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Open Thread 105.75

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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795 Responses to Open Thread 105.75

  1. reallyeli says:

    Does anyone have experience in or recommendations on approaching data security strategy at a growing (right now ~20 employee), startup?

    To give a sense of where we’re at and what we’re looking for — I think we’re doing the basic things right, but don’t know what the next lowest-hanging fruit to pluck is. We’re engineers trained in spotting granular security vulnerabilities in code and infrastructure, but not in thinking holistically about security overall. It seems likely that we’re going to miss the forest for the trees if we use our current skills.

    The sensitive data we handle is user names, email addresses, and responses to surveys.

    • Lapsed Pacifist says:

      The first step is put someone in charge of security, either as an internal position or a vendor/contractor. Then do what they tell you.

      Briefly: there is no reason for text to ever be stored or transmitted in plaintext, so make sure that is the case from front end to back, and that any inputs to public facing forms are sanitized and have limits applied. If you store data on site, know which machine it is on, have locks for your doors, and make sure your internal network is properly compartmentalized. Do not store data on laptops. Ever. Even encrypted data is just a delayed problem if it physically walks away.

      But yeah, hire someone and listen to them.

    • dick says:

      This is more or less my field, but it’s hard to give specific recommendations without knowing anything about your product and stack. But I’ll try.

      I wouldn’t hire someone dedicated, not yet. People who hang out their shingle as “security consultant” like to focus on the kinds of problems that generalize to a lot of companies, where your problems will probably be localized and specific to your product. (I’m assuming this is a typical cloud-based SaaS app, that might not be true if this is more exotic) Unless you handle financial or health data, or need to pass audits, this should be more about baking in good practices, and only the people doing the work can do that.

      It might make sense to have one person (who is already an individual contributor there) be “security lead”, but you’re too small for that to be a full time job. It’s nice to have a clear owner for it – no sense making everyone on the team pore through OWASP crap – and it’s also a good career progression step for mid-senior devs who are looking for a specialist subject to focus on. But most of the actual security will come from everyone else doing their jobs conscientously, not from the “security lead” sweeping in with a cape and fixing things they did wrong.

      If you take a competent engineer and give him/her a license for Burp suite ($400-ish last I looked) and two weeks to learn how to use it plus two more weeks to aim it at your external-facing stuff, you will get most of the value of a $x00,000 pen test from a security vendor. If you liked the previous point, this is an obvious first task for whoever gets nominated as “security lead”.

      The Principle of Least Privilege should be a first-class requirement for all stories that touch architecture or infrastructure. You probably can’t achieve this without whoever handles infrastructure being directly involved in the development process. (If that’s not clear, a concrete example: when adding a MSSQL sproc, the question of which permissions are assigned to the role that executes that sproc should be figured out by the team implementing the story, not later on by someone tasked with testing and deploying the completed story.) This is easiest if you adopt some flavor of the “devops” buzzword.

      That’s all that springs to mind…

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      What are you trying to prevent?

      “CIA” is the acronym for Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. You are worried about Confidentiality if the worst thing is that someone exposes a bunch of information at your company. Integrity is your priority when someone altering your data could cause a disaster. Look at Availability if your business needs to keep running and someone could stop it through a security problem. Lots of businesses only need to worry about one of those, but some have to worry about 2 or all 3.

  2. Deiseach says:

    The World Cup is now over, with France the ultimate winners. Congratulations France, hard luck Croatia, and well done Belgium beating England for third place.

    Twenty years since the famous first win! Allez Les Bleus!

  3. ana53294 says:

    I was looking into the Hajnal line, and one of the things that surprised me was that, although the demographic situation is bad at both sides of the line, and the age of first marriage has moved 5+ years, there is still a line you can draw. Because the Hajnal line also cuts across Spain, I looked into Spanish national statistics, and found that the Hajnal line still stays within Spain (follow this link, click on the “Mapa” tab). The difference is just 3.5 years, but there is still a difference.

    Can anybody point me to the statistics for the other countries the Hajnal line cuts accross (Italy and Portugal)?

  4. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    How hard would it be to have a device which would remove splinters and such without human help? It seems like something which should be possible but difficult.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Combines a very hard image recognition problem with a fiendishly difficult object manipulation problem, so I’d say probably not possible to do well with current technology.

      Image recognition problem: find splinter, partly or wholly embedded in skin, determine position and orientation.

      Manipulation problem: now grab that thing and pull it out while doing minimal damage to skin. And note it will probably move while you’re trying.

      • Well... says:

        I’d bet there already exist, or are close to existing, surgery tools that can do this kind of thing.

        But to make it into a product everybody can buy at the dollar store and keep in their medicine cabinets, that is extremely difficult.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Definitely a hard problem, that’s why it’s interesting. Note that the splinter may be transparent or the same color as the person’s skin.

        Also, I realize that locating the splinter and making sure it’s all out involves using pain as a guide. Perhaps the splinter-remover should be able to recognize and localize pain, but I have no idea what that would involve.

        The splinter remover might use a tactile sense (recognizing that there’s something harder than skin) as well as visual recognition.

        Getting this thing cheap enough to sell in dollar stores seems optimistic. Getting it to be cheaper than a trip to the emergency room seems more possible.

        One of my friends has to me that splinters work themselves out anyway.

    • toastengineer says:

      This is one of those “why do you want to know?” kind of questions.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’ve had to deal with a few splinters (including glass shards) recently. They weren’t a significant problem, but they got me to thinking about the question of what if you have a splinter that you can’t reach and don’t have a human handy to help out? Or if there are a bunch of splinters because you fell into a cactus or somesuch?

    • quanta413 says:

      Well, having a robot open doors or walk up stairs still appears to be pretty hard… so I figure maybe I’ll get to see a robot that can remove splinters before I die.

      Or it could happen in 10 years if there’s a really good reason to sink that much work into making such a precise robot.

    • WashedOut says:

      If all it had to do was remove the splinter, such a robot could probably be retrofitted from a current-day MIT grad project. It just needs to be able to grab and pull (preferably in a direction parallel to the orientation of the splinter), after you tell it what to grab on to.

      If you’re after a robot that can detect and locate the splinter as well, then as Nybbler said it gets hard. The film Prometheus, set in 2104 as part of the Alien series, features a machine designed to do just this. In what is maybe the only memorable scene in the film, our hero needs to remove an alien gestating in her womb, so she gets into the machine to find it had not been set up to handle c-sections. What follows is an illustration of how things can get messy when the task of locating foreign objects beneath human flesh is outsourced to an AI.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        One solution would be to include a camera, so a human can do the visual part. It would still be a design challenge, but not as hard.

    • Lambert says:

      I think robot tweezers or whatever are going about this the wrong way.
      Some kind of modified waxing strip sounds easier.
      Or a big magnet for ferrous splinters.

      • Nornagest says:

        I wonder if a little suction bulb would work. Put the mouth where the splinter went in, and suck it out.

  5. Anon. says:

    What’s the best book on technology in WWII?

    • dndnrsn says:

      What specific aspect of technology? This is a pretty big question, and you could go pretty far down all sorts of rabbit holes.

    • bean says:

      Any book on “technology in WWII” in general is probably going to be one the kind that are reasonably popular with the general public, and that I’m going to be dismissive of because they’re just repeating the same stories I’ve read a dozen times before. (And almost certainly are ignoring the proximity fuze in favor of talking about someone’s theory that the Germans were only weeks away from developing FTL travel when the war ended. Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but still….)

  6. ana53294 says:

    10 random trivia questions about Spain. A lot of them are quite tricky:
    1. Which are the official languages in Spain?
    2. How many tax agencies are there in Spain?
    3. Which century did Spain become a nation-state?
    4. Which countries does Spain have a physical border with?
    5. Who is the most famous Spanish author?
    6. Which is the biggest river in Spain?
    7. How many different climatic zones does Spain have?
    8. What is the biggest port in Spain?
    9. What is the oldest University in Spain? (this one should be easy for economists)
    10. Which century did the Reconquista end?

    Answers: 1) Sbhe: Fcnavfu, Onfdhr, Pngnyna naq Tnyvpvna. 2) Svir; gur guerr Onfdhr cebivapvny barf, gur bar sbe Anineer naq gur Fcnavfu bar. 3) Avargrragu Praghel, jura jr tbg gur svefg pbafgvghgvba nsgre gur Ancbyrbavp jnef. 4) Senapr, Cbeghtny, Naqbeen, Zbebppb, HX (Tvoenygne). 5) Preinagrf. 6) Qhreb vf gur ovttrfg evire va Fcnva gung raqf va gur Ngynagvp bprna; Roeb vf gur frpbaq ovttrfg, naq raqf va gur Zrqvgreenarna. 7) Sbhe; Ngynagvp, pbagvaragny, Zrqvgreenarna naq fhogebcvpny (Pnanel Vfynaqf). 8) Inyrapvn, nygubhtu Onepryban vf nyfb BX, orpnhfr gur Inyrapvna cbeg vf znqr bs guerr qvssrerag culfvpny ybpngvbaf. 9) Gur Havirefvgl bs Fnynznapn jnf sbhaqrq va gur KVV praghel naq tvira eblny punegre va gur KVVV praghel. 10) KI Praghel; vg npghnyyl raqrq gur fnzr lrne Pevfgbcure Pbyhzohf er-qvfpbirerq Nzrevpn.

    • a reader says:

      1/10 – just one correct and complete answer.

      1. Fcnavfu (Pnfgvyvna), Pngnyna, Onfdhr

      3. svsgrragu
      4. Senapr, Cbeghtny, n zvav-fgngr jubfr anzr V sbetbg
      5. Zvthry qr Preinagrf

      10. fvkgrragu

      • ana53294 says:

        Yes, number 3 is tricky, because although the marriage of the Catholic monarchs did mean that Spain was ruled by the same monarch, they didn’t rule as kings of Spain, or at least not as we would understand it today.
        Isabel The Catholic had to swear on the Bible that she would maintain and protect the Fueros, the old laws that protected Basque autonomy. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be allowed into Vitoria; they closed the doors for her, until she swore. When the kingdom of Navarre was conquered, they did get rid of their king, but they had to maintain the privileges of the local population, too.
        These laws meant, among other things, that Basques couldn’t be drafted further than Basque territories without a salary; taxes couldn’t be changed; there would be internal borders between the Basque territories and the rest of Spain, with duties paid.
        Basque territories established their own taxation. They still have their own tax agencies, and have a bit of leeway in establishing some taxes (the difference is smaller than 1 %, but still, a lot of the big companies pay tax in the Basque country, such as Iberdrola and BBVA).
        In fact, we had several wars after the establishment of Spain as one country, ruled by one law, in the XIX century. I think that one of the reasons that there are so many independence movements in Spain is the late establishment of the country as a nation. There were several wars in the XIX century about this. This means that by Franco’s death, there were still people alive whose grandfathers fought in the Carlist wars. One of the cultural symbols of those wars, for example, died in 1881.

        The Reconquista ended with the conquering of the Granada caliphate. This was followed by the pointless kicking out of the jews and muslims or their forced conversions. This meant that the Spanish Crown had nobody to borrow money from anymore, and they went bankrupt several times after that.

    • fion says:

      1/10
      The only one I got right was the borders one, although I think I would have got all the languages if I’d thought a little longer. (And if I’d known how many there were I’d definitely have got them all.

      I was surprised by the answer to 3. Perhaps I don’t understand what nation-state means. Was the Spanish Empire not a nation-state?

      • ana53294 says:

        Number three is the only question that is subjective.

        It depends on what you mean by Spain as a nation state. If you think the nation is defined as the group of people and territories ruled by the same ruler, you could say it happened when Spain conquered Navarre, which happened ~ 30 years after the Reconquista ended.

        However, if you view it as a country that is ruled by the same government, and institutions, then that only starts with the first Spanish constitution, which was right after the Napoleonic wars.

        Or you can think that the Spanish nation state began with the abolishing of the separate Crowns of Castille, Aragon and Valencia into one Crown.

        So I ammend the answer to question 3 to rvgure gur KIV praghel, jura Anineer jnf pbadhrerq, be gur KVK praghel, jura gur pbafgvghgvba jnf perngrq. Gur KIVVV praghel, jura gur pebja bs Inyrapvn naq Nentba jrer nobyvfurq.

        • fion says:

          Oh, ok. Well in that case I got one of the three correct answers for it! (The conquering Navarre one. Although to be fair it was a bit of a guess. And if you allow all three as answers then all you really need to know is that it was in the second half of the second millennium and you’ve got a high chance of guessing it. :P)

          • ana53294 says:

            Yeah, I guess that question was not well made.
            Some of them you can guess, like 7 and 8. I expected everybody to know 5, and nobody to know 2 (a lot of Spanish people wouldn’t know the answer to 2).

          • fion says:

            Yeah, I took a stab at 7 and 8, but got them both wrong. 😛

            I’ve never even heard of the answer for number 5. Guess that just shows my ignorance of literature!

          • ana53294 says:

            I am pretty sure you have heard of Don Quixote, at least in references to quixotic behaviour, or stuff like that. Knowing the author is just the next step 😉

          • fion says:

            Ah, yes, of course I have! Well I learned something new today. 🙂

    • ana53294 says:

      Note for 1) Tnyvpvna vf abg gur fnzr ynathntr nf Cbeghthrfr, nygubhtu gurl ner zhghnyyl vagryyvtvoyr. Gurl hfr qvssrerag jevgvat flfgrzf, sbe rknzcyr, naq Tnyvpvna unf n ybg bs Fcnavfu vasyhrapr. Jurgure gurl ner pbafvqrerq gur fnzr ynathntr vf n cbyvgvpny vffhr engure guna n yvathvfgvpf vffhr. Fb obgu pna or pbeerpg sbe gur sbhegu Fcnavfu ynathntr, qrcraqvat ba lbhe cbyvgvpf.

      I also purposefully did not include Aranese in the answer, because that is just nitpicking (it’s a language spoken by <3000 people, although it does enjoy of official status). Including it is correct though.

    • rubberduck says:

      Was forced to take a class on Spanish culture in high school, got 4/10 definitely correct and was very close on another 2.

  7. baconbits9 says:

    I am starting a gardening blog, my first post is here, an excerpt

    Instead I shall start today, not because a decisive battle has been won or lost, or a new ally gained, or a new weapon unleashed. No, today was like any other day during the campaign season of the last 7 years with one exception. Today is the day that I realized that this war will consume me, for instead of hoping to find and kill the last of them, I found myself hoping that I would continually find more, to continually be able to kill. My desire for victory has been overwhelmed by my desire to see them suffer, writhe and die on the edge of my blade, and as such my story from here on will be one of violence and horror without any honor.

    • toastengineer says:

      What’s a boerer?

      Hmm. For that sort of joke to work you either have to break the illusion all at once or draw it out implausibly long, at which point the joke is that you’re still talking about gardening as if it were horrifying war after a couple pages – you’re doubly subverting expectations by never giving the sudden break. Letting the reader slowly figure out it’s about gardening over the course of two paragraphs doesn’t have any impact.

      • baconbits9 says:

        A squash borer is what you get when you cross a reverse vampire and a moth. The moth, which has been called a cockroach in drag, lays its eggs on the vine during the day, the eggs hatch and the larva burrows into the plant leaving a very small hole, the larva then feeds for 4-6 weeks living on the moisture of the plant before chewing its way out and burrowing into the soil. It will basically grow until it is so fat that it blocks the entire stem, blocking all liquid to leaves beyond that point and causing them to wilt and eventually (shortly) die. A borer left alone at the base of a plant will kill the entire plant.

        Once they are in the plant the only thing you can do is find them and cut them out with a razor blade and then hope that the plant survives the carnage. A handful of people have claimed that you can only get one per stem, but this is total garbage, and makes life much harder as there is no real maximum (though I have never found more than 5 in a stem) and there is no logical point to stop looking for them other than convincing yourself that you have searched every inch of the effected area. Since squash plants can have 15-20 ft long stems this sucks.

        Any particular reason that you think 2 paragraphs is just the wrong amount to draw out the analogy, or just personal preference?

    • Well... says:

      It seems we’ve reached the same conclusion about the same thing: gardening is war. (Actually I expand this to include all lawnwork, landscaping, etc. Maybe real estate maintenance in general.)

      • baconbits9 says:

        I came to the conclusion a while ago. Last year we tried starvation tactics, preventing any cucurbit from taking hold in our garden hoping to eliminate a generation and when we put our plants in this year we wrapped their stems in aluminum foil and dusted them and the surrounding area with diatomaceous earth, then every plant was sprayed with a neem oil solution at the early point in the borer season.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I treat it as a spectator war. The crabgrass grows in the lawn, the rabbits eat the crabgrass, the squirrels dig small holes, the groundhogs dig big holes. There’s also chipmunks, which appear to raid the squirrel nut stores. Lots of birds going along the ground eating things as well. And deer come through and trim the shrubs. The foxes eat the rabbits, the feral cats eat the chipmunks. The groundhogs seem too big to have any serious enemies, but they watch for them anyway. Foxes and cats sometimes chase the squirrels but never seem to get them. I once saw a raccoon in a tree get chased out by a bunch of angry squirrels. Hawks circle overhead, but have more luck on the highway. Rarely a coyote will show up.

        Trying to grow anything that deer or groundhog will eat is a fools errand, unless it grows really fast. Once we accepted that, things got a lot simpler.

        • Well... says:

          Well, yes. Life is war. Say it in a Werner Herzog voice for full effect. But the maintenance of real estate is a war into which even the most sheltered suburbanite is conscripted, and he fights it with his own two hands. (Unless he hires mercenaries, which I suppose many do. Then he’s funding a war, and fighting it the way, uh, we taxpayers do… Now I feel ashamed again for not having entered the military.)

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Trying to grow anything that deer or groundhog will eat is a fools errand, unless it grows really fast. Once we accepted that, things got a lot simpler.

          I know pretty much nothing about gardening, so I am exposing my ignorance. But my guess would have been that deer and groundhogs eat anything a person wants to eat. Can you give examples of what they don’t want?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Animals tend to have a hierarchy of preferred foods, it is often the case of not “grow something they would never eat” but “grow something that they wouldn’t eat if X is available”. Whatever you grow in your garden isn’t going to support even one deer so they generally browse through eating some stuff and leaving others. You want to stay away from providing their very favorite foods because that will draw them in, and since you won’t have enough to satisfy them they will move on to whatever else you have that is palatable. Deer generally don’t like the nightshade family, though tell that to someone who has had the young tops of every tomato plant nibbled off, you can also maybe keep them away by planting lots of garlic and onion on the outside of your gardens but this is zero sum, if all your neighbors do it they will just get used to passing by the smell to get to the good stuff inside.

            They also might not want the food for its nutritional content, I have been told (but can’t confirm) that you can prevent squirrels from destroying your tomato crop by putting out water for them to drink as they often use them as a source of moisture and don’t really care for the taste.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Animals tend to have a hierarchy of preferred foods, it is often the case of not “grow something they would never eat” but “grow something that they wouldn’t eat if X is available”. Whatever you grow in your garden isn’t going to support even one deer so they generally browse through eating some stuff and leaving others. You want to stay away from providing their very favorite foods because that will draw them in, and since you won’t have enough to satisfy them they will move on to whatever else you have that is palatable. Deer generally don’t like the nightshade family, though tell that to someone who has had the young tops of every tomato plant nibbled off, you can also maybe keep them away by planting lots of garlic and onion on the outside of your gardens but this is zero sum, if all your neighbors do it they will just get used to passing by the smell to get to the good stuff inside.

            They also might not want the food for its nutritional content, I have been told (but can’t confirm) that you can prevent squirrels from destroying your tomato crop by putting out water for them to drink as they often use them as a source of moisture and don’t really care for the taste.

          • The Nybbler says:

            But my guess would have been that deer and groundhogs eat anything a person wants to eat.

            Except garlic, pretty much. So growing edibles is right out. There are a few flowers they won’t eat. Vinca, daffodil, catmint (oddly the cats don’t destroy it), a few others.

          • Nornagest says:

            I have childhood memories of helping put up chicken-wire fencing around anything the deer liked to eat — a category that included not only edibles, but also young oak, apple, and redwood trees. Pretty much anything short of starthistle, which nothing eats and you need to go out and manually pull up every year or it’ll take over your yard.

  8. quaelegit says:

    I added dndnrsn’s Bible effortposts to bean’s effortpost index. While I was at it I also added Tibor’s and Pivo’s comments on the Velvet Divorce because they were a) long and b) interesting enough (to me) that I remembered them 8 months later. I can’t remember any other specific effort posts in the last 8 months but I’m sure there have been great ones — if people have suggestions I’m happy to add them.

    Edit: also since I edited the doc anonymously they seem to be formatted differently. If this is a problem let me know and I can re-add them while signed into my Google account.

  9. johan_larson says:

    Singapore tends be found at the top of every survey people run in math education. You’d think any ambitious institution would be eager to learn from that, in order to improve. And one clear step toward that would be to adopt the Singaporean math curriculum itself. It’s available. I understand it’s popular with home-schoolers. But states and school boards prefer to roll their own. It seems strange that they bother. Why not just adopt the best?

    Or course, just adopting the curriculum wouldn’t replicate Singapore’s accomplishment. It wouldn’t get you the Singaporean culture, or their trained and selected corps of teachers, or their student base. But it seems such an obvious and tractable step in the right direction that it ought to be more popular.

    • albatross11 says:

      Do you have any idea why this isn’t commonly done?

      • littskad says:

        Singapore math uses a lot of consumables, which can be expensive; requires a lot of training for teachers, since it has a lot of very precise algorithmic methods that are supposed to be followed exactly; tends to the abstract, rather than the applied; and is designed to be highly sequential, so that, if you have a lot of absenteeism or students who change schools frequently, it will be difficult if not impossible to keep all the students in one class aligned.

        • SamChevre says:

          This couldn’t be the whole story, though, because homeschoolers (including my wife) use it a lot. They tend to be cheap, not mathematically trained themselves, and certainly not heavily trained teachers.

          I wonder if the issue is that it’s too structured, and teachers find it boring–but I really don’t know.

      • quaelegit says:

        My first guess was that the Singapore school year was longer than the American one — but I calculated the number of school days for S, NYC, and my hometown school district:

        Singapore: 191
        NYC: 181 [Aside: wow they get a lot of religious holidays off…]
        Mine: 177

        Would 2~3 extra weeks of school make that much of a difference?

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      How is the curriculum different? My intuitive thought is that it isn’t curriculum that is the big difference between high achieving countries and low ones, but I could be wrong.

      Although it is also true that whenever I hear of a new trend in US math curriculum, I’ve always thought it was terrible. Two examples come to mind: 1) The Chicago method, that succeeded in making it very hard for my kids to learn math. My understanding was that in this method they introduced new subjects to students briefly, so that many kids didn’t understand it very well, but then they cycled back to the same material at a later date so the kids could fully understand it in a future cycle. It didn’t work at all for my kids. 2) When I was a kid in the 60’s, “new math” was the craze. They decided that “drill and kill” was the old fashioned way to teach math, and instead teach kids the why’s of math. It didn’t much matter to me, because I was always very good at math and had already picked up the why’s intuitively, but I think it just confused a bunch of kids, who were perfectly capable of doing sums and products, but had difficulty with more complex stuff.

      • johan_larson says:

        How is the curriculum different? My intuitive thought is that it isn’t curriculum that is the big difference between high achieving countries and low ones, but I could be wrong.

        The scope and sequence is available here:
        http://www.sgbox.com/singaporecurriculum.html

        Looking at, say, the grade 6 curriculum, my main impression is speed. At this point they seem to be done with arithmetic, where I think the Ontario curriculum would still be teaching (or rather re-teaching) some of the trickier bits, like division for decimals and fractions. There’s a reason why they do that — they are following the Piagetian idea that you can’t teach a child something until they are developmentally ready for it — but it sure makes for some boring math classes.

        • quaelegit says:

          From your post I think there is also a difference in teaching method, but just based on the curriculum in your link I don’t think it was that different from my elementary school curriculum. At least, the only thing I know I definitely didn’t cover in elementary school is the “speed” section because I remember learning that in middle school — which is 7th and 8th grade in my district. Also maybe nets — I had to look up the term just now but I think we learned about the concept at some point (maybe middle school). I can’t remember if all of it was covered in 6th grade specifically — certainly percentages were emphasized in 5th grade and word problems in 4th. This was in one of the best school districts in California but I wasn’t in an advanced math track.

      • ana53294 says:

        The Singapore math seems to be based on teaching basic arithmetic through three steps, concrete, pictorial and abstract.
        In the concrete step, they start by manipulating objects. Then they start drawing pictures to solve problems, and then they go to algebra.
        It is also the quite intuitive way you would start to teach a kid sums: you don’t start with 2+2=4, you give them beans, and tell them, “If we add these two beans to the two you already have, how many beans will you have in total?”.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      I’d argue it is because most people understand that curriculum is not all that important to educational outcomes. This is why they move to places with better peer groups rather than being the 1 parent at a PTA that gets a new curriculum implemented. The one exception to that is educators, who have a vested interest in being unique and getting what is essentially paid time off for developing curricula.

      I mean, I know Singapore does well, but does it do well when adjusted for IQ and parental involvement? Do kids in Singapore do better than Singaporeans living in a random US suburb? When we ask the same question about Finns (who are also renowned for their education system), the answer is no.

      • The Nybbler says:

        It’s easy to teach intelligent kids (if your pedagogy sucks they’ll learn the lesson another way, especially if their parents are engaged and also intelligent), it’s impossible to teach exceptionally unintelligent ones, but you’d expect somewhere in the middle, with kids of roughly median intelligence, you’d find that some methods work better than others. At the limit, “not teaching at all” doesn’t work, after all. It might be difficult to extract this signal however.

    • ana53294 says:

      The Singaporean approach to teach maths seems similar to an approach that is taking up in Mexico – Mayan math. This approach also has the concrete way of teaching arithmetic to kids, and it is really improving math abilities in disadvantaged indigenous communities. I would say that if the approach works for poor, disenfranchised kids whose parents may not be able to do sums, this approach probably works for everybody.
      The difference in culture between Mexican indigenous communities and Singaporean people is as different as you can imagine between human populations.

      Edit:
      Also from the linked article:

      But it was not until about a decade ago, at a congress in the Spanish city of Murcia, that he first saw how Maya maths could be a breakthrough for children with learning difficulties. There, he met a mathematician whose dyslexic six-year-old was struggling at school. The father went home to teach her the method and “in one afternoon, the girl had learned addition, subtraction and multiplication”, he says. That success gave Prof Magaña renewed impetus. “I felt guilty — why not teach it in Mexico?”

      Maths is one of the areas in which Mexican students are failing most comprehensively, according to the OECD’s latest Pisa evaluations, which assess student performance around the world at age 15. Despite being Latin America’s second-biggest economy, Mexico ranks bottom of the class in maths among OECD member countries and 58th overall, of the 72 nations ranked.

      In Yucatán, indigenous state schools have been among the worst performers — in 2006, only 0.1 per cent of students in those schools achieved “excellent” grades in maths, while nearly half displayed “insufficient” performance.

      Things were not much different by 2010: 3.1 per cent of students reached “excellent” and 41.3 per cent were classed as “insufficient”. But then, things started to change. By 2011, 8.3 per cent of students in indigenous state schools were achieving “excellent” grades in maths (second only to private schools), while the proportion ranked as “insufficient” had shrunk to 29.4 per cent.

      I would say that an approach that reduces failure by 12 points in a single year probably works because of the approach itself, and not a change in culture and IQ.

      • Viliam says:

        Talking about interesting local approaches to math, I strongly recommend a method currently tried in Czech Republic. Not sure if English version of the textbooks exists.

        The short version is that the math is explained mostly through exercises with very slowly increasing complexity. So there is almost no explanation by a teacher; instead the students solve the problems and discuss their solutions, with teacher mostly moderating the discussion.

        Essentially, what typical math textbooks explain as a single step, this method succeeds to split into a few smaller steps. Those steps are then so little that no explanation is necessary, and some of the students will find a solution in short time. Then the students discuss the solution together until the whole classroom understands it, and then they move to the next step. As a result, they progress at ~ the same speed as the traditional math education methods (more time discussing, but less time teacher’s presentation), but achieve deeper understanding.

        They also use a few special tools (but not as much as e.g. Montessori education). For example for smallest kids there is a carpet with numbers, and they learn addition and subtraction by making steps on the carpet (one student in front of the whole class, the other students checking).

  10. SpeakLittle says:

    Some poorly articulated thoughts on journalism.

    I find myself increasingly frustrated with the news media for the following reasons:
    1) Articles are increasingly short, some no more than a paragraph. While some articles have a longer word count, it seems a great deal of that is fluff.
    2) Reports that are more smoke than fire. “Well, it seems that there’s a chance that the possibility exists of this. Theoretically.” It’s not much better than a grade-school rumor mill.
    3) Journalists who work for $MEDIAOUTLET saying $TOPIC has been”in the news a lot lately” (or similar wording), when $MEDIAOUTLET is continually running stories on $TOPIC. Well, of course it has, your parent station is the one making sure it stays in the news cycle.
    4) Sensationalist reporting on everything as soon as it happens. To borrow a line from a cartoon I can’t find, “We don’t have all the facts, so all we can tell you with 100% confidence is exactly who’s right and who’s wrong.”
    5) Editorializing outside of the editorial page. I can’t point to a specific example of this, but I feel like there’s a lot more opinion being inserted into news articles than in years past.
    6) The same blurb being used over and over and over and over again. As I understand it, this is partially a function of the AP, but there’s something that bothers me about seven different news outlets using the exact same copy for the same story. Yes, I’m aware this is irrational.

    #1, #2, and #4 bother me because if you’re going to present yourself as a seeker-of-truth (which many journalism outlets do) then wouldn’t you want what you put out to as complete as possible? I mean, not everything needs to be a dissertation, and there are some topics I’m simply not smart enough to understand (a lot of the technical economic debates here leave me befuddled), but still, shouldn’t the attempt be made? I’ve a suspicion that this is probably intellectual laziness on my part, wanting to be handed some answers, rather than having to spend a few hours researching everything myself.

    #3 seems disingenuous to me somehow, like astro-turfing. Intuitively, I think #3 and #4 are connected, but I can’t articulate how. I think #2 and #5 are related as well.

    I don’t think this is a left-right CW thing. I read a fairly wide variety (at least I think I do) of news sources: Fox, MSN, CNN, BBC World Service, Deutche Welle (English translation), Al Jazeera English, Slashdot. I have the same complaints about Fox News that I do about NPR.

    I’m aware there was never a Golden Age of Journalists where all reporters were just-the-facts-please types and that the press was a beacon of unvarnished truth, but I can’t help but feel reporting quality has gotten worse. Maybe it hasn’t and I’m just more cynical than I used to me? Maybe journalism is actually just fine and I’m a crank? I’m open to such possibilities.

    /MINORRANT

    As a follow-on to this mess of a post, where do other SSC readers get their news from? How do you filter out the bull?

    • dodrian says:

      News is really hard these days. My personal pet peeve is “this topic is trending on twitter.” Even worse is “someone said $offensive_thing on twitter”. Well duh, there are hundreds of millions of people on twitter, and you can find anyone willing to say almost anything, so calling out a particular statement isn’t at all meaningful. It might take only a few hundred tweets to start a trend.

      My go-to sources are the BBC and NPR. Neither are infallible, but they’re better than most. I try to avoid “breaking” stories that are essentially being live-tweeted on their sites, because it’s really hard to follow what’s going on and better to wait for a summary article.

    • Nornagest says:

      As much as I’d like to see the news media ride the clickbait train straight to hell, I can’t blame news writers much for #3. That’s their world; of course their idea of what’s worth talking about is going to be informed by what their peers — especially very close peers! — are doing. We do the same thing here ourselves. On the other hand, it’s fair to condemn editors for flogging the dead horse du jour (hard to avoid thinking of one that’s spray-tanned and blond and wearing a bad suit), but the blame for that doesn’t lie with the people writing the stories.

      Over the last couple years I’ve pretty much given up on mass media for my news. I’ve got a few podcasts and specialist blogs for subjects I have a special interest in (economics, defense, security, software); anything really important in general news, I can usually manage to pick up by osmosis here or on one of the other sites I hang out on.

      • SpeakLittle says:

        …their idea of what’s worth talking about is going to be informed by what their peers — especially very close peers! — are doing. We do the same thing here ourselves.

        This is a fair point. Am I being childish? “Hey! Y’all should talk more about things that I’m interested in!”

        It’s fair to condemn editors for flogging the dead horse du jour (hard to avoid thinking of one that’s spray-tanned and blond and wearing a bad suit), but the blame for that doesn’t lie with the people writing the stories. They write what they’re told to.

        Also a good point. I was unfairly putting all journalists in the same bucket.

    • hls2003 says:

      For starters, I automatically try to ignore any purported news item that describes what some person or group of people have said, rather than what they have done. (Some obvious exceptions where the words have an actual or legal effect, e.g. a resignation letter).

      These often, though not always, include one or more of the following phrases / characteristics, usually evident from a headline: Twitter quotations; social media; trends over less time than a year; “claps back”; “called out”; “by some”; “draws fire”; “criticized”; “backlash”; “calling for”; “Instagram model”; “opponents claim”; “reacts to”; “offended by”; “____ groups object”; containing Internet or text slang.

      These things are almost never news, whether or not they are hosted by organizations purporting to purvey news.

      • Randy M says:

        Well said. When you see a report about what someone said, this is either a slow news day or an attempt at pushing a narrative.

        (Obligatory note that someone announcing a change in gov’t or corporate policy counts as doing rather than saying)

        • hls2003 says:

          announcing a change in gov’t or corporate policy counts as doing rather than saying

          Generally yes, although in the social media age, I’d qualify even that by saying that I usually ignore broad statements of intention; from my perspective the news is if some policy is actually changed by the announcement. A statement by the DOE rescinding a “Dear Colleague” letter is news. A statement by a Congressman that he calls for the DOE to rescind a “Dear Colleague” letter is not news.

    • Well... says:

      I’ve expressed my thoughts about journalism on here (and on my blog) many times before and I can’t tell if anyone else agrees with me. It feels like one of those me-against-the-world things so far. But here I go again:

      Journalism (at least, what we normally think of when we see that word) is nothing more than an affect. Remove the affect and what’s left over is a lot of words about X from people who don’t really know what they’re talking about when it comes to X and in many cases have no business talking about X at all.

      The affect is produced from a sloppy, dumbed-down imitation of scholarly presentation. Journalism is to actual scholarly presentation what this is to an actual military humvee.

      Journalism does what it can to maintain a veneer of credibility — some journalism, such as The Knife Media, tries earnestly to thicken that credibility with good stuff like transparency — but at the end of the day journalism is simply a convenient rather than credible way to get information about important recent events.

      Remember that while the goal of scholarly presentation is to disseminate our best understanding of objective reality (fallibility of scholars notwithstanding), journalism only camouflages itself in that goal. Its real goal is to provide entertainment, to draw attention, to sell ads and subscriptions, and for journalism’s creators to flatter themselves in the process.

      I disagree with people who think journalism is especially bad now. I think it used to be much worse, although it might not have been taken as seriously back then as it is now either. But anyway that’s saying a lot, because journalism now is still pretty darn bad.

      • albatross11 says:

        News sources (especially papers and magazines) are having a hard time paying the bills, which is one reason why it might actually be worse than before. On the other hand, the internet has made it *way* easier for the errors and biases and omissions in a news story to become widely known and discussed, whereas 30 years ago, maybe I noticed some biased story and you noticed a different one, but most people never heard of it.

        • Well... says:

          Look at newspaper stories from 100 years ago. They’re not hard to find. The quality of work in what would have been considered a respectable publication back then is what today would be considered beneath the trashiest tabloids. Again, that’s saying a lot.

          • toastengineer says:

            Sure, but then I stumble across New York Times articles from the 90s and I’m like “wow, this is a completely different and far more respectable institution.”

          • Well... says:

            They were probably more respected then, but why do you think NYT articles from the 90s were more respectable? What would you say was different about them?

          • Nornagest says:

            I wasn’t reading the NYT in the Nineties, so I can’t directly verify, but there was a lot more money in trad journalism in the Nineties, it worked on a different funding model, and it had a different audience (younger on average, more diverse, much larger). Any of these could incentivize a more sophisticated institutional culture.

          • Brad says:

            If nothing else copy editing at the Times has gotten steadily worse since the early 90s. Probably since before then, but that’s when I started reading it.

            Subjectively, and off the top of my head, the news articles started moving away from the old ideal of complete neutrality, in voice if not in selection of what to focus on, sometime in the 00s under Bill Keller.

      • Zephalinda says:

        I agree entirely with this. I’m always entirely mystified when people talk about “*[non-real] News” as though Real News was a thing, or act as though if only such-and-such minor reform could be implemented, quality, truthful journalism would totally prevail.

        This is a cultural sphere where:
        enormously complex multifactorial issues, often poorly understood by the actors themselves…
        are distilled down into simple <2-page narratives…
        crafted by ill-paid journalism majors (!!) with minimal subject-area expertise…
        with scant time, resources or incentives for research…
        and enormous selection pressures in favor of simplicity, bias confirmation and narrative vividness.

        What, exactly, is the expected mechanism by which that process is going to yield any useful information whatsoever– not just in the average case, but under any imaginable circumstances?

        Even if a random nugget of fact does pop up sometimes, the medium itself powerfully reinforces people's bad instincts to conceptualize policy issues in oversimplified anthropomorphized terms. Good stories need emotions, personalities and motivations, heroes and villains. but countries and parties and policies are not characters in a story. There should be no such thing as a party acting "mean" or such-and-such a diplomatic decision making the US look "arrogant" or a policy being "caring"– just layers and layers of studies and complicated dispassionate utility calculations. But the constant promotional messaging about how consuming media = being "well-informed" means that people assume that reality itself is shaped like a low-budget superhero movie, because that's seemingly how we like the stories we read.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      There is no journalism. It’s all propaganda. Just read the headlines thinking not “this is what happened today” but “this is what the owners of this media outlet want me to think today” and then extrapolate the state of the world from that.

    • toastengineer says:

      As a follow-on to this mess of a post, where do other SSC readers get their news from? How do you filter out the bull?

      I’ve come to deliberately avoid the kind of thing most people think of when you say “news;” there’s nothing I can actually do about any of the information I’d get that way, none of it is more than half true anyway, and I really can’t filter it as such except through my own existing priors, so all I’d really be doing by consuming it is making myself upset and less right.

      News about my profession & hobbies I get from sources that are targeted at people who are already experts and are thus very strongly incentivized to be honest; specifically podcasts and specific subreddits populated by other professionals.

    • Viliam says:

      I think that journalism was always quite bad, but internet allowed it to get even worse.

      Consider the effects of displaying an article as a HTML page, as opposed to a paper page: how different are the page templates! The paper template is something like a page number in a corner, and text divided into two or three columns, with some article-related photos between the columns. Now in the HTML template you get: headers of all sections, top rated/viewed stories, latest blog articles, latest comments, advertising, more advertising, even more advertising, randomly selected picture, a poll — and somewhere between all that there is a tiny box where the actual article goes. So even if the actual text is one paragraph long, you still get several screens of “content”.

      Then you have e.g. Google rewarding recent content, so it makes sense to post more and more articles about the same topic, even if you actually have nothing new to say. (It’s not a big problem to do, when the new article only needs to be one or two paragraphs long.) Plus all kinds of linking games; for example you never link to the official homepage of the thing you describe, instead you link to another article on your web about the same topic, because that brings you more page views.

      The way readers get to the articles has also changed. On paper, you must make a decision to buy a specific newspaper. So there is a trivial inconvenience, and the individual newspapers have associated reputation. On internet, articles are shared separately, and they are only one click away on social networks. So it’s the title and the picture that drive the impulse.

      Because the virtual “paper” is unlimited, you can print unlimited amounts of crap. Hire less people, and use a lot of unpaid interns. Make them write a lot. They are (unofficially) allowed to make up stuff. If they are smart, they will use a pseudonym. (Actually, make each of them use two or three different pseudonyms, to make it seem like you have more people and less articles per person.) The easiest way to write an article is to base it on someone else’s article. Smart people writing the same things for different journals can make a deal that they are okay with copying each other’s stuff; actually if they also share links, both of them get more page views. As a result, you get a tiny clique that decides what gets written about a given topic, and what does not, across many different journals.

  11. Deiseach says:

    I thought I was joking when I mentioned in some comment or other “the types of people who think Enver Hoxha was the only real Communist”, and reality has decided to punish me for my hubris.

    I won’t identify where I found the specimen, but I have quite literally just this minute read someone talking about “Hoxhaism” as one of the three “most rational political ideologies”.

    Oh, this is giving me 70s flashbacks! 🙂

    • Nornagest says:

      When I was young and stupid, I occasionally wished I could have lived through a time like the Sixties. Now I am living through one, and I kind of wish I wasn’t.

      • baconbits9 says:

        What decade would you rather have lived through?

        • theredsheep says:

          The nineties weren’t bad, except musically. It was so boring that we really cared, quite deeply, if the president got a BJ from an intern. It was quaint.

          • the_the says:

            The nineties weren’t bad, except musically.

            Blasphemy!

            Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Stone Temple Pilots, Sound Garden, Oasis, NIN, Beastie Boys, Massive Attack, U2, Garbage, Counting Crows, and many others … or wait, maybe my sarcasm detector is off?

          • Brad says:

            The music of the 90s was so good, they stopped making new music not long into the 00s.

    • Oooh, I’m actually quite curious about this. Could you post the link? I tried googling “most rational political ideologies” and Hoxhaism, and didn’t come up with a direct match. So are you sure you have the quote verbatim?

    • 天可汗 says:

      Hoxhaism is the most rational political ideology.

  12. fion says:

    After thinking about the straw/weak-man vs. motte-and-bailey symmetry I’ve noticed what I think is another one.

    My first observation turned out to be super not original, so I guess this one has also been discussed, but just in case it hasn’t:

    Symmetry between isolated demand for rigour and whataboutery. An isolated demand for rigour is when you hold some person or some position to a higher standard of scrutiny or criticism than other people/positions. Scott explains how you can use this to ruinous effect. (Or to steal cows.)

    Whataboutery is where you cynically bring up another, related person/issue to distract from the one that’s being discussed at the moment. This can be very effective in derailing otherwise productive discussions. You can literally always bring up a more important issue than the one being discussed (with one exception) and if you’re petulant enough it can be very hard for everybody else to make progress.

    It’s probably apparent how these two could be different sides of the same coin. Suppose Alice and Bob are both worried about the effects of legal recreational drugs. Alice is always going on about how dangerous alcohol is and how many unnecessary deaths and injuries it causes through drunk driving and other accidents. Every time she says anything about this, Bob points out how dangerous tobacco is and how many cancer deaths it causes and how very addictive it is. So Alice sends a message to Bob, politely saying that he’s engaging in whataboutery, and every time he brings up his (legitimate) issue it makes it harder for her to make her (legitimate) point about alcohol* and reduces the chances of getting anywhere in the direction of whatever solution Alice has in mind. However, at exactly the same time, Bob sends a message to Alice, politely saying that she’s making an isolated demand for rigour; that she keeps holding alcohol to a higher standard than tobacco. It almost seems as if she doesn’t actually care about the harm caused by legal recreational drugs, but just has it in for alcohol. If she was intellectually honest she’d talk about tobacco more often.

    Who’s right? Does it depend on whether tobacco actually is worse or less bad than alcohol? Would Alice need to be actually supporting tobacco in some way for Bob’s assertion to be true? Are both Alice and Bob engaging in intellectually dishonest behaviour?

    *Maybe you don’t think either issue is legitimate, but I don’t care. You get the point.

    • Aapje says:

      I would say that it’s like a definition debate, but then about the goals instead.

      If you define the goal as reducing the damage to people from alcohol, then bringing up tobacco seems like whataboutery.

      If you define the goal as reducing the damage to people from drugs, then bringing up driving deaths seems like whataboutery.

      If you define the goal as reducing the damage to people in the US, then bringing up abuses in Saudi Arabia seems like whataboutery.

      Etc.

    • Nick says:

      I think Aapje’s on the right track; it’s not possible to tell here who’s in the wrong without knowing the context and goal of Alice’s argument. If the point Alice is making is, “Therefore, we should focus on the dangers of alcohol more than tobacco,” Bob’s response is relevant. If the point of Alice is making is, “Therefore, we should focus some on the dangers of alcohol,” Bob’s response is not.

    • J Mann says:

      One commonality is that they both can also be legitimate.

      – In our search for isolated demands for rigor, we have to be careful not to capture legitimate demands for rigor, lest we abandon rigor altogether.

      – Whattaboutism can legitimately mean (a) you are ignoring what I believe to be a higher priority, and we shouldn’t spend substantial work on alcohol abuse until we’ve addressed tobacco, which I believe will produce better results for less investment, (b) to the extent that you are arguing from authority (and all arguments include a component of this IMHO), the fact that you apparently DNGAF about tobacco makes me suspect that either you haven’t analyzed the issue sufficiently or that you aren’t motivated substantially by the concerns you articulate, or just (c) interesting – does your principle apply in this other context? If not, why not and what does that tell us.

    • AG says:

      So in competitive CS debate, the affirmative presents a plan to solve an issue defined by the resolution.
      For the 2018-2019 season, the resolution for high school CX debate will be “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its restrictions on legal immigration to the United States.”
      An example affirmative plan might be “The US federal government should increase the allowed number of X-type of visas.”

      Whataboutery can be a pretty strong negative team argument, and would manifest in various valid ways that are not derailing:
      1. Bigger Issue will prevent the aff plan from solving the thing they claim to solve. For example, Bigger Issue will lead to nuclear war, rendering the resolution issue irrelevant because we’re all dead. Usually a timescale argument has to also be made to show why Bigger Issue supercedes the aff’s concerns Right Now, and thus has precedence.
      2. Bigger Issue is actually the root cause of the problem the aff plan is trying to address, so the aff plan will actually be impotent. Bigger Issue must be solved as a prerequisite to addressing the aff’s specific issues. This can often manifest by invoking Some Ideology as the big Hedgehog Narrative Explaining All Evils. Cases like this are where proponents may mistake a broader framework debate (which the neg team is advocating) for derailing.
      3. The aff plan exacerbates Bigger Issue. Tradeoffs debate ensues over if the harms the aff plan claims to solve have precedence over the harms of Bigger Issue.

      A case where Whataboutery is invalid can occur is in counterplan/alternative neg tactic. The neg is not restricted to fulfilling the resolution, so they can go with “Counterplan: enact world peace.” Or they might do a “plan plus” trick. “Counterplan: do the aff plan and also solve my whatabout pet issue that has nothing to do with the resolution. Reject the aff plan because our counterplan is superior.”
      The aff counter to this kind of thing has been the concept of competition: that the counterplan must be mutually exclusive from the aff plan, must be done instead of the aff plan, that world where both plans get enacted (for double the benefits!) is not possible. If the counterplan is not competitive, then it’s invalid Whataboutery.

      (The Aff plan cannot do a “do something to meet the resolution, and also enact world peace” plan, due to Topicality. There is no topicality burden on the negative team.)

  13. sharper13 says:

    Interesting article on an illuminating example of cost disease: Government to spend $1.5 million making a website which already exists and cost $20K.

    What I find fascinating about this example is that the thing government is building already exists in the non-government sector (who even offered to give the government their code and previous work for free – so far no response), so it’s pretty straightforward to figure out where the cost disease is coming from by comparing the two.

    To quote the authors:

    Our website cost under $20,000 to build and maintain with full functionality and fewer than 100 hours of programming time; the Library’s CRS website will cost $1.5 million, have limited functionality, suffer from significant design limitations, and not be completed for more than a year after the law was enacted and six months after the statutory deadline for completion.

  14. WashedOut says:

    Two questions regarding UBI:

    1. What stops the cost of living rising to match?

    2. Would it be reasonable to expect employers (esp. of low-payed workers) to be disinclined to offer payrises/bonuses as a result of UBI?

    • Urstoff says:

      2. Does UBI affect worker productivity or increase the size of the labor pool? If not, then I don’t see how it would affect wages.

      • Randy M says:

        UBI seems like it would somewhat reduce the labor pool in lower skill industries (as some workers may be satisfied to live on UBI), increase taxes on businesses (unless we found the magic compromise that paid for it entirely out of existing programs) and swap around demand in unpredictable ways. It might also increase bargaining power of workers in low paying industries, as these people have the ability to quite or pass up unpleasant jobs.

        If it was coupled with a reduced minimum wage (since there would be less justification for low skilled wages needing to be living wages) that would allow employers to pay less for jobs that were worth less than minimum wage, but of course they may have trouble filling them at particularly low rates given the aforementioned effects.

    • Eric Rall says:

      1. What stops the cost of living rising to match?

      The Federal Reserve. Price inflation is driven by monetary policy, which the Fed controls. A UBI will only drive general price inflation if it’s financed by printing more money. If it’s financed by tax increases, cuts to other spending, or selling bonds to banks and investors, then it’s monetarily neutral or can be easily neutralized by the Fed.

      A UBI could cause price shifts, since the recipients are likely to want to buy a different mix of goods and services than the goods and services that people aren’t buying because of tax increases, etc. Which will bid up prices on some goods and bid down prices on others, at least in the short term. In the long term, those price signals should tell businesses to make more of the things UBI recipients want to buy, which should mitigate the price changes to some extent.

    • dick says:

      From past threads I think it’s clear that there’s no agreed-upon definition for UBI that people default to, so to have a useful discussion you need to say, “…a modest UBI of $4K a year per citizen paid for by scaling back welfare programs,” or “an extravagant UBI of $25K a year paid for by massive new taxes on the rich,” or “a hypothetical future UBI paid for by taxing the pseudo-intelligent Ethereum contracts that produce all consumer goods from Neptune”, or some other such thing.

    • syrrim says:

      1. Because they are no longer as tied to a job, workers have the capacity to move around a lot more. They have the power to move somewhere with lower prices even if it doesn’t have good jobs. This would induce price competition, driving prices down.

      2. Because workers have the option to quit (even if they don’t have another job lined up) they have more bargaining power than under the current system. If they feel they aren’t being fairly compensated, they can leave. Employers are therefore encouraged to pay workers up to the value they bring.

      This is all in theory of course.

  15. Wrong Species says:

    It doesn’t surprise me when progressives win a victory over conservatives, Cthulhu swims left and all. What does surprise me is when conservatives and progressives battle and the issue is at a stalemate(abortion) or conservatives are actually winning(guns). Even if you object to me saying that abortion is a stalemate, it’s clear that progressives haven’t been able to steamroll conservatives over the issue. Gay marriage is less than five years old and it looks like it’s here to stay. Roe vs Wade is over forty years old and abortion is still a fierce fight. What makes some issues more likely to move left than others? Is it simply the fact that conservatives fight harder on issues like gun control and abortion? Or is it something about those issues themselves that make them more sympathetic compared to other conservative positions? Or is there some other reason?

    • engleberg says:

      @Roe versus Wade is almost forty years old and still a fierce fight-

      Say I am an evil R party hack, who wants cringing minions. I get my nice female supporters to say in public they have no right to own their own bellies. They’ll soon leave off coming over righteous at R party hacks looting pensions! Say I am an evil D party hack, who wants cringing minions. I get my nice female supporters to say in public they like killing babies. They’ll soon leave off coming over righteous at D party hacks looting pensions!

      Legal or illegal abortion is a nasty choice. Nice people cringe from nastiness. Nasty people use cringing nice people. Abortion will stay a fierce fight. Though it’s obviously less bad legal, safe, and rare.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        Though it’s obviously less bad legal, safe, and rare.

        I think the 40 year controversy over it shows that this is, in fact, not obvious to ~45% of the population.

        • SamChevre says:

          I thought it was non-obvious to something like 75% of the populations-45% object to legal, and 30% object to rare if it’s driven by stigma.

          • engleberg says:

            @the forty-year controversy over it shows that this is, in fact, not obvious to 45% of the population
            @- 45% object to legal, and 30% object to rare if it’s driven by stigma.

            I don’t meet actual pro-abortion people who like killing babies. I don’t meet actual anti-abortion people who think women have no right to own their own bellies. I think the forty-year controversy is faked up by hacks.

      • Deiseach says:

        Though it’s obviously less bad legal, safe, and rare.

        The “rare” part is becoming controversial wording, as see this 2014 article. There is some (I don’t know if I’d even call it feminist) argument that why should it be “rare”? Why should politicians, if they support reproductive rights, have to add qualifications to that support? Abortion should be as needed and on demand, not ‘only up to a certain date*’, and that “rare” wording is a sop to conservatives, religious zealots, and anti-abortion activism that should be dropped.

        *This Planned Parenthood scare sheet about how pregnancy is more likely to kill you than having an abortion (which leads to the reductio ad absurdum that every woman who becomes pregnant should immediately seek an abortion for fear of death in childbed) is something else. I had to read the paragraph about “women under 15” a couple of times; how the fuck is a 12, 13 or 14 year old a “woman” (as in “adult human”, not “female gender”)?

        Among women under age 15, one in five abortions is
        performed after 13 weeks’ gestation. Twelve percent
        of teens aged 15 to 19 obtained an abortion after 13
        weeks’ gestation (CDC, 2014).

        The very youngest women — those under age 15 — are
        more likely than others to obtain abortions at 21 or
        more weeks’ gestation (CDC, 2014).

        • Lillian says:

          I had to read the paragraph about “women under 15” a couple of times; how the fuck is a 12, 13 or 14 year old a “woman” (as in “adult human”, not “female gender”)?

          By being demonstrably old enough to bear children. It’s literally the most ancient and traditional definition of adulthood.

        • engleberg says:

          @30% object to ‘rare’ if it’s due to stigma.
          @The ‘rare’ part is becoming controversial wording.

          What hack faked that poll about 30% of Americans sweating ‘stigma’ like a woman sweats some quack taking a knife to her cooter? After your abortion, your best friend might say: Girl, get on the pill. Making a federal case out of this won’t help. Or should we base federal law on Handmaid’s Tale fanfic? Only hacks benefit from this faked-up controversy. Abortion legalization is a nasty choice. Courts make nasty choices all the time. That’s why we have a judiciary.

        • I had to read the paragraph about “women under 15” a couple of times; how the fuck is a 12, 13 or 14 year old a “woman” (as in “adult human”, not “female gender”)?

          By being demonstrably old enough to bear children. It’s literally the most ancient and traditional definition of adulthood.

          To fill in with an example …

          Under Rabbinic law, a female became a “maiden” at twelve, provided there was some evidence of puberty, an adult six months later, at which point she and not her father controlled who she married.

          And that was in a society with later puberty and much more primitive obstetrics than ours.

        • @30% object to ‘rare’ if it’s due to stigma.
          @The ‘rare’ part is becoming controversial wording.

          What hack faked that poll about 30% of Americans sweating ‘stigma’ like a woman sweats some quack taking a knife to her cooter?

          I think you are misreading the poll result. The claim, as I understand it, was that 30% object to a situation where there is so much stigma associated with abortion that women only rarely have one.

          • engleberg says:

            I don’t think I’m wrong to severely doubt that women avoid abortion because of ‘stigma’, as compared to the risk of surgery and the moral hazard of killing a baby. I doubt the pollster’s good faith.

    • Guy in TN says:

      There’s a lot of randomness to it.

      Gay marriage is “settled”, because Justice Kennedy decided to settle it in the summer of 2015. If not for his decision, it would still be hot-button-issue #1. I have great doubts that the Republican controlled congress of the past three years would have independently decided to legislatively enshrine it as a constitutional right. Responsibility for the lack of gay marriage discussion in our current political discourse rests squarely on the shoulders of one man.

      For other examples, it helps when, for a given issue, one side is factually correct in a way that can be disseminated to the masses over time. Not too many issues turn on these narrow questions, but I would expect positions such as “the Earth is 6,000 years old” to diminish gradually as people become more educated of the realities of the world. In contrast, more high-level philosophical questions such as “what does it mean to be a human person? And when does this personhood begin?” will be with us for the long-haul. Hence why abortion remains mired in controversy (at least as long as the public holds a diversity of viewpoints regarding morality).

      The gun question is interesting, because its an example of an issue that switched sides just in the past 50 years or so. It was the Black Liberation movement that was pressing for open carry, and the resulting panicking conservatives who passed much of the gun regulation back then. The militant left is still a thing, and the gun question is still controversial in intra-left debates. I’ve seen a fair number of “I’m a communist, and I own a gun” on my Facebook and Twitter.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Abortion was also “settled” and pro-life activists became extremely motivated to overturn it, rather than essentially giving up. If it wasn’t for the Obergefell case, then gay marriage probably would have continued its trajectory of winning one state at a time. It was already becoming more popular before the ruling so I don’t think you can pin this victory on that case.

      • SamChevre says:

        The other key thing with gay mirage is that it has huge reliance interest–if there’s any case where stare decisis should apply, it would be Obergefell. Nobody plans to have an abortion a year from now, but married people generally plan to still be married a year from now.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        “It was the Black Liberation movement that was pressing for open carry, and the resulting panicking conservatives who passed much of the gun regulation back then.”

        Which regulation were you thinking of, specifically?

        Off the top of my head for the era you’re talking about, at the federal level you had the Omnibus Crime Control And Safe Streets Act of 1968 (Introduced by a Democrat in response to the JFK and MLK assassinations. Passed with bipartisan support) and the Gun Control Act of 1968 (again, pushed in response to the assassinations of JFK and MLK, introduced by a democrat and passed with Bipartisan support). LBJ’s “War On Crime” is less a part of his legacy these days than his “War On Poverty”, but he was quite passionate about it and was hopeful that with his party’s support he’d be able to get national firearms registration into law. At the state level the only nationally famous one I’m aware of is the Mulford Act, passed in response to Black Panther activity in Oakland, which I’m guessing is what you’re thinking of…except it was co-authored by 2 Republicans and 3 Democrats and passed with…you guessed it, bipartisan support.

        To sum up, I think the evidence shows that in the 60s and 70s Gun Control generally had bi-partisan (and even NRA!) support, not that the Democrats and Republicans “Switched Sides” or that Republicans were more concerned about Black Panthers or other Black Liberation movements than Democrats. Do you have any additional citations?

        • John Schilling says:

          Which regulation were you thinking of, specifically?

          California Penal Code 12031, banning concealed or open carry of loaded firearms in public, was passed in 1967 as an explicit response to the Black Panthers. I believe there were similar measures in other states, and I believe that you are being led astray by your preconception that only Federal laws matter even when looking back into history.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          The 1967 CA law was the Mulford act I specifically mentioned in my post above.

          A) it was written and proposed by 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans

          B) it was passed with strong bipartisan support.

          That doesn’t support Guy in TN’s claim. I’m perfectly happy to acknowledge state legislation as well, and I actually searched several states to see what I could find before posting my reply, but I couldn’t find any legislation passed 1960-1975 that fit the claim:

          “panicking conservatives who passed much of the gun regulation back then.”

          as opposed to my counter-claim, that at the time gun control had fairly broad bipartisan support.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I was grouping “people opposed to the Black Panthers” as “conservatives”, positionally speaking, party affiliation notwithstanding.

            Like, if Democrat Andrew Cuomo had passed a law in an attempt to stop the Occupy Wall Street protests, he would be acting as a conservative positionally, in an attempt to stop a farther-left organization from succeeding.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I think part of it is based on which conservative views are actually held by large numbers of conservative voters, and which are only held by party leadership/donors.

      For instance – Republican voters, by and large, are fine with the welfare state. Part of the reason the Republicans found themselves in such a pickle over Obamacare was that they knew their own voters didn’t support their real position (that the government should provide no health care, everyone is in their own), so instead they spent years publicly announcing a different position (Obamacare provides bad health care, we can do better).

      This worked great at turning out voters and making them dislike Obamacare, but it was death when they had to actually try to create legislation that met their real goal without alienating those voters.

      Abortion is an issue where the voters and the leaders are all on the same page.

      Gay rights are a tough one to draw conclusions based on, because the public’s views legitimately did change, and they did it very fast. I’m not sure how much you can extrapolate from that one to other issues though. I have seen the theory put out that once gay people started coming out of the closet en masse it was hard to stay anti-gay, because so many people suddenly found out people they know and love are gay – this makes sense to me, but if it’s the reason, it doesn’t apply to most other issues.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I used gay marriage as an example because it happened so fast. Like I said, progressives winning is the general rule. I could have used some other example like welfare or women’s right to vote. It’s when they don’t win that is the exception.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        I disagree. People can agree on a need to help “The needy” however defined but the devil is in the details; what constitutes the needy and what’s the price tag on help dictate how they end up feeling about something, especially after the fact.

        Concretely, The elderly already have their own healthcare and so ACA ostensibly doesn’t help them much. Young (mostly healthy) adult professionals earning a decent salary would naturally be averse to being compelled to pay for something which is well known to be a subsidy to those who are already sick. And most people who leaned right were anticipating (correctly imo) that their health insurance premiums would skyrocket. Small business owners complained (justifiably or not) that the law would make it very difficult to employ more than 50 full time employees.

        So that’s the bulk of the GOP base gaining nothing and losing quite a great deal from ACA.

        The issue with the GOP both then and now is that their proposals are some combination of 1. toothless 2. unpopular 3. very poorly marketed to the public

        __________________

        As for marriage. People became more tolerant of gays in general when the matter was presented as extending monogamy to a segment of the population, though the SCOTUS ruling forced what was going to become a solid majority opinion onto the holdouts prematurely.

        It seems to me like the attitude towards Gays has actually soured somewhat (I need hard data on this though) because the rhetoric has gotten more deconstructive/belligerent/ triumphalist/intrusive etc.

        • Iain says:

          It seems to me like the attitude towards Gays has actually soured somewhat (I need hard data on this though) because the rhetoric has gotten more deconstructive/belligerent/ triumphalist/intrusive etc.

          I don’t think this shows up in the data.

          • albatross11 says:

            Media (traditional and social, mainstream and alternative) are a massively distorting filter on the world. Seeing more people saying good things about gays today and bad things about them tomorrow is *extremely weak* evidence of a change in public sentiment.

          • quaelegit says:

            @albatross11 — I don’t understand your point, because I thought gallup polls asked random people, not journalists specifically. (Although frustratingly I can’t find survey design details on the page Iain linked.) Are you saying that media distortion would cause citizens to answer one way on a Gallup poll and a different way in the voting booth? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

        • MrApophenia says:

          All of that neglects the basic question of “Do Republican voters want to bring back pre-existing conditions and lose access to Medicaid or subsidized healthcare?”

          And the answer is manifestly no – they want the government to ensure they have affordable healthcare.

          (See: “Get your government hands off my Medicare!”)

          The Republicans can attack Obamacare all day long on how it doesn’t do a good enough job of that, right up until it becomes time to pass their own law – at which point they hit the wall that what they actually want to do is just cut spending on healthcare, not improve the healthcare their voters are getting. Their voters, oddly enough, disagree.

          I think a lot of the issues Republicans struggle on are the ones where there are deep divisions in their own party, papered over by the issues they do agree on.

    • Garrett says:

      A few things make the abortion debate special:
      * It is very hard to come to an objective conclusion about the underlying key issue of when the right to life attaches to a blastocyte/fetus/baby.
      * With the exception of life-of-the-mother and rape, the person became pregnant as a result of their own choices. That is, if they didn’t want to have a child, they could have made different decisions previously.
      * The decision by the Supreme Court is argued poorly (previously discussed).

      So, if you believe that the right-to-life attaches somewhere before birth, you are stuck with a Supreme Court that says it’s okay to kill people for convenience (via abortion) but not okay to kill minors who have been convicted of murdering other people.

      Simply put, the law around this whole issue is a mess and involves life-and-death.

      Same-sex marriage is less of an issue, both because of changing social mores, but also because the immediate results are pretty inconsequential. At-worst, the argument might be that it legitimizes same-sex relationships which spread disease, or results in bisexual people not getting married and having children. It’s (currently) okay to teach your children that engaging in same-sex activity is a sin, and no one is dying as a result of the decision.

      • Wrong Species says:

        If you believe abortion is a special issue, then why isn’t it as contentious in similar Western countries?

        • ana53294 says:

          Well, it is, at least in Spain. Gay marriage, by the way, went from 66 % to 85 % in just 10 years after legalization (2005-2015), and gay adoption went from 48 % in favour and 44 % against to 72 % in favour and 22 % against.

          It seems to me that when an issue involves kids public attitudes tend to be more conservative. I am honestly surprised at the amount of gay cake problems in the US, when the biggest problem in Spain regarding gay marriage has always been the children issue. For example, although Spain allows international adoption for gay couples, a lot of international adoption deals (with Russia and China) specifically prohibit for gay couples to adopt kids, whereas single mothers are allowed. So I am surprised I haven’t heard about Christian adoption agencies that don’t allow gay parents, etc.

          Abortion is very controversial in Latin America, too.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Shutting down adoption agencies was one of the earliest items on the US agenda. They’ve been doing that since at least 2006, but the effort continues to this day.

            So much of the media’s job is deciding what stories not to report on.

          • ana53294 says:

            This makes the outrage over cake so much stranger to me. Why do Republicans focus so much effort in protecting the rights not to sell cake to gay couples, a once in a lifetime thing that gets eaten, instead of focusing their efforts on gay adoption?

            I don’t have any objection to gay adoption, by the way. It just seems to me that the adoption issue is much more important than the cake issue, so if I really thought gay sex was immoral, I would focus on preventing kids from being adopted, and put it on top of the agenda.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            They have been passing laws to defend religious agencies that don’t want to be forced into gay adoptions, with predictable protests from the usual suspects.

            I expect if these gather momentum they could become a new flashpoint in the next few months.

          • ana53294 says:

            It does seem to me that faith based adoption charities may be more successful in placing kids with terminal illnesses, disabilities such as Down syndrome, and other issues that make them undesirable for non-faithful people, as the previously linked article says.
            As an anecdote told to me by a couple trying to adopt: in Spain, kids are placed in adoption by queue order; so the list of one of the provinces was stopped for several months because nobody was willing to take a black 4 year old with AIDS. Eventually, they placed the kid in a good Catholic home.
            I do think that protecting such organization is a good thing, even if I personally don’t have any objection against gay adoption.
            The most important thing is to frame the fight the right way. It’s not about denying couples the right to adopt, it’s about giving mothers who give up babies choices of where they want to place their kids. And a woman who doesn’t mind whether the adopting family is a religious couple does have plenty of choices.

          • Randy M says:

            Arguing against gay adoption comes down to arguing that children are better off in orphanages or foster care than with a gay couple, and it also opens you up to charges of hypocrisy if you don’t oppose adoption by singles.

            in Spain, kids are placed in adoption by queue order

            This sounds quite unusual. My impression in the US is that there is much more selection involved.

          • ana53294 says:

            Denying gay couples the right to adopt anywhere is different from an agency that chooses faithful married couples. Presumably, they also weed out divorced parents and single parents, so their discrimination is not focused on gays exclusively, but comes from how they perceive the welfare of the kids.

            As for the allowing single mothers but not gays, that was about international adoptions. Countries that give kids for adoption have the right to regulate that as they please. In fact, a lot of the regulation about not allowing foreigners (whether gay or not) adopt results in kids in orphanages.

            An example of this is South Korea. They wanted to limit the number of international adoptions, because being an exporter of kids didn’t look good once they became rich. Now they have lots of kids in orphanages, because adoption is a big taboo in South Korea. And this has nothing to do with gays!

            As for the not having enough families, that’s not really true. Even though it is ridiculously expensive and time consuming, a healthy baby that is legally available for adoption will be snatched away in almost any developed country.

          • Randy M says:

            I support preferences to married heterosexual couples, but it’s an easier argument to frame as one with actual costs.
            Compare “You’re keeping orphans from loving parents” to “You’re making a gay couple look for another bakery”

          • Nick says:

            The most important thing is to frame the fight the right way. It’s not about denying couples the right to adopt, it’s about giving mothers who give up babies choices of where they want to place their kids. And a woman who doesn’t mind whether the adopting family is a religious couple does have plenty of choices.

            Just a quibble: is that really what the alternative is? Isn’t it the choice of the adoption agency, or do you mean it’s the choice of the parent by proxy since they gave the child to that particular agency?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Why do Republicans focus so much effort in protecting the rights not to sell cake to gay couples, a once in a lifetime thing that gets eaten, instead of focusing their efforts on gay adoption?

            You are assuming that your news is filtered according to what the right is focused on. I’m saying it’s more filtered according to what stories the left finds useful to highlight.

            How much have you heard about Kermit Gosnell?

          • ana53294 says:

            Going to a Catholic adoption agency is a choice. You will then proceed to choose the right family from those that have been screened by the agency, choosing the family you think is most right, by criteria secondary to the one that is most important to you: that they should be a heterosexual couple that has been together long enough and has a strong marriage. There will be a lot of secondary things that may matter: race, SES, the location, their values, etc.

            If you go to just any agency, you don’t have that initial filter. So it will be harder to find the family that satisfies both your primary and secondary criteria of fit.

          • albatross11 says:

            ana:

            The gay wedding case cake was a court challenge. It’s not like the Czar of the Conservative Movement decreed that this should be the hill conservatives die on; rather, this wedding cake designer got in some legal trouble for refusing to bake the cake, and some Conservative groups gave him some money to fight the case out in court.

            Actually, gay marriage became a live issue in the US in the same way–court cases supported by some liberal groups, but not particularly supported by, say, the Democratic party or by a lot of establishment liberals. (I think most Democratic politicians wished the whole subject would go away for many years, assuming it would be a useful club for Republicans to bash them with.)

          • Matt M says:

            I think most Democratic politicians wished the whole subject would go away for many years, assuming it would be a useful club for Republicans to bash them with.

            I definitely think this is true of the GOP and the wedding cake stuff, too. Mainly because it’s a very small leap of logic from “the government cannot force you to make a cake for gays” to “the government cannot force you to make a sandwich for blacks” which the organized GOP wants absolutely no part of. You’ll recall that Rand Paul once started going down this road and immediately apologized and never brought it up again.

            Hell, the libertarian Presidential candidate from the last election cycle is on the record that his position is that they have to bake the cake, because civil rights and all that.

            No major political party is interested in defending the general concept of freedom of association, because the second you do that, you’ll immediately be accused of horrible racism.

    • John Schilling says:

      Cthulhu doesn’t swim left when it’s a matter of life and death. This is the thrive/survive theory that Scott has talked about before. When innocent people are dying, people get conservative.

      Abortion, once you get past the first trimester or so, involves millions of things that look an awful lot like innocent babies winding up dead. People get conservative, and about 75% of them consistently want to hear a really damn good reason why you need to abort a fetus.

      Gun control, before we focused everything on mass shootings, was mostly about scary criminals with black-market guns killing innocent people who might or might not be allowed to shoot back with legal guns. People get conservative, and most of them very much don’t want anyone banning the sort of guns they might someday use to shoot back at criminals.

      See also national defense, where even the progressives aren’t going to touch the United States having ten carrier battle groups and 4,000 nuclear weapons and a defense budget equal to the next ten nations combined.

      Progressives score their wins in areas where things aren’t obviously matters of life and death, e.g. sex and drugs, and in the few cases where the “innocent people dying” thing breaks in their favor like health care and #BlackLivesMatter. And they try to reframe their losing debates so that they are the defenders of innocent life, like talking about women dying in back-alley abortions, but that usually doesn’t really fool anyone.

      • Nick says:

        And they try to reframe their losing debates so that they are the defenders of innocent life, like talking about women dying in back-alley abortions, but that usually doesn’t really fool anyone.

        It worked just now in Ireland, didn’t it? I heard an appeal to the death of Halappanavar as justification just a week or two ago. And for a really infamous case, Ted Kennedy’s speech against Bork, although I guess that was 30 years ago now.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Your story doesn’t work exactly the way you’re saying on gun control. Gun control was much more popular in the early 90’s. As crime fell, people started opposing it more. Then when mass shootings became more salient, they supported more regulation. It looks like crime makes people want less guns, not more.

        • John Schilling says:

          The 1990s support for gun control was centered around the 1993 Brady Bill and the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, in turn driven by a bunch of high-profile mass shootings in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and by the Reagan assassination attempt. And if you go back earlier, support for gun control was high during the 1950s and early 1960s, and dropped substantially during the increase in urban violence of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

          Media coverage of mass shootings, makes people want less guns. Also assassinations. The 99+% of crime that isn’t mass shootings or assassinations, seems to make people want more guns – or at least the freedom to chose more guns.

          • Wrong Species says:

            If increasing crime made people more pro-gun, then shouldn’t the inverse be true as well? There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between crime and gun control after the late 70’s. Crime increases in the 80’s and yet support didn’t change much. Crime started dropping in the 90’s and yet people increased their opposition to gun control. Something like Columbine only a short term effect while Newton didn’t seem to change anyone’s mind. All I see is a steady increase in opposition to gun control that has many plausible explanations.

          • John Schilling says:

            Crime started dropping in the 90’s

            And nobody outside of the freaks who populate rationalist forums knows that. Perceived, not actual, crime rates are what matter where public opinion is concerned; I thought I had made that clear enough. The 1960s and 1970s involved A: so much street crime people couldn’t not notice and B: media coverage that made sure they didn’t miss it. In the 1990s, street crime declined, but the media made sure people didn’t notice that. Meanwhile, there were two waves of heavy coverage of spree killings; the “going postal” era of the late 1980s/early 1990s, and the 2010s.

            Anyone know where to find statistics on TV coverage of street crime over time?

          • Matt M says:

            Not to mention intense media coverage on large protests that block traffic and occasionally turn violent, signal-boosted hard by right-wing media in particular.

            I feel like what’s going on here is sort of the opposite of the broken window theory. Trump particularly exploits this a lot referring to lawlessness. Something like “If the cops can’t even stop Antifa from breaking windows, or stop BLM from shutting down major highways for hours at a time, I’m sure they aren’t stopping petty theft, assault, or murder either!”

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I’d also add that it is crime that people PERCEIVE they could stop with a gun that increases support for gun rights, whereas crime that people PERCEIVE they cannot stop increases gun control pushes.

            A person normally thinks that having and being decently trained with a pistol will help them in the case of a race riot, burglary, gang violence, or any similar attack. OTOH, people feel that assassinations and school shootings are seemingly random and often distant.

            For instance, the Japan Sarin gas attacks did not cause a big impact in America politically because no one in America really understood the motivations of those people, and it was far. The 9/11 attacks caused a massive impact because people understood the motivations of radical islamists and also understood the ways to impede them.

          • 1soru1 says:

            The 9/11 attacks caused a massive impact because people understood the motivations of radical islamists and also understood the ways to impede them.

            Pretty sure they didn’t, except inasmuch they made an effort to find out after the fact.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @John Schilling

            I’ve seen stuff in the New York Times about how low crime (or, at least, violent crime) is now; it’s usually in response to tough-on-crime talk by right-wing politicians. In Canada, any spike in violent crime will simultaneously see sky-is-falling rhetoric and “well if you look at [American city] it’s actually super safe here” in the same paper (but we only have two or three papers that anyone cares about, so they gotta do double-duty a lot of the time). It’s not rare either to see stuff that pooh-poohs the crime rate in the middle-late 20th century – there’s a certain left-wing reading of harsher criminal policy in the 70s and 80s which doesn’t acknowledge that it was a response to crime rates – maybe not the best response, maybe even a counterproductive response, but a response to an actual thing.

            @idontknow131647093, @1soru1

            The sentiment of “we need to understand why they did a bad thing” often gets attacked, depending on who’s saying it and whom they’re saying it about. It’s easy to find stuff that argues against humanizing one’s enemies (sometimes even that blunt), etc, coming from different political stances talking about different enemies.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ve seen stuff in the New York Times about how low crime (or, at least, violent crime) is now; it’s usually in response to tough-on-crime talk by right-wing politicians.

            It’s not entirely absent from the media, sure.

            But for the past few decades at least, and except for a brief period around 2001, Americans have overwhelmingly believed and continue to believe that violent crime is on the rise, higher this year than last year, year after year. The folks at the New York Times, and Politifact and Vox and whatnot, may from time to time point out that if you want to be one of the smart, in-the-know people you should hold the contrarian (and incidentally true) view that violent crime is declining. Meanwhile, CNN Headline News is now pretty much 24/7 True Crime stories, and they get way more exposure than the New York Times.

            Unfortunately, polling on that question doesn’t go all the way back to the 1960s that I can find. And I’d also like to see something to break down fear of street crime vs fear of terrorism vs fear of mass shootings, because those do seem to drive different public reactions.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Polls are misleading. The whole attitude towards crime is very different now than it was in the late 80s/early 90s, at least on the northern part of the East Coast. Then, crime was talked about all the time. You heard about murders (and new records for murders) constantly, there were many places you just didn’t go, and muggings were a big worry. Now, people worry a lot less about it. You make sure you don’t move into one of the remaining bad neighborhoods, but aside from that you go about your business without much worry of being killed or mugged

            (Note: these observations may be void in Baltimore.)

          • Wrong Species says:

            I agree with Nybbler. If someone asked me if crime in my neighborhood increased, decreased or stayed the same over the last ten years, I wouldn’t really know. I might just say it’s increasing because it’s a growing area and you expect there to be more crime. But it’s definitely not something I think about on a day to day basis. I doubt people are buying guns en masse because of some reports of crime in far away places, especially somewhere like NYC where the decline is more obvious.

          • John Schilling says:

            First, we aren’t talking about whether people are buying guns, we are talking about why they don’t support gun control. Or were you under the impression that the only people who supported legal abortion were people who were planning to have abortions, the only people who supported gay marriage were gays?

            Second, the plural of anecdote is not data, and I’m sure you don’t know anyone who voted for Nixon either. Faced with almost thirty years of data from a major polling firm clearly indicating that a large majority of Americans persistently believe in rising crime rates, your response is “If someone asked me … it’s not something I think about”?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Faced with almost thirty years of data from a major polling firm clearly indicating that a large majority of Americans persistently believe in rising crime rates, your response is “If someone asked me … it’s not something I think about”?

            My response is that Americans claiming the crime rate rose year over year for 20 years doesn’t mean they think the crime rate is higher now than they did 20 years ago.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @John Schilling

            You’re definitely right that there’s a lot of “if it bleeds, it leads” going on in the news media. As you note, it’s unclear how the fear breaks down – but I’d expect that your average New Yorker is less worried about getting mugged, more worried about someone with an AR-15. Additionally, is the blame entirely on the news media, or does entertainment have a role – do, say, cop shows feature a higher murder rate than the real city they’re set in?

          • Wrong Species says:

            @John

            I wasn’t saying that I speak for everyone. It was a general point that could explain why people could both say that crime is increasing without it really meaning anything.

            You don’t have any evidence supporting your claim that higher crime=higher rates of support for guns and when I bring data challenging it, you just find a work around. The only thing you have is peoples abstract perceptions of crime going up year over year and a general, but inconsistent, increase in support for gun rights. Until you have any evidence linking the two with the right causation, your argument isn’t convincing.

    • J Mann says:

      I think both sides win some, and the best wins are the ones where the Overton window shifts so far that the other side forgets they were ever against you. (Optimistically, those have a good chance of being wins where you had a good argument and people ultimately agreed with you.)

      – Conservatives (and libertarians) won most of the economic issues for a long time: the idea of nationalizing industries is effectively off the table in all but a few rate cases; price controls like rent control or airline price control are mostly out; there’s a strong bias towards free trade.

      – Conservatives mostly won crime control in the US. We have one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, and the baseline assumption is that that is an acceptable and effective method of controlling crime, at least in relation to the alternatives. There are some cracks around the edges at stop and frisk, drug decriminalization, etc., but I think those would evaporate if the crime rate rose substantially. (And if it doesn’t they’re good adjustments.)

      – Clinton era welfare reform was a win for conservatives, although progressives have made some progress against it.

      – Unions are getting hammered in the US, mostly because public opinion is that work rules are counterproductive.

      • Guy in TN says:

        This is something I was going to bring up myself. If its so obvious that the current drifts left, can we point to some more issues, besides gay marriage, that the left has decisively “won” in the past 30 years?

        Direct welfare was abolished in the 1990s. Unions continue to be decimated. The supreme court started putting limits on the interstate commerce clause. Tax cut packages continue to be the norm, while tax increases are rare and extremely controversial.

        Regarding the military/national security issues, the 00’s were a decisive failure for the left.

        It’s suppose its true that the political opinions of young people skew sharply left, and if this trend continues, they will have victories in the future.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          I think the shift is felt more in culture then in law. Like a wave that hasn’t yet broken over a levee Certain forms of licentiousness of sexual practices, the death of religion, The [partial] mainstreaming adoption of certain race/gender theories that were radical in the 80s. Trans issues becoming a thing almost immediately after 2015 and then some journalists testing the water with pedophilia.

          I also think that the ‘neoliberal’ aspects of right wing victories (tax cuts, regulation, etc.) feel bittersweet when your nation’s corporations behave so contemptuously towards the red tribe. Low income taxes especially in a world where you *have* to go to college (Which the red tribe hates) to earn a decent salary… not so great.

          Regarding military spending. A powerful military feels like a defeat if you perceive that military power being used exclusively to the benefit of people other than your own. I think post-bush conservatives have largely come to the conclusion that the foreign policy of the 2000s had nothing to do with national security. So again they got what they wanted and realized they didn’t really want it.

          Lastly and probably most imminent is the demographic issue: the feeling of being one election away to becoming second class citizens in a one party, multicultural, state.

          If you’re looking at US history from the perspective of 2015+ it makes the 90s look like an indian summer.

          • Matt M says:

            Regarding military spending. A powerful military feels like a defeat if you perceive that military power being used exclusively to the benefit of people other than your own. I think post-bush conservatives have largely come to the conclusion that the foreign policy of the 2000s had nothing to do with national security. So again they got what they wanted and realized they didn’t really want it.

            Even that last sentence I don’t think is true. Bush ran on a platform of “I won’t use the military for nationbuilding” and then used the military to launch the biggest, longest, most expensive nationbuilding program (on multiple fronts) that the world has ever seen.

            I don’t think it’s quite fair to characterize that sequence of events as “Bush gave conservatives what they wanted.”

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Matt M

            Foreign policy is idiosyncratic. Look at how Republicans and Democrats have done a 180 on Russia over the last three years or how Democrats manage to criticize Trump for doing doing too little and too much in Syria.

          • beleester says:

            Just because the right changed their minds on what they wanted doesn’t mean they didn’t get what they want. “Cthulhu swims left” is a statement about effectiveness, not about which side is correct.

            Also, even if you argue that “the right” shouldn’t include George Bush (a dubious claim), that doesn’t mean George Bush is a left-winger, it just means that there are more axes than left or right to evaluate him on. It’s not evidence for “Cthulhu swims left,” at best it says “Cthulhu swims left sometimes, and right sometimes, but he hasn’t navigated into the particular region of the Rightward Sea that I wanted.”

          • Randy M says:

            “Cthulhu swims left” makes most sense to me if Cthulhu is Leviathan; that is there is a plausible mechanism for the ever expansion of state power despite half the country being nominally opposed to it. Whether it is empirically true is another matter, but it makes sense.

            “Social policy always moves left” mostly seems true in that novel changes are called progress after the fact (if they stick) no matter which ideological direction they go.

            Look at how Republicans and Democrats have done a 180 on Russia over the last three years

            My head is still spinning from the speed of moving from “The 1980s called, they want their foreign policy back” to “Russians are pulling the strings in the highest levels of American government!”

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M:

            Wouldn’t that be more the 1950s?

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species says:

            The way I like to put it is foreign policy is very partisan, but not very ideological. Republicans will cheer for a republican candidate who wants a foreign policy that’s “humble, but strong”, and cheer again when that candidate embarks on hugely ambitious foreign policy adventures. And democrats will do likewise.

            @beleester

            the original formation of cthulhu swims left definitely includes the implication that when groups change their definition of what they want, it’ll usually be a change to the left of where they were previously.

          • Iain says:

            My head is still spinning from the speed of moving from “The 1980s called, they want their foreign policy back” to “Russians are pulling the strings in the highest levels of American government!”

            This is overly glib — particularly on a day where 12 Russians were indicted for election-related hacking.

            Imagine a Bush / Gore debate in which Gore said that Saudi Arabia was the largest military threat to the US, and Bush made fun of him for it. Now imagine looking back on that comment post 9/11. It can simultaneously be true that:
            A) a country is not your biggest geopolitical rival
            B) that country can still launch a very damaging surprise attack.

            When the facts change, people change their minds. Do you think it was obvious in 2012 that the Russians would interfere in the 2016 election?

          • Nornagest says:

            There’s a big difference between state-sponsored action and non-state actors that happen to come from a particular state. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi (plus two from the UAE, one from Egypt and one from Lebanon), but saying that Saudi Arabia is a military threat after 9/11 would be like saying that Japan is one after an Aum Shinrikyo attack, or the United States after the Oklahoma City bombing.

            It wouldn’t have been crazy to say on 9/10/2001 that Al-Qaeda was the biggest near-term security threat to the US. Bold, but not crazy: they hadn’t yet had a lot of success, but they’d targeted the US before and there was, famously, evidence they were going to do it again.

          • Randy M says:

            Putin was still the dominant Russian political force in 2012, wasn’t he? Either Obama was naive (edit: As GWB famously was!), Putin took a sudden turn towards malevolence, or current charges are overwrought. Regardless of which, the rapid flip in perspective/revelations is astounding and little remarked upon.
            If Putin did in fact install his puppet into the white house, at least we get the amusement of watching him do it in the place of the dupe who presented him with a mistranslated “Reset” button prop.

            It can simultaneously be true that:
            A) a country is not your biggest geopolitical rival
            B) that country can still launch a very damaging surprise attack.

            But is not true that someone concerned with about a country that later launches a surprise attack was deserving of scorn at the time, or that the mocker doesn’t look foolish in retrospect.

          • beleester says:

            @cassander:

            the original formation of cthulhu swims left definitely includes the implication that when groups change their definition of what they want, it’ll usually be a change to the left of where they were previously.

            That still doesn’t fit, if we’re talking about Bush and the neocons. The shift from Bush-era low taxes, free trade, and military adventurism to Trump-era low taxes, protectionism, and isolationism can’t be called a “leftward shift,” by any definition of the left that I know of.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @wrongspecies et all vis-a-vis the Russia switch.

            It didn’t happen. Most of the Right isn’t pro-Russia, they are just anti-anti-Trump on this issue.

            2008-2016: Obama (and Hillary for the first 4) give Putin everything he could have wanted both rhetorically and geopolitically. For a fleeting moment Hillary was slightly mean to Putin while also enabling him with fecklessness.

            2016: Putin wants to screw with America so he screws with Clinton who is the presumed winner, and an easier target. Immediately after the election he stages faux anti-Trump protests. In addition, his plants likely make up the majority of Michael Steele’s “sources” in his infamous dossier

            2017-present: Russia has suffered mild geopolitical losses, and its gains are as a result of Eurozone complacency and weakness (which is not popular for Republicans). Dems switch to being strong rhetorically on Russia, but have no policy shifts away from what gave Putin multiple free wins.

            Where is the switch? Republicans continue to stake out the real policy positions that Russia doesn’t want: EU NATO countries should spend more on defense, ISIS should be crushed in a smart manner (happened very quickly by the way), Iran cannot be allowed to be a regional power, Assad can’t use chemical weapons willy nilly, divert Iranian spies hiding in refugee swarms away from Europe, etc.

            Lets be clear, everything Russia did in 2016 they did in 2012, its just that Obama happened to win, and the DNC had less Podestas in charge of security, so there was no outrage. If Romney had won, the response would have been no different.

          • cassander says:

            @beleester

            That still doesn’t fit, if we’re talking about Bush and the neocons. The shift from Bush-era low taxes, free trade, and military adventurism to Trump-era low taxes, protectionism, and isolationism can’t be called a “leftward shift,” by any definition of the left that I know of.

            I wasn’t really speaking to the accuracy of the claim that cthulhu only swims left, just the implications of the original claim. that said, it remains to be seen how much of trump’s rhetoric actually becomes permanent policy. “cthulhu only swims left” isn’t a claim that the right won’t clamor for right wing policies (however you choose to define right wing) just that they will rarely be enacted, or if they are, rarely stick around long.

          • mdet says:

            In addition, [Putin’s] plants likely make up the majority of Michael Steele’s “sources” in his infamous dossier

            Ok hold up, cause my spider-sense just went off here.

            I don’t know how the Steele dossier came together, but what I imagine is that Christopher Steele is a very well-connected person, who went to other very well-connected people and asked if they or someone they knew had dirt on Donald Trump. Donald Trump, the celebrity, media personality, and billion-dollar New York businessman turned-politician; who owns and licenses properties all around the world, who has screwed over his customers and fellow businessmen many times, and committed fraud on many occasions; who regularly hosts and attends events with the richest and famousest of people, and has a reputation for trying to be the center of attention so much that he allegedly would call into tabloids in the 90s to leak gossip about himself, and once took a moment during a presidential debate to brag about his own dick; who seemingly cheats on his wife with porn stars and then pays them off to keep quiet. That Donald Trump. And somehow the majority of people who came forward with dirty info weren’t his fellow celebrities, media personalities, businessmen, or politicians, maybe ones who a grudge against him from being screwed over in the past, and Steele was just a bit too credible in believing some of the wilder gossip. Instead, most of the people who came forward with dirt were Putin plants from Moscow with totally made-up info.

            Am I missing something or is this an enormous conspiracy?

          • John Schilling says:

            Am I missing something or is this an enormous conspiracy?

            No enormous conspiracy required, and you are missing a few points:

            First, Christopher Steele wasn’t the only or even the first “well-connected person” to try and dig up dirt on Donald Trump. Forty years of business rivalries and defrauded partners, two ex-wives and numerous scorned lovers, and basically every reporter to cover the 2016 election, add up to a lot of shovels over a prolonged period, but somehow only Steele’s finds this sort of (literal) paydirt.

            Second, everything that Steele “found”, he found in Moscow. A very peripheral part of Trump’s business empire. Trump’s “fellow celebrities, media personalities, businessmen, or politicians, maybe ones who a grudge against him from being screwed over in the past”, if they have dirt and are willing to talk, are going to talks 90% about stuff happening in NYC, not 100% about stuff happening in Moscow. How would any of them even know?

            Third, anyone who was in a position to know any of the things in the Steele dossier, is in a position to be Novichoked or worse if they sufficiently annoy Vladimir Putin. And they know it. Turning an asset like Donald Trump, presuming he has been turned or suborned, would seriously annoy Vladimir Putin. So, all of Steele’s sources just signed their own death warrants and didn’t bother to e.g. flee to Europe seeking asylum and protection for their families?

            And finally, neither the DNC nor the RNC made any use of all this dirt they paid for. The New York Times wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole when it was offered to them on a platter. Nor CNN or any other reputable news outlet. Judging by the lack of action, no law enforcement or intelligence agency has found anything actionable in the dossier. Only Buzzfeed was willing to publish this under their own name, presumably because Gawker was bankrupt by then. If this was information known to Trump’s enemies in the United States, then it wouldn’t be so difficult to confirm.

            None of this requires a grand conspiracy. Only that Putin decide in 2015 that it would be a good thing to preemptively discredit and delegitimize whoever was going to become the next US president, so long as it was safe and easy to do. At that point, a small conspiracy to dangle rumors before the obvious spy asking stupid questions would suffice. Or just a tacit understanding in Moscow that Putin will look favorably on anything that makes POTUS-candidates look foolish.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @johnshilling

            That is a perfect explanation of the Steele dossier. It contains 3 types of information:

            1. Publicly available information (i.e. Robert Gates was in Moscow on date XXX to give a speech at a conference)

            2. Debunked information (i.e. the above, but when there are pictures of him being in London on that day)

            3. Anonymously sourced information from Russian informants.

      • cassander says:

        – Conservatives (and libertarians) won most of the economic issues for a long time: the idea of nationalizing industries is effectively off the table in all but a few rate cases; price controls like rent control or airline price control are mostly out; there’s a strong bias towards free trade.

        Nationalizing steel companies is off the table, but in the last decade, the US government nationalized the mortgage industry and got into directly setting prices in an even bigger swathe of the medical industry. That’s on top of an education industry that’s already effectively nationalized. The left still wants to nationalize the commanding heights, and is doing so, it’s just that their definition of the commanding heights has shifted.

        Conservatives mostly won crime control in the US.

        they did, but those victories were won decades ago. they certainly haven’t made any wins lately.

        Clinton era welfare reform was a win for conservatives, although progressives have made some progress against it.

        And every other entitlement has grown substantially.

        – Unions are getting hammered in the US, mostly because public opinion is that work rules are counterproductive.

        Not really. the blue collar unions have been on the decline for decades, and not for any reason of change in law. government employee unions are still growing rapidly in size and power, despite a few minor recent setbacks.

        • J Mann says:

          I didn’t say conservatives won them all, or even have a net winning record (I wouldn’t know how to measure). I was just challenging the idea that it’s surprising for conservatives to win or draw on a contentious issue. I thought the OP meant to include both legal and cultural issues, but could be mistaken.

        • albatross11 says:

          In what sense did we nationalize the mortgage industry? There are still a gazillion private mortgage brokers and markets in securitized mortgages. I think the closest thing to that I know of is that Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac were officially independent entities with an implicit government guarantee, and they were formally taken over by the feds.

          And this wasn’t “let’s nationalize the means of production so the proletariat can benefit from their profits,” it was “let’s nationalize these two seriously underwater companies that were set up to make sure mortgages kept flowing.” You can criticize this as an instance of privatizing profits and nationalizing losses, but not of seizing the means of production.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            > did we nationalize the mortgage industry?

            For nearly a decade, Fannie and Freddie were the secondary market for mortgages, buying them from banks. Not the entirety but something insane like 90% of the mortgages ended up on their books. They are now going through the process of getting out of that business.

          • 10240 says:

            And this wasn’t “let’s nationalize the means of production so the proletariat can benefit from their profits,”

            Was that ever the reason for nationalization in the Western world?

          • J Mann says:

            @albatross11 – I wouldn’t call Fannie and Freddie particularly concerning nationalizations. They were always de facto government agencies, and the the government now runs them, continually promising that it plans to re-“privatize” them any day now.

            IIRC, we did essentially nationalize federally subsidized student lending, in which the federal government was already carrying all the risk and decided the middlemen weren’t providing any value.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Simple answer: the story isn’t actually over yet.

      There are frequently hit-pieces on Evangelicals from the left arguing that opposition to abortion was all politically motivated or because of racism, etc. But there is at least 1 key data point you can take away from those: it took years after Roe for opposition to abortion to really became a force, and it took even longer for the numbers of that opposition to grow. The Southern Baptists were originally in favor of abortion, even before the Supremes ruled on it!

      If you’d looked at things in 1976, you probably would have called the abortion debate over as well.

      How confident are you that the polls on gay marriage will remain stable when the question being asked is no longer “Do you support gay marriage (and want to keep your job)?”

    • 10240 says:

      The general leftward trend applies to identity politics (race, gender, sexual orientation, transsexuals etc.), but not necessarily to other issues. On identity politics issues, the left attacks right-wing people (or not sufficiently left-wing people) as immoral: racist, sexist, homophobic etc. The right may consider the left-wing policies mistaken, naive, harmful, but they don’t have a strong claim that the left is malevolent. Racism, sexism etc. have become viewed as worse than any other political view (these are pretty much the only political views that get people fired from non-political organizations). As a result, people try to err on the side of being too left-wing (example earlier in the thread), creating the leftward trend.

      The left tries to turn abortion into an identity politics issue, but they don’t really succeed because men and women oppose abortion in similar proportions.

      • mdet says:

        I always interpreted “Cthulu always swims left” as an absolute statement. Zoom out to the entire course of history, and it’s always been a steady march leftwards. Like Scott’s thrive / survive theory of political differences posits a historical law linking a society’s material prosperity to how much it values egalitarianism. Or how women moving into the workforce in the 70s was a direct result of knowledge & service jobs growing while manual labor jobs shrink + contraceptive technology becoming cheap and reliable, allowing wives and mothers to put more time into their careers. In this sense, Feminism was inevitable.

        But your explanation makes it sound very conditional. There’s no reason why those trends *have to* lead to gendered identity politics, and there’s no reason why gendered identity politics might not tone down a generation or two from now. And the racial dynamics of the US are really only relevant to the US. I don’t see any signs that, say, Japan is going to start making racist comments against black people a firable offense.

        • 10240 says:

          Yes, I guess “Cthulu always swims left” is intended as a general statement. I didn’t phrase it well, but I meant that my opinion is that it’s true for identity politics, but not necessarily other areas. Or, rather, it’s true at a very low resolution across centuries. Take economy: after the income tax was introduced (in the US, but I guess many other countries were similar), there was an explosion in redistribution. Within decades, top tax brackets reached levels that most of us today would regard as daylight robbery. Then, since the 60s, they decreased a lot. Very broadly, the state favored the rich at the expense of the poor under the feudalism of the middle ages (or indeed in the form of slavery up to the 19th century), then it was relatively neutral for a while, and today it redistributes from the rich to the poor. But at a higher resolution it’s not a monotonous (in the mathematical sense) leftward trend, and the very long term trend is not very relevant when discussing the political victories of the two sides in the last few years or decades.

          I classify women entering the workforce to be identity politics, as it’s gender-related. (More precisely, women being allowed to work is identity politics. Some of the increase in women’s participation in the workforce may have happened after it was already fully legal and accepted, in that case it’s simply an economic change, not a political issue.) You are right that what I wrote is not the full explanation of the left-wing trend. I’d argue that the fact that right-wing opinions on identity politics issues tend to become viewed as immoral and unacceptable acts as a ratchet. In some periods, policies and the Overton window moves leftward, whether purely because people’s views on justice change as a result of activism, or as a result of other causes such as economic changes. At other times, leftward movement is slower or stops, but my impression is that we hardly ever move rightward. Whereas on issues other than identity politics, even if there is a long-term trend, policies regularly move back-and-forth.

          I agree that US racial politics is unique to the US, other countries are very different. Broadly speaking, though, racism has greatly reduced and, to varying extents, became unacceptable since the mid-20th century throughout the Western world, and policies such as anti-discrimination laws and hate speech laws have been introduced. Gender politics is much more universal: stuff like quotas or targets for women in corporate boards are found not only in many Western countries, but even in many Far Eastern countries. Same goes for news articles considering various gender gaps injustice and using sexism as the default explanation. I guess these ideologies are adopted from the Western world.

    • toastengineer says:

      Maybe it really is because abortion is a genuinely harder question to answer than gay marriage. Allowing two dudes to sign a contract if they want is pretty obviously the correct answer in the value framework that the right and left still more-or-less share.

      In fact I’m suspicious that the entire controversy was based purely on mutual misunderstanding, where righties objected to the use of the word “marriage” to refer to something that contradicts how many people in the religion that U.S. marriage traditions come from define it, and lefties thought they were objecting to letting two dudes jointly file their taxes and objected to the objection.

      Whereas the other issue involves balancing value of two lives against each other, and is thus going to be an inherently harder question.

      My other theory is that the right just never actually cared that much, or least didn’t really care that much since the mid 2000s, about homosexuality; the idea that they did comes from a very tiny vocal minority and left-wing propaganda. Might be that they never cared that much specifically because of the above mention of allowing it being obviously correct under a right-wing kinda-libertarian-when-convenient framework.

    • Alexander Turok says:

      Gay marriage was always a primarily symbolic issue. Should government’s put a stamp of approval on gay sex? It was going to happen regardless. When it was unpopular, the Left ran from it.(c.f., Obama’s stated opinion in 2008.) When it became popular and thus a liability to oppose, the Right did the same thing. Another reason the Right gave up around 2015 is because the symbolic value of gay marriage no longer really mattered. The public schools, the universities, the media, and even the corporations had all gotten on board with it.

      On the abortion issue, there’s a powerful wing of the party that sees it as literally murder. Kind of like how we would see infanticide, which in many cultures was considered a family matter the government should not interfere with. You can try to convince them that the Right should abandon the issue for strategic reasons as with gay marriage, in order to fight on economics or immigration. But from their point of view, taking abortion out of conservatism is like taking Christ out of Christianity. Thus the opposition continues even though the majority does oppose prohibition of abortion.

      The gun issue is different and simpler: a lot of people own guns. Many are democrats or swing voters. Every so often the Democratic politicians tells themselves that only a few crazy people own guns, which they can believe because none of the people they know own guns, get burned, and swear off the issue, only to come back to it an election cycle later.

  16. hyperboloid says:

    Is anybody else surprised that the Republicans in congress haven’t done more to restrict Trump’s powers on tariffs?

    Because the trade war is one of the few pieces of Trumpism that is not only inept policy, but also likely very damaging to key demographics the Republicans need to turn out in November. The fact that they persist in allowing this is proof that they will have to be made to feel direct personal pain before they change course against trump.

    In the immortal words of Charlemagne Sean Connery: “let my armies be the rocks, and the trees, and the very chucks of the wood.

    • Well... says:

      …so really, Paul Ryan should blame Charlemagne?

    • MrApophenia says:

      On a practical level, I am not surprised at all. They have a hard election coming up and if they go against Trump they probably lose their own seat. They will take no action against Trump until after the Republican base turns on him.

      If tariffs do that, then maybe after that you’ll see what you’re talking about, but not before.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Trying to bully other countries into lowering their tariffs is no more inept then trying to bully NK into limiting it’s nuclear program. Both could backfire horribly.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Trying to bully other countries into lowering their tariffs is no more inept then trying to bully NK into limiting it’s nuclear program. Both could backfire horribly.

        Backfire on tariffs: Economy (in both sides) goes to hell until cooler heads prevail. Which will happen because the economy going to hell tends to result in political change.

        Backfire on bulling NK: Nuclear war.

        So I’m going to have to say there’s a huge difference between the two

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          I wouldn’t disagree. But imagine saying “He’s crazy [or inept] trying to get lower foreign tariffs” after having just returned from talks with NK that in a worst case scenario end with both leaders being more polite to each other but no change in nuclear policy.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      1) Where did you get the idea that fighting back in a trade war that has cost the US trillions of dollars is “bad policy?” You’re begging the question here.

      2) What can Congress do about tariffs? That’s all executive branch stuff. If Congress passed a law saying “the president can’t do tariff stuff anymore” it would have to be signed by the President, and I don’t know why he would do that.

      • Iain says:

        2) What can Congress do about tariffs? That’s all executive branch stuff. If Congress passed a law saying “the president can’t do tariff stuff anymore” it would have to be signed by the President, and I don’t know why he would do that.

        Constitutionally speaking, this is false. Vox has a good rundown:

        The Constitution is pretty clear: It’s in Congress’s power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States,” and regulate trade between the US and other countries. But over the past century, Congress has shifted many of the powers to raise and lower tariffs to the executive branch (a concentration of power that conservatives now decry). There are many ways the president can impose tariffs without congressional approval. To name a few:

        * Through the Trading With the Enemy Act of 1917, the president can impose a tariff during a time of war. But the country doesn’t need to be at war with a specific country — just generally somewhere where the tariffs would apply. (This is how Richard Nixon imposed a 10 percent tariff in 1971, citing the Korean War.)
        * The Trade Act of 1974 allows the president to implement a 15 percent tariff for 150 days if there is “an adverse impact on national security from imports.” After 150 days, the trade policy would need congressional approval.
        * There’s the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977, which would allow the president to implement tariffs during a national emergency.

        The executive’s control over tariffs is at the discretion of Congress, and is mostly limited to national security stuff. That’s why Trump had to make such self-evidently bogus claims about Canadian aluminum being a national security threat to the US. If Congress wanted to stop Trump, they could do so tomorrow, and override Trump’s veto. (They did it to Obama once, Clinton twice, and Bush four times.)

        More broadly: can you explain how you think this multi-trillion-dollar trade war works, and how tariffs solve anything?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I wasn’t speaking constitutionally I was speaking literally. Congress passed laws giving the executive branch control over trade regulation, and if they want to deny the President those powers, they need to pass laws the President would have to sign. This is not going to happen, so no, Congress can’t do anything about Trump’s tariffs.

          It’s not the Canadian steel itself (that largely being pass-through Chinese steel they’re dumping on the market anyway) that is a national security issue. It’s that the lack of steel and aluminum production in the US is a national security issue. The Arsenal of Democracy is in China now. That US steel production is significantly down is undoubtedly true, and it takes willful blindness on the part of the media to twist the issue to make it about Canada instead of a lack of healthy US production.

          More broadly: can you explain how you think this multi-trillion-dollar trade war works, and how tariffs solve anything?

          Other nations have both high tariffs on imported US goods and non-tariff barriers to entry. They sell us their goods but do not buy ours. The result is wealth leaving the US. This is good for traders who get a piece of that stream but very bad for American manufacturing workers. By imposing tariffs like those other nations impose on our goods, we level the playing field. The result is either they reduce their tariffs, or production in the US increases to meet demand, increasing American employment and wages. Since America is the largest market in the world, the US holds all the leverage here. The threat of China charging “retaliatory” tariffs on US goods is laughable, because they don’t buy our stuff anyway. They are the ones with everything to lose, not us.

          • Randy M says:

            Congress passed laws giving the executive branch control over trade regulation, and if they want to deny the President those powers, they need to pass laws the President would have to sign. This is not going to happen, so no, Congress can’t do anything about Trump’s tariffs.

            Without knowing specifically what you are talking about, couldn’t they challenge those laws in court (yes, despite being the people that wrote them)? Because otherwise it seems like amending the constitution on easy mode.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Does Congress (or individual congressmen) have standing to challenge executive actions?

            I’m honestly asking here, I don’t know. I think you would have to have a lawsuit from someone harmed by the tariffs. And I think that would go precisely nowhere because if the president is lawfully exercising power granted by the legislature to regulate trade…what’s the argument? “This is unconstitutional because I don’t like it?”

          • Iain says:

            It’s not the Canadian steel itself (that largely being pass-through Chinese steel they’re dumping on the market anyway) that is a national security issue.

            Uh, what? Link? I promise you that Hamilton is a real place that makes real steel out of iron ore mined in Canada.

            It’s that the lack of steel and aluminum production in the US is a national security issue. The Arsenal of Democracy is in China now. That US steel production is significantly down is undoubtedly true, and it takes willful blindness on the part of the media to twist the issue to make it about Canada instead of a lack of healthy US production.

            A) The US military requirements for aluminum and steel represent about 3% of domestic production. (Don’t just take my word for it — ask General Mattis! Seriously, that memo is a masterclass in technically agreeing with the position you’ve been ordered to support while carefully laying out all the reasons that it’s dumb.)
            B) Pissing off your closest allies and trading partners by imposing stupid tariffs is also a national security issue.

            Other nations have both high tariffs on imported US goods and non-tariff barriers to entry. They sell us their goods but do not buy ours. The result is wealth leaving the US.

            A) The US has a net trade surplus (goods and services) with Canada, so by your definition there’s no reason to impose tariffs on Canada.
            B) When you buy steel from China, money goes in one direction and steel goes in the other. That steel doesn’t just vanish into the ether; it is used to build things that any reasonable assessment would count as American wealth. It certainly affects the distribution of wealth in the US — steel manufacturers are worse off, and people building things out of steel or buying those things are better off — but net American wealth doesn’t decrease.

            The result is either they reduce their tariffs, or production in the US increases to meet demand, increasing American employment and wages. Since America is the largest market in the world, the US holds all the leverage here. The threat of China charging “retaliatory” tariffs on US goods is laughable, because they don’t buy our stuff anyway. They are the ones with everything to lose, not us.

            Tell that to Iowa’s soybean farmers. And Harley Davidson employees. And Texas oil. And Kentucky bourbon.

            Does Congress (or individual congressmen) have standing to challenge executive actions?

            All they have to do is pass a law saying “we want to get rid of these tariffs, and you have to ask permission to impose new ones.” It’s already been written. There are no legal obstacles; if they had the votes, they could pass the legislation tomorrow. The executive only has authority on this matter to the extent that Congress has delegated that authority, and they have every right to take it away.

            Trump can try to veto the legislation all he wants; if two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate want to get rid of his tariffs, there is nothing he can do to stop it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It certainly affects the distribution of wealth in the US

            Yes, that is the problem. The distribution of wealth. The working class used to get a piece of the wealth, and they no longer do. That wealth now goes to the financial class, and then trickles down to the people working for or orbiting around the financial class. Tariffs shift some of that wealth back to the working class who now get a hand in the production of the wealth. The US keeps going up in inequality while all the other nations that impose tariffs on our goods aren’t as bad off.

            You would think this would be dead simple to understand, but the people on TV are utterly dumbfounded. I understand that, though. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

          • 10240 says:

            Tariffs shift some of that wealth back to the working class

            Another way to shift wealth from the rich to the working class is redistributive taxation. It’s interesting that Republicans typically oppose the latter, and care relatively little about inequality, but now some of them support tariffs.
            Both are distortionary (and I oppose both), but it’s likely that tariffs are worse.
            Retaliatory tariffs may sometimes be useful though, if they are the only way to convince other countries to remove their tariffs.

            The US keeps going up in inequality while all the other nations that impose tariffs on our goods aren’t as bad off.

            In countries with a higher proportion of high-skilled workers than the countries they trade with, trade barriers reduce inequality: within the country, the supply of low-skilled work is proportionately lower than if the entire world (or a large part of it) was a single market, so it’s price is higher if trade is limited. Conversely, in a country with a lower proportion of high-skilled people than the countries it trades with, trade barriers increase inequality. Trade barriers between countries with similar characteristics have little effect on inequality (but make both countries worse off). Since the US is a developed country, workers in other countries don’t gain anything from having tariffs against the US (except perhaps if the aim of the tariffs is to induce the US to reduce its tariffs).

          • Iain says:

            The working class used to get a piece of the wealth, and they no longer do. That wealth now goes to the financial class, and then trickles down to the people working for or orbiting around the financial class.

            If you ever buy a car, you benefit from cheaper Chinese steel. If you work for an American auto manufacturer, you benefit from people buying more of your cars, because they are cheaper. Those are working class people, getting a piece of the wealth.

            Look at the examples I gave of people who are being hurt by the current trade war. Are farmers part of the financial class? Are Harley-Davidson employees?

            To be clear: the best estimates I’ve seen say that the likely net impact of a major trade war will be significant, but not devastating: on the order of 2-3% of GDP. But that’s the net impact. The bigger problem — the reason that you should be concerned — is the disruption.

            When the US opened up its markets to Chinese steel, that hurt US steelmakers and helped US consumers of steel. The overall result was positive, but that is cold comfort to steelworkers who found themselves unemployed. In the abstract it is good to know that more jobs were created in, say, the automotive industry, but at the end of the day you’ve got to feed your family.

            But slapping more tariffs into place doesn’t help. It’s like running somebody over with your truck, noticing that they’re hurt, and then putting the truck in reverse to run them over again in the hopes that you can cancel it out. This time, it’s the new steelworkers who win, and the people whose jobs depended on cheaper steel who lose — but you’re still putting people out of work.

            What is the mechanism by which you think tariffs put more money in the pockets of the working class?

          • John Schilling says:

            Another way to shift wealth from the rich to the working class is redistributive taxation.

            Redistributive taxation is most commonly seen as shifting wealth to the non-working class.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What is the mechanism by which you think tariffs put more money in the pockets of the working class?

            Because now the money paid for the steel for the cars goes to the American steelworkers instead of the Chinese. You can’t just consume your way to prosperity. You have to produce. The more wealth we create, the more wealth we keep.

          • Lillian says:

            You do realize that steel is an intermediate good, right? US companies buy steel to make various finished goods, that is to say to produce, not consume. It’s unclear to me how making the price of steel go up for these producers is helping the US economy, since if anything it only serves to make our finished goods less competitive in the world market. If steelmakers are hiring, but producers of steel goods are laying off, what precisely is the net gain here?

            What’s more, over the past two hundred years countries that export finished goods have outperformed those that export raw materials, so attempting to shore up intermediate goods manufacturers at the cost of finished goods manufacturers doesn’t strike me as a path to prosperity.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Lillian, I don’t know what you do for a living, but imagine the goal is to keep more money in the Lillian class. We have the option of paying Lillian $1.00 for that service, or paying Lillian $0.00 and paying $0.99 to somebody in China.

            Which option keeps more money in the Lillian class?

            Also, what does it matter how “competitive” our finished goods are if everyone we’re “trading” with has tariffs against those goods? There is no free market. It’s all mercantalists, except us, which is why we’re taking it in the shorts.

          • Lillian says:

            Trade happens because its beneficial to both parties, so if American companies are importing foreign steel, it’s because it’s because makes their goods more competitive. This in turn benefits their employees and leads to growth. By placing tariffs on imports, you are harming them, with knock on effects on the whole economy. American finished goods get less competitive which means production drops, which means that the steel market you were hoping to feed with American steel actually shrinks. In the end, American steel producers are little better off, and producers of steel goods are worse off. This how tariffs hurt the economy.

            Now i do see value in tariffs employed in the manner of the military. It’s a direct financial drain that produces little of value and actively hinders the normal functioning of the economy, but still useful and necessary for safeguarding the interests of the nation. Trade barriers are good when used to counter foreign trade barriers, just like armies are good to counter foreign armies. Just don’t decieve yourself into thinking that they have any economic value in and of themselves.

            The problem i have with Trump’s trade war is that there seems to be no clear goal or win condition. He didn’t make any specific demands and then start imposing retaliatory tariffs when the were not met, he just marched of to war with some vague motion of beating the enemy, and now the enemy doesn’t even know what concessions they’re expected to make for the war to end. It’s all very confused, pointless, and counterproductive. That said i will cheer and say Trump has done well if we somehow get more free trade out of it in the end. Its just that at present it looks like it’s doing quite a bit of harm and very little good.

          • beleester says:

            @Conrad Honcho: If your goal is to keep money in the Lillian class, then it’s a good idea to protect Lillians with tariffs. But why is the “Lillian class” something that we’re trying to keep money in? What makes steelworkers worthy of protection and people who make things out of steel (like, say, Harley-Davidson factory workers) unworthy? I don’t see how that category carves reality at the joints, as they say around here.

            I’d be happy if Congress passed a bill to give a million dollars to each person whose name starts with a “B,” but I can’t justify that just by saying “Well, if your goal is to support the B’s in our country…”

          • @Conrad:

            We have the option of paying Lillian $1.00 for that service, or paying Lillian $0.00 and paying $0.99 to somebody in China.

            You are stopping your analysis too soon.

            Someone in China now has $.99 in U.S. money. Unless he decides to hide it under his mattress, he uses it to buy something from America or trades it to someone else in China who does so. What they buy is either American goods for export or American capital assets–T-bills, Apple stock, or whatever. Either that $.99 is going to buy American goods or to invest in America or to fund part of the budget deficit which would otherwise be funded by Americans with money they would either have invested or spent.

            In order for an American to buy something from China he has to sell dollars for Chinese money, directly or through an intermediate. In order for him to sell dollars someone else has to buy them.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            David, how does that do anything to keep the working class employed? I get it, “people who trade in dollars” are better off, but that tends to concentrate wealth among people who buy foreign labor while never hitting Americans who don’t provide the sorts of services people who trade in foreign labor consume.

            beleester, is the purpose of the people to serve the economy or the economy to serve the people? Why do we have environmental regulations? Who decided “the environment” was something worth protecting? Why do we have worker safety laws? The 40 hour week week? Child labor laws? Who decided workers were something worth protecting? These things all make the price of labor and the cost of doing business in the US more expensive. And yet we have them.

            Lillian, yes, I get it, it’s cheaper to buy foreign stuff.

            I’m completely aware that tariffs raise the cost of labor and make stuff a little more expensive. But the entire reason labor is more expensive in the US is because, at the request of the people, the government enacted all kinds of laws and regulations to protect workers, consumers, and the environment. I’ll take a free trade argument “no tariffs no OSHA no minimum wage no EPA yes child slavery (if the child consents!)” from an AnCap. But from anybody else it sounds like a parody.

            “Fight for $15! Workers’ rights! Mandatory family leave! Unions! Job training! Save the yellow-bellied snarf eel! Tax everything! Regulate everything else!”

            “You know that’s going to kill jobs and make it more expensive to do everything, right?”

            “It doesn’t matter, because it’s the right thing to do!”

            “Okay, but we’re going to need some tariffs to stay in business.”

            “LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL no way if it means I can’t buy stuff 3 cents cheaper made by diseased Malaysian child slaves FREE MARKET!”

            There is no free market. We enact the regulations to wall off Moloch. We need the tariffs to keep Moloch from oozing around the wall.

          • 10240 says:

            @Conrad Honcho That the other tribe supports bad policies, too, that’s not a reason to support a bad policy yourself. Is your goal to prove that your tribe is not bigger hypocrites than the other tribe, or to get the other tribe to shut up so they don’t have to admit that their policies are bad too, or to determine the truth (in this case, whether a policy is good or bad)? If it’s the last, then arguments from other policies are irrelevant.

          • Lillian says:

            All possible policy proposals have trade offs of some sort or another, the question is which trade off are worthwhile. In the case of tariffs i can only ever see them being useful as a weapon whose purpose is ultimately to knock down trade barriers. Even that is question by the resident Actual Economist, who on the basis of his expertice insists they’re pretty much never good.

            Now in the specific case of steel tariffs, i decided to look up some specific numbers rather than talking in abstract terms. According to MarketWatch: “There are about 140,000 steelworkers in the U.S., according to the American Iron & Steel Institute, and about 6.5 million workers in steel-consuming manufacturers, Moody’s analysts wrote in reports published Friday.”

            So Trump’s steel tariffs are at a bare minimum, hurting 46 times more workers than it is attempting to help, workers who are mostly white working class. That’s before taking into account all the knock on efeects from steel and steel goods also being more expensive, which i expect largely mostly hurt working class people in general. In short, if you want to help these people, if you want them to have more money in their pockets, you really ought to be opposing the tariff.

          • David, how does that do anything to keep the working class employed?

            Foreigners buy dollars in order to spend them in the U.S., that being what dollars are mostly useful for. If the money that left the U.S. to buy Chinese goods comes back to buy American goods, that keeps the people who produce those good employed.

            As I like to put it, we have two technologies for producing automobiles–we can build them in Detroit or grow them in Iowa. The first is familiar. The way to grow an automobile is to grow the raw material it is made out of, called “wheat.” Load it on a ship, send it into the Pacific, and it comes back with Hondas on it.

            That is a technique for producing automobiles, just it would be if there were really a machine out in the Pacific that you poured wheat into and got cars out of.

            So an auto tariff isn’t protecting American workers from the competition of Japanese workers. It’s protecting American workers from the competition of American farmers. It’s a way of making sure we build cares in Detroit even when it is cheaper to grow them in Iowa.

            The cases where the dollars are used to invest in capital assets get more complicated.

            Hope that helps.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Someone in China now has $.99 in U.S. money. Unless he decides to hide it under his mattress, he uses it to buy something from America or trades it to someone else in China who does so.

            Does this imply that the protectionist argument would have more merit if we were on a gold standard or something other than fiat money? It sounds like a key element here is that they are American Dollars, not something that can forever after be exchanged outside of the country.

            Or, to use a more relevant example, would the argument change if we are talking about US interstate commerce, where we might move from paying an Iowan $1.00 to instead pay an Arkansan $0.90 and there is no need for that $0.90 to every make its way back to Iowa.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But David, why is it cheaper to grow the cars in Iowa instead of manufacture them in Detroit?

            Is “cheapness of production” a terminal value, or are there other qualitative things we should be evaluating when deciding on economic policies?

            I completely agree with what you say from a “cheapness of production” standpoint. But in the real world no one thinks or acts that way. I agree it is cheaper to buy foreign goods. But it would also be cheaper to buy American goods if we did away with all those environmental and employment regulations.

            Maybe there’s a way we could have a policy that allows us to have the “converts grain to cars” machine in Detroit, so the Detroit…ian…ers don’t get cut out of the economic loop?

            ETA: Also, Detroit seems like a poor example to use to illustrate the wonders of free trade. I would use the same example in my arguments against free trade, showing pictures of Detroit before “free trade” and after “free trade.” An atom bomb would have been more a more humane thing to do to Detroit than inflict “free trade” upon it.

            @10240:

            I’m not making an argument from hypocrisy. I agree that minimum standards for environmental and occupational safety are good things. I’m saying that in order to keep the workers protected while keeping the workers employed, tariffs are in order. The only arguments I get back are “but things will be slightly more expensive!” which is the argument I get from all the talking heads on TV, and I’ve already rejected all of those arguments because my goal is not “produce cheapest junk.”

          • 10240 says:

            To remain competitive while having environmental regulations etc., we can always take lower salaries. We have to pay the cost of such regulations either way, by taking lower salaries, or paying higher prices.

            (By lower salaries I mean lower than if we didn’t have environmental regulations, not lower than Chinese salaries. The primary reason our salaries are higher than Chinese ones is that our economy is organized more efficiently, we produce more with a given amount of work. We have much higher salaries than the Chinese even if we have those regulations and no tariffs.)

            As for Detroit, we shouldn’t want to preserve the glory of a specific city or industry. Detroiters can move to Iowa and become farmers if that happens to be a more efficient way to produce cars. More realistically, their children can become farmers rather than Detroit auto workers. There might be a reason to phase out tariffs gradually rather than immediately so that people have time to adapt, but that’s not a reason to maintain them forever, or to introduce new tariffs. But the decline of Detroit begun more than a generation ago, and most of the adaptation has probably already happened.

          • Does this imply that the protectionist argument would have more merit if we were on a gold standard or something other than fiat money? It sounds like a key element here is that they are American Dollars, not something that can forever after be exchanged outside of the country.

            In a gold standard, the thing the foreigner is buying from the American is gold.

            This is the specie flow mechanism. If Americans import more than they export, that means that gold is flowing out of America, into China. That results in prices in America (measured in gold) going down, in China up. That results in American goods being more attractive to the Chinese, Chinese less attractive to the Americans. The process continues until the trade deficit is eliminated.

            With floating exchange rates, the mechanism that equates demand for dollars to supply of dollars on the foreign exchange market is the shift in the exchange rate between the currencies.

          • But it would also be cheaper to buy American goods if we did away with all those environmental and employment regulations.

            Only if those regulations raise the cost of building cars by more than they raise the cost of growing cars. Both of which are being done in the U.S.

            I think you are making the very common mistake of imagining some universal unit of cost, such that if costs go down in the U.S. Americans will stop importing so much. But costs in the U.S. are in dollars, in foreign countries in their currency, and there isn’t a fixed rate between the two.

            Suppose the elimination of various foolish regulations makes both American farmers and American auto workers twice as productive as before. If it was cheaper to grow cars than to build them before the change, it is still cheaper after.

      • mdet says:

        Where did you get the idea that fighting back in a trade war that has cost the US trillions of dollars is “bad policy?” You’re begging the question here.

        Aren’t Republicans usually supportive of free trade? He might be begging the question, but he’s begging the question specifically in a way that I thought congressional Republicans would agree with. Were Republicans not as supportive of free trade as I thought they were, or have they changed their minds / the free traders aged out of office, or is hyperboloid right that they do think this is bad policy but are holding their tongues for some other reason?

        • The Nybbler says:

          I think it’s as simple as they believe that going against Trump on this will hurt them politically.

          • mdet says:

            That’s what I thought, in which case hyperboloid is right to call it “inept policy”, at least in the minds of Republican congresspeople.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          The GOP establishment is supportive of “free trade.” The GOP base is either skeptical of free trade, or believes free trade is a sham. There is no free trade when other nations have tariffs against our goods.

          • Lillian says:

            Found an article discussing how American tariffs compare to those faced by the rest of the world:

            Data from the World Economic Forum show that US goods face tariffs that are slightly higher than most other nations, at 4.9%. But that’s down from 6.1% in 2012, and roughly on par with the tariffs faced by exports from China, Japan, Russia and Brazil.
            European Union members face lower average tariffs of 3.5% on their exports.

            It would seem that Trump isn’t so much wrong about American goods facing higher tariffs than those of other industrial powers, as he is working on outdated information. Which frankly, feels like an ongoing theme with a lot of his policy positions.

            That said, it would seem there is room to have a serious discussion with our trading partners on the matter of how come the EU gets a better deal than we do. Would be nice if Trump were having it, instead of just imposing tariffs left and right with no clear goal or endgame.

          • Lillian says:

            Oh, turns out there was more article after the bit i quoted, no wonder it seemes so short. It goes on to say:

            Experts say the disparity with the United States is a result of multiple factors, including the fact that European countries do a lot of trading with one another. EU membership benefits include zero tariffs, no border issues and coordinated internal regulations.

            So, accounting for the fact that average EU tariffs do include the 0% tariffs that members have with each other, an advantage comparable to that enjoyed by the states of the Union given the similar sizes of the US and EU economies, it seems that America is actually in a pretty good position tariffs wise. Trump is fighting a war that Obama already won.

            That said, since we are fighting a war, i would like it if he managed to pull off a victory and knock down a few more trade barriers. It’s just that it doesn’t seem very likely given the haphazard way he’s waging it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Measurements of average tariffs faced don’t account for the trade-discouraging effect of tariffs, especially extremely high protectionist tariffs. For instance, Canada has that 250% tariff on dairy products. That will cut dairy exports to Canada enormously, so it won’t affect the average tariff much.

          • mdet says:

            My point was that, if we ask “Why haven’t Republicans in Congress restrained Trump from passing these terrible and inept tariffs?”, then it doesn’t matter whether the tariffs are actually terrible, it only matters whether congressional Republicans believe they’re terrible. If the GOP establishment supports “free trade”, then McConnell & Ryan must be not-restraining Trump for some other reason, such as “would rather play along than criticize their own voters”. Your other answer, “They don’t have the institutional power to stop him”, was good, and thanks for the explanation about why Canadian steel matters for national security.

          • My point was that, if we ask “Why haven’t Republicans in Congress restrained Trump from passing these terrible and inept tariffs?”

            In order to do that they would have to get a bill through the House and Senate amending the law under which the president can impose a tariff when it is needed for national security reasons. Some significant number of Republicans would oppose that, either because they are Trump supporters or because they are afraid of offending him and being opposed in the primaries by a Trump supporter or because the believe that, even if Trump is abusing the power, it is a power the president should have.

            So passing it would require support from a fair number of Democrats in both the House and the Senate. I don’t know if they could get it.

            Have the Democrats introduced such a bill? I expect some Republicans would support it.

        • Aren’t Republicans usually supportive of free trade?

          My memory is that early in the 20th century the Democrats were the free traders and the Republicans the protectionists, and sometime around mid-century it reversed.

      • 1) Where did you get the idea that fighting back in a trade war that has cost the US trillions of dollars is “bad policy?” You’re begging the question here.

        What does “cost the US trillions of dollars” mean and what is the reason to believe it is true?

        2) What can Congress do about tariffs? That’s all executive branch stuff. If Congress passed a law saying “the president can’t do tariff stuff anymore” it would have to be signed by the President, and I don’t know why he would do that.

        On the contrary. Tariffs are Congress stuff. The reason Trump is raising tariffs without congressional action is a law saying that the President can impose tariffs when it is necessary for national security—an emergency measure, not normal business. Trump is claiming that protecting American producers from Canadian producers is necessary for national security, which is obviously not true, as a way of getting around the fact that tariffs normally require congressional legislation.

        Where did you get the idea that it was normally the other way around?

    • John Schilling says:

      Because the trade war is one of the few pieces of Trumpism that is not only inept policy, but also likely very damaging to key demographics the Republicans need to turn out in November.

      If by this you mean the mostly-white working-class voters who stand to lose their jobs in a trade war, they didn’t vote for Trump because their economic calculation convinced them that Trump’s economic policies would be more likely than Hillary’s to get them a good job. They voted for Trump because he was the enemy of their enemy and he told them what they wanted to hear. They have mostly abandoned any hope of getting a better job, or of the job they have lasting until retirement, but it still feels real good to hurt the people they blame for that, and Trump can do that much for them.

      All of this will still be true in November of 2018, and again in November 2020. Nobody but Trump or the Trump-aligned faction of the GOP will tell the WWC what they actually want to hear, and nobody but Trump or the Trump-aligned faction of the GOP will credibly promise to hurt the people the WWC perceives as its enemies.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        @John Schilling
        He told WWC that he’d bring back jobs by, among other things, bullying foreign countries into lowering their tariffs. That’s not how he would have described it, he probably would have called it getting better deals, but that’s what it amounts to. All of it was basically a dumbed down version of identical statements he had made in the 80s and 90s.

        obviously It didn’t help that the rustbelt states were treated as locked-down by HRC’s campaign until the 11th hour, or that HRC sympathetic media openly relished in the demise of the WWC.

        His campaign included repeated complaints about specific instances of countries placing high tariffs [or maybe import quotas] on foreign imports (which would include US exports)
        It could all be based on factual inaccuracies and deception but that’s the line he sold.

        The “better dealmaker” line was DJT’s, the “Better policies” line was HRC’s

      • Iain says:

        This is a good story, but I’m not convinced it’s true.

        Certainly there are people who love Trump because he was the enemy of their enemy. Most of those people were already voting Republican. Trump’s victory depended on more than just the base — he also attracted swing voters who believed he would be good for the economy. On the margin, it’s not crazy to think that some of those voters will be collateral damage in the trade war and change their minds.

        (Even before this, his numbers in the Rust Belt were significantly down.)

        • Deiseach says:

          On the margin, it’s not crazy to think that some of those voters will be collateral damage in the trade war and change their minds.

          Possibly, but right now the US economy looks to be doing well, and the lower-paid are going to see some increase in wages. I know that it doesn’t matter which president is in the White House when things like this happen – the economy would have improved whether it was President Hillary, Bernie, or Jill as well – but the kudos for it is going to go to Trump (as it would have done to Hillary, Bernie or Jill):

          Average hourly earnings rose 0.3 percent from the prior month following an upwardly revised 0.4 percent gain, the report showed. The 2.9 advance from a year earlier — which partly reflected a downward revision to the January 2017 wage figure — compared with projections for a 2.6 percent increase. December’s gain was revised upward to 2.7 percent.

          …In addition, 18 states began the new year with higher minimum wages, and some companies have recently announced bonuses and salary increases following the passage of the tax-cut legislation. While determining the exact impact may be difficult, economists expect these developments will boost worker pay in 2018.

          Manufacturing jobs have even seen a modest increase, something I frankly would not have believed would happen – I thought it was the service/gig economy on the rise – and the kind of white working class voter for Trump is the guy looking for a good job in the local factory just like his dad:

          U.S. manufacturing gained 36,000 jobs because the strong dollar is subsiding. A weaker dollar helps exports. Durable goods gained 32,000 jobs, thanks to a 12,000 job gain in auto manufacturing. Pay close attention to how many manufacturing jobs are added or lost each month. This is a significant leading economic indicator. Factories add workers as soon as they receive a large enough order. It could take months or even years before the order ships and shows up in economic output. Manufacturing is a better indicator of recession than the service sector, whose job levels remain consistent through the boom-and-bust cycle.

          The factory in town is hiring again, or you can get a job on a building site (and construction is good money if you’re skilled labour)? Try telling those people that yeah, but Trump is wrecking the economy. You may be correct, but it’s going to be a hard sell.

          There’s some people who voted for Trump, see a modest increase in their wage packet now (especially if it’s due to the tax cuts), and will therefore ignore all the scaremongering about how he is worse than fifteen Hitlers, and so they are likely to keep voting Republican/contemplate voting for Trump II: The Trumpening in 2020 should such a thing be on the cards.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        All of this will still be true in November of 2018, and again in November 2020. Nobody but Trump or the Trump-aligned faction of the GOP will tell the WWC what they actually want to hear, and nobody but Trump or the Trump-aligned faction of the GOP will credibly promise to hurt the people the WWC perceives as its enemies.

        This is what happens when you treat the native proletariat as an icky outgroup, yes. Just look at Britain to see how much worse it could get.

        • rlms says:

          Just look at Britain to see how much worse it could get.

          In what sense?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            In Britain, both Labour and Conservatives treat non-upper-class white people as a strange outgroup of lesser beings that could be dangerous, like we’re wild apes instead of fellow humans (and most pertinently I’d say voters, but I’m American). It’s Theresa May’s Tory government that’s allocating so many police man-hours to Panopticon-ing social media and punishing criticism of Islam as hate speech.

          • DavidS says:

            There is 100% an issue with people putting loads of wait on race/religion/sexuality/gender and not on class so a lot of politics and the media tends to be hyper-sensitive to how things are difficult for minorities/women but it’s more OK to just talk smack about poor white people. But this is an exaggeration.

            At the very least, by non-upper-class you must mean ‘certain elements of the working class’: most politicians and opinion-formers are middle class themselves.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        This is a complete failure to model. Steelworkers love Trump because steel plants are reopening. Coal miners love Trump because coal mines are reopening. The US is on track to be the world’s largest exporter of practically every energy source (oil, LNG, etc). Manufacturing jobs are up. Wages are up.

        WWC: “We want jobs!”

        Trump: “I’ll get you jobs!”

        John: “They’re lying about wanting jobs they just wanna hurt libs.”

        No. They’re telling you exactly what they want.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          It’s the “Rednecks in the Mist” phenomenon. These people are an exotic faraway species and we need to research them like Jane Goodall.

          “Hi, fellow. What do you want?”
          “A job with good wages like the Boomers had, without having to go get indoctrinated at college in my 40s.”
          “Hmm, subject supports coal mining. Perhaps he wants to kill brown people with rising sea levels?”
          “…”

        • albatross11 says:

          Also, stuff like tariffs tends to have easily-visible beneficiaries (the industry being protected that hires more people), and hard-to-see losers (some other industry somewhere lays people off because steel prices rose, everyone pays a bit more for cars, etc.) That is one reason why tariffs are politically appealing, even though they almost always make the country that imposes them much worse off overall.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            even though they almost always make the country that imposes them much worse off overall.

            Henry Clay would like a word with you.

            If tariffs are so awful, as everyone knows, why does the EU have so many against American goods? Are they just stupid? How much better off would Germany be if they didn’t have 10% tariffs against American autos? Why aren’t the Germans clamoring to have their government drop tariffs, so they can be better off?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Each tariff helps a small group of producers a lot, and hurts a large group of consumers a little. Even if it is negative sum, politically it can often make sense — concentrated benefits and distributed losses.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, to me, this is the part that really reflects how incredibly biased the media is in covering this issue.

            They act like the default and natural state of the world pre-Trump was absolute free trade everywhere. Then Trump showed up and because of a combination of racism and stupidity, started putting tariffs on things and ruining free trade, thus forcing all other nations to respond in kind, which all intelligent people know harms the American worker.

            Which is so completely and obviously untrue it’s laughable… and yet…

            If “everyone knows” tariffs are bad policy, why do all other nations have them? Why did Obama have them? It’s clear that there are reasons and arguments and justifications for tariffs that exist. You can disagree with them if you want, but that then requires you to disagree with people who aren’t Trump as well.

            I myself support free trade and do not support tariffs. But it’s abundantly clear that most of the current objections are nothing more than “Trump likes it so I oppose it” and not coherently thought out economic frameworks.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Matt M

            You state the situation well. The media too often acts as if the election of Trump was Year Zero, and the policies he proposes (or often even, merely continues to implement from prior administrations) are an aberration the likes of which America has never seen.

            There’s a reasonable debate about tariffs that the mainstream pundit class could be having, but that would involve addressing complexities and trade offs. Instead we have the reflexive arguments of “Trump policy=bad” and the dogmatic arguments of “free trade=good”, never scraping below the surface.

          • Lillian says:

            As i said elsewhere, it’s helpful to think of tariffs as like armies. They don’t generate any economic good in and of themselves, but they can still be useful tools of national policy. A country without a military is richer than a country without, that is right up until it is invaded and pillaged by its neighbours. Similarly a country is wealthiest when it enjoys free trade, but its economy will wither if locked out trade by the tariffs of its neighbours.

            Neither armies nor tariffs can generate wealth, but they can both pillage it, and protect it from being pillaged. In short tariffs are useful if implemented unilaterally, or as a counter to foreign tariffs. Ideally there would not be used at all, but it takes a lot of trust and cooperation to get there, since it is foolish not have them when your neighbours do.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I am sure this reasonable debate about the complexities of economics and international relations, and where a new tariff policy should fit there is _exactly_ the sort of thing Trump had before enacting these tariffs.

            It really seems like the sort of thoughtful thing Trump would do.

            Look, life is complicated, and policy is complicated.

            What I find amazing about Trump supporters is they look into what Trump does as augurs look into flights of birds, and try to read some sort of genius moves / will of God from that.

            No. If it really looks like the idiot is flailing around and reacting transactionally to everything, well that is probably what is happening. Sometimes doing policy that way will do something good, for the usual stopped clock reasons. But generally speaking, making complicated decisions is complicated, and if you don’t have a clearly thoughtful approach, most of your decisions will be bad.

            It’s true in all aspects of life, and it’s true in politics as well. If you can’t regular chess, you can’t play ten dimensional chess either.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            If tariffs are so awful, as everyone knows, why does the EU have so many against American goods?

            This is a very odd argument, as it (1) is directed at someone who just got done explaining why everyone doesn’t know about the awfulness of tariffs, and (2) doesn’t explain why, if tariffs are so great, as everyone knows, the US doesn’t have more of them. Are we just stupid?

          • albatross11 says:

            I think this is true for policy-level decisions, but not for PR and image-level decisions. My model here is that Trump genuninely doesn’t care very much about detailed policy decisions, but he cares a *lot* about his media image and public perception. Indeed, I’d say he’s one of the most effective people I’ve ever seen at getting media to focus attention on him and controlling his image. A lot of the policy decisions that look like dumb missteps (for example, the initial rollout of the immigration ban) from a policy perspective look very different when you think about their effect on the image of Trump and his policies held by a lot of Americans.

          • Matt M says:

            No. If it really looks like the idiot is flailing around and reacting transactionally to everything, well that is probably what is happening.

            I happily concede that this is most likely the case.

            Will you concede that this is also what the media and the “resistance” are doing? Just from a “flailing around and reacting to everything Trump does?” sense.

            As Guy in TN said, there is a reasonable debate to be had in this country about the benefits of free trade, the appropriate usage of tariffs, etc. And while it’s certainly true that Trump isn’t having it, it’s also certainly true that none of his opponents are having it either.

            Trump’s position of “we have a trade deficit with some countries – which means we are losing – but if we implement higher tariffs on them we will be winning again” is clearly stupid and misinformed. But the position of “Trump likes X therefore X is obviously stupid and wrong” is probably even worse. Especially when you don’t bother to explain why Obama’s X or Angela Merkel’s X or Justin Trudeau’s X is totally different from Trump’s X and is absolutely intelligent and reasonable.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Journalists are, as a general rule, innumerate and not very thoughtful people. The way I run into this is the awful state of science reporting, but it goes double for politics.

            Of course, it’s very important to have the free press, _anyways_.
            Trump’s complaint against the press isn’t that it’s not thoughtful enough, but that it’s not sufficiently favorable to him, personally. Trump is a fan of Fox and possibly Breitbart. Trump’s natural element is a political rally with cheering fans.

            If Trump had his way, he would get rid of the free press today. He made this abundantly clear. For this reason alone, Trump’s natural predispositions are a threat to the Republic. Of course, by my lights, Trump being a threat to the Republic is an “overdetermined variable.”

            That the press isn’t necessarily thoughtful, and that the president isn’t necessarily thoughtful are two separate issues, of different severity levels.

            If the press isn’t thoughtful, you get a polluted information diet. If the president isn’t thoughtful, we run the country into the ground, or possibly have a war, maybe even a civilization ending war.

            These days, we have the internet. And while the internet, famously, allows “idiots to compare notes,” it also allows very good analysis via blogs, forums, etc. which handily beats the mainstream press.

            What I would call “thoughtful analysis” isn’t super favorable to Trump, either. But that’s not surprising, because Trump is a moron. And since he doesn’t read, he doesn’t react to that sort of critique. The only sort of critique he can comprehend is CNN on tv.

          • Brad says:

            Trump’s position of “we have a trade deficit with some countries – which means we are losing – but if we implement higher tariffs on them we will be winning again” is clearly stupid and misinformed. But the position of “Trump likes X therefore X is obviously stupid and wrong” is probably even worse.

            If they were both random commentators on SSC, the latter might be worse. But when you are saying that the President of the United States has a position on an issue of critical importance to the global economy that’s not quite as stupid and wrong as some random college kids that think wearing deodorant is giving in to the man, I think you’ve already conceded the argument.

            “The guy we voted in to be the most powerful man in the world isn’t literally retarded!” Go you.

          • Matt M says:

            Ilya & Brad,

            I’m not only referring to the press. I’m also referring to his political rivals. They are just as reactionary and not-nuanced as he is, at least in terms of how they respond to his policies specifically.

            I’m also not convinced that Trump’s disdain for “the press” is categorically different from left-leaning politicians disdain for Fox and Breitbart. It just seems different because the press is so overwhelmingly favorable towards leftists. If Hillary criticizes her opponents in the press, it’s just a small handful of outlets. If Trump criticizes his, he’s “attacking the free press as a whole.” But that’s not intentional, it’s just an outcome of the fact that “the press as a whole” is 95% leftist.

          • Matt M says:

            If the press isn’t thoughtful, you get a polluted information diet. If the president isn’t thoughtful, we run the country into the ground, or possibly have a war, maybe even a civilization ending war.

            Also I want to respond to this specifically.

            If the press isn’t thoughtful and creates a polluted information diet, you get uneducated voters who do stupid things. Like electing someone you don’t like.

            The fact that the press has absolute contempt for half the country and never attempted to hide it absolutely benefited Trump. And continues to do so. The notion that it’s somehow not a very big deal for the entire popular media to be blatantly corrupt, incompetent, and deceitful strikes me as unconvincing. No, they can’t wake up in the morning and press the NUCLEAR STRIKE button in the same way that Trump theorhetically can, but long term, I could easily buy an argument that a corrupt media class can do more damage than a solitary corrupt executive.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “They are just as reactionary and not-nuanced as he is, at least in terms of how they respond to his policies specifically.”

            Yeah, sorry, that’s stupid.

            Policy is complicated, therefore, most policy decisions are bad. Especially if there is strong evidence of random flailing around, as is the case with Trump. Consequently, if you want a simple decision rule for whether to support or oppose a policy decision of Trump’s, a rule that says “oppose without thinking too hard” will do quite well.

            Since it’s not so easy to defend the “Trump is actually a thoughtful policy super-genius” hill, one might try to retreat to the “ok, Trump might be flailing, but his opponents are just as bad!” hill.

            The problem is, Trump and Republicans are running the government, and it is on them to make policy choices, convince people those choices are good, get buy-in, and so on. They are certainly not doing close to a reasonable job with this (compare the way they rammed through the tax cut, their one major policy success, compared to the way Obamacare was debated back in the day).

            TLDR: the situation isn’t symmetric. Most policy decisions are bad, so opposing most policy decisions is reasonable. Flailing around and doing shit randomly is not reasonable, because policies have real consequences for real people.

          • In short tariffs are useful if implemented unilaterally, or as a counter to foreign tariffs.

            That is not the case. This is a particular bit of economics that was worked out about two hundred years ago, despite which the public discussion continues to be conducted in terms of 18th century economics. Rather as if editorials on the space program worried about how a rocket to Mars would get through the crystal sphere of the moon.

            If other countries have free trade and our country imposes tariffs and nothing else changes, both our country and theirs are worse off. If other countries have tariffs and ours has free trade and we impose tariffs both our country and theirs are worse off. It isn’t in the least like your military analogy, where the country with a military gains by invading its defenseless neighbors—a tariff does not, as you are assuming, benefit your country at their expense.

            Several people ask why, if tariffs hurt the country that imposes them, most countries impose tariffs. Someone else already answered that. The political system weights the interest of concentrated and organized interest groups, such as the steel industry, more heavily than the interests of dispersed and disorganized interest groups, such as all consumers of steel and all producers of export goods. The former group is benefited by a steel tariff, the latter groups harmed. The harm is greater than the benefit, but the political benefit to the politicians imposing the tariff is greater than the political cost.

            That part hasn’t been understood for two hundred years, only about fifty years, since public choice theory was developed by Buchanan, Tullock, and a number of others.

            I should add that there are special cases where a particular tariff can help a country, but they bear no similarity to the pattern of what goods tariffs are imposed on. If anything, the political incentives are perverse, favoring senile industries over infant industries.

          • the_the says:

            @ Ilya Shpitser

            Look, life is complicated, and policy is complicated.

            If it really looks like the idiot is flailing around and reacting transactionally to everything, well that is probably what is happening.

            Policy is complicated, therefore, most policy decisions are bad. Especially if there is strong evidence of random flailing around, as is the case with Trump.

            How do you know that the actions of Trump are idiotic and nothing more than flailing? I mean, if things are truly complex, then the outcomes of any such actions may be hard to discern in advance.

            What I find amazing about Trump supporters is they look into what Trump does as augurs look into flights of birds, and try to read some sort of genius moves / will of God from that.

            I could say that those who oppose Trump tend to view what he does as [insert pejoratives], and I don’t see how this is any more or less valid than your statement.

            I mean, having claimed that life/policy is complicated, you then argue that “if it walks like a duck…”, but you haven’t proposed any way of measuring the truth of either reading.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I can’t speak for every Trump supporter, but for me, I have never been a free trader. I have always thought the concept was bunk in a world full of taxes and regulations on everything businesses do. There is no free market and there is no such thing as free trade.

            Trump also has had a lot of the same protectionist ideas for decades. In 1987 he took out a full page ad in the New York Times about how we’re getting ripped off in trade, and calling for the US to refuse to defend South Korea and Japan without payment. Trump is not flailing, nor reacting. He’s acting on the things that he and lots of other people have wanted for a long time.

            I was voting for Pat Buchanan back in the 90s, and Trump has Pat’s same basic ideas about the economy and the nation, except he’s a lot louder and a lot meaner. I don’t support protectionism because I support Trump, I support Trump because I support protectionism.

          • 10240 says:

            If other countries have tariffs and ours has free trade and we impose tariffs both our country and theirs are worse off.

            I guess this applies if the fact that the other country has tariffs is fixed and unchangeable (at least when you say it was figured out 200 years ago). But even if we realize that tariffs are bad independently of the other country’s policies (when those are fixed), the other country may be too stupid to realize that, and one way to convince them to remove their tariffs may be to impose tariffs, but offer to remove them if they remove theirs. It may be worth it depending on the probability that the strategy is successful.

            This is a public choice theory question (regarding the choice of the other country) you probably know more about. I guess if we impose tariffs and offer a free trade deal, that creates concentrated interests in the other country in favor of free trade, namely those who want to export stuff to us that we have tariffs on.

            It was unclear if this is what Lillian meant, or that tariffs are good for us if the tariffs of the other country are a fixed fact, but based on her last comment, I guess it’s the former.

          • But even if we realize that tariffs are bad independently of the other country’s policies (when those are fixed), the other country may be too stupid to realize that, and one way to convince them to remove their tariffs may be to impose tariffs, but offer to remove them if they remove theirs. It may be worth it depending on the probability that the strategy is successful.

            Correct.

            But it is more useful to think of the same bargaining in terms of the political interests of the politicians rather than the welfare of the population. It would be very odd if I was doing something that hurt both of us in order to stop you from doing something that hurt both of us, since it would be simpler and cheaper for both of us to unilaterally stop. Especially odd if the fact that it hurt both of us had been well known by experts on the subject for a long time.

            But it makes perfect sense if you realize that the view of tariff conflicts I am rejecting as false for the population is true for the politicians actually making the decision.

        • BBA says:

          Steelworkers love Trump because steel plants are reopening. Coal miners love Trump because coal mines are reopening.

          The steel plants aren’t actually reopening, and the mines that are reopening are employing far fewer miners than they did before they closed (hooray for automation!).

          But that doesn’t actually matter. Trump says the jobs are coming back and who are you going to believe, him or the crooked media? Besides which most of the WWC aren’t coal miners or steelworkers and don’t even know any, so it’s not as if they have personal experiences to contradict the President’s assertions. Everything is heard secondhand, nothing is lived, and I thought the ’90s were postmodern.

          • Brad says:

            At the same time something is lived for everyone. It may not be coal miners and steelworkers, because at the end of the day there just aren’t that many of them, but the 200+ million eligible voters in America are either about the same, worse, or better off than they were two years ago.

            I can certainly see the other way around happening–where people in particular geographic or sub-cultural communities could believe the employment picture is far worse than it actually is because theirs still is, but it’s hard to believe that there are a lot of people out there experiencing crappy employment markets that nonetheless think Trump is turning it all around. That seems like the opposite of the way cognitive biases tend to work.

          • Conrad Honcho says:
  17. Mark V Anderson says:

    So it is France vs Croatia in the World Cup. How does such a small country find enough good players to get this high? I understand that in basketball you only need one or two superstars to make a championship team, which could happen by chance in a small country. But don’t you need several good soccer players to make a top team?

    I looked at the 2017 SSC survey and found 4 Croatians. Maybe one of them will answer and tell me how their team can be so good.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Weirder: the first time Croatia reaches semi-final was 1998; this was also the first time France reached final, and the first (and so far only) time France won. Croatia ended up 3rd place this year.

      • neciampater says:

        That was also their first World Cup as modern Croatia. Both in 1998 and now, Croatia has had very good players and teams.

        Croatia is the second smallest nation to make it to the final after Uruguay. I think Uruguay would be in the final if Cavani had not gotten injured.

        France has been in 3 finals in 20 years.

    • BBA says:

      The other example I can think of is the Dominican Republic’s domination in baseball. But there are less than half as many people in Croatia as in the DR, and obviously there are far fewer baseball countries than soccer countries.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      Croatia also has a ton of NBA players. Something in the water there.

    • baconbits9 says:

      The 4 most populous contries in the world (China, India, US, Indonesia) have basically no (men’s) world cup success between them, with a 3rd place finish in 1930 and an 8th place finish in 2002 by the US as the high water marks. If you want to add in the Soviet Union’s results its gets a bit better but they never finished higher than 4th. So at the very top there is no correlation between size and success in the World Cup.

      However the current 5th most populous country, Brazil, is the most successful ever with 5 titles and 6 other top 4 finishes. On the current list of population there are 10 countries between Brazil (200+ million) and the next largest winner Germany (80+ million). After that winners of France, England and Italy are nicely clumped around 60 million and West Germany was around 60 million prior to reunification and has two wins, then Spain and Argentina together around 45 million, and then Urugay and their pair of titles is currently at 3 million.

      These numbers are just from current populations, for a more rigorous look you would want relative population at the time of the win, and probably include the countries that preformed the best without winning.

    • xXxanonxXx says:

      Putanumonit actually wrote about this.

      TL:DR, if soccer ability is normally distributed then average soccer ability for the nation matters much, much more than the total pool of players since the tails of the bell curve drop off so quickly.

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        Even if soccer “ability” was normally distributed, its almost irrelevant to being good at the game. One problem I think Americans have in understanding soccer (and some other sports more popular abroad) is that it is a much more skill based sport than American Football and Basketball.

        Football is a huge outlier in this respect. Outside of the QB position, just about every major position has multiple examples of high performing players that never played before they were 18. Even for QBs there are many who never played prior to high school.

        Basketball is marginally more skilled, but there are dozens of converted soccer players that realized they were going to be 6’6” instead of 6’0” and switched at age 14+. Hakeem Olajuwon famously didn’t touch a basketball till age 17 and became a top 15 player of all time.

        On the other hand, there are no examples of elite soccer players that didn’t start playing as children, and almost none I can think of that were not intensely training by the age of 12. It is the quality and quantity of this childhood play, and teenage training that makes or breaks a soccer player. I will tell you from experience that the American soccer culture is shit for making kids better players. The focus even for 8 year old kids is often on winning, and parents who are coaches always end up relying on older kids (who appear more skilled because of size and speed and coordination advantages from being 10 months ahead). I saw this with my younger brother who had a terrible coach that made him play the same 3 boring positions every game even when they were winning 5-0.

        • xXxanonxXx says:

          That’s very interesting about the ages players started. “Ability” for the purposes in that post was defined to include anything from training programs to weather though. It was just about answering the population question Mark V Anderson raised.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I don’t think these examples prove very much about ‘skill’. First is that Soccer is wildly more popular than Basketball, and is generally more conducive to being played in poor areas. The odds of an elite athlete playing soccer but not basketball growing up are likely much higher than playing basketball and never touching a soccer ball. There is also the question of transfer-ability of skills, Soccer is the only major sport where you control a ball primarily with your feet. Basketball, football, baseball, cricket, rugby, volleyball, tennis, hockey all use hands or sticks held by hands. If you didn’t play basketball growing up you still probably played a game that required hand eye coordination in a way that will transfer to some extent to basketball. If you didn’t play soccer growing up you probably didn’t play a variation of volleyball where you used your feet. If there was (a significantly popular) such a sport I would lay odds there would be some high end soccer players who started out there and moved over to soccer. Finally soccer also tends towards the unique end in terms of size of its participants for team sports. Professional football has 180lb players up through 400 lbs, basketball 160+ to 300+, but soccer players don’t fit these wide ranges. This is primarily because soccer has evolved heavily into an endurance based game, with few stoppages and few subs at the professional level. Soccer players run 7+ miles a game, carrying an extra 10-20 lbs would put you at a serious disadvantage in keeping up with the level of endurance required. Basketball players tend to run about 2 miles a game (and the game is half as long, and the average starter plays a lower percentage of that time). People who happened to learn a lot about balance and coordination playing soccer who then grew to be 6’10 had limited options there, but had more options in basketball. Attributing these differences to skills on their own is superficial.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I disagree with a significant part of this because, although it is true that there is a great amount of variability in weight in the NFL/NBA, much of that is a result of the choices of the athletes whether to bulk up is advantageous (lineman) or to be lean (wide receiver). However, there is almost no variability is the much more genetically determined height. NBA and NFL players are basically selected from the top 1/6th of the height curve, and in the NBA 4 out of 5 players on the court are generally selected from the top 2.5% of the height curve.

            Soccer does skew tall, with an average height of 6”, but this is less than 1 STD above the mean of 5’10”. There are also notable exceptions such as Messi at 5”7′, and there is little evidence that tall teams perform better (if any). So its likely that any height in the top 66% or so of men is acceptable if you have the proper skill, stamina, and speed.
            https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/41818468

          • baconbits9 says:

            I disagree with a significant part of this because, although it is true that there is a great amount of variability in weight in the NFL/NBA, much of that is a result of the choices of the athletes whether to bulk up is advantageous (lineman) or to be lean (wide receiver). However, there is almost no variability is the much more genetically determined height

            This is not true, modern running backs in the NFL average under 6′, and go as short as 5’6.

            Corner backs skew shorter than WRs by about 2″, should we conclude that corners are more skilled than WRs? NFL Quarterbacks average 6’3 or 6’4… are they less skill based than WRs, RBs, CBs, and safeties?

            NBA players have gone as low as 5’3 (not just
            a few games either, Bogues played 900 NBA games), and all-star caliber players have gone as short as 5’9. They do draw heavily from the top end of the spectrum but this doesn’t mean the game is less skill based than soccer, it just has different other pressures.

            The average height of men’s Wimbledon champions over the last 30 years is 6’1+, and since 2010 is 6’2. Should we conclude that tennis is less skill based than soccer?

            Long story short: every sport, or for some sports every individual position, selects for different traits. Soccer selects heavily for endurance + speed combinations, the NFL selects for a lot of strength and leverage at some positions, low center of gravity and speed at other positions, speed and height at others. Basketball selects a lot for length as its starting point. Leaping from here to skill is a stretch.

    • Matt M says:

      Perhaps just dumb luck?

      Aside from the fact that Croatia won via penalty kicks (which are basically a coin flip) in both the Round of 16 AND in the Quarterfinals to even get this far, there’s the concept of the “golden generation” that has been referred to at length for both Croatia and Belgium (who reached the semifinals last year), which refers directly to the idea that these nations are both at a unique time wherein they have a lot of good players coming of age at the same time. And in both cases, this is not expected to last.

      Basically, this is a statistical outlier, nothing more, nothing less.

      • j1000000 says:

        Yes, this is part of what must be considered. Croatia’s place in the final overstates their results. (Still obviously very impressive for a small country though, and pretty cool I think.)

    • Jon S says:

      I think Iceland is an even bigger outlier. Their population is under 335K people – it’s like Wichita, Kansas or Bakersfield, California fielding a team that could qualify for the World Cup.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Why an IP instead of a URL? The only link on the page is to a log-in so there is no identifying information about the source.

      Hell, you being an established commenter is the only thing that (barely) brought the odds of it being malware low enough to risk the click.

      • rlms says:

        The homepage answers your question.

        (I think it’s mainly interesting as an object — i.e. the medium of a URL-less unnavigable unformatted site — rather than for the content, but others may disagree).

        • Well... says:

          I agree this is interesting but I need someone else’s analysis to bring it out of my head.

        • toastengineer says:

          I like it aesthetically but it’s not actually very practical.

          As for the content itself, I dunno, didn’t we cover this in 12th grade English? These are standard rhetorical tricks everyone uses.

          “This site is run from a DHCP connection so the address is subject to change”? “enki”? Oh man, if I actually liked this guy’s content this would be my favorite thing ever. HTTPpunk as fuck. Putting Tux in a Knights Templar outfit is clever but bad signaling.

  18. Andrew Hunter says:

    So we’ve all probably heard about the latest racial slur controversy. However, I only just learned what he actually said (“Colonel Sanders called blacks *censored*”) and I have an important question about practical philosophy: is there any hope of teaching the general public what the use-mention distinction is? Because seriously.

    • The Nybbler says:

      is there any hope of teaching the general public what the use-mention distinction is?

      No. As a former commenter was wont to say, “all is lost”.

    • albatross11 says:

      I assume that there was some ongoing power struggle at the top of the company, and that this was a handy stone with which to bash the current leader’s head in and take over. (That’s what it usually looks like to me when some pretty minor unfortunate word choice is used to push someone out–they were looking for a reason to justify getting rid of the person, and finally found it.) It’s the standard manufactured outrage over nothing story, as far as I can tell.

      Eventually, we will get the fruits of this way of handing out outrage for random shit–either we’ll get a million Trump/Camacho types who say outrageous things all the time and nobody cares because they’re swamped with outrage, or we’ll get everyone talking through a mouthpiece that vets every single word and phrase in writing or spoken in public, ever. Both of those will make the world a much worse place, but that’s not relevant for the incentives of people either using this weeks outrage story to get clicks for their website, or using it to win their local office politics battles.

      • Randy M says:

        I assume that there was some ongoing power struggle at the top of the company, and that this was a handy stone with which to bash the current leader’s head in and take over.

        This would make sense as the person in question (not Colonel Sanders) brought some controversy on the company for prior remarks about the costs of Obamacare and it not being financially feasible to provide health insurance to his customers [edit: lol, make that employees] while still competing on price. He may well be right given the large number of employee a national chain has, but it looked bad given his personal wealth.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          the person in question (not Colonel Sanders) brought some controversy on the company for prior remarks about the costs of Obamacare and it not being financially feasible to provide health insurance to his customers

          Insert joke about fast food companies providing health insurance to their customers being an ethical obligation because they cause obesity.

    • mdet says:

      I don’t think the distinction matters much here.

      In my understanding, there was a discussion about how the brand and image of Papa John’s has taken a hit after John’s comments against kneeling NFL players. John brought up, unprompted, that Colonel Sanders used to say the n-word, yet black people still eat KFC without backlash.

      There doesn’t seem to be any real reason for him to bring that anecdote up. There was no real reason for him to say the word itself. And even in context, I strongly disagree with the implication that he gets to say whatever he wants because Colonel Sanders said worse back in the 60s.

      I do recognize that neither this statement nor his position on anthem-kneeling necessarily make him a hateful bigot. But this isn’t like he was just innocently reading a historical document out loud. We do only have this one sentence from a broader conversation, so I’m not 100% confident in my reading here, but I’m reading his statement to suggest that he thinks he *should* be able to say offensive things up to and possibly including racial slurs without receiving backlash.

      • Iain says:

        Yeah, I basically agree with this.

        There are times and places where the use-mention distinction is a legitimate defense, but “as an embattled chairman trying to answer the question ‘how will you distance yourself from racist groups?’ during a conference call as part of a media training exercise to smooth over a previous controversy you’d set off, which had forced you to resign as CEO” is not one of them.

        • albatross11 says:

          Give me several hours of recordings from unscripted discussions and Q&A, and I bet I can find something at least close to this offensive from most people. It’s a bit like whether Joe McCarthy could find evidence that suggested you had Communist sympathies–he usually could, but it didn’t really prove much about whether you were, say, selling secrets to the KGB or taking orders from the Kremlin.

          • Iain says:

            He didn’t resign because he’s racist. He resigned because he can’t be trusted to open his mouth without putting his foot in it, and that’s not an acceptable trait in the chairman of the board.

            This wasn’t some secretly recorded private conversation. He was acting in an official capacity, during an exercise that was organized as damage control for his earlier comments.

            If you insist on making McCarthy comparisons: this is like making positive comments about Lenin in the middle of your Senate hearing. It doesn’t prove you’re a communist, but it should certainly make people question the idea of letting you serve as the public face of a company.

          • 10240 says:

            this is like making positive comments about Lenin in the middle of your Senate hearing.

            No, it’s like saying that someone else has made positive comments about Lenin.

            He resigned because he can’t be trusted to open his mouth without putting his foot in it,

            That this counts as putting your foot in your mouth is a big enough problem in itself. Under McCarthy, too, one could say you didn’t get fired for being suspected of being a communist, but for putting your foot in your mouth by saying something which raises a remote suspicion that you’re a communist at a time when communism is taboo. It doesn’t make much of a difference. (Well, one difference is that the main fault is not with the person who fires you, but with the society being so hysterical about communism.)

          • Matt M says:

            And I don’t think “he was fired for putting his foot in his mouth not for racism” is quite right.

            Other than expressing prejudice against a protected group, could you give me an example of any other way that he might “put his foot in his mouth” that would result in immediate demands for firing?

          • John Schilling says:

            “Man, [President X]’s trade policies are killing us in the market. I don’t want to say that turnabout is fair play, but where’s Lee Harvey Oswald when we really need him?”

            Obvious hyperbole, probably just blowing off steam out of frustration, but if you say that before a live mike during a stockholder’s meeting, you probably don’t get to be CEO any more. No racism or other culture war content required.

          • Matt M says:

            Ehhhh. I don’t know. Depending on the company, I think some people might survive that – assuming President X is a white, male, Republican

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I agree up to your last sentence. I don’t think he was saying he should be able to use racial slurs. He was saying the board’s concerns that racial controversy would harm sales are unfounded, because whatever he said, Colonel Sanders did way worse and it didn’t harm their sales, so it’s all tempests in teapots.

        That can be a valid point, but if you’re going to say that, there’s absolutely no reason to say the word itself. You can say “the n-word” and people will probably figure out what word Colonel Sanders used.

        • 10240 says:

          there’s absolutely no reason to say the word itself. You can say “the n-word”

          What’s the reason not to mention it (as opposed to use it)? This idea that you should use a substitute even when mentioning it is weird to me as a non-American. I can’t think of this happening in my language with any word, other than swear words.
          (Edit: others have answered the question below. I think it’s stupid, but oh well.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Volumes have been written on race in America, and I would not be the least bit surprised to learn that books have been written on that one word alone. I’m certain I can’t do the issue justice here. But it all comes down to, “you just don’t say it.”

          • albatross11 says:

            I think his use of that word in that context tells us approximately nothing about the state of his mind/soul w.r.t. racism, racial hatred, etc. It would be a stupid reason to fire a janitor or a dentist or an accountant, and it’s a stupid reason to fire a CEO.

          • quanta413 says:

            @albatross11

            I agree it doesn’t tell us much if he’s racist or not or whatever.

            But it does tell us he’s a master of “open mouth, insert foot”. It’s not a subtle social rule and part of being a CEO (or chairman of the board) is public relations. And he was trying to explain the last debacle he caused. If I was in the board’s position, I’d strongly consider ejecting him if he wasn’t doing significantly better than I expected a replacement CEO to do on other CEO-things.

            Like, there better be a lot of value to this loaded gun that tends to misfire if I’m going to keep it around.

          • rlms says:

            This kind of censorship isn’t unique to that word or American English: “the f-word” is commonly used in other kinds of English too.

          • 10240 says:

            Yup, I wrote “other than swear words” because with those it’s probably common in any language.

          • 天可汗 says:

            Every ruling class has a political formula — a belief that makes the ruled accept their rulers. The political formula of the American ruling class is that their rule is legitimate because they protect Minorities from Bad White People. If not for them, the Bad White People would rise up and do Bad Things to Minorities. And the ruling class is trying to deliver on its formula. That’s why.

            This is pretty dumb, because it doesn’t give people who aren’t Minorities a reason to accept the ruling class. And people who aren’t Minorities are, by definition, a majority of the population.

            Oops! How’s minority rule working out for the Alawites?

            The ruling class’s solution to this, of course, is to promote feminism.

          • 10240 says:

            This is pretty dumb, because it doesn’t give people who aren’t Minorities a reason to accept the ruling class.

            Which is why yours is not a good explanation.

          • toastengineer says:

            @10240

            I dunno, 天可汗’s explaination sounds solid to me *on the left-wing side of things*. Do you not agree that the U.S. left believe that deep down everyone’s racist and left our their own devices we’d all turn in to the “squeal like a pig” guys from Deliverance?

            The right have completely different expectations of their rulers, mostly military protection, law enforcement, and making sure everyone has an opportunity for some kind of job and respectable place in society, and so their “ruling class” make different promises.

          • 10240 says:

            @toastengineer I agree that the left probably believes that, but I don’t think the politicians purposely push it to make people accept their rule. At least not in a coordinated, conspiratorial way that phrasing suggests. Rather, I suspect it’s an uncoordinated phenomenon where politicians, businessmen err on the side of being ever more politically correct because an accusation of racism is a convenient way to get rid of an adversary.

          • rlms says:

            Oops, I missed that. But the n-word is a swearword! I don’t understand the distinction you’re making.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think this describes the beliefs of a tiny fraction of the left, and is in general a pretty dumb model of the world.

            Lots of people on the left recognize that there’s not much overt discrimination, but observe that blacks are still broadly on the bottom. They then infer from this that there are hard-to-see social forces keeping blacks on the bottom–unconscious bias against blacks in hiring and law enforcement, structural stuff that ends up screwing over blacks more than whites (corrupt governments/police and badly-run schools in poor urban areas, the crack sentencing differential, etc.), and long-term consequences of past discrimination.

            To some extent, this devolves into using “structural racism” as a kind of “God of the gaps” theory–anyplace you can’t figure out why blacks are on bottom, you can use it and it’s hard to imagine what evidence that contradicted it would look like. But this is not remotely a belief that most of the country would like to return to Jim Crow laws or something. Some people believe that, but IMO they’re both idiots and quite rare.

        • mdet says:

          I don’t actually think he was saying he could use the n-word. We admittedly don’t have enough context to know what he was trying to communicate. But my reading of his comment was “If Sanders can get away with the n-word, why should I ever censor myself?”. Actually saying the word was just corroborating evidence.

          • mdet says:

            Which is why I both agree and disagree with albatross’ “I bet I can find something at least as offensive from most people”. Everyone says offensive things sometimes, but my reading is that he was specifically making a case for why he would be able to get away with it.

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems to me that:

            a. This is ambiguous–I read it as “if this dude could get away with calling blacks the n-word, then it shouldn’t be that big a deal that I’ve gone on record expressing annoyance with the whole NFL kneeling thing because it’s costing me money.” When someone makes some public statement that has many equally plausible readings, one of which is somehow offensive, I think assuming the offensive meaning is the one he intended and holding him to it is a bad way to figure anything out. (But it’s a very good way of finding a justification for being outraged or for pushing a rival out of power.)

            b. Is *making a case* that he could get away with using the n-word the way Col. Sanders did without losing a lot of black business a firing offense, too? Can you explain why? That seems like a plausible factual claim to me–maybe right, maybe wrong, but not obviously crazy and not obviously evil to note.

          • Deiseach says:

            I took the comment to mean “Your fear is that my having said something considered as mildly racist* will lose us custom especially amongst minorities, but black people are still patronising KFC despite Colonel Sanders calling them [this word] so that doesn’t necessarily follow”.

            I don’t think he was saying “If Colonel Sanders said it, I can say it” but once again, this shows how a lot of things come down to interpretation by the hearer/reader; one person can interpret this as “he wants to get away with using racist language”, another as “he was pointing out that boycotts are inconsistent”.

            *I find the whole “criticising the kneeling athletes is racist because by opposing them you are opposing BLM and therefore saying it’s okay for cops to kill black people” viewpoint tendentious, but again that’s a matter of interpretation. I think you should be able to criticise (or approve of) a political action without that being taken to mean you therefore approve/disapprove of something else which therefore means you are against Good Thing/for Bad Thing.

          • mdet says:

            I feel like it’s a very fine distinction between your interpretation (“If this dude could get away with calling blacks the n-word, then it shouldn’t be that big a deal that I’ve gone on record expressing annoyance with the whole NFL kneeling thing because it’s costing me money.”) and my interpretation (“Not saying that I *do* think this about black people, but even if I did, so what? It wouldn’t hurt sales”). I think the statement “So what? It wouldn’t hurt sales” is worth harshly criticizing someone for, even if he hadn’t said a slur out loud.

            I agree with albatross that there’s probably “Opportunistic rival exploiting this to push him out the company” factors at play, and I agree with Deiseach that criticizing kneeling for the anthem is an acceptable, if deliberately culture war, thing for a CEO to say.

          • albatross11 says:

            mdet:

            I think the statement “So what? It wouldn’t hurt sales” is worth harshly criticizing someone for, even if he hadn’t said a slur out loud.

            Can you explain why you think this? I mean, this is a discussion within the context of a business looking at its PR strategy, right? Does the CEO taking a particular political stand in public damage our sales with a particular demographic?

            That looks to me like an empirical question, not a moral one. I mean, you can make a moral argument about what the CEO’s position should be, but then you’re in a political disagreement, in which people disagree and there’s not an obvious reason why the board should prefer one side to the other.

            The relevant question for the board of Papa John’s is whether the CEO’s position is likely hurting business. For that question, pointing out historical examples where other fast-food CEOs were overtly racist and it didn’t hurt their sales to blacks seems directly relevant.

            This seems like an important point. If someone wants to say “don’t use this ethnic slur because it’s really offensive and pisses a lot of people off,” that seems like sensible guidance. If they want to say “don’t offer evidence for these factual questions, which are directly relevant to the decisions we’re making, because that’s offensive and pisses a lot of people off,” that sounds like pretty bad guidance to follow–it makes the people who follow it dumber.

          • mdet says:

            I’d like to think that dis-affiliating your company from white supremacists should be something you do on principle, not as a pragmatic profit-maximizing move. But his comments (which we do only have a brief excerpt from) suggest to me “I’m not too concerned about being affiliated with bigotry if it doesn’t hurt sales, and this anecdote suggests that it doesn’t”. Maybe it’ll turn out that his full statement was “Here’s my plan for fixing our company’s image and we should go forward with it no matter what sales look like, but just as an interesting factoid did you know that Col Sanders used to say the n-word?*”, in which case I’ll relax my judgement some. But a sales-first approach to caring about racism feels very amoral.

            *I googled it, and it seems like Col. Sanders only used the word Negro back when it was the norm, and stopped using it once it wasn’t. I don’t morally fault John for being misinformed.

    • dick says:

      Is there any hope of teaching the general public what the use-mention distinction is? Because seriously.

      Whom do you believe was confused by Schnatter’s usage? You didn’t actually make an argument, just put two related thoughts next to each other, so it’s not clear what you’re actually saying here. Do you think it’s axiomatic that someone who understood Schnatter’s comment in context would not call for him to resign?

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        I feel like you know this, but to make it explicit:

        – if you see a black person and say “Get off my lawn, *slur*”, you’ve done a hurtful, obviously bad thing. I’m a little dubious words should be banned, and worry turning them into totems does more harm than good, but for the moment, I’ll take it as read that right thinking people should punish you.

        – if you say “A slur for black person is *slur*”…this is not in any sense meaningfully harming anyone. But as you can see from the fact that I’m not fucking writing it here, our society has lost that distinction. If you mention the N word, as opposed to using it, you go down.

        That seems, to me, messed up.

        In larger context is the Papa John guy a great person? Probably not. But he did not *use* a racial slur, he *mentioned* one.

        • Well... says:

          He might have been *mentioning* the slur and simultaneously making a statement to the effect of “I don’t think uttering this word, or at least *mentioning* it, ought to carry a social penalty.”

          That is fine, but there is a common conflation of: 1) those who voice that opinion because of a pragmatic attitude about language, and 2) those who voice that opinion because they’d like the *use* of the slur to become more acceptable. The commonness of this conflation is no secret, and I think basically everyone knows it exists and avoids any use of the slur so as not to be misconstrued as belonging to category 2. Those who don’t are automatically suspect.

        • mdet says:

          I agree that mentioning a racial slur different from directing it at a specific person or group of people. But I don’t see a failure in society to make that distinction. Can you name actual examples? As I said above, I don’t think shifting a discussion to the tangentially related topic of racial slurs without prompting counts as an innocent “just mentioning it”. Like it’s not “just mentioning it” if I end this sentence with “by the way, Iain is an asshole”. (I pick Iain because he agreed with me above and so will understand)

          When I think of innocently mentioning a racial slur, I think “I’m reading a speech by civil rights activists in the 1950s in which they used this term”, or “We’re having a historical discussion about slaveowners and the Confederacy during the Civil War”. I think most people would consider those usages defensible, although I do know some people who might take issue. On the other hand, I’ve had a white guy try to casually use the word around me because he had a black girlfriend and so wasn’t racist. While I didn’t think he was an actual bigot, I still found it unacceptable.

          • Well... says:

            I think the “failure to make a distinction” thing does come into play a bit, because the very sound of the word being uttered trips a kind of social fire alarm. It bypasses the normal language processing part of the brain and goes straight to the “Danger! Danger!” part. There are understandable and, at the end of the day, likely adaptive reasons why so many people have installed that particular firmware update, but deliberately not installing it then becomes a kind of statement. Increasingly these days, that statement is related to tribal identity. So, when a white guy utters the word, even in the context of, say, a historical discussion, there are several layers of things going on:

            1 (surface layer). He is using “unabridged” language.
            2. He putting on a display of what might be considered something like either bravery in the face of controlled speech or aggression in the face of the civility and sensitivity we normally expect from decent people who share our society.
            3 (base layer). He is aligning himself with others who do or would do the same as #2.

            #3 is where he gets into trouble because even if his intentions are benign, someone else who hears him use the term doesn’t know that and has various reasons/incentives to assume his intentions are not benign. To be fair, this typically isn’t some kind of measured judgment on behalf of the listener; the conflation is being made in that “Danger! Danger!” part of the brain that acts first and asks questions afterward.

            Sorta a tangent, but in my experience having a black girlfriend gets you something like 15 “benefit-of-the-doubt you’re not a racist” points, especially if you don’t even live together. To collect all 100 you have to marry her, have a kid or two together and a reasonably healthy home life. You also need a real relationship with her family (your in-laws), plus at least two black friends who are close enough to you they are or could be groomsmen in your wedding.

            Black friends you only talk to at work or school or church events or some such arrangement counts for very little, maybe 2 or 3 points, so they won’t get you off the hook. Same for sympathy with popular black causes.

            So, if your friend marries his girlfriend while his black friends stand next to him in matching tuxes, and he develops a special closeness with her father, and a few years later he’s a family man happily hugging his mixed kids, then he might be able to get away with uttering certain words, in an appropriate context, without a reasonable listener having reasons to wonder whether he might secretly harbor racist beliefs. And even then, the word will still be radioactive in any context to many people, especially black people.

          • The Nybbler says:

            To collect all 100 you have to marry her, have a kid or two together and a reasonably healthy home life. You also need a real relationship with her family (your in-laws), plus at least two black friends who are close enough to you they are or could be groomsmen in your wedding.

            And none of that helps if you like and write the wrong SF.

          • Well... says:

            @Nybbler:

            Comments below the tweet tell more of the story. (I.e. Chu’s statement triggers a firestorm in the form of a rather odd mix of Left-Eating-Its-Own-Tail and — possibly? — All Trite trolling.)

          • Anatoly says:

            @mdet

            >I agree that mentioning a racial slur different from directing it at a specific person or group of people. But I don’t see a failure in society to make that distinction. Can you name actual examples?

            https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/jonathan-friedland-exits-netflix-1122675

            In this case the mere mention of the n-word by the hapless exec, in a discussion about “sensitive words”, brought about a severe reprimand; and his mentioning it a second time during the discussion of what he’d done wrong the first time brought about his firing.

          • J Mann says:

            The current rule is pretty clear that non-Black people shouldn’t use the word descriptively, with some limited exceptions. One example of the norm against descriptive use is Kendrick Lamar inviting fans to rap one of his songs laden with the word. It seems like he honestly expected non-Black fans to rap clean. (I don’t think he was unkind about it, frankly – he just explained that’s what he expected.)

            There are probably some exceptions where you can use the word, like an actor in a play or movie portraying a racist, but really, the safest thing is never to use it.

          • mdet says:

            @Anatoly
            Thanks. Agree that the first use is strictly a reference, and the second use probably was too. I would’ve excused it and I think he should’ve kept his job.

            @Well…
            It wasn’t so much that I thought he was racist, as “I’m actually not comfortable with a white guy I barely know calling me by this word, even if your black girlfriend is decent evidence for you not being racist”.

            Relevant though, is that it just came out that the husband of a youtube vlog family (white husband, Nigerian wife, biracial daughters) has years-old tweets about how ghetto black people are. Some seem to have been made before he met his wife, others made after his daughters were already born. Not unforgivable, but still the kind of comments that you’d think he wouldn’t condone if others were saying them about his wife / daughters.

          • Well... says:

            If things I said on the internet years ago were dug up and widely publicized, I’m sure I’d be lynched. Is there anyone out there for whom this is not the case??

            Anyway, being a non-racist but fairly independent-minded, non-PC white guy with a black wife creates some situations in which a nuanced familiarity with me (and in many cases with my sense of humor) is necessary to avoid misunderstandings. I try to keep that in mind when hearing about stuff like what you mentioned.

          • mdet says:

            I definitely agree. I’m sure everyone has said worse if you comb their social media. But I thought it was an interesting coincidence that I heard a friend talk about “one of my youtubers just got called for saying low-level racist things about black women, despite currently having a black wife & daughters” and less than ten minutes later read Well… saying that you collect 100 probably-not-racist points by marrying and starting a family with someone of a different race.

          • Well... says:

            I didn’t want to, but at this point I think I have to ask what “low-level racist” means. Also:

            What did this guy say, exactly? Who was he saying it to? Are there any clues about how he meant it? Etc.

            If marriage to a black person and all it entails doesn’t make a white person demonstrably not racist, then either the situation is far more complicated than we are likely to understand or else being racist isn’t actually something we can reasonably expect anyone to avoid.

          • mdet says:

            His comments were twitter jokes to no particular audience along the lines of “Haha aren’t black people so ghetto? Meanwhile white men like me are so ‘normal’, educated, don’t act in ways that signal being lower-class”.

            I’d say this is racist and should be frowned upon, but also not that uncommon a joke, even among black people, and it’s easy enough to grow out of it that having said it years ago doesn’t mean much today. If I had a friend say this, I’d criticize it but wouldn’t stop being friends with them.

            In the handful cases I’ve known of white people who dated / had children with black people but were still racist, it’s usually stuff along these lines. Stuff like “Oh but you speak well, and you don’t ‘act black’. Not like those other people.” I knew a white woman who had married a black man and had a child, but didn’t want to give the child black any black toys or picture books with black people because “then she’d start thinking she’s black”. Saw a similar story online once where the black dad had braided the child’s hair into cornrows, and the mom freaked out that he had given her a “ghetto” hairstyle, made them look like one of “those people”. (Braiding is an important part of taking care of Afro hair. Not simply a stylistic choice)

            I think close personal relationships with people of a different race are strong evidence for “not racist”, but there are a some people who are dating / close friends with someone and still have something of a “But you’re one of the good ones” attitude. A handful of those relationships apparently make it to the “Married with children” stage before it gets brought up.

          • Matt M says:

            but there are a some people who are dating / close friends with someone and still have something of a “But you’re one of the good ones” attitude.

            Isn’t the very admission that “good ones” exist a strong implication that the person is not, in fact, racist by traditional definition?

            I thought the reason we were supposed to fear racism is because it teaches that there is no variance or individuality among members of a certain race. We aren’t supposed to joke about black people eating fried chicken or Chinese people being good at math because some black people dislike fried chicken and some Chinese are bad at math, and it isn’t fair to paint them all with the same brush, right?

            Would “My black wife doesn’t enjoy fried chicken – pretty weird huh?” still be a racist statement? Even though it explicitly admits that the stereotype is not always correct?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Would “My black wife doesn’t enjoy fried chicken – pretty weird huh?” still be a racist statement?

            Yep. You don’t mention fried chicken or watermelon in connection with black people full stop. There’s no good reason for this, though there’s plenty of rationalization. Mainly it’s just a culture war weapon, a mine, to be used to justify calling incautious white people “racists”.

          • 10240 says:

            @Matt M That would be a very narrow definition of racist, and I don’t think I’m someone who uses an overbroad definition. The attitude that “But you’re one of the good ones” presumably refers to someone who, by default, assumes that a black person is bad.

          • Matt M says:

            The attitude that “But you’re one of the good ones” presumably refers to someone who, by default, assumes that a black person is bad.

            What if you substitute “one of the good ones” with “one of the different ones” based on a neutral-value stereotype such as food preferences?

            Or, what if the “assumption group X is bad” only goes as far as noticing factual statistics about said group? Like, “Japanese are mostly shorter compared to the Dutch, but my wife (a tall Japanese woman) is one of the different ones”

          • mdet says:

            With 10240. The things I was describing weren’t value-neutral “Many X people are a certain way, but not all of them”. The examples I used were “If our daughter grows up wearing Afro hairstyles, or playing with black toys, then she won’t learn the right behavior and values”, as if Afro hairstyles were inherently undesirable, or playing with a dark-skinned Barbie will turn you ghetto.

            You know how some people will talk about black kids who refuse to study or try hard in school, because “putting effort into your education” == “acting/being white”? I’m talking about that same kind of sentiment, but spoken by a white person. The implication is that being well educated isn’t just less common among black people, it’s inherently un-black, as if each degree you receive lessens your membership in the group.

            Would “My black wife doesn’t enjoy fried chicken – pretty weird huh?” still be a racist statement?

            Personally, I find that everybody likes fried chicken and watermelon. I don’t know anybody who looks down on these foods, so the stereotype hasn’t been relevant in my lifetime. I’d think it’s weird that you specified race in your statement, but otherwise wouldn’t care.

          • carvenvisage says:

            If it’s your wife then I don’t think it’s a clear-cut example. Looking at someone as odd/”other” is not the same as being hostile (i.e. racist), but your spouse is the exact last person in the world you should find weird for “defying stereotypes”.

            Maybe it’s e.g. 1. blundering word choice, reflects nothing 2. the pair finds it funny 3. husband clumsily honouring wife’s preference against ‘colour-blindness’ 4. He really likes fried chicken, and is processing the upsetting fact that she doesn’t.

            But still, on its face, “looking at even one’s wife as x first and individual second”, seems a decent indication that the person finds x very alien. and sadly in my experience humans are quite prone to equivocate between “uncomfortable” and “hostile”. Probably everyone has witnessed some red faced guy lose his temper at a nervous kid that won’t look them in the eye, or somesuch emblematic instance of the cursed habit, so I’m skeptical that it’s a calculated culture war weapon when this uncomfortable/hostile equivocation is so common.

            edit:

            I do think the stereotype reflects reality.

            personal observations: 1. Local KFC last placed I lived was always full of black people 2. Have eaten noticeably more fried chicken when in black people’s homes than I’d expect without acknowledging stereotype 3. snobbery and health-concern against such food in own culture.

          • 10240 says:

            @Matt M It’s hard to determine. A claim about a factual question may be true, or false and a mistake made without any malice, or it may be a mistake caused by bias motivated by hostility (or some other bias). It’s often discernible from the phrasing of a claim which one it is. (It may even be a true claim, but it’s obvious from the context that it’s motivated by hostility.) It’s not a claim about facts that means one is racist, but the hostility.

            Claiming that most black people are bad is not even really a claim about facts. One could define certain attributes as bad, and then make claims about them, but it’s very likely that someone who is honestly just trying to make a claim about facts without hostility wouldn’t phrase it like that.

            As far as claims about the dietary habits of a group go, it’s generally not malicious, but sometimes it’s used to mock a group, and it’s widely understood as such. AFAIK black people and watermelon falls in the latter category, dunno about chicken. Assuming that an American probably likes hamburgers would most likely not be hostile.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            Someone can definitely still hold “one of the good ones” attitude and be a racist, etc. Like, maybe not the most theoretically racism possible, but still, plenty racist.

          • albatross11 says:

            I can’t help thinking that this discussion is all tangled up in overlapping definitions of racism/racist. Someone who thinks

            P(likes fried chicken | black) > P(likes fried chicken | white)

            may or may not be correct[1]. But I am pretty skeptical that this correlates strongly with some actually evil belief–say, that blacks should be second-class citizens under the law. Or some actually evil actions–say, refusing to hire blacks in his business.

            [1] As far as I can tell, just about everyone likes it, so it’s a kind-of silly stereotype. It’s just Southern cooking, which tends to be tasty and hearty and unhealthy.

          • Matt M says:

            albatross,

            I think my larger point is getting lost here. Let’s try this again.

            1. Do you agree that one of the major reasons racism is evil is because it involves judging people based on group characteristics, while not entertaining the possibility of individual differences?

            2. If someone is able to distinguish between the “good” and “bad” members of a particular race, have they not proven that they will, in fact, entertain the possibility of individual differences?

            Which isn’t to say that believing false and/or negative things about black people isn’t still bad. It’s bad to be misinformed, and it’s certainly not nice or polite to assume the worst about any group of people. But clearly, someone who meets the criteria of #2 has proven that they are unlikely to say, favor a policy of “all black people should be treated poorly” or some such thing.

          • 10240 says:

            I think very few people today think there are no differences within a group at all. I’d define racism as hatred of members of a certain race, or perhaps more generally bias against a certain race. I agree that the biggest problem with racism is ill-treatment of people because of their race, without (enough) regard to their individual attributes. Bias against a race may manifest as assuming bigger differences between races, and smaller individual differences, than reality. (This may be a simple mistake or ignorance, too, but it may also be a result of animosity.) Another way it may manifest is that one is, on a theoretical level, aware of individual differences, but in practice, makes prejudicial assumptions about people based on their race. And it’s also perfectly possible that one knows that some people of a certain race are good people, but just doesn’t care, and supports collective poor treatment of that race.

          • dndnrsn says:

            But clearly, someone who meets the criteria of #2 has proven that they are unlikely to say, favor a policy of “all black people should be treated poorly” or some such thing.

            Well, they might except those they think to be “good ones” but that does not mean that they are against the vast majority of that group being treated badly, to say the least.

          • mdet says:

            @Matt M

            If my starting assumption is that every white person is a disgusting racist until proven otherwise, but every black person is a sympathetic and morally upstanding person until proven otherwise, then I am technically acknowledging that not every member of a group is the same, but doing so in a way that holds black people in a much higher regard by default. I think this is very obviously racist.

            That’s what “one of the good ones” implies. “I think you are worse / lesser, until you prove otherwise”.

            I think this is distinct from something like the more abstract “Black people are, on average, less educated than white people” — There’s a difference between meeting a black person with a PhD and thinking “This is statistically uncommon” vs “I guess you’re acceptable to me, unlike those other ones”.

        • dick says:

          > If you mention the N word, as opposed to using it, you go down. That seems, to me, messed up.

          It may well be, but it doesn’t follow that the people who disagree with you don’t understand the difference between using a word and mentioning it. The charitable (in the “Principle of Charity” sense – ironically, another phrase that gets mentioned a lot more than it gets used) assumption is that they understand the difference but think that the way he mentioned-but-not-used it was still quite bad.

    • J Mann says:

      If our paramount goal is to completely exterminate the use of the word in question by people other than African-Americans and Quentin Tarantino, then we might not want to honor the use-mention distinction.

      Education won’t be harmed by much (seriously) if future editions of Huckleberry Finn have a footnote in place of the word explaining that in universe, the characters are speaking the actual word and not the substitute in the text.

      • 10240 says:

        What is the benefit of completely exterminating the use of the word in question?

        • albatross11 says:

          Doesn’t it seem a little pathological to have this kind of reaction to a word–including wanting it scrubbed from literary works, banned from use in public, to have its very mention become a major scandal? Because this seems nuts to me.

          Don’t toss around the n-word because you’ll offend and hurt people and that’s a rotten thing to do. But also don’t pretend that it’s something written in the language of Mordor, and speaking it will darken the sun and cause the Elves to stop their ears.

          • Matt M says:

            Doesn’t it seem a little pathological to have this kind of reaction to a word–including wanting it scrubbed from literary works, banned from use in public, to have its very mention become a major scandal? Because this seems nuts to me.

            And even that isn’t really what they want.

            They want it banned from use in public with its very mention becoming a major scandal for some people, but for it to remain a regular, inoffensive, every-day word for certain other people, including famous artists, athletes, and other people with profound cultural influence on both the people who are allowed to say it and the people who are not allowed to say it.

          • mdet says:

            As a black person, I rarely use it myself (and definitely never within earshot of non-black people) because I think the “black people can use it amongst themselves, but no one else” standard is coherent but impractical when global celebrities are frequently using it in their songs, jokes, etc.

            Also, @J-Mann, scrubbing it from books that are already written is unnecessary.

          • J Mann says:

            @mdet – thanks! To clarify, I wasn’t saying that it was necessary, just that even in that most extreme case, I didn’t think the cost to clear communication was substantial.

            I think the worst downside is that it contributes to offense culture, in that other groups are encouraged to create their own forbidden lists, and the list of things people are forbidden to say to avoid harming African Americans increases over time. Probably we need a limiting principle somewhere, and hopefully we’ll find one.

        • J Mann says:

          I can’t say what the benefits are exactly, but many African Americans report a lot of emotional pain when someone is allowed to say it without reprisals. Alternatively, maybe eliminating the word is just a fairly inexpensive sign of respect.

    • ana53294 says:

      There was a big controversy this year about H&M making a hoodie for kids that had the slogan “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle”, and had the terrible sense to have a black kid model for it. Now, my best guess is that the people who designed the advertising were not aware that “monkey”, when applied to a black person, is a racial slur. I do think that this was a completely innocent mistake; even the mother of the child didn’t think much at the time, and she didn’t think it was racist, probably because nobody uses the word monkey as a racial slur in Sweden.

      In Spain, for example, the word for monkey, “mono” also means cute, so we regularly call kids of all races monkeys, because they are cute. So if a black kid get called “Que mono” in Spain, nobody will be offended. In Russia though, monkey, or “obezyana”, is a racial slur.

      Most people around the world have basically learnt that the n word is very bad. It is a different thing to explain to people the history of racism in America and why some things are so offensive. But I think that once you are aware of the history of using the word monkey to insult a particular set of people, this should stop.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Most people around the world have basically learnt that the n word is very bad. It is a different thing to explain to people the history of racism in America and why some things are so offensive. But I think that once you are aware of the history of using the word monkey to insult a particular set of people, this should stop.

        Most people appear to accept it as contextually bad, not commenting when a person with one background uses it, but objecting when another does, but also it can be used by people (without complete hysteria, though with some objection) of the latter background (NSFW) at times.

        • ana53294 says:

          This goes beyond the n word, though.
          For example, a person telling jokes about Jews will be perceived as anti-semitic, unless she happens to be a Jew. It’s the same for every category used for jokes: lesbians, Englishmen, Scots, blacks, blondes, etc. Most people understand it, and are OK with it (this is a video that shows how comedians understand this).
          I think most people don’t object to the limited use of humor, so the questions is, why do they object about not being allowed to use racial slurs in inapproppriate contexts?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Right, so all words have contexts and the n word is the same. Some people in some situations can say it, some can’t.

          • Randy M says:

            Reminds me of when I was a young, idealistic naive teacher and told a student not to say that in my class. The dumbfounded look I got back.

          • albatross11 says:

            There are a lot of words where using them in certain contexts is impolite. But only a very few where someone mentioning them to illustrate a non-offensive point is taken as evidence of such evil beliefs that anyone thinks they ought to be fired from an important job.

            I won’t go tossing around this word since I don’t like hurting or offending people, but I absolutely do not agree that a white person using that word in the way the CEO of Papa Johns used it in that quote is doing anything wrong or should face any consequences more than maybe someone quietly asking him to tone down the language.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Johnston was giving his introductory lecture to Social Sciences 1140: “Self, Culture and Society,” when he explained to the nearly 500 students that the course was going to focus on texts, not opinions, and despite what they may have heard elsewhere, everyone is not entitled to their opinion.

      “All Jews should be sterilized” would be an example of an unacceptable and dangerous opinion, Johnston told the students.

      “The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.”

      https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2011/09/14/jewish_prof_forced_to_defend_himself_against_antisemitism_claims.html

      • toastengineer says:

        “The student was later found to be a particularly complex regular expression that had achieved partial sapience.”

        EDIT:

        “The student was immediately banned from campus for saying the words ‘jews should be sterilized.'”

        • Deiseach says:

          toastengineer, I detect no signs of sapience, partial or otherwise, in that exhibition.

      • Deiseach says:

        I really, really hope there is much more to this than that story reports, because otherwise:

        (1) Re: the student – okay, I thought it might be a first year, but she’s in her final year? How can someone that thick even remember how to breathe, let alone get into uni in the first place?

        (2) Whatever about inattentive students, what really takes the cake is the president of “an Israel advocacy group on campus who then sent a press release to media and other Jewish community groups calling for Johnston to be fired”. Talk about being Professionally Aggrieved! On the bare word of this student rushing in breathlessly to say that one of their lecturers had just been RACIST AND ANTI-SEMITIC IN PUBLIC IN CLASS, instead of doing the bare minimum of professional diligence – ‘hmm, can it really be that a Jewish professor teaching here for thirty years without any previous complaints of this nature was anti-Semitic in public like that? Maybe I should get some corroboration on that’ – they just ran with the opportunity to GET PUBLICITY AND FUNDING FOR OUR GROUP BY HYSTERIA-MONGERING JUST LIKE THE SPLC CALL OUT THIS SHOCKING RACISM FOR THE GOOD OF THE DELICATE LITTLE SNOWFLAKES WE CALL STUDENTS.

        What the heck was going on there? I hope Ms Professionally Aggrieved and her organisation get sued six ways from Sunday, and I think Ms Can’t Be Bothered To Pay Attention In Class has just rendered herself unemployable, if this is how she’s going to take instruction from her boss. “What do you mean you burned down the building?” “You said ‘set it on fire’!” “No, I said ‘we’re going to have a fire drill so you all know what to do if the building goes on fire’!”

        The end is even more head-desk inducing:

        Grunfeld also expressed skepticism that Johnston was in fact Jewish.

        Asked directly by a reporter whether she believes Johnston is lying, she was unclear.

        “Whether he is or is not, no one will know,” she said. “. . . Maybe he thought because he is Jewish he can talk smack about other Jews.”

        ‘He’s probably not even really Jewish’ is the best defence she can come up with? Really?

        • Matt M says:

          You’re thinking about this way too hard. What happened here is simple. This is conflict theory, in action, tuned up to 11.

          The student, for whatever reason, became convinced that the professor was of the enemy tribe, and thus, was a fair target to be destroyed through whatever means might be the most effective. And “he said something that might indicate he secretly loves Hitler” is among the most effective. So she went with that.

          I don’t think she’s dumb at all – in the context of achieving her goals, she’s actually quite smart. She’s at no real risk of being unemployable. At the correct-thinking corporations, this is probably a point in her favor. She successfully unmasked and punished a Nazi. What’s not to love?

          • 10240 says:

            Not sure about that. I suspect corporations pretend to be “correct thinking” in large part because they are afraid of lawsuits. Someone like this is a walking harassment lawsuit.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Not sure about that. I suspect corporations pretend to be “correct thinking” in large part because they are afraid of lawsuits. Someone like this is a walking harassment lawsuit.

            This is exactly correct.

          • albatross11 says:

            So imagine you’re considering hiring various people, and you’ve gotten to the point that you do a quick Google search on your candidates to see if any red flags come up. One of them is this woman.

            You are a manager who wants very little workplace drama and really, really doesn’t want either lawsuits or social media controversies, because those are bad for your career and your blood pressure. There are ten other equally-appealing applicants who didn’t stir up a massive social-media controversy to try to get rid of a professor they didn’t like. Which applications are going into the trash can today?

          • Matt M says:

            I can’t say for sure, but I think it’s quite possible that individual managers might be judged based on their “diversity” recruitment (i.e. what percentage of people you hired fall into the preferred/protected classes), while individual managers would not be blamed for crazy actions taken by any particular individual.

            In other words, if you never hire any women, you’re going to get in trouble for being a sexist. But if you hire a crazy woman who creates workplace drama, she will be blamed for it, not you.

            Just a theory, can’t prove it, etc.

          • 10240 says:

            @Matt M Even if they are not judged about specific stuff going on in their department, I guess they are judged by the overall performance of their department, which is affected by drama going on there (e.g. the company having to fire someone else to avoid a lawsuit). Likewise if there is a lawsuit, the manager of the department where it happened could be considered responsible.

      • John Schilling says:

        Meh, as long as he didn’t say Jehovah

  19. johan_larson says:

    Direct primary care: doctors who don’t take insurance.

    https://reason.com/reasontv/2017/10/16/doctors-direct-primary-care

  20. iamthad says:

    I added a comment early yesterday to the (first) melatonin article linking to the patent and some related info, as well as gwern’s article on melatonin, but it still does not show up. Did it get eaten by the spam filter?

    EDIT: When I submitted the comment I didn’t see it. Perhaps it never went through at all?

  21. Thegnskald says:

    I brought this up once before, but it was late in the thread, so my apologies for repeating an idea; I am curious about feedback.

    Basic goal: Create an infectious (if successful) corporate entity that dissolves rent.

    Implementation: A corporation founded so that it owns itself. Profits are split between paying the workers an additional profitability bonus, paying past workers proportionally to their total wages, and purchasing stock in other companies. This is all done by a guiding board, similar to a board of directors, who are paid for their work as ex employees with a fictional base salary (that is, they are paid a proportion of future profits).

    Core tenets of the structure of this corporate entity is that it can only be owned by itself and companies operating on the same charter, with poison pills in the charter that aim to prevent a company’s debts from spreading ownership of their charters. The corporation could found new corporations under it’s charter, or buy out other companies and reorganize them under the charter.

    Any thoughts? I never did get an answer previously on the question of a corporation owning itself, but this is the end-goal: A leftist corporate structure, like copyleft, but designed to take over and destroy rent.

    • Hey says:

      How would your corporation make money (especially at the level required to buy every other company) ? Why use such a weird system to pay past employees instead of simply buying as much stock as possible ? Also, isn’t a corporation without owners just a non-profit ?

      It sounds like a mix of Berkshire Hathaway (for the “using profits to buy other companies” part) and Google Will Eat Itself (for the “leftist project unlikely to work” part).

      I don’t see your corporation destroying capitalism anytime soon but it sounds fun.

      • Thegnskald says:

        You pay past employees as a mixture of a retirement system and a mechanism to incentivize certain hard choices that otherwise cooperation businesses run into – namely, laying off less productive employees. The goal is to try to align the long-term interests of the employees with the long-term interests of the business. If I can get an equivalent job somewhere else, getting laid off is a net win for me – because I am getting paid at my new job, and also my profit sharing component at my old job gets that much better.

        ETA:

        And other than the corporate charter, the goal is for individual companies to make money doing the same thing every other company does – which is to say, selling things, and interacting in the general capital economy. An individual company might be a publisher, or an insurance company, or the manager of rental properties, or a manufacturer of gyroscopes. Doesn’t matter.

    • ana53294 says:

      How is this company different from a worker’s co-op*?

      To my knowledge, there aren’t that many Big Co-ops. Most of them are in banking or agriculture. Now, I don’t know much about banking co-ops, but most agricultural co-ops are associations of small farmers that collectively decide what to plant and where to market; some of them share big farming equipment, but not the really big ones. The small or medium sized agri co-ops do share farm equipment, but really big ones don’t, because this kind of sharing does not scale that well. They mostly unite to be able to negotiate with big buyers, to get fair prices, and help each other by providing insurance, etc. The nitty-gritty details of how to run the farm are left to the owners. This kind of setup doesn’t let the farmers slack off; sure, somebody else is going to do the marketing and sales part, but he still has to produce the product.

      The biggest industrial co-op in the world is Mondragon Group, and they have tons of problems because they are a co-op. The problem is, if every worker is an owner, it is very hard to fire an owner. When they retire, there is usually a kind of forced sale of the shares, but there is an option of transferring the shares to a family member who becomes a worker of the co-op. So the father who has a useless son who is a dimwit but can come on time and do the minimum, and another son who is really bright and a good worker and can do fine on his own, will make sure that the dumb son works in the co-op, and get his shares on retirement.

      Also, if the workers are the owners, how do you handle downsizing and layoffs during hard times? Usually, in a co-op, worker-owners first downsize those who aren’t. If you suggest everybody, even the intern, is a worker-owner, that is not wise. Most co-ops in the Mondragon Group require a worker to work for 7 years before they allow you to buy shares, to avoid lazy, unmotivated workers.

      Co-ops do have the ability to cut salaries in bad years and increase them in good years. For a lot of big companies, reducing salaries can be harder than downsizing worker. So the flexibility of reducing salaries without firing people is great, if you cannot fire people. But this kind of attitude doesn’t scale well across cultures. Worker-owners of Mondragon Group are mostly Basque; they have a shared identity and common values, which is the reason why I think it works well. When Fagor, one of the companies of the group, expanded to Poland and IIRC, the US, a lot of problems started. It is difficult to convince Polish workers, a lot of whom are not owner-workers (because of the 7 year rule), to lower their salaries because sales aren’t good, when they haven’t interiorized the co-op values.

      Another problem is executives’ pay. Most co-ops limit executive pay to about 40x the lowest salary in the company. This sounds great, but they have a real problem to get and retain talent. Most executives are thus people who have risen through the ranks and like the co-op system (which is much smaller than the potential bigger pool of outsiders).

      *if workers own the company, it’s essentially a co-op. If I misunderstood, who are you saying should own it? The company is too broad: the executives? the workers?

      • Thegnskald says:

        The workers don’t own it – in an individual case, the corporation owns all of its own shares. As more companies get added to the conglomerate, they all own shares in each other, providing cross-company and cross-industry profit sharing. The goal is to align everybody’s incentives in the same direction – the problem with a co-op is that there are lots of cases where the incentives aren’t aligned (such as when considering laying off unnecessary employees).

        I don’t find the executive salary thing to be that interesting. People focus too much on income – the real long-term disparities arise because of wealth, not income.

        • ana53294 says:

          Even if the company owns itself, there is still the problem of decision-making: who makes the decisions for the company? As you agree, employees’ incentives frequently don’t align with the company.
          I think that in the end, the owners of the company are those that make the decisions for the company. If they are shareholders, who have invested in the company and have long term interest in it and receive a part of its profits, they are interested in the long term existence of the company. Or not; they can also decide to just sell off all profitable parts and scrap the whole company.
          But however convoluted the decision making is (you can have CEOs who can fire workers but who can be fired by the board of directors; the board can be fired by some other board; etc.), the person who makes the ultimate decision, the last link of the chain, has to have a stake. So let’s say you give him a part of the profits; why wouldn’t he change everybody below him, and sell the whole company, by changing its bylaws and ownership structure? Sure, a part of the earnings is a nice thing – but why stop when you can have all of it?
          If nothing puts a check on CEO pay, they will eventually eat all the company’s profits. Somebody, at some point, needs to be able to stop this, and then you need somebody to stop him.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The workers elect and can fire the board of directors, perhaps. I had a scheme for this laid out in the last thread I posted this on, which also included logic for handling changing the charter, and forking out conglomerates that want to stick to the old charter, but the specific implementation details aren’t actually that important to the idea.

            Effectively, every worker has a stake, every executive has a stake, and the goal of designing the charter is to bring all incentives into alignment.

          • ana53294 says:

            If the workers can fire a board of directors, then again it’s like a co-op. Workers will vote in block against any board that doesn’t fire a CEO that does downsizing.

    • Guy in TN says:

      Attempts to revolutionize the existing economic system by finding a “hack” within-the-system are futile IMO. The system is not designed to be able to destroy itself. On the off-chance that you do find a small legal hole that starts to become troublesome for the status quo, it can be “patched” legislatively.

      Regardless, I don’t understand the left-objection to rent. As libertarians are quick to point out, most welfare spending, and labor law, and other economic regulation all qualify as economic rent. That the elderly and the disabled produce essentially no economic value, yet still receive money, is also rent.

      I’m not deeply familiar with Marx myself, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t he say “From each according to their ability, to each according to their economic value created“.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Rent is an ineffiency.

        And Marx was…not exactly kind to the idea of welfare, which he regarded as the upper classes buying loyalty on the cheap from the lowest classes, using the money of the working classes.

        This is a proposed mechanism of subverting capital to the interests of the working classes. It might work, it might not.

        • Guy in TN says:

          What is the non-rent, non-welfare way that someone in “need” receives wealth in excess of the economic value they created?

          • Thegnskald says:

            In Marx’s thought (the phrase originated elsewhere), this would be the state of affairs when labor had entirely been supplanted by capital – that is, when “work” was reduced to “productive hobbies”, and everything else was machinery.

            This wasn’t something Marx proposed as the organizing principle of a society, but as a natural product of a society in which work had become obsolete.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I didn’t know that, but it appears you are right.

            It’s times like this that I’m glad I don’t identify as a Marxist.

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          Rent is not an inefficiency if the thing being rented would not have existed but for the ownership stake that the rentier counted on receiving.

          Without the rentiers your company could never have come into being because without the ability to extract rents they never would have created the company. So rents are necessarily less than the dead weight loss of not ever having the company be created. This holds unless a law or regulation after the inception of the company solidifies rents at a price higher than the first legal setting would have contemplated (such as zoning restrictions on building housing creating unfairly large rents to landlords).

          • Guy in TN says:

            I’m curious how you (and Thegnskald) are using the word “efficient” here. Are you talking about Pareto efficiency, or something else?

            I’m struggling to understand the relationship Pareto efficiency has to rent. If rent (along with property) is part of the initial allocation framework that Pareto improvements operate under, then it shouldn’t count either way in terms of efficiency (because the question of Pareto improvements assumes an initial allocation as its starting point).

            If the question is, does additional rent act as a Pareto inefficiency, then the answer seems to be “yes” for obvious reasons (the introduction of a non-market power that makes someone worse off than they would be otherwise).

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @guyinTN

            So, its pretty simple. Rents are any payment to an owner in excess of the costs needed to bring that factor into production. It has almost nothing to do with Pareto efficiency which deals with the optimal distribution of goods already in existence. However, when we are discussing prosperity generally, we are interested in goods not yet in existence.

            Take a simple classic example. A person named Jim with $1million decides to build a 10 unit apartment. He spends $1million on land, materials and labor, and on completion the building is worth $1.5 Million. Ignoring inflation and the time value of money (for the time being) he has earned a $.5million rent, the world is now $.5 million richer because of his investment. Jim can sell all the units and get that profit immediately, or can rent out the units and accumulate it over time. Either way, Jim gets his expected rent.

            Now, one of the main reason Jim may choose to rent it out instead of selling is that he has a different understanding of the time-value of money than the average person (this is on top of his previous determination to build the building to begin with, which no one else was going to do, so now hes very unique in that way). They value $150k right now more than he does, and they value the $200k in rent that could accumulate over 10 years less than he does.

            Thus we see he actually isn’t really “passively” accumulating rent, he is trading current dollars for future dollars for a price, because most people prefer current dollars. And, on top of that we discover that what actually is happening in this economy is a lack of investment in condos/apartments. Because if there were more Jims in the world, the cost of construction would go up, and the cost of the units would go down, eliminating his initial profit on the construction. If there were more Jims, rent would go down because there would be more people who are willing to defer gratification, and the time-value of money would decrease.

            Now I don’t really understand what you mean by “additional rent” other than my hypothetical of a new zoning restriction that prevents other Jims from building to compete with our initial Jim.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Rents are any payment to an owner in excess of the costs needed to bring that factor into production. It has almost nothing to do with Pareto efficiency which deals with the optimal distribution of goods already in existence.

            It sounds like we’re largely in agreement here. The question of Pareto efficiency assumes a distribution of resources (and the corresponding ownership powers) beforehand for its analysis.

            So with the classic example, of rent in the form of a toll on boats traveling down a river. Given the assumption that the toll already exists, you cannot say that the toll is Pareto inefficient (it is neutral, the ownership of the river is part of the initial allocation). Instead, you can only say it is Pareto inefficient if we begin with no toll on the river, and then we change to a situation where there is a toll (or vice versa).

            The same reasoning applies to zoning restrictions. If the government’s authority to regulate land-use is part of the initial allocation of powers, then the zoning authority is Pareto efficient-neutral. If we were to redistribute the power of zoning away from the government, it would in this case be Pareto inefficient, since you are making Jim better off by making the government worse off.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            More or less, yes. Rents being in conflict with efficiency is not in direct control of renters or rentiers, rather the efficiency of the system lies with rule makers.

            What is somewhat funny about the rules is that, generally, a rule that is short term good for renters is long term good for rentiers, and vice versa.

    • baconbits9 says:

      There are a series of issues here about ownership without the ability to sell, and the lack of homogeneity across workers.

      Say you have a pension plan that pays X% of profits to its retired workers so that each worker gets a share annually until they die. You have functionally pitted this class of people against the current workers, the retirees can increase their wealth by raising profits, but also by raising the percent of profits that retirees receive or by reducing/restricting the number of retirees. A consistent Marxist would identify this as setting up a class struggle between workers and retirees*.

      Say you try to remedy this by just dividing profits by total people, now you have an age distribution problem. The 90 year old retiree has a different risk/reward profile than the 60 year old about to retire worker who has a different one from the just entering the workforce member.

      And people have wildly different risk profiles, and workers don’t want profits, they want salary. This is the old “would you flip a coin for a million bucks or take $500,000?”, almost no one flips the coin even though the payouts are the ‘same’. Most people would take a pretty steep discount on the $500,000 rather than flip a coin. There is always a tension between ownership and workers, where workers want higher salaries which would come at the expense of profits. That tension still exists here, every dollar in salary to a worker is a dollar less in profits to be split between the 2 (or 3 counting the board) groups.
      *And this is ignoring the super villain retiree who bumps off his fellow retirees

      • Thegnskald says:

        Retirees don’t get a vote, only current employees.

        And since the pension is aligned with salary received, there is still a tension of wanting more salary – I want this tension, just as I don’t want the conglomerate to have non-compete rules with one another, because such competition is necessary to a functional capitalism. (The goal isn’t to destroy capitalism, but simultaneously subvert it and advance it along the revolutionary track by getting into the “Capital throws off the bonds of the rentier class” phase.)

        There is something of a problem in the “incentivize killing retirees” domain, particularly if a company as a whole is retired (I/e, it no longer has any workers, and it’s workers are just receiving wages from its dividends from other corporations in the conglomerate – once there are only two employees left, when the other guy dies you get twice the income.). Not certain how to handle that one.

        • baconbits9 says:

          So why can’t employees just vote that retirees get no share of the profits?

        • baconbits9 says:

          Here is the issue, there is always tension between “classes” because there is tension between people. There isn’t some incentive structure that will align everyone’s long term goals with the companies because individuals have different goals (even the same goals but on different timelines creates conflicts). You don’t even have a way to found such a company outside of a donation by a wealthy philanthropist. People who create startups almost always take major pay cuts (at least theoretical ones) to gain access to the future profit stream. People who want stability look for paid positions within established companies*, the only way to create a stable situation for your company so that workers who want salaries feel comfortable there is to reduce risk, and the way to do that is to prevent competition, and you have effectively killed capitalism.

          One of the things that capitalism does is allow for people with wildly disparate wants to work together by opening up multiple structures that they can work together under. Proposing a pre made solution strips out the innovation and diversity that is necessary to keep the damn system running. You may be able to work it into a small niche in the market, like co-ops have done, but you won’t be able to replicated and expand it without killing the goose.

          *Yes, there are a thousand other considerations, but these make the issue more intractable.

    • actinide meta says:

      As far as I can tell, the structure you are asking for is just a mutual-benefit nonprofit corporation. I think you could charter one to be incapable of using debt if that’s what you want. Forget about circular ownership structures.

      People have managed to build somewhat successful businesses as co-ops of various kinds, and more power to them. But you will always be at a disadvantage because of the exact things you want: you can’t raise capital, so other businesses with access to capital markets will be able to grow faster to take advantage of new opportunities, and your employees have an incentive to eat the seed corn and there is no one with a good incentive to defend it. You aren’t going to take over the world because your structure doesn’t work better than the existing social technology.

  22. ana53294 says:

    Was this article in the Atlantic commented here? I find it’s quite a neutral way of looking at Trump.
    I personally prefer a parliamentary system to a presidential one. I guess that cannot be changed in the US, but it does seem like the POTUS has too much power. This isn’t a criticism of Trump, by the way. If Obama didn’t get into the Iran deal without having it ratified, it would have been harder for Trump to get out of it (politically, that is).
    Although according to this article, getting the Iran deal ratified wouldn’t help much if Trump still decided to pull out of it. I do think that the ability of presidents to get out of treaties that have been ratified by the House of Representatives is a bad thing. Only the House of Representatives should be able to break ratified treaties.
    The reason I don’t have much hope of this changing is that, if the next president is Democrat, they will be quite happy to get those powers, even if they don’t want Republican presidents to have them. Same if the next president after Trump is a Republican.
    But Trump has destroyed a lot of the things that were traditional for the President’s role. I do think that is an overall positive thing, and the next guy after him doesn’t start again consoling widows (that’s what counselors and pastors are for).

    • CatCube says:

      The Senate ratifies treaties; the House has no formal involvement in the process. (I think there will be issues if the treaty requires new laws to be passed or funding to be implemented, both of which *do* require the participation of the House.)

      • albatross11 says:

        The president has a lot less formal power spelled out in the constitution than he exercises in practice. This is largely because Congress is dysfunctional and unable or unwilling to exercise its powers. (And that is partly because of flaws in the constitution, and partly because of the current state of politics, law, Congressional rules, incentives, party power, etc.)

      • ana53294 says:

        OK. I find the US naming system confusing. I thought that Congress was the general manner to refer to both houses; then I was told several times that no, that is not correct. So what is the name of both houses?

        My point is not about which part of the legislature should approve any deal; I just think that one of them should be able to reign in a president’s power to do so.

        • Randy M says:

          You were right. The congress is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

        • albatross11 says:

          The Congress consists of the Senate (two per state, six year terms) and the House of Representatives (more-or-less apportioned by population so there are lots from California and fewer from Montana; two-year terms). Laws have to pass in both houses to get passed; some functions are specific to one house or another (presidential appointments get confirmed by the Senate). The president gets to veto laws he doesn’t like, but then Congress can override his veto with a 2/3 majority.

          Unlike a parliamentary system, its pretty common for the president and one or both houses to be controlled by opposing parties, in which case it’s really hard for any laws to get passed. Congress can remove a president from office, but it’s very hard and it’s never been done. This requires that the House of Representatives vote to impeach the president (with a simple majority vote) and then the Senate vote to convict and remove him from office (with a 2/3 majority).

        • Nornagest says:

          Congress is both houses. The House of Representatives is the lower house of Congress, and currently has four hundred people and change in it, who all represent districts of roughly equal population. The Senate is the upper house, has a hundred people in it, and each state elects two senators.

          Theoretically, the Senate has more say in foreign policy and administrative stuff — it’s the body that approves the President’s appointments for judges and positions in the bureaucracy, for example. The House controls funding. Either can propose laws, which need to be passed by both to take effect. In practice, though, all of these questions are heavily influenced by messy soft-power considerations that cut across the formal divisions of government — the Presidency wields enormous power but almost all of it is informal.

        • ana53294 says:

          OK. Thanks for the explanations – I meant Congress here.

    • cassander says:

      the article seems starts with the assertion that trump isn’t making deals because he isn’t reaching out to democratic senators. Why would he? It’s the senate, sure, the minority is far from powerless, but anything trump wants to get done needs the approval of senate republicans first and foremost. It follows that up with this rather absurd line “He has also shed responsibilities in a job that traditionally only accumulates them, neglecting allies, his own employees, and even the oldest presidential aspiration, telling the truth.” which is so sanctimonious as to be laughable.

      But putting that aside, the whole piece is rather meandering. It routinely makes the mistake of conflating the power of the presidency with the power of the executive branch as a whole, and the two are not the same. In fact, to a substantial degree, they are inversely correlated. The more the executive does, the less control a president can exercise over it. It repeats, multiple times, the myth that republicans refused to work with Obama when the reality was that obama was terrible at working with congress, regardless of party.

      The “solutions” it proposes are even softer than the analysis. A “better” transition process is a good idea by definition, but the author has few specifics and a better transition will do little to improve the remainder of the presidency. Most of the other suggestions amount to calls for people to be better, which is always the first recourse of someone with few actual ideas, or vague to be meaningless.

      In sum, I’m not impressed. There is a core decent idea in this piece, the presidency does need reform, but it’s buried under a lot of silly fluff.

  23. johan_larson says:

    The US military services use a multi-part written test called the ASVAB to decide what recruits are fit for what jobs. Different types of jobs need different aptitudes and therefore use different portions of the test to rate the recruits, but all of them have minimum total scores for the sections they use. You can see a list of minimum scores and jobs for the army here:

    https://www.military.com/join-armed-forces/asvab/asvab-and-army-jobs.html

    What I find odd about the list is that the primary infantry combat jobs, like infantryman, have almost the lowest required scores in the list. Infantrymen need CO:90; only three jobs have requirements lower than that. I have to wonder if that’s wise. It means the folks wandering through Afghan villages or Iraqi streets trying to discern the good guys from the bad are some of the least capable folks in the entire service. And that seems like a good way to get people killed unnecessarily.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      “Different types of jobs need different aptitudes and therefore use different portions of the test to rate the recruits …”

      As far as I know, the g factor in cognitive ability predicts performance in subfield better than subtests designed for that subfield. So the above, while intuitive, might just be suboptimal.

      If not infantrymen, who should have the lowest requirement according to you?

      • woah77 says:

        Motor Transport?

        I was going to say admin, but then considered I didn’t want any more ineptitude going into the field that handles paychecks.

    • Matt M says:

      Well, that’s also why they’re trained with strict and absolute discipline to unquestionably obey the orders of their superior (and more capable) officers.

      Sure, we can lament that front-line infantry might not have the best decisionmaking capabilities, but the whole system is designed such that front-line infantry aren’t supposed to be making any decisions in the first place.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Well, that’s also why they’re trained with strict and absolute discipline to unquestionably obey the orders of their superior (and more capable) officers.

        I don’t think that’s why, actually, though it doesn’t hurt. Many “specialized” or technical military jobs–and I think this includes a number of officer roles–come with a giant binder that spells out exactly what to do in any scenario, not because the workers are necessarily stupid, but because they’re on a 2-year tour to do this before they move on to a totally different role. They’re not experts and training them to be high quality Foobar Technicians would be a waste of time when they all get reassigned to be quartermasters by the time you’re done. So instead you teach them to Read The Instructions and make sure all of these jobs have great instructions. (Or at least instructions.)

        At least, this was given to me as an explanation for why we were building a particular anti-hacker tool with what I thought was a terrible ux paradigm when I interned for Aerospace. No one was ever going to use this for real, but the theoretical users would have been USAF “sysadmins” who had no idea how computers worked.

        • Matt M says:

          Even so – there’s a difference between “the manual tells you what to do and you’re expected to read and understand it” and “there’s a big dude over your shoulder screaming at you telling you what to do at this exact moment.”

          Even at lower ranks, supporting jobs tend to have more “trust” in their people than infantry are allowed. Trust me, I know, I was an enlisted admin guy in the Navy for 9 years. I helped write a lot of those binders!

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            That’s interesting, and I can believe it. Coming from SV tech land where “your manager gets to tell you what feature you should work on” is considered mildly controversial authoritarian practice, I rounded off the description given to me for “technical” personnel to the same level of supervision, but I can see how that’s probably not true.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Tech-land is kind of unique.

            The average corporate IT drone probably has more power than the average mid-level manager – maybe not to make hiring and firing decisions, but to make the sort of decisions that will later lead to hiring and firing.

            In other specialized fields – medical testing, for instance – you can have assembly lines of PhD-holding specialists doing the same tasks their entire careers.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      If you don’t like that, you’ll hate this.

      That said, I’m…mostly with BKFM here? Assuming we don’t have sufficient buying power to fill all military jobs with high-IQ types, where would you rather put them? There aren’t that many dishwasher/janitor/makework jobs in the military (at least that aren’t just done by 11Bs and their equivalents anyway, if Terminal Lance is to be believed.)

      • bean says:

        In terms of Stupid Things Robert McNamara Did As SecDef, which could reasonably be called his follies, the Animals, Vegetables, and Minerals probably don’t even crack the top 10. But I’m a sucker for anything that says bad things about him, so I may put that on my amazon list.

        • cassander says:

          that reminds me bean, I meant to ask, you mentioned a norman friedman history of the TF-X program you were reading, and I wasn’t aware that he’d written one. Was that in Fighters over the Fleet, or was it something else?

    • Randy M says:

      I think perhaps that assumes that everyone is at least an infantry man. Radio technician, or what have you, are expected to stand in for infantry if the need arises, and to fulfill their tasks in addition to this.
      Also, if you have a group of men trained to work together and do the exact same job, it’s probably fine if some of them are less bright than the average infantryman.
      Third, you might be right in that in counter insurgency type wars the Infantry on the scene is expected to do a lot more than in prior wars where the targets were easier to identify and more problems could be solved by application of firepower.

      • Matt M says:

        I’m not sure if the army explicitly promotes that idea or not, but “Every Marine is a rifleman” is definitely a key tenet of the USMC…

    • dndnrsn says:

      It means the folks wandering through Afghan villages or Iraqi streets trying to discern the good guys from the bad are some of the least capable folks in the entire service.

      Counterinsurgency isn’t the reason for being of the US infantry, or US combat arms in general, or US military in general. The criteria for infantry are based on other things.

    • albatross11 says:

      An important consequence of this is that there’s an effective floor (I think around a standard deviation below the mean IQ) below which they won’t accept you for military service. That means that a lot of the visible success that the military has with taking folks from very rough backgrounds and turning them into successful citizens probably comes down to selecting the ones who are likely to be successful via an IQ test.

  24. tenoke says:

    Does anyone know of any good write-ups on Tencent, Alibaba and respectively Pony Ma and Jack Ma?

  25. a reader says:

    Regarding Brad’s proposal in a former Open thread, to eliminate SAT from college admissions:

    Consequences of meritocracy: Caltech dominates in fraction of undergrads who go on to win Nobel (incl. Lit and Econ), Fields, or Turing prize. 3x Harvard rate, and >100x the rate of many good public universities.

    https://twitter.com/hsu_steve/status/1000056789667319808

    One intriguing result is the strong correlation (r ~ 0.5) between our ranking (over all universities) and the average SAT score of each student population, which suggests that cognitive ability, as measured by standardized tests, likely has something to do with great contributions later in life. By selecting heavily on measurable characteristics such as cognitive ability, an institution obtains a student body with a much higher likelihood of achievement. The identification of ability here is probably not primarily due to “holistic review” by admissions committees: Caltech is famously numbers-driven in its selection (it has the highest SAT/ACT scores), and outperforms the other top schools by a sizeable margin. While admission to one of the colleges on the lists above is no guarantee of important achievements later in life, the probability is much higher for these select matriculants.

    https://qz.com/498534/these-25-schools-are-responsible-for-the-greatest-advances-in-science/

  26. Mark V Anderson says:

    Myth #8: That Republicans support the free market. Most politicians believe they can run things better than others, including private businesses. It’s because they believe the government to be the most important institution in America that they became professional politicians in the first place. Oh sure, there is the occasional official who runs for office just to keep the government out of everyone’s affairs. But such amateurs rarely succeed at being elected, and when they do, usually get tired of it after one term.

    Republicans do often make claims of being for small government, but those are tactics for getting elected, not deeply held beliefs. How many people would make a living at something they were trying to minimize and make less relevant in the lives of people? Very few could devote their entire professional lives to such a thankless task. Some Republicans may believe government should be slightly smaller in some aspects (less business regulation perhaps), but it makes no sense to believe more than a tiny proportion of politicians are for radically shrinking it. And experience bears that out, since government has continued to increase in size, whether under Democratic or Republican administrations.

    • Jiro says:

      Since you have not listed myths 1 through 7, that means you’re quoting someone but pretending it’s your own words. (Or maybe quoting yourself and pretending you’re saying something new.) Why are you doing this?

      • quanta413 says:

        It’s that he’s been posting a myth every OT or every other OT (something like that). So 1 through 7 are in earlier OTs.

    • Guy in TN says:

      The converse myth is true as well, that Democrats are not necessarily opposed to market institutions. That the Democrats controlled both the presidency and congress in 2009-2010, and declined to implement full-communism (despite having the legal power to do so), should be evidence enough of this.

      As a positional description, the “pro-market” and “anti-market” labeling of the parties is an a pretty accurate description of their differences in economic policy. It would be correct to say the Republicans are “pro-market”, in the sense that it means “the Republicans are more inclined to support distributing resources via market mechanisms than Democrats.” As an objective description, however, it can be said that both the Dems and the GOP support both market and non-market distribution mechanisms, so describing either party as strictly “pro-market” or “anti-market” is inaccurate.

      Also, how are you defining “size of government”? If its related to state-ownership, you should bear in mind that the percent of national wealth owned by the U.S. government has declined since 1980.

      • ilikekittycat says:

        Anyone who thinks there are serving Democrats who would take the football and run with full communism even if given unprecedented majorities and a mandate doesn’t pay serious attention to politics. You can count on your fingers the Dems that would even try to play FDR and turn us into something like Sweden or the Netherlands

        • engleberg says:

          Heinlein said that every spoils system was an example of running the government like a business. You can’t support the 2018 D party and oppose spoils systems. Should public service union donations be mandatory? Or should that spoils system at least be voluntary?

          Donor money for the R party has at least made its peace with crony capitalism, which is hard to tell from socialism if you aren’t the right brand of socialist.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I would agree that Republicans are more pro-market then Dems, but just slightly. Mostly because the Reps need to pretend so to satisfy their constituents.

        And it also true that Dems are not nearly as anti-market as the Reps like to claim. Of course a lot of that is to make the Reps look more pro-market by contrasting with those commie Dems. What both sides seem to be the most consistent on is that the other side will lead the country into Hell if left unconstrained. I tend to think they’re both right. 🙂

        Of course I am talking about national politicians, which need to compromise a bit with the other party. In my very blue city of Minneapolis, it seems that business is only allowed to stay in the city begrudgingly, since they do at least provide some jobs. Whenever a Minneapolis politician discusses business, it is almost always to say how they will endeavor to regulate them much more, because no business will ever be a net benefit to the city without a constant struggle to constrain their profit-making impulses. They have close to zero belief in the benefits of the “invisible hand.” I think such Dems may make up about 1/4 of the US population. If they got full control, I think the country would become close to a full socialist country.

        I found it interesting in your link that the US actually has negative assets. So it owes more than it owns. No I don’t think that tells us much about the size of the US government. Is the government negative in size?

        I think the traditional method is to look at spending. See here. Spending has increased greatly for the last 20 years, and of course it went up more during Bush’s reign (six of which he had a Republican House and Senate). I think I’ve also heard that state and local spending increased at an even higher rate, but I am too lazy to look that up now.

    • Aftagley says:

      A couple of things:

      1. I think I’ve only seen myths number 5,7 and 8. If you intend these to be consumed, or at least considered as a whole, I might recommend making a repository of them somewhere.

      2. I don’t quite get how you link “republicans aren’t actually for dramatically reducing the size of the federal government,” a controversial, yet defensible position with “republicans don’t support the free market.”

      3. This claim in particular strikes me as weird:

      Republicans do often make claims of being for small government, but those are tactics for getting elected, not deeply held beliefs. How many people would make a living at something they were trying to minimize and make less relevant in the lives of people?

      The government isn’t some unified whole that grows or shrinks it’s power in unison, it’s a collection of loosely affiliated organizations that all trace their power back to the same source. It’s entirely possible that a republican could get elected to congress and have a very rewarding career trying to destroy the dept. of education or the CFBP, or a democrat could get elected and get personal satisfaction out of trying to get rid of ICE. A politician isn’t going to lose any personal power or prestige or job satisfaction if some random department they don’t like gets abolished.

      4. Your basic idea that politicians have no deeply held beliefs and everything they say is just red meat they’re throwing to the yahoos seems way too cynical to be believable. Doesn’t it make more sense that maybe what seems like a black and white issue when they have no power (shrink the government!) turns complex and potentially insurmountable when they’re actually confronted with the ramification of their decisions? Maybe I’m leaning too far into charity here, but I find it way more likely that they get to Washington and realize, holy crap, making the government small is really hard.

      • pjs says:

        > How many people would make a living at something they were trying to minimize and make less relevant in the lives of people?

        I would guess billions.

        Can you clearly distinguish this from doctors/health-care-workers, or the police, for instance. It’s true that an idealistic doctor is probably not trying, at least not directly, to minimize the size of the health-care industry per se, but to the extent she’s trying to encourage healthy habits and preventative care that reduce future demand I don’t see a practical difference.

        Or a different tack: anyone working in an industry trying to innovate to make that industry more efficient/automated/commoditized- they may hope for more $ for themselves (if they succeed) even if the industry as a whole shrinks as a result of their innovation.

        Even for politicians, yours seems like an astoundingly cynical view. If I see government expanding, whatever that means, why can’t I be sincerely motivated in trying to retard the trend (which, ever so slightly ironically, might mean joining government, but so what?)

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Both Afta and pjs seem to think I am very cynical here. I think I may appear more cynical than I am. I think most people think they are improving the world in their daily lives somehow, and politicians are part of this group. And in fact I think politicians on average are more idealistic than others. But there are two reasons that our elected officials nevertheless fall into certain camps despite most of them sincerely wanting to improve the world:

          1) The politicians that get elected are only a subset of those that run for office. Generally the most idealistic do not get elected, unless they are also very charismatic, since there will always be others that are willing to state beliefs that appeal to everyone, and they are more likely to get elected. I suppose it will work if the idealist happens to have the exact beliefs of their voting jurisdiction, but that becomes less likely as politicians move to higher office.

          2) Usually most politicians have a few key areas they are interested in, and they are perfectly happy to build their elect-ability in other areas by following the crowds. I don’t think this is particularly cynical — it is the practical thing to do. And as I said in #1, those that don’t probably never get elected in the first place. So the Republicans may have some important issues such as national defense, public safety, or strong business environment. But they need to mouth the free market thing because they are Republicans. Actually, I think understanding the benefits of the free market takes some intellectual skills, and I don’t think most politicians of either party are both smart enough and intellectual enough to understand it.

          It is a good point that people like doctors are in the business of trying to put themselves out of business. And in fact I have heard that dentists are actually somewhat succeeding at this, with better teeth care resulting in a smaller industry? But it still is true that being a politician to put yourself out of business is pretty unlikely. Not only are politicians in favor of shrinking government lowering their own prospects, but they are going contrary to their fellows, which is a very hard way to live.

          My theory as to why politicians don’t want to shrink government flows out of my experience that government almost never shrinks. So I think it is clear that few politicians want to shrink government. I am just looking for the reasons why.

          • Guy in TN says:

            My theory as to why politicians don’t want to shrink government flows out of my experience that government almost never shrinks.

            If we take the “size of government” to mean federal spending as a percent of GDP (essentially what you had suggested earlier), then this is not the conclusion one should reach from the data (Recognizing that this does not take into account state and local sending.)

            Spending has fluctuated through the years, and comparing 1968 directly to 2018 shows no difference.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Spending has fluctuated through the years, and comparing 1968 directly to 2018 shows no difference.

            Ah, we’ve got competing statistics. Admittedly, yours is a little better than mine, as it goes back further and is a % of GDP. It seems my statistics, starting in 1996, began at a low point, making it look like it went up a lot. OF course your starting point, in 1968, is likely a high point, after all the spending on Vietnam and Great Society. But it is still impressive that spending as a percent of GDP hasn’t changed a lot in 50 years.

            I went looking for spending by state. I was surprised by this cite, which seems to indicate that even state and local spending as percent of GDP went down since 1960 (exhibit 6). That sounds totally wrong based on everything I’ve heard before, and with all the new taxes since 1960, so I am skeptical. But I really need to find better statistics to know what is really happening.

            Edit: Actually the exhibit 6 I discussed above must mean something different than I thought. It shows dramatically different taxes as a percent of GDP using current dollars and constant dollars, and now it occurs to me that a percentage of GDP should not be adjusted at all for inflation, since taxes and GDP are both at historic dollars. So it is either showing something different than I thought, or the writers of this piece are totally non-numerate.

  27. keranih says:

    From the Atlantic:Anti-vaccine sediment against equine Hendra in Australia.

    With an interesting review of the discovery of the disease.

  28. johan_larson says:

    It wasn’t that long ago that going to high school was a bit of a big deal. I think my grandparents in central Finland had grade six educations, gained through the local “folk skola” (folk school, or common school). I’m trying to figure out how much material such institutions would actually have covered.

    In math, I’m picturing a curriculum that covers counting, arithmetic with whole numbers, decimals, fractions, weights and measures, time and money, geometric shapes, and formulas for areas and volumes. And that would pretty much be it. Someone going on to an upper school would first hit integers, algebra, and straight lines.

    Does that sound about right?

    • SamChevre says:

      Well, I had an 8th-grade education intended as a complete education, and that’s all most of my family has. The one thing you are missing in math that I had is percents and percentages, assuming that “arithmetic with …time and money” includes the whole list.

      In English, we learned English grammar very thoroughly–parts of speech, words that are frequently confused (lay|laid vs lie|lay, it’s vs its, etc), sentence diagramming, case and tense; punctuation; how to write a formal letter; but very little about textual interpretation.

      • Nick says:

        In English, we learned English grammar very thoroughly–parts of speech, words that are frequently confused (lay|laid vs lie|lay, it’s vs its, etc), sentence diagramming, case and tense; punctuation;

        My sample-size-of-one experience is that this sort of thing is frequently neglected these days, or for some reason fails to stick. I observed in my Latin classes in college that a lot of students were only just then learning person, number, tense, etc. And looking back, the discussion of tense in my English classes in middle school was just inept. My teacher was a devotee of Strunk & White, which should tell you everything you need to know. 😀

    • Well... says:

      I don’t know about Finland, but I remember somewhere online being able to take the same 8th-grade proficiency exam that was administered to kids in a one-room schoolhouse in the late 19th century in the US. I took it in my 20s after graduating from college and scored something like 37 out of 100.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Answered here.

  29. cryptoshill says:

    I am not sure if this is a no-Culture War thread, but someone brought to my attention that there’s a growing body of research that racist beliefs are often caused by a lack of cognitive ability, leading to news stories like this.

    I have no problem having a prior of “people who are prejudiced are using biased or motivated reasoning more often” , but I’m almost certain there are forms of prejudice that exist within other subgroups that aren’t analyzed because it doesn’t let politically motivated actors create shiny headlines.
    I am also quite certain that linking “prejudiced or racist thinking” to right wing politics is fallacious, given the relatively low number of true white supremacists etc that are around, even in the most racist places of the United States.
    Is someone who is much better at parsing sociology papers up on this particular topic?

    Please delete if I am Culture-Warring in a non-Culture War thread.

    • Evan Þ says:

      The “N.5” threads are non-Culture-War. As an “N.75” thread, you’re fine to go here!

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Some thoughts [in no particular order] — I will try to be as polite as possible here.

      1. IQ and political affiliation; lower IQ tends to predict views which are more “socially conservative”, (such as the relationship between IQ and religiosity) but self described libertarians have higher measured IQs then self described liberals.

      2. IIRC there’s a positive correlation between IQ and openness, which might explain the reason for the difference at least on some issues. A higher IQ person might be less likely to have a viscerally negative reaction to a person or lifestyle that is un-common. (even if by some agreed standard that lifestyle is bad)

      3. People that are drunk tend to become less politically correct (“Drunken peasants” phenomenon). One explanation given is that individuals need to exert more mental energy to maintain socially acceptable, but counter intuitive, standards of behavior.

      4. Actual tests of stereotypical thinking seem to show that Stereotypes are more accurate then non-stereotypes. It could be that forcing yourself to negate stereotypes (in your own mind) requires abstract reasoning, the more of it you can manage the easier it will be to do on a regular basis. Taking more concrete and observable categories like ‘Men/Women’ or racial/ethnic groups and abstracting them into individuals and assigning them random or identical predispositions is counter-intuitive if this attitude contradicts personally observed behavior. (just like trying to read this paragraph backwards takes more effort) This relates to a point made about prejudice.

      I say stereotypes rather than prejudice because most stereotypes are generated from accumulated postjudice. Calling a stereotype a pre-judgement that must be false is, in lieu of any data, itself a prejudgement.

      5. Whether PC retrains your thinking or gives license to your own visceral biases depends on part on what group you are a part of. Which implies that it might be less predictive of higher reasoning ability depending on what group you’re measuring and how much license to think and act as one pleases is given.

      7. “True Supremacists” — Not sure what is meant by this. Just as I don’t understand what is meant by “Real Racists” you get 3 people in a room they’ll give you 4 definitions of what a ‘True X’ is. The people that wrote that article you linked have their own ideas about what those words mean. You have yours. I used to have mine and then I realized that the entire exercise is pointless. I’ll just forgo using those terms and spare people the confusion.

      __________________

      TLDR; low IQ people have a harder time convincing themselves that 2+2 = 5 for the same reason they would have a hard time understanding that the sum of all natural numbers equals -1/12. Certain people have taken to using this fact to claim that 2+2=5 is the smart, (and therefore correct) conclusion.

      • cryptoshill says:

        I don’t have any substantial objections to your points. One thought that I might have:
        If the universe went topsy turvy all of a sudden, and the “educated” mindset was that of xenophobia and religiosity – do you predict that this would change the low IQ/high IQ distribution? I predict this would almost exactly predict a shift in “low IQ linked to religiosity etc” to “high IQ linked to religiosity etc”.

        My reasoning is that religiosity and social conservatism are mostly taught by dogma and contain a lot of counterintuitive views and wonky idiosyncrasies. Resisting that dogma actively would be highly indicative of a more intelligent person. So if say – the zeitgeist became dominated by a group of dogmatic social liberals, you would see a shift of smarter people away from that viewpoint. Unless a significant third viewpoint was available (which in US politics is unlikely given the tribal nature of our political system) that would lead to more smart people moving towards those viewpoints.

        As to point 7, I was trying to use a definition of “real racists” akin to the one Scott used in You Are Still Crying Wolf (ie: people who would actively vote for an ethnostate supporter). My intuition is that there are some number more of people who want an ethnostate who wouldn’t vote that way to avoid looking bad or because they want the candidate to be more effective, but that this number can’t be extremely large.

        • albatross11 says:

          Deciding what “racist beliefs” are for the sake of a study like this is half the battle, right? I recall a widely-quoted study during the 2016 election that showed substantial numbers of both Republicans and Democrats had racist attitudes. The racist attitudes were saying that blacks were more likely to be criminals than whites and that blacks were less intelligent than whites. Which is fine, if that’s your definition, but those are also just the answers you would get by looking at readily available crime and IQ statistics.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @albatross

            Yes but in order to achieve the yawning heights of intellect you have to be able to realize that the data is meaningless as those discrepancies are the result of a discriminatory legal system rather than any fundamental differences in human behavior.

          • albatross11 says:

            It requires a high IQ to construct a truly evidence-proof worldview.

          • cryptoshill says:

            @RalMirrorAd –
            Not all of them are due to fundamental differences in how the legal system treats black people either. Some of them are due to poverty, other bits to culture, etc, etc and on down the line. Accounting for every factor in sociology and psychology is hard, which is why most of these studies fail to be replicated.
            @albatross11 – One of my problems with studies like that is that it’s such a loaded question. A subtle variation in black IQ could *easily* be caused by food insecurity, a variation in criminality to poverty (oops, poverty is also related to food insecurity!). The part of the question that isn’t on the survey at all is “Are blacks more likely to be criminals than whites because of their race?” which is the real question they are trying to represent the answer to for the purposes of establishing “racist” views.

          • quanta413 says:

            @cryptoshill

            A subtle variation in black IQ could *easily* be caused by food insecurity

            As far as African-Americans in the U.S., we already have comparison countries where people are certainly poorer in an absolute sense or comparison groups in the U.S. with similar levels of poverty yet different test scores. Food insecurity is an unlikely hypothesis for differences between populations in the U.S. Poor people are typically heavier than rich people in the U.S., not starving. Which is the reverse of differences across countries.

            As far as African populations in African countries with extreme poverty, I think it’s pretty well accepted that these populations’ IQ scores can be tanked by extreme deprivation because this level of physical deprivation can stunt or kill you, and they score well below related groups who aren’t malnourished or suffering from endemic malaria etc. When people have been adopted in the past from the third world into the first world (whether the third world was Korea or Africa), they made very significant gains compared to what you’d expect compared to the counterfactual where they grew up in their home country.

            Basically, I think food insecurity is either a poor hypothesis or an obviously accepted fact depending on what group comparisons you are making.

          • John Schilling says:

            A subtle variation in black IQ could *easily* be caused by food insecurity,

            “Food insecurity” sounds like the kind of thing that could cause an increase in IQ, by motivating people who would otherwise be vegetating on a couch to exercise various sorts of hustle in pursuit of their next meal.

            Starvation, of course, is a well-understood cause of IQ deficiency, as are some forms of malnutrition. But “food insecurity” is usually a weasel-word for people who want to Do Something for the Starving Masses but can’t seem to find the evidence for starvation or even serious malnutrition.

            If the argument is that black people in the United States are malnourished to the point of noticeable IQ deficiency, that is important enough that it needs the strong words, adequately supported.

          • cryptoshill says:

            @quanta413 – Food insecurity, probably not (I don’t think there are enough starving people in America for food insecurity to be a real contributor, unless we find something out about nutrition and iq development that is groundbreaking). But to skew the stats of a population of “blacks” in America by 2 or 3 points across a distribution, you only need to import a very small number of starving refugees.

            Either way, I was just pointing out that it is *generally* accepted that there is more to your IQ development than your genetics. Also, doing studies where we rip babies away from their parents to measure their IQ with a controlled development environment sounds highly unethical to me, so it is unlikely that we have a good idea exactly what these are.
            Thus, we have no reason to believe that black people have lower IQ scores because of their genetics or because of some factor. We do however know that group IQ scores are lower. So:
            “Black people on average across a large sample size score marginally lower on measures of general intelligence” – Not necessarily racist.
            “Black people on average across a large sample size scores marginally lower on measures of general intelligence primarily due to African genetic factors” – probably racist. At the bare minimum motivated reasoning (given that I don’t think we have a very good idea of what factors *other than genetics* influence IQ development.).

          • albatross11 says:

            cryptoshill:

            Note that by your definition, there are scientific results which, should they come out, will oblige you to become probably racist. To the extent you’re using “racist” to mean some moral set of beliefs–dislike of nonwhites, desire to discriminate against them, etc., that’s probably not a great definition.

          • quanta413 says:

            But to skew the stats of a population of “blacks” in America by 2 or 3 points across a distribution, you only need to import a very small number of starving refugees.

            The difference is ~10 points from “whites” (somewhat nebulously defined) and the standard deviation within population is lower among African Americans than “whites”. This is the reverse of what you’d usually expect if there were two populations making up the African American population and one was dragging the mean down.

            And starving refugees aren’t imported into the U.S. in meaningful numbers or into samples as far as I’m aware.

            Either way, I was just pointing out that it is *generally* accepted that there is more to your IQ development than your genetics. Also, doing studies where we rip babies away from their parents to measure their IQ with a controlled development environment sounds highly unethical to me, so it is unlikely that we have a good idea exactly what these are.

            Sure. But the generally accepted things that deeply affect an individual’s IQ are pretty rare in the U.S. African Americans are poorer than whites as a group, but most African Americans are not in poverty. 1/3 of African Americans made north of 50k in the 2010 census which is solidly middle class and up. And differences in income distribution don’t explain the differences in things like SAT score distribution although I’ve read that differences in wealth distribution might.

            Cross country adoptions aren’t a controlled experiment, but they’re probably good enough for the purposes for giving a lower bound of how much difference a massive environmental change can make. Like, maybe there are environmental changes that could make a larger difference, but we know that in extreme cases (even excluding bludgeoning someone in the head) the environment can make standard deviation or two of difference.

            Thus, we have no reason to believe that black people have lower IQ scores because of their genetics or because of some factor. We do however know that group IQ scores are lower. So:
            “Black people on average across a large sample size score marginally lower on measures of general intelligence” – Not necessarily racist.
            “Black people on average across a large sample size scores marginally lower on measures of general intelligence primarily due to African genetic factors” – probably racist. At the bare minimum motivated reasoning (given that I don’t think we have a very good idea of what factors *other than genetics* influence IQ development.).

            There are reasons to argue for or against various causal routes and interactions between causes. My vague memory is some ultra-orthodox Jewish groups have mean IQ scores 10-20 points lower than secular Jews. It’s possible these population are genetically different in some way I’m unaware, but I really, really doubt that’s the difference.

            Similarly, the North has always scored better than the South even after controlling for race. Even though you can find a cline genetically across the U.S. I have a lot of doubts about this being causally related to genetics either. So massive cultural differences seem like they do matter, but we have little clue of how to take advantage of this knowledge. It’s not like puritanical or progressive Northerners haven’t tried to get their culture adopted by people with cultures they view as inferior. Famously, they’ve been rather… forceful.

            Third example, Nigerian immigrants and their children in the U.S. often do very well. Nigerians are a group from West Africa. African-Americans are a group whose ancestry is mostly from West Africa and Europe. Nigerians often obtain advanced degrees in highly technical subjects. There’s an obvious selection effect here in that Nigerians who manage to get to the U.S. are not a random sample of Nigerians, but the differences in outcome and culture are so enormous that I have trouble believing that it’s just a selection effect.

            On the other hand, twin studies seem to point to the dominant form of environmental differences between people being stuff we clump into non-shared environment between siblings not shared environment between siblings. This doesn’t extend directly to group comparisons, but it’s discouraging to the idea that any top down interventions already tried will make any difference.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Note that by your definition, there are scientific results which, should they come out, will oblige you to become probably racist.

            This comes under ‘when the facts change, I change my mind; what do you do?’.

            For example, it’s plausible to judge Aristotle as sexist due to thinking women have fewer teeth than men. A belief that men were the default and women a lesser copy has a certain predictable failure mode, and he fell in the way predicted by that model of his thought process.

            But if he and his wife belonged to a species, like horses, where male and females have different number of teeth, there would be an alternative explanation: ‘he believes it because it is true’.

            Now, some people, hopefully including famous philosophers, mostly believe true things, with a few errors caused by preconception and bias. In such a case, then reasoning backwards from their failures to the biases that caused those mistakes is not a bad rule of thumb. ‘He was sexist’ is more plausible than either ‘he was a horse’ , ‘every modern doctor is wrong’ or ‘he was an idiot who regularly said wrong things’.

            In short, everyone _says_ they believe things because they are true; some people are wrong. In order to know who they are, you need to know what the facts of the matter actually are. You can’t expect judgement of mental bias to be fact-independent for much the same reason you can’t expect your left hand to stay pointing south after you turn around.

          • There’s an obvious selection effect here in that Nigerians who manage to get to the U.S. are not a random sample of Nigerians, but the differences in outcome and culture are so enormous that I have trouble believing that it’s just a selection effect.

            Nigeria includes the Igbo, a minority ethnic population with the reputation of being unusually smart. They lost the Biafran war, with estimated civilian casualties of about a million, which led to a good deal of emigration by survivors.

            When I was studying theoretical physics at Chicago, there was one black in the group of grad students doing theory–an Igbo. I don’t find it at all unlikely that Nigerian immigrants to the U.S., heavily weighted towards Igbo and rich, are enough smarter than the African average to explain the phenomenon. Add in the fact that, for immigrants who are not rich, the enormous gains in opportunities coming from the Third World to the U.S. are likely to result in people working harder than the American average.

            “Black people on average across a large sample size scores marginally lower on measures of general intelligence primarily due to African genetic factors” – probably racist.

            I disagree. What the cause of the difference is is a complicated question, and all you have offered are reasons that there might be non-genetic causes. That someone else makes a different judgement call than yours on a question on which you have no special expertise is no more evidence of his ideological bias than the fact that you make the judgement call you do is of yours.

          • quanta413 says:

            @David Friedman

            Nigeria includes the Igbo, a minority ethnic population with the reputation of being unusually smart. They lost the Biafran war, with estimated civilian casualties of about a million, which led to a good deal of emigration by survivors…

            That’s a good point, and it likely narrows the range of explanations that should be searched (for this subcase).

          • cryptoshill says:

            I disagree. What the cause of the difference is is a complicated question, and all you have offered are reasons that there might be non-genetic causes. That someone else makes a different judgement call than yours on a question on which you have no special expertise is no more evidence of his ideological bias than the fact that you make the judgement call you do is of yours.

            Thinking further I think you’re at least on to something. My ideological bias here is that a non-expert who answers a complex question with a simple explanation is more likely making that judgement based on bias rather than a conscious thought process. I have no idea how accurate that intuition is however. A test would be to see whether or not people who are more interested in community cohesion are more likely to give the second answer than the first.

          • My ideological bias here is that a non-expert who answers a complex question with a simple explanation is more likely making that judgement based on bias rather than a conscious thought process.

            I agree that few people will have gone through a careful evaluation of the evidence for and against a genetic cause, but racial prejudice isn’t the only relevant bias–or, more properly, prior. Suppose I have observed–as in fact I have–a fair number of cases where a child was a lot like a parent, possibly including one or two where the parent wasn’t the one who reared the child. My prior will then be that differences among people are largely genetic. Add to that the observation of IQ differences by race and the natural conclusion is that it’s probably genetic.

          • cryptoshill says:

            I agree that few people will have gone through a careful evaluation of the evidence for and against a genetic cause, but racial prejudice isn’t the only relevant bias–or, more properly, prior. Suppose I have observed–as in fact I have–a fair number of cases where a child was a lot like a parent, possibly including one or two where the parent wasn’t the one who reared the child. My prior will then be that differences among people are largely genetic. Add to that the observation of IQ differences by race and the natural conclusion is that it’s probably genetic.

            Wouldn’t someone who was smart enough to bring out observations of black/white IQ studies also at least generally be cognizant of the potential attribution objections?

            It also would be an easily observable prior that people with different upbringings have a lot of other behaviors that aren’t due to their genetics. So even at that base level the leap isn’t quite justified. At least not to me.

            @albatross11 – Absolutely there are scientific results which , if determined credible – would make me be more racist. If I had credible evidence that everyone who was Jewish was secretly a lizardperson working with Cthulu – that would absolutely change my priors on Jewish people. There are some people on the internet who claim to have such evidence, but as of now it isn’t considered credibly. But let’s pretend for a moment that it is true.

            Would Hitler not be doing a great service to humanity?

            Almost all evil genocidal dictators essentially start the wheels by convincing people of something similar to the above. Which is why I think it’s fine to be more-skeptical of race research than other research – but if I engineer a scenario where the Jews are actually evil lizardpeople trying to end the world and this isn’t just made up, I don’t think you can make the claim that this “racism” is nasty and evil in the same way that other racism is.

            Or to put it more plainly – we reject racism precisely because we consider it unlikely for that sort of thing to be true.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          This is all begging for an exploding brain meme.

      • Skivverus says:

        Expanding on point 4: if low IQ means “less capacity available for mental models”, lower-resolution models will be more useful when you have to deal with people beyond your Dunbar’s number. Race and sex seem to be roughly as low-resolution as you can get while still having different behavior towards different strangers (though you could probably also add “build”; not sure the surveys ask for opinions about “scrawny” versus “burly” or “fat” though).

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Race and sex seem to be roughly as low-resolution as you can get while still having different behavior towards different strangers (though you could probably also add “build”; not sure the surveys ask for opinions about “scrawny” versus “burly” or “fat” though).

          Though to be blunt, sexism will always be a useful heuristic while race is usually constructed too vaguely to be useful. Male and female humans are far more different from each other on average than different ethnic groups.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            Though to be blunt, sexism will always be a useful heuristic while race is usually constructed too vaguely to be useful. Male and female humans are far more different from each other on average than different ethnic groups.

            I would respectfully disagree. The difference between a man and a women from the same culture are relatively similar but race has been and will be for awhile a very good proxy for “This person had a different upbringing from me.”

          • albatross11 says:

            I think stereotypes based on broad, easily-seen groups are often useful in situations where you’re interacting with someone with very little information–especially interacting with strangers you’ll never see again. Knowing 20-year old men are a lot more likely to mug you than 60-year-old women is useful when you’re walking down a dark street, but by the time you’ve gotten to know your 20-year-old male neighbor pretty well, you probably have a much better estimate of whether he’s likely to mug you or not.

            The other place they’re useful is in making predictions about large groups. You can use race/IQ statistics to make good predictions about how black vs white students will do on this year’s ACT on average, but if you want to know how smart your black coworker is relative to your white coworker, the group statistics are *way* less informative than talking with them and evaluating the quality of their work and thinking. A black physicist or neurologist is going to be really smart, and if you judge him on racial IQ averages, you’re going to make a fool of yourself.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I would respectfully disagree. The difference between a man and a women from the same culture are relatively similar but race has been and will be for awhile a very good proxy for “This person had a different upbringing from me.”

            Sure, but there are many different upbringings different from yours.
            Say you live in a country with a demographic legacy of African slavery and black people are overwhelmingly Christian and genetically 2/3 West African coastal and 1/3 European on average, then suddenly the government invites in enough Somali Muslims to change your city’s demographics. Your ability to generalize about “black people” without making a fool of yourself goes down. Whereas the differences between men and women are more stable because those categories are less socially constructed.

    • John Schilling says:

      I am not sure if this is a no-Culture War thread, but someone brought to my attention that there’s a growing body of research that racist beliefs are often caused by a lack of cognitive ability, leading to news stories like this.

      Absent telepathy, there’s no reliable way to no what people believe. And people with high cognitive ability are very likely going to figure out the unwritten rule that says they have to lie about whatever racist beliefs they may have, Or Else.

    • JulieK says:

      someone brought to my attention that there’s a growing body of research that racist beliefs are often caused by a lack of cognitive ability, leading to news stories like this.

      The beliefs are correlated with cognitive ability, but that’s not the same as being caused by them.

      This theory assumes that each person formulates his own beliefs from scratch, to the best of his cognitive abilities. I would say instead that most people adopt whatever beliefs are prevalent in their social group. Charles Murray has written about how (in America) elite whites have a totally different culture from working-class whites, and I daresay the same is true in England.

      I’m almost certain there are forms of prejudice that exist within other subgroups that aren’t analyzed because it doesn’t let politically motivated actors create shiny headlines.

      Good point. Maybe someone who wouldn’t mind a neighbor of another race would be unhappy with a neighbor who was a redneck or a Hassidic Jew.

      The survey, which compared childhood intelligence with political views, is bad news for David Cameron, the Conservative Party Prime Minister but should give a lift to Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband

      This reminds of the joke Atlas shared in the previous open thread:

      Adlai Stevenson was making a campaign stop when a woman called out: “You have the vote of every thinking person in this country, sir!” To which he responded: “That’s great, ma’am, but we still need a majority.”

  30. keranih says:

    A question *about* CW topics, but not wanting to engage in CW…

    (like what I want matters!)

    Is it possible to discuss a SCOTUS decision that is not CW, or is that baked in?

    • Matt M says:

      If it’s a well known decision that people would actually want to discuss, it’s probably baked in.

      That said, I imagine they take a fair bit of highly technical cases that the media ignores because they aren’t interesting, and “not interesting according to the media” is basically a synonym for “non-CW”

      • MrApophenia says:

        There definitely are. It’s easy to tell the difference, because they’re the ones that tend to be ruled unanimously, or on a non direct-partisan basis – like, you’ll a 6-3 decision where there are liberals and conservatives on both sides.

        There are lots of those every year, but nobody notices, because on all the stuff people actually care about, the rulings tend to be strictly partisan.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Not all cases are CW, but certainly the most well known ones are. I was very interested in the Wayfair case decided this year, which allows states a lot more leeway to tax out-of-staters. Of course I am a tax accountant, so I am more interested than most folks would be. But I do think the decision could have a quite negative effect on small businesses done out of a basement or such, so I think people should care a lot. But there’s no particular reason that this should be a partisan issue, much less CW. I did notice that it was the rightists who voted in favor, and the leftists against, but I have no idea why that was the case.

      In summary, there is no particular reason SCOTUS decisions have to be CW, but CW usually means there is lot more interest.

    • BBA says:

      As I’ve expressed before, I consider most constitutional law to be Calvinball, with the rules being made up and changed on the spot whenever there’s a convenient test case. The only constraints on the Court are that the rules at any moment have to be coherent enough that lower courts can follow them and that the decision doesn’t piss off enough of the country to start a shooting war.

      You can have an interesting discussion when the legal doctrines underlying the case cut in the opposite direction of the culture war. For instance, in Gonzales v Raich the issue was whether the DEA could enforce federal law against state-legal medical marijuana concerns. The court’s liberals (plus Kennedy) begrudgingly admitted that yes, it was a valid exercise of necessary-and-proper powers, while most of the conservatives dissented with the begrudging admission that no, the federal government had no right to interfere with purely internal matters of state law. Scalia broke from his usual legal principles to side with the liberals, I assume due to his personal opposition to marijuana, and I lost a bit of respect for him because of that.

      Then there’s Bush v Gore in which every single member of the court took the opposite side from their previously stated views on federalism in order to support their preferred partisan candidate, and swore up and down they’d never do it again. And we all shrugged and went along with it.

    • yodelyak says:

      Popehat is a good role-model for how to do that. His most recent, because it’s about a Supreme Court nominee’s jurisprudence, is inevitably CW-adjacent. But it’s all light, no heat.

      You’ll Hate This Post On Brett Kavanaugh And Free Speech

      • The Nybbler says:

        Here’s the bullet: Kavanaugh has been an appellate judge for 12 years and has written many opinions on free speech issues. They trend very protective of free speech, both in substance and in rhetoric.

        That’s enough to convince me the title is wrong.

      • Deiseach says:

        Interesting article, especially because I’ve already seen a few online fainting fits about how this means the entanglement of church and state and (of course) the overthrow of Roe vs Wade so The Handmaid’s Tale is another day closer to reality.

        I don’t know if it counts at all that Kavanaugh seems to be Catholic, so maintaining the Catholic majority on the Supreme Court; I haven’t heard any “the dogma lives loudly in you” about him yet, so he mustn’t have written anything to disturb the right-thinking.

        • Matt M says:

          They already took their “not allowed to nominate this person because they’re just a little too catholic” shot at Amy Barrett…

          • albatross11 says:

            You know, after reading the first couple paragraphs of that story, my assessed probability that I would actually become more knowledgeable about anything reading the rest of it fell dramatically. Like if I were reading something on a white supremacist site discussing whether some Jewish guy who was very serious about his faith should become a supreme court justice.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      United States v. AT&T

  31. roastingcanopus says:

    Stuart Ritchie’s recent meta-analysis of the IQ gains from school includes one estimate that the boost a kid gets from becoming one year older are two-thirds due to school and one-third due to other developmental and experiential gains (the statistical strategy is to look at the IQs of kids in one grade level and extrapolate that linear model to how smart the kids in the grade below would be if they had that extra year of schooling.)
    This is in stark contrast to unschooling estimates that a year of schooling is like a sixth of a year of other development (so one tenth as important as in Ritchie’s model.)
    The simplest explanation is that the unschooling advocates’ estimates are biased. Can someone explain what’s going on? Naively extrapolating, Ritchie’s summary implies that someone who’s unschooled would be something like 25 IQ points stupider at 1-5 points lost per year (an eighteen year-old would be like a ten year-old going off of the the first model I gave.) Maybe that *is* true for things like reading skills for people who aren’t naturally drawn to reading?

    • quanta413 says:

      I’m going to be lazy and not go read the meta study right now but tentative thoughts.

      Given a random piece of data with no care taken to restrict the range, linear extrapolation will do terribly pretty often. One issue to keep in mind is that IQ is not g. Boosting IQ might not matter if the underlying factor g is what actually leads to any gains that humans care about.

      From how you describe Ritchie’s strategy (basically comparing children who are only one year apart and finding a linear coefficient from that), I would be stunned if you could extrapolate that out for a decade. I wouldn’t be surprised if it failed for a two or three year difference. How many children exist who just happen to be shifted two or three years (not failed and held back)? That’s a sample you would want to test if his model extrapolates at all.

      • roastingcanopus says:

        The meta-analysis considers three quasi-experimental methods that all point to 1-5 IQ points per extra year of school (one method looks at changes in compulsory schooling rates, and another looks at people who were initially matched for IQ and then sought different amounts of education.) Extrapolating out to ten extra years of school indeed seems super sketchy, but still plausible (e.g. consider someone never learning how to read or do arithmetic.)
        I don’t know. I feel like if you improve IQ scores on a wide battery of tests then you must be getting some real kind of gains, although probably not as strong as pure g gains, sure.

        • quanta413 says:

          Extrapolating out to ten extra years of school indeed seems super sketchy, but still plausible (e.g. consider someone never learning how to read or do arithmetic.)

          On the extreme end, perhaps you could knock 25 points or much more off an IQ test by having someone be illiterate and innumerate. It seems like at that point a test not loaded on preexisting knowledge should be used, but it’s probably harder to find good samples of those tests. I’d estimate only something like 10-20% of school time is probably spent learning how to read or do arithmetic though so that still leaves a mystery as to what all those history classes children forget by the time they get a year older could possibly be doing to their IQ scores.

          In theory, children would get practice reading in their other classes, but my observation is that they don’t read. They mostly sit bored while the teacher is speaking. Or chat about things they are actually interested in during group activities or whatever.

          I’m not familiar with unschooling, but if you wanted to know the effects of that it’d seem simplest to see how unschooled children do. I imagine they usually learn to read and do addition. Learning those things is probably the most important part of school so maybe if you really blocked someone from learning any of the things that people learn partly in school they’d lose 1-5 IQ points a year, but in practice if they don’t go to school they’ll do something else that closes most of that gap.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Without knowing anything about the statistics, I think it’s fairly safe to assume that Ritchie’s data is pulling a very different sample than people who are doing unschooling

      • roastingcanopus says:

        Yeah, my conclusion is something like, “Just letting your kid veg for 12 years is borderline child abuse, but liberating an intellectually curious kid who would be stunted in the local school system can be a compassionate and enriching move.”

        • quanta413 says:

          This seems like a safe conclusion. It doesn’t really seem ethical to do a controlled “12 years of TV” experiment, so we’ll probably never be certain.

  32. fion says:

    In a recent discussion it seemed to me that there was a symmetry between motte-and-bailey and straw-man. I’d be interested if anybody else has had this thought or if anybody thinks I’m just wrong about it.

    What I mean is this: Suppose Alice and Bob are having a debate. Alice makes a very strong and hard-to-argue-with argument. To Bob, this looks like Alice is employing a motte-and-bailey, currently defending the motte. He’s certain he’s heard Alice, or people of the same ideological ingroup as Alice making a much more bailey-like version of the argument. But to Alice, who is probably either unaware that she’s using motte-and-bailey or actually isn’t doing so, it will seem like Bob is arguing against a straw-man if he attacks the bailey.

    I think it’s easy to do both motte-and-bailey and straw-manning without realising it, and you might find yourself accusing your opponent of doing one of them when in fact you’re doing the other. Does it just come down to whether Alice actually did make the straw-bailey argument? If she didn’t it’s a straw-man and if she did it’s a bailey?

    • Randy M says:

      Does it just come down to whether Alice actually did make the straw-bailey argument?

      Largely. Or else someone she relies on as a source or expert opinion.

      I think if Bob suspects Alice has a larger territory she defends but is taking refuge in her castle at the moment, he can say something like “What you’ve said so far is pretty agreeable, but I would take issue with anyone who might extend that principle further into positions such as government confiscation of viable fetuses or universal basic handgun guarantee.”

      • The nice thing about online arguments, as opposed to arguments in realspace, is that Alice can challenge Bob to find something she posted where she actually made the argument he is attributing to her. Either he does, in which case that’s evidence for the motte and bailey interpretation, or he doesn’t, in which case it is evidence for the straw man interpretation.

        The intermediate case is where he finds someone else who he thinks is very much like Alice making the argument.

    • Matt M says:

      I think I personally did this in a recent discussion here. That is to say, I said “straw man” when “motte and bailey” probably would have been more appropriate.

    • beleester says:

      Scott brings up exactly this issue in the post where he popularized the term:

      So weak-manning is replacing a strong position with a weak position to better attack it; motte-and-bailey is replacing a weak position with a strong position to better defend it.

      This means people who know both terms are at constant risk of arguments of the form “You’re weak-manning me!” “No, you’re motte-and-baileying me!“.

      • fion says:

        Oops. I guessed my point wouldn’t be original, but I didn’t realise it was already discussed in the post where I learned about the concept!

        Thanks for highlighting.

    • Viliam says:

      Suppose there is a weaker (and true) statement S1, and a stronger (but false, at least according to you) statement S2, which sound related, e.g. S1 is a subset of S2.

      A strawman is when Alice says “S1” and you say “you certainly also believe S2, which is wrong, therefore you are stupid”.

      Motte and bailey is when Alice yesterday said “S2” in absence of skeptics, but today she knows her statements are going to be examined critically, therefore she only says “S1”. (But her friends are not paying close attention to details, so if you accept her statement, it will sound to them as if she actually won a debate about S2 against you.)

      How do you distinguish these two cases if you have no idea what Alice said to her friends yesterday?

      I would recommend asking Alice directly: “I agree with you on S1. However, I have heard some people using a stronger version, S2. What is your position on S2?” Don’t make it sound like you suspect her to believe in S2; just say you want to make sure you are not misinterpreting her.

      Now, if Alice is playing fair, she can say e.g. “No, I don’t believe in S2” and the debate is over. It will only become a problem if Alice actually said “S2” to her friends yesterday, and her friends are listening now; if she admits it, you can start discussing S2; but if she denies it, it will sound weird to her friends.

      • fion says:

        Yeah, that sounds pretty reasonable. The biggest problem I have is that “S2” is never so clearly defined that I can say “do you believe S2” and get an unambiguous answer. There are different ways to phrase the same thing such that they sound different, and there are statements that are different but sound the same unless you’re very careful (and everybody else will just think you’re pedantic).

        But I guess that’s a different, more general problem with discussing complex issues.

  33. neciampater says:

    I recently came across this: http://geoffboeing.com/2018/07/comparing-city-street-orientations/

    I was born, raised, and currenly live in the most unique (or odd) city in that list. The roads here randomly change names.

    And it reminded me of city planning like https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/03/16/book-review-seeing-like-a-state/

    Which reminded me of an interesting post on a site I can’t seem to find. The writer was looking at wasted space in urban planning and comparing cities’ living areas and outdoor spaces. I remember it being posted on here or Status451. Anyone know or have a link to what I’m remembering? I’ve looked everywhere in my Google since I remember sharing it with people. I’ve looked at the comments on the post above.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Here is another website about the orientation of street grids.

    • bassicallyboss says:

      I don’t have time to find links right now, but a search for “Place and non-Place” should get you there. IIRC the term comes from the author of the blog New World Economics who has a good post about it. The best illustration of wasted space I remember seeing in urban planning (with lost of satellite images shaded by use/waste) was on some other blog.

    • The Nybbler says:

      That’s pretty cool.

      IME, Washington D.C, despite the normal grid-appearing look in those diagrams, has the grid interrupted enough that it’s considerably harder to navigate than Philadelphia (where the multiple grids are in different city sections) or NYC.

      Looking at the odd city of Charlotte, it looks like it does have a coherent grid in the center, but it’s dominated by every-which-way suburban arterials with developments gridded at random angles between them. Probably easier to navigate than the diagram would indicate.

    • neciampater says:

      Thanks!

      Douglas Knight:
      Something beautiful about those neon colors. Love to recreate for other urban areas…

      I think you nailed it Bassicallyboss (down to the title and source!) Will look for the illustration to which you refer:
      http://newworldeconomics.com/place-and-non-place/

      Nybbler:
      Charlotte is probably the biggest city with the cutest “center-city”. The grid in the center is of very little weight considering Charlotte has larger land area than most populous cities. We refer to our streest as “wheel-and-spoke”. Allegedly, the roads lead from church building to church building.

  34. baconbits9 says:

    Medical question.

    My wife is almost 6 months pregnant and today the midwife found a heart arrhythmia (not even close on my first spelling attempt), about once every 10 beats. Obviously the midwife is going to be soothing, and “try not to worry”, but I prefer more facts to fewer. We are a few weeks away from being able to get the ultrasound to figure out how bad this could be, does anyone feel comfortable giving me percentages for scenarios?

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Anyone who knows enough to really have an opinion is unlikely to be willing to offer one in this sort of forum with limited information, of course. 🙂

      I have no idea about fetal arrhythmias, but I am given to understand that (some kinds) in adults are common and no big deal at all. I was on a date a few years back with an er doctor who laid her head on my chest (because she wanted to, but also to demonstrate that stethoscopes were just for convenience) and listened to my heart; she remarked that I had one. I went “what the fuck?” She said “Yeah, every doctor you’ve ever had heard it, but it’s totally unimportant, some huge fraction of athletic people have one. They didn’t bother to tell you because, well, see how you’re freaking out now?”

      (I am not a doctor; I have no idea if the same is true for babies; don’t take any of this as medical advice.)

      • AlphaGamma says:

        because she wanted to, but also to demonstrate that stethoscopes were just for convenience

        True- Laennec, the inventor of the stethoscope, improvised his first prototype because it would have been considered indelicate to put his ear to the chest of a young female patient.

      • Evan Þ says:

        …and listened to my heart; she remarked that I had one.

        “Well, yeah, doc, I sure hope I have a heart!”

    • Deiseach says:

      Same as Andrew Hunter – if it’s an adult, doctors seem to take it remarkably casually; I’ve had the guys in the A&E assure me “Oh, I could have it as well!” which is not very helpful when you’re freaking out over “but it’s skipping every so many beats plus my blood pressure is through the roof!” Basically if you’re not fainting or collapsing, they ain’t worried.

      No idea about foetal heartbeats, so I suppose just try not to worry (if the midwife was all ‘don’t be bothered about this’) and wait and see. Good luck!

      • baconbits9 says:

        I appreciate the links, but they are more of the same. Willing to put numbers on the % of babies with arrhythmia but when it comes to the significance of the arrhythmia it comes down to “most are benign” or “many will resolve themselves before birth”.

        • Randy M says:

          You are looking to see what fraction of the arrhythmia is dangerous and how to tell, rather than just assurances that “on rare occasions, irregular heart rhythm can lead to death”. Makes sense. Of course I’m not going to tell you what to follow up with a professional with or what to relax about.

          But let’s see, from the nih link:

          Irregularities of the cardiac rhythm belong to the most common rhythm anomalies at any age. In the fetus this finding is almost always associated with isolated premature atrial contractions (PACs). … Irrespective of whether PACs are conducted or blocked and are frequent or rare, they are usually well-tolerated and resolve spontaneously with no need of treatment. In rare cases, nevertheless, progression to supraventricular tachycardia is possible. Therefore, intermittent heart rate monitoring (e.g. once per week for the next 2–3 weeks by the obstetrician) is recommended to exclude the development of a major tachyarrhythmia.

          Has the Midwife scheduled a follow-up within the next couple of weeks to double check this condition?

          PACs have also been associated with structural heart disease in up to 2% of cases, intracardiac tumors and redundancy of the atrial septum which are detectable by echocardiography.

          I don’t know anything about these conditions. It sounds rare and possibly genetic. Any family history of heart disease, cardiac tumors, miscarriage, SIDS, or something else that might be worrying here?

          I didn’t mean to give the same link twice before. Here’s one I left off
          http://www.revespcardiol.org/en/fetal-arrhythmias-diagnosis-treatment-and/articulo/90436032/
          Possibly hopeful excerpt:

          The most common heart rhythm irregularities are premature atrial contractions, which are benign and which are often related to maternal stimuli, do not require treatment, and resolve spontaneously. Between 1% and 3% of cases progress to SVT, but this did not occur in any of the fetuses in our series.

          From a scanning of these, it seems you will also want to note the actual heart rate. If the fetus is skipping beats, it seems like it could have a lower than normal rate; <100 bpm is called Fetal bradycardia, and you can look into that, although the midwife would probably have said something if this was the case.

          Obviously the midwife is going to be soothing, and “try not to worry”

          About this, in general given the legal climate and importance of the services, I think medical professionals and related services like a midwife are going to try to error on the side of caution. Birthing centers in our area will often refer cases to OB/GYN if there are any of a number of risk factors.
          I don’t know the experience/competence of your midwife, but we used the service of one for two births.

          • baconbits9 says:

            We have an ultrasound to check the heart schedule in 2 weeks, the midwife* wants to see us after that.

            I didn’t mean to give the same link twice before. Here’s one I left off

            This one is just what I wanted, thank you.

            * To clarify I wasn’t at the appointment, all statements are 2nd hand. I would also like to state that I am not angry with the midwife, or unhappy with the quality of care. When we went with a midwife it was to avoid specific parts of the medical establishment as much as anything, we just happened to hit a case where a specialist’s knowledge would be preferred but it would be unreasonable to expect her to be one as she is a generalist.

    • rahien.din says:

      100% : ask an obstetrician.

    • Garrett says:

      I volunteer in EMS. I am not a doctor. I’m not your doctor. And I haven’t examined you or your wife. Take the word of any medical professional who’s seen you before me.

      First: You haven’t provided enough information about the arrhythmia. Did they provide a name or description of it? As with anything else, it can be anything from academic interest to “wait here while I call an ambulance”. Given that they didn’t do that, it’s not obviously immediately serious. But more information will be needed to provide any information. Also, the organs (including the heart) are still growing so it’s entirely possible that this will go away on its own before birth.

      Second: absent any other information, I would view this as slightly increasing the risk of the pregnancy. It wouldn’t surprise me if your medical professionals become more likely to recommend that you give birth in a hospital rather than a birthing center or a home birth if that’s what you were previously contemplating.

      Ultimately: ask more questions of your medical providers. It is my personal opinion that they should be able to provide you the level of information that you want, up to which medical science has advanced. Just be aware that many of the answers become probabilistic rather than definitive at this stage.

  35. J Mann says:

    If I can make a request, I would like to hear from polyamorists or supporters of polyamory only regarding what they think about Jaskologist’s look at the SSC survey that indicates that at least for the most recent survey, success in a monogamous relationship is associated with decreased depression, while success in a polygamous relationship is associated with increased depression. (Last time I asked, I heard from a lot of non-polyamorist critics of polyamory, so I think we have that covered, or we can take back up in 106.25)

    Jaskologist wrote in relevant part:

    18.08% of the single monos are depressed, making them more depressed than “in relationship” monos (15.01%) and married monos (11.60%).

    25.19% of the single polys are depressed, making them the least depressed polys. Most depressed in this group are married polys (31.18%), but “in relationship” polys are close (30.15)

    I wrote the following in relevant part, but I’m bad at science:

    Presumably the explanations are (1) success in poly relationships contributes to depression, (2) depression contributes to success in poly relationships, (3) they’re co-variant on some other factor, and (4) it’s just a statistical fluke?

    • Skivverus says:

      These are hypotheses, less assertions or opinions, but:
      Polys apparently have higher depression rates overall, which may reflect pre-existing differences in how well their preferences match up with their ability to fulfill them. As the obvious example, “ability to find and sustain relationships with ideal number of partners without acting in socially stigmatized ways”. This likely applies to some people who consider themselves “in a relationship” or “married”, when the number of people they’re in a relationship with (or married to) doesn’t match their ideal number of partners, especially if their current partner(s) are not known to share these ideals.
      Or, to rephrase: if your partner thinks it would be cheating, you will probably not be happy about this (either through guilt at actually cheating, or frustration from having to hold yourself back), and “in a relationship” may not be as good a dividing line as “in an ideal number of relationships (one for mono, N>=1 for poly)”.
      Actually, that cheating comment made me think – would previously-mono people who find themselves tempted to cheat re-evaluate as poly (i.e., from priming on the survey)? I could see an archetype of such a person being depressed, but I don’t know that it would be anything more than a just-so story.

    • Matt M says:

      Total speculation, but maybe the known fact that polyamory is rare causes polys to be more willing to be accepting of potential relationship candidates. Basically – they know that the size of the pool is limited, so they lower their standards? Possibly unconsciously.

      Poly by definition also means 2+ partners to maintain harmonious relationships with. I always joke that I could never be poly because it’s hard enough for me to find one person who doesn’t annoy me and who I don’t annoy on a daily basis – imagine finding two! Perhaps polys simply have more “points of failure” in terms of relationships as contributing to overall happiness, if that makes sense. As they say, a happy wife is a happy life, but I have two wives, it’s twice as likely that one of my wives is mad at me!

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Nitpicking, but you can be poly and have one partner, just like you can be poly and have no partners.

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      Somewhat speculative try at an explanation:

      1. Poly people are disproportionately likely to be social misfits and rebels, since polyamory is unusual and of tenuous social acceptance status at best.

      2. Social misfits and rebels tend to be more depressed (multiple possible mechanisms for this), thus the higher baseline rate.

      3. The married-vs-single thing is some combination of statistical fluke (note much smaller difference between married and single than between poly and non-poly) and covariance on something else (e.g. raising kids, which affects poly people’s relational lives differently).

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      Would be interesting how this splits male-female.
      Ok, looked it up myself:

      “Breaking it down further by sex:
      33.63% of poly females are depressed, 27.78% of the males
      25.67% of the mono females are depressed, 14.05% of the males.”

      Actually, more interesting might by a split in polyandry and polygamy. Maybe sharing a partner makes you depressed.

    • J Mann says:

      I guess I’m not eligible to respond to my own question and hereby amend the response filter to include people who are neutral or have no opinion on polyamory.

      —–

      With that said, I took a look at the survey, and I guess that some people may well have answered that their relationship style is “preferred polyamorous” but are actually in monogamous relationships or marriages.

      Scott, if there’s a clean way to do it, it might be interesting to know whether the people in relationships are in monogamous or polyamorous relationships next time.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Haven’t checked to make sure Jask did everything right (eg his results are actually significant) but assuming he did, my guess would be filters.

      I would expect more unbalanced people to be less conformist, so poly people should be more depressed than mono people.

      I expect many people sort of think polyamory would be fun, fewer people actually get in poly relationships, and very few people remain poly even into their marriage. That means married-poly is a stronger filter than single-poly and might be selecting harder for whatever characteristics make you want to become poly (eg being unbalanced).

      I admit the straight explanation (being poly makes people depressed) is also possible.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I’ll attach my usual disclaimer: all I did was use pivot tables to get percentages in each group. I don’t know how to calculate a proper p value. Anybody wanna effort-post that?

        • J Mann says:

          If someone does, I would also be really curious to know how the results break down by gender (i.e., does success in relationships appear equally associated with reduced depression in monogamous preferring cis male, cis female, trans male, and trans female, and the same for the poly preferring participants?)

          I’m looking at it, but don’t quite get the survey results. Let me know if there’s a post I should read on the following.

          1) Is the downloadable data (e.g. the .csv) the best dataset, or is there a way to query the entire dataset, including people who said they didn’t want their individual responses released?

          2) The depression column (CI) has both some text entries and some integer entries. Is there a key I can use to convert that to something consistent?

          Sorry if I missed it earlier, but thanks!

          • Aapje says:

            Is the downloadable data (e.g. the .csv) the best dataset, or is there a way to query the entire dataset, including people who said they didn’t want their individual responses released?

            Presumably, only Scott or very trusted henchmen who sign a NDA can do analyses with that data.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      As a polyamorist, I consider this weak but real evidence that polyamory is depressing for most of the people who practice it. I say ‘weak’ because there are lots of ways it could be confounded.

      My top candidate explanation is that poly selects for people who are weird in at least way, and depression is one of the less romantically-impairing weirdnesses.

      To test this hypothesis, one would probably check the correlation of depression with self-rated social skills among poly people (and also mono people). I’m going to try to do this but might get lazy and not bother.

      ETA: I suck at pivot tables, but it kinda looks like depressed people have lower self-reported social skills (and higher incidence of autism), to a similar extent among mono and poly people. So my hypothesis was wrong according to my preregistered form of testing.

  36. gbdub says:

    Drinking thread: With really hot weather in the US, what are your favorite summer adult beverages?

    For me:
    1) Gin and Tonic, with lots of lime and a few dashes of orange bitters.
    2) the Paloma (reposado Tequila or mescal, grapefruit soda, lime juice)
    3) Saisons

    • J Mann says:

      Urban Artifact Keypunch Lime Gose.

      • gbdub says:

        Not had that one, but I do love a good Gose. AZ Wilderness out here has an excellent Blood Orange version, and the Modern Times (San Diego) Passionfruit Gose is also great (and I think they distribute relatively widely).

        Sour beers are getting a bit overdone lately though, market is a bit flooded.

    • dodrian says:

      1) Mojito
      2) Margarita (preferable frozen)
      3) Pimm’s no 1 Cup (with cucumber, orange, strawberry and mint, topped up with lemon soda)

      • Nornagest says:

        Mojitos are the right answer. But margaritas should be drunk on the rocks, not frozen.

        Ridiculous tiki drinks can be fun — imagine the type served in a coconut or skull-shaped mug, with little umbrellas, a fruit salad’s worth of garnishes, and a suggestive or ominous name. They’re more fun after you’re already slightly drunk, though.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Mojito, mojito, mojito. I grow a massive amount of mint, just for mojitos.

      Mint is an invasive weed, so keep it inside a pot.

      Blue Moon Mango Wheat and Sam Adams Cherry Wheat are both quite fruity summer beers that are quite delicious.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’d never been a fan of flavored beer before, but a number of decent fruity beers that’re good for summer drinking have been coming out in the last couple of years. Lagunitas’ Citrusinensis is on the stronger side, 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon on the weaker.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Favorite summer beer: Dead Guy Ale, Rogue Brewing.

      I’m not a wine drinker but a few weeks ago on a hot night I had a chilled Chardonnay (Barefoot) and it really hit the spot.

      Mixed: Lightly spiced Bloody Mary

    • andrewflicker says:

      I stick to blended margaritas when it’s VERY hot and gin-and-tonics with lime when it’s merely 100F (I’m in Phoenix), though I’ll occasionally have a traditional daiquiri if I’m making one for the wife anyway (rum, lime juice, simple syrup though I usually swap for a very little agave syrup).

      • gbdub says:

        As a fellow Phoenician, for G&T I would highly recommend the local “Commerce Gin” by AZ Distilling (in Tempe, but they distribute), as well as the gin by Paradox Distillery (not sure where to get other than the distillery near Lake Pleasant).

        • andrewflicker says:

          Commerce Gin is good- I’ll have to try Paradox next time I head out to the lake. My usual staple is Leopold Bros, but I switch around a lot trying different things. Actually going through a bottle of the Kirkland right now- I found their vodka to be a tremendous value, so I was hoping their gin stood up. It’s ok, but doesn’t stand up to the better mid-value gins out there.

    • rahien.din says:

      Dogfish Head’s Sea Quench

    • The Nybbler says:

      Beer, usually a lager, or a margarita, on the rocks, with salt.

    • AnarchyDice says:

      -Cranberry or Blueberry Mules (homemade cranberry or blueberry vodka with lime juice and ginger beer over ice)
      -Roasted Pineapple Margarita (using homemade roasted pineapple anejo tequila, on the rocks with salted rim)
      -Baileys over ice.
      -Oatmeal vodka over ice.
      -Plum liqueur over ice.

    • Tarpitz says:

      Pimms (with what we would call lemonade but you wouldn’t, and sundry vegetable matter, mixed strong)

      Fruity American-style IPAs (I’m a particular fan of Tiny Rebel’s Clwb Tropicana, though sadly in this case drinks are very much not free)

    • SpeakLittle says:

      1) Cold beer (I can’t recommend Black Tooth’s Copper Mule enough)
      2) Whiskey smash

    • Odovacer says:

      Beer-Shandy like Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, or something like a Koelsch, easy to drink, but still has flavor

      A pina colada or mojito can be good on a hot day.

  37. johan_larson says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write a speech praising the personal qualities, accomplishments and legacy of Adolf Hitler. Obviously, this is going to be a rather short speech and a very selective one. For instance, you may wish to mention his stirring skills as an orator, and omit the whole bit about leaving Germany a smoking ruin.

    • bean says:

      He did an excellent job discrediting mass antisemitism, ethnic cleansing, and was crucial to dismantling the toxic nationalism that had gripped Germany since the days of Bismarck.

      • gryffinp says:

        Ahh, the old “But he DID kill Hitler.” gambit.

        Does that have a proper name? The idea that a person might have done good by doing bad badly and setting an example for the rest of the world?

        • Lillian says:

          Ahh, the old “But he DID kill Hitler.” gambit.

          On the other hand, only a committed Nazi would do something so despicable as avenge Hitler’s death by killing the man who killed Hitler.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        The irony is that it is precisely this discrediting that gives the chancellor of contemporary Germany the moral authority to issue ultimatums to the Poles & Czechs to the effect of, open your borders to foreigners or face the consequences’ — Lebensraum indeed but not for the Germans.

        On a more serious note, I recall someone saying that ‘Had he died in 1938 he would have gone down as one of the greatest statesmen of all time’; that seems about accurate; though it’s hard to know exactly how the government would have peacefully handled the inflation/foreign exchange issues that were creeping up prior to the outbreak of war.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      “I admire men who stand up for their country in defeat, even though I am on the other side. He had a perfect right to be a patriotic German if he chose.” — Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm

    • Nornagest says:

      He made toothbrush mustaches as socially unacceptable as they always should have been.

    • Matt M says:

      His speculation that international interests would collude to make Europe a distinctly less European and more “multi-cultural” space was largely correct.

    • cryptoshill says:

      “Hitler successfully turned a nation ruined by debt and social disarray, unified it and turned it into one of the premier powers of the world in an extremely short period of time.”

      Continuing on to say what Hitler really did “That’s when it all went to shit.”

      • albatross11 says:

        I suspect that if Hitler had died of a heart attack in 1936, he’d still be remembered as a great political leader in Germany, albeit with some unsavory rhetoric and allies. And this makes me wonder how many other leaders with towering reputations were saved by losing power/dropping dead when they did.

        • James C says:

          Certainly, people have argued that being assassinated was the best thing to happen to JFK’s legacy. I imagine Cesar benefited a lot from not having to clean up the mess he made of Rome.

      • Randy M says:

        Would it have remained a premiere power if it hadn’t gone to war, or would the expense of maintaining the army have crashed it?

    • keranih says:

      Obviously, this is going to be a rather short speech

      Is it? Obvious, I mean.

      I can say “the man seized upon the distress and talents of a battered country, and engaged the biases and ethno-phillic nature of the age, to spearhead one of the millenium’s three great slaughters of human beings” in a rather brief space. I could go on all day about the love of a man for his dog and his mistress, the depths of his passionate intensity, his wartime valor, the soaring oratory skills, and the establishment of the nation of Israel, which owes its existence almost entirely to Hitler.

      But maybe that’s not a wise course. It might start convincing people that maybe there is something to this “line that cuts through every human heart” divide between good and evil – all people, all evil, all good. And God knows we can’t be having *that*.

    • James C says:

      Don’t have the time to do the legwork, but I seem to recall that there was an Adolf Hitler in the US at about the same time as it wasn’t a super uncommon name. A cheat would be to write about some other Hitler.

    • 天可汗 says:

      The inspirational story of a homeless failed artist who became the leader of a major world power.

  38. Randy M says:

    I asked awhile back what people here would think of a novel that spanned generations and skipped over many years at a time, and got some recommendations of works that had done this, such as Asimov’s The Last Question.
    With the disclaimer that I’m really not trying for novelty for novelty’s sake, I had another interesting idea after reading an article on mapping for RPGs. What would you think about a story told as a series of maps and charts? Perhaps combined with the time jumps, so in some cases you’d see the evolution of a settlement over many years.
    Obviously it’s not filling the same role as a novel. You don’t have thrilling dialogue or action scenes. It would be more like a puzzle. Considering why a particular detail is called out and labeled, what the relevance of various names are. Tying that in to changes in the environment. Ultimately piecing together a whole history.
    I think if this were done well this could be fascinating. I’m not sure I have this capability, but it might be fun to try.

    • entobat says:

      About your prior question, not this one (which I missed the first time around): Earth Abides and One Hundred Years of Solitude have something of what you’re gesturing at.

    • JackHK says:

      This is not quite the same thing, but almost all of Thomas Anderson’s Look to the West alternate history series is written as a sequence of extracts from in-story history textbooks, which leads to an interesting way of foreshadowing future events, etc.

    • herbert herberson says:

      I think that would only be appealing to a very certain type of person, but I personally am totally that type of person

    • cassander says:

      I think what you’re looking for is the Silmarillion.

    • helloo says:

      Kinda related – https://what-if.xkcd.com/53/

      Plenty of walkthroughs/let’s plays of Paranoia games like CK involve mostly a progression of maps. I haven’t seen one that’s ENTIRELY maps, but no obvious reason it couldn’t be (besides no witty commentary).

      You can even make the case of it being kind of like a stop-motion time progression video/flipbook.

      Lots of cases I can see of this might not be all puzzle like at all. Especially if there’s captions or such. Just a way to express a flow of time without direct narrative.

    • Nornagest says:

      It doesn’t have many maps, but Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique has some of the “evolution of a settlement over many years” thing going on.

  39. honoredb says:

    The Mr. Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? had a lot of fascinating details that are suggestive to a reader of Unsong:

    * He kept his weight consistently at 143 lbs. for numerological reasons (1, 4, 3 are the lengths of the words “I love you.”)
    * His ability to charm someone seems to have been at peak human levels, at least (watch his congressional testimony on YouTube for video evidence).
    * His son refers to him in the doc as a “second Christ”, and he’s shown washing someone’s feet to make a point.
    * They describe him as identifying more in the beginning with the Daniel puppet, and towards the end of his career with the King puppet.
    * At one particularly emotional moment he unexpectedly breaks into Hebrew.

    • disposablecat says:

      Mr Rogers was this timeline’s Comet King, confirmed.

    • Lillian says:

      * His ability to charm someone seems to have been at peak human levels, at least (watch his congressional testimony on YouTube for video evidence).

      There’s something about the way Mr Rogers talks that raises my hackles and makes me take a strong and immediate dislike for him. Not sure what it is, but i suspect that it might be class related, since the only other person i know with a similar reaction has very upper class sensibilities. The specific cause is, i think, that he combines working class plain speaking with upper class genteelnes and i haaate it. It’s like he managed to hit my personal speech pattern uncanny valley or something.

      Another reason might be that i trust people in direct proportion to my knowledge of how they intend to take advantage of me. The better i know someone’s ill intent, the more inclined i am to trust them. Since Mr Rogers reads as utterly unduplicitous, my instincts assume he is a perfect liar, and therefore utterly untrustworthy. The aforementioned friend who doesn’t like him either also has her own trust issues, which fits with the theory.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        Odd. I have exactly 100% opposite reaction.

        If you can speak plainly but genteely with warm calmness, I will hear you out. If you can’t, stick to text.

        As for Mister Rogers being a “perfect liar” theory, every detail of his life reinforces instead the theory that the character on the TV show *is* the man he was in every part of his life. *Nobody* buries themselves under false pretenses that completely in every detail for that many decade to build up a credit account of trust that deep, to then “trick” kids into… learning that it’s nice to be nice.

        I grieve for Mister Rogers for two things: one, he helped raise me, I was a “Mister Rogers kid”, nearly every day of my young childhood, and two, men like him appear to be, at most, one in a billion.

        • John Schilling says:

          *Nobody* buries themselves under false pretenses that completely in every detail for that many decade to build up a credit account of trust that deep, to then “trick” kids into… learning that it’s nice to be nice.

          Clayton Moore may have; I don’t think he started out playing himself as the Lone Ranger, but he did make it his life’s work to live the role 24/7 as a role model because the alternative was to have lots of kids see “the Lone Ranger” as a B-list movie villain.

        • Lillian says:

          You misundernstand, it’s not that i genuinely believe Mr Rogers is anything but what he purports to be, it’s that my social instincts are not calibrated to handle truly honest men. They are after all, so very rare.

        • Aron Wall says:

          This reminds me of the comment a couple threads ago about how you could know you’re dealing with a hyper-charismatic person if they make you feel like you’re the most important person in the world.

          The difficulty with that test, is what if you meet somebody who really does sincerely love everybody like that? I’ve met one such person in real life (an Eastern Orthodox priest in Santa Fe), and it’s the most attractive and impressive personality trait I’ve ever seen.

          Charisma is apparently the fake version of what I would call holiness.

      • Matt M says:

        My reaction isn’t nearly as extreme as yours, but I also was never a fan of his general tone or manner of speaking. Something about it reminds me of a well trained psychologist using the clinically proven best method to convince a raving lunatic to put his gun down. Like everything he says is telling me to “calm down” and my gut reaction is to shout out “I AM CALM, DAMN YOU!!!”

      • Randy M says:

        Are these reactions from now or from when you all were children? Most of your exposure to him was probably of when he was talking to children in a characteristically straight but simple manner.

        • Lillian says:

          The first time i heard Mr Rogers, i was already an adult. It’s very likely i wouldn’t have liked his show as a child though, since i disliked most PBS programming and outright hated both Barney and Sesame Street. As for my friend, i think she also first heard him as an adult, since her family had links to the Birchers, PBS was verboten in her household.

      • engleberg says:

        In Dean Ing’s Silent Thunder the gimmick is an electronic voice enhancer for politicians to make them more charming, believeable, commanding. It is part of the story that every voice tone that makes some people trust and love you makes others distrust and hate you.

  40. dndnrsn says:

    Welcome to the latest installment of my Biblical scholarship effortpost series (previous installments: creation stories, rest of Genesis, Exodus – liberation and covenant, and priestly theology). This time we’re going to look at Deuteronomy. Following a brief summary, we’ll talk about the identification of Deuteronomy with the reforms of King Josiah. After that, we’re going to discuss the arguments for dating Deuteronomy relatively late, and for the dating of the D source versus the P source.

    Caveats: I’m not an expert in this, but I did do a master’s (focusing more on the New Testament than Hebrew Bible). This is about secular scholarship, not theology. I’m trying to present a fair scholarly consensus and explain where there’s controversy.

    Deuteronomy is presented as given by Moses to the Israelites before they enter the promised land. Summarized briefly, it consists of various exhortations appealing to Israel’s history and a code of laws, along with curses and blessings, plus some concluding and miscellaneous stuff.

    For our purposes, the laws are the most important part; the most important laws concern reform of worship, largely consisting of centralization of sacrifice to God and absolute prohibition on worshipping other gods. Other than these religious reforms, an important characteristic of the laws in Deuteronomy is that they generally have a more strongly ethical character than the other laws we’ve seen in the Torah. They are especially concerned about the lot of the poor, slaves, etc, and they are justified on the basis of the experience of slavery in Egypt (cause for empathy) and God’s role in rescuing them from this.

    Considering the religious reforms: God is only to be worshipped through sacrifice and offering at one place. Sacrificial worship elsewhere is prohibited. Slaughtering livestock for food without sacrifice is explicitly allowed. Scholars believe this was not the case previously among the Israelites (in general, as far as I know, societies that sacrifice a considerable number of animals tend not to just throw the meat away – depending on place, time, and religion the priests might get it, or people might sacrifice an animal then take it home and eat it, or whatever).

    Because of these details, the rules in Deuteronomy are frequently identified with the reforms of Josiah (as described in 2 Kings 22-23, a book which scholars link to Deuteronomy – but that’s a story for next time). Josiah’s reforms are sparked by the high priest’s discovery of a scroll in the Temple. The reforms made based on this scroll accord pretty well with the worship-related program of Deuteronomy: Josiah bans the worship of other deities and of God outside the Temple; the new rules are justified by appeal to Moses. Scholars have thus, since the early 19th century, believed the scroll found in the Temple to be none other than Deuteronomy itself – not necessarily Deuteronomy as we have it today but at a minimum part of what would become the book of Deuteronomy.

    Further, scholars, based on the account of Josiah’s reform, as well as the earlier attempt at reform by Hezekiah (see 2 Kings 18), concluded that the account of the centralization indicated that Deuteronomy was not an old collection of laws that had been forgotten or ignored. Rather, it was an innovation (one that would concentrate power in Jerusalem and lead to more central exercise of power in general), presented, however, as something older that had been forgotten or ignored. They also considered links between Deuteronomy and “wisdom” literature (a genre present across the Ancient Near East with its best example in the Hebrew Bible found in Proverbs) to be further evidence that Deuteronomy was the work of scribes in Jerusalem; originally, scribes serving Josiah.

    This argument relies upon internal evidence. First, it requires the identification of Deuteronomy, or elements of what would become Deuteronomy, with the scroll found in the temple – that this not be a mere coincidence. Second, the argument relies to some degree on reasoning based on who benefits: the high priest happens to find a scroll arguing for centralization, and the king acts on it. The effects of this would have benefited the Jerusalem priesthood and the monarch. One does not need to be especially cynical to think that the discovery of the scroll was a little suspicious – but suspicion on its own isn’t proof.

    So far, this evidence is fairly speculative – especially for something as key to understanding the Hebrew Bible as the date of Deuteronomy. This is a major point in the big question we’ve been seeing again and again: is the history of Israel, as seen in the Hebrew Bible, the history of a people recovering old ways of doing things and getting better at doing what they were initially told to do, or is it the history of a society developing and retconning their history to indicate that each new development is in fact something they were meant to do from the beginning? Luckily, we have some hard(er) evidence.

    Since the original scholarly speculation as to the date of Deuteronomy, the seventh-century Vassal Treaties of Esarhaddon have been uncovered by archaeology. They were the vassal treaties binding the inferior parties to Esarhaddon, an Assyrian king; Judah appears to have been one of his vassals – it was a vassal to his father, Sennacherib. There are strong parallels (in form and in content) between these treaties and Deuteronomy. Scholars have concluded that it is fairly clear that Deuteronomy in its current form was influenced by these treaties – and thus must date from around the same time. Deuteronomy may, in fact, have been intended to provide a sort of alternative to Assyrian vassal treaties: pledge allegiance to God instead of to foreign powers.

    Some of the material could be earlier – older oral traditions, say – but it would still have to be put together at a given time. Also, it only presents an earliest possible date for the first material that would become Deuteronomy to be written down – there could have been later additions. Finding a date for the book doesn’t lead to the conclusion that it was composed entirely at that date: scholars tend to think that what is now Deuteronomy was enlarged and edited over a period of decades. It may include oral traditions, but it is unlikely that oral traditions were accurately maintained for a long period.

    A major question is whether the D source or P source is earlier. A lot rides on this: if you take the perspective that the D source dates to the 7th century at latest, and that the P source was composed afterwards, then both the D source and P source are considerably later than they would have to be to date to the beginning of Israel’s history, or anywhere near that. Further, they intentionally place contemporary material about contemporary concerns in the past, presenting it as binding rules dating to the beginning. D in the 7th century and D before P, in short, lends credence to the general notion that the accounts given in the Hebrew Bible represent retroactive continuity in a very strong sense, and additionally contributed to the importance of scripture in the religion (compare D and P to J and E for answers to questions like “how should a community behave?” and “how should individuals behave?”). This interest in religious scripture and in scripture as a guide to life and behaviour is fairly unusual – it was probably very unusual in its original context of Ancient Near East religion generally, as well as the later Mediterranean. (Of course, D and P aren’t the only factors here; the loss of the Temple and the Babylonian captivity played a major role in the development of the religion.)

    These arguments tend to revolve around the P source seeming more developed and settled than the D source. Leviticus has a more sophisticated ritual calendar, and things that seem to be of special importance (centralization the most important) in D are assumed in P.

    However, there are also arguments for P being earlier. Early arguments for P being later than D often assumed that P’s interest in ritual and purity were later accretions. This position dated to the 19th century, and the scholars who put it together tended to dislike what they saw as later developments, especially P’s preoccupation with purity and ritual. This was seen as a deterioration from what these scholars saw as earlier modes of the religion. They presumed that legalism had developed over time in Judaism, and saw this as a negative development.

    There is, however, evidence that has appeared since then (the same sort of archaeological evidence that gave us Esarhaddon’s treaty) that ritual and purity concerns were a concern of multiple religions in the Ancient Near East by the second millenium. Arguments based on the development of language also tend to fall on the side of P being earlier. If P is earlier (and one still thinks D to be from the 7th century), while nothing is proved about when it dates from, it certainly can’t be from after a certain point, and elements such as centralization and the codes of law and ritual in P could be relatively early. This means less retconning. It also dates that special interest in scripture earlier.

    Overall, the closest to a consensus that is available is that both sources contain older traditions and were edited over some period of time – there may be overlap, and part of one book being earlier than part of another does not mean one book as a whole is older than the other. With that said, the P source was probably after and influenced by Deuteronomy and the associated reforms, but again, may contain material from before that date. Both are younger than J and E (with which P is far more tightly integrated). Both played an important role in the development of a religion that was heavily based around scripture.

    So, to recap. The closest thing there is to a scholarly consensus is that Deuteronomy dates to the seventh century, based on accounts of Josiah’s reforms (with which it is associated) and comparison to some treaties from that period. P is probably later than D, in the main. Centralization is fairly late, and the heavy interest in scripture likely is too. The religion as a whole became the religion it became later on in part due to Josiah’s reforms and the documentation produced to support them. Next time, we’ll talk about the historical books (the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings) which scholars have linked to Deuteronomy.

    Postscript: If I’ve made any errors, let me know, ideally in the next ~55 minutes so I can edit.

    • Evan Þ says:

      So why is the scholarly consensus still that P is later than D, after purity was discovered to be a major concern of the Ancient Near East, and after linguistic evidence points to its being earlier?

      Also, I remember some arguments in the replies to one of your earlier posts that Deuteronomy bears more similarities to older treaties than to Assyrian treaties. If so, this would refute the main evidence you cited for Deuteronomy’s date; do you have anything more to say on that?

      • dndnrsn says:

        1. I can expand on this a bit if you want, but not right this moment. I was kind of bumping up against the word limit.

        2. I think it’s something like this – Deuteronomy specifically resembles the Esarhaddon treaties, which aren’t just in the right century but within the right couple decades or so, while looked at more generally the Torah or parts of it resemble Middle Eastern vassal treaties in general, and scholars argue over whether they resemble Hittite or Assyrian more.

        Spitballing, but it’s plausible to me that bits and pieces of old traditions and sources from the 13th century found their way into later documents. Not necessarily orally, either – maybe oral traditions from 1350 or whenever get written down within a few decades and then enter the documentary record, probably changing over the centuries. This is used to write later documents, which inform D or P or whatever source, or inform a source that gets used in that source, blah blah blah. Due to the ravages of time on organic materials, we know a lot more for this sort of discussion of sources with the New Testament than the Hebrew Bible. This would explain why there’s stuff and descriptions of stuff that really make sense if they’re vaguely about the 13th century, but in stuff that as a whole is probably from at least a few centuries after that, at the earliest. I reiterate that this is just my opinion as to a possible explanation. This is not scholarly consensus, just what I sort of get from what I’ve read.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I can expand on this a bit if you want, but not right this moment. I was kind of bumping up against the word limit.

          Sure; when you have time, please do.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The strongest argument to me seems based on the calendar. The P source calendar includes a couple festivals the D source calendar doesn’t; it wouldn’t make sense for it not to include festivals celebrated when it was written. It also includes Passover as a pilgrimage, which seems to show up first in Deuteronomy.

          • Aron Wall says:

            I don’t understand. You seem to be saying that we know P is (mostly) later than D because P copied D’s requirement that the Passover be celebrated with a pilgrimage.

            But why isn’t it equally plausible that D was copying P’s pilgrimage requirement? Even after the speculative division of the Torah into specific sources, the text only indicates which of these sources had the requirement, not who was the first to do so.

          • dndnrsn says:

            If P influenced D Passover, it raises the question of why D leaves out festivals that are in the P ritual calendar. Some scholars also think that the statement in 2 Kings 23:21 (yes, this requires identifying the scroll with Deuteronomy) that “no such passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel” is tendentious – Judges portrays a time that either didn’t know or wasn’t following other stuff from Deuteronomy (mostly involving prohibited religious activities); the argument goes that the insistence it hadn’t been done in such a way since a past time was covering for it not having been done in such a way before, period. I may be garbling this a bit. I’ll think about it a bit more when I’m freshly rested and maybe flip through the books again.

          • Aron Wall says:

            This assumes that the list of festivals would only get longer with time, not shorter.

            Or it could also be that Deuteronomy, being a second iteration of the law, focuses its attention only on the festivals which were most important from the perspective of lay Israelities—namely the ones which required them to go on pilgrimage.

          • dndnrsn says:

            There’s some evidence from Nehemiah that those two festivals in P but not D weren’t observed in Nehemiah’s time, and Nehemiah is usually dated to the 4th or 5th century. Both of the festivals are pretty important ones.

          • Aron Wall says:

            And what is that evidence? I hope it does not take the form: if a festival is not mentioned by a particular author then it didn’t exist.

          • Aron Wall says:

            One of the festivals mentioned in Leviticus but not Deuteronomy or Nehemiah is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

            The instructions in Leviticus for this feast involve the high priest sprinkling blood on the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. However, the Ark was destroyed in the Babylonian Conquest and never rebuilt, even though they rebuilt the rest of the furniture for the Second Temple. This seems to imply that Yom Kippur preceded the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, because why put in instructions for what to do with the Ark if the Ark isn’t there?

          • dndnrsn says:

            The reasoning is a bit more complex than that, but boils down to being pretty close. It seems odd that a book that is so intently focused on proper worship would leave out major festivals, pilgrimage or no. The relevant bit of Nehemiah is organized chronologically – so the absence of a major festival is highly suggestive. Yes, this is pretty speculative. It’s a clue, not really huge proof.

            However, it might be the best we can do – if you cut back to only what can be proven by hard evidence, you end up relying entirely on archaeological evidence, which is limited. However, a high bar like that does tell us that the institutional history as given in the Hebrew Bible doesn’t match up with the archaeological record. It’s hard to avoid that the least-likely-to-be-accurate presentation is that of, in this case, the framing material of the laws.

            I could give my own opinion, which is probably a bit friendlier to the date of parts of the D and P source than the conventional (that meaning, as it usually does, German) scholarly account, but it’s more just “hey this passes the smell test” than anything else, and may be distorted by my NT scholarship focus (where there’s much better textual evidence to support these theories).

        • marshwiggle says:

          The scholars you’re drawing on are in the tradition of Weinfeld, the guy who wrote Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic tradition yes?

          Weinfeld isn’t exactly the most careful with evidence. People may have liked his results, but his arguments are rather poor.

          For instance Weinfeld relies very heavily on the curse formulas in Deuteronomy having the same punishments as Esarhaddon in the same order. Specifically, he says there is no reason to have Deuteronomy 28:27-28 in that order, except that Esarhaddon does, and Esarhaddon has in that order because of the deities Sin and Shamash. The curses on the Code of Hammurabi have those same deities right next to each other, but Haummurabi puts Shamash before Sin. Hammurabi is way way older, 1000 years older. It’s got a much bigger resemblance to Deuteronomy than the order of Shamash and Sin – it’s got a whole pile of laws and non-divine punishments that the curses are in reference to. And this is the kind of thing Weinfeld counts as major evidence.

          A much bigger problem for Weinfeld is the absence of historical prologue (justifying the treaty) in the Esarhaddon type treaties. It’s kind of a big deal in Deuteronomy. It’s kind of a big deal in older treaties – if I recall, even Weinfeld admitted that the Deteronomy historical prologue stuff resembled the much older Hittite treaties. The historical prologue stuff is just plain not there in Esarhaddon. This isn’t a minor difference in pattern. It’s a major one, and in my judgement at least it torpedoes the entire Esarhaddon/Deuteronomy argument. Weinfeld knew this was a problem, but he just sort of glossed it over.

          In short, I think the scholarship on this matter was i