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Open Thread 106.75

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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770 Responses to Open Thread 106.75

  1. BBA says:

    So here’s an odd story: the New York State Public Service Commission has revoked the license of the state’s dominant cable company, Spectrum, and given them 60 days to sell off all their systems and exit the state. The official grounds for the decision are that when Time Warner Cable merged with Charter to form Spectrum a couple years ago, they promised to build out numerous service improvements as a condition of the state’s approval of the merger. They’ve failed to meet those standards, so the state has retroactively disapproved the merger.

    This is an extreme step – normally this sort of thing leads to a sharply worded letter of disapproval, a nominal fine, and a return to business as usual. And so far Spectrum’s stock price has barely budged, indicating the markets don’t think it’ll really happen – either the state will back down or Spectrum will appeal and win. So I’m not sure why the PSC, normally a poster child for regulatory capture, is suddenly giving Spectrum the third degree.

    The obvious explanation is that it’s an election year, the governor is struggling in the polls, and kicking the universally hated Time Warner out of the state is easy red meat for the crowd. (Long after the merger, everyone still calls them “Time Warner.” This must have been unpleasant for the actual Time Warner, which sold off the cable company years ago and finally changed its name to Warner Media last month after its own merger with AT&T.) But the timing doesn’t quite work: 60 days from now is before the election, so we’ll know by then if the Spectrum shutdown isn’t going to happen – or if it does happen and the switchover to the new owners goes poorly.

    I’ve seen a more sinister suggestion: Spectrum owns NY1, one of the few media sources that extensively covers state-level politics, and the state is shutting down Spectrum as revenge for NY1’s hard-hitting coverage. This smells like reporters overestimating their own importance if you ask me.

    Still, I think something doesn’t quite add up here. (And to the libertarians who will inevitably come here and argue that Spectrum should be allowed to provide as much or as little service as they want without any government intervention: yes, you’re very smart, shut up.)

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      Given the NY AG’s notable corruption I wouldn’t throw too much water on the NY1 conspiracy theory.

    • 10240 says:

      And so far Spectrum’s stock price has barely budged, indicating the markets don’t think it’ll really happen

      … or that the assets can be sold for approx. the same price as what the current stock price indicates. Indeed, if the merger is retroactively disapproved, does that mean that they have to sell of their assets in at least two parts?

      • BBA says:

        I’ve read the order and all it says is that Spectrum must cease operations in New York State. Nearly all of their assets in NYS were Time Warner before the merger, so splitting off pre-merger Charter’s minimal assets may not be worth the bother in the commission’s view.

        Note that the FCC and the other 40-odd states where Spectrum operates had to approve the merger too and they aren’t affected by the NY revocation.

        • 10240 says:

          Then what’s the reason NYS had to approve the merger? I’m a libertarian but I won’t shut up, as I would assume that the non-libertarian reason a merger needs approval is that it decreases competition, but based on what you say the two companies weren’t competing in NYS anyway.

          • BBA says:

            This isn’t antitrust law. This is utility law, which assumes the absence of competition and requires approval for everything significant a utility does so they don’t start collecting monopoly rents.

            It made more sense back when Time Warner just did cable TV and Bell Atlantic just did landline phones and ISPs were all dial-up. Now Spectrum and Verizon are both primarily ISPs competing with each other, landline phones are irrelevant, cable TV is becoming irrelevant, and the utility laws still assume it’s the old world. To their credit, the PSC in this case was mainly focused on internet service, specifically rural broadband.

    • Guy in TN says:

      Why does there have to be an ulterior motive? Can the purpose of the regulation not be their motivation?

    • Deiseach says:

      I don’t know how I feel about the fact that we’re all so jaded about politics that we automatically assume the stated reason (they never lived up to their promises that they signed a contract to perform so they invoked penalties which are happening now) can’t be the real reason.

      I imagine that (a) yes the reporters are over-estimating their own importance but (b) there may be a grain of truth in it, that getting rid of a thorn in the side is a pleasant added extra.

      I would say “follow the money” here, except I can’t see where the money is expected to come from: if the shares haven’t dived then as you say it looks like nobody is treating this as a serious threat, so is the idea “okay, after a lot of huffing and puffing Spectrum will stump up a large fine instead which will get diverted to the election war chest” or what?

  2. johan_larson says:

    I’ve been talking about military recruiting in the past few OTs, so I got curious about what my actual score would be on the ASVAB, used to test eligibility for service and fitness for specific jobs. Unfortunately the ASVAB is not available to just anyone. It’s administered in testing centers and sometimes in high schools. But you can take this 24-question quiz to approximate your AFQT, which is a percentile ranking against a broad sample 18-23 year olds. The quiz is hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, which is a reputable newspaper.

    Minimum scores vary by service branch, but start at 31 for the army and go up from there.

    • Orpheus says:

      Can’t you do this one?

    • CatCube says:

      The ASVAB wasn’t terribly difficult when I took it (twice, as by the time I joined the Army after college the one I did in high school had expired.) It was basically a slightly-easier ACT, with some stuff for quickly matching numbers instead of analogies (meant to simulate data entry, I think)

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Yeah those scores aren’t that high. But these are college level questions I think, and I think these thresholds are just to become enlisted soldiers? I’m not sure why all enlistees need to have college level vocabulary and algebra? But I suppose it does correlate with g, and it does help to have people out there killing people to have at least an average level of intelligence.

      • johan_larson says:

        I’m actually surprised the minimum scores are as high as they are. Remember that AFQT scores are percentiles of the entire population of 18-23 year olds. You’d think the military would have some jobs that are ok for say the 20th percentile of general intellectual aptitude. Cooks and truck drivers and construction workers seem like they would do fine at that level; and military has some of those. But no, 31st percentile or get lost.

        • CatCube says:

          Don’t forget that the military isn’t a normal job. When these people go get fucked up at the bar on Saturday and hit a school bus, that’s not your boss’s problem in the civilian world. In the military, that situation needs to be reported up within an hour, even at 0200 on Sunday. And this is when you’re at home station; consider when you’re deployed and are with these guys 24/7/365.

          There’s a minimum level of stupid below which you’re a liability, regardless of the job. I’m not sure that 31 is high enough.

        • albatross11 says:

          The 31st %ile of intelligence corresponds to an IQ of about 93.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Are you taking into account that this would be the 31st percentile of HS graduates and GED holders, not the 31st percentile of the general population?

          • johan_larson says:

            They are percentiles of the overall population of 18-23 year olds, not the 18-23 year olds who are otherwise qualified.

            Here’s a quote from the organization that runs ASVAB about the study that is used to norm the ASVAB:

            Given the selection methods of participants in the PAY97 study, and the application of post-stratification weights, assurance was gained that the results from the two groups reflect the overall population of 18 to 23 year-old youth and the population of 10th through 12th graders, respectively. On this basis, norms for the two groups were established, enabling individual results to be reported in terms of how they compare to all youth in the applicable populations.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @johan_larson

            Right. I was trying to make the point that saying “31st percentile approximates an IQ of 93” probably understates the minimum intelligence requirements somewhat since in reality the minimum standard is “at least 31st percentile AND a GED holder/HS Graduate.”

            Mind you, the answer on this will also vary somewhat based on timeframe. We loosened standards somewhat during the ramp-up to OIF/OEF for example. That said, those Cat IV recruits were also disproportionately the ones who are going to be the “out” in “up or out”, while standards tighten back up.

            Beyond that I’d just second CatCube’s comments. If anything, 31st percentile is low.

        • bean says:

          You’d think the military would have some jobs that are ok for say the 20th percentile of general intellectual aptitude. Cooks and truck drivers and construction workers seem like they would do fine at that level; and military has some of those. But no, 31st percentile or get lost.

          Besides what CatCube says (which is very true), there’s also the fact that everyone in the military has a second job of being a soldier/sailor/airman/marine. Sure, it might be possible to be a cook/truck driver with a 20th-percentile IQ, but it’s probably not possible to be able to handle a rifle, know how to safely use a grenade, wear a gas mask, do drill, remember who to salute and when, and be a useful, contributing member of the unit.

          • albatross11 says:

            As I understand the research, IQ positively correlates with performance in every job, even really menial ones you wouldn’t think of requiring a lot of intelligence. So if you’ve got a choice of employees, restricting yourself to the relatively smart ones is probably a win. That’s as true for the US military as it is for Google, even though Google has a much higher fraction of jobs for which being very intelligent is required, instead of merely helpful.

          • bean says:

            As I understand the research, IQ positively correlates with performance in every job, even really menial ones you wouldn’t think of requiring a lot of intelligence. So if you’ve got a choice of employees, restricting yourself to the relatively smart ones is probably a win.

            I don’t think that’s quite it. Yes, a 50th percentile garbageman/cook is better than a 20th percentile one, but probably not better enough to be worth the wage premium they can command due to having better offers elsewhere. And the US military isn’t really able to be that selective most of the time. The manning situation isn’t as dire as it was 10-12 years ago, but it’s also not great. If they could make use of 20th percentile people, they would.

          • albatross11 says:

            I assume the military moves the limits around in response to supply and demand.

          • johan_larson says:

            It’s less about moving the limits and more about variable flexibility in granting waivers to them. I seem to remember reading something about the army being willing to grant waivers for felony convictions during the worst days of the war in Iraq.

            But they do sometimes change the rules outright. The Air Force changed its standards regarding tattoos dramatically recently. And the Marines stopped requiring that female recruits be able to do pull-ups, accepting flexed-arm hangs instead.

          • Aapje says:

            @johan_larson

            So they are hanging the women?

            Geez…

          • Nornagest says:

            @johan_larson —

            The tattoo thing is probably less about an intent to loosen standards and more about changing social attitudes towards tattoos. In my dad’s generation, they were seen as a thing for sailors and petty criminals; now half my friends have them.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, by the results I got on that linked test I’m eligible to be a fly-boy (fly-girl?) but you really don’t want me flying a plane 🙂

  3. Deiseach says:

    So you think you’re paranoid? You are tiny baby! From my Tumblr dash, talking about a no-deal Brexit:

    But seriously… This has to be stopped. It’s a far-Right coup created by the same people who are behind Trump.

    How about no? It’s a gigantic cock-up by an overconfident Tory party who, in the wake of finagling a referendum result to their liking on Scottish independence then arrogantly thought a second referendum would cement their power and when it all went pearshaped then (a) buggered off to leave others clean up the mess in the resulting chaos (yes, Call Me Dave, I mean you) (b) took the opportunity to leave the resulting chaos fester while they engaged in the much more important back-stabbing and throat-cutting to see who would win the leadership of the party resulting in (c) someone completely unexpected getting what turned out to be the poisoned chalice and left in such a weakened position that they are reliant on a deal with the DUP to prop them up in power meaning (d) they have no plan and (e) everyone keeps resigning so (f) even if they had a plan there’s nobody there to follow it so (g) they’re currently muddling on through in a toxic mess of Empire nostalgia, Paddy-bashing, and turning a Nelsonian blind eye to reality, which may have worked for Nelson but none of them are remotely similar to Admiral Nelson.

    I wish there were a Sinister Background Mastermind Directing An Overarching Plot, then at least there would be a plan and a clear process to follow!

    Also Trump has nothing to do with this, what is this obsession with making him the Monster of the Day?

    • BBA says:

      The post is blaming “the same people who are behind Trump”, i.e. Putin and his shadowy worldwide far-right conspiracy.

      • Deiseach says:

        Yeah, still trying to wrap my head around “the Russians are right-wing now” 😀

        Why would Putin engineer Brexit? To weaken the EU? I can’t imagine he cares one way or the other about Great Britain, given that he’s been (allegedly! to head off the lawyers!) merrily poisoning people in Britain whenever he feels like it, and doesn’t seem to be too worried if anyone knows about it or that whatever they might do would be effective against him.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          In what ways is Russia left wing? They aren’t communist, and communism is mostly a dead letter these days anyway. Outside of Venezuela, is anyone really doing the command economy route?

          Let me put it this way, where, within the political spectrum of Russia would you place “Pussy Riot”? Left or right?

          There is acceptance of support from Russia by some on the left in the West. I personally think they are getting played, or are outright dissembling. But that isn’t really a good arbiter of what broad tenets govern Russia right now.

          ETA: As to why it would be in the interest of the governing oligarchs to weaken the EU and NATO? That seems fairly self evident if Russia thinks that Western power threatens their own.

          • Deiseach says:

            Let me put it this way, where, within the political spectrum of Russia would you place “Pussy Riot”?

            Remind me again: in which quadrant of the political compass does the “stupid twit” category fall?

            You’ll have to excuse me, having spent the first twenty-eight years of my life with Russia being the Communist Socialist Pinko Lefties state, that leaves a certain impression on the mind.

            Whether Russia today is left, right or sideways I have no idea, but going from KGB officer to El Presidente has me rather sure Putin is of the mé féin wing of whatever political party, philosophy or other method of government might be in power.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Left wing and right wing aren’t ideologies and they certainly aren’t immutable. These are terms of convenience for coalitions. Why do you find it hard to accept that the break up of the Soviet Union wouldn’t precipitate a general restructuring of coalitional politics?

            ETA: most especially when the current governing ethos of Russia doesn’t even seem to mouth platitudes about using government to address societal ills (outside of law and order).

          • Deiseach says:

            HeelBearCub, you’re taking a throwaway joke as a stringent expression of my geopolitical views.

            Calm down brother, have a nice sit down and a cup or glass of something refreshing. I believe you about the post-breakup former Soviet Union! You don’t have to mount the soapbox and die with your boots on for this!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:

            The joke doesn’t really work if it’s not an expression of the idea that it’s illogical to believe Putin would help right wing candidates because he is on the left. Throwaway or not, it seems to express a world view.

            What you really seem to mean is “It gives me comfort to mock liberals for idiotic views, so leave my joke alone.”

            I dunno, you really expect a pass on that?

            Let me put it this way, this seems like defection to me. I do try and refrain from this kind of sarcastic mockery of the right (mostly everywhere, but definitely here). I don’t recall seeing anyone here engaging in it (except those that are rapidly drummed out).

          • liate says:

            @HBC

            Conversely, it could be a mildly self-depreciating joke on the fact that Russia spent most of the 20th century under a decidedly leftist regime, humorously implying that Deiseach is either not smart enough or too set in her ways to get the new political status of Russia as ingrained as the messaging developed over much of a century before being taught to her in her more formative years.

            Deiseach is also, to put it bluntly, somewhat older than most of the people here, and therefore would have a stronger association of “Russia == Left” than most of us.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @liate:
            Context. Look at the parent comment to hers. (Also, look at her comment history over the last 2 years.)

            And Deiseach appears to be less than 10 years older than me, so …

        • BBA says:

          Yeah, Putin wants to weaken the EU. He’s been butting heads with them for quite some time – Crimea, sanctions, the Baltic states, etc. And he’s formed an alliance of convenience with the pan-European far right that wants to go back to the good old days before Brussels bureaucrats forced multiculturalism down their throats.

          What the paranoid left doesn’t get is that Putin couldn’t do much of anything if the globalist consensus weren’t widely seen to have failed and there weren’t a large base of right-wing discontent to tap into. Sure he supported the pro-Brexit campaign but he didn’t cast a single vote. That’s all on the Brits.

          And of course on the Internet everything is a proxy for American domestic politics.

          • engleberg says:

            Putin has a real cash-in-hand reason to want more money for his natural gas, and it is his duty to Russia to shuck bull. EU has a real cash-in-hand reason to want more natural gas for less money, and it is Euro pols’ proud duty and pleasure to shuck bull. European media has a real cash-in-hand reason to want flashy headlines, and it is their duty to their employers to shuck bull.

            From across the pond, it’s hard to see past the bull shucking.

          • Deiseach says:

            Sure he supported the pro-Brexit campaign but he didn’t cast a single vote.

            Not to mention that Obama supported the Remain campaign (to a certain amount of embarrassment by the Brits) and indeed prior to that had commented on the Scottish independence referendum (wanted the UK to remain united) which makes it sound as if he was supporting his good pal Call Me Dave, so if Putin was the sinister right-wing conspiracy, that makes Obama part of the sinister left-wing conspiracy! On behalf of the Tories?

            Excuse me while I ROFL 😀

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Exactly. Leftists come across as having watched too many superhero movies and thinking Putin could create people to the Right of Teresa May through mind control.
            It’s an alliance of convenience with people who have real grievances.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            In America we create people to the right of Teresa May without even working at it.

        • Viliam says:

          Yeah, still trying to wrap my head around “the Russians are right-wing now” 😀

          I guess reading this Wikipedia article will blow your mind! 😀

          More seriously, current Russian strategy is all about “we can’t improve our country, but making the situation in your country worse feels just as good”.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I mean, there has been a reactionary right movement building international ties amongst various nationalist groups for quite a while. This started building steam in the post-9-11 era. It seems fairly clear that Russian money is finding it’s way into their coffers.

      That doesn’t mean that it was an evil plan cooked up by Putin from whole cloth. But then many/most Islamist terrorist attacks aren’t centrally planned either, but I think it’s still fair to say that Al Queda and other similar organizations are intentionally pushing those attacks to occur.

  4. ana53294 says:

    Which style of handwriting did you learn first, cursive or print? Also, in which country was that?

    As a child, I was first taught to write cursive. In school (Spain), they only formally taught us how to write cursive. After a while, kids who wanted to be cool changed their writing style to print, but this was never formally taught to us. As an adult, I can fill a form that requires print (although I may decide to just capitalize everything, because that is easier for me than print writing, which is painfully slow).

    After googling cursive vs. print, I learned that this is actually controversial in the US, where schools start teaching print. Also, cursive seems to be problematic for dysgraphic kids, so some schools propose to eliminate cursive altogether. We can eliminate cursive for those that are dysgraphic, but keep it for the rest, though. It still seems an easier method to write for me, although I am probably biased by a lack of formal learning in print. People in my parents’ generation only wrote in cursive; if I want to read my mothers’ letters, they will all be in cursive. I know print is more legible, but anybody used to cursive can read it if the writer wasn’t too sloppy.

    For those of you who can do both, which one is faster?

    EDIT: it seems like some kids do better with one of them, but not the other one. I would say that if a kid learns to write in one method, but is incapable of learning the other one, you shouldn’t force them to do it. I am very happy that they have stopped forcing left-handed kids to write with their right hand, for example; I think it is cruel and unnecessary. But giving kids options, and showing them that there are two methods to write, and they can choose whichever is easier for them, is good.

    • johan_larson says:

      I learned printing first, in grade one, then cursive, in grade two. This was in Finland, 1977-78.

      I find printing more legible somehow, and tend to use it whenever I have to write something by hand, which isn’t that often these days. It’s mostly shopping lists and occasional notes in meetings. If I had to write a pageful of text by hand I think I would do it in cursive. Cursive at least feels a bit faster, although I’m not sure it actually is.

    • Anonymous says:

      Poland. Cursive. I don’t think they ever explicitly taught print.

      Cursive is faster, of course. And I write a shorthand scrawl that you need to be a pharmacist to decipher.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      Cursive (with fountain pens!), USSR.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Canada. Taught to print, then cursive. As soon as they stopped regularly testing our cursive, my handwriting turned into a wretched mix of printing and cursive that is seriously hard to understand.

      • BeefSnakStikR says:

        I’m in Canada too, and they never tested us on cursive. We stopped practising it around grade 3. (I also do a scribbly mix.)

        I went to school in the mid-90s, and by middle school we were doing pretty much all written work on a computer. When did you grow up?

    • Nick says:

      One important part of the cursive debate in America is that the cursive taught is inefficient, so it’s actually counterproductive or pointless to learn it. Personally, I switched back to print as soon as I could. But since I’m left-handed, I developed a really frustrating habit of not moving my hand as I write so as to keep my writing and my palms from being smudged—in school I had to use pencils, which smudge easily—and that muddles my handwriting horribly if I write too quickly. I usually have extremely small handwriting too, double stacking (when I don’t have to write quickly) clear, precise writing onto college ruled paper, which confounded my poor teachers.

      Here’s a picture of my handwriting.

      • ana53294 says:

        One important part of the cursive debate in America is that the cursive taught is inefficient, so it’s actually counterproductive or pointless to learn it.

        Can you expand on that? I haven’t seen any articles on the inefficiency of the way cursive is taught in America. What is so bad about it?

        My handwriting isn’t very good, but that is partly because my mind goes faster than my hand. I don’t know how print handwriting feels, so I can’t say whether I would be better at that. But handwriting frequently helps me clear my head in a way typing doesn’t.

        Your handwriting seems pretty legible to me.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Can you expand on that? I haven’t seen any articles on the inefficiency of the way cursive is taught in America. What is so bad about it?

          I don’t know about the particulars of the script taught in the US, but in general I’ve heard some cursive fanatics to denounce the “modern” versions of cursive as suboptimal. The reason given is that the modern variations tend to do away with the many shapes that are deemed superfluous and confusing to the kids because they are different from the print (or so the modern proponents’ argument goes according to their critics) but in reality those differences make the cursive letters easier to connect to each other (the traditionalist argument for retaining the old versions). Older versions of cursive were optimized for writing without raising the pen from paper (in contrast to the way of writing where one “draws” each letter separately), and the pen often was assumed to be the old-school ink pen.

          • 10240 says:

            I learned cursive (in Hungary) in a way that b, p, q and s look very differently from print. I didn’t liked that and I later changed to writing p, q and usually b more similarly to print, but it’s still much faster than writing with unconnected letters.

          • ana53294 says:

            New American Cursive is pretty similar to the one I learnt (except for the z, which I am used to crossing). I think that most of the modern cursive uses print capital letters and the cursive for the small ones.

            Do they insist on something that looks like this? Because that would be completely unnecessary.

          • Deiseach says:

            Older versions of cursive were optimized for writing without raising the pen from paper (in contrast to the way of writing where one “draws” each letter separately), and the pen often was assumed to be the old-school ink pen.

            Definitely some forms of cursive are much easier to write using a nib pen than a ball point pen, so the traditionalists will have to bow on this – pen and ink has mostly gone, even fountain pens are not so common as they were.

    • Deiseach says:

      Ireland. Caught on the cusp of changing from cursive to print, complicated by learning to read and write at home so mostly taught cursive (in the old-fashioned copperplate style; if you look at the writing sample here, I can write the lowercase alphabet) by my granny.

      Resulting in a strange mixed cursive handwriting. When taking notes from dictation/someone speaking, I write a very rapid scrawly cursive (to the point where it was mistaken for shorthand) and when writing notes to myself about VERY IMPORTANT THING, doing it in a bastardised print (including Greek e, God knows where I picked that one up). I find cursive faster and more intuitive to use than print, however.

      Plus now that I’ve become accustomed to typing everything, handwriting has gone to the dogs for lack of practice 🙂

    • Orpheus says:

      Thankfully, Hebrew has no cursive. In English, not only have I never learned to write cursive, I can’t even read it.

      • ana53294 says:

        Interesting. Cyrillic and roman alphabets do have cursive. Hebrew and Korean doesn’t. I don’t know about the rest.

        I wonder why cursive has developed in some alphabets and not in others?

        • 10240 says:

          And Arabic only has cursive. And Hebrew and Arabic are written from right to left, I don’t know how they avoid the hand smudging problem left-handed people complain about.

      • BBA says:

        My shul taught me “cursive” Hebrew in which the letters don’t connect but have different forms from printed Hebrew, e.g. a cursive mem (מ) looks like an “N.” I vaguely remember seeing it in some use when I visited Israel years ago.

        • Orpheus says:

          Indeed. Print letters as you see them on a document are very blocky, which makes them a nightmare to write by hand. The “cursive” you refer to is very similar, just with most of the edges sanded down.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          Yes, I was going to say this too: I learned “cursive Hebrew” at my Hebrew school, and Wikipedia confirms that this is actually regarded as cursive.

          I write exclusively in cursive Hebrew when I write Hebrew, and even have difficulty remembering how to draw some of the print letters, though I can read the usual print with no problem. In contrast, I write English exclusively in print.

    • liate says:

      …I think I learned cursive first? Not completely sure, I certainly learned print more. (This would be in the mid 2000s in the US.)

      I currently mostly write in something that certainly fits the “more connected writing” definition of cursive, but doesn’t meet the “the cursive script that was taught in schools to everyone older than me” definition — it’s mostly just me not picking up my pen in a word while otherwise writing normal print, and I’d certainly say that it’s faster than my print as long as I’m not actually trying for “normal” cursive.

      (Of course, I also add þ (þorn – thorn), ð ( – the), and ʃ ( – esh) in order to make the English consonants more phonetic in stuff like notes that aren’t meant to be read by other people, so it’s not like I generally write in a way meant to be compatible with other people’s expectations…)

      (Edit – s/_*_/<u>*</u>/, added thorn and eth links)

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Rural Texas, in the 1970s. Print first, then cursive. I learned both early, though – 2-3 years before I was supposed to learn it in school.

      Incidentally, I consider sloppy writing to be largely a function of how seriously the person takes it, as opposed to whether it’s print or cursive – people who write badly in one seem to write badly in the other as well, although my sample size is very small. Also incidentally, I’ve found it to be a poor indicator of intelligence, which is somewhat depressing – I’d like to be able to get a sense of a person from their writing. (Good writing is a sign of talent, but nearly everyone is talented at something.)

    • SamChevre says:

      US, Plain schools (so not at all like “normal”); print in first grade, cursive in second grade, beginning in third grade all graded written work had to be in cursive.

      ETA: Palmer cursive

    • WashedOut says:

      Australia. Print first, with a pencil, for about 2 years. Then got my ‘pen license’, but still more print.
      Cursive came much later, maybe grade 3 of primary school.

      I rate my handwriting neatness at about 8/10, and that of my (Australian) peers about 5/10.

    • BBA says:

      USA, early ’90s, rich suburban public school. I was taught D’Nealian print and cursive, which were designed to be similar to each other to ease the transition. I gave up on cursive as soon as teachers no longer cared, and I later consciously unlearned the “monkey tails” that make D’Nealian print look odd, but my lowercase “k” is still a dead giveaway.

      I don’t like ballpoints. Gel pens and rollerball pens are much more up my alley. I suppose with a free-flowing ink pen cursive is a lot more efficient, but I can’t be bothered to pick it back up.

    • Erusian says:

      The US. Cursive. My school taught me its cursive (which they called Old Northwest Cursive). I was taught print for a month or two, then standard cursive (Standard American Cursive) for a month or two, and returned to my school’s cursive. Cursive is definitely faster but print is much, much more standard. Different forms of cursive can be hard to read, and I actually had a separate class to learn different kinds of cursive. (I also had one to read different standard print later on, but that was more historical.)

    • Nornagest says:

      Rural California, late Eighties/early Nineties. Both were taught more or less concurrently; print might have come a year or so earlier. I probably also had a bit of a leg up on printing, since I was reading and to some extent writing before I entered school.

      I never got very good at cursive. Later on in elementary school, handwritten papers were generally required to be in print, which meant I rarely got much practice doing cursive; and by high school, papers were usually required to be typeset. These days I never use it except for signing my name.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I learned print first, then cursive. This was in the US, but it was also 50 years ago. Handwriting was even one of the things we got grades for, and I always had my worst grade in handwriting. I now only print.

      My 20 something kids were never taught cursive, and cannot even read it. When my aunt sends me a letter, I have to translate for the kids.

      • Deiseach says:

        My 20 something kids were never taught cursive, and cannot even read it. When my aunt sends me a letter, I have to translate for the kids.

        Bear this in mind the next time (general) you are wondering about lack of sources in history for alleged events or persons, or how could it possibly be that a culture went from being able to do X to being unable even to do Y which is much simpler; in two generations a skill has been lost. Extrapolate that to people in the past losing the ability to read/write a particular language, or junking documents they felt were of no interest, or simply not writing something down (either because “everybody knows this already” or “nobody cares about this trivia”), or forgetting how to smelt metal/use masonry techniques etc.

      • ana53294 says:

        Does that mean they wouldn’t be able to read the Declaration of Independence in its original form?

        The text is written in very beautiful and legible handwriting; that is not some doctor’s writing, it is very good and very neat cursive. It does have flourishes, but they don’t make the text hard to understand. Having too many flourishes does make the text more difficult to understand, even when the handwriting is perfect.

        Learning to read good cursive is one thing, and it’s quite easy. But learning to read the bad cursive comes from e.g., reading your classmates’ homework, or their notes from the class you missed. It comes from extended practice in dealing with loads of unreadable texts you familiarize yourself with. I think that skill will dissapear anyway, because most essays I had to submit in High School had to be typed.

        Some people make a living out of reading unreadable documents.

        • Nornagest says:

          Yeah, I’m always very impressed with the hand whenever I read 17th or 18th century documents in the originals. Every so often I feel I’d like to develop that skill, but I always have better things to do.

          (19th century cursive, on the other hand, tends to be too flowery to be readable.)

    • BeefSnakStikR says:

      In order:
      – Printing (probably before school, though probably still struggling with size and a few backwards letters early on in school).
      – Cursive (around grade 3).
      – Technical lettering for drafting/architecture (grade 11, though I don’t remember all of it, it was just an elective).

      Now I just do my own scribbles really fast because I’m the only one who needs to know what I’m writing. It would take quite a lot of time for me to print or handwrite well.

    • bean says:

      Print first, then cursive in 2nd grade. Suburban Missouri, around 2000. I still use cursive, unless it’s something specifically for someone else to read, when I usually print.

  5. Kevin Graham says:

    Scott, you have ten “Much More Than You Wanted To Know” essays.

    I request:

    Metformin: Much More Than You Wanted To Know

    I’ve made my thoughts on the drug pretty clear on Facebook as being in favour if the idea that most adults should take it. I want to hear your opinion too.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’d be interested as well! I honestly can’t see any reason for healthy adults to take it, and I do think the whole “it has life extension properties! take it if you want to live to be 120!” is muddled thinking due to the fact that for diabetics, metformin keeps you from dying faster than you ordinarily would (there are a lot of complications that come along with diabetes of both types).

      However, I don’t think you can extrapolate from ‘it’s helpful in this particular disease’ to ‘then it must also be good for the already healthy’; see antibiotics.

      • Kevin Graham says:

        It has anti-aging effects but it won’t make anyone live to 120. I’m 25 and plan on taking a gram of it daily for the rest of my natural life. I expect that to buy me an extra two or three years.

        It’s one of the best things we have right now for fighting the effects of aging. But there are currently better things in the clinical trial pipeline like NAD precursors, a senolytic, and an anti-amyloid vaccine. Anti-aging science is going much faster than most people realize. I met Aubrey de Grey for the first time a couple weeks ago and he says a lot of progress has been made on glucosepane and mitochondrial genetics since their published breakthroughs a couple years ago. David Spiegel is apparently going to incorporate a company in a couple months called Revel to commercialize glucosepane breakers.

        • albatross11 says:

          Re: the anti-amyloid vaccine:

          My understanding is that there have been several drug trials with drugs that decrease formation of amyloid plaques in the brain, but don’t seem to actually do anything for Alzheimers. So I wonder if the plaques are really just a symptom of whatever is really causing the dementia.

          • Kevin Graham says:

            That’s something I’d have to look into to comment on in detail. Amyloid is junk that accumulates in the brain that isn’t there when you’re young, so by the engineering mindset of anti-aging, getting rid of it is probably a good idea.

            I wonder if the drugs you’re referring to are just providing a minor enough benefit to an already severe problem that they’re not helping. I mean, consider statins: People get prescribed statins when their blood vessels are already hard and full of junk. And they don’t actually fix the problem, they just slightly slow down the accumulation of junk. I saw a TedTalk that said that 300 people need to be on a statin for a year to prevent one heart attack.

  6. gnathan87 says:

    Hi Scott. I was just reading this post in the archives. I think I found a mistake you might like to know about: it seems you got the rs41310927 phenotype mixed up; A;A is in fact for good tone comprehension, not poor!

    From this paper:

    For both genes, ‘‘derived’’ haplogroups have been identified (the G allele for the A44871G polymorphism for ASPM, and the C allele for the G37995C polymorphism for Microcephalin) (36, 37). These haplogroups pwill be denoted as ASPM-D and MCPH-D, respectively

    The rest of that paper, (and also the map in this one) make clear that it is the original ASPM, not ASPM-D, that is associated with tone languages.

    It should of course be noted from the map that ASPM-D has a good 30-40% frequency in China, so it definitely isn’t make or break.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Yes and no. The wild type is correlated with tonal languages, but contrary to expectation, the paper Scott cites finds that the derived type predicts tone ability in Americans. “Interestingly, we found a positive relationship, whereas a negative relationship was found by Dediu and Ladd.” So he correctly quotes his source, but is wrong to say “sure enough,” and the stuff about tonal languages is misleading.

      • gnathan87 says:

        Ah yes, you are quite right. Goes to show you can’t always assume all the evidence will agree! I’m not sure the explanation given by Wong et al for the difference in findings is entirely satisfactory. Would love to see more research on this.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          It’s probably all noise. Why are we looking at this particular SNP, anyway?

          • gnathan87 says:

            Because distribution of this SNP (well, actually two SNPs) is highly correlated with the goegraphical incidence of tonal languages, which suggests a genetic basis for pitch processing ability. The first paper I linked to above makes a fairly compelling case.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I am disappointed in Henry Harpending. He should have known better.

    • Aapje says:

      Why didn’t you add an introduction to give some context?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        For anyone who is wondering it’s a series of comments, from parts unknown, talking about super weight gain on Zyprexa. Mostly extremely negative, but one positive for someone who was severely underweight and 66 years old.

  7. Well... says:

    Over the years there’s been a lot of great press for the ISS. But I just learned about the South Pole Station and Got Dangit it looks awesome. I would love to winter over there. (Wonder what it would take to make that happen?)

    I was expecting a sort of ISS-planted-in-the-snow, but instead it has the feel of a small well-equipped private school complete with a nice gym, cafeteria with incredible views, and its own fire station and post office.

    • Lambert says:

      The freezer full of ice cream sounds a little unnecessary.
      Though considering the thermodynamics of the place, it’s probably no less efficient than anything else.
      (All appliances are 100% efficient heaters, eventually)

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        That’s a good point. The best explanation I can think of is that it’s for convenience. It’s in the cafeteria. Also, in general, so that anyone with a craving doesn’t have to go get it in condition 1 weather.

        • 10240 says:

          Also, opening the door when unnecessary is inefficient. Also, ice cream at -75° is a bit too cold.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Part of me feels like there could still be more efficiency here. Perhaps a small room, next to the outer wall, or even just outside of it, just insulated enough that the room’s interior heat brings its equilbrium up to 0 degF instead of -75. The door to the room could be about as large as that for a normal freezer, to limit inefficiency.

            A similar compartment could work as the base refrigerator (ideally, multiple such).

      • actinide meta says:

        All appliances are 100% efficient heaters, eventually

        This is true, but misleading, because a heat pump can be more than 100% efficient at heating (provided that you don’t mind also cooling the outside).

        (Antarctica isn’t the optimal environment for heat pump efficiency, though; you want the indoor/outdoor temperature difference as small as possible)

  8. 10240 says:

    Minor thing: The algorithm that gives the URL of fractional open threads is broken since 101 (three digits?). It seemed to have been fixed at 105, but it’s broken again.

  9. gozzychambles says:

    Hey I know you made that post about hospital poetry quite a while ago, but do check out Homage to Clotho: A Hospital Suite by L.E. Sissman. It’s not a short poem, and most of the explicitly hospital-related stuff comes later on. Here’s a good selection:

    If Hell abides on earth this must be it:
    This too-bright-lit-at-all-hours-of-the-day-
    And-night recovery room, where nurses flit
    In stroboscopic steps between the beds
    All cheek by jowl that hold recoverers
    Suspended in the grog of half-damped pain
    And tubularities of light-blue light.
    For condiment in this mulled mix, there are
    Assorted groans and screams; and, lest repose
    Outstrip the sufferer, there is his own
    Throat-filling Gobi, mucous membrane gone
    Dry as Arabia, as barren of
    Hydropsy as a sunburnt cage of bone
    Perched on parched rocks where game Parcheesian
    (A devil figure, this) went, wended his
    Bent way to harvest, for a shekel, rugs,
    And pack them back by camel over sands
    Of nightmare to transship to richer lands
    Where millions of small rills plash into streams
    That give rise to great rivers—such wet dreams
    Afflict the desiccate on their interminable way
    Up through the layers of half-light to day.

  10. Andrew Hunter says:

    So, in the majority of tabletop RPGs that have it, social magic is overpowered. Where it isn’t game breaking, it’s almost always still better to invest in social magic over social stats (if we’re in Exalted, say, Presence charms, not Presence and CHA points + specialties.) What’s up with that?

    Here’s the reason, I think: RPGs often (always) face the challenge of a character who is better at some task than his player is, and social skills are one of the cases where being fair here makes the game worse. No RPG I know of makes me wrestle the GM to grapple an ogre [1], but if I want to sweet-talk the ogre, the GM wants to hear me say something cool before he’ll let me roll CHA. And he’s not being entirely unreasonable here–the game is legitimately better if players actually spit flirty banter and come up with charismatic speeches, whereas describing a sword stroke can be almost as awesome as actually performing it. But this really hoses any player who isn’t good at it. You shouldn’t have to be Skye Masterson to play him in D&D. (You sort of do have to be him to play him on stage, I’ve discovered to my sorrow.)

    Enter social magic: GMs, again reasonably, are totally willing to reply to “I say something that hypnotizes him into opening the door” with “roll Dominate.” That’s probably how it should be. But it is definitely unfair to non-magical social skills.

    I wonder if anyone’s addressed this; I can’t think of any easy outs.

    [1] As a BJJ enthusiast, I would play this RPG. Just saying.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      An addendum: for basic reasons of game design, most systems encourage people with powerful social magic to also have great social stats. But even in *that* case those characters are encouraged to use their magic over their natural talents more than they should be.

    • Randy M says:

      The PC vs Player socials skills debate is a longstanding one. I come down on making success rely on the player’s stated approach (ex: “I try to indimidate the guard by referencing my victory over the orcs” being basically the same as “Rawr! I am the destroyer of tribe of Acheron! Bow to my whims or perish!” and both superior to “I’ll persuade him, what’s the check?”)
      The other aspect, magic vs mundane, is equally contentious. I don’t think social skills are notably different than any other. “Cast levitate, avoid pit traps” vs “use my grappling hook and make an acrobatics check”, for example. My preference here would be a system that allows magic to be powerful but keeps it genuinely costly for most effects in terms of resources players care about (not “years of study off screen” or so on). I’m not sure what exactly this would look like in practice.

      the game is legitimately better if players actually spit flirty banter and come up with charismatic speeches, whereas describing a sword stroke can be almost as awesome as actually performing it.

      To an extent, yes (eventually the other plays may want the purple prose abbreviated in lieu of accomplishing things), but I think this can be encouraged by verbal praise rather than in game success. “I swing my blazing sword in a great arc, aiming to slice the blaggard’s crafty head from his shoulders and bring justice for the meth-addicted wood elves!” “Bad-ass! But you still gotta roll.”

      • Nick says:

        I come down on making success rely on the player’s stated approach (ex: “I try to indimidate the guard by referencing my victory over the orcs” being basically the same as “Rawr! I am the destroyer of tribe of Acheron! Bow to my whims or perish!” and both superior to “I’ll persuade him, what’s the check?”

        Yeah, my GM has been very reasonable about this sort of thing—he’ll ask for the content in broad strokes, but he’s not going to ask me to compose a masterful speech or seductive lure. But I say if players can do that sort of thing as needed and do so, reward them with bennies or hero points or whatever get-out-of-jail-free card the system uses. They are, after all, improving the game experience.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        I think this can be encouraged by verbal praise rather than in game success. “I swing my blazing sword in a great arc, aiming to slice the blaggard’s crafty head from his shoulders and bring justice for the meth-addicted wood elves!” “Bad-ass! But you still gotta roll.”

        Exalted hits a good median here, I think, with “stunting” – any action (crafting, diplomacy, sword-fu, sneaking) described well gets small but useful bonuses. And good Exalted GMs treat a proper speech as a social stunt.

        Doesn’t fully solve the problem.

    • beleester says:

      Re: wrestling with the GM, you might find this micro-RPG amusing.

    • beleester says:

      I think this is more a subset of magic being superior to mundane attributes in general, rather than being specific to socializing. Fighters can equally well complain that their non-magical sword swinging loses its punch when the Wizard can do five times as much damage with one spell. Or just cast a save-or-die and make the target’s HP completely irrelevant.

      The fact that players are bad at socializing is probably the reason that social magic exists, but the fact that social magic beats “roll Diplomacy” is mostly just a game balance issue.

      Also, as I understand it, Exalted makes its magic intentionally OP – you’re the glorious Solar god-king, you don’t need to screw around with mundane bullshit like bribing the guard, just dazzle him with Solar presence, walk on past, and ignore the fact that you just mind-controlled a guy to save 50 bucks.

    • Civilis says:

      In D&D, maxing out social skills requires putting a lot of attribute points into Charisma, the classic dump stat that could otherwise be used in a more useful attribute, whereas Charm just takes a spell slot (and if you’re a memorizing-type caster, you can memorize something else if you know you’re going into combat). Other systems require a lot of specific dedication to make a viable social-type character that could otherwise enhance combat skills. There are some classes that use Charisma as their stat for determining power levels, but those often have more use for the skills and feats than optimizing for social interactions.

      I have seen the occasional player make a dedicated Diplomancer with heavy skills optimization towards social abilities, and those builds can be absolutely broken at social abilities in the form of “if we run into intelligent hostiles, I can convert their attitude to neutral or better on a roll of 2 or higher”. On the other hand, when those characters show up, GMs tend to introduce lots of animal or unintelligent enemies immune to their ‘powers’.

      (Admittedly, thanks to SSC, when using the description Diplomancer, I now think of a robed wizard in an Ottoman planning room, pointing his wand at Austria on the map and saying “Befirendus!”)

    • Nornagest says:

      I’ve never run into a system of social mechanics that I was really happy with. Game designers have been trying for years to solve the fairness problem you describe, and there is something to that, but then you get to the table and it turns out that handling social stuff mechanically is fundamentally unfun. Coming up with a legitimately intimidating threat to make the guards back off is fun. Skipping straight to hitting a 20 on Intimidate and trivializing the whole encounter with a single die roll is not.

      D&D social mechanics are about as crude as it gets, of course, but even much more sophisticated stuff like Exalted’s I find that I only enjoy as an optimization exercise.

      • engleberg says:

        Re: I’ve never run into a system of social mechanics that I was really happy with-

        Ever try GURPS Social Engineering?

        • Nornagest says:

          No, every time I try to learn GURPS my eyes kind of glaze over and the next thing I know I’m doing something else.

          • engleberg says:

            Okay, try Dynasties and Demagogues,d20- well-written, got that 2nd edition vibe I like, art okay, loved the stats for Pericles and Bakunin. Politics, not social engineering, but maybe an overlap.

          • Nornagest says:

            Okay, I’ll see if I can find a copy.

            …91 dollars on Amazon? Holy fuck, that’s more than I paid for my copy of Nobilis.

          • toastengineer says:

            I don’t really understand where the “gurps is complicated” thing comes from. You make your character with a character creator program and then roll 3d6, if it’s under your skill you succeed. Everything else is extra.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s less that the base rules are complicated and more that there’s a zillion supplements that can get arbitrarily complicated and don’t have any logical relation to each other. Above post was exaggerated for comedy; the one time I got very far into GURPS, it was a near-future SF deal and the vehicle rules were enough to put me off the system for a while.

          • engleberg says:

            Re: 91 dollars on Amazon?

            That’s twenty times what I paid Amazon before shipping and handling. You could email Chris Aylott- doubt he gets any of that 91$.

          • bean says:

            @Nornagest

            I’d suggest not letting that sour you. GURPS vehicles 3e is notorious for being less of an RPG supplement and more of a very high-level engineering manual. I have a computer program that lets you do designs, and it’s great fun. I did it by hand once back in high school. That was less fun. But seriously, most GURPS isn’t like that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            So, Steve Jackson also did TOON, the cartoon roleplaying game. By the standards of the 80s, even of today, quite rules-light.

            Then, a supplement of parodies was brought in – eg, a parody of a sci-fi game, parody of cyberpunk, superhero parody, etc. So you could do your goofy cartoon Star Trek joke game.

            Except that the rules for making your superpowers, for building your spaceship, for setting up your cybernetic whatevers, were very much done with the same mindset as GURPS. So you had this really simple game for playing cartoons… and an extremely complicated system for building your spaceship.

            The sense I get from GURPS is that there’s too many options, especially for players. Everybody wants more options in their games, but it’s a snare and a delusion – did having players show up with five splatbooks and their PC built using stuff from all of them make 3rd ed, etc, better? Most games are best played with just the core books plus modules, etc. Fight me.

          • bean says:

            The sense I get from GURPS is that there’s too many options, especially for players. Everybody wants more options in their games, but it’s a snare and a delusion – did having players show up with five splatbooks and their PC built using stuff from all of them make 3rd ed, etc, better? Most games are best played with just the core books plus modules, etc. Fight me.

            Sure.

            I actually think GURPS does this rather well, with a few exceptions (GURPS vehicles being the most infamous). Does it have more options than D&D core? Yes. Because it’s GURPS, and it’s designed to give you lots of options. But my typical character-building process involves referencing maybe 2-3 sourcebooks, and they’re the obvious ones for the relevant character. I’m building a modern soldier? Tactical shooting and High-Tech. A fantasy wizard? Magic, maybe Fantasy and Low-Tech. I don’t have a dozen different sourcebooks that might be relevant to a straightforward character, and GURPS absolutely won’t generate Pun-Pun no matter how many books you throw at it. And most of the systems are of an appropriate complexity for the power they provide. GURPS starships, for instance, is rather good.

            I saw the problem you describe with Star Wars Saga, where most books had a little bit of everything in them. By the time they shut it down, it almost wasn’t fun to build heavily optimized characters any more because you’d be looking through a dozen books. My rule of thumb is that a good system should let you know what books you want to look at, and there shouldn’t be more than 2-4 for a normal character, above the core books. I’d usually say that’s a tech book and a supplement or two on some aspect of the character.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I actually think GURPS does this rather well, with a few exceptions (GURPS vehicles being the most infamous). Does it have more options than D&D core? Yes. Because it’s GURPS, and it’s designed to give you lots of options. But my typical character-building process involves referencing maybe 2-3 sourcebooks, and they’re the obvious ones for the relevant character. I’m building a modern soldier? Tactical shooting and High-Tech. A fantasy wizard? Magic, maybe Fantasy and Low-Tech. I don’t have a dozen different sourcebooks that might be relevant to a straightforward character, and GURPS absolutely won’t generate Pun-Pun no matter how many books you throw at it. And most of the systems are of an appropriate complexity for the power they provide. GURPS starships, for instance, is rather good.

            Looking at the most current GURPS manual, I see a lot of options, including ways to do the same thing in different ways. Creating a character in GURPS requires more system knowledge than creating a character in 5th ed D&D. Now, you can do a lot with the basic GURPS book – but my preference is for multiple systems for multiple games.

            This isn’t, however, something D&D does better, necessarily. 5th ed has fewer choices to make than 3rd, 3.5th, Pathfinder did. I’m not so sure about 4th, because 4th was bad for different reasons. 3.x D&D, what with the open license, could be nightmarish for a group needing a dozen different books or else nobody would get that one special prestige class they wanted.

            Compared to the simplest “complete” form of D&D – I’m gonna say B/X, because the original Holmes Basic only went to level 3 and was really meant as a demo for 1st ed AD&D – all of the above are vastly more complicated. Other than the stats you roll, magic items you pick up along the way, there are very few differences between one fighter or another, mechanically. Which gets the difference between characters to where it matters: what they do in the game. Having a character who’s built from a more complicated set of options, I think, leads to the character being considered interesting because of what they are able to do (and I think it ties into baroque character backstories, which I’m not a fan of); having fewer options makes characters interesting because of what they do.

            Having fewer options is also superior for newbie players and players who don’t care to learn the rules. People who do care to learn the rules – such as you and I – generally do not want to accept that we’re the weird outliers, rather than the guy who just wants to know what he has to roll to kill the ogre.

            I saw the problem you describe with Star Wars Saga, where most books had a little bit of everything in them. By the time they shut it down, it almost wasn’t fun to build heavily optimized characters any more because you’d be looking through a dozen books. My rule of thumb is that a good system should let you know what books you want to look at, and there shouldn’t be more than 2-4 for a normal character, above the core books. I’d usually say that’s a tech book and a supplement or two on some aspect of the character.

            I’ve found the more I cut down the number of books, the simpler I make character creation, the less it’s possible to optimize, etc, the more fun the actual game is.

            (I’m gonna make a post about this in the new OT)

      • xXxanonxXx says:

        I’ve never run a game, only read the rules, but the duel of wits mechanic in Burning Wheel seems like it would be fun to play and make diplomatic character builds viable. It’s elaborate enough you can have an entire encounter based around trying to sway an unruly mob in your favor.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Assuming this is a game where magic isn’t meant to overpower, generally, the limitations on spellcasting mean that talking real good, picking locks, getting up walls etc, are more “efficient” to do by skill than by spell. In a Vancian system this is pretty simple: your magic-user only has x spell slots of y level, so he’s gotta have a good reason to prep Knock instead of just asking the thief if she can pick the lock. As long as the players aren’t allowed to escape unpredictability and control the pace of play, magic doesn’t overwhelm skills.

      This is a different issue from CHA being a dump stat, which is entirely because GMs let themselves get sweet-talked by players whose PCs are incapable of sweet-talking. The solution to this is say “no, shut up, roll Talk Real Good, and I’m not giving your INT 9, CHA 6 fighter a bonus because you the player are smarter and less unpleasant” – otherwise you’re punishing everyone else.

      When CHA becomes useful, players stop using it as a dump stat. For example, allowing hirelings and basing their morale, # hireable, etc on CHA like D&D used to, makes CHA more useful.

      • Unsaintly says:

        One issue with this is that players often specialize. If you don’t want charisma to be a dump stat, then requiring people to actually roll it without giving a bonus for roleplay is a good start. However, it doesn’t stop the party from just stepping back and letting Slick The Bard roll his +48 diplomacy check instead of talking. And if you require each person to roll whenever they say something in a scene, you just encourage everyone but Slick to shut up during social encounters and that lowers player engagement.

        This can be addressed by making social encounters more of a party deal. Just as you wouldn’t accept Slick to be incompetent in combat and just hide behind a rock every time initiative is rolled, you should encourage everyone to have some degree of social ability by making it possible to fill roles. Just like Slick isn’t the star of combat, but is a solid support character and healer, let people play supports in social engagements. Let someone specialize in deflecting counterpoints, or in distracting audiences, or stirring up the crowd. Rather than having Slick do all these things, let him be the star of the scene and have the others support. Naturally, that requires a social system much more detailed than D&D – or indeed most other games – is willing to provide.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Did you ever play SIFRP? It had a system that was meant to do that. Most characters had actions they could do during “social combat” which had initiative and actions and rolls and “wounds” and relationships between characters that modify things and a system for lying vs telling the truth and all that jazz.

          It was promising, but flawed. In practice, it became like combat without movement: everyone just ganging up on one target after another. It was supposed to simulate the scenes from the book/show where there’s high-stakes negotiation and blah blah blah, but it felt too mechanical. It also had a major lopsidedness issue – wounds you took in fighting affected your speaking skills, but not vice versa, so fighting was better.

          Even if it didn’t have those problems, players don’t like being told that their PC has been convinced (not mind controlled, just convinced) of something. I’ve played around with adding something like it to another system, and it ended up being mostly ignored/used on NPCs.

    • Unsaintly says:

      There are two elements at play here.
      The first is design space. Look at almost any game where characters can reasonably be expected to both engage in combat and social influence. Overwhelmingly more page space is devoted to combat. Combat has a lot of modifiers, tactics, and general system “hooks” that abilities – whether magical or mundane – can interact with. If you cast a spell that makes you better at fighting, it could boost your accuracy, defense, resistance, damage output, range, target selection, health, resources (such as ammo), or environment and that’s not even a complete list.
      By comparison, social influence systems tend to have at most a couple pages of content. Many times, it’s as simple as “Roll against ” with the winner getting their way. Even in the more complex systems, such as Chronicles of Darkness’s Doors or Exalted 3rd editions Social Influence, there are much fewer hooks involved. With fewer hooks to interact with, Social Abilities (again, including mundane boosts such as class features or talents) have very limited options. They can boost your roll, reduce the opponent’s defense or play with what sort of things you’re allowed to ask for. Furthermore, since most systems have your “Social Skill” points come from the same pool as your “Combat Skill” points, deep investment into social skill is typically the sole domain of the Social Character. In a simple social system, even a modest boost to the capabilities of The Social Character can easily make a Non Social Character utterly incapable of resisting the diplomancy of The Social Character.
      The solutions to this are somewhat complex, but to put it simply good practice is to:
      1) If you want your game to include social influence, give it appropriate page count. Don’t have your combat section be 20 times longer unless combat is meant to be 20 times more important to your game.
      2) Allow non-social focused characters to invest enough points into social skills to participate without costing them power in their primary field. As a general RPG design point, everyone should be able to participate in every encounter, even if they aren’t the star of that scene.

      The other issue at hand is Caster Supremacy. In many RPGs, magic simply works. D&D is perhaps the most notorious for this, so I will use examples from it, but it is far from the only offender or even the worst. A fighter attacking with a sword must roll accuracy, then damage, and often runs into issues of range or resistance to defense. A wizard casting an attack spell typically either has a much easier target (i.e. touch spells) or automatically succeeds with the rolls determining degree (such as saving throws for half damage). A rogue wishing to sneak rolls Stealth, a wizard casting Invisibility simply goes invisible. Similarly for opening a lock vs casting Knock. So naturally this extends to social interaction, not because there’s anything special about social interaction but simply because magic is almost always better at doing a thing than Not Magic is. Again, this is a very complex topic that has been discussed to death but a few suggestions are:
      1) Don’t have magic work by bypassing the system. For example, Invisibility could easily be an Illusion vs Perception check, replacing the normal Stealth vs Perception. Magic still allows the wizard to do what he normally could not (i.e. have a good stealth ability) but it plays by the same rules.
      2) Don’t require rolls for mundane tasks that should be easily accomplished. There is no tension in a rogue rolling to open a routine lock, or a socialite bribing the wait staff to slip in the back. Just let the specialist characters succeed, and so there is less requirement for magic to bypass these problems.

    • Lillian says:

      The rules don’t do a good job of promoting this (because lol White Wolf mechanics), but in a Vampire the Dark Ages game i played, we limited the power of social magic through the use of social consequences. Put simply, people don’t like being mind controlled, so the use of such powers carries a substatial risk of creating enmity and resentment. This is especially true when dealing with other vampires, since they tend to be willful, paranoid, and aware of the possibility of mind bending powers being in play. This effectively made the use of Disciplines like Presence and Dominate into high risk / high reward / high variance activities, which meant that you like not being sorrounded by enemies, use had to be carefully calculated.

      I was playing the group’s most effective and cunning social monster, and yet i tended to default to mundane means of persuasion precisely because of this. Finding out what people want and giving it to them builds stronger and more lasting relationships than coercing the to do your bidding, even if coercion is easier. Moreover if you get a reputation for bending other’s wills, peope are less willing to trust you or work with you. If instead you have a reputation for giving people what they want, everyone wants to be your friend.

      This incidentally made Auspex and mundane Perception + Empathy or Subterfuge rolls extremely valuable social tool. Knowing people’s fears and desires as well as their thoughts amd feelings provides inmense leverage for determining both when to use mundane persuasion or supernatural mind control, and how to use them.

      In particular i’m very fond of using magic to reinforce pre-existing actions or inclinations. For example using Entrancement, which makes people utterly adoring and loyal, on rescuing someone from mortal peril. If and when it wears off, they’re less likely to think you’ve ensorcelled them somehow, since feeling devotion to the one whom you owe your life is not unexpected. Similarly i don’t trick just anyone into drinking my vampire’s (addictive, love-inducing) blood, but rather those who have already sworn her oaths of loyalty. In the case of her closest retainers she actually obtained their informed consent first, meaning their wills actively reinforce the power of the Blood Oath, while the Oath ensures their wills do not stray from their ordained course.

      In short, adding an element of risk to social magic provides not just an incentive to use mundane means instead, but opens avenues for using natural social skill in tandem with supernatural power such that the former can be used to minimize the risks and enhance the effects of the latter.

      • Anonymous says:

        Reminds me of the Exalted proper response to social combat:
        1. Spend WP to resist.
        2. Roll Join Battle to teach the bastard that making you spend resources that are also used by physical combat is grounds for termination.

  11. Matt M says:

    Random question as it regards book series that have been turned into movies/TV.

    What do you suppose the ratio is between people who have read the books and people who have seen the movies/TV show as it regards:

    Harry Potter
    Lord of the Rings
    Game of Thrones

    I don’t actually know the answer! Interested in hearing speculation though.

    • Nick says:

      I’m not sure I could assign numbers to it, but I’ll bet Harry Potter has the highest book : adaptation ratio, followed by Lord of the Rings, followed by Game of Thrones. Despite their popularity, I’ve only known two other people in meatspace who’ve actually read the GoT books like I have.

      • theredsheep says:

        I’ve read–okay, skimmed–the GoT books, but never seen the series. The part where fifty percent of any given GoT book is unnecessary descriptions and digressions might have something to do with the low read-to-watch ratio. It makes them quick reads, if you train yourself to zip your eyeballs past coats of arms, lemon cakes, picturesquely medieval pastimes, or wars not involving any currently or recently living character. Still kinda fun.

        (agree with your ranking, though it’s close between LOTR and GoT)

      • HeelBearCub says:

        My intuition is that this I the correct order as well.

        However, that may simply be due to LotR having a huge head start. Neither of my kids (both college age now) can get into LotR at al. They have both read GoT.

        Of course, the overall length of Martin’s work and it’s unfinished state might have something to say as well.

    • BeefSnakStikR says:

      Here are some back of the envelope calculations. The numbers are averaged and sometimes from different books and movies (eg. the Hobbit was the best performing LOTR movies, but the LOTR was the best selling book.)

      People seem to watch more movies than TV. Dividing the box office earnings by about $10 per ticket, and leaving GOT’s ratings alone.

      LOTR: 100 million viewers
      Harry Potter: 80 million viewers
      Game of Thrones: 10 million viewers

      To account for torrenting…proportionately, people seem to download more TV than movies. Avatar had 300M tickets in the box office, and 17.5M downloads, so add 5% to the movies. Lost had about 15M viewers, and 5M downloads, so add 33% to GOT. (Based on numbers from some site called Go Gulf that I’ve never heard of and is probably inaccurate, but it sounds believable.)

      LOTR: 105 M
      HP: 84 M
      GOT: 13M

      Assuming people actually read the books they buy, or at least don’t read them evenly:

      LOTR copies sold: 150 million
      Harry Potter copies sold: 65 million
      GOT copies sold: 70 million copies

      Round it down/simplify it, readers: viewers
      GOT 7:1
      HP 7:8
      LOTR 7:11

      In hindsight, the least surprising thing is that people watch more movies than TV, since there are fewer movies to choose from at any given time. Game of Thrones is popular for a TV show, but not for a movie.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Where are you getting these numbers, and what do they represent? Is it top line number for most popular in the series?

        • BeefSnakStikR says:

          Just from Google, and they’re simply the most available statistic. Some are the most popular, some are middle-ish, all apply to just one work (unless I messed up, but I don’t think I did ).

          None of the series had a huge range of viewerships/readerships, so I didn’t worry too much. Goblet of Fire and Lord of the Rings are “best sellers of all time” and may be skewing things a bit.

          I’m also working from “has seen/read at least one installment,” not “has seen/read the entire series.”

          As I say, it’s back-of-the-envelope. Someone with more time could do a much more meticulous job.

      • Matt M says:

        Harry Potter copies sold: 65 million
        GOT copies sold: 70 million copies

        wait what?

        my “common sense” meter is exploding here… this can’t possibly be right?

        • BeefSnakStikR says:

          You’re absolutely right, I f’ed up. The Harry Potter stat is from Goblet of Fire books, and is an all-time best seller, and no GOT book is on that list.

          I can’t remember where exactly I got the GOT stat from, but there’s definitely confusion on my part, around the “Song of Ice and Fire” being the book series title and also a book, and “Game of Thrones” being the TV series title.

          This isn’t the stat that I used, but eg. one site says “A Song of Ice and Fire has sold 45 million copies in the U.S. and an astronomical 90 million copies worldwide,” which reading it in context I now realize it means the series has sold that many copies.

          I’m guessing it’s probably closer to ~20-30M sales more the most name recognizable books, (AGOF and SOAF) since those probably get recognized more.

        • bean says:

          I’m with you on this one. Deathly Hallows sold 11 million copies in the first 24 hours. A Dance With Dragons sold around 300,000, based on google. I have two different numbers for GoT, 25 million and 70 million, and I suspect the former is closer to the truth.

          Actually, scratch the above. I found it.

          65 million is the approximate sales of each book in the Harry Potter series. The series as a whole recently passed the half-billion mark.

        • Eric Rall says:

          I found numbers in the same ballpark as those with a quick googling, but it looks like for the numbers I found, the Harry Potter numbers were for individual books (Sorcerer’s/Philospher’s Stone sold 120 million worldwide, but that declines to 77 million for Chamber of Secrets and 65 million for each of the last five books), but the GOT numbers are aggregate across all five books. Wikipedia doesn’t list numbers for individual GOT/ASOIAF books, but they list the series as a whole as selling 70 million copies. On the same list, the entire Harry Potter series is listed as selling 500 million copies.

  12. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    If the US legislature, including two thirds of both houses, wanted to intervene as strongly as possible in a foreign conflict, and the president were determined to do as little as possible, what could happen, constitutionally? AIUI Congress could declare war on the side they wished to opposed, but they couldn’t make the president send any forces to fight it. Presumably they could pay lots of money to the side they want to support, but could they do anything more directly military? Like put US military units under a foreign supreme Commander who could then order them to go to the actual war zone? Or, failing that, lend-lease our tanks, planes, and ships?

    • Randy M says:

      They would need to pursue impeachment if they could get up a case that the President’s behavior was treasonous.
      Otherwise I don’t think they could even send money; the president could probably use some war-justified powers to interdict the money going to the Congress favored side.

      I’m reminded of Moldbug saying that “U.S. foreign policy is interpreted as a civil war by proxy between realists and Wilsonian idealists in the state establishment, the latter associated with the State Department, the former with the DoD. ” (Link is to a paraphrase, sorry for not linking original source)

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Assuming Congress is still scrupulously legalistic about what they’ll impeach over, can they set things up so that the President has to either fight the war or commit treason? Would failure to conduct a declared war plausibly be enough?

        • Randy M says:

          While that sounds like a semantic question, it’s really a question of public opinion. I’d expect the nature of the war matters a lot.
          If congress had declared war on Afghanistan and Bush and declined to execute it, I think the public would have had a fit in a way they wouldn’t have if we reword it with Iraq.
          I might not be right about the particulars, but the point remains that the president’s prospects depends on what Congress thinks it can get away with rather than what the meaning of war or treason are.

        • 10240 says:

          With 2/3 majority in both houses, they can change criminal law, in the hope that the president does something they can get him for; for example, change the legal definition of treason. However, it still has to be constitutional — a law which binds the president on something that is his prerogative according to the constitution would probably be unconstitutional, as would a law which is impossible for the president not to break (e.g. it’s a crime for him to wear a hat, and it’s a crime not to). If the congress also has 3/4 of the states on its side, it can amend the constitution.

          • Brad says:

            You may find the Andrew Johnson impeachment and the Tenure in Office Act that proceeded it interesting.

          • FLWAB says:

            All of that is unnecessary. Though impeachment is suposed to be for “high crimes and misdemeanors” you have to remember that it is not a court of law: impeachment is ultimately based on a vote of Congress. Even if the President did nothing wrong, if Congress wants him out they can impeach him, provided they have the votes. Who will he appeal to? The Constitution grants the Senate “the sole Power to try all Impeachments.” So if the Senate says the President has committed crimes worthy of impeachment then he’s impeached, regardless of whether he actually has or not. There is no court of appeal because it’s not a court, and the Constitution explicitly gives the power to the Senate and not to any other branch of government. As long as the House brings the charges, and the Senate has enough votes to convict, then the President is out. Impeachment is, realistically, a political test, not a legal one.

          • 10240 says:

            Sure, I continued the line of thought from ADifferentAnonymous, “Assuming Congress is still scrupulously legalistic about what they’ll impeach over”.

            Now if we go into abuse of power territory, all bets are off. What if, after the Congress votes to remove the President for no good reason, the President refuses to step down, and the military takes his side?

          • mtl1882 says:

            I agree with FLWAB. I don’t think Congress was ever all that scrupulously legalistic on this issue. And Andrew Johnson is worth looking at. It wouldn’t be hard for them to find something they could argue justified impeachment, but even if they couldn’t, there’s not much recourse. The set up is not really designed to protect the president or give him much power.

            It is ultimately a political issue. The limiting factor would be what Congress thought the public would tolerate. I think it would be harmful to pursue impeachment now, even if Congress could agree it was justified, because too much of the public would be upset and view it as purely political. Long term it would be damaging. Most of the time, it probably makes sense to wait for the next election, which is why it hasn’t been very popular.

            Andrew Johnson was determined to disobey Congress on the Tenure of Office Act and asked Grant to help him (replacing Stanton with Grant). Grant said, if I remember correctly, he would take the position while the issue was pending before the court. If the court said he had to comply, Grant would immediately resign. He did not believe in violating civilian authority or challenging the government – he did not want another civil war, regardless of personal feelings. And that’s what he did. If the military had backed up the president, there would be an issue, but that’s not particularly likely and would be an entirely different can of worms.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        How about authorizing/directing the Fed to make a big, one-year, -100% interest loan to the supported side?

        (Presumably after the President has obstructed a more normal attempt to send funds)

    • qwints says:

      I found something that might interest you:

      Resurrecting Letters of Marque and Reprisal to Address Modern Threats
      by Commander Jonathan L. Still United States Navy

      Globalization and a dramatic rise in security threats to commercial interests over the last decade have brought increased legal debate to the forefront of state attention. As the U.S. looks for methods to deal with maritime piracy and cyber exploitation, perhaps policymakers should look back through history to letters of marque and reprisal, important tools for the U.S. during the American Revolution and War of 1812. While changes in warfare and developments in international law have largely vanquished their role, Congressional authority to issue such letters remains, having never been repealed. Does this Constitutional power have present merit as a useful instrument for dealing with modern security threats? This strategy research paper examines the history of letters of marque and reprisal within the development of U.S. and international law and reviews the current state of maritime piracy and cyber exploitation. It then proposes a conceptual framework for resurrecting a letter of marque and reprisal system as a means of addressing contemporary security threats within an environment of constrained military budgets and rebalanced national focus.

      • Nornagest says:

        and cyber exploitation

        Well, that gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “software pirate”.

      • bean says:

        Remember, kids, the fact that someone has military rank does not mean they actually know what they’re talking about. International perception of the kind of semi-state actors represented by privateers has changed dramatically since the early 1800s.

        • qwints says:

          Did you look at the link? It seems to be a student paper (from the US Army War College) that it is self-aware of its fringe nature, and it’s not the only one to make the argument. See also:

          Structuring a Sustainable Letters of Marque Regime: How Commissioning Privateers Can Defeat the Somali
          from the California Law Review in 2011; and

          A Check on Faint-Hearted Presidents: Letters of Marque and Reprisal fromthe Washington & Lee Law Review in 2009.

          They all lay out the case that a congress with sufficient political will could do it, while laying the extremely large obstacles in international law.

          • bean says:

            I took a glance through it. The fact that there’s a tremendous amount of this kind of junk floating around and people shouldn’t believe everything with DoD on it is a pet cause of mine.

        • Nornagest says:

          I know it’s not going to happen, and maybe I watched too much Black Lagoon in college, but if an Act of Congress made it possible, as a private citizen, to legally go fight pirates, I’d be looking for a crew before the ink was dry.

          I might come to my senses later once I read about the international-law aspects, and did the math on prize money or however this is supposed to be incentivized, and remembered that my nautical experience ends at maintaining outboard motors, but it’s a hell of a hook.

          (Uh, no pun intended.)

          • bean says:

            Privateering wasn’t really profitable back in the age of sail, AIUI. Privateers had the hardest time manning their ships, and mostly shipped with those ineligible for service in the RN, including lots of foreigners.

            Today, I suspect it would mostly be run as what are essentially adventure vacations. You get to spend a couple of weeks to months in the Indian Ocean, running around with guns, before coming home and selling your share, minus expenses, to someone else.

          • albatross11 says:

            Going after Galleons bringing back silver from the New World could at least hope to make it profitable to be a privateer. It’s kinda hard to see how to do that when the terrorists are all churchmouse poor with nothing but an AK, a sharp knife, and an explosive vest to their name.

          • Eric Rall says:

            before coming home and selling your share, minus expenses, to someone else.

            I’m picturing something like Time Share sales pitches here.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s kinda hard to see how to do that when the terrorists are all churchmouse poor with nothing but an AK, a sharp knife, and an explosive vest to their name.

            I doubt you could make a profit selling AKs, Zodiacs, and rusty dhows captured from Thai or Somali pirates. But you could probably get the shipping companies you’re protecting to pay you for the escort. In most cases I bet there wouldn’t even be any shooting involved — pirates would be a lot less likely to attack a ship if it looked like it had support.

            Of course, it’s the exceptions that’ll get you in trouble.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Ooh, very nice! Crazy but possible-in-theory is definitely in scope here–partly because I enjoy obscure technicalities for their own sake, partly because I believe an escalation path that’s never taken can still influence actual decisions.

        My quibble, though, is whether this would have any advantage over sending money to the favored side and letting them hire privateers (or spend it more conventionally)?

        • Brad says:

          There are plausible constitutional arguments, especially under the informed by practices school, that foreign military aid over the wishes of the President would somehow violate Article II. But letters of marque and reprisal are right there in black letter law.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            But the ability to subsidize the prizes isn’t, and I doubt the scheme works without that.

  13. Well... says:

    Another very serious, urgent question:

    I assume there are sushi restaurants in Dubai. At those establishments, is one provided with Wahhabi wasabi?

  14. Well... says:

    British people pronounce methane as “mee-thane” (rhymes with “tree chain”).

    Do British people also pronounce meth (the drug) so it rhymes with “teeth”?

    • Nick says:

      It looks like “methane” was formed (by the usual chemistry naming conventions) from “methyl,” from “methylene,” from an existing French term coming from the Greek methy + hyle, i.e. wood-wine. But the French méthylène is apparently not pronounced like “mee,” so I don’t know where the English are getting it. Regardless, I’d bet that “meth” as referring to the drug was borrowed from the US and the pronunciation preserved.

      My favorite thing from all this is learning “wood spirits” is a legitimate synonym for “meth.” I want a story about nymphs that puns on this now.

      • Randy M says:

        Heh, there go any comely nymphs in any future D&D games I run. Toothless arboreal fey only, now.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Here is a clip of someone with a British accent pronouncing “methamphetamine” just like an American. So “meth” is probably the same, too.

    • rlms says:

      No (and “methanol” is pronounced like “ethanol” with an “m”).

  15. Zephalinda says:

    Given that personality is (kind of) lifetime-stable and (somewhat) heritable… how morally accountable should people be for non-pathological features of their own personality?

    For example, Sarah, a feminist, complains “If men would just have a little empathy and consideration, and treat women like human beings…”. As it happens, Sarah is dispositionally high-empathy and naturally feels strong responses to other people’s emotional states. Bob is dispositionally low-empathy and just frankly… doesn’t care all that much about other people, or feel that motivated to consider their feelings. Do we morally judge Bob when he behaves callously to vulnerable women, given that dispositional empathy is apparently sort of heritable? Or does Sarah’s complaint become an expression of “personality privilege,” like if Kylie Jenner argued that poor people should try saving more and working harder?

    Similarly, if someone has a Big 5 profile linked with aggression, then is it fair to punish them for bullying behavior? Should they be allowed to be a bit more of a bully than everyone else, given that it “comes more naturally to them”? Further, would it be unfair to implement any kind of universal anti-bullying policy, given the disparate impact on people of that personality?

    (The weirdness of this issue seems linked to the way we pay lip service to a deterministic universe but behave as though we and everybody else has near-perfect free will; but that’s probably a question for another day).

    • Well... says:

      I’m not an expert so I might be way off on this, but as I understand it when it comes to behavioral traits “heritability” is not the same thing as “born that way and can’t change”, the way heritability is with, say, green eyes. Someone with very low natural dispositional empathy is still capable of empathizing, it just takes more effort.

      When it comes to human interaction at least, it isn’t a deterministic universe; it’s a probabilistic one, and we demonstrably have the ability to change the odds through a combination of personal effort and arranging systems that nudge us toward or away from certain behaviors.

      • Zephalinda says:

        Well, sure, but there are plenty of personal/situational differences in individual function where some subset of people could theoretically improve with a ton of hard work.

        E.g.: Some poor single moms could, in theory, get by sans welfare through heroic efforts.
        Some lower-IQ mortgage seekers could, in theory, laboriously educate themselves to avoid entering exploitative contracts.
        Some depressed people could, in theory, get to work on a regular schedule if they gritted their teeth and powered through it.

        Many people, though, would say it’s unjust to expect that of them, and that public accommodations should be put in place (or societal expectations lowered) to level the playing field. Even those who don’t support the accommodations would generally agree it’s Not Nice to act as though the people were morally at fault for not heroically bootstrapping themselves up to a high level of function. So should personality factors work the same way?

        • albatross11 says:

          The diversity of human abilities and personalities and inclinations and tastes makes me want a society that doesn’t impose a lot of strict requirements on its people. Laws to prevent one person victimizing another and to protect commons from being despoiled make sense; trying to use laws, tax codes, extralegal enforcement, etc. to enforce the right ideology or lifestyle beyond not bothering the neighbors seems like a bad way to live in a world with all this diversity. And making the laws as clear-cut as possible, and all interactions with the state as straightforward as possible, seems pretty critical for making the system workable for some guy with an IQ of 80 who still wants to be a normal productive citizen.

        • Well... says:

          The kind of work a not-naturally-empathetic person needs to do to practice empathy in certain situations is far less difficult and unpleasant than the kind of work a poor single mom needs to do to get by without welfare.

          Also, the systems we need to arrange so a not-naturally-empathetic person will practice empathy more often are much simpler and easier to get right than the systems (including welfare) we need to arrange so a poor single mom can get by.

          Heck, a fictional movie with a protagonist is basically an empathy generator. Unless Bob is a complete sociopath, he probably identifies with and roots for — at least on a subconscious level — the main characters in the movies he watches. Watching movies is much easier than working 3 jobs so your rent is paid and your kids can eat. Making movies is hard work, but it’s easier than setting up a functioning, productive welfare system.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            This is why William Blake said (rather foolishly) that Milton was obviously a Satanist, he just didn’t know it.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            The kind of work a not-naturally-empathetic person needs to do to practice empathy in certain situations is far less difficult and unpleasant than the kind of work a poor single mom needs to do to get by without welfare.

            Citation very much needed.

          • mdet says:

            Watching movies WAS the citation. A big part of what media does — reading books, watching tv and movies, listening to music with lyrics (that aren’t just “Party all the time”) — is take you on an emotional, empathetic journey. You follow the story and learn about someone else’s life, and the challenges they face, and how they respond to those challenges, and you grow your empathy by increasing your understanding of someone else’s life. Enjoying entertainment media is definitely less difficult than building your skills & resume and finding a good-paying job.

            But maybe you’re making an “intelligence” vs “education” distinction. Someone who has high “emotional intelligence” can get an “emotional education” by watching a bunch of dramas, romantic comedies, etc. But someone with low “emotional intelligence” can watch all they want without ever coming to a real understanding of other people.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            My point was that for a not-particularly-empathetic person, the only way to develop it is not movies/books/etc (which lie to you about how people are as much or more than they inform and thus require extra work to separate out the real information from the bullshit), but exposure to enough real world social situations and interactions to develop at least first approximations of how other people work.

            This process is, for anyone who isn’t an outright sociopath, VERY hard and often excruciatingly painful work, involving as it does repeated and varying amounts of awkwardness, shame, anxiety, embarassment, and so forth and so on.

            People who aren’t too far along the autism spectrum and have enough of other forms of intelligence may be able to compensate for their lack of intuitive/emotional intelligence about other people, and the more intelligent they are the faster they are going to learn and the less painful the learning process is going to be. But even at its best it’s FAR from easy.

            I’d say the fastest way to develop social skills is to force someone into a menial customer service job where they are forced to engage socially with co-workers, bosses, and angry/annoyed/happy/drunk/etc co-workers 40-50 hours a week. Which is…pretty much exactly as hard as what a single mother has to do to support her kids, given that that’s what plenty of them end up doing (source: held such jobs and supervised those who held them for years, and literally all but two female employees in that timeframe were single mothers).

    • Randy M says:

      Everyone has different inclinations; some people are more inclined towards generosity; hypothetically, some might have anxiety about giving way money making generosity very difficult. We can sympathize with people who express temptations toward vices and away from virtue, but not being mind readers in the end we can only judge based on behavior.

      Of course, we want to avoid making virtues out of largely amoral behaviors that people happen to enjoy–if Sarah is always talking about the Women’s Shelter but never actually gives time or money to it, she’s not terribly more virtuous than unempathic Bob (even a consequentialist would likely calculate that her “raising awareness” has a pretty small pay-off).

      CS Lewis argues in Mere Christianity that God will judge more favorably the psychopath (my word) who makes the heroic effort to be kind than the pleasant by nature person who behaves the same. This is a consoling thought for those that believe in such a just and insightful God, but we cannot view people’s thoughts and trying to account for them in all but the most clearly pathologic cases sets up perverse incentives.

      What we can do is try to treat people with grace and grant the benefit of the doubt for petty infractions. Always assume the stranger you’re dealing with is in the midst of their worst day, for example.

      The weirdness of this issue seems linked to the way we pay lip service to a deterministic universe but behave as though we and everybody else has near-perfect free will; but that’s probably a question for another day

      The trick about free will is that it can be instrumentally rational to believe in a pretty strong form of it even if you find a very deterministic universe compelling.

      • Zephalinda says:

        CS Lewis argues in Mere Christianity that God will judge more favorably the psychopath who makes the heroic effort to be kind than the pleasant by nature person who behaves the same.

        I have a lot of sympathy for Lewis’s views, and frankly think assuming a theist/virtue ethics framework sets a lot of this right without much difficulty.

        But I’m interested in how the question would be approached from the more prevalent secular/materialist worldview– particularly, how one might justify isolated moral demands for high levels of affective/social functionality when the same level of demands for e.g. cognitive, physical or executive function are regarded as fundamentally unfair.

      • albatross11 says:

        Also, we should try to shape society and our institutions, as much as possible, so that virtue-signaling and doing good works to be thought well of actually requires exhibiting some virtue and doing some actual good. If being a good dad causes you to rise in social status, that’s great–but make sure you only get this higher status by doing the important dad stuff–most importantly, being a daily presence in their lives and trying very hard to stay married to their mom so they have a stable home life. Similarly, if helping the poor causes you to rise in social status, then we’re better off if the social benefit requires actually helping some poor people, rather than (say) jaunting off to Turkey for a photo-op with some refugees before heading to the studio to make your next album.

    • actinide meta says:

      What on earth do you want to judge people on, if not stable features of their personality?

    • hyperboloid says:

      ow morally accountable should people be for non-pathological features of their own personality?

      Totally, one hundred percent.

      Any other conclusion seems to me to involve some strange ideas about personal identity and free will that I can’t make much sense of. People are their personality traits, their thoughts, desires and inclinations. No more, no less. To imagine a ghost in the machine that exists independent of the contents of your mind is absurd. There is no inner you with a capital Y that can act freely, irrespective of your life experiences, moral values, and genetic inclinations, An individual person is just the sum of those parts.

      . Do we morally judge Bob when he behaves callously to vulnerable women, given that dispositional empathy is apparently sort of heritable?

      The word empathy has been used to mean two different things. One is the ability to understand other peoples emotional states, the other is sympathetic moral concern for their feelings. People with autism lack the former (it is often said they have a kind of mind blindness), psychopaths lack the latter.

      You could mean that Bob cares about other people, but doesn’t quite know how to express that concern because he has trouble understanding their thoughts. In that case Bob is not morally responsible, so long as he is genuinely trying to do the right thing. We should think of people as having a core motivational set, their moral character, that exists independent of ability or intelligence and directs their choices and actions. Bob’s heart is in the right place, that is to say that his motivational set drives him to care about how his actions impact others, he just lacks a certain kind of cognitive ability that lets most people understand when their behavior is hurting others.

      We should of course try to encourage Bob to learn through study and memorization what comes to most people intuitively, but to blame him for his failings would be unjust.

      Consider another man, Fred. Fred is just plain mean, he understands that he is hurting women, he just doesn’t care. Now think of the argument in Fred’s defense: he is “low empathy”, that is to say he has a deep psychological inclination to be indifferent to the suffering of others. Well in that case, the prosecution rests, the man is a jerk. He doesn’t care about other people, that is the definition of being a jerk. You can argue that Fred became an asshole because of circumstances outside of his control, but that argument rests on the fallacy that the Fred we know exists at all independent of those factors.

      Fred is an asshole, that is why he is blameworthy. If he were to change and become a new man he would cease to be blameworthy, but you’re telling me that is unlikely.

      This line of thinking makes some people uncomfortable because it implies that who we are is ultimately the result of some deterministic process But hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?

  16. johan_larson says:

    The end of the show MythBusters in 2016 was unwelcome news. Over the years, I’ve watched all of the episodes, often many times.

    But it turns out that was not the end. The show is back with new hosts Jon Lung and Brian Louden; a new season featuring these two is available on iTunes. The two were selected last year through an 8-part reality-style show called “MythBusters: The Search” that started with 10 candidate gearheads and winnowed them down, challenge by challenge, to two. That’s also available on iTunes.

    I can’t imagine how I didn’t hear about these developments earlier.

    • Randy M says:

      itunes? Blech. That software gives me a headache trying to move and organize music selections on my daughters ipod shuffle. I didn’t even know it did video, or is this an audio only podcast?

      • johan_larson says:

        TV show.

        iTunes has movies and TV shows. You can buy or rent the movies. TV shows are buy-only.

        If that’s not to your taste, you could get DVDs and pretend it’s 2002. 😉

        • Randy M says:

          Assuming it appears in such form, that’d be a good present for my wife. Remind me 6 months after the season airs or when ever the producers deign to cater to selective luddites*.

          *I have no problem with Netflix or Amazon Prime, I just hate Apple’s software for making me feel like an idiot.

    • AG says:

      Didn’t the non-Jaime/Adam cast members try doing some spinoff shows?

      • johan_larson says:

        They did something called the White Rabbit Project for Netflix; it was OK. Kari and Tory did something called Thrill Factor, which I’ve never seen.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      I kind of liked Mythbusters, especially at first, but as the seasons went by, they padded to the point of rage.

      They would take stuff that could have been 1 minute of background, 5 minutes of build, 1 minutes of test, and 30 seconds of conclusion, and expanded it to half an hour by constantly going back and repeating and going back and repeating and going back and repeating, with side jaunts into pointless interviews with the rest of the build team.

      And while doing so, they cut down on what was always the interesting part: the build. Watching early episodes to see how Jamie was able to solve a fun little “how do you build this thing” puzzle, and show off his quiet and deep skill with toolmaking and toolusing was a thing. By the end, the build phase was less educational than a late 80s action movie montage.

    • johan_larson says:

      The last two episodes of the first season of the rebooted show, which should have aired on Feb 21 and 28, did not air as scheduled and have not been shown since. This suggest the network axed the show without even letting the season run its course. Looks like the reboot didn’t work. Pity.

      The new hosts Brian and Jon did fine work. They didn’t have the quirkiness of Jamie, but they were at least up to Adam’s standard. That said, I think the other two finalists, Martin Pepper and Tamara Robertson, might have been better choices. Martin in particular had a bit of that Jamie-like oddness; I would not have been surprised if he had suddenly claimed to be an expert in something odd like playing the organ or wrestling alligators.

  17. Nornagest says:

    Hey. Nerds. Since it’s a CW thread, what are your thoughts on dice pool vs. roll-over systems?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      What’s wrong with roll-under?

      • Baeraad says:

        I like roll-over in games that aim to give you a feeling of power, and roll-under in games that aim to give you a feeling of vulnerability.

        Yes, I’m aware that it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever in terms of probability. I don’t know, I guess roll-over makes me feel like I’m charging boldly forth towards the enemy line of the target number, and roll-under makes me feel like I’m trying to shrink back behind the safe shelter of the target number?

      • bean says:

        Seconded. Roll-under is great. It’s conceptually simpler, because all the modifiers run in the same direction. Anyone who has ever read the chapter in the D&D rulebooks on “modifiers to task difficulty vs modifiers to the roll” should understand why this is just better.

        • beleester says:

          Personally, I think making the value of the numbers intuitive (high numbers on the roll are good, high difficulty is bad) is a lot more important than which way the modifiers move you.

          Where you add the modifiers is basically just flavor – it doesn’t matter if you raise the DC by 2 or give a penalty of -2 to the roll. I’ve never had trouble following that unless you’re stacking a stupid number of buffs and penalties on one roll.

    • Baeraad says:

      Dice pools give me a headache.

      But since I’m a deviant who would prefer more games to be entirely without randomisers, I’m not sure how helpful my opinion is.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Roll-over or -under systems are generally the easiest to figure out probability in. However, a roll-over system with a flat probability, or one that uses multiple dice to produce a curve?

    • cassander says:

      the odds of roll over/under are easier to grasp intuitively. It can be fun to throw fistful of dice, but I don’t see a real mechanical advantage.

      • beleester says:

        The way you grasp dice pool odds are “expected successes,” because with a large number of dice the result will hover pretty close to the expected value. I think in Storyteller’s D10 system the rule of thumb is 1 success for every 3 dice in your pool?

        Dice pool systems give you more reliable outcomes in the middle of the bell curve, but make long shots far less likely. D&D always has the chance that you’ll roll a 1 or a 20, but in WoD hoping to get 5 successes on 5 dice is pretty much a pipe dream.

        The one other issue is that dice pools have a ridiculous number of ways to tweak the odds. You can raise or lower the target number, you can add or remove dice, you can raise or lower the number of successes needed, you can add things like 10-again or 9-again… if you add too many of these modifiers, then it becomes impossible to calculate the odds in your head. Roll over/under systems can’t really tweak much besides the target number.

        • Randy M says:

          Roll over/under systems can’t really tweak much besides the target number.

          Slight disagreement; there are lots of ways theoretically–rerolls, different dice sizes, additional dice, conditional modifiers–but any of these are still more grokable than a dice pool.

        • cassander says:

          Dice pool systems give you more reliable outcomes in the middle of the bell curve, but make long shots far less likely. D&D always has the chance that you’ll roll a 1 or a 20, but in WoD hoping to get 5 successes on 5 dice is pretty much a pipe dream.

          You can get the same effect by rolling 3d6 instead of D20. And while it’s obviously not impossible to calculate the dice pool odds, it’s more difficult and less transparent than the alternative to no benefit.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s not super straightforward to calculate the odds of hitting, say, 14 on 3d6, either. I mean, most of us have probably rolled enough D&D characters to have a fairly good sense of how likely that is, but that’s a familiarity thing and not a mechanics thing.

            It annoys me that Storyteller uses an 8 for its target number, though. 6 would mean I could do the math in my head.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        The major advantage of die pools is the ease of accessing degrees-of-success at low handling time.

        You can always graft a degrees-of-success system onto a roll-over by saying, “And then you get more success if you are 3+ higher than the target number, and more again if 6+ higher,” or whatever. But the handling time will be worse than if you instead count successful dice.

        Whether this is a positive trait of your die system then depends a lot on what you use your degrees-of-success for.

  18. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I think I almost grok the sides in this civil war. Does anyone else?

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I currently have no clue, but this is an awesome riddle.

    • sfoil says:

      The only thing that’s not immediately obvious is the US/UK and USSR being on the same side. China’s support of the rebels provides a simple explanation: the Sino-Soviet split and US efforts to drive a wedge between the two major Communist powers. That day, the US decided to back the USSR against the PRC. The UK does whatever the US wants it to.

      Religion easily explains several others (Muslim vs Christian/Catholic), including Israel to some extent. South Africa and Rhodesia are both African states existing for the shelter/benefit of minorities in opposition to the “international community” and majority rule, as is Israel to some extent. I bet the Biafrans are a small, prosperous minority who don’t like being the milchcow/scapegoat for a much larger postcolonial state (looked it up: yep).

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Actually, I would think it more likely that the US fell in line with Mother Britain, which had an interest in its former colony staying the way they left it (to save face?) That this put the US on the same side as one major Communist state would be gravy. But why were the USSR and the Christian monarchy of Ethiopia supporting Muslim dictator Gowron?
        And yes, you nailed it about the prosperous scapegoat Igbo.

        • sfoil says:

          Easy: Ethiopia’s local, they have a pre-existing alliance with Nigeria. Ideally you’d have good relations with whoever borders you, but in reality you probably have a bunch of disputes. So you ally with countries on the other side of your enemy-neighbor instead. Stuff that might cause problems if they were your neighbors, like religion and ideology, don’t matter because they’re not your neighbor.

          • sfoil says:

            Close enough: “Alliance” is an overstatement, but Nigeria supported (diplomatically) Ethiopia’s side against Somalian claims to the Ogaden on the grounds that while colonial-era borders weren’t perfect, they’re better than wars to redraw them: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.jstor.org/stable/40174065. Wise, since I’m sure the Biafran secession wasn’t a bolt out of the blue.

            Looks like Ethiopia returned the favor.

      • Eric Rall says:

        My guess (going on record before I look up the details) is that this was a case of malcontent Great Power semi-allies (France and China) of the major Superpower blocks defecting from a deal made among their senior partners (US and USSR, respectively). The rest of the Nigerian side of the war looks like non-malcontent allies or clients of the US or USSR.

        For the rest of the Biafran side, the existence of Rhodesia implies the 1960s, which I think was before Israel re-aligned from being a French client to being an American semi-ally, so Israel’s presence is unsurprising. And I know South Africa worked pretty closely with Israel on a lot of issues around that time period as well. I don’t know much about Rhodesia’s relations with the other countries on the list, but they seem like logical “birds of a feather” with South Africa. Come to think of it, the pull might have gone the other direction: South Africa and Rhodesia got involved due to local African issues (along with Tanzania, Gabon, and Ivory Coast), Israel got in to back South Africa, and France got in to back Israel and their former colony Ivory Coast.

        The Vatican does imply a religious dimension, I agree.

        Spain, Portugal, and Haiti are the real mysteries.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          This was Franco’s Spain and the Portuguese dictatorship of a devout Catholic economics professor. The Igbo are overwhelmingly Christian and the Nigerian dictator a Muslim.
          Haiti, I don’t even.

      • Aapje says:

        @sfoil

        South Africa and Rhodesia are both African states existing for the shelter/benefit of minorities in opposition to the “international community” and majority rule, as is Israel to some extent.

        For some time, Israel was the only country licensing weapon designs to S-Africa.

    • hyperboloid says:

      It’s important to remember that, aside from France and Egypt, few of the countries on the list offered any meaningful aid to either side, least of all to the Biafrans. For most of these countries “support” means little more than having their foreign ministries issue some press releases, and maybe hold some symbolic votes at the UN.

      The essential puzzle pieces you’re not seeing are the division between the former French and British African colonies, and between supporters and opponents of the Organization of African Unity.

      Founded in Addis Ababa in 1963 the OAU was the predecessor of the modern African Union, and was in principle founded on Anti-colonial and Pan-Africanist principles that strongly favored self determination and human rights. In practice however most African states were little more than administrative units of the former European empires that had acquired a form of independent statehood. In many cases their rulers had been the lower middle management of the former imperial bureaucracy, and their borders often had little to do with on the ground political reality.

      Africa’s new rulers had two strong incentives: first, maintain the unity of their inherited states; and second, curry favor with foreign patrons, and strengthen alliances with other neighboring members of their client network. You can mostly break the the countries supporting the secessionists into four groups: France and la Françafrique, white Africa, China and their allies, and the Iberian states. You can break the supporters of the federal government down into two groups: the UK and their allies, and the Soviet Union and their client network.

      The Soviet group wanted to defend the integrity of the African states, and try to pull Nigeria into their orbit. The UK wanted to defend their block in Africa for queen, country, and British petroleum. The United States of course was too busy destroying Vietnamese villages in order to save them to really care, and so just went along with what London wanted. The French block wanted to pull a valuable region of Nigeria into their sphere of influence. The Iberians wanted to throw a monkey wrench into the gears of the OAU, so as to defend their dying colonies in Africa. The Chinese were trying to build their own block in Africa and brought the Tanzanians along for the ride. The Boers just wanted to watch the (black) world burn.

      I’m not sure what Israel was doing there. Probably not much, other than screwing with the Egyptians. In short a game of ruthless power politics in which nobody actually cared about the suffering of the Igbo.

  19. Wrong Species says:

    It’s probably uncontroversial that science is better at resolving questions than philosophy. Why is that? One idea is simply that it’s the nature of the two. Science(ideally) involves easily verified measurements. Philosophy doesn’t. But that doesn’t necessarily seem right. When someone makes an argument, they aren’t just saying that this is their subjective opinion, otherwise they wouldn’t bother making the argument. They are trying to appeal to some level of objectivity to convince you. And sometimes we do manage to convince other people that we are right solely by logic without relying on any new empirical evidence.

    I think part of the reason why science is so much better for resolving debates is that our senses are just so much better developed than our reasoning ability, with an evolutionary timeline going back hundreds of millions of years rather than, at most, a few million years. But is there a possible evolutionary timeline where an intelligent species developed the other way around, with exceptional logical reasoning skills with poor sensory input? What would that look like? Would they be able to resolve questions relying more on philosophy or would they be at a major disadvantage compared to us?

    • albatross11 says:

      The weird thing is, math is all about pure reasoning. You can sometimes try to construct an example or counterexample to a claim, but you can’t really check things by experiment or observation. And yet, math from the ancient world is still true. People like 2500 years ago knew there was no last prime number and that you couldn’t express the square root of 2 as a ratio of two integers, and they were right and it’s still true.

      And philosophy is about pure reasoning, again with some examples or counterexamples helping you along, but not with a way to check experimentally/observationally to see if your theory is right or wrong. And we can still read and benefit from the philosophy of 2500 years ago, because we still can’t nail much down in that realm.

      My understanding is that observation and experiment were just not considered great ways to understand reality in the mindset of most thinkers before 1400 or so. Eventually, you got people actually thinking about experiments that could show you if you were wrong, and accumulating lots of observations so you could build a useful model, and trying to make predictions and seeing if you were right. But I think there was a really long time during which most intellectual effort was either toward reasoning from abstract principles to learn about reality, or reading the works of ancient authorities to learn about reality.

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        You can sometimes try to construct an example or counterexample to a claim, but you can’t really check things by experiment or observation.

        While this is obviously true, I think it underestimates the extent to which mathematical hypotheses are discovered by “experiment”: calculate the first ten simple examples you can think of, and see if a pattern emerges, then try and prove the pattern.

        Also, mathematicians do use “observational” and “experimental” reasoning, although obviously it is weighted much less strongly than strict proof: see this page for (mathematically) informal arguments for against the Riemann hypothesis. Obviously no mathematician will be convinced by anything other than a proof, but this sort of reasoning plays a real and non-trivial role in the actual practice of mathematics.
        Another example is P vs NP, and the popular argument attributed to Scott Aaronson that “If P = NP, then the world would be a profoundly different place than we usually assume it to be. There would be no special value in “creative leaps,” no fundamental gap between solving a problem and recognizing the solution once it’s found”–this is very much an “observational” form of reasoning. It can’t supplant proof, but it can complement and guide proof.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        And philosophy is about pure reasoning

        I understand why you would make this claim, but I don’t think it’s really true. In addition, the things in philosophy that eventually get shown to be in the realm of pure reasoning tend to bleed off. It used to be that everyone who tried to think about things using reason was a philosopher, but more and more disciplines forked away from it.

        I think we are left with philosophy being mostly concerned with the unfalsifiable, thus debates about p-zombies continue.

    • Baeraad says:

      I don’t know, how would you even build any logical connections without sensory experience? We assume that A=>B only because every single time we see an A, there’s always a B around. If we missed the B even once because we weren’t observant enough, we’d miss the rule as a whole.

      No, I think your alt-humans would have major problems acquiring any data with their dim senses that was precise enough for their powerful logical brains to process. You need to first have a lot to think about before how good you are at thinking becomes an issue.

      • Wrong Species says:

        What about an alt-human species with similar levels of sensory experience but a much improved ability to reason? Maybe they can put aside their bias to a far better extent than we do. Theoretically, would you expect them to be able to resolve more debates through philosophical arguments?

    • Enkidum says:

      is there a possible evolutionary timeline where an intelligent species developed the other way around, with exceptional logical reasoning skills with poor sensory input

      I doubt it?

      So, the standard argument about the evolution of life and intelligence goes like this: life, so far as we can tell, develops super easily given the right conditions. The reason we think this is that there are fossils of micro-organisms in literally the oldest rocks on the planet, which formed shortly after the crust (or something like that, I’m hand-waving over the details cause I don’t really know them but something pretty close to this is true).

      However really, really “intelligent” life, whatever that means, appears to have evolved precisely once, give or take 200,000 years ago. Which suggests that intelligence, from a survival/reproduction perspective, is not terribly worthwhile over evolutionary timescales, under the vast majority of circumstances. A bunch of weird factors had to coincide for it to be useful.

      One of the factors was an exquisitely developed sensory system in Old World primates that (in many respects, and really only for vision) is aimed at generic processing of information, rather than specific processing for specific tasks. I think it’s very under-appreciated among armchair philosophers to this day how much of intelligence is for sensory processing.

      Is it possible for animals with mollusk-level sensory systems to be really smart? I really, really doubt it, at least not from a realistic evolutionary perspective. Intelligence is really, really, really expensive (cf. long childhoods, maternal and infant mortality, not to mention the calories it takes to support a brain the size of ours) and has to provide a very powerful benefit to be worth it. What good would it do a mollusk?

    • Well... says:

      It’s probably uncontroversial that science is better at resolving questions than philosophy

      (Epistemic status: devil’s advocating)

      This is an assumption. First of all, what do you mean by “better”? Science seems to raise 10 questions with every 1 it resolves. Also, science can only really “resolve” a question by disproving a hypothesis over and over again with repeated experiements; since there are an infinite number of hypotheses, once you go through all the effort to disprove one there is always another coming up right behind it that still needs to be disproved.

      Philosophy answers questions just by answering them, and then people line up on the side of this person or that person’s answer depending on what strikes them most favorably. It’s relatively simple compared to science!

      Also, has any philosopher ever died because he acted on his answer to a question? Whereas many scientists have died because they acted on theirs.

      • Gossage Vardebedian says:

        Cue the old joke:

        Dean, to the physics department. “Why do I always have to give you guys so much money, for laboratories and expensive equipment and stuff. Why couldn’t you be like the math department – all they need is money for pencils, paper and waste-paper baskets. Or even better, like the philosophy department. All they need are pencils and paper.”

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      It’s probably uncontroversial that science is better at resolving questions than philosophy

      That is, uh, very ahistorical view on history of science and philosophy.

      Take for example, Francis Bacon and Novum Organum. It was a work of philosophy, yet also helped to the science to be the Science as we know it today. Same goes for the many other philosophers who have engaged in the philosophy of science. I’d say together they have made contributions on the question “how to do science properly”.

      And on to the question whether there has been progress in the realm of philosophy proper:

      When I finally managed bother to read some Socratic dialogues some years back, most striking thing about them in my recollection was how if they were not flat out wrong, they were not … very applicable or not even interesting outside their historical impact. Arguments are full of assumptions about the world, humans and general metaphysics that we do know to be false; significant amount of subject matter involves Greek cultural background that is not relevant to us today. (Also, Socrates keeps engaging in surprising amount of what I’d call sophistry when arguing with his opponents.)

      Consider again as an example Platonic and Aristotlean metaphysics. My understanding of them is probably quite naive, but I believe we can safely conclude that at least on some topics they are arguing about non-issues if you subscribe to any common variation of scientific materialism and its implications (things are things because we as humans identify them as things by giving them names, and “we” are neuronal activity in a biochemical soup; the whole discussion on “essence of things” and “universal forms” does not make sense). Even the positions that do not acknowledge the truth of scientific materialism have evolved in response to it.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        +1, philosophy doesn’t look like it resolves anything because it deals in topics that are really hard. The solvable stuff gets spun off, much of empirical science, mathematics, statistics, etc. were such spin offs.

        Causal inference, to the extent that it was founded by anyone, was founded by philosophers (depending on whom you ask, either Bacon or Hume, or both).

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Same goes for the many other philosophers who have engaged in the philosophy of science. I’d say together they have made contributions on the question “how to do science properly”.

        Which other philosophers had an impact on science? Your claim seems extremely overstated to me.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Well, Francis Bacon did not get his ideas from nowhere? The roots of the tradition of natural philosophy (the whole philosophical project of trying to come up with a way of looking at the natural world which became “science” as we know it) can be traced back to pre-Socratics. Above I trounced Aristotle’s metaphysics, but it’s called metaphysics because he first wrote a book on “physics”. Getting from there to the current scientific practice was not as obvious path as it seems in retrospect. (Did the Chinese or Japanese develop a similar idea of scientific pursuit independently before contact with Europe became stronger? I don’t know but I think not? Many inventions, yes, but no periodic table?) Ideas are path-dependent. The idea of scientific pursuit was concrete enough that it could be pursued separately from philosophy only maybe after Newton and Boyle?

          And for post-Bacon philosophers … I had Boyle and then much later, Ernst Mach and other logical positivists in mind. Granted, mostly because Mach actually did some scientific work himself. Maybe Popper, because falsificationism comes up every now and then when scientists try to justify what they are doing and why. People in LW-sphere are acutely aware of all the institutional problems in the academia when it comes its role as producer of new knowledge; while those problems are usually approached as a question of incentives, the question “what science is” and “how it should be done”, that is a philosophical question and it, uh, kinda looms in the background in all such discussions?

          I know even less about the “humanist” sphere of thought, and social sciences won’t probably count as a science for the purposes of this discussion anyway.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            OK, under your definition of philosophy, you have to do philosophy to do science. But is that a useful definition of “philosophy”? I didn’t ask about philosophy, I asked about philosophers. Your definition seems very different from “what philosophers do.” Didn’t Bacon,* Boyle, and Mach do their philosophy while doing science? You invoked “philosophers of science” (and I should have emphasized that); did any such people have any effect? (By that standard Comte is a better example than Mach.) I guess you could say that Popper had an effect; but he didn’t affect what scientists do, only what they say to make philosophers stop bugging them.

            * Added: Bacon didn’t do much science himself

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            philosophers of science

            Rethinking, that line of argument was confused and resulted in a thesis that was tangential to the original point being discussed. Yeah, I don’t know if the self-ascribed “philosophers of science” had much effect on science. Mentally I was applying the term to all (natural) philosophers who engaged in what we today call “science” or its precursors. Let me attempt to reformulate an improved iteration of the argument:

            My first core thesis is that development of the idea and practice of science, the accumulated knowledge how to wield rational thought to solve difficult problems and make accurate observations about natural world, is both one of the most successful fruits of the philosophical pursuit and also a non-obvious fruit. The current version of scientific thought provides us many useful explanations about how the universe works, but this is the result after many false starts. Thus engaging in arguments of the sort “science can solve more questions than philosophy” is a bit like cheating, because it ignores lots of important history of why and how science and philosophy came to be.

            Here we have one problem domain, let us denote it by letter A. We have laboriously honed good heuristics how to approach the problems that fall within the scope of A. Then there is the problem domain B, where solutions to problems remain still elusive; one of the reasons why we today distinguish A from B (when many early practitioners were less sure of those differences and often dabbled in both) is that the heuristics that we do have available to us are more applicable to certain kind of problems (A) than others (B).

            Okay, if one wants to put forward a hypotheses that concerns only the differences between those two fields since the 18th century, after they have become detached from each other, then fine. It is true that the machinery for formulating scientific theories and experiments and predictions about the world is more successful in producing testable knowledge about the world than academic philosophy. It is also stating the obvious, because the sciences are the parts of the philosophical inquiry that have developed successful heuristics how to do their thing, and thus an aspiring economics or biology student today can concentrate on studying how to do economics or biology instead of stumbling around in the philosophical darkness.

            (Also, the reason why I still want to mention Bacon and likes of him is that someone needed to come up with the idea that such heuristics could be developed. And Bacon was responding to the ideas presented by the philosophers before him. I would say it was a collaborative effort.)

            My second but related argument is that progress in our understanding of the world has also resolved many questions that were considered as philosophical questions in the past. (Cue the part where I rambled on how surprising amount of Plato makes a boring read if you are not particularly interested in history of philosophical thought.) Is this because of science being better at providing answers to questions than philosophy? I think it makes more sense to view it as a result of science and philosophy being subjects with shared history.

            And why these two points are relevant to this discussion?

            I believe they provide a more coherent and true to actual history view on the reasons why it feels natural to us to state “it is uncontroversial that science is better at resolving questions than philosophy” than OPs speculation about our senses being better than our thinking ability. Which appears to be an idea quite detached from the actual evolution of science: I don’t see how one even should map that idea to the known history of e.g. cosmological models, medicine, or development of chemistry from alchemy.

            Take the Aristotelean explanation why objects fall down when dropped (simply put, because it is in their nature to fall down to place where they belong) which is not as good explanation as the one provided by the modern physics, even though as a baseline human he had probably about as good sensory capabilities as we do today. Seeing things fall down is easy, making observations and then making sense out of them is evidently hard.

            The reason why we understand better than Aristotle what happens when we see a rock fall down is because of mental tools and ways of thinking (that the particular relevant toolbox in this case can largely attributed to Newton; Newton himelf did not appear from thin air) that are available to us today but not to Aristotle.

            (And yes, I argue it is philosophy all along, anyway. Both the practitioners of hard science and academic philosophers who pretend that they live in separate realms do a disservice to the quest of obtaining more precise knowledge on philosophical questions like “is there free will and what is meaning of such concept in the first place”.)

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, it was tangential. I was changing the subject, zeroing in on that particular line. I mainly wanted you to recite your list of philosophers of science. I probably should have just said so. Do you have any medieval examples? Who was Bacon responding to, other than Bacon?

            The method of science does not appear to me to be a slow accretion, but to have sprung into separate existence fairly quickly, say, 1100-1300. Similarly, science was pretty cleanly divorced from philosophy in the Hellenistic world.

      • Wrong Species says:

        If you want to include all of science under the realm of doing philosophy then you are technically right in a meaningless way. I’m clearly talking about philosophy outside of the development of the scientific method and its incorporation in to a given area of thought. Outside of that, can you honestly say with a straight face that philosophers who aren’t doing empirical work have resolved more issues than the scientists who are? My claim was agnostic about the issue of philosophical progress in general. I just made the very underwhelming claim that scientists have resolved more problems. You have a good case if you want to include math but when people speak colloquially, they generally aren’t talking about math when they mention philosophy.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          See my reply to Douglas above. My updated argument is that viewing modern philosophy and science as things with shared ancestry (under the umbrella of “philosophy before the sciences branched off”) helps to explain why science resolves issues better than the part of philosophy that is not science. The scientific method and the associated mental and cultural machinery are a product of philosophical thought; moreover, the product that is the most useful of them all.

          • Wrong Species says:

            You’re still just being needlessly pedantic. I know that the scientific method didn’t just spring up fully formed from the ground. Obviously people like Bacon had to do the intellectual groundwork. But I didn’t make that claim and it’s pretty obvious if you go by what everyone who isn’t an academic philosopher means when they say philosophy and science. You even seem to agree with me when you said that it was obvious that scientific theories and experiments produce more knowledge than academic philosophy, which is actually a stronger claim than I made. Criticize my speculations but don’t tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about because I didn’t use your jargon.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            I sense some unnecessary antagonism, I wish it could be toned down. (I swear my ability to participate successfully in internet discussions on “deep” topics still is not improving / is getting worse over the years.)

            I don’t think I’ve been using any non-standard terminology on purpose, but maybe my interpretation of the history of science and philosophy is non-standard. But to me the whole question sounded intuitively a wrong question to ask, and I’ve been trying to answer why.

            My current explanation is: The successful parts of philosophy often have branched off and progress in science has resolved some questions the were labeled as “philosophy” in the past. This kind of thing happens less today because the fields have become too diverged from each other. Addendum. The academic philosophy as practiced in universities in its current form is much younger than the whole history of philosophy (which goes back to pre-Socratics). And at least to me it was natural and obvious to include the whole of philosophical tradition, not just the part that became clearly delineated only I suppose sometime after Newton, when one talks about “philosophy”, and thus invention of science and scientific inventions appear a natural part of the “progress in philosophy”.End addendum.

            Also, another slightly tangential thought. There’s a difference between “resolving issues / providing answers to questions” (in general, scientific hypothesis can be tested against the reality) and “producing more knowledge”. The performance of the academic philosophy has maybe been lackluster when it comes to providing definite solutions and conclusively answering the old questions, because only way is to persuade your opponents and the audience by arguments alone.

            (For example, I believe the platonist answer to problem of abstract objects as far as I understand it is either obviously true or obviously silly and alien to how human minds works, depending on what kind definition of “existence” one employs while stating that “abstract objects exist”. But the question can not be marked as “solved” as long as there remains a visible amount of holdouts unconvinced of the arguments supporting my view who participate in the academic discourse. According to this paper, platonism have about equal amount of supporters as nominalism.)

            But the philosophy (n.b. modern use of the word) has been able to pose new (sometimes even improved?) questions or new, refined ways to ask the old ones, which is also knowledge, just less clear-cut.

          • Wrong Species says:

            There’s a difference between “resolving issues / providing answers to questions” (in general, scientific hypothesis can be tested against the reality) and “producing more knowledge”.

            This is a perfect example of why I’m being antagonistic. I didn’t make that claim about producing knowledge, I was quoting you. I knew that someone would say something if I talked about knowledge in general which is why I said “resolving issues”, because I figured that it was something noncontroversial to say and wasn’t counting on someone being pedantic about science being philosophy. You don’t even disagree with me, just my terminology. I’m not some college freshman who likes the “I fucking love science” page and thinks that getting high and talking about my hands is profound. You’re just telling me things that I already know.

            I find it very hard to believe that you have never heard anyone ever talk about philosophy and science as separate things. Yes, our modern method of doing science was started by philosophers. But they have diverged enough since then that the vast majority of people don’t think of it as a contradiction to talk about them separately.

            Putting all that aside, you still didn’t answer my question. Yes, parts of philosophy start getting empirical and develop in to their own science and then they get their resolutions. My question is why does it take empirical work to get those resolutions? Why can’t we resolve anything through pure arguments, outside of math? And that’s where I speculate about the “alt-humans”.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            This is a perfect example of why I’m being antagonistic. I didn’t make that claim about producing knowledge, I was quoting you. I knew that someone would say something if I talked about knowledge in general which is why I said “resolving issues”, because I figured that it was something noncontroversial to say and wasn’t counting on someone being pedantic about science being philosophy. You don’t even disagree with me, just my terminology. I’m not some college freshman who likes the “I fucking love science” page and thinks that getting high and talking about my hands is profound. You’re just telling me things that I already know.

            Uh, I am not even trying to build a model what you know or don’t know personally. And I edited in “Also, another slightly tangential thought” before that paragraph you quoted precisely because it was a tangential thought, worth saying aloud because I thought it was interesting and maybe others would find it interesting too.

            (And concerning the main argument at hand, I’ll try to come up a with a response later today.)

    • tayfie says:

      “Our senses are so much better developed than our reasoning ability”.

      I doubt that makes them more useful. Ancient people probably would have thought it very obvious that the senses were (more) fallible, and I am not sure I disagree. Your senses either fail or filter stuff out all the time. Scientific experiments only really work because people have to think really hard about what experiments to do, what the observations mean, and that’s without the advanced instruments often required.

      The senses just don’t seem as useful because they are completely dependent on external conditions. Your eyes don’t even work that well half the time you are alive and at their best can’t see more than a few miles. Phantom sensations are very common. Logic works anywhere on the planet under any conditions, and in all possible universes that meet very basic assumptions.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Pure logic isn’t very useful on its own either. Think of Descartes trying to prove he has knowledge. He doesn’t get very far in satisfactory manner. I’m asking more about the right combination of the two rather than one or the other.

  20. Garrett says:

    [Trigger warning: murder, rape]

    In a previous Open Thread I’d asked about research involving the psychology around self-sacrifice under non-emergent conditions. I received some great references, but nothing quite on topic. I want to explore a bit more the area I’ve been thinking about.

    Because of my work in EMS and location, I’m very-peripherally connected to the events of the LA Fitness Shooting from some years ago. The TL;DR is that a man who was socially rejected went on a murder spree of women at a fitness facility as a form of revenge.

    The popularity of utilitarianism in these parts has left me with a bit of a conundrum about that event. Using the “book value” of the lives involved, all of those dead would have been better off if one of the women murdered had instead been compelled to be the shooter’s concubine. Of course, that kind of idea leads to revulsion in most people.

    Of course, if we were to support such a system, it would be likely that people would attempt to game it – claim to be willing to murder women unless they got their own concubine. Likewise, there’s the “don’t negotiate with terrorists” principle in that it just leads to more terrorism. So anybody who brought forward such a threat would have to be separated from society in some fashion. This means that people in such frame of mind are unwilling to speak up.

    It seems to me that this sort of detente comes up in life frequently. Why is it that we accept the “help them” solution in some cases (eg. starving children) but not the others (murderer above)? It seems that you can find either mild or severe costs and benefits on either side of the popular result.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Why is it that we accept the “help them” solution in some cases (eg. starving children) but not the others (murderer above)?

      Basically it just depends on how much sympathy people can drum up for the “victim”. And, of course, whether they or some group is willing to drum it up for them. Eliot Rodger was probably a lost cause; the YouTube shooter probably would have done better to get a sob story and a Patreon.

      • Matt M says:

        This. I would also add that the “creepy guy who can’t get girls” profile seems to be unsympathetic because many people seem to view their plight as the outcome of their own personal choices. While few would admit this, I think most people view the socially awkward as people who are choosing to be socially awkward. If someone behaves weirdly in social situations, the assumption is that they are actively choosing to defect against social norms, rather than a more innocent assumption that they just don’t understand the norms or how to comply with them.

        “Be nice to the kid with physical disabilities” is considered a positive value that is endorsed universally. But the underlying premise is that they can’t help how they are, wouldn’t you feel bad if you were them, etc. The socially awkward are largely dismissed as people who can help it, but are choosing not to because they are simply antisocial jerks. Therefore, there is no positive obligation to grant them any form of charity, assistance, or benefit of the doubt whatsoever.

        • hyperboloid says:

          Provided that you’re not physically deformed, if you can’t get laid then it probably is due to in great part to your choices. There are a lot of socially awkward people out there , including plenty of women, who have successful relationships.

          I also find it amusing that many of the people complaining about how unjust it is that hordes of submissive nymphomaniacs aren’t beating down their doors are often libertarians. Dude the market has spoken, it said no.

          • albatross11 says:

            hyperboloid:

            I can’t help noticing that (as Scott pointed out some time ago), basically the *only* people who seem to be offering folks in that category any hope of improvement are the PUA types. This seems pretty fundamentally broken, to me.

          • johan_larson says:

            I wonder if a low-end partner-up service, specializing in sprucing up and matching up the bottom 10% or so of the dating market, would be viable, either as a business, charity, or funded public service. There’s about as many men as women, so for every one of these unmatched men there is an unmatched woman, more or less.

          • WashedOut says:

            johan_larson:

            The business version of that is basically Queer Eye For the Straight Guy.

            funded public service

            Hah. Good luck selling that to the taxpayer.

            There’s about as many men as women, so for every one of these unmatched men there is an unmatched woman, more or less.

            Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean every unmatched woman is going to be satisfied with matching to one of these men. See: hypergamy.

          • David Speyer says:

            Regarding the “one lonely woman for every lonely man”: I’ve been wondering if the problem is age shifting. Anecdotally, I can think of a lot of single women in their sixties, and a lot of single guys in their early twenties. If women tend to date men even a few years older, you could wind up in a situation where the age disparity in individual couples is small but where the unpaired are far apart in age.

          • Matt M says:

            Dude the market has spoken, it said no.

            Indeed. But, to my point, if “the market says no” to someone in regards to employment, or health insurance, the state moves heaven and Earth to compensate that person. They are seen as a victim of the evil market that deserves our compassion and our resources.

            People who are told no in the market of love are mocked and ridiculed. They receive nothing but contempt and derision. How is that consistent?

            I wonder if a low-end partner-up service, specializing in sprucing up and matching up the bottom 10% or so of the dating market, would be viable, either as a business, charity, or funded public service.

            POF already exists, yo. Sure, there are some relatively high-status males with low standards who use it as an easy way to troll for sex, but it’s mostly the literal bottom of the barrel. It’s where *I* started!

          • mdet says:

            It was pointed out to me last time we had this conversation that, at age 25, there are 118 unmarried men for every 100 unmarried women in the US. That means the bottom 15% of men in desirability will be unable to find a (monogamous) partner no matter what. (The fact that men generally marry women slightly younger than themselves probably makes these numbers imperfect.) Whether any given guy is in that bottom 15% is probably mostly their own choices, but the existence of a bottom 15% seems inevitable.

            If “the market says no” to someone in regards to employment, or health insurance, the state moves heaven and Earth to compensate that person. They are seen as a victim of the evil market that deserves our compassion and our resources.

            People who are told no in the market of love are mocked and ridiculed. They receive nothing but contempt and derision. How is that consistent?

            Food, housing, and healthcare are fungible. If you can’t afford those things, I can easily give you cash until you can afford them, or even just give them to you directly. But companionship is hard. It’s not fungible from person to person, and it can’t be bought directly — there are very rich people who are very lonely, and very poor people who still have plenty friends. It really is something you have to earn for yourself. You’re right that it shouldn’t warrant automatic contempt though.

    • Enkidum says:

      Because one of them requires forcing someone with no responsibility for the problem into sex slavery and the other does not?

      Why isn’t preemptively forcing the murderer to live in jail a preferable solution from a utilitarian perspective?

      • Baeraad says:

        Or a middle ground – assign someone to follow the dude around, commiserate with his woes and remind him of his humanity, while firmly vetoing any ideas he voiced that started with “I’ll get a shotgun and…” And possibly call the police if he seemed like he was about to snap in spite of it.

        I mean, it’d take an awful lot of volunteers to cover every potentially maladjusted man in existence, but the sex slavery idea has the same problem and also has the problem of involving sex slavery, so, all other things being equal…

        • Matt M says:

          Indeed. There was a time in my life when I entertained some Eliot Rodger-esque ideas. Fortunately, I had a good female friend whom I respected who was there to tell me “Shut up, you aren’t entitled to anything, make yourself better or stop complaining.”

          A lot of these people are completely and totally isolated. Even ONE good friend telling them no might have saved them.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            The people in the inverted life situation of being pretty and popular often sure act and talk like they are “entitled”.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Mark Atwood,

            Personally, I had a near impossible time getting laid until I attained enough success in life that I actually felt like I deserved it. It is hard for a woman to respect you if you don’t respect yourself. Deserve is maybe not the same thing as entitled, but I don’t think the feminists from ‘Untitled’ make that distinction.

            My guess is that being low status or socially awkward produces an instinctive, visceral disgust from most women (being “creeped out”). The feeling gets explained with complicated blog posts about why nice guys really are awful people.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The feeling gets explained with complicated blog posts about why nice guys really are awful people.

            It’s not nice guys. It’s “nice guys”. “Nice guy” is a reference to a description that said person applies mostly to themself, when that person isn’t really all that nice.

            When it’s not a self appellation, it’s applied in a conversation where someone is being forced to explain why they aren’t attracted to you. “Look, you are a nice guy but I don’t want to date you.” This later usually only happens when the person in question does not have the emotional intelligence required to understand that when someone does not feel romantically or sexually attracted to you, forming a bond is about as likely as trying to bond with a noble gas. It’s called chemistry for a reason.

            Even then, you aren’t a “nice guy”. A “nice guy” is someone who then doesn’t take that “No” as a legitimate answer.

            The fact that people keep mangling the distinction is unfortunate, if predictable.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @HeelBearCub

            When you make the distinction as nice guys vs. “nice guys”, yes, it makes more sense. It suggests the latter are guys for whom nice is an act; this is generally accepted as the opposite of nice.

            Unfortunately, I suspect there also exist guys who are genuinely nice, don’t get the girl, and should have, by the standards of anyone who was in the vicinity and watched the whole story unfold. But that will practically never happen, since any guy who’s genuinely nice is also not going to draw attention to their not getting the girl.

            Do you think this happens often enough to be a problem? I think it might. If it does, then it’s not only unfair to said genuinely nice guys; it’s also probably motivating more guys on the fence to decide that the effort required to be nice isn’t worthwhile. And I think – well, I don’t think guys deserve female attention whether or not they try to be nice or are just naturally nice or whatever; “deserve” is far from the right word for it – but wouldn’t it be right to encourage women to look for nice guys more often, and to give each one they find a closer look?

            I think that latter sentiment is what’s giving that side of the issue its moral traction.

            ETA: Maybe one possible approach is to publicize more genuinely good guys. The trick would be in doing so without having to have them step forward, since stepping forward isn’t really “nice” (see above). Someone else would have to call them out.

          • Deiseach says:

            The feeling gets explained with complicated blog posts about why nice guys really are awful people.

            No, Nice Guys are the ones who go on about “I’m a Nice Guy, why won’t anyone date me?” Sometimes they are genuinely nice guys who can’t figure out what is holding them back and would benefit from some tactful advice, but often they’re someone who, after ten minutes interacting with them, you can totally understand why nobody wants to be near them.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Brinkley:

            don’t get the girl, and should have

            I think the line of thinking that led to you making this statement is the basic issue. I’m not blaming/criticizing you in particular here. I think this is societal level stuff (along with some stuff that probably falls into evo-psych).

            Take a second, sit with it, unpack it. Do you see what assumptions are built into this short sentence fragment?

            The girl is passive, something which you can “get”, essentially an object. That there is a contest which can be won which rewards the guy with the girl. That somehow this contest was unfair to the guy who “lost”.

            And John Hughes, among others, made a mint turning this into wonderful movies that captures a certain kind of fantastical feeling about being an adolescent. This sentiment is in the water. But it’s a huge dose of fantasy and the rest is a highly distorted picture of reality.

            The common reddit advice is “Step 1, be attractive. Step 2, don’t be unattractive.”

            That’s fine as far as it goes, but I’d say the real advice is “Step 1, make yourself likeable to yourself. Step 2, find people you like. Step 3, among those look for someone who likes you. Step 4, if they aren’t available go back to step 2 (or maybe even step 1).”

          • AliceToBob says:

            don’t get the girl, and should have

            Take a second, sit with it, unpack it. Do you see what assumptions are built into this short sentence fragment?

            The girl is passive, something which you can “get”, essentially an object. That there is a contest which can be won which rewards the guy with the girl. That somehow this contest was unfair to the guy who “lost”.

            That’s strange, when I read “don’t get the girl”, I always understand this to mean the girl rejected the advances of the guy. In other words, far from being passive or an object, the girl is making an active choice to refuse what is on offer.

            I agree that the phrasing is best avoided since it provides certain people an opportunity to espouse the standard feminist straw man that males view females as prizes to be won etc.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AliceToBob:
            I don’t disagree that the phrase has lots of ways that it can be employed, but if you employ it along with the second highlighted part, I think the connotations lean heavily in the direction I am suggesting.

            Furthermore, the general pool of people that comprise the subject of this discussion are those who aren’t as emotionally intelligent. If you don’t like that phrase, perhaps you like “socially awkward” better. When I was younger, either one described me.

            When you have trouble reading social queues, and are mired in social misery, convenient narratives are seductive. The world is telling you over and over that “getting” the girl is a matter of completing the hero’s quest.

          • LesHapablap says:

            @Paul Brinkley:

            but wouldn’t it be right to encourage women to look for nice guys more often, and to give each one they find a closer look?

            Absolutely not. This would be trying to change human nature and it won’t ever work. It is akin to pressuring men in general to stop paying attention to women’s looks.

            The solution is to teach boys how to be attractive people. I assume most people get that from their parents, my dad did not do much of a job with that. Or maybe other kids were just socially smarter than I was.

            @HeelBearCub

            When you’re young, “getting a girl” isn’t really a contest but it is certainly a challenge. It takes real courage to go up to a girl and ask her out, and whether she says yes or no is hardly random. She is making a judgement about you, so if she says yes then that is genuine positive evidence about your character.

            That experience as an adolescent is not a “highly distorted picture of reality.” It is about as real as it gets.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            I think the line of thinking that led to you making this statement [“don’t get the girl, and should have”] is the basic issue. I’m not blaming/criticizing you in particular here. I think this is societal level stuff (along with some stuff that probably falls into evo-psych).

            Take a second, sit with it, unpack it. Do you see what assumptions are built into this short sentence fragment?

            Well, one of the assumptions built into it was one that you just happened to trim away from what I originally said:

            “don’t get the girl, and should have, by the standards of anyone who was in the vicinity and watched the whole story unfold”

            Which, by extension, includes the girl herself. In other words, the girl, for whatever perfectly legitimate reason she might have had, overlooked the effort of the guy to be genuinely nice. (Very plausible reason: the guy flubbed it in some way because he’s socially awkward.) If she’d looked again – ideally with a moment of looking at this from the guy’s POV – she might have noticed, and decided that this was actually the kind of guy she was looking for. (And maybe not, even after that. That’s fine. I’m referring to marginal cases here, if that helps.)

            Another plausible reason: the girl is conditioned to interpret language such as “get the girl” in an uncharitable way, instead of the more normal way of the guy being obligated to make himself desirable in order to have a chance at her affections.

            This was a critical part of my account, and I really wish you had factored it in. Leave it in; now how does it look to you? Your account of John HughesLand was the near-exact opposite of what I had in mind. I meant something much closer to what AliceToBob described.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @LesHapablap

            Absolutely not. [Encouraging women to look for nice guys more often, and to give each one they find a closer look] would be trying to change human nature and it won’t ever work. It is akin to pressuring men in general to stop paying attention to women’s looks.

            ….huh?? How is this any harder for women to master, than it is for men to master becoming more attractive? One of the precise ways men get taught to become more attractive, is to be nice guys. Furthermore, this was at the behest of the women who had advice to give.

            You seem to be claiming that
            men should change their nature in a way that women should never be expected to do,
            after the men had just done that,
            specifically as women had advised,
            and then reported that women didn’t seem to want that after all.

            If I were in their position, I would’ve felt like I’d been trolled.

            Are you… using a different definition of attractive or something?

          • ana53294 says:

            I think that one of the confusions about nice guys (and I am not talking about “nice” guys, but genuinely nice guys) is that by being nice, they can jump above their level. That’s not how the world works.

            Generally, a handsome jerk will date a beautiful b*tch, and a high income guy will date a high income woman. A nice guy gets a nice girl; she won’t be pretty, but she will be polite, respectful and nice. People who value niceness cultivate that value in themselves and look for it in their partners, and people who value attractiveness improve themselves (go to the gym, undergo surgery, use makeup), and look for it in their partners.

            If a guy happens to be nice, attractive and rich, then he can look for a woman who is nice, attractive and rich.

            Of course, sometimes having a lot of one oneself and valueing something else more, means you can kind of exchange those things (money and attractiveness is the usual pairing, but any other pair can work, as long as both of the partners are getting what they are looking for).

            So nice guys (guys who are polite, who are never rude or abusive even to those who are weak; that means, for example, giving tips in the US) should look for a nice girl who values niceness enough to cultivate this value in herself, not a pretty girl.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Well, one of the assumptions built into it was one that you just happened to trim away from what I originally said:

            “don’t get the girl, and should have, by the standards of anyone who was in the vicinity and watched the whole story unfold”

            I’ll say, I read this and interpreted it the same way as HBC–in particular, “in the vicinity and watched the whole story unfold” sounds like you’re referring to a bystander, not a participant; I don’t usually regard myself as “in the vicinity” of events to which I am a participant, nor would I describe myself as “having watched unfold” an event in which I took part–I would use that language for myself as a spectator.

            Anyway, though, I’m not really sure how it’s possible for the girl to have refused the guy’s advance, but think that she should have accepted “by her own standards”. You say she might have “overlooked the effort of the guy to be genuinely nice”–but this just supposes that her only standard is that she requires a guy to try and be nice; more realistically, her standards will involve “being genuinely convinced that a guy is nice”–compare with: does a guy who wants to date pretty girls violate his standards when he “overlooks the effort of a girl to be pretty”? No: he wants girls who are pretty, not “making an effort to genuinely be pretty”.

            The point I take HBC to be making is that it’s obvious to most people that the gender-reversed situation genuinely sounds unconvincing: everyone can see the flaw in reasoning in a story about who a girl puts on make-up and a flattering dress, but “doesn’t get the guy”, even though guys profess to like pretty girls–and that this is an injustice, since pretty girls should “get the guy”.

            We all understand that even if you like pretty girls, who you judge as pretty can be idiosyncratic; you are under no obligation to defer to a girl’s own self-assessment as pretty; and you can still reject a girl who is genuinely pretty because you’re under no obligation to date someone just because they happen to match one of your criteria. But people seem to have difficulty understanding the converse, with guys and girls switched and “niceness” replacing “prettiness”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Eugene Dawn makes some excellent points, and I’d say I broadly agree with them.

            I think that the conversation here is too mechanical or transactional, which is a mistake. For instance:

            In other words, the girl, for whatever perfectly legitimate reason she might have had, overlooked the effort of the guy to be genuinely nice.

            It’s like you are describing a manager evaluating the performance of a new hire. “She overlooked, for legitimate reasons, his efforts to actually clean the floor”.

            Look, relationships, generally speaking, rest on communication. Communication is a two way street, and certainly getting better at correctly perceiving others communications is as important as being able to effectively communicate to others. To that extent, accurately perceiving the attempted communication is a skill that we generally want to build in young people, especially romantic communication.

            However, girls (broadly) already receive tons of that kind of skill building. I’m not seeing why there is some specific need for even more gendered training in “listening”.

            To pull this to the slightly more quotidian, it’s not infrequent that a girl will date an asshole. The idea that outcomes for her could have been improved by her not dating that person hold merit. The idea that outcomes would necessarily be improved by her dating someone else who she found unattractive (overall) but who was also (actually, secretly) nice doesn’t hold up.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’m not really sure how it’s possible for the girl to have refused the guy’s advance, but think that she should have accepted “by her own standards”. You say she might have “overlooked the effort of the guy to be genuinely nice”-but this just supposes that her only standard is that she requires a guy to try and be nice; more realistically, her standards will involve “being genuinely convinced that a guy is nice” […]

            What if you imagined the girl making an honest mistake and simply not catching what the guy was doing at first? Women are human, and they’re not always on the lookout for desirable mates, just as men aren’t always. Imagine two ships passing in the night, one sends a signal, and the other just doesn’t have its antenna up right then. Or it’s up, but the signal is garbled.

            Men and women don’t always speak the same language. Men and women who are socially awkward, especially so.

            The point I take HBC to be making is that it’s obvious to most people that the gender-reversed situation genuinely sounds unconvincing: everyone can see the flaw in reasoning in a story about who a girl puts on make-up and a flattering dress, but “doesn’t get the guy”, even though guys profess to like pretty girls-and that this is an injustice, since pretty girls should “get the guy”.

            Humor me. What is the flaw in reasoning here? Are you telling me you’ve never seen or heard stories about a woman trying to get a man’s attention and failing?

            We all understand […] you are under no obligation to defer to a girl’s own self-assessment as pretty […] But people seem to have difficulty understanding the converse, with guys and girls switched and “niceness” replacing “prettiness”.

            Ah. This sounds like a separate problem. I’m sure there exist incels who don’t get that they can put their offer out and still have it turned down. But I’m also sure there exist guys who aren’t having a problem with this. Rather, they’re looking at the girls on the margin who say “nice” makes the difference, and it turns out it doesn’t. I don’t mean to conflate those with girls in general. And this is separate from the set of women who overlook genuinely nice guys by honest mistake.

            And as far as the latter problem goes, I also hope we’re not conflating the former incels with the latter who look like them (“incels on the margin”, for lack of a better term). Until you mentioned this, I never really thought about this distinction.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Paul Brinkley,

            ….huh?? How is this any harder for women to master, than it is for men to master becoming more attractive? One of the precise ways men get taught to become more attractive, is to be nice guys. Furthermore, this was at the behest of the women who had advice to give.

            You seem to be claiming that
            men should change their nature in a way that women should never be expected to do,
            after the men had just done that,
            specifically as women had advised,
            and then reported that women didn’t seem to want that after all.

            If I were in their position, I would’ve felt like I’d been trolled.

            Are you… using a different definition of attractive or something?

            I’m not just saying it is harder [for women to change who they like than a man to change his nature], I’m saying its impossible for women to master because you are asking them to be attracted to something they aren’t attracted to. For one thing, at some point sexual intercourse needs to occur and that will not work well if the woman is not aroused.

            It’s like telling men that they should be fine dating ugly women because it is immoral that they discriminate based on looks. You are asking human nature to change in a fundamental way.

            To your second point, that women are never expected to change their nature, that is false. Women spend unbelievable amounts of work making themselves look better in order to be more attractive to men. All that time at the gym in order to get a nice butt. Hours and hours every week putting on makeup. Dieting. I’m told they obsess over how to act as well.

            To your third point, that women/society have asked men to be nice and that this is unfair trolling, you are absolutely correct. It is easier for women to know what to work toward to be attractive, in my opinion, whereas men get lots of conflicting advice. This problem seems to be getting worse these days, with children raised in an absurdly coddled and risk-averse way, and I suspect the lower pregnancy rate among teenagers is a result of that immaturity.

            The worst advice for both boys and girls is that your personality or soul is what’s attractive, and superficial things (like looks, money, clothes) shouldn’t or don’t matter. Most people have to put in the work to be attractive! For men mostly that means working hard at difficult things and then accomplishing them to gain status. Sports are good for this but there are many, many other ways.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Look, relationships, generally speaking, rest on communication. Communication is a two way street, and certainly getting better at correctly perceiving others communications is as important as being able to effectively communicate to others.

            Totally agreed there (as my most recent comment hopefully implied).

            However, girls (broadly) already receive tons of that kind of skill building. I’m not seeing why there is some specific need for even more gendered training in “listening”.

            Are you saying boys don’t get tons of training? Maybe not exactly the same, but plenty of their own. Maybe they don’t AFAIK.

            However, guys who complain that they try to be nice and still aren’t getting positive feedback seem to be exactly the ones who are trying extra hard to up their perception game. If that’s true, it’d be a shame to tell them tough luck, and mock them on their way out (as I’ve seen a few people do – thankfully, no one here).

            I don’t think they’re all just trying to abuse the rules set before them, if that makes sense. Or maybe the most vocal ones are, and they’re ruining it for the quieter ones.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            What if you imagined the girl making an honest mistake and simply not catching what the guy was doing at first? Women are human, and they’re not always on the lookout for desirable mates, just as men aren’t always. Imagine two ships passing in the night, one sends a signal, and the other just doesn’t have its antenna up right then. Or it’s up, but the signal is garbled.

            I don’t quite understand this: if it’s not that the guy was rejected, but rather that the girl didn’t catch on that he was making a pass, I’m not sure what this has to do with her “standards”?

            I don’t know that it changes my point, though: imagine a girl who knows a guy is interested in “pretty girls”. She puts on her make-up and her low-cut dress, and goes to flirt with him, but he is oblivious–bystanders notice that she seems pretty, but if he doesn’t bite I don’t think I would characterize this as “he should have, by his own standards”.
            More generally, failing to jump at any opportunity that can be plausibly interpreted as meeting your standards is almost never regarded as a failure to live up to those standards: I might walk past dozens of restaurants I might plausibly enjoy while hungry, and no passers-by or onlookers will think that I “should have” stopped at any one of them, “by my standards”.

            Humor me. What is the flaw in reasoning here? Are you telling me you’ve never seen or heard stories about a woman trying to get a man’s attention and failing?

            The flaw in reasoning is, as I note in the restaurant analogy above, that we do not generally regard it as a failure to live up to one’s standards if one ever passes up an opportunity that can be at all characterized as meeting those standards.
            Obviously many people try and fail to get the attention of members of their preferred sex; the question is, do we characterize such situations by saying that those who fail “should have [succeeded], by the standards of anyone who was in the vicinity and watched the whole story unfold”?
            Specifically, the objection here is to the “should have”–what about an interaction between two prospective romantic partners makes it so that the one “should” accept a romantic relationship? From where does the obligation implied by “should” arise? Your phrasing suggests it arises whenever one person meets the standards of the other, as judged by “anyone who was in the vicinity and watched the whole story unfold”.
            I contend that this is an absurd standard, and we recognize this in almost any other context.

            Rather, they’re looking at the girls on the margin who say “nice” makes the difference, and it turns out it doesn’t. I don’t mean to conflate those with girls in general. And this is separate from the set of women who overlook genuinely nice guys by honest mistake.

            How do they know it doesn’t in general? First of all, does their definition of “nice” match the girl’s? Second, there is a genuine difference between “trying to be nice” and “being nice”–the same as there is a real distinction between “trying to be pretty” and “being pretty”, or “trying to be funny” or “being funny”. In the post I responded to, you specified that the guy made a “genuine effort to be nice”–a woman interested in niceness should not be any more impressed by a “genuine effort to be nice” than a guy interested in prettiness should be impressed by a “genuine effort to be pretty”–in both cases, they want the real article, not a genuine but failed attempt at it. In many cases, a “genuine effort” that comes off as very much effortful only draws attention to the distance from the real thing (funniness is a trait where I find this particularly pronounced).
            Finally, even if “nice” makes the difference, that’s no good if the other traits aren’t there. I might use price as a tiebreaker when deciding between two meals, but that doesn’t mean I’m not practicing what I preach if I consistently skip the cheapest restaurant in town.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Brinkley:

            However, guys who complain that they try to be nice and still aren’t getting positive feedback seem to be exactly the ones who are trying extra hard to up their perception game.

            This is an explicit example of the kind of conflation you are falling into, and it’s why your argument is relatively incoherent. If you really don’t see why this is a conflation, it perhaps explains your confusion.

            Effective communication (and perception of communication) is not the same thing as being nice.

            Small example, holding a door open for the person behind you is being nice.

            Holding the door open for the person behind you because they are a woman is nice layered with something else (could be a variety of things).

            Holding the door open for the woman behind you, because they are a woman, and making a show of it by tipping your hat, on a college campus, while knowing that person is a feminist – that fails both at being nice, effective communication, and effective perception.

            It doesn’t really matter that the person doing so has adopted a personal code of chivalry and is attempting their sincerest to be nice, not from the perspective of the woman in question. The man in question may have satisfied their own code of conduct, which is fine as far as that goes, but then they need to be hanging out with, say, SCA members who appreciate it for what it is.

            And yes, I understand that this example raises hackles, but it’s useful precisely because it is one we are likely to understand.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I don’t know that it changes my point, though: imagine a girl who knows a guy is interested in “pretty girls”. She puts on her make-up and her low-cut dress, and goes to flirt with him, but he is oblivious-bystanders notice that she seems pretty, but if he doesn’t bite I don’t think I would characterize this as “he should have, by his own standards”.

            Alice: “Hi, Bob.”
            Bob (not looking up): “Hey.”
            Alice: “How’re you doing?”
            Bob (glances sideways at Alice, but back down again, preoccupied): “Fine.”
            Alice: “Doing anything this Friday?”
            Bob: “…huh? No. …umm, excuse me…” (leaves)
            (Bob wanders aimlessly for a few seconds, then notices his pal Charlie.)
            Bob: “‘Sup, Charlie?”
            Charlie: “Hey buddy. …What’s wrong?”
            Bob: “Oh, y’know. Just…”
            Charlie: (waits)
            Bob: “…bored, I guess.”
            Charlie: “Yeah? How’s your Friday lookin’?”
            Bob: “…sorta dead, man.”
            Charlie: “That so? I might have something lined up…”
            Bob: “Cool.”
            Charlie: “Then again, why don’t you see if Alice wants to do something? I overheard you two talking…”
            Bob: “Huh?”
            Charlie: (physically turns Bob’s head so he can’t help but focus on Alice)
            Bob: “Oh! …Oh wow.”
            Charlie: “She looks great today, eh?”
            Bob: “…yeah. I guess I never noticed.”
            Charlie: “That’s because she hasn’t tried as hard until now.”
            Bob: “Oh. ….Ohhh…”
            Charlie: “Uh-huh. Go over there and say hello again. And buddy?”
            Bob: “Yeah?”
            Charlie: “Make sure you apologize first.”

            The above made-up dialogue is such textbook romcom fodder that I have to believe you’ve seen it before, and classify it as something else. To wit:

            The flaw in reasoning is, as I note in the restaurant analogy above, that we do not generally regard it as a failure to live up to one’s standards if one ever passes up an opportunity that can be at all characterized as meeting those standards.

            Okay then: what do you call it?

            On to the second problem:

            Paul (me): Rather, [guys trying genuinely to be nice are] looking at the girls on the margin who say “nice” makes the difference, and it turns out it doesn’t.

            Eugene: How do they know it doesn’t in general?

            Technically, they don’t, since they haven’t tried this on some large sample of women like it’s a Gallup poll. But they’re not stupid; they can see that whatever they’re doing isn’t working, and looks unlikely to ever work, and maybe even starts looking like it backfires – like they’re trying to learn to play a musical instrument, and the method they try not only makes a terrible noise, but makes them worry that they’re learning a bad habit they’ll have to unlearn just to get back to square one.

            First of all, does their definition of “nice” match the girl’s?

            Maybe; maybe not. Maybe they found advice from women who literally did their best to address this, and they did their honest best to follow said advice. Maybe the advice was vague, or they’re just flubbing it because they need practice, and some reassurance that that’s all they need, and that they’re not falling into a rut.

            Second, there is a genuine difference between “trying to be nice” and “being nice” […] in both cases, they want the real article, not a genuine but failed attempt at it.

            …hoo boy. Then why do I hear people advise guys to try, when it will never work? Why waste everyone’s time? Why not just tell them they’ll never succeed, because they’re just not nice, trying will never get them there because it’s just trying, sorry for that confusion, hope you can get used to being single?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Holding the door open for the woman behind you, because they are a woman, and making a show of it by tipping your hat, on a college campus, while knowing that person is a feminist – that fails both at being nice, effective communication, and effective perception.

            Presented as above, this is clearly not something a guy trying genuinely be nice would do. Why would you offer it?

          • albatross11 says:

            ISTM that this mostly comes down to the fact that people often can’t or won’t verbalize exactly what they find attractive. And that neither romantic nor sexual attraction runs on some set of rules. (“Ah, she’s got long dark hair, a pretty face, and a nice figure, therefore I shall find her attractive.”)

            Further, when asked what they find attractive, most people are probably affected a lot by either social expectations or self-deception. And essentially all media platforms talking about “what women want” are selling either ideological snake oil or commercial snake oil or some other kind of fantasy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Presented as above, this is clearly not something a guy trying genuinely be nice would do.

            Ummm, hello? Who do you think we are talking about here? These guys exist. They really think this is what being nice is, and they also think this is what would make them attractive. Partly because they are swallowing hory cliched narratives about relationships.

            Remember you have already assumed that this is someone who can’t actually identify how to be nice.

            In your example above (the girl trying to look pretty) you actually managed to shift the goal posts so far we appear to be in a different time zone. First off, we are back into you thinking that a rom com somehow resembles real life, but past that you made the girl successful at transforming herself. That wasn’t the example we started with.

          • Matt M says:

            I think you’re both way off here. The fedora-tipping door-holder is as much of an unrealistic stereotype as the nerdy girl who combs her hair and takes off her glasses and goes from a 2 to a 10 instantly.

            In real life, the way that a guy intentionally endeavoring to be “nice” usually manifests itself is through inaction. What the media tells men is that being nice to women means not approaching them with romantic intent. And this is why it’s the “nice guy” who inevitably gets friend-zoned. Because he receives some forms of advice that, on their own, are not necessarily bad: Talk to the girl, get to know her, pursue common interests, behave in a polite manner, etc. But he inevitably waits too long to make a move, because making a move isn’t nice behavior.

            What the PUA types teach (and what is universally considered to not be nice behavior) is to increase your level of aggressive interest by like 10000%. Approach. Make romantic intent clear immediately.

            Fedora-tipping is some weird middle ground that is designed, almost intentionally, to fail. It’s making romantic intent obvious without being honest about it, which nobody responds to well at all (similar to the “dating loophole” episode of Seinfeld).

            But I think in the case of most “nice guys” the only thing missing is an honest and confident and quick expression of romantic intent. Which is admittedly a terrifying thing to do if you’re shy or awkward or low status or whatever.

            The nice guy lament is something like “I did everything right! I took my time! I got to know her! We became friends first! I bought her a really thoughtful gift! I walked her to the bus and held her bag! And then, some random jerk just comes up to her at a bar and asks her out and she says yes! Why him and not me?

            And the most obvious explanation is: Because he asked and you didn’t.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:

            The truth is that the guy who did all of those things almost assuredly had no shot anyway. If you did all that and nothing happened, she wasn’t interested and she wasn’t going to be interested. Plus, that girl knew the guy was interested. Sure, there are some weird edge cases, but most of the time it wasn’t going happen anyway. Maybe asking early on would have gotten you an awkward date, but that’s it.

            As to whether the guy who feels uncomfortable in his own skin and has absorbed some fantastic chivalry as an attractive ethos exists, kids like that certainly existed at some point. I knew some of them. In some ways I was one. Awkward and unsure of myself, having no clue how to fit in, hanging out with the other kids who didn’t know how to fit in. Knowing I was socially unattractive or at least not attractive enough, but not knowing why. Wondering why “nice” didn’t seem to be helpful like I thought it was supposed to be.

            What all of that really was was simply being poorly socially skilled. Slowly I matured out of that.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Matt M is right

            Inaction is a kind of self-sabotage, a half-committed attempt, reeking of fear of failure

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Okay then: what do you call it?

            I don’t have a name for it, because it’s such a banal part of life it seems completely unremarkable. Let’s circle back: this all started because you characterized a possible interaction as follows:

            guy is nice to girl, guy fails to get girl, even though he should have.

            What HBC and I are saying is that this “should have” doesn’t make sense to us: by what standard “should” he have gotten the girl?

            You say, by her standards: she wants a nice guy, he was a nice guy, therefore, she should have accepted his romantic gesture.

            We are saying, no, this is not a standard people are held to in other realms of human affairs. I want Chinese food. I walk by a Chinese restaurant, but don’t go in. Who would say “the restaurant should have received my business by my standards”? I think no one. Even if I want Chinese food, we recognize no obligation on me to patronize any particular Chinese restaurant.

            We’re not saying it’s impossible for a girl to misjudge a guy, or misread his intentions, or to turn down a relationship that would have been good for her; we’re saying that the mere fact of turning down a guy who is nice, when she wants a nice guy, doesn’t mean that any of those things happened.

            But they’re not stupid; they can see that whatever they’re doing isn’t working, and looks unlikely to ever work, and maybe even starts looking like it backfires

            As my previous comment suggests, perhaps what they’re doing doesn’t match the girl’s definition of nice, or maybe they are not as good at acting nice as they think they are–it’s not enough to see that what you’re trying isn’t working to conclude that girls don’t want nice guys, you need to be sure that what you’re trying is actually “being nice” by a girl’s standards.

            Maybe they found advice from women who literally did their best to address this, and they did their honest best to follow said advice. Maybe the advice was vague, or they’re just flubbing it because they need practice, and some reassurance that that’s all they need, and that they’re not falling into a rut.

            Then why do I hear people advise guys to try, when it will never work? Why waste everyone’s time? Why not just tell them they’ll never succeed, because they’re just not nice, trying will never get them there because it’s just trying, sorry for that confusion, hope you can get used to being single?

            These two are related. The point isn’t that you shouldn’t try, or that a guy isn’t doing his best. The point is that “I tried my best to be nice and didn’t work” isn’t evidence that girls don’t like nice guys, since it’s entirely possible that “my best” wasn’t up to a girl’s standard.
            This is obvious if we gender-reverse and use prettiness again: “I tried my best to be pretty, but he wasn’t impressed–guys must not really like pretty girls” has an obvious flaw in reasoning.

            More generally, I think the plight of of socially awkward people who genuinely have trouble effortlessly passing off the cues that others pick up as “niceness” is sympathetic: to some extent I am such a person, and was much moreso in the not-so-distant past. These things do take practice, and can be improved, by at least some people some of the time.

            I’m just saying, in most other realms of human affairs we recognize the distinction between “I’m trying” and “I’m succeeding”. A guy who has difficulty in social situations, but is trying his best certainly doesn’t deserve contempt or anything like that–but equally, he isn’t entitled to have women overlook the gap between his attainment and their preferred level of social grace and start dating him just because he’s made a genuine effort.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that we need to distinguish between individual- and group-level success.

            If a woman is told/taught that men appreciate make-up a lot, she uses make up somewhat competently and yet isn’t liked more by Bob, then she can’t complain. However, if it’s not just Bob, but Jack, Steve, Mark, Matt and Scott are also indifferent, then IMO she can legitimately feel upset about getting bad advice.

            Another issue is cost.

            If Jane is told that men really like Gender studies majors, she spends a lot of time and money getting the degree and she finds it unhelpful to attract men, then she is more justified to feel upset than if she gets the wrong advice to wear a clown’s nose. The latter can be tested at low cost, the former is high cost.

            Another form of cost is opportunity cost.

            There’s also the issue of people presenting multivariate optimization scenario’s as univariate, as well people presenting preferences that are a normal distribution as a linear model.

            If people make Bob believe that women always like nicer men over less nice men, while the reality is that they like a certain level (and kind) of niceness, disliking men that have low niceness, but also men with high niceness, then Bob can fail by being too nice. If he responds to that failure by trying to become even nicer, he fails even more.

            If people tell Bob to optimize income and niceness, but fail to tell him that looks matter a lot as well, he can be turned down for dressing poorly, yet not being aware of this. He is made to believe that only some variables matter (greatly), but the actual truth is different, making him forgo relatively easy changes.

            When these two issues both occur, they make the situation even worse, because Bob will never notice if he hits the niceness sweet spot or that behaving more nicely makes him do worse. After all, because he fails at the looks department, he gets little good feedback. Then if he has gotten into the habit of behaving really nicely and is then given advice to dress better and does so, he’ll fail because now he behaves too nicely/submissively.

            Then when Bob complains about being given an impossible puzzle or draws wrong conclusions because he never got the kind of advice or feedback that let him figure out what women actually want, he is called a misogynist…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Eugene Dawn:
            I think you are falling into the mistaken argument of conflating niceness and attractiveness (at least in your argument). Being nice can be part of an attractiveness package, but it’s definitely not the same thing. And of course, like atoms or molecules, not everyone is looking for the same thing in a romantic partner.

            @Aapje:
            Bob tries to open a restaurant, and it flops with little to no business. It has tablecloths with candles. The serving staff have been trained to helpful and solicitous. The menu over the counter is bright and cheery and has lots of options with calorie counts.

            If Bob concludes bitterly and angrily that he failed because he has been given an impossible puzzle to solve and customers are giving him the wrong advice, they should be coming into his restaurant as he has lots of things people like, we might conclude that he is a something of a misanthrope.

          • Matt M says:

            The truth is that the guy who did all of those things almost assuredly had no shot anyway. If you did all that and nothing happened, she wasn’t interested and she wasn’t going to be interested. Plus, that girl knew the guy was interested. Sure, there are some weird edge cases, but most of the time it wasn’t going happen anyway. Maybe asking early on would have gotten you an awkward date, but that’s it.

            I strongly disagree. I think there’s a strong societal norm that men have to be the initiators in romantic engagements. While it’s true that in that scenario, the guy did many things to potentially hint at interest, I don’t think it’s fair to say “She knew he was interested” because he failed to do the single most important thing that one can do to show interest – actually ask her out.

            Most reasonably attracted women get hit on all the time. Someone who is around her constantly but never hits on her isn’t signaling interest, they’re signaling a lack of it.

            I keep hearing that these societal norms are starting to change, but I certainly haven’t seen it. I’ve never in my life been approached or asked out first by a woman. Never been kissed first, or taken to the bedroom first. I’ve had to initiate these things literally 100% of the time. And it wasn’t until I accepted that fact that I began to turn things around and actually make progress in this front.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @HBC

            I think you are falling into the mistaken argument of conflating niceness and attractiveness (at least in your argument).

            I don’t think that’s what I’m doing, but I’m not sure what part of my comment you’re referring to. I brought up prettiness as a completely separate phenomenon from niceness, but one where I hoped the distinction between “judging yourself to have put in the effort to be [quality]” is distinct in an important way from “having [quality]” would be more obvious. If you’re referring to something else though, you can clarify.

            @Aapje
            I mostly agree with everything you say, and just want to state clearly that I have no very strong opinion on what things are actually like on the dating scene, or how likely various scenarios are. I am primarily responding to the discussion between HBC and Paul Brinkley over the “should have gotten the girl” language in an earlier comment–it strikes me as entirely plausible that guys don’t get great dating advice and insofar as this is true, they have a right to be resentful of that fact.

            However, to go back to the original original topic, sometimes that resentment, combined with a stronger sense of the entitlement I think underlies the “should have gotten the girl” sentiment can curdle into a real and ugly misogyny; obviously not every guy who thinks he’s gotten a raw deal on the dating market exhibits this, but I think the “should have gotten the girl”-type sentiment can metastasize into something worse.

            @MattM

            I keep hearing that these societal norms are starting to change, but I certainly haven’t seen it. I’ve never in my life been approached or asked out first by a woman. Never been kissed first, or taken to the bedroom first. I’ve had to initiate these things literally 100% of the time. And it wasn’t until I accepted that fact that I began to turn things around and actually make progress in this front.

            If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you? I know I am a bit of an outlier here, but literally every romantic or sexual experience of mine has been initiated by the woman, except one date that we were mutually set up on by a friend (I am not including sexual encounters once in a relationship).

            It’s true that I’ve almost certainly missed out on opportunities due to being hesitant, and I don’t think a full strategy of hesitancy is one I’d actually recommend to others, but in my experience it doesn’t spell a life of celibacy either. And, to be clear, I am not particularly good looking, or wealthy, or charming, or anything like that. I’m not hideous, and my social skills are a lot better than they used to be, but at least some of my success in attracting female attention is from a younger age when I was much, much more awkward than I am now.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m 32, and didn’t come upon the “If I want anything here, I have to initiate myself” stratagem until like, 27 or so.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Eugene Dawn:

            You say, by her standards: she wants a nice guy, he was a nice guy, therefore, she should have accepted his romantic gesture.

            The implicit argument being accepted here is that “nice” is enough to make you attractive. I agree with the idea that whatever a person’s preferences, they aren’t obliged to accept any advances from anyone who nominally meets them. But merely being nice is hardly ever enough to make you attractive on its own anyway.

            I think perhaps part of the confusion is that there is a trope (now dead, I think), that I associate with 50s era media and media nostalgic for the 50s, wherein a girl will say something like “All I want is to meet a nice guy, is that too much to ask?”

            In that trope, “nice guy” didn’t mean literally merely nice, but a whole package of qualities, an archetype.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            me: [T]his is clearly not something a guy trying genuinely be nice would do.

            HBC: Ummm, hello? Who do you think we are talking about here?

            Hello! Me, in the very first comment I made in this subthread: I suspect there also exist guys who are genuinely nice […] which I (and Deiseach and others) subsequently clarified to include guys who try to be nice but don’t get the message across for understandable reasons, such as that they’re awkward, the girl was preoccupied, etc.

            In your example above (the girl trying to look pretty) you actually managed to shift the goal posts so far we appear to be in a different time zone. First off, we are back into you thinking that a rom com somehow resembles real life, but past that you made the girl successful at transforming herself.

            This is included under understandable reasons. Sometimes the girl tries to look attractive, and would have succeeded, but the guy was dense. How hard can it be to believe that a guy might try to be attractive, and would have succeeded, except that the girl was preoccupied? (Attractive ~= nice, in this context – I think both Eugene and I were conflating it and that was fine because I think we’re both really talking about anything that makes someone more desirable as a mate.)

            Furthermore, with remarks such as “shift the goal posts so far we appear to be in a different time zone”, I’m at the point here where I suspect you simply don’t want to understand the other sides here. But later you say:

            What all of that really was was simply being poorly socially skilled. Slowly I matured out of that.

            Which tells me that you do understand on some level. So one thing I was getting at in my very first comment:

            ETA: Maybe one possible approach is to publicize more genuinely good guys.

            …is that guys trying to be nice, and then getting frustrated and saying so, need more detailed accounts about how other guys “matured out of that”.

            And to repeat, along with that, would be a way of encouraging girls to be more receptive to guys who try to be nice but flub it, on the premise that these are guys are becoming the sort of guys these girls themselves say they want. This does not strike me as unreasonable, let alone some sort of mal-advice based on ignorant conflation.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @Eugene:

            We are saying, no, this is not a standard people are held to in other realms of human affairs. I want Chinese food. I walk by a Chinese restaurant, but don’t go in. Who would say “the restaurant should have received my business by my standards”? I think no one. Even if I want Chinese food, we recognize no obligation on me to patronize any particular Chinese restaurant.

            Yes, of course not. But I’m not just talking about a one-time walk past a Chinese restaurant. I’m talking about situations where, say, I walk past a Chinese restaurant every day, lamenting how there doesn’t seem to be good Chinese food around. And the owner just happens to overhear this, and puts out a bigger sign, and then some specials, and then pictures of his most attractive menu items, and then a little fan to waft smells from the kitchen, and after two months of him upping his game, I finally say I give up and go into the dive on the other side of the square with stale eggrolls because the owner there decided to call customers inside for a few minutes like a carnival barker.

            Do you, at any point here, think it might be understandable for my friend to slap me in the back of the head and and tell me to pay attention to the first restaurant? This doesn’t really have anything to do with my obligations under any code of ethics. It’s more me – which is to say, anyone – missing out due to sheer obliviousness. If the phrase “failing by their own standards” is all that’s putting you off here, then forget I said it. They’re still worse off, and the proximate cause is still their own inaction.

            Matt M, similarly, is speaking to the apparent injustice of a joint that might not even pass health code getting the business because its owner did something the first owner was told was boorish and unseemly. (And trust me, Matt, I don’t think every girl goes from 2 to 10 just from taking the glasses off; that dialogue was deliberately exaggerated for illustration…)

            The point isn’t that you shouldn’t try, or that a guy isn’t doing his best. The point is that “I tried my best to be nice and didn’t work” isn’t evidence that girls don’t like nice guys, since it’s entirely possible that “my best” wasn’t up to a girl’s standard. This is obvious if we gender-reverse and use prettiness again: “I tried my best to be pretty, but he wasn’t impressed-guys must not really like pretty girls” has an obvious flaw in reasoning.

            I agree with all of that. It’s even relevant sometimes; some guys do indeed infer that girls don’t really dig nice guys. But it also leaves out the point I was making there, which is that another question the guy is asking is whether he’s just intrinsically incapable of being the kind of nice that girls like. That’s also relevant, because if a guy tries and fails and asks how he failed and the response is “trying is not succeeding”, then that guy can be forgiven for inferring that he’ll never succeed, since anything he does differently is, by definition, trying.

            When you say, later: it strikes me as entirely plausible that guys don’t get great dating advice and insofar as this is true, they have a right to be resentful of that fact, you’ve got it. Nail on the head. This is what I think is driving these guys to frustration in this specific case.

            I also think there’s a sense of entitlement in some of them, and I agree that it’s ruinously undue. And I think that there are guys who are bright enough to avoid that sense of entitlement, and are getting treated as if they have it anyway, or are being simply ignored, and that’s especially sad, precisely because the whole system gives them no clear avenue to being seen, without also looking like the former group.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @HBC

            That was my interpretation of Paul Brinkley’s scenario, so while I agree that point of view is implicit, it’s not because I think that niceness is the whole of attractiveness, but because I was responding to his (presumably deliberately simplistic) scenario. But I agree that the example is absurdly simplistic and leaves out much realistic detail.

            @Paul Brinkley
            I think at this point we basically agree; the only thing I’ll say is that my original comment was trying to make the point that there genuinely are men with that sense of entitlement, and that the trope that a guy “should have gotten the girl” sounds like it buys into that entitlement, which is what HBC was originally reacting to.

            @Matt M
            Huh, we’re basically the same age, so it’s not a generational thing. Interesting.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Paul Brinkley,

            There’s a quality women look for that is much more important than niceness (by whatever definition), and that is having the balls to actually be direct and ask her out. Women don’t want to be with a guy that only sort of wants them, or is scared to talk to them in an honest way.

            Think about how tedious it would be for a woman to start a relationship with someone that is scared to ask for what they want!

          • Matt M says:

            To me, “should have gotten the girl” is not really a statement of entitlement so much as a commentary on typical dating advice.

            Typical dating advice goes “Do X, Y, and Z and you will get the girl.” If that advice is correct, then someone who does X, Y, and Z should, in fact, get the girl. If they don’t get the girl, their complaint is not with the girl necessarily, but with the advice givers.

            To the extent that HBC and those of his ilk are communicating a message of “There is no X, Y, Z. Attraction is complicated and depends on a high variety of variables that differ significantly from person to person such that predictions of success are nearly impossible,” I find that completely and totally reasonable and probably mostly accurate to boot.

            The problem is that young men are absolutely bombarded with messages from all corners of society on a nearly constant basis of “X, Y, and Z will work” rather than the more correct, “X, Y, and Z will slightly increase your odds but the math is still very much against you and you will probably fail 90+% of the time no matter what you do.”

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Lots of people fail at opening restaurants, but my impression is not that the cause is that a huge amount of disinformation is being disseminated about what to do. Also, not succeeding at opening a restaurant doesn’t have the stigma of not succeeding to find a girlfriend.

            @Eugene Dawn

            I agree that failure can lead to actual misogyny. Then again, many a woman also seems to draw misandrist conclusions from romantic interactions. Yet somehow the former seems to generally be seen as a major tragedy and the latter as justified…

            These kind of double standards piss me off.

            @HeelBearCub

            I think perhaps part of the confusion is that there is a trope (now dead, I think), that I associate with 50s era media and media nostalgic for the 50s, wherein a girl will say something like “All I want is to meet a nice guy, is that too much to ask?”

            I don’t think that this is just a trope. I do think that women have a tendency to, like men, play up their socially acceptable preferences, which can easily result in this.

            From the stories I’ve heard, it seems to me that a pretty central case of a ‘nice guy’ is a person who befriends a woman he likes, she then talks to him similarly to how she might talk to her girlfriends, praising his feminine qualities (perhaps including saying that she wishes that her boyfriend has more feminine qualities like him). Her intent is then to communicate at most that she wants her boyfriend to be a bit more feminine, but still very masculine, not to actually be feminine. Or perhaps it’s merely blowing off steam and she still prefers the more masculine behavior in the real world, where you can’t have two conflicting things. Or perhaps she likes a platonic feminine boy friend, but wants a masculine boyfriend.

            In any case, the guy then wrongly concludes that she wants a feminine partner and that he is very suitable (also because her feminine communication style makes her praise her friends and be subtle with any criticism).

            Gendered miscommunication really seems to play a major role here.

            @LesHapablap

            Women don’t want to be with a guy that only sort of wants them, or is scared to talk to them in an honest way.

            Think about how tedious it would be for a woman to start a relationship with someone that is scared to ask for what they want!

            Is this sarcasm?

            Because of course men often are in this exact situation, where they have to deal with women who send vague messages that they only sort of want them, are scared to talk to them honestly and such. How tedious :/

            @Matt M

            If they don’t get the girl, their complaint is not with the girl necessarily, but with the advice givers.

            The complaint can also be with the burdens that are placed on men.

            I think that fundamentally, it’s way easier for women to figure out successful strategies for attracting gender role conforming men AND implementing them, although they probably have less control (because natural looks and age play a bigger role*). A woman who is naturally shy has a way higher chance to be approached than a similarly shy man. In modern culture, it seems to me that a woman can be quite aggressive before it starts working against her. It also seems way easier for a non-demure person to behave more demurely than the other way around.

            * I do think that older women can legitimately complain about society lying to them how significant age is as a factor for women.

          • Baeraad says:

            A lot of these people are completely and totally isolated. Even ONE good friend telling them no might have saved them.

            I think having someone to tell you when you’re drifting further away from the human race is a very important thing, yes.

            It’s something I worry about with myself as I get more and more isolated with age. I don’t think I’d ever do anything violent or illegal, but I can easily see myself turning into some kind of deranged conspiracy theorist who thinks the lizard men are spying on me through my fillings…

        • Randy M says:

          Institutions and prisons are pretty much the scarcity version of such a scenario.
          Trouble is knowing who to put in them in advance of a killing.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Well yes, putting someone in prison in advance of a crime is a very bad solution to the very occasional violent incel. It only makes sense as a better solution than Garrett’s of sexual slavery. Especially since sexual slavery would probably result in more murder, not less. The slaves would have much more incentive to kill the erstwhile incels, and probably others too that forced them to do this. And I somehow doubt these erstwhile incels would be less likely to kill either. I really don’t think the lack of sex was what drove the guy to kill. It was his resentment of being in that situation. I expect he’d find something else to be resentful about even with his designated concubine.

    • albatross11 says:

      I think how much sympathy someone can drum up for getting help from others depends a lot on the possibility that they might be faking their plight.

      Note that in the US, most welfare programs try to make some effort to make sure the recipient really needs them before giving out the benefit–that’s pretty clearly an attempt to make gaming the system harder. Part of the cost comes in checking and enforcing those rules; another part comes in creating poverty traps, where some single mom can’t afford to take a better job, because if she does, she’ll lose eligibility for her subsidized housing and will lose more money than she gains from the bigger paycheck. On the other hand, very few people are offended when, say, some guy missing both legs and one arm from an accident turns out to be getting disability checks–nobody suspects him of gaming the system.

      There’s also a big aspect of how much you sympathize with the person for other reasons. And when someone is extremely unsympathetic toward a potential recipient of aid, they often convince themselves that the potential recipient is less deserving or more likely gaming their sympathy, to justify not helping to themselves.

      • Aapje says:

        But in this case we can be pretty sure that no one in this situation is faking it, right? There is absolutely no incentive to do so.

        Yet sympathy is minimal.

    • John Schilling says:

      It seems to me that this sort of detente comes up in life frequently. Why is it that we accept the “help them” solution in some cases (eg. starving children) but not the others (murderer above)?

      Because the only ethical system that would suggest this “solution” is less than monstrously evil is consequentialism, and only a handful of nerdy intellectuals are actually consequentialists.

      Everyone else uses consequentialist language in ethical debate, because it’s a good way to find common ground with strangers, but they don’t really believe it and if it leads then to something that seems like a monstrous evil, consequentialism goes bye-bye. And while the nerdy intellectuals sometimes miss the fact that all the other people who are using consequentialist language aren’t actually consequentialists, almost all of them have figured out that if they start talking about e.g. turning women into sex slaves because the math says it’s best, normal people start talking about lynching nerdy intellectuals.

      Hence, the distinction. In some cases, the consequentialist solution is consistent with the customary rules, values, virtues, social contracts, and moral intuitions, and we accept it. There’s no rule against giving food to starving children, and most people find it quite virtuous. In other cases, the consequentialist solution is clearly contrary to the customary rules etc, which are pretty big on e.g. not turning women into sex slaves, and even the consequentialists know to shut up about it already.

      Also, by strange coincidence, the latter cases tend to be the ones where if you do all the math, not just the easy parts, you find the moral hazard where people are incentivized to game the system and half the women on the planet are reduced to sexual slavery. And everyone who isn’t a nerdy consequentialist intellectual, knew that these were bad plans without doing any math.

    • Deiseach says:

      Using the “book value” of the lives involved, all of those dead would have been better off if one of the women murdered had instead been compelled to be the shooter’s concubine.

      Who then was given access to powerful poisons which she put in his meals. There you go! One potential murderer who will never become an actual murderer and one person freed from coercion!

      “Doing the math” on such problems can bring you down a long path. Why stop at “force women (or men) to be concubines”, why not go “and/or let the concubine murder the owner without facing consequences afterwards”? Indeed, if we get someone coming in to the Concubine Provision Office threatening to commit mass murder unless they get their own personal concubine, why not pull the lever to open the trapdoor to send them down the chute to the tank full of ravenous piranha, instead of going “yes sir, we will force and compel Sue to be your harlot”? Solves the same problem, doesn’t involve making people into property.

      Besides, I think people who go shoot unrelated others (and then often kill themselves) in order to take revenge for perceived slights are probably likely to go off for any or no reason at all, once they’ve reached the stage where mass murder looks like a good idea. Maybe you prevent the guy shooting up a gym full of women by giving him his own personal sex slave, but what about when he then considers he should have a much better job and a promotion and a raise and get the respect he deserves instead of his current crappy job, so he goes to shoot up his workplace/the public square? How much do you give in? Do we end up crowning the guy Absolute Emperor of the World?

      • Evan Þ says:

        Well, if guys know there’s that trapdoor with piranhas, they’re much less likely to step into that Straw Utilitarian Provisioning System Office. Better to let Sue do it quietly somewhere else. In fact, if we let her quietly poison her unpleasant master, someone might even volunteer for her job.

        But if you start thinking of incentives like that, the whole system falls apart.

        • Deiseach says:

          But if you start thinking of incentives like that, the whole system falls apart.

          I am somewhat amused that a thought experiment can be pushed to “so what if we instituted compulsory concubinage to stop guys shooting up the place?” but when pushed the extra step to “so what if concubines could murder their masters without consequences, problem of shooting up places also solved” it becomes “oh no, that would all fall apart!”

          I really don’t see why classifying certain murders as permissible assassinations is that much different from compulsory concubinage in its effects on society; if you’re going to re-institute slavery (even for a model that is not meant to be applied to the real world) then why not include the slaves’ resort to be free of unwanted bondage?

          • Evan Þ says:

            Well, historically, instituting slavery worked as long as the society kept stamping down on slave uprisings, and no other times. I don’t mean that it worked in any moral sense, utilitarian or Christian or otherwise; I mean that the society stayed stable. But if you let slaves kill their masters without any retaliation – especially concubines, who’re expected to be (ahem) close to their masters at vulnerable times – the system will fall apart. And good riddance to any such system.

            On the other hand, now I’m imagining a more limited program which’s completely out front about this: “Sure, you can have a concubine, as long as you keep her happy. If she isn’t happy, she gets to kill you without any legal problem. Still want a concubine?”

      • Garrett says:

        I agree with you completely from a Natural Rights perspective, but I’m still not convinced from a utilitarian perspective.

    • BBA says:

      You could offer a concubine, and instead give them euthanasia.

    • ana53294 says:

      But I am not sure these murderers would be content with that. There are already fake vaginas and other bodily orifices that can be used. The fact that they insist on real women probably means that they also want the status that comes from having a girlfriend/wife/woman who sleeps with you voluntarily for free. They may also enjoy being abusive to women (being abusive to a robot doesn’t work, because the robot has no feelings). And that status comes from being seen as a man with the right social abilities to attract a woman, where women act as arbiters on who wins this game. And they wouldn’t get this status from a sex doll, however realistic.

      EDIT: after an afternoon diving into the faeces that in Reddit’s Red Pill community (sometimes morbid curiosity gets the best of me), I discovered that that wouldn’t be a solution. A lot of these so-called “incels” are not really celibate. They have a term called “escortcel” to mean those who have sex with excorts only. This is probably quite a good indicator that they are more interested in the social status partnering with a woman above their league brings.

      • Matt M says:

        100% agree.

        It’s not about the physical act of sex, it’s about status. Status comes with being able to voluntarily obtain sex, not with simply having it.

        So, for this scheme to work, you couldn’t drop off an attractive woman at the guy’s door and say “your government assigned sex slave is here, do with her as you will.” You’d have to train her to approach and pretend to legitimately be interested in him, possibly indefinitely.

        I’ve heard it’s possible to pay prostitutes to do this sort of thing for a depressed friend, although the ethics behind that are questionable, to say the least.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Is it about status, or is it about loneliness? I’m inclined to more charitably assume the latter.

        • ana53294 says:

          During my dive into the incel community, I learnt several things. They have a very twisted, mysoginistic view of women. They want the women to be virgins, but they also don’t want to get married and have kids, because once she has sex, she will go and get Chad’s kids, and leave them to pick the bill. They very much don’t want to fulfill the roles of providers (which is the natural role a man plays in societies where women are expect to be virginal, and only have sex after marriage).

          There was a guy who was talking about his arranged marriage to a girl from a very religious family. He was planning on using her dowry on escorts. He was going to get married, but he still considered himself an incel. This is about extreme misoginy; it’s not about wanting companionship. Although some of the misoginy probably does come from loneliness, not all lonely people think like that.

          • albatross11 says:

            Beware the availability heuristic! You’re seeing the subset of that community who post regularly on incel forums, which is probably not a central example of incels in general.

          • ana53294 says:

            Well, but aren’t the murderers regular posters? Although the misoginy and other issues incels have are a problem, we are talking about the murderous ones here. So, wouldn’t regular posters be representative of them?

            Or are murderers not regular posters?

          • Iain says:

            @albatross11:

            You’re just quibbling about definitions. Is the “incel community” defined as everybody who is involuntarily celibate, or as a community of people organized around being an incel?

            Posts in incel forums are not a central example of the former, but they’re a reasonable example of the latter. In context, it is pretty clear that ana53294 was discussing the latter, smaller group. (This is reasonable, given that this smaller group is where most of the murderers seem to come from.)

          • albatross11 says:

            Are SSC posters a central example of the rationalist community?

          • ana53294 says:

            Most people who happen to be involuntarily celibate don’t use the term “incel” for themselves, not anymore. It may have started with a group of people who were normal in every aspect except the celibacy aspect, but it has become what it has become. Incels have taken over the word, the same way when we talk about communist countries, we talk about North Korea and China, and not the dream imaginary utopia that SSC communists imagine.

            A lot of people are involuntarily celibate. You can google “X year old male/female virgin”, and you will have loads of examples of people who are not celibate by choice (if it was by choice, say, a religious vow, they wouldn’t be asking questions and feeling inadequate in internet forums). But they are not incels. They are ordinary people who happen to be celibate, not by choice.

          • Brad says:

            Are SSC posters a central example of the rationalist community?

            Surely the central example is the group-houses-in-SF folks. I’d say SSC posters are rather peripheral.

          • rlms says:

            SSC commenters are middling-central I would say — like Poland for European countries (neither as central as Germany or as peripheral as Ukraine).

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      It seems to me that this sort of detente comes up in life frequently. Why is it that we accept the “help them” solution in some cases (eg. starving children) but not the others (murderer above)? It seems that you can find either mild or severe costs and benefits on either side of the popular result.

      I think your “help them” is doing too much work in this particular case. Starving children might be getting food stamps if in the US, or direct food aid if in Africa, but no one is talking about seizing the means of production and distributing equal shares to each starving child, so that each starving child has sufficient income to meet their own food needs. We’re helping them, but we’re not helping them in that manner.

      We also might not have a direct government program to help socially mal-adjusted men (except we do have school guidance counselors or whatever), but that doesn’t mean there can’t be individuals who support down-on-their-luck men. And just because government isn’t helping, doesn’t mean society isn’t helping.

      Directly forcing women into sex slavery is sort of extreme. If that’s your definition of helping, yeah, we aren’t helping. But if you torture the definition of “help” enough, we’re not really “helping” starving children either.

      Put it another way: we help starving kids by giving them food stamps. We do not force you to adopt a child.

      • Randy M says:

        The post was obviously an reductio ad absurdum against utilitarianism, right? Even rationalists consider desert, or moral hazard, or incentives, or whatever rationale you prefer, to an extent and don’t want to inflict x-1 suffering for x gain if the person getting the pay-off is responsible for the threatened suffering.
        Nevermind that there are ways short of the president appointing a Pimp Czar to help alleviate the genuine suffering that might contribute to this.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          There’s definitely a lot of help that could be feasibly offered, but I’m thinking this is going to revolve around changing social norms, and not government programs. I’d say government could help by getting itself out of the sex worker industry, but I’m not sure that’s even the direction we are moving, let alone the magnitude.

          • Matt M says:

            I’d say government could help by getting itself out of the sex worker industry, but I’m not sure that’s even the direction we are moving, let alone the magnitude.

            It’s not. Per my comment below, the government is doing what the culture demands, which is making the situation worse for these people. Regarding sex work, that entails.

            1. Re-defining all prostitution as “human trafficking” so as to render it morally outrageous among the general public, thereby stalling any momentum towards legalization.

            2. Promoting the feminist-wet-dream “nordic model” wherein men are legally punished for buying sex, but women are not legally punished for selling it, so as to imply that all such exchanges involve a woman being victimized by a man.

          • albatross11 says:

            ObSF: _The Rainbow Cadenza_

          • Deiseach says:

            I’d say government could help by getting itself out of the sex worker industry

            But this entails arguing in the same old circle: do they want sex or do they want relationships?

            If the social stigma is about “not able to get a girlfriend”, then access to prostitutes is not going to help (and may indeed worsen it, as it is now proven that “you have to pay for it, you can’t even get a one-night stand fuck by picking up a drunk slapper in a bar that any idiot can get”).

            I do see a lot of this “just get laid and it’ll solve all your problems” advice not just for incels, and I do wonder how helpful it is. After you’ve had your hour with a prostitute, you’re still going back to your place of residence and your life as it is, and if you have few to no friends/a low-status and/or low paying job/still seem awkward, unattractive and weird, it’s not relieving the problem by much.

            Much of the problem seems to be trying to attain the social status/proven you are now an adult and should be treated as such by having a girlfriend, which has a whole lot of assumptions and judgement around it – as we’ve been discussing with the use of “lazy” – it doesn’t simply mean Larry won’t walk your dog or that he is unreliable, there’s a whole constellation of negative attributes associated with tagging someone as lazy. Similarly, Larry can’t even get a girlfriend isn’t simply Larry can’t find a romantic soulmate, there’s a whole set of assumptions about what kind of guy can’t even get the lowest common denominator of social relationships.

            I’ve never had any boyfriends of any descriptions, and fortunately I don’t care about that, but it definitely has impinged upon other parts of my life; the older you get, the weirder other people do find it that “what, you’ve never had anybody? at all? no exes?” (I can’t count the times it’s been assumed on letters and by officialdom of all kinds that I am Mrs Deiseach, not Ms, I’ve given up trying to correct the local hospital on this as I was beginning to sound like the Dick Emery sketch). As I said, I’m lucky that I don’t give a damn, but I can see someone who does care and does want it getting very twisted up about it, especially as they encounter the automatic assumptions that when invited to things there will be a plus-one, or that they won’t be tagging along as a singleton to both work and social events.

          • Matt M says:

            But this entails arguing in the same old circle: do they want sex or do they want relationships?

            They want status.

            What this means, in a practical sense, is that if Trump tomorrow passed some executive order legalizing prostitution nationwide, it would be of little to no help, because the act would still be seen as a low-status act.

            That said, if cultural change led to a point where prostitution was seen as an acceptable and legitimate way for males to satisfy their sexual urges, just as legitimate as finding a steady monogamous girlfriend, it would be status-neutral (or perhaps even status enhancing) act, and then would grant an additional option to countless suffering males.

            The problem isn’t just that prostitution is illegal. It’s that prostitution is illegal because it’s considered low status. Change the attitude and the legality follows (or simply doesn’t matter – smoking marijuana remained illegal for a long time after it stopped being considered low-status)

          • LesHapablap says:

            Matt M,

            Anyone can go to a prostitute. Not everyone can get a girlfriend. That’s why getting a girlfriend increases status (or reflects good status) and visiting a prostitute does not. In general, accomplishing hard things leads to more status than accomplishing easy things, and there is no way to change that situation by ‘changing attitudes,’ nor would you ever want to. It is a fact of life and a useful one.

          • Matt M says:

            Anyone can go to a prostitute.

            Untrue. Anyone with a certain amount of money can go to a prostitute, and it’s not uncommon for people with poor social skills to still find ways to earn decent incomes, often above-average incomes.

            I think there are many societies, both past and present, in which wealth was correlated with “ability to find female sexual companionship” at a rate of like 0.999. In modern America, it is much less so. If that changed, the entire status game would change.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Matt M,

            I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying. My point was that visiting
            a prostitute will never give as much status as having a woman decide to sleep with you because she likes you.

            That fact isn’t a cultural attitude that is possible to change. “He can’t get a girlfriend so he visits prostitutes” vs. “He can’t go to prostitutes so he has a girlfriend.” The latter is nonsense.

          • Matt M says:

            That fact isn’t a cultural attitude that is possible to change.

            No it isn’t. All status games are cultural constructs. There are no “facts” here, only opinions.

            The notion that one’s social/charismatic ability should grant more status than one’s economic means is entirely an opinion that not only CAN change, but is vastly different among present-day cultures, and even among our own culture throughout the course of time.

            People like Charlie Sheen and Hugh Hefner retained high status despite being engaged in what seems pretty damn near to be prostitution in everything but name. There’s no reason that sort of thinking couldn’t be applied to the common man as well.

          • mdet says:

            Promoting the feminist-wet-dream “nordic model” wherein men are legally punished for buying sex, but women are not legally punished for selling it

            Definitely wouldn’t describe this as a feminist wet-dream. As far as I can tell, feminists are pretty split on prostitution. There are definitely those who want pimps and buyers arrested but not prostitutes themselves, because they’re victims, but I also know feminists who say “Legalize & de-stigmatize all sex work, it’s no different from selling your body as an athlete”.

            People like Charlie Sheen and Hugh Hefner retained high status despite being engaged in what seems pretty damn near to be prostitution in everything but name.

            I think Hefner’s status came from the perception “Sexy women come to him for employment” vs “He has to pay for something he can’t get otherwise”. Not sure if that’s generalizable.

          • Matt M says:

            I also know feminists who say “Legalize & de-stigmatize all sex work, it’s no different from selling your body as an athlete”.

            Eh, these people do exist, but I think they are low in number and even lower in influence. As far as I can tell, they seem to be comprised mostly of current and former sex-workers themselves.

            The “prostitution victimizes women” mindset is much more prevalent at the high-level policy thinktank type feminist organization. And far more dangerous because of how easy it has become for them to set up a “baptists and bootleggers” style alliance with the right-wingers who have always wanted to ban prostitution for being morally yucky anyway.

          • ana53294 says:

            The problem isn’t just that prostitution is illegal. It’s that prostitution is illegal because it’s considered low status. Change the attitude and the legality follows (or simply doesn’t matter – smoking marijuana remained illegal for a long time after it stopped being considered low-status)

            Precisely. Prostitution is legal and regulated in the Netherlands. So as long as the women are not victims of human trafficking, you can own and operate a brothel.

            IIRC, marihuana is not technically legal in the Netherlands; it is decriminalized, but it’s not like you can open a store and sell it; only certain coffeshops can sell it.

            And still, if you talk to Dutch people, or to anybody who has been in Amsterdam*, they will readily admit that they smoked pot, but nobody will admit that they went to the red light district for anything other than looking at the windows.

            Legalizing prostitution, having the women work in legal brothels were they get regular medical checks and they pay taxes, will increase the status of the prostitutes, but not the status of the clients. They won’t risk arrest, but they will still be considered second rate men.

            *I think Amsterdam is overrated as the European Capital of Vice, but a lot of people will assume certain things if you say you went for a trip to Amsterdam.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m not sure how that works, because (as other people have pointed out), a fair number of high-status people are known to have used prostitutes, including many high-profile actors and such. They don’t seem to lose much status.

            Similarly, if the issue is lack of companionship, or feeling like a loser for not having a girlfriend, it’s hard to see prostitution being much of a solution.

            Though if the issue is lack of companionship, you can kinda imagine something halfway between prostitution and therapy working–people do often get some of their needed sympathetic human contact from psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, doctors, nurses, etc., even though all those people are actually doing their jobs and expect to get paid somehow. I don’t know how you would make that work, but it doesn’t seem obviously impossible to me. Whereas if the problem is the need to gain in status with yourself or others by successfully having a girlfriend, I don’t see any way that you’d get that out of some kind of paid service.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Matt M,

            No it isn’t. All status games are cultural constructs. There are no “facts” here, only opinions.

            The notion that one’s social/charismatic ability should grant more status than one’s economic means is entirely an opinion that not only CAN change, but is vastly different among present-day cultures, and even among our own culture throughout the course of time.

            People like Charlie Sheen and Hugh Hefner retained high status despite being engaged in what seems pretty damn near to be prostitution in everything but name. There’s no reason that sort of thinking couldn’t be applied to the common man as well.

            Status games take a form like “this person is able to do X cool thing.” If 100% of people can do the cool thing, you don’t get any status for it. Or everyone gets status for it, but since everyone’s status is boosted equally, it doesn’t differentiate status between people.

            So you can’t get status for being able to breathe. You can get status for being able to run a marathon, since it takes work and not everyone can do it, and lots of people think its cool. You get even more status for being able to win a marathon, because even fewer people can do that.

            Sex and relationships are cool. That is a fact of being human, not a cultural construct. But if 99% of men are able to get a prostitute, then that ability doesn’t confer much status. If 80% of men can get a girlfriend/wife, then those 80% will get a status boost from that ability which the 20% will not get.

            There is a hypothetical world where prostitutes are expensive and very particular, like the companions in Firefly. In that hypothetical world, yes, being able to see those expensive prostitutes would be a status symbol. Or, a place where seeing prostitutes is seen as dangerous and risky, having the courage/stupidity to engage in that risky behavior could be a status boost in certain circles.

            However, I very much doubt that there is a realistic world in which a man who can’t get a girlfriend, but can get prostitutes, on average has higher status than a man who can get a girlfriend but can’t get prostitutes. If there is, it is not likely to be world that anyone wants to live in.

          • Matt M says:

            There is a hypothetical world where prostitutes are expensive and very particular, like the companions in Firefly.

            It doesn’t even have to be that extreme. It just has to be a world where getting a “regular” girlfriend is seen as easy, but getting a prostitute is seen as difficult.

            Perhaps in a UBI-type society, the amount of women who would be willing to prostitute themselves would fall dramatically, and the reduction in supply would lead to an increase in demand, dramatically raising prices. Perhaps the continued glorification of “slut culture” by feminism will reduce the standards of non-prostitute women such that finding girlfriends is easier.

            I can’t tell you exactly how it will happen, but it’s not wholly infeasible. Even today, I think there are certain men (those who happen to be naturally good looking and charismatic) who might take the position of “Why would anyone pay for a prostitute when it’s just so easy to go to a bar and convince decent looking women to sleep with you?”

            Hell, the PUA position is basically already that. That paying for sex is wholly unnecessary and that if you learn a few basic tricks, it’s much easier to obtain casual sex “for free.” In a world where such tricks worked with 100% success rate and where all men knew and were able to execute them, finding casual sex and/or girlfriends would be trivially easy.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Matt M,

            I see your point, although the now 2% of men who were incels in that case would still have lower status even if they visited prostitutes.

            Another hypothetical world though, would be Aldous Huxley’s Island, in which teenagers are all givenreal sex education using sex surrogates. It still wouldn’t give status to prostitution users, but there’d be very few involuntary celebates.

      • Matt M says:

        And just because government isn’t helping, doesn’t mean society isn’t helping.

        But society isn’t helping. If anything, society is actively trying to make the problem worse by further marginalizing these people and dismissing their pain as just and deserved.

        It would be like if instead of private homeless shelters, you have no shelters, but lots of private “beat up the homeless” gangs that were considered proper and respectable because those filthy homeless are just bad people who are getting what they deserve.

        • Aapje says:

          The messages that are sent to men about what women want are also overwhelmingly counterproductive, increasing the number of people with these problems.

          For some reason it is fine to tell women that male sexuality is not pure and beautiful, yet not to tell men the truth about women.

    • hyperboloid says:

      Of course if were going to be ruthlessly utilitarian about it, we could also just summarily execute every incel. By doing this we would increase net utility far more than we could by instituting sexual slavery. For one thing, no women would have to become concubines against their will. For another, the number of lecherous creeps in the world would be greatly diminished, which I think would make the world an all together more pleasant place.

    • ana53294 says:

      This actually seems to be happening. It seems like in China, Uyghur women are forced to renounce Islam, wear traditional Han clothing, and marry Chinese men to save their families. This is no different from state sanctioned slavery; I highly doubt that these women will get even the meagre protection Chinese women get. The girl in the video definitely seems unhappy; not how a bride should look like on her wedding day.

    • rlms says:

      This seems obviously stupid. Suppose a crackhead murders someone to steal their money for crack. We could compel people to become crackheads’ slaves in order to finance their addictions, but if we can identify potentially murderous crackheads then locking them up seems considerably more reasonable to me.

  21. Mark V Anderson says:

    My 11 Myths are here.

    Note that I wrote the Myths in 2011, so the LP vote < 1% was true then.

    Myth #10: That free market proponents believe in no government. Only a small minority of free market advocates are anarchists. Free market anarchists do include members of the Libertarian Party (LP). All members of the LP must sign a pledge to oppose all coercion, which in turn means that any government is verboten. Per Wikipedia, only 115,000 people have ever signed this pledge. Only once has an LP candidate for President received over 1% of the vote. These are examples of the very few people in the United States that advocate no government whatsoever.

    Yet in a Pew Research Center poll, 18% labeled themselves as libertarian (http://people-press.org/2010/09/12/americans-spending-more-time-following-the-news/). Since a major tenet of libertarianism is the advocacy of free markets and limited government, it is clear that a substantial minority of Americans are free market advocates, and desires to decrease the size of government. But few of these people are anarchists, such as those that belong to the Libertarian Party.

    What does it mean to be for free markets but not against government altogether? Most of those for limited government are in favor of a military to protect the country against outside aggressors. They are also for an internal police force to maintain security inside the country, and a court system to rule on disputes and to punish offenders. Also, regulating of business externalities that hurt others (pollution) are thought by most free marketers to be a valid government function. All of these are very difficult functions to maintain without a government, but are necessary for civilization.

    Some free market advocates even support a government safety net for those down on their luck. It is hard to know what percentage of such advocates support a safety net, but there is nothing inherently incompatible with supporting an unrestricted market and also supporting government support for the poor. Also some free marketers support building common infrastructure like roads and railroads on the grounds that the free rider problem prevents such investment by the private market.

    What free market advocates do not support are economic development programs, subsidies for business, regulation of business beyond externalities, or “partnerships” with businesses. The private market works much better unencumbered by government control, and the government works better unencumbered by corrupting influences of rent-seeking businesses.

    • Matt M says:

      What does it mean to be for free markets but not against government altogether?

      A mixture of cowardice and lack of logical consistency.

      • WashedOut says:

        Edgy, but untrue. Seems pretty reasonable to be a laissez-faire minarchist. I remember watching an old interview with Milton Friedman where he basically said that hypothetically being able to buy heroin from a corner-store was bad, but government overreach was worse. Doesn’t strike me as a particularly cowardly position.

        • Matt M says:

          All government action is overreach.

          Being in favor of “mostly” free markets is like being in favor of drinking water that is “mostly” free of deadly poison. It only takes a few drops to spoil the entire supply. Any government interference in the market distorts the entire market.

          • Nick says:

            Just a nitpick: is that really a good analogy, Matt? We can tolerate in small amounts lots of things that are bad in large amounts, and making it purer is no doubt more costly.

            It might be better to say that allowing distortions is one thing, but legislating them in is another. But then the analogy is fluoride, which is a good thing too, isn’t it?

          • Lambert says:

            TO further overuse the analogy, I’d say gov’t regulation is like putting small amounts of chlorine in water.
            Too much will kill you.
            But if you don’t put any in, pathogens (tragedies of the commons, anticompetitive practices etc.) proliferate and kill you.

          • 10240 says:

            Tragedies of the commons, anticompetitive practices are not the best example. Preventing murder, assault, theft is better. Every libertarian agrees that explicit action (government or otherwise) is needed to prevent the latter, but many disagree that it’s needed against the former (and some of those think that the necessary action against the latter is not feasible without government).

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Being in favor of “mostly” free markets is like being in favor of drinking water that is “mostly” free of deadly poison.

            Nick and Lambert have the right answer.

            It is true that “hard” libertarianism is the most consistent position. No coercion is right ever. But that doesn’t mean it is the right position. If one has any values other than NAP, then you run into contradictions. For example:

            1) there will always be folks out there that want to take away your freedom. I think it is highly unlikely individuals voluntarily banding together spontaneously can defend against large scale criminals and their minions. If government fell apart altogether, the result will end up either a centralized dictatorship or decentralized warlords. I prefer our current flawed democracy.

            2) I like to live in a civilized society. It is a good thing that those that cannot support themselves nevertheless survive on welfare. It is possible that private benefactors could support everyone who can’t support themselves, but I think it is likely there would be many who fall through the cracks and essentially die in the streets. Our current welfare system is very flawed but fewer die than would in a private system.

            3) Water pollution and especially air pollution can travel long distances. Even if you have a well functioning voluntary group of local folks that prevent pollution by your local business or crackpot industrialist, how do you stop toxic fumes from blowing 100 miles downwind from a community that cares less about pollution. Or toxic waste 100 miles upriver. Our flawed governments have cleaned up lakes and the air dramatically over several decades ago. Lead is no longer poisoning young people’s brains.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            spontaneously can defend against large scale criminals and their minions.

            What you won’t be able to do is prevent the Romans from coming in and bringing your roads, sanitation, plumbing, etc. But then, horror of horrors, you will actually become Romans.

  22. tayfie says:

    A book I’ve been recently reading pointed out that nicknames are increasingly rare to the point of being a lost art. Sports is a prime example. The early years of baseball seemed to give every moderately famous player a nickname. The book further speculates that this is due to television removing the need for human imagination. You don’t need a nickname to remember someone if you have actually seen them in action.

    While nicknames don’t work as well on a forum where people can choose their own handles, what nickname would you give to some of the people here?

    I’ll go first.

    Scott “The Civil Savant” Alexander.

    • Nornagest says:

      Counterexample: rappers.

      • tayfie says:

        Are rappers often given names by a third party or do they name themselves? I would argue the latter doesn’t count as a nickname.

        • Nornagest says:

          Probably some of both, but I can think of at least some that were given their names by other people. Or at least who claim they were.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      “The Civil Savant” seems like a bit of a mouthful. Maybe Scott “Unsung” Alexander?

    • Matt M says:

      The book further speculates that this is due to television removing the need for human imagination. You don’t need a nickname to remember someone if you have actually seen them in action.

      My theory is a bit of a twist on this – but back in the day, sports weren’t necessarily as nationally popular as they are today. Athletes are more highly paid, more closely followed, more heavily scrutinized, more famous, more well known.

      A nickname is really simply a “stage name” that is given to you by others rather than by yourself. But modern athletes don’t really require/benefit from stage names. Their fame is directly proportional to their ability in a sport which is judged very objectively. Compare this to actors or musicians, where “getting famous” is a big deal, and your fame isn’t as clearly tied to your technical skill.

      Modern athletes can obtain fame simply by honing their craft, and then once they have it, their name alone becomes recognizable enough that a fancy nickname is unnecessary.

      • mdet says:

        Wikipedia has a page for basketball nicknames. There are still a number of players with nicknames, although I can’t tell if they’re becoming less common

        • I remember how Jeff “The Rainbow Warrior” Gordon used to catch so much flak for looking like some yuppie pretty-boy in a sport like Nascar that was used to a different aesthetic.

      • tayfie says:

        Are athletes really more famous and more well known now?

        More highly paid makes sense because sports is better monetized, but I don’t get the sense people look up to professional athletes in the same way. The greater publicity has only seemed to encourage the notion that professional athletes are talented jerks that are only in it for fame and fortune.

        There seem to be much fewer athletes that people think of as social role models.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Athletes are less “famous” now, but more well known, I’d argue.

          Everyone knew who, say, baseball players were in the earlier parts of the 20th century. Fewer teams, fewer sports, fewer forms of entertainment meant that the common knowledge of the most well known athletes was off the charts. Apocryphal or not, the idea that any American soldier in WW2 should be able to name the starting lineup of the Yankees is a common one. I can’t think of anything similar these days.

          Conversely, for those who want to known something about an athlete, there is far more in depth information available literally in the palm of your hand, anytime, day or night.

    • cassander says:

      It always annoyed be that Barack Obama lacked a good presidential nickname. Now Trump lacks one as well. I begin to worry that this might be a pattern.

      • Matt M says:

        Part of it is probably partisan divide. An effective nickname has to be useable by both fans and opponents alike. Difficult to achieve.

      • Nornagest says:

        Did Clinton have a bipartisan one? All I can think of is “Slick Willie”, and that’s, uh…

        • Matt M says:

          I feel like “Slick Willie” (and maybe even “Dubya”) are somewhat bipartisan – in the sense that supporters treat them as colloquialisms to imply they are “men of the people” while opponents also use them as an implication that they are ignorant hicks.

          • cassander says:

            I do wish that “shrub” hadn’t acquired the negative connotation that it did, it was a better name than Dubya.

          • tayfie says:

            I’ve seen “Dubya” used by both supporters and detractors.

            “Slick” was a good adjective for Bill, and seemed fairly neutral. “Willie” was unfortunate since it ended up having too much of a distasteful sexual connotation.

      • tayfie says:

        I haven’t heard a good bipartisan nickname for Obama, which is a shame because he had a very distinct personality that could easily be captured by one.

        Wikipedia suggests “No Drama” Obama, which somewhat fits his presentation as collected and nonthreatening, but I’ve never heard that one in the wild.

        My favorite for Trump is “Teflon Don” which was popular in the primaries and still describes how nothing sticks to him.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          “No Drama” Obama was how was known to his staff. It was a term of endearment, specifically referring to his ability to stay calm and even keel through the most intense moments. I’d say you haven’t heard it because it isn’t neutral.

    • Erusian says:

      Really? I’ve had several nicknames and appellations throughout my life. “Moose” (because I’m big and have a stoic looking face), “Tank” (because of my powerful singing voice), “the Unlucky” (because of the obvious)…

      Most of my friends had nicknames too: Tog (short for ‘The Other Guy’), Kiki (her name was not Kristine), Halo (from the game), X (no idea), Y (his best friend), Z (his girlfriend), K (Y’s girlfriend), Pyro (loved fire/fireworks). Plus my girlfriends: Titita (or just Titi), Nally (not her name), Quer…

      Anyway, my vote for Scott Alexander would be Slate. Alternative: Scott the Starmind. Or… well, I could continue.

    • Well... says:

      I have several dozen nicknames for my wife and each of my kids, for whatever that’s worth.

    • Nick says:

      A few things: there were some folks in my high school who liked giving out nicknames and sticking to them aggressively. A classmate got the unflattering “Tuna”; I got saddled with “Chico,” and a friend with “Larissa.” I don’t think I heard much of this in college, just a lot of last names because fracking everybody was named Nick. And a few online friends still call me by old handles, even though I exclusively use Nick now and we’ve known each other’s full names for years. Lastly, some people like calling me Nicholas as a term of affection, even though it’s not my name—it’s Dominic, dammit—which I think might qualify as a kind of anti-nickname.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      I hate unchosen nicknames.

      This is closely associated with one of my berserk buttons: if I overhear someone making fun of someone’s name or intentionally mangling it to be insulting, I probably will never trust them or like them.

      • Well... says:

        Really? Even if they’re affectionate?

        Chosen nicknames hardly seem like nicknames. Like, if your name is Mark and you prefer Spike so you introduce yourself like “I’m Mark, but I go by Spike”. If people then call you Spike that’s not really a nickname, is it? Not in the sense normally implied anyway, as a name signaling intimacy between the person addressing and the person being addressed…

      • tayfie says:

        Why would you say that?

        When people don’t like a nickname, it encourages others to have fun at their expense by using the name.

        Example:

        The first reply I thought of after reading this was. “Easy, Shark, don’t bite my head off”.

  23. mdet says:

    When I talk about the political spectrum from Left to Right, my mental map / visualization actually puts the Left on my right and the Right on my left. Possible reasons: I’m right handed, and consider the Left to be more of my in-group. Does anyone else have this, or similar? Is the fact that I have a spatial mental map weird to begin with?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Do you know that this actually comes from an actual left and right in a legislative chamber (specifically revolutionary era France)? Frequently these are described from the point of view of the officer’s podium, but we can see that this is usually inverted in the actual US Congress.

      So, when you watch the State of the Union, you typically see the Democrats as being on the right side of the chamber…

      • mdet says:

        I knew about the revolutionary France origin, I did not know that the US Congress has (informally) assigned seating.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          So, if you know about the origins, when you imagine the “left” do you imagine being in a group with them? And your opponents being in another group?

          • mdet says:

            I’m sort of visualizing a basic 2D political spectrum where “Democrats” and “liberals” are where my right hand is and “Republicans” and “conservatives” are where my left hand is. Like, if I’m having a conversation and I mention the political “far right”, I unthinkingly gesture off to my left, but if I were talking about actual directions I wouldn’t do that. Similar with the “far left” being off to my right.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @mdet:
            Yes, but when gesturing, what mental map are using to make the gesture

            For instance, if your mental map is “I am facing a bunch of people who identify as somewhere on the left to right spectrum and THEY will use their left hand to point to people further left than THEM …. then when YOU point to people on the left, you will need to use the mirror hand to do the pointing.

          • mdet says:

            I’m not thinking that deep into it. In a conversation about “right vs left” directionally, it takes deliberate thought for me to remember “Their right is your left, switch hands”. But swapping the political Right and Left happens even when I’m thinking to myself.

            Like when I read “Cthulhu always swims Left” I mentally picture a kaiju swimming… to the right.

    • Baeraad says:

      Yes, funnily enough. I do that too. And yeah, I’m also right-handed and identify more with the Left.

    • Nick says:

      I used to do the same thing, noticed it, and try not to anymore. I’m left handed and identify more with the right.

    • honoredb says:

      Huh, today I learned I have this too. My guess would’ve been that it’s because I live on the East Coast, so on average the Right is to the West, but I’m also a right-handed Left triber.

    • mtl1882 says:

      I noticed I have this too. My best guess is that I tend to associate the left with progress, so it’s like a timeline moving from left to right. My views aren’t actually that simplistic, but I think the association makes sense.

    • phisheep says:

      I do this too. How strange.

      I wonder if there’s an sort of history of political diagrams showing Conservatives to the left? Something must be driving this.

      • Eric Rall says:

        The origin of “left” and “right” in this context is seating conventions in the legislature of revolutionary France: monarchist and clericalist members would sit on the right side of the chamber , and the pro-revolution members would sit on the left. The tradition got picked up by other legislatures, including the US Congress.

        The US Congress, at least, interprets”left” and “right” as audience-left and audience-right: congressmen in their seats or visitors in the galleries see Democrats on the left and Republicans on the right, but from the “stage” perspective (the bit at the front where the Speaker or Senate President sits facing the body), left and right are reversed. If you’re picturing yourself on the Speaker’s Rostrum (perhaps because the way the State of the Union Address is televised, with the reaction shots of the House chamber filmed from behind the Rostrum), you’d see Republicans on your left and Democrats on your right.

        And I just noticed that Wikipedia has the seating charts backwards: their diagrams show Democrats on stage-left (audience-right) and Republicans on stage-right (audience-left).

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I have a feeling that this has more to do with Democrats and Republicans not having ever changed seating positions, despite their position on the spectrum “reversing”, but I could be wrong.

          Really, the Democratic and Republican coalitions don’t have a history of being extremely ideologically coherent, not in the way we would think of it now.

  24. Something interesting is happening on the German Left. Leaders from Die Linke (“The Left,” basically the successor to the communist SED party of East Germany) have called for the formation of a new “collective movement” (“Sammelbewegung”) that they have tentatively called “Fairland.” The name is subject to change, and as of yet it is not being pitched as a bona-fide political party that will separately run for office. So far, it sounds like it is intended to be a pressure group or faction within Die Linke to get DL to reconsider its commitment to open borders in favor of some sort of regulated borders.

    I saw this coming a while back after reading this excellent article from Unz.com: “Immigration Divides Europe and the German Left.

    While many on the Left have already started calling Sahra Wagenknecht and the others in this faction “Nazis,” I would not dismiss their ideas so easily. I myself am reserving judgment until I see more of what this “Fairland” initiative has in mind. Here are the things I particularly like so far:

    “the materialist left, not the moral left…Brecht summarised it wonderfully. Grub comes first, then ethics.”

    Precisely. Proletarian internationalism is not some abstract principle of virtue-signaling. It is a strategy borne out of practical incentives. It is based on a recognition that a German worker and a Syrian worker are potentially like two dogs who can either fight each other over a tiny scrap of meat tossed down to them by investors, or tactically unite against investors to get the whole buffet. Working together with a Syrian worker for these practical, instrumental goals does not require that you intrinsically like him/her, does not require that you become more “culturally sensitive” to the Syrian worker except insofar as that is strictly necessary in order to be able to work with him/her, does not require that you “get in touch with your inner Syrian” and try Syrian cuisine, etc. You might even be quite appalled by Syrian refugees, and yet see a benefit in working together with them.

    This only goes so far as that cooperation and aid remains useful for both sides. It is to be expected that German workers (on average wealthier more educated) will currently have more to offer their Syrian comrades than vice-versa. That’s understandable. Someday the Syrian workers may be in a position to return the favor (say, if Germany finds itself in a communist revolution and needs the military and logistical help of Syrian workers).

    But any relationship of comradeship must eventually be a two-way street to a certain extent. If Syrian refugees are currently in a desperate situation and have little to offer German workers except for competing for lower wages, then at the very least it is not too much for German workers to expect that Syrian workers will not go out of their way to make their presence antagonistic. And it might even behoove the Syrian workers to think about how they can work together with German workers to get the whole buffet. When one dog patiently plots to kill the master while the other is wolfing down the entire scrap that has been tossed on the ground, the interaction does not breed (no pun intended) a feeling of comradeship.

    It’s like, if a worker in my labor union gets fired and can’t afford rent, it makes sense to offer him/her a guest bedroom in my house. Someday I may need him/her to return the favor. And eating some of my food in the fridge is to be expected…whereas shitting on the floor or stabbing my cat is not OK.

    It’s like, if a German worker circa-1914 is invading my French province, sure, I’ll keep putting out feelers for a Christmas truce, for a peace, for turning the imperialist war into a Europe-wide class civil war…but I’d also be a dummy to just sit on my gun when I see some of those German workers coming over the top at me.

    (Lenin rightly sneered at some of the anti-war virtue-signalling proclamations made by some of the socialist parties just before WWI. It’s not that Lenin was pro-war. He was the most anti-war of them all. But he rightly understood the practical, material reality that by the time the enemy military is bearing down on you, all of the farsighted, high-minded principles are going to go out the window, so there must be concrete commitments in place to keep things from even getting to that point if fratricidal war between Europe’s workers was to be avoided).

    To what extent are some Syrian refugees being obnoxious guests? To what extent are they impossible to treat as comrades? I don’t know what to believe. Did hundreds of Syrian refugees really commit mass sexual assaults in Cologne in public in broad daylight? It sounds a little bit too much like “Jewish cabals eating Christian babies” or “Cocaine-addled Negroes raping lily-white daughters.” But in this case I’ve heard evidence from too many sources that I trust to just dismiss it. I will remain skeptical by default to these sorts of claims, but I think the Left is going to look foolish if their knee-jerk reaction is always to dismiss these sorts of claims.

    In any case, to the extent that this sort of thing is happening, the real problem with these Syrian refugees is not that they are Syrian. That’s the right-wing way of thinking. The problem is that they are behaving like lumpenproletarians rather than proletarians.

    The Left needs to be intolerant of lumpenproletarian behavior and lifestyles. We are talking about petty (apolitical) criminality and social parasitism. Marx was correct in identifying that these “lumpenproletarians,” though miserable and oppressed by exclusion from the means to life just like proletarians, are politically unreliable allies, prone to reactionary and demagogic politics (which might include both AfD AND radical Islam).

    Marx did not care about oppression in the abstract. Peasants were oppressed too, and yet Marx correctly identified that their class interests were distinct from those of proletarians. Peasants stand to benefit from overthrowing the landlord and comprador bourgeoisie and becoming petty-capitalists. Lumpenproles stand to benefit from more generous welfare and lucrative criminal opportunities like Prohibition and the War on Drugs. Proletarians stand to benefit from socializing control over the means of production and abolishing class distinctions. While tactical alliances are possible with the peasantry, and heck, even progressive capitalists in certain contexts (as Mao and various “United Fronts” have demonstrated), I have yet to see the lumpenproletariat make any meaningful contribution to progressive world-historical change.

    The Left should make a reasonable effort to ensure that nobody feels a strong incentive to be a lumpenproletarian. Basically, end the War on Drugs and offer a job in the army doing public works or other civic-improvement activities for anyone who wants to sign up. But once again, it is a two-way street. After being offered such incentives, if comrades refuse to be proletarians and insist on acting like lumpenproletarians (raping women, or stealing cars from proletarian comrades, or setting fire to cars or other social wealth with no deliberate revolutionary purpose behind it), they get speedy deportation (if they are a refugee) or a stint in the gulag (if they are a citizen), no exceptions…whether they are German or Syrian, Christian or Muslim.

    The Left must be very careful to walk a fine line here. And I’m really not just talking about Germany here, but America too. If the Left keeps its head stuck in the clouds of virtue-signalling, it is going to look very foolish and lose all credibility. If it allows itself to get hijacked and co-opted by the Right into pitting groups of workers against each other, then that’s no good either.

    Edit: Another way of thinking about it is, the Left needs to carefully distinguish between “National Socialism” (a la Hitler) and “Socialism in One Country” (a la Stalin). National Socialism ahistorically vilifies and generalizes about other nationalities, whereas Socialism in One Country recognizes that other countries might not yet be on the same page, but they are in principle on the same team as soon as they come around to the idea of socialism. In other words, Socialism in One Country is socialism that aspires to include all nationalities, but due to practical realities temporarily prioritizes socialism in one country. That may be the situation Germany finds itself in, where it wants to, for example, have higher wages than the rest of the world, but where the rest of the world isn’t on the same page yet.

    Now, I have my gripes with Socialism in One Country, such as how Stalin leaned on the Spanish communists to clamp down on the Spanish Revolution in 1936 (and clamp down on the anarchists especially) so as to not antagonize France and Britain, whom Stalin was courting for a collective security agreement at the time. But I understand the idea behind Socialism in One Country as a practical starting point if the rest of the world simply refuses to join you. And I think it can work, provided that the country or political unit in question is geographically large enough to have access to all needed raw materials internally. If this is not the case, then the country will be too dependent on the world market, and through this need to conduct trade on the world market (and thus conduct production on a basis that is profitable in value terms, rather than beneficial in use-value terms), the country’s economy will be steered by the Law of Value regardless of what the planners and/or society wants to do, and there will be strong pressures to reintroduce capitalism and erode reforms.

    The USSR was a large enough unit to make Socialism in One Country work until worldwide revolution occurred. China is similarly viable, as would be the U.S., and probably the EU too, although probably Germany alone is not a viable candidate for “Socialism in One Country.” Die Linke should ponder this.

    Even so, I tentatively like how Wagenknecht and these “Fairland” factionalists from Die Linke are trying to re-think the Left’s approach to this issue.

    Edit: Here is a good demonstration from Key and Peele of the difference between proletarian and lumpenproletarian perspectives.

    • Matt M says:

      the real problem with these Syrian refugees is not that they are Syrian. That’s the right-wing way of thinking. The problem is that they are behaving like lumpenproletarians rather than proletarians.

      and what if these things happen to be highly correlated?

      • I’ll grant that it is not always obvious if someone is proletarian or lumpenproletarian when they are showing up at a border crossing. Certain documents might help establish their level of education and/or profession and/or criminal record, which would be strong identifiers of their class. If they don’t have documents, then you also won’t know whether they are necessarily Syrian, Libyan, Pakistani, Muslim, Christian, etc. You could say, “Olive-skinned people who are not already legal citizens of Germany are likely to be lumpenproletarians.”

        Pro: A fast algorithm that could potentially process a lot of people in a short period of time.
        Con: Likely to mistake a lot of Middle-Eastern proletarians for lumpenproletarians. (Or are you denying that most Middle-Easterners are law-abiding, socially-productive proletarians, and that it is a minority who are law-breaking, socially-parasitic lumpenproletarians?)

        I don’t see why we necessarily need to re-invent the wheel here. The Soviet Union received approximately 3,000 refugees from the Spanish Civil War after the fascists won. East Germany received refugees from Chile after the 1973 fascist coup. Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet lived in East Germany for several years. Why can’t modern Germany simply re-implement the strict standards that these countries had?

        Socialist countries like the Soviet Union and the DDR tended to have strict immigration policies to ensure that they received only friendly, class-conscious proletarians and not spies, saboteurs, lumpenproletarian troublemakers, reactionaries (Islamic fundamentalists would certainly have not been allowed in!) It is the same with China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam today (although China is probably the most relaxed of them…but even with them I doubt they are too eager to allow in Turkmen nationalists, or undocumented Turkmen of unknown history and origin! By default, I am sure any undocumented Central Asian migrants are politely shown the door.) People who are old enough to remember the DDR like Sahra Wagenknecht know all about this. To people of her generation, the idea that socialism and open borders go hand-in-hand must seem like the pinnacle of lunacy!

        Edit: Here’s what I would do if I were German immigration Czar. I would demand that refugees prove their political reliability before being granted asylum, which concretely means that they must have documents proving a period of past membership in a political party/organization with broadly progressive and secular principles. These might include:
        *The Syrian/Iraqi Arab-Socialist Ba’ath Party
        *The Syrian Social-Nationalist Party
        *The Syrian National Defense Forces
        *The Syrian/Iraqi Communist Party
        *The PYD/SDF/YPG/YPJ
        *Any Syrian/Iraqi secular liberal parties of which I am not aware***

        Although with the first three of these, with the state of the civil war as it is now, I’d tell the asylum seeker, “Good news comrade! I don’t know if you have heard, but your side is about to win the civil war, so I don’t think you need asylum here anymore.” and offer the asylum seeker a plane ticket back home. I’d offer a temporary tourist visa if they still want to stay for a bit, but nothing more.

        ***Note: Membership in “The FSA” doesn’t count because the FSA has meant anything from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda. And I’d be very suspicious of any self-described “liberal” who thought it was a good idea to form a coalition with such merry bands of headchoppers.

        Edit: My wife is funny. She sees me on the computer and says, “Are you still going on about that Wagonbucket woman you were talking about earlier?”

        • Wrong Species says:

          A strict immigration policy is already conceding most of the issue to the right.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I mean, this party has already, seemingly conceded to the “right” that there is an inherent flaw in the psychology of Syrians generally, so its not any larger of a concession. They appear to be the same people, just they want, for social reasons, to identify as left not right.

        • Matt M says:

          Why can’t modern Germany simply re-implement the strict standards that these countries had?

          Because due to the fact that undesireable traits do, in fact, tend to correlate with race/nationality, such policies would immediately be denounced as racist.

        • pointenlos says:

          Here’s what I would do if I were German immigration Czar. I would demand that refugees prove their political reliability before being granted asylum, which concretely means that they must have documents …

          Refugees often travelled with what they could carry on foot and on a boat, which was the bare minimum. Documents apart from the most important are often missing.

          Getting duplicates after the fact is rather hard. You may remember that there was a rather violent civil war which not only has a negative effect on people and buildings but also on institutions. And of course a lot of people were fleeing Assad and his state which makes it somewhat difficult to get help from this state.

          Btw: If you weren’t a member of a party like the majority of the world’s population because you weren’t very political or a teenager at the start of the war you’re out of luck in your proposal?

          • There are probably civil society affiliations that would also suffice for testifying to one’s political reliability. I’m not familiar enough with Syrian civil society organizations to give examples of what those would be.

            But yeah, if you’re an anonymous individual showing up on the doorstep of a foreign country with no documents…you could be an escaped convict, you could be an Islamic fundamentalist…who knows? Am I supposed to take your word on everything? Ask yourself: would the Soviet Union have let you in? Would East Germany have let you in? Would China let you in today? Hell no. And this is not a failure of proletarian internationalism; it’s just unfortunately necessary prudence.

            I’m sure there were apolitical people who didn’t care to live under Franco after the Spanish Civil War, but who couldn’t prove their reliability to the Soviet Union (the USSR only admitted some 3,000 refugees, and these were practically all longtime bona-fide Spanish communists). Was the Soviet Union supposed to just let those people in anyways, and not worry about whether they might be undercover fascists out to assassinate some prominent Spanish communists like Republican President Jose Diaz?

            So, what are these apolitical people supposed to do? If they are truly apolitical, there is no reason why they should not be able to get along in life under the Assad government. If your home is in an active warzone, find somewhere else to stay for the meantime. If you want help from other countries for rebuilding, it is going to come with strings attached regardless—either in the form of Russian and Chinese loans, or international aid from communists if you yourself are trying to build socialism (if you are not trying to build socialism, then why would communists help you? They are not bleeding-heart liberals.) Who knows, maybe you can persuade some Silicon Valley billionaire to purchase global virtue-signalling points by making a billion-dollar donation to the reconstruction of Syria.

            Notice that democratic confederalist Kurds (YPG, etc.) are, by and large, not fleeing their country despite difficult conditions and menacing threats. They are fighting for their country—men, women, teenagers. And it is inspiring. International battalions of volunteers are happy to help them fight, rebuild, etc. Because there’s something in it for us communists there. But what’s in it for us to help some anonymous stranger of uncertain provenance and intent showing up at our doorstep? “Human decency,” bah! Once again, we see the difference between the moralizing left and the materialist left.

          • 10240 says:

            Syria is a totalitarian dictatorship. There is no civil society. Every legal political party (pre-war, or in the area controlled by the government) is likely to be a satellite party of the Baath party. Plenty of people are members of the Baath party for practical reasons rather than political views, just like with communist parties in communist countries. There is no way to gauge the views of someone in a country where expressing dissent gets you tortured.

          • Creutzer says:

            Dictatorship, certainly – but is/was Syria really totalitarian?

          • 10240 says:

            Yes. Back in 2011 I read that in Egypt under Mubarak, elections were rigged, but one wouldn’t have been afraid to bash the government even on the street; but in Syria you would have to be extremely careful about dissenting. My impression is that Syria, Iraq under Hussein, Libya under Gaddafi were very hard dictatorships, while other Arab countries are more open (not sure about Saudi).

        • Yakimi says:

          My problem with socialists has long been that they seem utterly incurious as to what a comparative analysis of the actually existing socialist states and advanced capitalist states actually reveals about their respective aims (instead preferring to equivocate socialism with left-liberal desiderata), so it’s honestly refreshing to read your candid admission that the contemporary left-wing obsession with maximizing migration flows is completely ahistorical rather than pretending, as socialists so often do, that it is global capitalism which is uniquely hostile to immigration. (Similarly interesting things could be said about the capitalist and socialist approaches to, say, gay rights, drug prohibition, capital punishment, natalism, military conscription, national duties, etc.)

          You mention East Germany, which is a fascinating example. It’s a little known fact that the socialist leaders of East Germany apparently saw no contradiction in retaining Nazi legislation as the basis for East German migration control.

          The retention of the APVO [Ausländerpolizeiverordnung] on the East German statute books was not simply a formality but served as the basis for everyday dealings between the police and foreigners in the new state. Unlike other policy areas such as administration, political organisation, education and industrial planning, the operations of the HAPM did not require Sovietisation – existing traditions were suited to the needs of the new socialist state. Indeed, the retention of NS [National Socialist] police policy towards foreigners (albeit in a modified version) is an example of legislative and procedural continuity in a police force that in personal and organisational terms represented an almost unique break with the Nazi past.

          (The GDR also sought to ensure that immigration was as transient as possible and was obsessed with preventing binational marriages, restrictions that are all the more remarkable in light of East Germany’s desperate manpower shortage.)

          Call me a dreamer, but I honestly believe that conservatives and socialists would find many useful points of agreement in their mutual traditions if only they would put down their spears and talk. In this respect the Germanies also have much to teach us.

          In the process of forging ‘Vodka-Cola’ relationships, both sides often found they shared a surprising degree of common ideological ground. For example, the Deutschnational Strauss and his wife greatly admired the GDR regime’s Prussian authoritarianism, and especially its reactionary family policy. The GDR effectively repressed three evils which Strauss most abhorred: ‘hashish, pornography, and […] long hair’. Strauss, a notorious anti-Communist (and friend of Pinochet and Apartheid), began to earn the admiration of Honecker and Mittag, and discovered his Weltanschauung to be far closer to theirs than to East Germany’s ‘long haired’ oppositionists. He even went so far as to telephone Honecker to voice his contempt for the ‘crazy’ Krawczyk and his fellow oppositional ‘dreamers’. East German journalists who continued the age-old tradition of attacking Strauss as the epitome of revanchist imperialism, and even those who simply called him an anti-Communist, were called to order.

          In his attitude to oppositionists, Strauss was but an extreme example of a major, and cross-party, section of the FRG ruling class, which saw them as either irrelevant or annoying. For example, Joseph März expressed unconditional sympathy with the GDR authorities for refusing entry visas to ‘Greens and other politicians from the left scene’, and hoped that GDR dissidents would not emigrate, for ‘[w]e already have enough of those Bahros, Biermanns, Krawczyks and Kliers in West Germany’. An FDP leader, Lambsdorff, encouraged East German Church leaders to give oppositionists ‘a good scolding’. Along similar lines, a leading CDU politician, Lothar Späth, told Schalck of his disdain for East German radical ‘clerics [who] pursue the interests of oppositional forces which otherwise have little to do with the church.’ SPD leaders expressed similar thoughts to their East German counterparts.

          Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Germans like Wagenknecht and Streeck are once again at the forefront of developing a socialism worthy even of right-wing admiration.

          • People often forget that originally it was the Nazis who imitated the KPD’s aesthetics and not the other way around. I can definitely understand how someone like Strauss would have a soft spot for German communist aesthetics. Those aesthetics, in my opinion, have a dignified and ennobling quality to them that one doesn’t see very often anymore.

          • dndnrsn says:

            That video seems to show a great deal of post-1945 imagery; presumably both the Nazis, the KPD prior to the Nazi takeover, and East Germany were all playing to preexisting German military aesthetics, at least in their uniforms etc?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I honestly believe that conservatives and socialists would find many useful points of agreement in their mutual traditions

            One of the easy places to cross from one party to the other is the extreme end. Horseshoe theory is basically valid.

            It’s perhaps telling that you are conflating all conservatives with the tail end. The conservative movements in many countries, having separated from the center are rapidly pulling themselves farther and farther to the end, like an amoeba which has undergone binary fissure.

        • David Speyer says:

          Good news if you live in the US! The US government already spends 18-24 months investigating everyone we grant refugee status to, and refuses to admit anyone with a history of criminal behavior or suspect political groups. Glad to hear you value our process, and I hope you will support raising the refugee cap back to 100K or higher.

          • This is indeed good news, although I would like to clarify something. When you say the U.S. “refuses to admit anyone with a history of criminal behavior or suspect political groups,” walk me through what that process looks like. Does this refer to the eventual decision of whether to grant long-term asylum, or does it mean that the U.S. does not let refugees physically set foot inside the U.S. until they have been put through this investigation process?

            In other words, imagine a refugee shows up at the border. As per your comment, it can take 18-24 months to investigate that refugee. And presumably, if the person is found to be suspicious at the end of that timeframe, the person is deported. But what happens to the refugee in the meantime? Are they released into the U.S. with few strings attached? If so, then is this person flagged for deportation if he/she should ever happen to come to the attention of law enforcement, or is there a concerted effort to track this person down in order to deport him/her? In any case, how is this person to be identified at this point?

            I doubt the Soviet Union would have allowed that. I doubt China would allow that today. I don’t know the details, but I suspect that in these socialist countries, suspicious refugees would be spending time in some sort of detention center for however long it took to investigate them.

    • pointenlos says:

      Some notes from a somewhat leftish german, although I never voted for die Linke not have I ever been a member.

      • I wouldn’t call die Linke just the successor party to the SED. Yes, of course via the PDS that’s correct but that ignores the west german WASG and more importantly: next year the wall has been fallen for over thirty years. In those three decades a lot of people came of age with different leftish positions than just nostalgia. They form the party in many different ways since then.

      • From what we know the about the proposal Fairland:
      a) It is not a faction inside Die Linke, although it comes from a faction, the Lafontaine/Wagenknecht wing.
      b) It is not focussed singularly focussed on refugees, that is just a one point among many other social issues. Anglophone media has since 2015 the habit to see every action and motivation in german politics based on the refugee crisis of 2015. That is a factor, of course, but not the only factor. There are many others.
      c) By its own words the #fairland proposal wants to build a coalition of the german left parties. The reason Merkel is chancellor since 2005 is just not her non-politics politics but also the fragmentation of the german left into three parties, which weakens each of them. So far there doesn’t seem much enthusiasm for #fairland, either in the SPD, the Greens and parts of die Linke. A major reason for that lies with the author, I think: Lafontaine.

      • Speaking of factions: like most parties Die Linke is split into wings which hate each other more than the outgroup. There a more than two wings and also the divisions between east and west and older and younger generations. But in short there is a small cold war between two movements inside die Linke, symbolized by Wagenknecht on the one hand and Kipping on the other. But: the cold war predates the refugee topic by years. In my opinion the refugees became a new front in this war not because of the refugees but because it’s a war. It could have been anything else. (See also the german government “crisis” last month. In words it was about asylum seekers, its motivation on the other hand was posturing for the forthcoming election in Bavaria. It could have been any topic.)

      What makes the #fairland thing somewhat spicy are what differentiates the two wings: The Kipping wing is ideological but is open for coalitions. That would mean weakening the ideology but participating in power. The Lafontaine/Wagenknecht wing is populist but shies away from coalitions. Derogatory: All talk, no responsibility. In this dichotomy the proposal is a small grenade, disturbing the balance. Maybe it’s just another weapon in the cold war. Maybe it’s Lafontaine wanting a legacy after 1999. Maybe it’s just trumpian blustering.

      • From those I met and from what I know lumpenproletariat is the wrong classification for the syrian refugees. Keep in mind that before the civil war Syria had a middle class; it was not the middle ages. The majority of refugees is not lumpenproletarian; keep in mind that the act of seeking refuge needs monetary means and some language skill.
      Btw: the vast majority of convicted criminals in the cologne train station incident were Maghrebi – from Marocco, Algeria and Tunesia – and a majority of them were illegal in Germany. They have somewhat different incentives compared to legetimate asylum seekers and refugees, both with a legal status.

      • I know there is a targeted effort on the net to redefine of Nationalsozialismus as a left ideology, ignoring the actual actions of Nazis. I really hope you mean something different.

      • For international workers solidarity: in a way the european refugee crisis is a crisis of the mediterranean european countries, Greece and Italy and to an extend Spain. Geography is a curse. If nothing has changed all refugees would have arrived and stayed there, putting an undue strain on the border countries. That is the tragedy: the refugee crisis would need intra-european solidarity between the EU countries, lessening the burden for the border countries. Which would need solidarity from northern and eastern european countries. But a comprehensive solution for the mess of the Dublin agreements is not in sight.

      • Thank you, this was very enlightening, especially about the details of the Cologne incident. And my knowledge of internal leftist politics in Germany is obviously incomplete. I may be wishfully reading more into these tea-leaves than is warranted. I’m obviously eager to witness any foreshadowing of a move in the American Left away from “the moralizing left” back towards a more orthodox-Marxist “materialist” left.

        • albatross11 says:

          It always blows my mind how much of the American left seems to be 100% on board with employers firing their employees for having the wrong political views, and with big companies throwing their economic weight around to force states and cities to reverse policies that the companies’ managements dislike.

          • Matt M says:

            Why shouldn’t they be? Their ideology dominates corporate boards. There is little to no risk of this tactic being used against them in kind.

          • CatCube says:

            @Matt M

            Right now. 50 years ago it was otherwise, and in 50 years it might be the right with the whip hand.

          • Deiseach says:

            There is little to no risk of this tactic being used against them in kind.

            Until the formerly considered solidly progressive comrades become, due to the drift of more and more radical social prescriptivism, first of all on the edge of what is acceptable and then on the same side as those filthy conservative repressive bigots.

            See Andrew Sullivan and his run-in with trans rights. Or the whole beginning disapproval of “gay white cis men” as not being truly representative of the glorious rainbow.

            Once they’ve run off or cowed the opposition, they will look around for further evils to be purged, and that only leaves their own side.

          • Matt M says:

            Right now. 50 years ago it was otherwise

            Maybe if the right would have done this sort of thing 50 years ago, they wouldn’t have ceded all of their cultural power to the progressives in the first place?

            The progressives are doing this because they think it will help them retain power. Now, you can say “but maybe it won’t work!” and you may be right. But that’s almost a non-sequitur. They believe it will work. They believe that these tactics make their own domination more likely to continue. And if they’re right, your dire warnings about the tables being turned won’t matter.

          • CatCube says:

            @Matt M

            50 years ago the right did do these things. It used to be relatively uncontroversial to fire a teacher for being gay, for example, because you didn’t want such people to influence the children and make people think that was all right. Up until the ’80s, Christian organizations had a huge influence about what was acceptable to put on TV, especially in kids shows. Anticommunism was such a strong force that they blacklisted people in Hollywood to make a stand against it. The Hays Code was a thing that existed.

            Larger cultural forces eventually overwhelmed this. If there’s a swing to the right, I doubt that the hairdye NKVD will be able to do anything about it. I also don’t see that a swing is out of the question. There were plenty of places in US history where the right was ascendant, and where the left was ascendant. That all of a sudden the left is able to permanently lock in their gains isn’t supported by the available evidence to me. There was an insurgency from the left in Hollywood against the right-leaning industry leaders. Now that the boring old guys running the show are left-wingers, the logical place for the insurgency is from the right.

            If we can hasten that turnaround by acknowledging that we won’t then run around like the Great Terror collecting scalps in vengeance, that’s the best way to proceed.

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M’s position is apparently held by many people on the left who imagine that this is true, but I think they’re fundamentally wrong, on two fronts:

            a. Corporate boards and such express the currently-in-vogue ideology the way the early Christian church got lots of new members once it became the state religion. Most of those folks aren’t acting on their deep beliefs, but on their expectation about which expressed beliefs will maximize their chances of keeping power. This could change on a dime.

            b. Outside identity politics wokeness, a lot of stuff the left broadly likes is extremely unpopular with the corporate board set. Establishing the norm that companies can and should throw their economic weight around on local laws, especially those unrelated to their actual operations in-state, is not going to work out well for left positions on, say, worker protections, unionization, environmental regulation, etc.

          • Matt M says:

            Most of those folks aren’t acting on their deep beliefs, but on their expectation about which expressed beliefs will maximize their chances of keeping power. This could change on a dime.

            It could, sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s likely. It also could not. Why would anyone assume that the cultural zeitgeist will move back right? Even in an environment where the right holds more political power than it has in a very long time, it still has essentially no cultural power. Republicans (and not just your standard RINOs, but Trump and Trump-sympathetic rightists) hold the presidency, both houses of Congress, the supreme court, a huge majority of state governments, etc.

            And even in that environment, the overall elite culture: media, academia, science, and yes, high levels of business – are all still culturally left. If cultural leftism has survived all of this, what makes you think it’s on the verge of dying anytime soon?

            Establishing the norm that companies can and should throw their economic weight around on local laws, especially those unrelated to their actual operations in-state, is not going to work out well for left positions on, say, worker protections, unionization, environmental regulation, etc.

            Which is why that’s not precisely the norm that’s being established. The norm is that corporations are fine to use their clout and power to oppose right-wing social causes, but not for anything else. Corporations that attempt to lobby for economic gain are still vilified. Look at the outrage Elon Musk faced when some investigative reporter “uncovered” that he committing the shocking sin of donating some irrelevantly small pittance to some GOP PAC.

            The norm being established is not “corporations can and should lobby for whatever they want,” but rather “corporations can and should lobby for leftist social causes and nothing else.”

          • Jaskologist says:

            If cultural leftism has survived all of this, what makes you think it’s on the verge of dying anytime soon?

            Let’s have some perspective here. “All of this” == “both years of this.”

          • Deiseach says:

            If there’s a swing to the right, I doubt that the hairdye NKVD will be able to do anything about it.

            I tend to agree with that, which is why I think they should be much more circumspect about how they use what power they have while they have it. Calling for the enemies of the people to be beheaded often ended up with yourselves in the tumbrils the next day. I have an absolute Robespierre stan* on my Tumblr feed who exculpates darling Max every chance she gets, but the fact remains: for a while, he was probably the most powerful man in France but he too ended up in the embrace of Madame Guillotine. Yet he and his fellow revolutionaries started off with all these marvellous ideas of overthrowing the corrupt old regime and establishing a wonderful new fairyland of equality and liberty. Turned out to be an ocean of blood, but that’s not what they started out expecting.

            People should learn from history.

            *Yes, I am tickled that two hundred and twenty-four years later someone is still MAX NEVER DID NOTHING WRONG EVER HE WAS FRAMED SWEET ANGEL BABY LAMB

        • Mark Atwood says:

          the Cologne incident

          “incident”

        • Aapje says:

          @citizencokane

          Thank you, this was very enlightening, especially about the details of the Cologne incident.

          I would argue that there is a general tendency to undervalue nationalist cultural differences and that the mistake you made in lumping in N-Africans with Syrians is emblematic of that.

          I’ve been paying attention to the nationality in reports of misbehaving asylum-seekers and N-Africans seem to be extremely over-represented relative to how often they they ask for asylum. In fact, there are reports of roaming groups of N-Africans, who move from country to country, getting shelter and food as part of the asylum procedure and then committing many crimes during the procedure. Then they run away before they are locked up and expelled, to do the same in another country.

          In contrast, asylum-seekers from many other countries, including Syria, seem relatively well-behaved. In so far that they commit crimes during the asylum-procedure, this is overwhelmingly against other asylum-seekers (which does not make it right, but which does mean that it doesn’t bother citizens). Dutch citizens living near centers for asylum-seekers seem to generally not have any major complaints, except for when there is a large influx of problematic groups (like the aforementioned roaming groups).

          The reports I’ve read show that the people who have been granted asylum and moved to proper housing are far less criminal than asylum-seekers in asylum centers. They pretty much commit crime as much as native Dutch people with similar incomes (which is still higher than average, as their income is low and low income Dutch natives are considerable more criminal than average).

          However, Muslim migrants in particular are relatively susceptible to commit terrorism, which are very infrequent events relative to how often other crimes are committed, making them nearly invisible in crime statistics, even though their impact is obviously very large. A complicating factor is that this susceptibility seems to exist for a long time, with second and third generation migrants still being susceptible to terrorist propaganda. So if you admit Muslim migrants today, you may face a risk of terrorism for decades.

          The anti-immigration right has a tendency to blame Muslim culture for misbehavior by asylum seekers and other migrants from third world countries, which seems to only be partially correct (mainly for Muslim terrorism). Other types of crime seem to not be correlated with Islam that much, but be caused mainly by poverty and in some cases by national culture.

          After the Cologne attack, I saw several feminists prominently declare that this was not an issue with Muslims or refugees, but with men. So they ignored the evidence about the attackers being mostly from certain nations to assign blame to their outgroup. This was one of the more prominent explanatory narrative that was presented by the left at the time.

          Marx specifically and communists in general also seem to have a strong tendency to ignore nationalist cultural differences, seeing capitalists and the proletariat as groups with the same interests and desires, across national borders. This is somewhat defensive for capitalists, who frequently are very globalist and tend to participate in an international elite culture, but far less so for the (lower and lower middle class) proletariat, who tend to dislike globalism and instead very much like their own national culture as well as feeling far stronger kinship with their countrymen than with foreigners. So economically, they tend to see other (lower and lower middle class) proletarians from their own nation as their ingroup, but those from other countries as the far- or outgroup (the former mainly when they stay in their own country and the latter when they immigrate*).

          * Although (lower and lower middle class) proletarians do seem to respect hard work, so an immigrant group that is extremely hard working can achieve fargroup or even ingroup status.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Why are you lumping all North Africans together? An obvious difference between a Moroccan and a Syrian is that one of them fleeing war and the other isn’t. Maybe that explains their behavior. Do the patterns you see justify lumping Libyans with Moroccans or with Syrians?

          • Aapje says:

            You are correct, I should have said the Maghreb, although perhaps more accurately the Magreb without Libya:

            No other group of foreigners has fallen into disrepute in Germany in recent years as much as young men from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. In 2016, only 2.4 percent of asylum seekers came from these North African countries, and yet 11 percent of immigrants suspected of committing a crime are from the Maghreb region. In Cologne, random samples showed that in 2015, more than 40 percent of migrants from the Maghreb committed robbery or theft within the first year of their arrival, says criminal division chief Thomas Schulte, who headed the investigations after the 2015/2016 New Year’s Eve assaults on women in Cologne.

            It seems that Libyans were and are much less likely to (try to) migrate to Europe, so we don’t really know how they would behave if they would have. I don’t know why they are reluctant to migrate to the EU.

          • 10240 says:

            even though their impact is obviously very large.

            Not that large, though: less than 1% of murders in the EU are terrorism. (I made this estimate during the Islamic State years, it’s probably even less now.) Even among murders by Muslims, terrorism is definitely a minority (Muslims are 3.8 of the population of the EU).

            N-Africans seem to be extremely over-represented relative to how often they they ask for asylum.

            Have you checked that these North African criminals are asylum seekers? I think most North African immigrants in Europe are not refugees, and have mostly arrived before the 2015 refugee wave.

          • Aapje says:

            Impact is not just measured in the number of deaths. People mind (others) dying in some ways much more than in other ways. Furthermore, people are generally aware that some causes of death impact them much less than the society-wide statistics might suggest. For example, if you are not a criminal, your chances to get murdered are way, way lower than if you are one.

            Terrorism also doesn’t merely cause deaths, but it causes feelings of terror, hence the name.

            Have you checked that these North African criminals are asylum seekers? I think most North African immigrants in Europe are not refugees, and have mostly arrived before the 2015 refugee wave.

            I don’t see why it is that relevant to the acceptance of migration/refugees/asylum seekers whether the people came in the 2015 wave or before.

            AFAIK, the higher level of criminality is present for all generations that migrated from the Maghreb and not just for the people who migrated themselves, but also the second and third generation. However, for some countries, including Germany, there is the complication that they count the second and third generation as Germans, rather than note whether people have a (recent) migrant background. This greatly complicates analysis of whether integration is going well and to what extent these groups contribute to society and to what extent they burden it (I personally believe that migration tends to result in complications and frictions for many decades after a person migrated, so analyzing it correctly requires following these people and their descendants for a long time). So it is likely that the German statistics from the Spiegel article are merely about first generation migrants.

            The Netherlands favors long term analyses more and is more willing to do these measurements, but it would be nicer to have them for Germany, because they have larger numbers of migrants and could thus have more accurate statistics.

            PS. An asylum seeker is not the same thing as a refugee. Asylum seekers are merely those who ask for asylum, which doesn’t mean that they actually deserve it. Asylum seekers are a mixture of refugees and people who want to migrate for other reasons. In some case, people know very well that they are not considered refugees by the country where they apply for asylum and they have the intent to leave the asylum facility/procedure to reside in the country illegally, to travel on to a country that they like better or for another reason.

          • 10240 says:

            That people are irrational and care more about terrorism much more than other kinds of murder is a problem with those people, not with immigration. There is no reason for terrorism to create more terror than other forms of murder (at least after taking into account an individual’s risk of murder, but I’m pretty sure terrorism is a tiny fraction of the murder risk even for non-criminals); the only reason it does is that the media blows it up. You are technically correct that terrorism has more effects than just deaths, though (in particular, it affects people’s opinion on immigration).

            It doesn’t really matter that they arrived before 2015 (I mentioned that to suggest that they have little to do with the recent immigration wave that stirred up anti-immigrant sentiment in many European countries where it was previously weaker). What matters is if the criminals you talk about are not actually asylum seekers. If the North African criminal : the North African asylum seeker ratio is bigger than the Syrian criminal : Syrian asylum seeker ratio, that doesn’t imply that the crime rate is higher among North Africans if the criminals include non-asylum-seekers, and a smaller proportion of North Africans than Syrians are asylum seekers.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            That people are irrational and care more about terrorism much more than other kinds of murder is a problem with those people, not with immigration.

            The big problem with terrorism isn’t as much the relatively small number of murders from terrorist action, as it is the threat of more, unless the population meets demands it really doesn’t want to meet (convert to another religion, accept an outsider as their new ruler, etc.).

            If someone known to be a lone wolf (such as a cult leader) kills 300 people along with himself somewhere in southwestern Wyoming, it’s a tragedy, but the threat is considered effectively over. If the same person declares allegiance with $overseasPoliticalGroup and does the exact same thing, there’s suddenly much greater reason to suspect $oPG might send someone else later to do it again.*

            That’s why the response to terror is so much more severe. I don’t consider it irrational. What’s weird to me is not factoring in that future threat.

            *That is, after the nation gets over its initial shock at the news that there were 300 people in one place in southwestern Wyoming.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @10240

            Do you have any numbers for the ratio of total to asylum seeker for, say, North Africans vs Syrians? My understanding was that a fair number of the North Africans crossing the Mediterranean currently (as opposed to prior to the collapse of Libya, etc, were claiming asylum also. I also recall seeing German crime stats that suggested Syrians (whose chance of eventually receiving asylum was good) committed crime at the same rate as Germans (not sure if it adjusted for sex, as the refugees have a different ratio from the German population) while North Africans (whose chance of getting asylum was much poorer) committed crime at a noticeably higher rate than the German population.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            That people are irrational and care more about terrorism much more than other kinds of murder is a problem with those people

            I think the broad hysteria over migration is, while predictable, well overblown, but this misstates something about murders committed by migrants in general and terrorism most specifically.

            Say the probability of my being murdered absence a sudden change in the overall risk landscape is P. I take certain actions based on my understanding of that risk landscape and judge my risk to be acceptable. Sudden changes in migration change the risk landscape, I no longer feel confident in my estimate of P, and therefore I justifiably no longer feel comfortable that I have correctly modulated my behavior. I don’t know the new risk landscape.

            Terrorism further heightens this uncomfortableness by targeting people specifically to change their perception of the risk landscape. What felt like the safest behaviors, like showing up at your large office building for a regular work day, no longer feel free of intentional threat. This is by design.

            Of course there is irrationality embedded in these feelings. Judging intentional acts to be in a different class of risk is a common mistake (compare our feelings about traffic accidents vs. other types of risk). Nonetheless, that a changing risk landscape makes us feel uncomfortable and even fearful isn’t actually irrational.

          • 10240 says:

            The big problem with terrorism isn’t as much the relatively small number of murders from terrorist action, as it is the threat of more, unless the population meets demands it really doesn’t want to meet

            We should expect that there will be terrorism in the future, too, but we should expect that there will be conventional murders in the future, too. Terrorism comes with a threat and a demand (which we are obviously not going to meet anyway), conventional murders don’t, but that doesn’t mean that there will suddenly be no more conventional murders from next year.

            My understanding was that a fair number of the North Africans crossing the Mediterranean currently (as opposed to prior to the collapse of Libya, etc, were claiming asylum also.

            Those are mostly black, Sub-Saharan Africans. A while earlier they were perhaps Syrians if that route was easier at the moment than the Balkans route. They are not natives of the North African countries.

            Nonetheless, that a changing risk landscape makes us feel uncomfortable and even fearful isn’t actually irrational.

            It wouldn’t be irrational if there weren’t pretty exact statistics on the murder rate and the number of terrorism deaths. To some extent it’s journalists responsibility that they don’t publicize these numbers more, but anyone can look them up.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Terrorism comes with a threat and a demand (which we are obviously not going to meet anyway), conventional murders don’t, but that doesn’t mean that there will suddenly be no more conventional murders from next year.

            1: It’s not immediately obvious to me that any given population will cave to terrorists. I think it’s rather obvious, by contrast, that there exist populations that do. It consequently looks workable enough to some people that we end up with movements like ISIS, and so it makes sense for people to want to make it look very unworkable.

            2: Conventional murders do keep happening, but the underlying motives are different, and so they warrant different reponses. Conventional murders happen because of domestic disputes, botched muggings, gang warfare, and other causes, all of which are distinctly different from the causes of acts which everyone tends to classify as terrorism (e.g. 9/11, the Murray Building bombing). Causes of conventional murders are typically local individuals. Causes of terrorism are typically organizations, and often cross-jurisdictional or even international. Meaning, they are much more likely to be repeated, and they also aren’t easily countered with conventional law enforcement. The response necessarily has to be greater in degree.

            Raw body count cannot be the only factor determining response. If that’s all we use, then we end up with more and more dead bodies from terrorism until we stop using that as the only factor.

          • 10240 says:

            Ideally we should determine response in such a way that the marginal cost of saving one more life by going after terrorism is the same as by going after conventional murder. It’s quite possible that under this method there would be more terrorism and less conventional murder.

            Originally this thread wasn’t about how to fight terrorism in general, but to what extent terrorism justifies restricting immigration. If, with the present anti-terrorism efforts, terrorism is a very small risk, then it’s not really a reason to do so.

          • albatross11 says:

            If terrorism works at frightening people, so that each death by terrorism makes the country ten times as much worse off as each death by some meth-head seeking his next fix, then it’s not so clear to me that the right response is to say “yes, but that’s because people are irrational, let’s give them what they *should* want” and then ignore their fears. And I’m absolutely sure that this approach is not the path to victory in the next election, which is mostly what our leaders care about.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Ideally we should determine response in such a way that the marginal cost of saving one more life by going after terrorism is the same as by going after conventional murder. It’s quite possible that under this method there would be more terrorism and less conventional murder.

            That might be so. OTOH, it might still be the case that responses to terrorism appear larger, because terrorism potentially threatens greater lives lost. We might mount a high-profile effort to go overseas and stomp on some terrorist camp, versus scores of relatively low-profile local police actions, and still be spending fewer ducats per estimated life saved.

            It may be that no amount of low-profile law enforcement will prevent certain terrorist acts, in certain cases where some amount of immigration enforcement would.

            Also, if you factor in the property damage and overall loss of utility from terrorism, it may warrant a larger response per life lost than conventional murder.

          • 10240 says:

            @albatross11 If we are discussing what we as a country should do, what we should want the government to do, then it’s not enough to just say “the government should do what the people want”; that would be circular reasoning. The government should do what we want, but what should we want? In practice, of course, the government will do more-or-less what people want, and we on this forum won’t have much of an effect on that, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t even discuss what the right policy is.

            When I discuss policy, either I just want to talk about what I think the right policy is, or perhaps I implicitly want to convince people about how to vote. For the former, what other people want is irrelevant. For the latter, you don’t have to say “people want X, so the government should do X, so I vote for a party which will do X”. Your vote is your own. Of course if you don’t consider the matter at hand particularly important, and your opinion on it is unpopular, you may want the party you support overall to adopt a policy different from what you think is right to avoid losing votes.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Seems to me that lumping terrorism in with gang violence and domestic disputes is fundamentally dishonest. Yes the “Average American” has more to fear from those, but there are no “average Americans” there are just individuals.

            Gangy McGangerson has WAY more to fear from gang violence, and Beaty McBeats his wife way more from domestic violence.

            But what about Normal Normaly? He just takes his train from the burbs to the city to work his job in a a cube or a hospital or a construction site. He has nothing to fear from gang violence or domestic violence. He buys the safest car he can afford (because that is actually what probably going to kill him if he dies young) and now he’s minimized every risk he can personally minimize. If gangs get close to expanding to his suburb he and all the other respectable people will put an end to it and he knows it.

            However, there is nothing he can do to minimize his risk of dying to a terrorist. They might bomb his building, or his train. He can’t stop taking the train or going to his job. He can’t just wear a fireproof vest and battle armor every day.

            So its not comparable at all. Its like taking lung cancer deaths and comparing them to deaths from bee stings, and saying it means allergic people need not have an epipen.

          • 10240 says:

            I don’t know what the murder risk of Normal Normaly is, I suspect that while it’s less than for some high risk groups, terrorism is still a tiny fraction of it. But actually the overall murder risk doesn’t even really matter: what matters is that terrorism risk is very small (it reduces one’s life expectancy by a few hours), so so there is no reason to consider it very important when deciding policy.

            Again, there are plenty of things that may kill you young with a tiny probability that you can’t do anything about, and you don’t worry about them all the time. (Or things such that you could do something to slightly reduce their risk but you probably don’t.)

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            10240,

            First, as an aside, I think you are massively overestimating the murder rate for a middle class suburbanite where the murder is not committed by a family member. The times where those things happen we also become obsessed with that crime, those are called school shootings and serial killers. Terrorism, school shootings, and serial killers are the 3 groups of, “random killings” and people are OBSESSED with them.

            The thing about all those “risks” is they have very positive tradeoffs for Normaly. He needs to drive around to buy things he wants and do things he wants to do. He likes having a pool even though he might drown, he likes drinking a few too many brews. And in all those things, he has personal responsibility and accountability.

            For terrorism, where is Normaly’s payoff for admitting Middle Easterners? We know that diversity lowers social cohesion in communities (regardless of violence levels). Maybe there are benefits for him, but they have never been well articulated, or they may be extremely remote with upfront costs (like the benefit of him not having the 3rd glass of wine).

          • zqed says:

            @10240:

            what matters is that terrorism risk is very small (it reduces one’s life expectancy by a few hours), so so there is no reason to consider it very important when deciding policy.

            I am not convinced about the validity of this kind of argument in any situation, because it does not consider the effect of existing mitigation.

            People were massively unlikely to die of chlorine gas in the WW1 trenches, but that does not make gas masks a stupid investment. If any one side chose to stop issuing gas masks, their chlorine gas casualties would have skyrocketed.

            Similarly, mitigation efforts are increased after terrorist attacks, and the mitigations have to be kept in place (which will cost money). If you stop the mitigation efforts, your casualty rate will increase (so you should expect the cost of the war on terror to be ever-increasing, and very high compared to the QALYs lost to terrorism each year). Thought experiment: imagine that from tomorrow on, airplane security returns to the pre-911 system. How long would it take before the first 5k terrorism casualties? My expectation is less than two weeks.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Thought experiment: imagine that from tomorrow on, airplane security returns to the pre-911 system. How long would it take before the first 5k terrorism casualties? My expectation is less than two weeks.

            On what basis do you say that? If terrorists wanted to attack United States air travel and were otherwise able to, I don’t think TSA – which misses a huge percentage of banned objects in secret tests – would be holding them back.

          • AliceToBob says:

            On what basis do you say that? If terrorists wanted to attack United States air travel and were otherwise able to, I don’t think TSA – which misses a huge percentage of banned objects in secret tests – would be holding them back.

            Maybe his/her phrasing could be improved, but my guess is that “airplane security returns to the pre-911 system” may refer not only to the TSA, but also to the broader security efforts by various agencies (both US and international) that have been undertaken since 9-11 to reduce terrorist threats for travelers.

            Even if we grant that the given example could be refined, I think qzed’s general point about mitigation makes sense.

          • albatross11 says:

            As far as I can tell, post-9/11 airline security is probably not all that much better than pre-9/11 airline security.

            What we do know is that the TSA hasn’t actually stopped any terrorists directly. They may have dissuaded them from trying, but they’ve never announced that they’d caught a terrorist trying to blow up a plane. We’ve had two terrorist attacks on planes since 9/11, and both got through TSA–the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber. I don’t think either one could have brought down the plane, but they might have managed to kill a few passengers if they’d been able to get their bombs to go off.

            To get a terrorist attack with lots of casualties (more than the number of people on the plane), you need to hijack the plane and fly it into a building or something. I think this became enormously harder as of 9/12. Re-enforcing the cockpit doors and having everyone know that if the hijackers get into the cockpit, they’ll kill everyone on board probably accomplished most of the practical improvement in security from hijacking we got post-9/11.

          • 10240 says:

            where is Normaly’s payoff for admitting Middle Easterners?

            Whatever is the reason to let them in in the first place. You can say that there is no reason to let them in anyway, and it’s detrimental to let them in anyway, but in that case the reason not to let them in is that fact, not terrorism. My point is that the terrorism risk is low enough that it’s unlikely to tip over the balance.

            The reason to let them in may be actual, e.g. economic benefit, or altruism, i.e. to save the lives of refugees at a small cost; in the latter case what matters is how the cost compares to the maximum cost we are willing to take. It’s legitimate to say that the maximum cost you are willing to take to save the life of a foreigner is 0, but for many people it isn’t 0.

            For the record, I’m not all that liberal on immigration, I don’t think the way Europe handles asylum seekers is the most effective way to help people, and I’m not addressing here what immigration policy we should have. I just say I don’t think terrorism should affect it as strongly as many people think it should.

            Similarly, mitigation efforts are increased after terrorist attacks, and the mitigations have to be kept in place (which will cost money). If you stop the mitigation efforts, your casualty rate will increase

            I see no reason why the cost of keeping the amount of terrorism at a given level would increase fast. It would require terrorist tactics to be significantly improving, or terrorist organizations growing ever bigger. I’m not convinced either is happening.

            Using planes to destroy buildings was one terrorist innovation, but when we talk about the bombings, shootings and truck rammings that happen in Europe, I don’t see why we would need increasing effort to limit them. And 9/11 was a well-organized effort — restricting immigration doesn’t prevent something like that.

          • rlms says:

            @idontknow131647093

            First, as an aside, I think you are massively overestimating the murder rate for a middle class suburbanite where the murder is not committed by a family member.

            On what basis do you make that claim? According to this, you are 180 times more likely to die from murder in general than terrorism (with foreign-born perpetrators). It seems highly likely to me that considerably more than 0.5% of murders are of middle-class suburbanites caused by e.g. escalated arguments or robberies. The FBI statistics here seem to support that — circumstances of robbery by stranger account for 1.5% of murders (circumstances of burglary/larceny-theft account for a smaller proportion), and argument with acquaintance accounts for 7.7%. But I would welcome any better data (e.g. about distribution of murder victims by class/income).

            For terrorism, where is Normaly’s payoff for admitting Middle Easterners?

            Let’s try to work this out! This article gives us a yearly economic benefit from immigration of around $100 per native-born American (a lower estimate, rounded down). From various sources (this; some other articles; the first link, Wikipedia page for cumulative incidence, and the literal back of an envelope) I estimate yearly risk of death from terrorism as around 10^-8. Using a VSL of $10 million, the yearly terrorism-related cost of immigration would be around $0.1 — three orders of magnitude smaller than the calculated benefit.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            According to this, you are 180 times more likely to die from murder in general than terrorism (with foreign-born perpetrators). It seems highly likely to me that considerably more than 0.5% of murders are of middle-class suburbanites caused by e.g. escalated arguments or robberies. The FBI statistics here seem to support that – circumstances of robbery by stranger account for 1.5% of murders (circumstances of burglary/larceny-theft account for a smaller proportion), and argument with acquaintance accounts for 7.7%.

            Part of the problem with statistics like these is that they’re also a function of how much effort you put into mitigation, and the functions for terrorism and murder are different.

            If I, as Supreme Leader, announce we’re going to halve spending on investigating and prosecuting murders due to escalated domestic disputes, we would expect the number of such murders to go up roughly by the number of cases where people in escalated domestic disputes consider murder but were backing off because they’re afraid of the Supreme Police.

            If I announce we’re going to halve spending on investigating and prosecuting murders from terrorism, we would expect the number of such murders to go up roughly by the number of cases where people consider doing some terrorism but were backing off because they’re afraid of the Supreme Police.

            The former is almost certainly lower than the latter; people in domestic disputes that bad probably aren’t worried about getting caught before they can murder. Would-be terrorists are.

            But I would welcome any better data (e.g. about distribution of murder victims by class/income).

            Point above aside, I would too. Specifically, I’m betting there are risk factors for conventional murder more precise than class or income. Marital status obviously makes all the difference in your chance of being murdered by your spouse, for example. You could also toss in the usual suspects like substance abuse, bankruptcy, clinical depression, et al.

            Here’s the thing: I suspect a lot of people take steps to avoid risk factors for conventional murder. They don’t drink. They don’t do drugs. They file for divorce or flee to another state rather than stick it out with a violent spouse.

            But the only apparent way to avoid terrorism is to not exist, and maybe that’s what drives the visceral response to it.

          • 10240 says:

            Let’s try to work this out! This article gives us a yearly economic benefit from immigration of around $100 per native-born American

            This is just the benefits, not benefits-costs. Also, it should be disaggregated to low-skill and high-skill immigrants — the link mentions both, but it’s unclear if the benefits-costs of low-skill immigrants is positive. If we are talking about Muslim terrorism risk, we should compare to the benefits-costs from Muslim immigrants, or rather, the benefit of admitting Muslim immigrants above admitting more non-Muslim immigrants in their stead; and Muslim immigrants are a small fraction of all immigrants to the US. That said, even taking all this into account, I agree that the terrorism risk is small compared to benefits and other costs.

            people in domestic disputes that bad probably aren’t worried about getting caught before they can murder. Would-be terrorists are.

            Most Islamic terrorism today is suicide terrorism. They aren’t afraid of getting caught. The main way of preventing Islamic terrorism is catching them before they commit their attack. Of course if we decreased law enforcement efforts a lot, non-suicide terrorism would eventually re-emerge. But I’m pretty sure that, at present, the marginal cost of saving a life through anti-terrorism efforts is higher than through efforts against conventional murder.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            me: [P]eople in domestic disputes that bad probably aren’t worried about getting caught before they can murder. Would-be terrorists are.

            10240: Most Islamic terrorism today is suicide terrorism. They aren’t afraid of getting caught. The main way of preventing Islamic terrorism is catching them before they commit their attack.

            Right. That’s what I’m talking about: terrorists are only worried about being caught before they commit their kills.

            But I’m pretty sure that, at present, the marginal cost of saving a life through anti-terrorism efforts is higher than through efforts against conventional murder.

            Aye; this is one of the claims I’m contesting. Is that marginal cost actually higher? It’s not clear to me. Like, genuinely unclear: you might be right, even though I highly suspect you aren’t.

            We’re unlikely to find out, though. Most anti-terrorist activity is probably classified. We only see the public stuff (e.g. TSA), which looks relatively limited and ineffective.

            But another claim I’m contesting (which I’m not sure you’re making) is that what we say we’re spending against an activity also affects how much of that activity we see. If Zorg thinks we’re spending only $1M on anti-terrorism instead of $1B, he might try more stuff. Zorg probably doesn’t sweat TSA, but he might wonder enough about whatever else we might have set up that he second guesses himself a lot more, and spends more of his own time and energy on making sure his mangalores elude detection.

            It’s entirely possible that the US saves a great deal on costs by making a credible claim of resources diverted to anti-terrorism, which increases the marginal benefit of the resources we actually divert.

          • rlms says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            The former is almost certainly lower than the latter; people in domestic disputes that bad probably aren’t worried about getting caught before they can murder.

            I disagree. The proportion of people in the former group who are deterred may be smaller, but the number of people in that group is presumably vastly larger (as domestic murders are much more common than terrorism). But also there are other relevant factors: the proportion of people in both groups who are worried about getting caught after they murder (seems likely to be higher for the former) and increased numbers of murders from repeat offenders who would previously have been locked up (ditto).

            @10240

            This is just the benefits, not benefits-costs

            It’s the net (economic) benefit, assuming it was calculated in the same way as the similar figure in this report from CIS (an anti-immigration think tank). Immigrants provide $437 billion of value in cheaper products/services to natives, but also reduce wages by $402 billion for a surplus of $35 billion, which I then divided by the population of non-immigrants to get ~$100.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            Note that those are just the financial costs and benefits, there are also cultural, social, environmental, etc costs and benefits.

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        ” So far there doesn’t seem much enthusiasm for #fairland, either in the SPD, the Greens and parts of die Linke. A major reason for that lies with the author, I think: Lafontaine.”

        For the Greens the problem is rather that they ARE the moralising left. Fairland (tough for me not to insert a “y”) is basically the proposal to drop what makes the Greens the Greens and to start giving a shit about the workers, who are not voting Green anyway.

        The Greens ran on a pro-refugee program that contained gems like “unlimited family reunion” and “automatic citizenship for kids born in Germany”. Which, if implemented, would be a bunch of “right wing conspiracy theories” come true.

        • Wrong Species says:

          It’s interesting that support for birthright citizenship is supported by almost everyone except the far right in the US but only the far left in Germany.

      • ana53294 says:

        For international workers solidarity: in a way the european refugee crisis is a crisis of the mediterranean european countries, Greece and Italy and to an extend Spain. Geography is a curse. If nothing has changed all refugees would have arrived and stayed there, putting an undue strain on the border countries. That is the tragedy: the refugee crisis would need intra-european solidarity between the EU countries, lessening the burden for the border countries.

        Not only does the EU not do that, they insist on making the whole thing more expensive. In Spain, we have a socialist government who chose to accept a ship full of illegal immigrants into Spain (the ship should have gone to Italy; Italy refused; the next port should have been France, and they did not offer). This has brought a lot of immigrants into trying to jump the fence. And they do it in big numbers, the processing centers are collapsed. So the police has this policy of just dragging the ones who are not injured to the other side of the fence, so they don’t have to deal with them. This probably saves tons of resources, but it has been made illegal by the ECHR. After the massive assault on the fence this week, police were caught doing it again, and this has caused a massive outrage.

        For me, the refusal to accept these immigrants by the rich countries, but insisting on quite strict and costly rules of deportation makes them hypocrites. Why don’t they at least pay the border countries for all the legal trouble a proper deportation procedure costs?

        • Aapje says:

          The EU is a federation, where EU laws are generally implemented by EU nations at their own expense. So this effectively means that nations are responsible for securing their borders according to EU guidelines, which impacts some EU nations more than others.

          Similarly, the EU regulations concerning asylum seekers mainly requires every EU nation to register asylum seekers that they encounter and has to put them in an asylum procedure (Dublin agreement). In practice, countries don’t do this.

          99% of refugees that request asylum in The Netherlands have passed through another EU country and should by EU law have been registered by that country and have been entered into the asylum procedure of that country. Yet this obviously didn’t happen.

          In general, this is a problem with the EU. There are laws that nations have agreed upon and there is what nations actually do. These are often different (and the extent to which one can get away with this differs by country). Because this is generally accepted practice, many nations don’t actually feel that they should be held to EU laws.

          So this creates a lot of resentment all around, when some countries insist that others follow the EU laws, while those other nations feel that the laws don’t apply to them.

          For me, the refusal to accept these immigrants by the rich countries, but insisting on quite strict and costly rules of deportation makes them hypocrites. Why don’t they at least pay the border countries for all the legal trouble a proper deportation procedure costs?

          The answer to this question is that the border countries have accepted the obligation to police their border and to register and process asylum seekers. The other countries are mostly not willing change this agreement.

          Is it hypocritical to want others to honor a promise they made?

          • ana53294 says:

            Well, they also made a promise to redistribute some of the refugees, and so far almost nobody has fulfilled their promise (southern countries either; Spain has not filled the promised refugee quota).

            But the thing is, when it comes to other things, nobody is insisting for such consistency. Take, for example, the European Water Framework directive. Spain has maybe 20+ lakes, and monitoring all of them is not too costly. Sweden is a much smaller country with a lot more lakes. They still have the obligation to monitor them all, which they don’t, but they choose to take the most representative lakes and monitor them (so, for interconnecting lakes, they frequently monitor just one). Nobody in Spain does it, because the law technically says to monitor them all, and it is really not worth it to try to skirt it, because we have few lakes. Nobody is insisting that Sweden follow the Directive in its strictest interpretation, because they see Sweden makes an honest effort to monitor most of the lakes, and making them monitor all of the lakes would create an undue burden that they don’t deserve because they really try to monitor all representative lakes.

            This is all very technical, and nobody really cares if Sweden doesn’t go and test every aspect of every lake. But the immigration burden is uneven, and even processing 80% of immigrants and letting the other 20% escape is more costly than it is for the rich countries to process those immigrants, because they only get the 20%. So yes, the Spanish police are not too strict in pursuing the immigrants who march to Germany, and mostly target those who choose to stay in Spain. But they still deal with more immigrants than a country with 15% unemployment can afford.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “Another way of thinking about it is, the Left needs to carefully distinguish between “National Socialism” (a la Hitler) and “Socialism in One Country” (a la Stalin). National Socialism ahistorically vilifies and generalizes about other nationalities, whereas Socialism in One Country recognizes that other countries might not yet be on the same page, but they are in principle on the same team as soon as they come around to the idea of socialism.”

      I don’t know how endorsed vs. snark this is, but I’m reminded of the difference between laziness vs. biologically-mediated tendency to do less work.

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        Reminds me of this post on Quillette about the Intellectual Dark Web and how they get “outgrouped” by coastal liberals, thus becoming conservative allies.

        https://quillette.com/2018/05/25/groups-groups-idw/

        I’d argue there is an intrinsic connection between the rise of Fascism and Socialism (now far right vs. sjwism) because they are actually very similar, and the fascists only ever become mildly appealing to mainstream people when the socialists appear to have a real chance to take over, and they kind of do a weighing of which is worse.

    • Yakimi says:

      The great German socialist Wolfgang Streeck (who is involved in the movement mentioned above) has been laying the intellectual groundwork for this tendency for years now. I highly recommend his works for his courageous willingness to skewer left-liberal orthodoxies from a staunchly labor-revivalist perspective, which in some ways speaks to the same concerns traditionally found on the Right. Many leftists profess a rejection of liberalism, but Streeck demonstrates how the Left is fatally compromised by what it only ostensibly opposes.

      Whose Side Are We on? Liberalism and Socialism Are Not the Same

      In its move toward universal liberalism, the Left has largely abandoned collectivism – which can exist only as particularism, today predominantly invested in nation-states and national politics – to the radical Right, allowing it to pose as defender of last resort of the national arena of collective interest articulation and binding government. In the 1990s, with left-liberal and increasingly neoliberal individualism riding on the coattails of market expansion, the Left began to define itself as antinationalist – ergo anti-racist, ergo anti-fascist, in effect allowing collectivism to become associated with nationalism, racism, and fascism. As a result, nationalists, racists, and fascists could present themselves as the only remaining allies of those seeking national protection from international markets and corporations. On the Third Way, what had once been left anti-capitalism turned into liberallibertarian pro-capitalism, if not intentionally then by default, by dissociating itself from the politically most effective collectivism, that of the nation-state. As a consequence, collectivism came to be captured by the Right, and in fighting the Right the Left allied itself with neoliberalism – with free trade, free markets, and state-free globalization. Economic prosperity and social protection were to come, no longer from collective action, but from the beneficial effects of free trade made possible by neoliberal national reforms in response to international market conditions and constraints. In the new left-universalist-cosmopolitan frame of mind, borders became anathema, as did localized solidarity – discounting national-state government in favor of liberal-voluntaristic governance by experts, epistemic communities, well-meaning NGOs, and problem-solving, knowledge-processing international conferences.

      Having declared national politics and the nation-state obsolete, and having placed its hopes on global cosmopolitanism as the social solidarity of the future, center-leftism has become indistinguishable from libertarian liberalism, most of all in the United States. The radical Left, for its part, seems to lack the ideological imagination to recognize phenomena like the one-nation Toryism of the post-Brexit British Prime Minister as an invasion of political territory that is by tradition theirs. Instead many on the Left feel a sense of sympathy with what one can call Silicon Valley progressivism: with its universalistic pro-immigration language confusing solidarity with charity, with its billionaire philanthropy, and with its utopian social policy projects such as a guaranteed minimum income for everybody, presumably worldwide. Redefining international relations to make them a vehicle of hightech globalization while re-building social structures into networks of global consumerism, Silicon Valley progressivism needs politics to provide for effective demand in its borderless markets, so that electronic gadgets can be sold to “users” and advertisement space to corporations seeking customers able to pay for their products. There is no underestimating the attraction for much of the former Left, now (neo-)liberal Left, of the Silicon Valley utopia of a borderless global society based on universal civil rights – essentially the right not to be discriminated in free trade on ascriptive criteria – and governed by a stateless lex mercatoria in conjunction with circles of elite experts disposed to protect global universalism from the temptations of particularistic, national, state-organized solidarity.

      • As a result, nationalists, racists, and fascists could present themselves as the only remaining allies of those seeking national protection from international markets and corporations…

        The problem I see here is, I don’t see how an independent Germany, or an independent Britain for that matter, can “protect themselves from international markets and corporations.” They are objectively dependent on the world market for the import of certain key raw materials, and no amount of import-substituting industrialization will change that fact. As geographical entities, they are simply too small to be self-sufficient. The nationalists, racists, and fascists will be no more able to protect Germany from international markets and corporations than the current crop of neoliberals. Nor will Die Linke be able to do much if they take power within Germany alone.

        Being objectively dependent on the world market means that their economies will be objectively constrained by the Law of Value. In order to get the necessary imports, they will have to play the game. They will need foreign exchange, which means they will need to produce exports at a profit in terms of that foreign exchange. And what sort of wages and protections they will be able to afford to pay and still be profitable will not be determined by them, or by the level of surplus of physical use-values that they produce. Instead, it will be determined by competition with the rest of the world market, which will be driving the price of those export products down to the bare minimum—to a level that Germany will not be able to match and still produce at a profit unless it follows suit and cuts wages and protections.

        It doesn’t matter who the leadership is or what their intentions are. As long as Germany is dependent on an external capitalist world market, they will continually run up against this lack of sovereignty. The origin of this lack of sovereignty will continue to be mysterious and will continue to be blamed on this or that politician or bureaucrat or regulation or Globalist conspiracy or George Soros or whatever.

        But it is not predominantly the EU that is preventing them from attaining true sovereignty, but rather the Law of Value. The EU is just a symptom. It is an adaptation to this objective dependence on the Law of Value. It is a way of internalizing the Law of Value into their economy so that they can better play that game that they must currently play.

        Now, on the other hand, a socialist confederation of all of the Nordic countries + Germany might be sufficient to make them no longer dependent on the capitalist world market and thus constrained in their sovereignty by the Law of Value. They’ll have access to oil, nickel, etc.

        Or, there could be a socialist EU with true political and fiscal union. That would definitely work.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Disconnected thoughts:

      1.

      It’s like, if a German worker circa-1914 is invading my French province, sure, I’ll keep putting out feelers for a Christmas truce, for a peace, for turning the imperialist war into a Europe-wide class civil war…but I’d also be a dummy to just sit on my gun when I see some of those German workers coming over the top at me.

      This jumped out at me. The beginning of WWI was a huge disappointment for many socialists. Meanwhile, over the decade after the war, fascists (and to a lesser extent authoritarian right-wingers) used the image of the classes united behind national struggle in WWI as a propaganda tool.

      2. Both German national socialism and “socialism in one country” were big on autarky, weren’t they? Autarky is usually a big red flag; it goes hand in hand with all sorts of bad stuff, even if it isn’t bad itself.

      3. Is it more possible on SSC to say nice things about Stalinism than essjaydoubleyous? Signs point to “yes”.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Autarky is usually a big red flag

        Joke about socialism and red flags left as an exercise to the reader.

        Autarky is usually a big red flag; it goes hand in hand with all sorts of bad stuff, even if it isn’t bad itself.

        Autarky is pretty horrible. At best, it disallows a lot of opportunity for economic growth through specialization and trade. At worst, it’s a self-imposed starvation blockade.

        • dndnrsn says:

          My meaning in saying autarky’s bad is that in a German context it’s probably best associated with a certain plan to become self-sufficient through conquering pretty much everything up to the Urals. Didn’t go well. In a Soviet context, “we must become self-sufficient in xyz” seems to have turned into “comrade, why have you failed to exceed the xyz quota? Sounds like some kind of wrecking!”

      • quanta413 says:

        With respect to 3, Stalinism is just so unpopular and far away despite being obviously much more damaging if successful. Despite being highly unlikely, it’s still more likely some group of SJW’s win, then one of them seizes power like Stalin or things descend into a French Revolution Reign of Terror than that literal Stalinists have any political success.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I think there is an exaggerated startle response here to certain chunks of the left (the Sierra Juliet Whiskies or whatever one wishes to call them) that is rather outsized to the threat posed to people here, to society in general, etc.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      citizencokake, I’ve been following your thoughts about the rational-materialist left with interest and have one big question. Based on the empirics of 20th century revolutions, what should the materialist left do about farm land in the event of its success?

      • I am not an agronomist, so I’m not sure how to answer your question on a technical level. If you are asking about social organization of farm work, then I would say:

        1. Most farm output in the industrialized West is nowadays done by big agribusiness utilizing heavy machinery, industrial fertilizers and pesticides, and genetic engineering on a large scale. It would obviously not be a good idea to split up these highly efficient enterprises into smaller-scale farms (as some silly petty-bourgeois “localvore” environmentalist types would. They romanticize the past and do not fully appreciate the benefits given to us by our highly specialized division of labor and technology). Nor would it be allowable to allow these big farms to remain in the hands of a few shareholders. The question would be whether to make them into cooperative farms or state farms. My preference would be for state farms, but there might be a debate worth having there.

        2. As for smaller farms, I would say that anyone who wants to LARP Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon and be a subsistence farmer should be allowed to retain enough land for that purpose. And I think we in the wealthy West would be able to afford that luxury for the small number of quirky individuals who don’t want their behavior to be regulated by the social division of labor, and who are willing to make the tradeoff of relative poverty and lack of access to the products of society’s division of labor in exchange for freedom from the regulating influence of that division of labor.

        3. However, there may be individuals who do want to participate in the social division of labor and reap its benefits, but on their own exploitative terms—by using hired labor to produce a surplus of use-values to sell as commodities on the market. This we would not allow. If you are going to benefit from the social division of labor, you are going to have to play by its rules. This is no different than under capitalism, where we are constrained by the Law of Value, which is how we currently regulate our division of labor. Except we shall have much better rules for coordinating the social division of labor.

        In any case, any additional land, tools, and labor that would produce a significant surplus of food and raw materials beyond what the farmer would personally consume would be assigned to the cooperative/state farms to employ.

    • Viliam says:

      The Left needs to be intolerant of lumpenproletarian behavior and lifestyles. We are talking about petty (apolitical) criminality and social parasitism. … if comrades refuse to be proletarians and insist on acting like lumpenproletarians (raping women, or stealing cars from proletarian comrades, or setting fire to cars or other social wealth with no deliberate revolutionary purpose behind it), they get speedy deportation (if they are a refugee) or a stint in the gulag (if they are a citizen), no exceptions

      Reminds me of The Gulag Archipelago quote:

      the thieves were our allies in the building of Communism. This was set forth in textbooks on Soviet corrective-labor policy (there were such textbooks, they were published!), in dissertations and scientific essays on camp management, and in the most practical way of all—in the regulations on which the high-ranking camp officials were trained. All this flowed from the One-and-Only True Teaching, which explained all the iridescent life of humanity … in terms of the class struggle and it alone.

      And here is how it was worked out. Professional criminals can in no sense be equated with capitalist elements (i.e., engineers, students, agronomists, and “nuns”), for the latter are steadfastly hostile to the dictatorship of the proletariat, while the former are only (!) politically unstable! (A professional murderer is only politically, unstable!) The lumpenproletanan is not a property owner, and therefore cannot ally himself with the hostile-class elements, but will much more willingly ally himself with the proletariat (you just wait!). That is why in the official terminology of Gulag they are called socially friendly elements. (Tell me who your friends are . . .) That is why the regulations repeated over and over again: Trust the recidivist criminals!

      So, the important thing to integrate the lumpenproletariat into glorious socialist society is to make sure they only rape the politically incorrect women, and steal only food from already starving prisoners in the socialist labor-to-death camps. This will channel their energy into advancing the Revolution.

      • I think your interpretation of that passage is a very uncharitable one. Having higher hopes of rehabilitating and re-integrating petty criminals vs. determined enemies of the regime, or people who would have good reason to be determined enemies of the regime regardless of what they happen to profess at the moment, makes perfect sense to me. Not that the Soviet Union gave up on re-integrating enemy class elements. The 1936 Constitution restored their right to vote. Unfairly arrested Kulaks who had done nothing illegal had access to an appeal process and were restored to their original communities (although not to their original property, obviously!) Former bourgeois specialists and small capitalists were actually given significant authority in the running of new state enterprises…obviously because the Soviet government had no other choice. But it is not as if they had no hopes for achieving a decent life.

        If the only thing you read is Solzhenitsyn or others of his reactionary ilk, you are probably not going to come away with this impression. To say that Solzhenitsyn had an agenda and a motive to exaggerate and outright fabricate stories is an understatement. Try, for example, the following scholarly article from 1955 available on JSTOR, written after a delegation of British lawyers visited the USSR:

        E.L. Johnson, “Some Aspects of the Soviet Legal System,” Soviet Studies, Vol. 6, No. 4 (Apr. 1955), pp. 351-358.

        I will quote some passages from that article on the camps themselves (which follows a dicussion of the Soviet court and appeals process, which was actually not all that different from those of Western institutions). I’m sure people will just dismiss this as a model Potemkin camp meant to be used to fool foreign observers…in which case someone trying to demonstrate the merits of the Soviet Union falls into the same situation as a person suspected of sociopathy who tries to prove that he/she is not a sociopath. “Ah, but that’s just what a sociopath would want you to think!”

        We visited two Corrective Labour Camps, a juvenile Corrective Labour Camp for boys at Iksha, about 50 kilometres from Moscow, and an adult Corrective Labour Camp for men, at Kruchevo, about 60 kilometres from Moscow. At the juvenile Corrective Labour Camp, education is provided for juveniles who have been sentenced by Criminal Courts. School education is compulsory and the syllabus is the same as in ordinary schools. Technical and vocational education is provided in special workshops…

        The main emphasis in the Camp is on education, it being considered that juvenile delinquency is due mainly to a misunderstanding of the conditions, purposes and tasks of life and to an unsatisfactory environment…The Camp is self-supporting, having its own farm, bakery, laundry and bath houses, and there are many different circles and clubs of a cultural and technical nature. In addition, there is a choir and many sports activities, in which the boys are encouraged to participate…

        At Kruchevo, the adult Corrective Labour Camp, the emphasis At Kruchevo, the adult Corrective Labour Camp, the emphasis is also on re-education, in particular by means of vocational training. The prisoners work nine hours a day, i.e. one hour longer than they would outside, but receive wages for their work at 20 per cent less than the standard trade union rates, though a proportion of their wages is deducted to cover the cost of their maintenance at the Camp. Each prisoner has a quota of work allotted to him and remission can be obtained by producing more than the quota. Thus, any day on which more than 100 per cent of the quota is produced counts as 1 and a half days, a day on which more than 120 per cent of the quota is produced counts as three days. The maximum remission is three days for one, but some prisoners overfulfill their quota by much more than 120 per cent, in order to earn more money. Special considerations apply in calculating remission for prisoners who are physically handicapped.

        …Punishments for breaches of discipline are personal reprimands, public reprimands, restriction or loss of the right to send and receive letters and of receiving visits from relatives and, for very serious breaches, solitary confinement for up to five days. Much is done to enable the prisoners to make good defects in their education…Some of the prisoners are studying by means of correspondence courses. Recreational activities are organized by music, drama, photography, radio and chess circles. There is also a brass band and a library, containing Soviet literature, the Russian classics and translated foreign classics. The prisoners work and converse freely with the free workers, including women, from the neighbouring village who work in the Camp…

        The prisoners get three meals a day, in a dining-room which was clean and airy, with pictures on the walls…a typical day’s menu being: breakfast – herrings and potatoes; lunch – cabbage soup, goulash; supper- noodle soup, Russian porridge (kasha) and meat…

        The work in the Camp is mainly the production of light metal objects, such as milk churns, milk cans, metal kitchenware and clock dials, as well as the work to be done in connection with the Camp. Under a recent law, when a long sentence has been imposed, after the expiration of one year’s imprisonment, provided that the prisoner has earned some remission marks, the Camp authorities send his record to the Court which sentenced him and the Court can then order his conditional discharge. If he commits any offence whilst at liberty, before the term of his original sentence has expired, the balance of that sentence will have to be served in addition to any sentence imposed for the second offence. A prisoner conditionally discharged receives an identity card showing his status, which he can exchange for an ordinary identity card at the expiration of the term of his original sentence.

        The general atmosphere in both camps (as far as a foreign observer could judge) was one of serious collaboration between prisoners and staff, and an absence of unnecessary harshness or petty restrictions. The prisoners seemed polite, and there was no suspicion of a cringing attitude towards the staff, but rather one of friendly respect.

        • dndnrsn says:

          It seems like there’s something rather significant that had happened a couple years earlier that might have meant the camps were rather less unpleasant in 1955 than, say, the mid-to-late 30s…

        • Viliam says:

          I think your interpretation of that passage is a very uncharitable one. Having higher hopes of rehabilitating and re-integrating petty criminals vs. determined enemies of the regime, or people who would have good reason to be determined enemies of the regime regardless of what they happen to profess at the moment, makes perfect sense to me.

          This is why it is important to read the whole book. For each individual wrongness, someone sufficiently motivated and creative may find a plausible excuse. But when you get the complete picture… of the wrongness upon wrongness upon wrongness… those excuses all fall apart.

          For example, the people you call “determined enemies of the regime” were in real life more like… a starving teenager who stole an apple from the cooperative garden… a woman who said that she prefers Pushkin as a poet to Mayakovsky… a guy who learned Esperanto… a soldier in WW2 who noticed that German tanks were stronger than Russian ones, and planned a successful attack accordingly, but afterwards someone reported his disloyal remark to the secret police… a member of a cooperative who planted the wheat according to the latest commands of Lysenko, but failed to harvest the promised miraculous crop… a student who refused sexual advances of local low-level Party member… someone who had a foreign classmate two decades ago… or just someone randomly arrested because the local branch of the secret police needed to fill their quota. (There are many stories like this in the book; that is a part of what makes it so long.)

          And there was no “rehabilitation” in the labor camps — that was only a story for the masses, and the credible journalists from the West — only cheap slave labor, which was an important part of the Soviet economy. That’s how those canals and railroads across Siberia got built.

          The 1936 Constitution restored their right to vote.

          Frankly, do you know anything about the real Soviet Union? The “right to vote”, my goodness! What exactly was anyone supposed to do with such right? Go ahead and be a part of the “99.99%” who voted for the Communist Party? Because there was no other political party you were allowed to vote. (This is how it was in the whole Soviet block.)

          Seriously, I have no idea whether you are just uninformed, or trolling, but it’s quite bad either way.

          If the only thing you read is Solzhenitsyn or others of his reactionary ilk, you are probably not going to come away with this impression. To say that Solzhenitsyn had an agenda and a motive to exaggerate and outright fabricate stories is an understatement.

          So, you are going straight for the Big Lie, and saying that everything bad was fabricated, and everyone who remembers it is a liar? That makes you a left-wing equivalent of a Holocaust denier. (“What? The holo-hoax? Of course the Jews have a motive to lie!”)

          The prisoners seemed polite, and there was no suspicion of a cringing attitude towards the staff, but rather one of friendly respect.

          Okay, assuming that you know anything about human nature, how likely it is that “prisoners have friendly respect towards the staff”? People so bad they need to be put behind bars, and yet so polite and friendly…

          …or is it more likely that anyone who isn’t sufficiently “polite and friendly” will get shot after the foreign observers leave. (They didn’t bother to return, let’s say, one year later and check how many people from their first visit are still alive, did they?)

          Sigh.

          I grew up in a socialist country… luckily, outside of Soviet Union, and during the last decades when the regime was already falling apart, and my parents were loyal Communists… so I was spared of the really bad parts. Yet, with half a brain it was obvious how Potemkin villages were constructed left and right, how all those “120% fulfilled plans” in practice meant nothing, how there were always at least two different sets of rules (“what you were officially allowed to do” vs “what you could actually do without getting punished”), how every adult was scared of their own shadow but everyone refused to elaborate on what exactly scared them so much. And people were still punished for the sin of having a grandparent being on the “wrong side of history” half century ago. And when you took a trip abroad, you always had to leave a family member as a hostage at home (for example, my parents once traveled to Cuba, but they were not allowed to take me with them although they wanted to).

          So… what Solzhenitsyn writes, it somehow fits this world I remember. It is a much darker version, but it is a darker version of essentially the same rules.

          Whereas, what you write, sounds like written by someone from a different planet. Or someone whose only experience with Soviet regime consists of reading and listening to propaganda. (Or reading their documents, which — obviously to anyone who had the actual experience — are mostly propaganda, not necessarily related to reality.)

  25. Controls Freak says:

    Due to things descending into culture war, I’m reconvening some responses from here WRT Carter Page’s FISA documents.

    @idontknow

    “all based on the dossier”

    Jury’s still out on this one. There are a lot of redactions.

    New Yorker/CNN

    This is similar. Like I said, we still don’t know on corroboration, because so much is redacted.

    The dossier itself played absolutely no role in the coordinated intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in our election.

    That’s clearly talking about a different thing, and it’s annoying when everyone seems to persist in intentionally talking past one another. The dossier could be completely irrelevant for the assessment that Russia interfered in the election while being relevant for the probable cause that Carter Page was operating as an agent of a foreign power.

    @Iain

    It is a “pretty good bet” that those bits don’t mention the DNC or Clinton by name because there is a longstanding policy of masking the names of US citizens in this sort of document. It’s the same reason that Trump is consistently referred to as “Candidate #1”. Contra Nunes, there’s nothing at all unusual about not naming Clinton specifically.

    Sigh. We’re definitely in the territory of “being misleading in order to claim that the other guy is being misleading”. I imagine Nunes is distinguishing between [not mentioning funding at all] and [naming Clinton specificially OR referring to funding by something like “Candidate #2”]. You’re trying to bundle them as [not mentioning funding at all OR referring to funding by something like “Candidate #2”] and [naming Clinton specifically].

    Furthermore, once the application established that Steele was hired to find evidence discrediting Trump’s campaign, I don’t see how it’s relevant to know who was paying him. Indeed, as the application notes, Steele didn’t know himself: he was hired through an intermediary.

    This is the “more vague/complicated discussion” I mentioned. The typical example I’ve been using to try to make the point for why someone might care about how this went down is Richard Nixon. Suppose that instead of simply instructing his henchmen to break into DNC headquarters, he trumped up some probable cause to get a warrant to search it. Are you still upset? Suppose he didn’t trump it up himself; he paid someone to trump it up for him. Are you still upset? Suppose he concealed his payment for the trumped up PC via an intermediary. Are you still upset? Do you think any of these situations are meaningfully different than if some political partisan just went off on their own to find damaging information? Obviously, a lot of the detailed facts here aren’t known completely, and various versions of hypothetical fact patterns engage varying vague judgments, but I think it beggars belief to act like we can’t imagine why someone might be concerned about this.

    I think your reading of the footnote is sensible, but I think you’re stretching to get to (d) or (e). While your prediction is possible, honestly, I have no bloody clue what they’re going for in this section. (Frankly, it could go the other direction. Wouldn’t a big bombshell be if that next bit was, “BUT WE CAUGHT PAGE TALKING TO TRUMP ON SUCH AND SUCH A DAY!” Since we’re stretching, it’s just as easy to stretch it in the direction of, “Yes, he denied it and appeared to move away, but he’s lying and here’s why.”) You’d think they’d be better with section titles. Maybe it will all make sense with the redactions removed. Maybe they just included weird and ultimately irrelevant context that is a vestige of where their knowledge was when they wrote it (Sagan knows I’ve seen some weird and irrelevant stuff in warrant applications).

    • Iain says:

      You’re trying to bundle them as [not mentioning funding at all OR referring to funding by something like “Candidate #2”] and [naming Clinton specifically].

      Here’s the relevant part of the Nunes memo:

      a) Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior and FBI officials.
      b) The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named U.S. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a U.S. law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOJ at the time that political actors were involved with the Steele dossier). The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of—and paid by—the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.

      The first point is highly misleading, given that the FISA application says: “The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.” Why should we care that the application didn’t name a specific campaign? The judge knew that the dossier was commissioned for political purposes. Not only that, but the application goes on to explain why Steele should be seen as a reliable source notwithstanding the reason behind it. While that section and the following section are redacted, it’s a pretty clear sign that the FBI was not trying to hide anything from the judge here.

      The second point is even worse. It’s a naked attempt to make masking sound nefarious. I’m not straw-manning Nunes: he complained that the names of Glenn Simpson and Perkins Coie were not included in the application, and he worded his allegation to imply that this omission extended further than referring to them as “an identified US person” and “a US-based law firm”. That is clearly bad faith.

      Do you think any of these situations are meaningfully different than if some political partisan just went off on their own to find damaging information?

      Yes!

      Specifically: all of the sketchiness in your Nixon examples comes from the assumption that the warrant is trumped up. If you want to make a Nixon analogy: pretend that instead of Nixon having his henchmen break into DNC headquarters, the RNC hires a law firm to investigate the DNC. This law firm in turn hires a respected investigator who had previously provided valuable information to the FBI. The investigator investigates. He finds evidence that he thinks is concerning enough to bring to the attention of the FBI of his own volition. With this information in hand, the FBI waits until a specific DNC employee, who has previously come to their attention for sketchy activities, is no longer employed at the DNC. Once he’s left the DNC, the FBI submits a FISA application to wiretap that specific employee. In the application, across more than a page of footnotes, they explain the source of the information, the likely political motivations behind the investigation, and the reasons that the investigator should nevetheless be trusted. The judge, who was appointed by a Democrat and has no reason to rubber-stamp a politically motivated witch hunt, agrees that a wiretap is justified. So do three subsequent judges, when the application comes up for renewal (each time with a longer justification).

      Watergate it isn’t.

      I can imagine being legitimately concerned by a different set of facts, but I don’t think these facts should inspire such concern. It seems to me that the people who are blowing their lids about this are either fooling themselves, or trying to fool others.

      I think your reading of the footnote is sensible, but I think you’re stretching to get to (d) or (e).

      Wait, what? I already admitted that (e) was not explicit in the unredacted text, but (d) — “Clearly, Page is no longer an active participant in the Trump campaign” — is very explicit throughout this section. It makes up most of pages 24-26.

      Also, your alternative explanation is anti-exculpatory: that is, it makes Page look even guiltier than my theory, and ropes the Trump campaign in to boot. If Carter Page and the Trump campaign made a huge show of distancing themselves but then continued holding clandestine meetings, that would make the application stronger, not weaker: “we have reason to believe that Carter Page is conspiring with Russia, and the Trump campaign is lying to cover this up”. (To be clear, I don’t think your alternative is particularly likely.)
      ________________________________________________

      You are trying really hard to push a “both sides are equally bad” narrative. I don’t buy it. Nunes is obviously acting in bad faith — if nothing else, in his complaints about not unmasking Glenn Simpson and Perkins Coie. Where are the equally cynical bad-faith statements from his Democratic counterparts?

      • Controls Freak says:

        The first point is highly misleading, given that the FISA application says: “The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.” Why should we care that the application didn’t name a specific campaign?

        You shifted from a judgment that it’s factually misleading to a claim about why we should care. These are obviously different things, and the fact that you don’t care doesn’t somehow magically make his statement misleading.

        The judge knew that the dossier was commissioned for political purposes. Not only that, but the application goes on to explain why Steele should be seen as a reliable source notwithstanding the reason behind it. While that section and the following section are redacted, it’s a pretty clear sign that the FBI was not trying to hide anything from the judge here.

        Notwithstanding the later discussion about various related hypos, Nunes is complaining that they’re specifically hiding one thing from the application – funding stemming from an opposing candidate/party. I’m really not sure how you’re still missing this. We can agree they mentioned it was done for political purposes; we can agree that they assessed him as reliable anyway; we should be able to agree that those things are not the same as noting that funding stemmed from an opposing candidate/party.

        The second point is even worse. It’s a naked attempt to make masking sound nefarious.

        Boooooooring. Like I said originally, basically everyone is doing standard partisan stuff here – nakedly attempting to make other people sound nefarious. It’s not bad faith – it’s exactly what you’re doing right now, for example.

        all of the sketchiness in your Nixon examples comes from the assumption that the warrant is trumped up

        That’s what people think the Steele dossier is. And as John notes, this doesn’t require a grand conspiracy. All it requires is that a campaign/party fund and set loose an private investigator who is willing to trump up evidence and public investigators who merely judge it as credible instead of verifying it independently. I want to emphasize again that, due to the level of redaction, we don’t really have a conclusive look at this, so what I’m asking you to do is something akin to qualified immunity analysis – assume the uncertain facts look as bad as possible and acknowledge that there’s a chance that it would be ‘actually bad’. We likely agree that this probably isn’t that bad (as I noted in my original write-up), but you are resistant to even trying to understand the other side.

        “Clearly, Page is no longer an active participant in the Trump campaign” — is very explicit throughout this section. It makes up most of pages 24-26.

        I mean, much of page 24, a small part of 25, and maaaybe a single sentence on page 26. There’s a lot of other stuff in here, too. It’s really not clear that this is meant to be the main thrust of the whole section, which is really required for us to get anywhere in the realm of (e). I’m not saying that (d) isn’t in there at all; I’m saying that driving the main point through (d) on the way to (e) is when things start to get really shaky.

        Also, your alternative explanation is anti-exculpatory

        Obviously. Dude, if you can’t tell, I’m not here just to defend your political enemies. However, you might note that I actually gave two alternative explanations. You completely ignored the other one, because it didn’t allow you to yell, “AND SO MY POLITICAL ENEMIES ARE EVIL!!!” I’m arguing in favor of caution under uncertainty; you seem to have agreed to uncertainty; I’m not sure why you’re so against caution.

        Where are the equally cynical bad-faith statements from his Democratic counterparts?

        Given the bar you’ve created for “bad faith”, the Demo is chock full of them. Given what I think the bar should be for “bad faith”, there aren’t many on either side. Just constant attempts to spin it as pro-their-side and anti-their-enemies as possible.

        Your specific example of what you think is bad faith from Nunes is a true statement. We both think that the way FBI did it has decent reasoning behind it (from a high level concerning general protections of USP in FISA). Nevertheless, it’s utterly absurd to imagine that there are no tradeoffs, and part of the job of the intelligence committees is exploring those tradeoffs. We’ve seen this with both masking and unmasking, and it’s just not patently absurd to be concerned about how political interests can interact with these policies. It would be akin to looking at the Demo, seeing that they defended Strzok/Page on the issue of “orchestrating leaks to the media”, and responding, “They’re obviously operating in bad faith, because we have good reasons why we don’t want the FBI to be leaky.”

  26. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Does anyone here love the CW?


    And if not, do you have another favorite TV channel, or do you just stream?

    • Well Armed Sheep says:

      Logged in to boo hiss at this.

    • Nick says:

      Read that as “or do you just scream” the first time.

      I used to like it as a kid, back when I’d watch all the morning cartoons. I liked what I saw of Arrow, more recently, but I never got around to watching Flash or any of the other DC shows on there. (I’ve heard they’re pretty good, though.)

    • AG says:

      I like Legends of Tomorrow, though it’s still quite an uneven show. Lots of other CW shows that I kind of plan to try out at some point.

      The 2010 Nikita is one of my all-time favorites, though.

      I only stream.

  27. Joseph Greenwood says:

    If you could endow the presidential office of the USA with a magical power, what power would you endow it with? By “endow the office”, I mean that any sitting president would have this power until his terms of presidency end. By “magical power” I mean any ability which could be triggered voluntarily, with no particular respect paid to the laws of physics. Sample powers include being an excellent chef, being able to heal anyone of any injury by willing them to be healed, and omnipotence (modulo logical consistency).

    • Nornagest says:

      Indirect omnipotence. The ability to encode any duly authorized Congressional resolution into the fabric of the universe within the borders of the United States, with the stipulation that if it’s found to be unconstitutional or tending towards tyranny (as determined immediately by a 2/3 majority of an impartial panel consisting of God, Gautama Buddha, and the ghost of George Washington), the President and any Congresspeople that voted for it will spontaneously combust.

      Also, the ability to mentally control bald eagles, just because.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Would “it is physically impossible to obey” also be an exception? Or would that be covered under “it tends toward tyranny”?

        Also, joy, we get to see Ghost!Washington’s opinion of what the Ninth Amendment covers!

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m almost sure that requiring physically impossible things of people would violate the Constitution somehow, but sure, we can add that. I was thinking more along the lines of stuff like “Congress hereby resolves that all American citizens shall henceforth be immortal” or “Congress hereby resolves that Fresno, California shall be relocated to the moon”, though.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        I like this! But perhaps you should also include Confucius and Abraham Lincoln on your panel?

        Also, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost don’t get separate votes. So sad. =\

        • Nornagest says:

          For all the good he did, Abraham Lincoln played faster and looser with the Constitution than any other President bar maybe Andrew Jackson. He doesn’t get a vote.

          Confucius is a good thought, but then there’s an even number of panelists, so we’d need to find somebody else too.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            I thought Confucius first and “one more prominent American” second. Maybe Hamilton or Jefferson or another founding father? Then again, diluting God’s vote is probably a bad idea.

      • xXxanonxXx says:

        I love this, but wouldn’t it create a moral imperative to conquer the globe? You could eliminate anything from human trafficking to murder with a simple resolution. Combined with gaming the meaning of “within the borders of the United States” it also makes such a campaign feasible.

        • beleester says:

          You wouldn’t need to conquer the world, simply offer annexation to any country who asks. If you’re any good at all at making use of your godlike power, it shouldn’t be hard to get other nations lining up to get a piece of that action.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          If it did create a moral imperative to conquer the world, then (by definition) that would not be something to feel guilty about. You hear “conquering the world” and pattern-match to the atrocities of Fascism and Communism, or maybe old style Colonialism, but using literally Godlike power on behalf of your constituents seems like a deeply different question.

    • tayfie says:

      The most obviously useful would be invulnerability. While president, a person can not be harmed by man or nature and is never operating below peak physical condition no matter what duties they must fulfill.

      Imagine how much better a president could do if he never had to worry about being assassinated, if they were never affected by the stress or sleep deprivation of the job.

    • mdet says:

      The ability to visit with the spirits of the Founding Fathers and past presidents, Avatar-style, sounds pretty useful but not world-breaking. Although maybe it wouldn’t be a great idea to have, say, Nixon whispering in your ear all day…

      • tayfie says:

        Maybe you would. Nixon would remind you that even the president can get caught.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        I am now imagining Donald Trump with glowing blue eyes, with his appearance mystically remastered to appear like Andrew Jackson.

      • albatross11 says:

        So basically like all the portraits of the old headmasters in the Hogwarts headmaster’s office? The downside is that historians would urgently want to become president so they could actually sit down and chat at length with their favorite ex-presidents….

      • Randy M says:

        We already had one necromancer president…

      • Nick says:

        If we’re going to let a back from the grave Nixon take over the presidency, we should at least exhume the body and put his head in a jar.

    • Matt M says:

      Some sort of personal pleasure wireheading ability that might tempt them to spend their time maximizing their own pleasure and leaving the rest of us the hell alone.

    • Eric Rall says:

      Papal Infallibility: when the President makes a formal public statement related to the duties of his office (for example, outlining the benefits of a proposed policy in a State of the Union Address), the Holy Spirit protects him against the possibility of error.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I like that. Even if it was as restricted as Papal infallibility, it at least gives the President an option to be believed and implicitly calls into question what he says without invoking that.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      A president with wisdom sounds like a good idea.

      • fion says:

        That’s what I was going to say.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        This has interesting implications, if we take the “triggered voluntarily” condition literally instead of assuming that they are magically granted wisdom after inauguration.

        How the election platforms and campaigns would look like if it’s known that the president can choose to access magical, objective wisdom and apply it into their decisions and policymaking?

        What is the extent of this wisdom? Will it be so far-ranging that no matter the candidate’s original platform, while in office they will tend to follow policies that are more similar to each other than what they promised and … oh, wait, that sounds eerily familiar. They are granted with the power to summon an aetheric manifestation of Sir Humphrey for consultation? Or rather, the magic is in that they can make him go away by untriggering the power?

    • phi says:

      Probably too overly powerful, but what about access to an oracle that correctly answers yes or no questions? It would primarily grant the ability to make better decisions, though it would also likely create rapid technological progress.

      • Nornagest says:

        One of the examples is “omnipotence”. I wouldn’t be too worried about overly powerful if I were you — or rather, I’d be worried about it for in-universe reasons, not for meta reasons.

        • albatross11 says:

          Q: “Should I pretend to fawn over Putin to own the libs?”

          A: “If you do, you will depose a powerful authoritarian leader.”

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      This is not very well thought out, but how about:

      May read the thoughts of any person who is either:

      a. The head of state of a foreign country
      b. Empowered by the head of state of a foreign country to conduct diplomacy, either formally or informally, on behalf of that country or that ruler

    • AG says:

      Before signing any piece of policy (legislative or executive), the president mentally experiences, in an instant, a month of living as the poorest person in the nation, 10 years from that day.
      (A month so that the president can test mobility potential.)

      Expand as necessary the situations in which the president has this experience, so they can’t squirrel out of it by only giving verbal orders to career officials or making unofficial announcements or something.

      • Randy M says:

        This optimizes for never signing anything, not completely eliminating poverty, because the former is possible, while the latter has very little to do with almost anything the president signs.

        • albatross11 says:

          He knows that at the end of his term in office, he will be randomly assigned to some person living in the US. He must make his presidential decisions from behind the veil of ignorance and then live with the consequences.

        • AG says:

          It incentivizes the president influencing legislative policy to not fuck them over during that month. It also incentivizes not signing frivolous policy.

          I’ll admit it doesn’t incentivize the incremental approach, but the way the government is built wouldn’t allow that anyways.

          The election process would prevent every president doing nothing. Such people would get voted out, maybe even impeached, until we get a president who does things again.

      • Matt M says:

        It seems non-obvious to me that Presidential decisionmaking should be maximized to serve the needs of the very poorest. Why should their needs take precedent over anyone else’s?

        • AG says:

          The president is not obligated to remain at the same condition for the entire month. If they can manage to clean themselves up and better their situation during that time, then that indicates that the nation isn’t in that bad of a place.
          Ergo, the policy priority should be on both maximizing lifting the floor and increasing mobility. How does this not benefit everyone else?

    • engleberg says:

      Okay, this isn’t magical, but I’d like to see ex-Presidents automatically serve in the House of Representatives. Way too many flustered clucks occur because Congress has the purse strings and no experience with executive responsibility.

      • BBA says:

        In France ex-presidents serve on the Constitutional Council, which is roughly equivalent to the interesting parts of the US Supreme Court’s role.

      • Deiseach says:

        I’d like to see ex-Presidents automatically serve in the House of Representatives

        I can’t speak about American presidents but putting that in an Irish context (ex-Taoisigh still serving in the Dáil or possibly, by this analogy, the Seanad) OH GOD NO.

        The level of self-importance, of “when I was conducting high-level negotiations with the EU/whatever” and the conflicting “well, when I was in power before/after you and had to clean up the mess you/your party left” fighting between them – no.

        Too much peacocking, not enough public service. They had their time in power, let it go.

        • engleberg says:

          Re: Constitutional Council- if it doesn’t control the purse strings, it’s not what I meant. Might still be a good idea.

          Re: Too much peacocking- sure you’d notice a difference? I don’t know much about Ireland’s legislature.

          Edit- If bragging oldies compete by giving practical advice, that’s a win. If they compete on raw self-importance, that’s a loss.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I dunno how much peacocking there might be. (The US does have a historical precedent: John Quincy Adams.)

          Alternately, forcing them to serve in the House might have a similar effect to tarring and feathering, only milder and spread out over a longer time. Whether it deflates their egos would be beside the point, to me; the better effect is their deflation in the public eye. Americans seem to put too much importance on the President today, and it might be better to see them in a lower office, still in public view. (Having them work a general store in Podunk wouldn’t have the same effect.)

          • engleberg says:

            +1 Americans seem to put too much importance on the President.

            Re: historical precedent: John Quincy Adams-

            I’d say he was more useful in Congress than he was as President. If being called Congressman instead of Mr President hurts like tarring and feathering, maybe vanity of vanities all is vanity.

  28. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDkhfm6CYjE

    Pretty typical Thiel, and I’m thinking about whether we have an idea shortage.

    Rothbard assumed there were always plenty of ideas (and not explicit, but the ability to judge which ones were good and what it would cost to implement them). This seems dubious, though it might have been more plausible when he was writing. (Book published in 1962, I don’t know how long he took writing it.)

    Big companies with huge cash reserves does suggest that they don’t see good investments.

    • toastengineer says:

      Big companies with huge cash reserves does suggest that they don’t see good investments.

      Mm. It says “we’re in an extremely high-variance transitional period right now so if you don’t like the taste of risk now might not be the time” to me.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Very tentative: I wonder if they aren’t interested merely good profits, they’re holding out for a substantial chance of making great profits.

        Real world smaller example: I gather that a lot of buildings in cities are vacant because the landlords are hoping to win big.

  29. theredsheep says:

    A continuation of a discussion started in the last OT, which is rapidly sinking down the sidebar: to what extent does Christianity have to be countercultural? Can a society be predominantly Christian without the Faith sacrificing its integrity?

    My position is a strong “no” to the latter, though obviously the answer will vary depending on what denomination one follows (I’m Orthodox). One of the central tenets of the religion is the fallenness of humanity–a lot of the things we want are wrong/disordered–and a certain amount of apathy towards “things of this world.” To give modern examples, a lot of contemporary businesses really depend on sin. Leaving aside obvious things like casinos and brothels, restaurants and bars don’t want moderation and temperance. Social media profits from envy, pride, and wrath. Almost everyone profits from greed, insecurity, and general personal inadequacy. It’s hard to build a business model around contentment, humility, and continence.

    You can argue (as someone I know once did) that society as a whole would be much better off if everybody actually acted Christian, but actually acting Christian is really bloody hard, and if you’re aiming for saturation you’re going to have to lower standards quite a bit. Which is not to say the Church should only accept perfect people–it should accept anyone who sincerely wants to join and puts in any effort–but in any given society I believe the majority will, at any given time, not really be interested in putting in that level of effort, and to make Christianity dominant you’ll need to water things down for that apathetic majority.

    Also, if Christianity becomes a majority, being Christian will naturally start to be advantageous, which will lead to opportunism, which will necessarily lead to loss of integrity since nobody’s really in a position to tell the state of any one individual soul and sort out the saints from the guys who are in it for a job promotion. Christianity had perhaps a 10% share of the “market” when Constantine took over, and almost-total dominance a century later. A lot of those were surely opportunistic or semi-compulsory conversions.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Can a society be predominantly Christian without the Faith sacrificing its integrity?

      In theory, yes: Heaven will be a society, and it will be not just predominantly but universally Christian.

      In practice, then, it’s not a question of “will Christianity work in theory” (yes, it will), or even “is Christianity comfortable for our current human nature” (no, it isn’t); it’s a question of “Can a society, by God’s grace, predominantly follow Christianity to enough of an extent that they will not rend its integrity?” That correctly poses the question as “will God choose to dispense that grace”; or, for non-Christians (and perhaps any Arminians among us), will enough people choose to mortify their sinful nature and follow Christianity?

      And that’s a factual question whose answer I don’t know.

      • theredsheep says:

        This is a very different perspective from my own, and I’m glad you shared it. I take it that you don’t distinguish very strongly between the life to come and this one, in terms of the operation of grace and the redemption of human nature? This is not the case for us.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I’m not sure how to answer that question. On the one hand, there clearly is a very significant difference: the “old man” or (as the NIV aptly paraphrases it) “sinful nature” will be fully removed; we will see God face to face; there will be no more sin. But on the other hand, that’s the culmination of processes already at work in us: we’re daily (by God’s help) putting to death the sinful nature and striving against sin and focusing on seeing more of God. I guess I most often picture Heaven as an extrapolation of those processes sped up by a miracle to reach their asymptotes.

          (If you believe in Purgatory, less of a miracle would be required – though even then there’d be some, since a function will never naturally reach its asymptote even over the millions of years cited in medieval indulgences. Or maybe they aren’t asymptotic functions at all, though they often feel like such.)

          How do you distinguish?

          • theredsheep says:

            Okay, the difference isn’t as stark as I thought, based on what you just wrote there. We believe in theosis, the deification of man, based on 1 Peter’s “partakers of the divine nature,” and theosis can be at least partially achieved in this life. Not that different from what you said just now.

            When you referenced Heaven as a society, I was thinking you didn’t draw a line at all, because pointing out that we will be perfect in the life to come by God’s grace sounds to me like noting that, with divine intervention, we can raise the dead. Sure, it happens, but it’s not something I expect to see a lot of in this life. So, in context, it confused me a bit. But I don’t really understand Calvinism or predestination or what-have-you, so I thought I’d ask. Thanks for clearing that up.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I believe it’s possible, if now highly improbable, for a hegemonic Church to win the Kulturkampf and that even people who become Christians opportunistically would then participate in grace, even if it does nothing to increase Saints per capita. Basically I don’t think Joseph de Maistre, or T.S. Eliot in his “The Idea of a Christian Society” speech were fundamentally on the wrong track.

      • Evan Þ says:

        In what way would you say they’d participate in grace? I can totally believe, e.g., they wouldn’t steal or worship false gods as often; but I can easily imagine their hearts getting harder from their hypocrisy.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Well for elite opportunists, society’s incentive structures being aligned such that there’s more wealth and status in making, say, Christian animation vs. Rick and Morty would cause artists to meditate on Divine things. I’d guess that the likes of Michelangelo and Raphael are far more likely to be in Heaven than the “great” contemporary artists who are incentivized to think a toilet is a deeply meaningful art installation.
          It’s perhaps empirically testable that average opportunists would have hardened hearts rather than being more open to meditation on Divine things, but I really want to give them the benefit of the doubt.

        • Nick says:

          I can totally believe, e.g., they wouldn’t steal or worship false gods as often; but I can easily imagine their hearts getting harder from their hypocrisy.

          I’ve wondered about this for a long time; have their been actual studies about the rates? Because on the one hand, we’ve heard of someone who opened themselves up to the transformative power of what they’re doing blah blah blah and were converted by it, but on the other hand we’ve also probably heard of someone so turned inured to perfunctory social obligations to attend church or group pray that they could scarcely ever take it seriously. Cultural Christianity can do something for the former, countercultural for the latter, but I’m not sure you can both strategies at once.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Off the top of my head, there could be one denomination institutionalized as the Cultural Default Church, and several others acting counterculturally.

            There’d be other problems, of course, and it’d be very difficult to institutionalize a Cultural Default Church in this day and age.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      I’m not sure your idea of “a christianity that maintains its integrity” has ever existed in any society be it as minority or majority. People are people, they may signal differently, they may deceive themselves in different ways, but underneath there is no change.

      I don’t think people in a tight-knit minority community are any less opportunistic when they adhere to certain rules and dogmas, than people who join up with the majority. Still the same human nature, same motivations.

      To me you seem to be asking whether strict adherence, i.e. a more fundamentalist Christianity is possible as majority religion. (And then you inject your personal bias as to what that means morally). Well, evangelical denominations grow by 5% every year. Worldwide, but also in some western countries like France or Germany. So I can certainly see a fundamentalist Christian future for some societies.

      • theredsheep says:

        What about what I said reflects personal bias? I’d say there’s a fairly broad consensus across denominations as to what constitutes good Christian behavior, and the NT goes into great detail about it. A Calvinist who shakes his head at a Mormon’s gross theological errors can still admire his sobriety, diligence, honesty, generosity, and humility.

        Christianity cannot be perfected in this world any more than any other human institution, but I think it can come a lot closer, or at least avoid certain dangers, as a small, tight-knit group. To some extent this is true of any movement; the bigger the tent gets, the vaguer the marquee outside is going to have to be to fill it. It’s important to seek converts, yes, but you’re not going to maintain that initial energy and purity indefinitely. I think this has historically yielded some boom-and-bust cycles, as a growing church attracts opportunists and shysters, sheds followers disgusted by the resultant corruption and apathy, cleanses itself as a countermeasure, and starts to attract followers again.

        “Fundamentalist” and “evangelical” are two different things, albeit with some overlap, and my own Orthodoxy is neither, so I don’t see what you’re getting at there.

        EDIT: NB I am not claiming that Orthodoxy has a history of purer faith; quite the contrary. There’s nothing like a review of Byzantine history to give one an appreciation of the difficulties of actually building a Christian society.

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          The idea that a group of Christians would have more “sobriety, diligence, honesty, generosity, and humility” is what I would call your personal bias. Or the idea that a modern society is build on greed, envy and whatnot, in a way an actually existing Christian society wouldn’t be.

          Maybe I misunderstood your question, I thought you were asking whether faith could make a comeback as a majority thing in modern societies. To me the growth of evangelical denominations is a sign that it could. I just don’t think there would be less greed, envy and so on.

          • theredsheep says:

            No, the original context (which, to be fair, was left out) was of the decline of Christianity in America; somebody mentioned Rod Dreher in the last Open Thread. He worries a lot about Christian decline. My feeling is that Christian America was never all that Christian to begin with, and dispensing with the silly facade is mostly a good thing. We have a long history of watering down the faith, mixing it with weird philosophical or cultural trends, and/or conflating it with patriotism or mere cultural identity. You could say similar things about modern Russia, which has a very different religious tradition. I think it happens everywhere.

            Christians can’t be perfect because we’re still human. But I think we do better as a smaller subset of the population.

          • engleberg says:

            Re: My feeling is that Christian America was never all that Christian to begin with … We have a long history of watering down the faith.

            Americans are church shoppers. Comparison shopping between a thick stew church and a clear soup church is not necessarily watering down your faith. Atheist clergy are a different story, and selecting clergy from people who’ve been indoctrinated into agnosticism or atheism by comparative religion classes instead of people indoctrinated in your faith is institutional suicide.

    • mtl1882 says:

      I agree with you completely.

      Human nature and the world is such that being a “real” Christian will always put you at odds with the dominant culture. I know that’s hard to define, but by real I mean people with a good understanding of what Christianity teaches them to pursue and a sincere desire to try to move in that direction. If there was some sort of weird situation in which real Christians became the majority, it would immediately unravel with the next generation. It’s not about teaching rules, but developing an awareness and attitude about certain things. It’s requires a self-reflection that most people are not really capable of, along with some seemingly but not really counter-intuitive behavior that most have no incentive to grasp.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        If there was some sort of weird situation in which real Christians became the majority, it would immediately unravel with the next generation.

        That appears to be a fairly damning indictment of Christianity. That or God truly is an asshole. Or both.

        • albatross11 says:

          What we’ve seen in Western civilization generally has been a progression–as we resolved most of the really huge cruelties and injustices and horrors of the past (slavery, kids starving to death), we have banked those bits of progress, and kept working on new ones (Jim Crow laws, poverty) and then new ones (casual racism, the draft). And so on.

          IME, being a Christian is partly about never being done–you’ve never gotten so good or so close to Christ that you can just kick back and say “Mission accomplished!” Instead, there’s always more improvement to be made. And that’s what I’d expect from a majority seriously Christian society–over time, people would keep trying to improve, some existing problems would shrink or go away, but we’d always find new ones to work on. We never get to perfection as individuals, and we’ll never get to perfection as a society.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            How does that comport with the idea that a society composed of “real” Christians must “unravel” within a generation?

          • albatross11 says:

            I disagree with the premise. I think continuous progress is possible, and that in fact, it’s possible to have a society of real Christians[1] that remains a society of real Christians. They will never get to a perfect society, but they can make their society continuously better, in much the way that the US has managed to broadly get continuously better from the days of slavery and genocide of the Indians to the present day, where we’ve got plenty wrong with us but we’re still a lot better than we were.

            [1] By which I mean like the other Christians I know–imperfect people trying to do the right thing and sometimes f–king it up in various ways.

  30. hls2003 says:

    There’s a quasi-reality show called “Naked and Afraid”** that runs, I believe, on Discovery Channel. The premise is a man and a woman set out naked together in the wilderness and asked to survive for 2-3 weeks while being filmed. On the whole, it’s often fun viewing.

    Although the show emphasizes the “naked” part – participants may not have any clothing at all – they are also each given a cloth bag, map, and a single tool item of their choice (firestarter, machete, knife, etc.) For some reason, this has always really bugged me. I can conceive of survival scenarios where a person might be stranded naked in the wilderness (e.g. maritime accident). But I can’t conceive any survival scenario where a person has lost every scrap of clothing, but retained a cloth bag, map, and a useful survival tool. Or I could understand a challenge concept of “our ancestors managed naked, can you?” Yet I can’t see how that comports with having access to advanced technology. Bothers me every time.

    Obviously I’m being pedantic, since the goal is to entertain without killing anybody, and the answer is “there would be no viable show to watch if we didn’t give them these limited advantages.” And in fairness, participants still look really miserable. I recognize this is my own weird pet peeve. And the show’s often not terrible!

    Still, anybody else have shows / movies / books like that, where the internal inconsistency of the setup drives you up a wall?

    **I assume the name and format were intended to be titillating, although I can assure you that there is only “bad naked” to be found (plus blur bars).

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Titillating, yes, but also it’s intended to map to imprinted ideas resulting from dioramas of early man. The few episodes I’ve watched just don’t seem very “real” to me.

      “Alone” on the other hand …

      • hls2003 says:

        I’ve only seen parts of one season of “Alone.” I agree it was better. I liked “Survivorman,” I thought if nothing else his constant failures at hunting were a good corrective to the common misconception of easy meat in the wild.

      • Nornagest says:

        Every diorama like that I’ve seen has been anything but titillating, although I guess that’s probably deliberate.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Yes … but, if you take the concept of the diorama and pitch it to an executive as a reality game show, what do you think one of the big draws will be?

          Put another way, why did you look through every issue in your parents’ copies of National Geographic (novel as this concept may be to the post internet age)? I don’t think you can separate the two.

    • Well... says:

      quasi-reality show

      All reality shows are quasi-reality shows, and that’s putting it generously. Even on the realest-seeming ones, if you were to visit the set you would find action being staged, producers feeding lines to the talent, and editors crafting only the illusion of sequences of events rather than faithfully recreating ones that actually happened. (And that’s before the addition of incidental music, sound effects, and visual effects.)

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        +1

        As soon as a television camera enters the scene, the whole scenario decoheres.

    • dick says:

      God, that show is aggravating. 95% focused on contrived drama, 5% focus on what they’re actually doing to survive and whether it’s working or not. Sometimes they’ll have a couple who last the whole 21 days, and not once will the shelter they built ever be in camera shot! Much more entertaining to just watch the primitive-technology guy and his many, many imitators.

    • Iain says:

      Your link is broken.

    • cactus head says:

      The first thing I saw was “∀ei ∈ Sn C(ei, Sn\ei) = Cmax (Sn)” without any definitions of the sets and elements. Scrolling down and skimming, an attempt is made to give definitions but it’s not very good. The article does seem to be worth reading, but this initial experience of trying to understand what it was saying was very frustrating for me.

  31. albatross11 says:

    Quillette piece by a British guy who had his life wrecked by online mobbing. Note that this is *NOT* anonymous–he names himself and describes his ordeal. FWIW, I know nothing about him or his story other than what’s in this article.

    Of course, there are people who can justify this sort of thing. After all, he’s on the wrong side, and those bastards deserve anything that they get. But the more I see otherwise-normal people cheer this shit, the more I think of the folks who took part in the opening bits of the Cultural Revolution or the Terror in order to win some locally-important points, and ended up in a shallow grave or with their head in a basket a few months later.

    There is probably nobody who can’t be dragged in social media in this way. Almost anyone with a public presence has at least said a few dumb/offensive things, and everyone has said things that can be painstakingly excerpted to turn into offensive things, trusting in context collapse to ensure that 99.99% of the online mob will never check to see whether it’s true. Sometimes, this sort of demonization campaign even leads some crackpot to get violent, as with the unusually stupid crazies who were convinced that that one DC pizza place was some kind of pedophilia parlor, or that all the parents of the children murdered at Sandy Hook were lying as part of some kind of oddball conspiracy.

    • theredsheep says:

      I think this is something of a transitional stage; we haven’t (to use the prevailing phrase here) “developed antibodies” against outrage-peddling. Which isn’t to say it isn’t repulsive, but it’s not like nobody’s talking about it. I’ve read plenty of pieces discussing this problem, and there’s a definite awareness that this is a problem, even if not everybody shares it. But if anyone can fall from grace at any time, the number of people who get burned is going to keep growing–quite rapidly–and after a while panics lose their force. I believe that eventually we’ll acclimate by developing a healthy sense of skepticism, or just becoming apathetic to “how dare this person, click now to ruin the livelihood of some stranger you never met who said something bad in 1995!” Then outrage-peddlers will start to become a class of villain in their own right.

      • pontifex says:

        Can we reverse engineer how the Trump scandal shield works and make it available for the common man? Should we?

        • quanta413 says:

          Na. That’s way too much scandal shield.

          Unfortunately, Trump’s personal behavior (sexual and otherwise) is not that unusual compared to Presidents and other powerful politicians of the past century so a lot of it is probably down to just being powerful. Verbally he’s more vile though, although I’d put that as a secondary concern.

          But maybe somewhere around 1-2% of the Trump scandal shield for everyone would be nice.

        • 10240 says:

          Trump got elected in secret ballot, plus he is a billionaire who doesn’t depend on anyone (other than the electorate to get elected). As an employee, you depend on your boss, who depends on the CEO, who depends on the shareholders. All of those depend on their business partners, and all of these depend on their customers not boycotting them, and all of these need to ensure that they don’t hire a manager who then exposes them to a discrimination or harassment lawsuit, etc. If 20% of people hate you enough to boycott your company unless you get fired, and 80% doesn’t hate you but won’t boycott the company if you get fired, they fire you. A politician who doesn’t have the money to finance his campaign depends on the party structure and other politicians in his party.

          That’s how preference falsification works, and it collapses in secret ballot.

      • Shion Arita says:

        I don’t know about that (it being something that’s necessarily automatically self-correcting), or at least not on a fast enough timescale to be useful. Sure, China, France, and Russia eventually became less like they were over time to varying extents, but in all of the cases a lot of people died before that happened since it was let to kind of go out of control for a long time.. Do I think western civilizations are heading for a Reign of Terror with this stuff?……. Probably not; maybe I’d guess like 5-10% chance but that’s a hell of a lot more likely than I’m comfortable with.

    • kieranpjobrien says:

      From experience,. Toby can be a bit of a prick. And some of his views on eugenics are complex but not racist or ableist so he doesn’t do himself any favours by posting about it on platforms without nuance.

      He didn’t deserve to be on the OFS board but he didn’t deserve to have his schools and so on taken away from him.

      Complicated matter but on balance he deserved much better.

      • Enkidum says:

        Is it really complicated? Like… I’ve only read his article, which is clearly biased, but what were the legitimate complaints of the online hatemob?

      • albatross11 says:

        Just as an aside, I don’t really see why someone’s views on eugenics are likely to be at all relevant to their fitness to evaluate proposed educational policy. I mean, suppose in principle he totally supported some kind of Howard-Foundation-like eugenics involving paying desirable people to have more kids–would that really make him less able to do the job he was appointed to do?

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          True though that may be, that’s not how political appointments work: an open and avowed anti-Semite would not be tolerated as a minister for transportation or whatever on the basis that their hatred of Jews has nothing to do with transportation–for better or worse, it’s a fact of life that some positions are so outrageous that you can’t hold government posts if you openly espouse them. Due to the aftermath of the Nazis, the fall of Jim Crow and apartheid, and decolonization, eugenics is one of those positions.

          • a reader says:

            for better or worse, it’s a fact of life that some positions are so outrageous that you can’t hold government posts if you openly espouse them. Due to the aftermath of the Nazis, […] eugenics is one of those positions.

            Yes, unfortunately – and I think it’s a pity.

            Explicitly model system:
            Eugenics was initially thought as a way to improve mankind.
            But Nazis used eugenics as justification to castrate or kill the disabled – and they also labeled Jews as “inferior” and killed millions of them.

            Experience emotion
            Horror, indignation.

            Reify methaphysical essence
            Eugenics = evil

            Endorse value based on essence
            Toby Young suggested using eugenics to help poor people have smarter children. => HE SUPPORTS EUGENICS! HE IS EVIL!!!!!111

            This is Toby Young’s suggestion about “progressive eugenics”, in his article The Fall of the Meritocracy:

            Hsu believes that within ten years machine learning applied to large genomic datasets will make it possible for parents to screen embryos in vitro and select the most intelligent one to implant. […] these couples wouldn’t be creating a super-human in a laboratory, but choosing the smartest child from the range of all the possible children they could have. Nevertheless, this could have a decisive impact. […]
            My proposal is this: once this technology becomes available, why not offer it free of charge to parents on low incomes with below-average IQs? Provided there is sufficient take-up, it could help to address the problem of flat-lining inter-generational social mobility and serve as a counterweight to the tendency for the meritocratic elite to become a hereditary elite. It might make all the difference when it comes to the long-term sustainability of advanced meritocratic societies.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            My point isn’t that his proposal was bad, my point was it’s not out of the ordinary for a politician who espouses, in his own words, a version of “eugenics” to not get a fair hearing for those ideas. If the idea is a good one,