and take them into consideration when you’re using it. And it sure seems to me that a lot of the push to eliminate race as a category with any scientific meaning is ideological in origin–the desire to win some political/social battles by defining what is and isn’t scientific.

      [1] On the other hand, this also shows a problem with broad racial categories: Blacks dominate distance and sprinting events, but they’re different groups of blacks, derived from different source populations in different parts of Africa.

      [2] Again, not obviously a race, but genetically and culturally distinct enough to matter for making good predictions. Similarly, I suspect there are caste/jati differences among Indians that are as big a deal as the difference between Europeans and Ashkenazi Jews, but I don’t know enough about Indian society to be sure.

      [3] Though in this case, there are some pretty big historical differences in how those folks were treated that may account for some or all of the observed differences.

  24. HeelBearCub says:

    Predicated on Trump getting his first nominee confirmed, what odds do you give that SCOTUS will roll back the Roe-Wade 24 weeks time limit? How about rolling it back quite substantially?

    Also, how soon after do you think Obergefell will be challenged? Will Robberts vote for SCOTUS to take it up? Will he reverse his earlier vote?

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      I think an Obergefell challenge is unlikely to go anywhere – I don’t think there’s much political appetite for it.

      I’m much less optimistic about Roe vs Wade, though – if Trump gets his first choice in, I’m confident it will be challenged soon, and think that the balance of probability is that it will be struck down.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Political appetite?

        It requires merely a few cooperative government individuals, as most states still have laws banning gay marriage.

      • Garrett says:

        I’d also add that there is what I consider a “better” argument in support of legalized same-sex marriage, that is that prohibiting it constitutes sex discrimination. If Adam can’t marry Steve solely because of his sex, it’s sex discrimination. I believe that there’s much more support among conservatives for that interpretation of the 14th Amendment than some form of “equal dignity” or “privacy” concern.

      • johansenindustries says:

        ‘Dignity’ is just awful. I think that there is some suggestion in the recent travel ban case that there is a recognition that ‘dignity’ is awful. I don’t think that Robert’s would want to leave the courts with that stain.

        And there is definitely enough political will that he would be given that chance, if he wanted it.

    • John Schilling says:

      Roe v. Wade was 28 weeks, not 24. And Planned Parenthood v. Casey modified that to “whenever the scientists say fetuses are generally viable”. I don’t see the Supreme Court having any interest in arguing the numerical value; “viability” is as strong a Schelling point as you are going to find if you are not going to use conception or birth, and when viability occurs is the sort of factual argument that is traditionally left to scientists with district or appellate courts acting as referees.

      The battles will be over, A: who has to pay, and B: how many hoops a woman will have to jump through along the way, and C: how much of this can be delegated back to the states. The answers to all of those will probably be the same for one-week embryos and twenty-week fetuses.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        So what is your prediction vis-a-vis the law Iowa just passed?

        • hls2003 says:

          My prediction is that it will be struck down by the Eighth Circuit and the Supreme Court will deny cert.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            There are abortion time limits being passed in the states everywhere from 6 weeks to 20 weeks.

            I predict SCOTUS will take those up as a group.

        • John Schilling says:

          What hls2003 says, or else a very narrow ruling by the Supreme Court that says “don’t bother us with nonsense like this”.

      • Lillian says:

        Wouldn’t “birth” be a stronger Schelling point? It’s extremely unambiguous, either the baby is still inside the woman, or it’s not. You don’t need any kind of specialist to determine it, whereas an n-week limit does require an expert to opine on how old the fetus is based on its development. You also don’t need a scientist to determine what “n” is going to be. Frankly if it were up to me, that’s where i would put the limit for two reasons:

        1) The Christian reason is that a person does not become ensouled until they take first breath. The Bible is pretty consistent on the idea that breath is life. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” -Genesesis 2:7

        2) The scientific reason is that babies don’t achieve the capacity for self-awareness until 4-5 months after birth, meaning they’re not quite people until then. Notionally this means infanticide is fine, however since you have to draw the line somewhere, and birth is the best place to do so for the reasons given above, you might as well draw it at birth. Also i don’t want to live in a society in which people’s reaction to someone throwing a baby in a dumpster is, “How old is that baby?” and not “HOLY SHIT! SOMEONE THREW A BABY IN A DUMPSTER!”

        • Baeraad says:

          Wouldn’t “birth” be a stronger Schelling point?

          Yes, and it’s the one I would personally prefer, but it’s also unacceptable to a lot of people. Conception is likewise a stronger Schelling point, but is also unacceptable to a lot of people (including me). Viability is the strongest Schelling point that enough people can more or less live with that it works as a compromise.

        • John Schilling says:

          Wouldn’t “birth” be a stronger Schelling point?

          Yes, as would conception. Hence the “if you are not going to use conception or birth” clause in my original statement.

          Also, we are not going to use birth or conception. People trying to impose one or the other of those standards have caused more harm to the US political system than any other factor, over the past half century or so, and still have nothing to show for it. Knock it off, already.

          • Lillian says:

            Oh, somehow my eyes glided right over the “or birth” part and didn’t see it, my apologies. Also, the fact that i prefer the birth line doesn’t mean that i’m unwilling to compromise at viability. Seen as a struggle between the “conception” and “birth”, setting the line anywhere north of 20 weeks is a slight win for the birth side given that pregnancies normally last around 40 weeks. It’s not my ideal, but i will definitely take it. We do after all need to share a country with people on the other side, and i was taught in pre-school that “i get everything and you get nothing” is not what “sharing” means.

            Nonetheless in a negotiation you start with what you want, not what you’re willing to compromise to.

        • veeloxtrox says:

          I have a quibble about your 1) point. I would say that your view is held by the vast minority of theologians who have studied the issue. I would say that Bible in multiple points talks about babies pre-birth as people. There is Romans 9:11-13 (ESV) “11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”” and Psalm 139:13 “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” (see also Isiah 44:2,24 49:5 and Jeremiah 1:5).

          Overall on a more practical level, Christian’s count it as a really bad thing to kill an innocent baby so they would much rather draw the line at conception and be sure then draw it later and let a few babies get killed.

          • Iain says:

            It’s worth noting that fervent anti-abortion sentiment is a relatively recent phenomenon among American evangelicals, mostly post-dating Roe v. Wade. There’s a good set of examples here:

            In 1970, a poll conducted by the Baptist Sunday School Board found that 70 percent of Southern Baptist pastors supported abortion to protect the mental or physical health of the mother, 64 percent supported abortion in cases of fetal deformity and 71 percent in cases of rape.

            Three years later, a poll conducted by the Baptist Standard newsjournal found that 90 percent of Texas Baptists believed their state’s abortion laws were too restrictive.

          • One possible standard would be the point at which, if the fetus was born prematurely, it could survive–which has gotten earlier over time as medical treatment of preemies has gotten better.

          • Nick says:

            One possible standard would be the point at which, if the fetus was born prematurely, it could survive–which has gotten earlier over time as medical treatment of preemies has gotten better.

            Isn’t that what the Court meant by viability? Or am I misunderstanding the term?

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes, I believe that was basically the ruling in Casey. Roe’s “third trimester” standard was interpreted as a coarse approximation as to the limit of survival for premature births per 1970s medical science and should not be treated as carved in stone. The court’s ruling suggested 22-23 weeks as the appropriate benchmark in 1992, and in a way that didn’t rigidly fix that date against any future changes.

          • Lillian says:

            This is incidentally my primary concern with the viability threshold, it keeps dropping lower and lower as a function of medical science. Presumably eventually we will have exowombs and there will be no viability threshold at all. We could potentially use a “viability without medical intervention” threshold, which wouldn’t move but may prove unacceptably high for opponents.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Lillian, in that hypothetical, would an abortion ban be so great a burden? Instead of an abortion, a woman would sign some paperwork to give up her parental rights and responsibilities, and then have early labor induced; the doctors would then move the baby to an artificial womb.

            Yes, it’d be somewhat more burdensome, but it’d still provide a quick route to no longer be pregnant or a parent. The biggest objection I can see would be cost, but perhaps – as long as we’re talking idealistically – the government could cover the cost for all (un-)willing mothers as part of a compromise.

          • Lillian says:

            That would very much depend a lot on details that are not presently available given the hypothetical nature of the scenario. The more pressing concern is what happens in between. If we reach a compromise on say, 22 weeks, and then viability drops to 18 and later 16 weeks, that represents an ongoing and unegotiated loss for my side. Willingness to reach an agreement is somewhat predicated on the expectation that the terms of the agreement will be maintained.

          • Aapje says:

            @Evan Þ

            The mother/parents may feel morally obligated to care for the baby if it is born, while an abortion gives no such obligation. So it’s more complex than you make it out to be.

          • maintain says:

            @Evan Þ
            >Instead of an abortion, a woman would sign some paperwork to give up her parental rights and responsibilities, and then have early labor induced; the doctors would then move the baby to an artificial womb.

            And also they’d need to find foster parents for the next few decades. All in all, that’s a heck of a lot of work to save the life of something which may be microscopic and incapable of even thinking to begin with.

            If you really don’t like abortion, and you’re thinking about hypothetical future scenarios, maybe it would make more sense for the government to place everyone on birth control until they openly agree to raise a child.

          • John Schilling says:

            And also they’d need to find foster parents for the next few decades.

            At least in California, and I believe almost every other US state, any mother can drop off her newborn baby at any hospital and walk away, no obligations, no questions asked. Definitely no need to arrange twenty or thirty (WTF “few”?) years of foster care. I see no reason to believe this would not hold for babies being transferred to exo-wombs; it is the obvious political compromise position and it is already black-letter law.

          • a reader says:

            @Lilian:

            If we reach a compromise on say, 22 weeks, and then viability drops to 18 and later 16 weeks, that represents an ongoing and unegotiated loss for my side.

            It seems you are too much a conflict theorist about it. As I said in the other comment, in almost all Europe the limit is fixed at 12 weeks (except special cases like malformation or danger for the mother) – and it’s ok from a practical point of view.

            @maintain:

            And also they’d need to find foster parents for the next few decades. All in all, that’s a heck of a lot of work to save the life of something which may be microscopic and incapable of even thinking to begin with.

            Of course nobody will go through such trouble for a microscopic morula or blastocyst. But for a healthy 4-5 months old fetus who already looks (and acts) more or less like a very small baby, I think Evan’s solution could be the ethical one, when it will become possible. I think it is easier to find adoptive parents for newborns than for older children. But probably there will be few such cases – in that future, the methods of preventing unwanted pregnancy would also become better.

            If you really don’t like abortion, and you’re thinking about hypothetical future scenarios, maybe it would make more sense for the government to place everyone on birth control until they openly agree to raise a child.

            Hm, I think that may be a good – although quite eugenicist-sounding – idea: to offer free temporary sterilization to any young man over 18 who is single or already has 2 children – and reverse it for free just before marriage. Maybe even reward it with some money, to encourage young men to do it. That will prevent not only abortions, but also lots of children that grow without fathers from the start and are at risk of poverty and even crime. But many will say it’s eugenics.

          • correlatedresiduals says:

            This, and to contradict Iain’s point, this is not a new belief. Catholic’s have condemned abortion for a very very long time. You can debate whether they had condemned it as early as the 1st century (as they themselves claim), but there’s basically zero debate that they have condemned it since the 5th century, with famous Church doctors such as St. Augustine vigorously condemning the practice.

          • Lillian says:

            It seems you are too much a conflict theorist about it. As I said in the other comment, in almost all Europe the limit is fixed at 12 weeks (except special cases like malformation or danger for the mother) – and it’s ok from a practical point of view.

            Conflict theoriest doesn’t quite seem like the right framework for someone who is viewing it as a negotiated agreement, since this necessarily assumes some amount of good faith on the part of the other side.

            If i come to an agreement about what the price of bread is going to be, and i’m the one buying, i’m not going to be happy if we pegged it to some measure that is expected to increase. Nor for that matter, do i particularly care what other people negotiated their prices to, i want the best deal for myself. Certainly we can renegotiate in the future as circumstances change, but i want to retain control of the agreement, not let it change by itself.

            It’s business, not war.

          • Nick says:

            If i come to an agreement about what the price of bread is going to be, and i’m the one buying, i’m not going to be happy if we pegged it to some measure that is expected to increase. Nor for that matter, do i particularly care what other people negotiated their prices to, i want the best deal for myself. Certainly we can renegotiate in the future as circumstances change, but i want to retain control of the agreement, not let it change by itself.

            I think it’s more balanced, actually, Lillian: the date of viability moves earlier and earlier, but contraceptive and abortifacient methods grow more effective over time too. Technology both hurts and helps your side.

            Also, correlatedresiduals, be fair to Iain. He said American evangelicals, not Christians in general. He’s right about evangelicals, who really were more tepid on abortion then than they are now.

        • a reader says:

          In my opinion, conception and birth are obviously not the correct answers. To regard a fertilized cell, or a morula (an amorf group of identical cells) or a blastocyst as a human being requires the same kind of suspension of disbelief as regarding the eucharist as the body and blood of Jesus, although you see it’s bread and wine; but also, to see a fetus that looks like a miniature baby and acts like a baby (sucking thumb etc.) but not consider it a human being requires similar suspension of disbelief (except for people that, as I saw in a comment above, don’t consider newborn babies human beings!).

          But I can’t say exactly where to put the limit. Maybe between embryo and fetus, at 8 weeks – is that a clear enough Schelling point? I think that an important element would be (like in deciding about the end of life): does it have a brain (that works)?

          In most of the European Union the limit is 3 months (12 weeks):

          http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6235557.stm

          • Lillian says:

            The problem with “brain that works” is that there is no clear definition of “brain working”. You can get cases of people who, as long as they are kept fed and hydrated, the body will keep living, but all the higher thought functions have been destroyed. The lights are on, but there’s nobody home. Some people think this is still a person worth saving, other people think it is not.

            Anencephalous babies are literally born without a brain, and while about half of them are stillborn, another half manage to survive hours or days before cardiorespiratory failure. The latter cases are due to having a functional or semi-functional brain stem, which allows for reflex actions such as breathing and response to external stimuli like touch and sound, but without a cerebrum they will never develop any actual awareness.

            Personally, i think it is precisely the capacity for self-awareness that makes the person. Given that this doesn’t happen until months after birth, it seems pretty obvious to me that we can safely put the limit at birth. Though as i said above, i’m willing to compromise if necessary.

            However, a lower standard along a similar line logic could be attained by using cerebral cortex development. The central nervous system in a fetus develops from the bottom of the spine up, so the cerebral cortex, which governs thinking and feeling, develops last. Now i’m having trouble pinning down a specific week number around which this starts happening, but premature babies do show some baseline electrical activity in their neural cortex, and third trimester babies are capable of learning. This would suggest placing the limit somewhere in the late second or early third trimester, if you were using that standard.

      • Garrett says:

        Technical point. “Conception” isn’t really a thing, medically. You either have fertilization or implantation.

        Fertilization has the advantage of being an almost binary thing, in that the transition between unfertilized to fertilized occurs so fast that there’s no human-timescale in-between state. The down-side is that something like 50% of fertilized eggs fail to implant without any intervention. So if you pick that point you have to account for that fact.

        Implantation occurs about a week after fertilization. It has the advantage of being the point at which there’s actually a connection between the mother and the fertilized egg and so is “permanent”. This process is also one which is discouraged via IUDs, so that it ensures that form of birth control is not a problem. But it’s also a process which takes a few days to complete. It’s possible that this could lead to some mid-implantation legal complications, though I can’t imagine how at the moment.

    • hls2003 says:

      1) There is no 24-week limit in current case law, as I understand it. Greater restrictions are allowed following viability.
      2) I would bet a lot of money that Roe v. Wade will not be overruled (as in, the “right to abortion” under the penumbral privacy reasoning first articulated in Roe) anytime in the tenure of the next nominee.
      3) Any tinkering will be at the margins – e.g. a “feels pain” threshold, or parental notification being revisited, etc. at the state level.
      4) What do you mean by Obergefell being “challenged”? I am confident that there are test cases being considered right now; but any such case (in order to squarely challenge the ruling) would probably have to be a state or federal law banning same-sex marriage. I think that there is little political appetite to [Edit: enforce] such a law, even in very red states. But I would also bet a lot of money that the Court will not squarely overturn Obergefell anytime in the tenure of next nominee. More likely would be marginalizing it as an outlier.
      5) Speculatively, I do think Roberts would vote to deny cert on a test case squarely designed to overturn Obergefell. In my opinion, Roberts would view that as a negative for the Court’s reputation, for which he seems to care a great deal.

    • Deiseach says:

      Re: Roe vs Wade, I don’t think there will be any messing about with it unless some case really needs to go all the way to the Supreme Court. Nobody really wants to touch it; the legal reasoning seems to be shaky (emanations of penumbras belongs in a poem by Blake, not a judge’s decision) but so much law has been based on it, and it is such a toxic subject, that just letting the mess fester is the least worst solution.

      Arguments on viability (e.g. that advances in medicine mean unborn younger than 24 weeks can now survive) aren’t going to go anywhere because if you’ve passed laws for late second/early third trimester abortions on the grounds of fatal foetal abnormality and the like, meaning that pregnancies after the cut-off point can still be terminated, then you’re reversing your decision and saying that a pregnancy that results in a viable birth should go ahead, even if the infant only lives a short while after birth. Prepare to be eviscerated for holding such an opinion.

      There’s enough of the mushy middle “abortion should be legal but only for extreme cases and up to a certain point” that there isn’t the support for the “abortion at any time up to the day before giving birth for any or no reason” crowd or the “make it illegal again crowd”, so there’s no chance of even the Republican party trying to get a judge who will decide to ban abortion. Why would they do that – to pander to the Evangelicals/religious pro-lifers? There may be enough of them to swing elections but there aren’t enough of them to win elections if they’re the only ones turning out to vote for you.

      We’ve just had the abortion referendum in my country. I fully expect the eventual legislation, whenever the government gets around to writing it, that is going to be all “only up to twelve weeks and after that for exceptional cases alone” to go the way of the dodo, and a