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Links 7/18: URL Mountains

British soldier James Brooke was wounded in the Anglo-Burmese War and the military wouldn’t let him continue serving with his injury. He decided to go adventuring, got a ship, one thing led to another, and he ended up as king of the northern third of Borneo, founding a dynasty which lasted a hundred years.

You shall not make an image of the LORD your God. You definitely shall not get a bunch of people to make images of the LORD your God and average them together in order to prove something about how different demographic groups visualize the LORD your God. And yet here we are.

A study on vegetarian activism estimates its effectiveness at one pig saved per $150 devoted to activist charities (=$300/pig-year, since factory-farmed pigs live 6 months). The numbers come out to about $6 or so per chicken (=$50/chicken-year). Effective altruist Peter Hurford comments that this compares poorly to charities that work with humans under a wide range of assumptions about relative human-animal value. But it remains compatible with meat offsets; by my calculations donating $100 to the charity involved could offset eating pork one meal per day for a year.

Quanta explains the criticality theory of brain function.

Studies on fish oil in depression have been very inconsistent. A new meta-analysis claims to have figure it all out: fish oil supplements only help against depression if they have greater than 60% EPA (one of the two main fats in fish oil; different supplements have them at different ratios). Biologically plausible as the two kinds of fats may compete for transporters. Some good comments on r/nootropics, including someone pointing out that actual oily fish do not generally meet this criterion, which seems damning although I can’t really explain why.

In 1899, four reporters from the four major Denver newspapers randomly decided to fake a news story for fun. They wrote that China wanted to tear down the Great Wall and was seeking bids from US demolition companies, and each “swore they would stick to this story as fact as long as any of the others were still alive.” Eventually “the story spread to newspapers all across the country and then into Europe”. The hoax continued for decades, and in the 1940s somehow people got it into their heads that the Great Wall demolition plan had incited the Boxer Rebellion.

Related: not worth its own Reverse Voxsplaining article, but still worth calling out: Vox continues to push that terrible air rage study.

Related: The Great Tom Collins Hoax Of 1874 was some sort of weird meme where people would ask “Have you seen Tom Collins?”, and then embellish this with details like that “Tom Collins is looking for you” or “Tom Collins has been talking about you”. Apparently this was what passed for fun in 1874 and went down in history and song and a bunch of newspaper articles were published about it. This may be the source of the name of the Tom Collins cocktail.

A new study confirms my survey’s finding that women in science suffer less sexual harassment than in other fields, with female scientists reporting generally nonsignificantly lower rates of harassment than female non-scientists and engineers, and significantly lower rates than female medical students.

The Royal Game of Ur is the oldest board game in the world, popular throughout the Near East since about 2500 BC, and surviving in isolated communities all the way until the 1950s AD. They seem to have taken it very seriously: “The tablet of Itti-Marduk-balalu provides vague predictions for the players’ futures if they land on certain spaces, such as ‘You will find a friend’, ‘You will become powerful like a lion’ or ‘You will draw fine beer’.” The rules are similar to backgammon, which may be its distant descendant.

A website and forum on post-serotonin sexual dysfunction.

The ACLU, the NAACP, the nootropics community, the kratom community, and the anti-drug-war movement are all concerned about the SITSA Act, a bill which gives the Attorney General (Jeff Sessions, in case you forgot) the power to unilaterally decree any chemical that shares a mechanism with a controlled substance to itself be a controlled substance. This is a well-intentioned attempt to deal with the avalanche of fentanyl derivates (ie changing one atom on the fentanyl molecule and then saying “It’s not fentanyl! It’s not illegal! You can’t ban us until you pass a whole new law saying this molecule is illegal!), but as written it gives the government kind of arbitrary and complete drug-war-expanding power. If you’re worried, r/nootropics explains how best to contact your Senator.

From Less Wrong: A review of Elinor Ostrom’s book Governing the Commons, about how societies solve coordination problems in real life.

SCOTUS links: Slate thinks it’s been “ensured” that Roe vs. Wade will be overturned. I think my previous 99% certainty that it wouldn’t was inexcusably far too high, but still expect the court to avoid doing it openly. Other fields to watch include affirmative action, criminal punishment, gerrymandering. 538 on how Kennedy was not really a moderate, but rather a conservative who occasionally voted with liberals on a few high-profile issues. And Snopes discusses rumors that Anthony Kennedy’s son is connected to the Russia investigations – mostly true, but I would treat conspiracy theories based on this as yet another example of how easy it is to construct a plausible-sounding-but-false conspiracy theory.

Related: Democrats discuss packing the Supreme Court if they win in 2020. Some would say that arguing that if you ever take power again you should win forever by breaking all rules and abandoning all honor – when your opponents are actually currently in power and can also do this – and making this argument in the national public media which your opponents also read – is at the very least a strategic error, if not more fundamentally erroneous. This is a metaphor for everything about the Democrats right now.

Enopoletus has done some good work making Angus Maddison’s GDP data more accessible (1, 2)

Katja Grace on Meteuphoric: Are ethical asymmetries from property rights?

Therapists do not seem to achieve better results when they follow the rules of the school of therapy they are practicing than when they don’t. Some similar results in adolescents and a review.

A “proof” of Trump “dog-whistling” white supremacy recently went viral in the blogosphere and media: a DHS document had a headline reminiscent of a white supremacist slogan. If this sounds kind of weak, the clue-hunters buttressed it with undeniable proof: a statistic in the article said 13 of every 88 immigrants making a “credible fear” claim were accepted in the US. Using 88 as the denominator of a fraction is inexplicable except that 88 is a Known Secret White Supremacist Code Number (88 = HH = Heil Hitler). Somehow we reached the point where only Free Beacon did any investigative reporting; they immediately found that the document used 88 as a reference to another statistic where 88 out of every 100 immigrants made the “credible fear” claim in the first place. Then another tweet went viral noting that the DHS document had fourteen bullet points and fourteen was definitely a Known Secret White Supremacist Code Number; high-powered investigative reporting revealed the document only had thirteen bullet points. The original tweeter then argued that this was proof the DHS was in league with the Devil an unbulleted paragraph was written in bold, which was sort of like a bullet point. I continue to believe this kind of thing is the modern version of looking for pyramid shapes to prove politicians are part of the Illuminati.

I don’t know if everyone is getting constant ads for ELYSIUM BASIS on Facebook, or if they just have me pegged as an anti-aging supplement kind of guy. But here’s a review of the legal and business irregularities of Elysium and how they’ve failed to fulfill their promise. Most people I read seem to think if you want nicotinamide riboside (Elysium’s star supplement) you should get it directly from the manufacturer under the brand name Niagen instead of taking a branded combination nootropic.

Gwern reviews On The Historicity Of Jesus. Short version: the prose is annoying, but the case that Jesus was completely mythical (as opposed to a real teacher whose deeds were exaggerated) is more plausible than generally supposed. Please read the review before commenting about this topic.

If you’re interested in AI alignment, you should be reading Rohin Shah’s AI Alignment Newsletter; future editions available on Less Wrong.

I wrote a while ago about Luna, a planned dating site that would involve a cryptocurrency-subsidized market in message-reading. There was some debate about whether they would ever make a product, but there is now a sort of use-able poorly advertised beta.

California has banned local communities from instituting soda taxes. The state claims it was driven to this extreme by the soda industry’s threats to start a ballot proposition to ban local communities from instituting any new taxes at all without a two-thirds majority. Experts predicted such a proposition would be pass and devastate local finances, so the state gave into blackmail and banned soda taxes, prompting the soda companies to back down on their ballot initiative. This makes no sense to me for several reasons, most notably that if a proposition to ban local taxes would so obviously pass, then you’d expect someone other than soda companies to propose it eventually. What about Republicans? Isn’t this the sort of thing they’re usually into?

Psychology’s gender problem gets worse: 90% of people entering the field are women, and research on female-specific issues outweighs male-specific issues four-to-one.

Tolkien started working on his fictional world after a semi-mystical experience he had when reading an Anglo-Saxon poem containing the line “Hail Earendel, brightest of angels / sent over Middle-Earth to mankind”

Colombian study finds that, among criminals “on the margin of incarceration” (ie whether or not they get imprisoned depends on whether they get a strict vs. lenient judge), their children do better (as measured in years of education) when they are imprisoned, presumably because they were bad parents who had a negative effect on their children’s lives. This one probably isn’t going to end up in any Chicken Soup For The Soul books.

A neat way of representing city street orientations.

There’s been a shift among some of my YIMBY friends to being more willing to acknowledge that building more housing may not decrease housing costs very quickly, effectively, or at all (short of implausibly massive amounts of new housing). Devon Zuegel presents one of the arguments.

This answers a lot of the questions I had about Piketty and straight-line growth: Steady-State Growth: Some New Evidence About An Old Stylized Fact. Confirms that some countries not only recovered from WWII but seemed to get a permanent boost from it. I want to see more on this theme.

“Campaign spending doesn’t help candidates get elected” is one of the most-replicated and least-believable findings in political science, so I guess it’s nice to have a new list of 49 experiments confirming it.

Ozy on three ways of dealing with sexual harassment and assault. Even though both Ozy and I are somewhat against callout culture, I find Ozy’s criticisms of it weak; I think the reasons it is bad are illegible and hard to communicate rationally. Their third method, which they call “expulsion”, is better described as “centralized authority” and (contra the post) can easily work even without a specific space to expel people from; if the authority is powerful enough, it can implement authority-backed public callouts and ostracization. I am disappointed the communities I’m in haven’t gotten more formal institutions for this.

The FDA mulls making current prescription-only drugs non-prescription. I admit I am really shocked by this development and had no idea it was even in the Overton Window. I am vaguely emotionally in favor of it but don’t know enough about statins to have strong views on that class in particular.

Anisha on Less Wrong offers A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding A Good Therapist.

This is exactly the kind of thing that doesn’t replicate, but it rings true to me: Performing Meaningless Rituals Boost Our Self-Control Through Making Us Feel More Self-Disciplined.

Zvi talks about his troubles hiring a nanny, how incompetent most job-seekers are. Two important lessons I take from this: first, if you hear that a hundred other people have applied for the job you want, this isn’t as much reason for despair as it sounds. Second, if you (like me) have heard the advice “show interest in the job/company you’re applying for”, you don’t necessarily need to agonize about exactly how best to express your enthusiasm – the advice is probably aimed at morons who apply for places without even caring what industry they’re in.

@atroyn on Twitter: Things That Happen In Silicon Valley And Also The Soviet Union. Good fun; less culture-war than it sounds.

Two San Francisco supervisors move to ban free workplace cafeterias, obviously directed at tech firms. They argue free cafeterias are denying business to local restaurants and (as per Supervisor Peskin) “depriving [techies] the pleasure of mingling with the rest of The City”, which is impossible for me to read in anything other than a cloying sarcastic bully voice. @theunitofcaring has a typically thoughtful and compassionate take on this. I am less thoughtful and compassionate and my take is wanting to start a petition to ban San Francisco City Supervisors from having kitchens in their house. It’s literally stealing from the restaurant industry! [EDIT: Commenter “Jeltz” has made the petition].

Did you know: even though phrenology is notorious as an example of a debunked scientific field, nobody had actually bothered formally checking whether or not it was true until this year. Now neurologists armed with modern MRI data have looked into it and – yeah, turns out to be totally debunked.

Your regular reminder that the IRS could easily calculate how much each American owes in taxes and send them the bill without any tax preparation required, but tax preparation companies like Intuit and H&R Block keep successfully lobbying against this to “stop depriving citizens of the pleasure of mingling with the tax preparation community” preserve their business model.

States consider banning fast food companies from banning employee poaching. No-poach agreements were created to prevent people with trade secrets from disclosing them to competitors, but has expanded to the point where companies use them to prevent McJob workers from going to other McJobs that will pay more. The new government initiative seems to be in the ordoliberal spirit of government regulation that strengthens market principles and makes them work more smoothly.

Blogger who wrote “there is no crisis in the humanities” article in 2013 now writes Mea Culpa: There Is A Crisis In The Humanities. Humanities degrees as percent of college degrees have dropped from 7.5% ten years ago to only 5% today. Time course and major distribution don’t seem to support hypothesis that it’s related to culture-war-type issues; does support a narrative where after the 2008 recession people switched to majors they thought were better for getting jobs. But for some reason the exodus continues even now that the economy is improving.

Marginal Revolution has been especially good this past week. See eg their posts on how household income explains only 7% of variance in educational attainment, changing migration patterns to Europe and a Cowen-Smith immigration debate, non-replicating happiness research, and the history of abortion – which was mostly accepted in the US even in very religious places like Puritan New England until doctors started campaigning against it around the Civil War era.

Related: the “clown vs. chessmaster” debate around Trump still hasn’t died down. “I have just spent a week in Beijing talking to officials and intellectuals, many of whom are awed by his skill as a strategist and tactician.” But consider in the context of the Chinese government having every incentive to flatter him, and to encourage Americans to unite around him especially if he’s a clown.

Glenn Greenwald says Ecuador is planning to hand Julian Assange over to the UK. Proximal cause is “to stop depriving Assange of the pleasure of mingling with the international law enforcement community” Assange’s protests against Spanish human rights abuses in Catalonia; apparently Ecuador and Spain are pretty close. Whatever you think of Assange, this is a stupid way for him to finally get caught and Ecuador has lost whatever goodwill it might have gained in my mind from holding out this long.

Newest big Head Start study finds significant negative effects from free preschool, which it is unable to easily explain. Hasn’t yet looked into the supposed positive non-academic findings that only surface decades down the line.

no_bear_so_low on how to quantify the economic costs of not redistributing money.

Historians during the Classical Age would sometimes speculate that certain old structures must have been built by gods or giants, so inconceivable was it to them that mere mortals could ever do such a thing. I feel the same way about some Minecraft projects sometimes; it boggles my mind to to imagine them being made by ordinary humans. The latest in this line is ArdaCraft, an attempt to simulate the entirety of Middle-Earth at 1:58 scale. Slightly complicated to make it work, but if you do, make sure not to miss Mithlond or Thorin’s Halls.

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1,144 Responses to Links 7/18: URL Mountains

  1. Hitfoav says:

    About company cafeterias : whether free or not, only in a post-scarcity industry like silicon valley tech would someone propose “employees eating at restaurants” as an alternative to the company cafeteria without concern for the personal economics involved.

    I used to work for a company cafeteria that provided reasonable quality and nutritious meals for $6. That would limit one’s restaurant choices to “one of the basic 6″ subs at Subway”, plus its an extra 10 minutes of walking. Minimum $10 for something comparable.

    Restaurant vs free cafeteria is hundreds or thousands of dollars a month.

  2. alcoraiden says:

    If I had to throw out a wild-assed guess, I’d say pre-k is detrimental because it’s keeping kids shut up in a school with a program. Little kids need to experience the world and learn on their own, take risks, be curious. They want to explore and have fun, not sit in daycare all day. Pre-k really is just a daycare.

    I don’t know how to fix that, since this is probably due to two-working-parent families, and I can’t condemn that structure at all.

  3. Plumber says:

    “There’s been a shift among some of my YIMBY friends to being more willing to acknowledge that building more housing may not decrease housing costs very quickly, effectively, or at all (short of implausibly massive amounts of new housing). Devon Zuegel presents one of the arguments.”

    link text

    Amusing article.

    People really didn’t understand why people want to live in The City, and that demand compounds?

    Besides, I’ve spent a couple of years working for The Port and The Department of Public Works for The City and County of San Francisco, and note something that the “Just build more” types don’t explain away is the real physical infrastructure limits as well as the political ones to housing more people in San Francisco.

    First, in an already crowded city, people don’t want to lose their parks, so you can’t build there.

    Second, Treasure Island, and by the old Hunters Point Shipyards are toxic places to build, cleanup will be extremely expensive, that’s why there isn’t more new housing already!

    Third, during heavy rains the sewage treatment plants are overloaded already and Federal limits on high much untreated sewage can go into the Bay are exceeded.

    Hope for more droughts if you want to pack more people in here!

    Expand the sewage treatment plants?

    On what land, and with what money?

    Plus the pipes under the streets are already way past due for replacement (many are more than a century old).

  4. herculesorion says:

    “theunitofcaring” provides a lovely sad story about how free lunch is actually a mental-health benefit, which suggests to me that companies could start giving out free lunches and use that to justify cutting other healthcare services.

  5. rlms says:

    RE: Things That Happen In Silicon Valley And Also The Soviet Union — Glorious Leader accuses workers of wrecking.

  6. Guy in TN says:

    The system seems to be eating my responses, and it makes me sad.

    • Deiseach says:

      Probably the spam filter, which is very susceptible to the Scunthorpe Problem, so if you have anything like a Banned Term or anything with the same letters as a Banned Term it will gobble up the response. It also doesn’t like a lot of links.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      You have had an enormous number of comments on this thread, so it is quite amazing that you wrote a bunch more.

      • Guy in TN says:

        Heh, I guess I did have quite a few…possibly an unhealthy amount.

        I rationalize it to myself by saying its good to stretch the brain muscles every now and then. But perhaps I should take a bit of a small break.

  7. Forge the Sky says:

    The fish oil study corresponds well with my anecdotal experience; I’ve had a few brief bouts of strong depression that were blunted wonderfully with the fish oil supplement I happened to have on hand, which was nearly entirely EPA (660mg EPA/60mg DHA x2). One time, all I had on hand was a fish oil that was about 80% DHA, and it did precisely nothing, so I went out and got the EPA-heavy one and it worked again.

    I figured the explanation was that the EPA was the active component, but was a bit confused about the DHA-heavy one doing nothing.

    Also, this objection seems weak to me: “actual oily fish do not generally meet this criterion, which seems damning although I can’t really explain why.

    Maybe I’m missing a comment that goes into more detail, but the one I’m seeing only really says that salmon doesn’t meet this criteria.

    I understand that fish species differ quite a bit in their oil composition. They actually found that some dolphins in captivity were becoming obese/diabetic in spite of being fed a reasonably-sized diet of fish, and it turned out that they were generally being fed only one or two kinds of fish – which varied between aquariums. The fat composition of the fish was the culprit.

    People, like dolphins, would have been eating a wide variety of fish species if they were a fish-eating people. Seeing a correlation between eating fish and feeling better mentally could still happen, even if only (say) 30% of the fish species worked.

  8. tim says:

    The fish oil meta-analysis is not actually particularly new, coming from 2011 with a few more since then; the most recent one I could quickly find is this Meta-analysis and meta-regression of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for major depressive disorder from 2016. That analysis is more narrowly targeted to major depression, finds an effect of EPA level but not EPA/(EPA+DHA), questions the 60% cutoff, and finds increased effect of o-3s with concurrent antidepressants. They also find no evidence of publication bias, interestingly, but do find a decreasing effect size with increasing year, despite that not being correlated with study quality.

  9. deciusbrutus says:

    The YIMBY crowd is not interested in what a priori would seem to be an absurd number of housing units.

    The YIMBY crowd wants there to be no artificial barriers to the creation of new housing. If adding new housing increases demand more, keep adding units. Eventually people will no longer be happy to pay a billion dollars per month to hot-bunk in a sleeping tube, and the costs of leasing a sleeping tube will start to decline.

  10. arancaytar says:

    The Metaculus community average currently assigns 25% to Roe vs Wade being formally overturned within 10 years: https://www.metaculus.com/questions/1011/will-roe-v-wade-be-formally-overturned-within-10-years-of-justice-kennedys-retirement/.

    Caveat: The community average is not well calibrated, and out of previous questions predicted at about 25%, only one – about 10% – has resolved true. https://www.metaculus.com/questions/track-record/ (The better-calibrated Metaculus prediction itself will remain secret until the question closes in 2023, unfortunately.)

  11. Gazeboist says:

    “New study confirms”

    This should presumably be “…(in)exactly replicates” or “…supports the conclusions of”. Confirmation, after all, is a rare and special thing.

  12. mr_capybara says:

    Aren’t the “campaign finance doesn’t work” and “taxes are complicated because of Intuit” points at odds with each other?

    • j r says:

      Not really. Campaign contributions can be a Red Queen’s race where donors vie for “access” with very little real payoff. And lobbying can be an incredibly effective way for people with specific, concentrated interests to have those interests reflected in legislation.

      Campaign fundraising and lobbying are two different things.

      • pontifex says:

        Exactly. If you’re wealthy and you want something done, you donate money to both parties.

        Donating to just one party puts a “kick me” sign on your back. The only reason to do it is if you’re just incredibly committed to either Red Team or Blue Team, like George Soros or the Kochs.

    • Robert Jones says:

      The linked article doesn’t actually say “taxes are complicated because of Intuit”. It says, “Filing Taxes Could Be Free and Simple. But H&R Block and Intuit Are Still Lobbying Against It.” Those two statements are likely both true, but by juxtaposing them the article invites the reader to infer a causal link which does not exist (and I fear that Scott may have fallen into that trap).

      It’s pretty clear that H&R Block and Intuit are not super-successful lobbyists, just from the article, as their bill failed to make it out of committee. The article also notes that Intuit did not lobby against Senator Warren’s bill.

  13. P. George Stewart says:

    Richard Carrier is a weird and irritating person, but his Jesus book is extremely interesting, and it’s not the only intelligent investigation that comes to the same or a similar conclusion.

    It’s actually quite possible that most of the “great religious founders” are similarly mythical. Certainly there have been doubts about Laozi, Buddha and Mohammed as well as Jesus. It may be the case that although religions are indeed founded by remarkable people, they prefer to attribute the founding of their religion to someone God-touched and mythical from a past that’s not too close but at the same time not too distant from them. In the case of Christianity, the actual founder may have been St. Paul and/or a small group of Jewish mystics who mixed the Jewish Messiah concept (which was more of a God-connected but rather kingly and military figure who would biff the Romans and put the Jews on top) with the personal saviour concept then-prevalent in the ferment of what was the then-equivalent of our modern pullulating “New Age” philosophies: the so-called Mystery Religions.

    Basically Christianity started off as the Jewish equivalent of the other Mystery Religions, which had taken local deities, etc., and transmogrified them into personal saviour deities. But then the myth got concretized and historicized not too long after the origin of the cult.

    What this does neatly explain is the somewhat etherial nature of Christ in Paul, the lack of the story tropes we’re familiar with from the gospel, etc. To go counter to the mythicist idea as a straightforward explanation of that strange “silence” one has to indulge in special pleading that one has an inside understanding of Paul’s psychology.

    • dndnrsn says:

      First, Paul’s letters are incidental. He’s dealing with running several churches by correspondence, more or less. There’s various crises. Imagine you’re a business executive firing off emails to subsidiaries all over the world, trying to put fires out. If someone grabs a bunch of these emails, looks at them, and notes that you never include the business’ statement of purpose, org chart, whatever, that they didn’t exist?

      Second, Christ was more important to Paul than Jesus. He leaves out the stuff that a lot of scholars think is most characteristic of the historical figure of Jesus – but then again, so does the Gospel of John. Paul is primarily interested in the role of Christ in human salvation, not in the often-cryptic sayings of a charismatic religious leader.

      The most plausible explanation for the facts we have is:

      1. Charismatic religious leader achieves local following. He has a message about the coming rule of God that will change the world, right wrongs, and turn everything upside down (I think that Jesus as apocalypticist is the most convincing message, but there are plenty more learned in this than I who think otherwise). He expresses it in parables and short discourses.
      2. He is involved in some sort of Temple-related kerfuffle. The local Roman administrator has him crucified, as one does with rabble-rousers who might threaten the emipre.
      3. His followers reinterpret this as all part of the plan. His death gets interpreted as having a role in human salvation, etc.

      Paul is extremely important in shaping Christianity, but he didn’t just sit down and make it up. There was a preexisting movement.

      • P. George Stewart says:

        I’m laughing at the comparison to emails 🙂 Come on man, yes the letters had practical purposes, but they’re chock full of teaching, and yet they don’t mention a word of the actual teachings of the human figure who (by the later gospel accounts) gave out quite a lot of them.

        Your second paragraph is precisely an example of the question begging and psychologization that goes on with commentary about Paul. “Christ was more important to Paul than Jesus” is possibly a plausible psychologization if you take it for granted that Jesus existed (e.g. if you have independent evidence of that fact, for example), but that’s just what you can’t do when you’re trying to look at possible earliest evidence for Jesus in Paul. It’s circular.

        I think part of the problem is that our understanding of the Judaism of the pre-Diaspora period isn’t very clear – it probably wasn’t like the Javneh Judaism that we are familiar with (the Dead Sea Scrolls are pretty weird after all), and probably much more polytheistic and variegated than we think (and actually part of the problem is that the gospels colour our understanding of the earlier period in an obfuscatory way – which is explainable on the hypothesis that these are Roman Jews looking back on a past they had no experience of, so they’re backfilling what they know into that past).

        That’s why I don’t think Paul necessarily made it up himself, I think it was probably more like a Jewish proto-Gnostic school of mystical thought with roots in its own relative past, that Paul perhaps first scorned then later came to think had the truth.

        • dndnrsn says:

          They’re full of teaching, but the teaching is generally directed to a specific purpose. The usual pattern is “community problem – teaching that deals with problem and preserves Paul’s authority” in most of the letters, isn’t it?

          I don’t think it assumes that Jesus existed to say Paul thought Christ was more important than Jesus. It’s shown in what he appeals to. If Jesus didn’t exist, and the sayings were concocted at some point, it would still be accurate to say that the different Gospels, the Pauline letters, etc, have different ratios of Jesus to Christ. I don’t think I’m psychologizing… the biggest problem with the approach I’m taking is that it’s arguing from silence; Paul may simply have been assuming stuff that he figured everyone knew, or whatever.

          It is definitely problematic that the possibly-earliest written source we have has what it has and omits what it omits. Trying to find an explanation where the parables are later also doesn’t seem to work, though. There’s a lot of stuff in the sayings tradition that come off a lot more apocalyptic than gnostic, the (proto?) gnostic stuff in Thomas doesn’t gibe with the stuff in Thomas that shows up elsewhere… If I had the answer to this, though, the international cabal of New Testament studies profs would have me killed before I could put them out of a job, though.

          With regard to the Judaism of the period, there was already a decent chunk of the Jewish population living throughout the Mediterranean, wasn’t there? Already kind of a diaspora. Enough to support a Greek translation, at least. I don’t know how much we can take from the Dead Sea Scrolls – after all, this was a community that set themselves off from the mainstream. Regarding the picture of the Judaism of the time in the Gospels, I don’t see anything wrong with the usual explanation – that the authors are reading issues at the time of writing back several decades. You’re right that we ourselves may be reading things back in time in a similar fashion.

          EDIT: I think the scholarly-standard explanation, in its broad outline, fits the facts we have/think we have the best.

          • P. George Stewart says:

            “There’s a lot of stuff in the sayings tradition that come off a lot more apocalyptic than gnostic, the (proto?) gnostic stuff in Thomas doesn’t gibe with the stuff in Thomas that shows up elsewhere”

            This is partly why I think we just don’t know enough about the period to say, and having the large number of orthodox Christian texts dominating our textual evidence of the period is like viewing the 20th century through the lens of the many surviving Superman comics in the 30th century (I exaggerate for effect, ofc 🙂 ).

            Look at the Nag Hammadi texts – a whole passel of weirdness (in relation to anything orthodox) that nobody would have suspected had they not accidentally been dug up. I know they’re later than the period under question, but, again, it just shows you how little we really know, especially since our view is distorted as I said, by the relative abundance of orthodox Christian materials (and even that isn’t much in absolute terms, just in relative terms).

            But that’s why I think the overall picture that Carrier presents – of a Graeco-Roman equivalent of our contemporary “New Age”, with the various mystery religions being syncretisms transforming local deities into personal saviour deities, and Jesus Christ simply being the Jewish cultural equivalent of that) – just makes most sense overall.

            I may be biased also in that even though I’m a rationalist, I’ve had mystical experiences and the like, so I know how powerful that sort of thing can be. That experience makes it quite plausible to me that a religion could start with them.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Certainly, what survives makes a difference. Your point concerning Nag Hammadi is well taken (and a relevant sidenote – by some accounts, a chunk of the find got burned as firestarter before they figured out what they’d got).

            That said, while the adoption by gentiles of Christianity occurred in the context of mystery cults (and it’s relevant that Hellenistic gentiles often discussed Christianity in the same tone as mystery cults), I don’t know if we can extend that to Judaism. Judaism was already pretty monotheistic by then – the understanding I have, at least, is that monotheism got a shot in the arm due in part to the influence of Hellenistic philosophical monotheism, or something along those lines.

            If we, really broadly and roughly, divide the early traditions into a “Kingdom of God” tradition (Jesus’ preaching in the Synoptics, let’s say; this is either apocalyptic – I think it’s apocalyptic – or maybe some sorta sage-like deal), a more Christ-focused salvation tradition (John, etc) and a gnostic or maybe mystery-cult tradition (I think Thomas shows gnostic influences, but they’re not super developed) there’s a clearer path for the first to get turned into the second and third, than the other way around, and we see a Christ-focused salvation tradition before we see really developed Christian gnosticism (at least, as far as I know, you only see stuff where it’s really obvious that it’s gnosticism by the beginning of the second century).

        • engleberg says:

          Re: If you take it for granted that Jesus existed-

          If Paul met the members of Jesus’s family in the early church, say?

          • Deiseach says:

            While we’re at it, why do we assume Paul existed? Have we any independent sources mentioning Paul? If this alleged trial of his as a Roman citizen took place, where are the court records?

            It’s all very fishy – this change from zealous persecutor of the community to a believer and moreover a leader in that same community is bad enough (imagine Stalin converting to classical capitalism) but all accomplished by “divine intervention” – as any fule kno, the divine doesn’t exist!

            And the string of miracles associated with him – for instance, he is supposed to have restored to life a young man who fell out a window and was killed by the fall – are surely too incredible for the educated reader to swallow.

            But the biggest giveaway of all is the direct comparison to Greek gods:

            Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.

            Can the adaptation of pre-existing myths in the geo-political area be any more blatant? No, I’m sorry: if “Paul” is the inventor of Christianity, I have to ask – in the best Dawkins fashion – who invented Paul, this character out of a story book and certainly not history? Checkmate, theists!

            (Really, if you’re going to blink at Jesus existing as a historical person because of miracles and lack of corroboration, you have to do the same for Paul, so the mythical founder of Christianity problem is pushed back another step – who invented Paul the writer of these epistles which codified Christianity?)

          • Deiseach says:

            If Paul met the members of Jesus’s family in the early church, say?

            James the brother (whether we take that as brother or first cousin) of the Lord was the leader of the Church in Jerusalem, and Paul met him along with Peter and other noted members:

            Acts 15
            12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name.

            Acts 21
            17 When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified God.

            So if Jesus never existed, then how likely is it his brother existed? And if Paul is claiming to have met a mythical non-existing person, as James’ and the elders approval provide credentials for his mission to the Gentiles being part of the Way and not an offshoot of his own independent invention, then how likely is it that Paul existed? And so on down the line!

          • P. George Stewart says:

            “If Paul met the members of Jesus’s family in the early church, say?”

            The thread that hangs on is the thin one of “James, brother of the Lord.” But we already know that “brother of the Lord” is, elsewhere in Paul, a term of art denoting some kind of initiatic status, nothing to do with blood relation.

            Again, if you had good reason from independent sources to think that Jesus had existed, then that would certainly go in favour of resolving the ambiguity between cultic term and blood relation in the direction of blood relation, but again, without that independent evidence, the James reference alone is too ambiguous to stand as textual evidence of a human Jesus.

            Furthermore, the term “disciple” is nowhere used in Paul in reference to the Jerusalem people he met, which in itself is another curious silence – since they were supposedly people who had been personal students and disciples of the putative human Jesus.

          • engleberg says:

            Re: (if Paul met members of Jesus’s family in the early church) hangs on the thin thread of ‘James, brother of the Lord’-

            And a bunch of other thin threads in early Church history saying members of the family of Jesus did blah in the Church. I expect in Roman law (if Roman law cared, which I doubt) the Jerusalem church was familia to the domus Jesse until Anno Domini 70 and splat.

            Re: if we had good reason from independent sources-

            That’s the crux. Every early source we have is from a devout religious believer, except Josephus, who didn’t give a damn and didn’t know anything but rumors.

          • Aron Wall says:

            @P. George Stewart

            But we already know that “brother of the Lord” is, elsewhere in Paul, a term of art denoting some kind of initiatic status, nothing to do with blood relation.

            False. There is no use of this phrase in the New Testament that anywhere implies that it is a special cultic status, and every use is consistent (I would say, more consistent) with it referring to James and/or Jude, Jesus’ literal family relations who are also mentioned in the Gospels as such.

            (Paul does use the phrase “brothers” (by itself) in a spiritual way to refer to all Christians, but this does not fit the context of the phrase “brother of the Lord”, which refers to specific Christians.)

            @Deiseach
            Apostolic succession of nonexistence! Taken to its logical conclusion, a proof by induction that Pope Francis is a myth. 🙂

          • Jaskologist says:

            Furthermore, the term “disciple” is nowhere used in Paul in reference to the Jerusalem people he met, which in itself is another curious silence – since they were supposedly people who had been personal students and disciples of the putative human Jesus.

            “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

            Not using a specific term you’re looking for isn’t a curious silence. He talks about “The Twelve,” ie: the disciples, to an audience that would have known exactly who that was. Just like he talks about meeting Cephas without further elaboration, because everybody knows who that is.

  14. lfstevens says:

    “Psychology’s gender problem gets worse: 90% of people entering the field are women, and research on female-specific issues outweighs male-specific issues four-to-one.”

    Somehow the comment on this writes itself. Actually, both of them do.

  15. Bill Murdock says:

    RE: no_bear_so_low on the “cost of redistribution.”

    tl;dr
    An additional dollar to a non-materialistic hippie or monk or vagabond or whatever may not be worth as much as an additional dollar to a millionaire. How do I know? Because people with a million dollars sometimes keep working to get more money. And people with only a dollar sometimes pass up the opportunity to earn a second dollar.

    So everything that follows in the article is wrong.

    longer version:
    “A dollar is worth a lot more to someone with an income of 10,000 a year than to someone with an income of 100,000 a year, and it is worth even less to someone on one million dollars a year.” No, this is not true.

    Imagine two people equivalent in skills and appearance, both working the same job side-by-side, both with an identical wage and net worth. Then imagine the opportunity comes up to work an extra hour a week at the end of Friday’s shift (at the normal wage). If you can imagine one of the employees deciding to do it, and the other deciding against, then you’ve proven that this simple formulation doesn’t work. The additional dollars should be valued the same, and thus both should work or not work. If you can imagine them making different choices because, say, one of them enjoys the movie theater (one hour’s wage) and one enjoys walks in the park at dusk (free, but you must be there after work to enjoy dusk), then you’ve seen that the marginal value of a dollar does not depend solely on how many dollars you already have. It might even have an inverse relationship if, e.g., you feel guilty over your wealth.

    “Thus there’s a certain inefficiency …” No, there’s not. Since you can’t actually know, it’s a purely normative conclusion.

    “Using certain mathematical techniques …” Let the madness begin. Read instead: Hayek’s “The Pretense of Knowledge.”

    • Lambert says:

      These are averages and correlations, not strict physical laws.

      The richer you are, the more the ‘low hanging fruit’ has been picked.

      • Bill Murdock says:

        How and why do some become richer than others? Because they value a marginal dollar more. So you can’t do the kind of thing the author is attempting, no matter how much he tries to dress it up. It’s just normative feelings dressed up with equations.

        As to your second line: The richer I AM, the more low hanging fruit HAS BEEN picked? And by whom? ugh

        • honoredb says:

          It’s a fair point that in some cases, differences in how much money you have reflect a revealed preference about money. But it should really be obvious that there’s also a diminishing effect for the marginal dollar–almost anybody who’s seen their net worth change has noticed this anecdotally.

          Suppose you asked two people “what is the cheapest thing you really want, but can’t afford?”. Alice names something that costs $20, Bob names something that costs $200,000. I think it’s reasonable to conclude that giving Alice $20 would make a bigger difference than giving Bob $20, all else being equal. Bob’s already picked his low-hanging $20 fruit, so that $20 wouldn’t have an immediate benefit to his happiness. This is a really strong effect, and I’d expect it to swamp all other effects statistically.

          The article, of course, doesn’t go into theory, it just cites a paper that checks this empirically (https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/handle/2123/8260) by reviewing studies that ask people questions like that.

          • Matt M says:

            I think it’s reasonable to conclude that giving Alice $20 would make a bigger difference than giving Bob $20, all else being equal.

            All else is rarely equal in real life.

          • honoredb says:

            All else is rarely equal in real life.

            Not sure how facetious you’re being, but identifying a problem is often valuable even if you don’t yet know how to solve it without side effects.

          • Matt M says:

            Not at all, actually.

            The problem is that all of your conclusions about what to do stem from an assumption of ceteris paribus that rarely exists in real life.

            This is exactly why most mainstream economics fails. There are no equal “control groups.” Human desires and preferences are not easily measurable. You cannot do any meaningful math with them.

            Yes, it’s true that IF Alice and Bob were exactly equal in every way except Alice was really rich and Bob was really poor, Bob would derive more marginal utility from $20 than Alice would.

            But that tells us nothing about the marginal utility between real life John who makes 500k a year, and real life Bill who makes 20k. It’s entirely possible that John is an incredibly greedy person who is obsessed with monetary gain, whereas Bill is some sort of hippie who makes his living from odd jobs and spends his time camping in the wilderness. You simply don’t know.

          • honoredb says:

            You don’t know unless you look! But you can look. You can track down John and Bill, and then do my “what’s the cheapest thing you want but can’t afford” experiment, or any of the experiments listed in the linked paper (asking people about what gambles they’d prefer to take, examining different behaviors in real-life negotiations, and so on), and learn a lot about your subjects’ preferences. Then you can learn what correlates with a given metric for differences in preferences, and discover that usually, on average, your metric correlates with wealth.

            This discovery doesn’t constitute in itself a “conclusion about what to do”, since I can’t actually redirect $20 from one person to another without side effects and ethical problems, but it informs the scope of the problem.

            Throwing up your hands and saying “The real world is messy! No conclusions are possible!” is only really useful if you think people are doing empiricism so badly, with so much misplaced confidence, that you need to stake out the extreme opposite position. More often, I think people do it when they know what the ground reality is, but don’t want to accept it because they want their policy debate to feel more one-sided–if you’re against wealth redistribution on practical or ethical grounds, it sure would be nice if we didn’t know that wealth was sub-optimally distributed.

          • ec429 says:

            But it should really be obvious that there’s also a diminishing effect for the marginal dollar–almost anybody who’s seen their net worth change has noticed this anecdotally.

            That’s an intrapersonal measurement, so doesn’t help with the fundamental problem here, which is interpersonal utility comparisons. I assert that there is not any principled way to make the latter, and therefore any argument for redistribution/expropriation based on interpersonal comparisons of the marginal value of the unit of exchange value is ethically unjustifiable.

            what is the cheapest thing you really want, but can’t afford?

            Quite apart from Matt M’s (entirely correct) John/Bill objection, there is another problem with this. Suppose I buy one bag of sweets a week. (Well, suppose I do? Why shouldn’t I? That’s my own business.) Since I don’t buy a second bag, from an economist’s perspective I ‘can’t afford’ to do so (because all the phrase ‘can’t afford’ means is ‘am not willing to pay the market price for’). Now if I suddenly get an increase to my income, I might move to buying two bags a week. But the third bag, which I don’t buy, I still ‘can’t afford’.
            So your whole method depends on how each person defines “really want” (how many bags of sweets does it take before I decide I don’t “really want” one more?).
            Another problem: maybe Bob’s big-ticket item (a house, say) really is worth more than 10,000 times as much to him as the low-hanging $20 fruit he’s already got, but because there aren’t 10,000 low-hanging fruits all picked, he can’t trade them away for the house. For all you know, the $20 you give Bob could push him ‘over the line’ allowing him to cut back on his small-ticket items in order to finally buy the house (that’s worth more per dollar to him). And after he gets across that line, he now has the house, but doesn’t have some of the $20 fruit, so those become the ‘cheapest thing he really wants’, meaning that an increase in his wealth makes your metric go down.

            Basically it seems like your metric is trying to take advantage of discretisation of purchases while still pretending that they’re continuous enough for spherical-cow-in-a-vacuum reasoning. If trades were as perfectly marginal as you need to justify your metric, then Alice and Bob would both name “an infinitesimal increment of (some good or service)”, or at best you’d get an answer of 1¢ for everyone.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @ec42

            I assert that there is not any principled way to make the latter, and therefore any argument for redistribution/expropriation based on interpersonal comparisons of the marginal value of the unit of exchange value is ethically unjustifiable.

            Trying to follow this. Since you believe there’s no way to compare interpersonal utility, you say we cannot know whether taking a dollar from Person A and giving to Person B actually increases net utility or not. Therefore, wealth redistribution can never be justified on utilitarian grounds.

            It seems to me, there is another conclusion you are missing. Since we cannot say whether the dollar provides more utility to one person or another, Person A cannot object to getting his dollar taken away on utilitarian grounds, either. Therefore, wealth redistribution can never be objected to on utilitarian grounds.

            Disagree? What am I missing?

          • ec429 says:

            @Guy in TN:

            It seems to me, there is another conclusion you are missing. Since we cannot say whether the dollar provides more utility to one person or another, Person A cannot object to getting his dollar taken away on utilitarian grounds, either. Therefore, wealth redistribution can never be objected to on utilitarian grounds.

            If utilitarianism is based on a single aggregate utility measure of everyone in society, sure. But that really means (and what I’m saying is) that any such aggregate is bogus, and such a ‘utilitarianism’ is either ethically monstrous or just incoherent.
            Which is why I instead take the view that an act’s goodness depends on how it affects each individual and that, basically, a change is good iff it is a Marshall improvement.
            We’d like to say that it’s never OK to make anyone worse off (i.e. Pareto improvements only; everyone who doesn’t want the change has to be paid off by everyone who does want it), but in practice it’s very hard to compensate nearly everyone in the world for the tiny externalities of some action. So instead we say that if some set of payments exists such that (action + payments) is a Pareto improvement, then the action alone is a Marshall improvement. The assumption, or at least the hope, is that in the long run the missing payments will cancel out. Now we get to use dollars as a unit for interpersonal comparisons, because they’re measuring Coasian payments rather than trying to measure utilities directly.

            Then, when we apply the same reasoning that turns act utilitarianism into rule utilitarianism, this Marshall-improvement standard basically turns into libertarianism/propertarianism, which most definitely does object to wealth redistribution!

            Is it a rigorous argument? No, because of that assumption in the middle about the payments cancelling out. But you’d need to have evidence that they don’t if you want to make the case for redistribution; since we know that there are nonzero costs (e.g. deadweight losses) to weakening property rights, the burden of proof lies on those who claim utilitarian benefits outweighing those costs.

          • Matt M says:

            Disagree? What am I missing?

            That the act of redistribution is not free or costless. You have to hire a bureaucracy to administer the program.

            You aren’t simply taking $100 from A and giving $100 to B. You’re taking $100 from A and giving $90 to B. If the utility per marginal dollar is (on average) equal between the As and Bs, this is clearly a net loss.

          • Guy in TN says:

            ec429

            Now we get to use dollars as a unit for interpersonal comparisons, because they’re measuring Coasian payments rather than trying to measure utilities directly.

            I don’t understand this. Are you saying you are using Coasian payments to compare interpersonal utility? Isn’t that just what you said you can’t do?

            Matt M

            If the utility per marginal dollar is (on average) equal between the As and Bs, this is clearly a net loss.

            Yeah, but to figure out if the utility per marginal dollar between Person A and Person B was equal, you’d have to…make an interpersonal utility comparison. Which according to ec429 can’t be done!

          • ec429 says:

            I don’t understand this. Are you saying you are using Coasian payments to compare interpersonal utility? Isn’t that just what you said you can’t do?

            It’s quite subtle, but no. I’m using the possibility of Coasian payments to show that a Marshall improvement could be turned into a Pareto improvement. (A Pareto improvement does not require interpersonal comparisons to justify, since no individual loses utility.) Then I’m using my assumption about the payments (that in the long run they approximately cancel out) to argue that to within an acceptable margin of error, a policy of making Marshall improvements will in the long run aggregate (over many such changes) to a Pareto improvement; that while an individual may lose out in any particular Marshall improvement, the sum effect on that individual of many such improvements is overwhelmingly likely to be an individual gain, and that therefore such a policy is in each individual’s interest. (This gets easier when you consider that for externality cases where the rights aren’t initially held by the highest-value user, the Coasian payments actually get made.) No interpersonal utility comparisons needed — the comparisons used in the definition of the Marshall improvement look kinda like them, but aren’t. They are, explicitly, interpersonal dollar-value comparisons (which, by the principle of revealed preference, we can do), and while we are using each individual’s dollar valuations intrapersonally as a proxy for his utility, we aren’t using the dollar-value comparisons as a proxy for interpersonal utility comparisons. Like I say: subtle.

          • Guy in TN says:

            They are, explicitly, interpersonal dollar-value comparisons (which, by the principle of revealed preference, we can do), and while we are using each individual’s dollar valuations intrapersonally as a proxy for his utility, we aren’t using the dollar-value comparisons as a proxy for interpersonal utility comparisons..

            So if you explicitly aren’t using dollar-values to make interpersonal utility comparisons, how do we know that Marshall improvements are resulting in net utility gains?

            For example, even if we were to agree that on an intrapersonal level, dollars=utility, in order to determine if something is a Marshall improvement you have to add two different people’s dollar values together, and see if it is a net gain. Which is to say, you have to compare the dollar values as if they were a proxy of interpersonal utility (otherwise such a comparison wouldn’t make sense). Doesn’t this undercut the claim that Marshall efficiency produces net utility, since this sort of interpersonal comparison of the utility of a dollar can’t be done?

          • ec429 says:

            So if you explicitly aren’t using dollar-values to make interpersonal utility comparisons, how do we know that Marshall improvements are resulting in net utility gains?

            We don’t. I haven’t claimed that Marshall improvements are net utility gains. Indeed, I don’t believe that there is a social welfare function (i.e. aggregate utility function) at all, so the question “is X a net utility gain” is invalid.

            For example, even if we were to agree that on an intrapersonal level, dollars=utility, in order to determine if something is a Marshall improvement you have to add two different people’s dollar values together, and see if it is a net gain.

            Yes — a net gain in dollar-values. I am not claiming that a Marshall improvement is necessarily a net gain in total utility; it would be most odd for me to claim such a thing given that I do not believe the concept of total utility is coherent.

            Which is to say, you have to compare the dollar values as if they were a proxy of interpersonal utility (otherwise such a comparison wouldn’t make sense). Doesn’t this undercut the claim that Marshall efficiency produces net utility, since this sort of interpersonal comparison of the utility of a dollar can’t be done?

            It would indeed undercut that claim, had I ever made it. Utilities cannot be summed over people.

            But I am justifying Marshall efficiency not on the basis of any claim about net utility, but rather on the basis that when we sum, not over people, but over actions/decisions, that in the long run the results of a societal policy of making Marshall-improving decisions will be, for (almost) any individual member of the society, an improvement in his individual utility.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Okay, I understand that you aren’t using Marshall improvements to sum utilities.

            So if Marshall improvement is just the question as to whether net sums in dollar values cancel each other out, then what is the reason to think that aggregated Marshall improvements, for a given individual, result in utility gains more often than utility declines (for that individual)?

            Meaning, why should aggregated Marshall improvements lead to a Pareto improvement more often than lead to Pareto decline?

          • Guy in TN says:

            Can’t post my response for some reason:

            https://pastebin.com/5WJQGyNV

          • Guy in TN says:

            To step back now to what you said earlier:

            Which is why I instead take the view that an act’s goodness depends on how it affects each individual and that, basically, a change is good iff it is a Marshall improvement.

            Since by “goodness” I assume you are referring to an increase in an individual’s utility, and a Marshall improvement isn’t determined on whether it increases utility for an individual (and could instead decrease that individual’s utility), why do you consider a change “good” if it is a Marshall improvement? Aggregating a potential utility loss over many times doesn’t make it “cancel out”, it compounds it.

            Is the assumption that the harms/benefits or Marshall improvements will be evenly distributed across individuals?

          • ec429 says:

            Can’t post my response for some reason:

            https://pastebin.com/5WJQGyNV

            In a Marshall improvement, the +ve dollar-values more than cancel out the -ve. So if we assume (without proof) that the pluses and minuses “will be evenly distributed across individuals”, then the vast majority of individuals will have a positive total.

            As a simple model, imagine that every change gives half the population $2 and takes $1 from the other half — and that which half a given person is in is determined by an independent random shuffle for each change. Now each individual sees a Binomial distribution (individuals’ results aren’t independent, but that doesn’t matter) with p=½. As n→∞, P(x < ⅓n) → 0, so 'almost all' (in the mathematical sense) individuals end up with more dollar-value than they started with.

            Now, certainly there are ways in which this can fail. There might be something structural about society that makes a certain kind of person extra-likely to be the loser in Marshall improvements. Or, people might tend to get gains in dollar-value at points in their life when they have a low marginal utility of money and get the losses at points when they have a high marginal utility of money (note that this is an intrapersonal, although across-time, utility comparison), which could mean that their utility account could be in the red even though their dollar-value account is in the black.

            But I'm not aware of any evidence or argument that suggests those failure-modes do occur, and economics has this minor miracle that there is this system (i.e. the whole competitive free market thing) that gives individuals the incentive and the ability to implement Marshall improvements. Again it’s not perfect and takes some approximations (e.g., per Coase, the minimum size of externalities that get properly accounted for depends on transaction costs), but it gets far closer than any other system we have, since the alternatives (e.g. democratic socialism) suffer from principal-agent problems (i.e. misaligned incentives, as per public choice theory).

            So until someone comes along with the major miracle of a solution to distribution and allocation problems that doesn’t rely on these approximations and probabilistic arguments, I think the minor miracle of the ‘invisible hand’ is quite good enough for now, and we should avoid justifying interventions against the market by appeals to interpersonal utility comparisons as TFA did.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Now, certainly there are ways in which this can fail. There might be something structural about society that makes a certain kind of person extra-likely to be the loser in Marshall improvements.[…]But I’m not aware of any evidence or argument that suggests those failure-modes do occur

            If you don’t know the distribution of winner/losers in aggregated Marshall improvements, then that distribution is unknown. You can’t assume it distribution is equal, or even random, and proceed onward to make your case. An unknown ratio is an unknown ratio. If you are trying to make the positive argument that taking money from person A to give to person B causes utility loss, this is a critical factor in your logic.

            If the distribution can’t be shown to be equal, or if the distribution is impossible to know, then all you can say is “on the chance that winner/losers of Marshall improvements are equally distributed, then taking money from Person A and giving it to Person B causes utility loss”. And I would agree!

            But then, I would counter by saying that on the chance that taking a dollar from Person A and giving it to Person B increases Person B’s intrapersonal utility more than it decreases Person A’s intrapersonal utility (and since there’s no mathematical way to compare utility person-to-person, this is also an unknown, and possibly unknowable factor, just like the distribution of Marshall improvements in your case), then surely you must agree that, on the chance this is true, this wealth transfer causes utility gains.

            Rather ridiculous, but if you get to fill-in-the-blank on an unknown x, then don’t I get to also?

            But seriously. There is a pretty obvious reason to suspect that aggregated Marshall improvements would result in lopsided winners and losers. The thing about Marshall improvements are, since they are based on revealed preferences, its easy for a rich person to “win” and a easy for poor person to “lose”. If the wealth disparity is extreme enough, its essentially impossible for a poor person to win a Marshall improvement. (A:”I would like to set fire to your house, and am willing to pay $5,000 to do so”, B:”Hmm, that’s more money than is even in my bank account, so even though this is absolutely devastating to me, this action is a Marshall improvement and must proceed”)

      • helloo says:

        I thought the “meme” was the richer get richer while the poor get poorer.

        That is, those who are rich have more and better opportunities to earn more money, not less. Whether this is the cause or effect or both doesn’t matter in this case.
        Didn’t we have the whole article with Pinkett and such mentioning this?

        That said, this isn’t the same as gaining more utility for having that dollar. (So we’re assuming utilitarianism then?)

        However, if you think economic growth will eventually raise overall living standards, long term planning will still cause you to favor the one that will prompt growth that rather than an immediate increase.

        This also changes the argument Bill Murdock mentioned – perhaps people choose not to work to earn that dollar because it’s too difficult and not worth the effort for them, but it’s better of to uh… specialize the role of earning to those who can more easily do so and then redistribute it to those that need it more.

    • 10240 says:

      people with a million dollars sometimes keep working to get more money. And people with only a dollar sometimes pass up the opportunity to earn a second dollar.

      The millionaire typically makes more dollars per hour. A millionaire usually doesn’t work a second job for $15 an hour.

    • herculesorion says:

      Because people with a million dollars sometimes keep working to get more money. And people with only a dollar sometimes pass up the opportunity to earn a second dollar.

      I’m not sure what point you think you’re making here. There’s always going to be a point where the cost of chasing a marginal dollar outweighs its utility. The proposal–which you haven’t actually argued against–is that low-wealth, low-income persons will derive more utility from a marginal dollar than high-wealth, high-income persons.

  16. Nicholas Weininger says:

    Re: the SF supes trying to ban free employee lunches thing, the fact that the sponsor is Peskin will surprise approximately nobody. Peskin is notoriously reactionary, arrogant, and controlling even by the standards of SF self-identified “progressive” politicians; he is a reliable opponent of anyone trying anything new anywhere and ESPECIALLY of anyone trying to build any new housing, double-especially if it might block his or his cronies’ view of the water. If someone would like to start a recall drive against him I’d be more than happy to chip in for it; please link here if you know of one.

    Re: nannies, this is why it is often worth employers paying specialized search firms a good deal of money to find them better-than-random-applicant shortlists of candidates. For those who want search tips for nannies in particular, I can vouch for the effectiveness of the author of this book:

    https://www.tiffan.org/the-nanny-manual/

    at finding very highly qualified, though concomitantly expensive, candidates.

  17. Squirrel of Doom says:

    I have three things to say about the “agglomeration effect”. That is, the idea that when you add more housing to an expensive city like San Francisco, normal rules of supply and demand may not apply, since the increased density itself makes the city more attractive and drives up demand and prices even more.

    1. This is a question in the science of Economics. Economists have studied it and already know the answer. Economists love weird market quirks like this more than life itself, and would study the hell out of this effect, if it existed. I could do a rant about how people have strong uninformed opinions about things Economics long ago has established the facts for, much more than any other sciences, but not here. Anyway, the actual answer is that there is a minor such effect, but it’s far below “break even”. Or at least I saw an authority in the field say that when asked.

    2. If this effect worked full out to where you could keep adding more and more building and prices would just keep rising, you would have invented an economic Perpetuum Mobile! Each new building not only gives profit to it’s owners, but also showers surrounding building with increased value. I can understand the squeamishness for tenants, but come on, this way we could generate infinite wealth and make all dreams come true!

    3. Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t this arguments smell of Motivated Reasoning? That absolutely doesn’t mean it has to be wrong, but it’s just so attractive to people who don’t want to build!

    • Sniffnoy says:

      2. If this effect worked full out to where you could keep adding more and more building and prices would just keep rising, you would have invented an economic Perpetuum Mobile! Each new building not only gives profit to it’s owners, but also showers surrounding building with increased value. I can understand the squeamishness for tenants, but come on, this way we could generate infinite wealth and make all dreams come true!

      To be fair to the people who argue that the agglomeration effect will causes prices to go up, the more detailed form of the argument I’ve seen them advance is that yes, in the limit prices will go down, but that the amount of housing required for this is more than will realistically be built.

      Of course, if the agglomeration effect isn’t enough to get prices to up at all, then this argument falls apart. And, as you say, this is at least partly an empirical question; it’s not something that can be solved without numbers.

      3. Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t this arguments smell of Motivated Reasoning? That absolutely doesn’t mean it has to be wrong, but it’s just so attractive to people who don’t want to build!

      Eh, this reads like an argument from my opponent believes something. “My opponent makes arguments, which support their conclusion, which means they might have reasoned backwards from their conclusion to their argument, which is not a valid form of argument.”

      EDIT: Expanded with additional paragraph

      • Squirrel of Doom says:

        I didn’t mean my “motivated reasoning” as a real counter argument. Like I said, that it “smells” like this doesn’t at all mean it’s wrong.

        It’s more of a mental hygiene note.

    • Wrong Species says:

      My general rule of thumb is that when someone makes a weird counterintuitive argument that just happens to align with their political views, 90% of the time they are full of it. The more confident they sound the more likely they don’t know what they are talking about. The only problem is determining that ten percent.

    • sohois says:

      I’d say the biggest issue with the agglomeration effect is that I can’t imagine it functioning linearly. Given scope insensitivity, people are generally going to be ignorant of small changes in capacity of large cities. Imagine San Francisco added 500’000 extra homes above average next year. How would potential movers even become aware of this news? Sure, there would be some articles about the sudden increase, but would they really find a mass audience? I posit that the only signal that would cause a rush of extra interest would be a price signal, in other words the extra homes driving down prices and the supply/demand curve finding a new equilibrium.

      For most potential movers, I’d imagine that there is a distinction in their minds between a few categories, for example [village/small town/large town/city/mega city], but they won’t really notice movements within category. And I think the same is probably true for business network effects, such that London does not attract significantly more business, or more mover interest, than Sydney despite having a few million more people. To people and businesses, they are both just in the [city] category.

    • sourcreamus says:

      Even if true, doesn’t the agglomeration effect mean that on balance more housing would be good, since even if prices don’t go down other good things are happening such as increased productivity?

    • Aapje says:

      @Squirrel of Doom

      If this effect worked full out to where you could keep adding more and more building and prices would just keep rising, you would have invented an economic Perpetuum Mobile!

      Only if the costs of building houses/apartments don’t rise as well, which is very unlikely.

    • J Mann says:

      1. This is a question in the science of Economics. Economists have studied it and already know the answer. Economists love weird market quirks like this more than life itself, and would study the hell out of this effect, if it existed.

      I’m a pretty econ 101 thinker myself, and my understanding is that it is currently pretty much consensus that this effect typically exists for highway congestion in the medium to long term when viewed at the city level. If you add more highway capacity, then in the short term, congestion will typically ease somewhat, but in the long term, commuters and businesses will shift location until congestion was just about where it was before.

      1) An econ 101 model for this might be that popular cities are price takers when it comes to congestion and property values. People are willing to pay a certain amount in terms of wait time to commute to work, and a certain amount to live in San Francisco. If you build a feasible amount of new roads and new housing, price won’t shift much because demand is essentially inelastic at the scope of supply changes that individual cities are considering. If this is the case, then San Francisco can’t reasonably cause rental values to fall by a substantial amount by introducing the amount of new housing that it thinks is feasible.

      2) On the other hand, somebody (Boudreaux?) said that it’s a weird problem to say “people want more roads and housing so much that they’re lining up to use any new entrants, so let’s not create any” – theoretically if people are willing to pay almost the same price for new housing as for existing housing, that means there is a lot of potential new residents who would be better off if there were more housing available at existing prices, even if that wouldn’t substantially help low income renters.

      • ec429 says:

        If you add more highway capacity, then in the short term, congestion will typically ease somewhat, but in the long term, commuters and businesses will shift location until congestion was just about where it was before.

        Doesn’t that just imply that people take the gains produced by the extra highways in other forms than reduced congestion? It doesn’t mean the gains were zero. This is analogous to the Tullock’s spike counterargument to (naïve conclusions drawn from) the Peltzman effect.

        TFA also seems not to notice that if more people can move to $big_city, then even if house prices in $big_city don’t fall, prices in the small towns those people moved from will, creating affordable housing there. So this is only a problem if you believe that everyone, regardless of wealth, somehow has a right to (be able to afford to) live in $big_city.

        • J Mann says:

          Yes, absolutely. However:

          1) If someone is trying to convince a San Franciscan to loosen construction regulations on the argument that it will help working class San Franciscans, then it would be relevant if all the new housing is going to rent at just about the price of existing housing.

          2) You are absolutely correct that both the property owners and the new residents will benefit overall from the new housing, even if the prices don’t drop appreciably. On the other hand, many existing residents may be made worse off, due to congestion or changes in the city’s character or just obstructed views. Consider whether San Francisco government owes a higher duty to existing San Franciscans than to Texans who might want to move there, and compare to national immigration policy if that would amuse you.

          Note: IMHO and I am not an economist!

          • ec429 says:

            1) The working class San Franciscans might move to Texas now that the housing there is cheaper than before. So it’s helped them, just indirectly (and possibly less) than the middle-class Texans who moved to San Fran.

            2) If the existing residents are now worse off, then either the prices of their housing go down, or they previously had some form of monopsony power or (more likely) market obstruction (probably rent control) which was making their housing artificially cheap. In the former case, some housing prices have gone down which was the point of the exercise; in the latter case, the existing residents were collecting quasi-rents that they presumably had paid non-monetary costs to acquire (cf. queues at petrol stations due to price caps) and anything that reduces the incentives for this kind of rent-seeking is a net gain. (And yes, it’s confusing that tenants are receiving economic rents, but that’s just because ‘rent’ is a really broad term in economics.) Though it would be more straightforward just to abolish the rent controls / reduce the conveyancing costs / etc. so that the market price of the housing accurately reflected its value, rather than to destroy that value until it matched the price.

            Note: I am not an economist either, I’ve just read a few books and most of David Friedman’s website.

  18. perlhaqr says:

    Related: Democrats discuss packing the Supreme Court if they win in 2020.

    Being one of the people brought in specifically to pack the Supreme Court and judicially neuter the Second Amendment in a country with 400M+ privately owned firearms seems like a poor decision for personal longevity.

  19. Douglas Knight says:

    SF wants to ban tech cafeterias. But Mountain View has already done it (for new companies). How did that work out? What does Facebook actually do?

    • albatross11 says:

      Is there any good argument for this, or is it just pure envy and corruption?

      • Nornagest says:

        The standard argument is that it’s to encourage patronizing local restaurants, but that sounds pretty weak to me. I think it’s 80% just trying to get a dig in at tech workers.

        • Matt M says:

          When I first heard of this idea, I has always assumed they were going to go with the “worker’s rights” argument.

          As in, most white collar workers understand that various on-site company “perks” are not really free gifts to you. They are specifically designed to keep you on campus so that you work more.

          I was expecting the progressive argument to be “Tech companies have no right to do things that, in a practical sense, force their workers to work through their well deserved lunch break!” or some such thing. Kinda surprised they went with “stimulates the local economy” instead!

          • Deiseach says:

            They are specifically designed to keep you on campus so that you work more.

            Certainly if they’re providing breakfast and dinner as well; that’s heavily hinting “don’t bother going home at night, just stay here day and night and work work work”. Maybe we will see the re-introduction of the model village? It sounds as if it would be easier all round if Google simply bought Mountain View lock, stock and barrel!

            But as a general rule, I don’t think you can really ban works canteens, especially if it’s for the purpose of simply moving people from point A to point B to eat, for the benefit of the livelihood of local restaurants and cafés. It’s one thing if I decide that I want to eat out at Joe’s Bistro during my lunch hour rather than in the company cafeteria; it’s another thing if I have no choice about going to Joe’s (or rather the choice is “go to Joe’s or bring your own lunch or go hungry”).

            I think people will be more inclined to bring their own lunches, rather than patronise the local restaurant scene during the working day, particularly if the restaurants start charging “tourist prices*” to take advantage of “all these big salaries, they can afford to pay the marked-up price”.

            *A complaint I heard in one workplace; people who usually went out for lunch noticed that during the tourist season, a meal that cost (say) a tenner last week was now mysteriously fifteen or twenty quid for the same food, same service, etc. If local food services start bumping up their prices in anticipation of a windfall, I think they’ll be disappointed.

          • Matt M says:

            if the restaurants start charging “tourist prices*” to take advantage of “all these big salaries, they can afford to pay the marked-up price”.

            This already happens. I used to work in a big office building in downtown Houston with a nearby food court. Wasn’t at all uncommon to see people buying a $12 salad for lunch.

            My position was that this was actually quite generous from the salad folks. They probably could have charged $20 and not seen a significant drop in sales.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            Certainly if they’re providing breakfast and dinner as well; that’s heavily hinting “don’t bother going home at night, just stay here day and night and work work work”.

            I work in tech and get breakfast and lunch almost every day at the office. A big benefit that it provides for me is that I am able to come into work early, have a good breakfast, and go home early. This shifted commute time saves me over an hour commuting each day. Additionally, the good food at breakfast and lunch helps me think straight throughout the day, and saves me time because I don’t have to prepare the food. So, I see it as a win win. I get to spend less time commuting and making food. The company gets to have a happier more productive worker.

            Does this enable some people to put in longer hours? Yes. Should the city get involved in the process? Hell no!

          • Nornagest says:

            When I first heard of this idea, I has always assumed they were going to go with the “worker’s rights” argument.

            Labor leftism doesn’t have much of a hold in the Bay Area. It leans far left, but its flavor of that is all identity politics, plus a vague cultural affinity for the 1960s counterculture (even though most of the original hippies got priced out by 1980 or so, and grew up, sold out, or migrated to various small towns).

          • herculesorion says:

            ” They are specifically designed to keep you on campus so that you work more.”

            This is also the motivation for “dog-friendly” workplaces.

            Cats shit in a box. Birds and lizards shit on the floor. Fish shit in the water. But your dog can’t really shit anywhere but outside. So if your dog is at home, then you have a definite upper limit on the amount of time you can stay at work before your dog has to shit. However, if your dog is right there next to your desk, then you can take a five minute shit break for the dog and then get riiiiight back to work…

        • pontifex says:

          I think it’s 80% just trying to get a dig in at tech workers.

          That’s probably part of the motivation in SF. In Mountain View, the tech workers are the electorate, and have been for a long time.

          The issue is more that Mountain View has been gradually turning into a private Google campus for a long time. They keep buying more and more buildings there. The local restaurants probably are really threatened by the free food. Other companies feel like they have to also offer free food to compete for talent with Google.

          Google has clashed with the town many times. For example, they wanted to build a bunch of housing, and the town said no. The town tried to diversify away from Google by selling a bunch of land to LinkedIn, but then Google did a land swap with LinkedIn to grab the MTV land anyway.

          Now Google is going to build a big campus in downtown San Jose, which presumably has a more pliant city government.

      • ana53294 says:

        Would the policy apply to factories too?

        In factories, people work in shifts. For example, they can have shifts 6 am to 2 pm, 2 pm to 10 pm, and 10 pm to 6 am. Now, do you think there is any chance of finding an open restaurant at 2 am in the morning?

        There are good reasons why some employers need to provide a work canteen, or even subsidize the workers’ meals. If there is only one canteen, they could unfairly increase the price a lot; it makes a lot of sense for the company to provide cheap or free meals to their workers.

        Hospitals also need to provide meals to people at anytime of day and night. Doctors and nurses works shifts; patients and their families come to the hospital day and night; some of them have to eat at 2 am. Thus, it may make sense for the hospital to heavily subsidize the food for their workers, especially those who work night shifts (because those working day shifts can go to some other restaurant). I don’t know if they do it, but it would be perfectly logical.

        I am pretty sure they did not ban hospital canteens. But the principle is kind of similar, and the only difference is emotional (hospitals are not perceived as disruptive and evil).

        • herculesorion says:

          I think the issue is less that they’re providing these benefits, than it is that they’re providing these benefits without paying taxes on them.

          Like, if you’re going to tell me that free lunches represent an effective salary bump for employees, well, payroll taxes are based on salary, so why shouldn’t Google be paying taxes on that free lunch?

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            Huh. Don’t you have fringe benefit tax?

            And is there some reason the relevant authorities *couldn’t* have taxed the cafeterias rather than banning them, if that was really what they cared about?

          • herculesorion says:

            Oh, I think this is absolutely about local governments trying to look like populist heroes by taking on those damn kids and their damn money that’ve been driving out the Good People.

            I think there is a problem here–employees quite clearly consider these things to be part of their compensation, not just simple side benefits like “nice modern office” or “close to the BART station”, which means that they ought to be considered part of their salary, which means A) taking them into account when calculating the typical salary of an area’s workers (and that matters for people who aren’t employed by Google) and B) paying taxes on them.

            Which, maybe that last is what this is all about; a way to mousetrap Google into claiming that these things are important parts of how it compensates its employees, with the response being “well maybe you should pay some taxes on it then”

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I could imagine someone from another state wanting to tax fringe benefits so that google employees would send more money to the federal government. But why would a California politician want to send more money to the feds? Why would an SF or MV politician even want to send more money to the state?

  20. John Schilling says:

    Regarding Gwern’s review of Carrier: he talks about “more documented cases of religions emerging and historicizing their [implicitly mythical] founders”. Any idea what Gwern and/or Carrier is talking about here? I am unaware of any religion or cult of significance claiming descent from a founder who allegedly preached within living memory of his ‘historicization” but whom we know to have not existed. This implausibility is central to Jesus-as-myth, and needs to not be simply asserted in passing as if it were common knowledge.

    • J Mann says:

      Joseph Smith was actually a community of squirrels wearing a trenchcoat.

      ETA: I suppose if that were true, then at least the squirrels existed. Are there any good examples of historicization of anyone who we later learned didn’t exist?

      • cassander says:

        Prestor John? Pope Joan? Homer?

        • John Schilling says:

          Historicization within what should have been living memory, such that someone in the audience could stand up and say “…but I was IN Jerusalem thirty-five years(*) ago, and I didn’t see any of that.” Claiming a chain of obscure or secret teaching from the distant past, is not at all comparable.

          * Crucifixion to composition of Mark, approximate.

          • Eric Rall says:

            William Tell and Robin Hood approach but don’t quite fit that criterion: both start showing up in ballads and chronicles about a century after the time period when their major exploits supposedly existed, about as far back as Kaiser William II or Theodore Roosevelt is for us.

            The Pied Piper of Hamelin may fit: the story takes place in 1284, and the oldest know record of the story (a stained glass window showing the piper leading the children away, destroyed in the 1660 but described in multiple contemporary sources) dates from about 1300. Although the oldest written record that unambiguously references the story as a real historical event (an entry in the Hamelin town chronicle commemorating the 100th anniversary) isn’t until 1384, a century after the Piper.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Thirded. Anybody know what they’re referring to?

  21. Tenacious D says:

    After reading a tangent above about homesteading, I looked up some land prices near my home to get a relevant data point. I found a woodlot for $340/acre and a building lot on a main street for $280,000/acre (which would be on the upper end of the range in my city). The enormous premium for the latter* comes from things like infrastructure (roads, water/wastewater, etc.), being cleared and graded, and nearby schools, grocery stores, offices, and parks. Some of these factors are labour inputs into the land, but others are a general sort of civilizational negentropy.

    *Even the woodlot is more expensive than land in a complete state of nature due to factors like road access (or at least a path an ATV could travel on), being surveyed, and having pulp or lumber mills nearby.

  22. jstr says:

    Re: The Royal Game of Ur: this WONDERFUL video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZskjLq040I

    Video by: The British Museum

    From the description: Tom Scott vs Irving Finkel: The Royal Game of Ur | PLAYTHROUGH | International Tabletop Day 2017

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Scott_(entertainer)

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

    Enjoy 🙂 !

  23. Alexander Turok says:

    “Proximal cause is Assange’s protests against Spanish human rights abuses in Catalonia; apparently Ecuador and Spain are pretty close.”

    Shouldn’t that be “alleged human rights abuses?” I’m not aware of a human right to insurrection.

    • Matt M says:

      I believe the principle of self-determination was well articulated here.

      • 10240 says:

        How is that relevant to Spain/Catalonia?

        • johansenindustries says:

          The people who wrote it and founded Matt M’s country clearly believed in a right to self-determination so at least some consider it a natural right.

          And I would have thought the right to say – or anonymously vote – that you would like to be a free country would have near-unanimity as a natural right.

          (It is important to remember that whether the referendum was a misuse of public funds or not, the grandmothers who the Spanish set the police on were not the ones spending the funds.)

          • tomogorman says:

            The Declaration of Independence clearly does not stand for some sort of absolute right of self determination.
            Hence the opening, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
            This clearly implies that a justified separation requires sufficient cause(s).
            This is further bolstered by the history of the founding generation putting down Shay’s and the Whiskey Rebellion, not all causes justify rebellion.
            Whether or not Catalan has such a cause is not much illuminated by the U.S. DOI.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @tomogorman

            What it states is that the one people dissolving the political bonds to another was entitled to them by ‘the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God’.

            The Spanish government position is that Catalonia cannot leave. Ever. Nothing Spain can do to them could permit Catalonia to leave. That is obviously different from the DoI position.

          • tomogorman says:

            yes, people have a natural right to dissolve political bonds given sufficient cause. You are ignoring the second part. The argument here is that Catalan has not yet established that predicate.

            Citation needed for Spain’s position that there is no cause for which it would agree Catalan would be justified in seceding. And, further, even if that is Spain’s position (which would be wrong), why would it be relevant to this – as the position of people in this thread is skepticism that Catalan has sufficient cause not that there are no such causes.

          • johansenindustries says:

            https://www.ft.com/content/7c05e890-8c16-11e8-b18d-0181731a0340

            That Catalonia may never leave is not anything of a secret.

            as the position of people in this thread is skepticism that Catalan has sufficient cause not that there are no such causes.

            Citation needed for that.

            Alaxender Turok called grandmothers wanting to have their say whether to leave by putting a slip of paper into a box to be counted as ‘insurrection’.

            Surely if you beleive a people have a right to leave when the circumstances are necessary then they must have a right to discuss whether the circumstances are necessary even when you don’t agree the cirumstances are necessary?

          • ec429 says:

            tomogorman: The passage you quote from the DoI doesn’t say the causes have to be sufficient (according to what standard? to be judged by whom?), merely that “decent respect” means they should be “declare[d]”.

            I.e. ‘if you choose to secede, it’s only polite to say why‘.

            This is further bolstered by the history of the founding generation putting down Shay’s and the Whiskey Rebellion, not all causes justify rebellion.

            All that proves is that the Founders, like approximately everyone else who attains political power, were hypocrites. (Then again, if the U.S. had accepted self-determination as a principle, that whole ‘Civil War’ thing wouldn’t have happened, the Confederacy would just have quietly seceded and that would have been it. Governments aren’t good at living up to their ideals about not being autocratic.)

            TBH, though, the DoI is a really vague and problematic exposition of the ideas of self-determination anyway, if we quote a different (arguably more relevant) part:

            That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

            Questions this raises include:
            * How many of the governed need to consent?
            * How are the People defined, and how may they be subdivided?
            * To whom, exactly, does the new Form of Government have to “seem” good?
            Really the ultimate problem here is, under what circumstances is it acceptable for some individuals to be governed without their consent? The DoI seems to be coming from a position of ‘more of the inhabitants of this rough geographic region consent to the new government than to the old’ (AIUI there’s some historical controversy over whether this was even true).
            I don’t understand how someone can simultaneously believe there exists some sort of right of self-determination and yet not believe that it’s an absolute and individual right. But that’s just me being a rabid libertarian who wonders how statists sleep at night.

      • Aapje says:

        @Matt M

        And then it was further clarified during the civil war.

        The idea that the principle of self-determination means that a group can just split off from a larger polity is not supported by international law; nor is it workable in practice.

        • keranih says:

          It seems to be doing okay for the (American) Protestants.

        • Matt M says:

          Might does not make right.

          I thought the moral justification for the civil war was “because slavery.”

          Are you alleging that an independent Catalonia would reinstitute slavery?

          • ana53294 says:

            I thought the moral justification for the civil war was “because slavery.”

            The moral justification the Spanish state uses against Catalonia is that their desire for independence does not come from the desire to preserve their own language, culture and to advocate for their best interestests (which frequently does not align with Spain’s), but from their selfish desire not to contribute to redistribution funds for evening economic outcomes accross Spain. So they say that Catalonia wants to make Extremaduran pensioners poor (because Catalonia contributes more to pension funds), and is thus evil.

            This is not equal to slavery, of course, but neither is the Spanish boots on Catalan grannies equal to the US Civil War.

            I personally support Catalan independence; these are just the justifications the Spanish government uses. I also think that, although redistribution is fine to help regions that are economically disadvantaged, this should be limited in time. The balance of who is a contributer/receiver of funds has not changed in Spain, unlike reunified Germany.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            If that was how it worked, Texas could secede tomorrow, because they won’t bring back slavery. Of course, they cannot.

            It works the other way. The general rule is that secession is only allowed when the government is extremely abusive towards a subgroup. This is simply not the case in Spain.

            The Dutch Act of Abjuration, where we declared our independence from Spain, consists of an explanation of the generally accepted rights of citizens and a claim that Philip II of Spain failed in his obligations by violating these rights. This was later also made part of the national anthem, where the Dutch founding father explains that he was loyal to Philip II, but that Philip did not fulfill the quid-pro-quo.

            Note that the American Declaration of Independence is very similar to the Dutch Act of Abjuration, also explaining that people have unalienable and equal rights and blaming the British for violating those rights.

          • johansenindustries says:

            I for one find the notion that violently suppressing a referendum as not being ‘extremely abusive towards a subgroup’ as very wrong. What did King Phillip do to the Dutch that was so much worse than that? And certainly what did the British ever do the colonies (pre-rebellion) that can be described as extremely abusive?

            I think the ‘The general rule is that secession is only allowed when the government is extremely abusive towards a subgroup.’ is false and if you are even coming close to suggesting that Parliment treats Sotland worse that Spain treats Catalonia then that’s suitable absurd to only provoke guffaws.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            The general rule is that secession is only allowed when the government is extremely abusive towards a subgroup.

            That’s the general rule the nationalists (of all stripes) would prefer, certainly. But many people would prefer a more just approach, and I don’t see why we shouldn’t promote that viewpoint by whatever reasonable means may seem appropriate. That doesn’t include violence, but it certainly includes rhetoric such as talking about it as a human right, “freedom is not a crime”, and so on.

          • Aapje says:

            @johansenindustries

            Clearly we have very different sensibilities, as I don’t see it as extremely abusive to disallow the referendum, which asked for something that violated the constitution*. This did require a certain level of violence, as some refused to follow the law willingly. This is no different from the police using violence to stop other violations of the law and not inherently illegitimate. The police seems to have used excessive violence in some cases, but I don’t believe that this was to the extent that justifies secession. To have that justification, you really need a long term pattern of serious abuse.

            * It’s part of the constitution that Catalonia cannot unilaterally secede, and this constitution was accepted by a majority of Catalan voters, not too long ago.

            The main Dutch reasons for secession were religious persecution of Protestants, centralization of government and heavy taxation to fund wars against trading partners of The Netherlands (with whom the Dutch had no grievance).

            The persecution of Protestants involved banning all preaching or practice, also in private dwellings. The Inquisition also was a separate legal system, without the normal judicial safeguards. For example, there was no right to appeal and an unlimited ability to arrest, torture and execute at will.

            I’ve not heard any grievances by Catalan secessionists that are anywhere near as serious as that. In fact, a lot of secessionists seem to do the same as you: define opposition to secession by the central government as being grounds for secession, which seems like circular reasoning to me.

          • johansenindustries says:

            If California decided to hold a referendum on whether private gun ownership ought to be banned would you consider Trump sending in the National Guard to rip out the ballot boxes as just reasonble. If yes, then I guess we do have different sensibilities.

            The main Dutch reasons for secession were religious persecution of Protestants, centralization of government and heavy taxation to fund wars against trading partners of The Netherlands (with whom the Dutch had no grievance).

            The persecution of Protestants involved banning all preaching or practice, also in private dwellings. The Inquisition also was a separate legal system, without the normal judicial safeguards. For example, there was no right to appeal and an unlimited ability to arrest, torture and execute at will.

            Heavy taxation – and the general view of seeing the posession as a piggy bank – and the centralised government is undoubtedly true in the Catalan case.

            The violence against the Catalonian people trying to express their opinion. A person who the Catalonian government wanted to appoint as leader was imprissoned to prevent it. You might say that this is justified because Catalonians are enemies of Spain. But would not have Spain said the same about Dutch Protestants?

            It is true that unlike the Dutch case there is not a Catalonian legal system but also a seperate inquisition that answrrs to Spain rather than the Dutch. But that is because there isn’t a Catalonian legal system, it is all just under Spain answering to a Spanish Supreme Court (fourty years loyal Francoists and now loyal to the succesor party).

            The idea that the Franco consituton has any legitmacy is farce. They accepted a little democracy over continued absolute tyranny. I reject your implied claim that that means they have no right to desire further improvements.

            I’ve not heard any grievances by Catalan secessionists that are anywhere near as serious as that. In fact, a lot of secessionists seem to do the same as you: define opposition to secession by the central government as being grounds for secession, which seems like circular reasoning to me.

            It is dishonest to describe the violent attacks on the Catalonians spech as ‘ opposition to secession by the central government as being grounds for secession’. It is not that they oppose it, it is the way that the oppose it.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Whatever the current laws or norms in any given case are, it seems very clear to me that the UK government’s approach to the Scottish independence movement is far preferable to that of Spain’s to the Catalan one. I don’t really understand how anyone could think otherwise.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Aapje

            If your claim on the legitimacy of the Spanish constitution’s ability to prohibit referendums for historical territories is that those historical territories voted for the constitution, then the Spanish Constitution does not have legitimacy in the Basque Country. For complicated reasons, the Basques chose to abstain and protest the referendum, so if we take just the percentage of voters who voted yes on the Constitution (don’t look in the English version, it doesn’t show the details; just look at the table):

            For the Basques: Alava (42.3 %), Guipuzcoa (27.2 %), Vizcaya (30.4%). Alava has a population of ~ 300,000, Gipuzkoa has a population of ~700,000, and Bizkaia has a population of ~ 1,100,000.

            The vast majority of Basques did not vote for the Constitution, but boycotted it because they did not accept the legitimacy of the Spanish rule.

            Now, the majority of Catalans did vote yes during the referendum for the constitution. But if you say, well, they voted for the constitution, then it is legitimate for them, then you also have to say, the Basques did not vote for it, so it’s not legitimate for them.

            I think that the referendum for the Constitution of 1978 was done at gunpoint and thus lacks legitimacy. I want a second referendum, where we take a lot of the issues that were given as a package separately. For example, some people in Spain vulgarly refer to the King as suppository, because he was introduced by Franco quietly and from behind.

            centralization of government and heavy taxation to fund wars against trading partners of The Netherlands

            Catalans do not support NATO, and view the occupation of Afghanistan negatively. The heavy taxation is one of the main reasons for Catalan independence.

            Decision-making is also very centralized. Historical territories do want to have more control over a lot of these issues.

            The main Dutch reasons for secession were religious persecution of Protestants

            Well, we don’t have the Inquisition anymore, but the Spaniards do try to suppress linguistic minority rights whenever they can. Thankfully, we are in a quasy-democracy, so they cannot get away with as much stuff as they did in the past.

            An example of how the government prosecutes linguistic minorities:

            The Basques are fairly spread, and Basque speakers go beyond Basque historical territories. This means that only Basque territories have Basque schools that are financed by public money. In Navarre, only a small part is considered Basque, so parts that do not have public Basque schools have private schools. Now, due to government support, they need money, as the parents who send their kids there are not that rich. So every year, we organize a festival in support of our schools, and money is collected for the schools. One of the years I went to the festival, in a bus, every passenger of the bus was asked to step out of the bus, and we were all searched. We were suspicious because we were attending a festival. Now, I consider this harassment and prosecution.

          • Aapje says:

            @johansenindustries

            If California decided to hold a referendum on whether private gun ownership ought to be banned would you consider Trump sending in the National Guard to rip out the ballot boxes as just reasonble.

            If it seemed fairly obvious that the referendum was part of a plan to get support for a unilateral declaration of independence, then I wouldn’t necessarily see it as unreasonable to send in the National Guard to prevent the referendum, with the caveat that the US is theoretically a federation, which implies a greater right for a state to self-govern than for a province.

            Heavy taxation – and the general view of seeing the possession as a piggy bank – and the centralised government is undoubtedly true in the Catalan case.

            I think you are missing my point. Heavy taxation for the benefit of the populace is perfectly legitimate, as is practiced in Sweden or such. Both Sweden and Spain are democracies where the populace can decide together how much taxation is valid.

            What is far less legitimate is a more colonial arrangement, where riches are extracted from one population to enrich another population, in an extremely excessive manner. This is especially the case if a money is transferred from a relatively poorer region to a relatively richer region. I don’t think that this is happening in Spain right now. Catalonia is one of the richest regions and taxation & wealth transfers don’t seem that excessive.

            @Tarpitz

            I agree that they handled it very badly, greatly increasing resentment. However, it also seems clear to me that the intent of the Catalonian secessionists was to provoke a conflict.

            @ana53294

            We are discussing Catalonia, so I don’t see how the legitimacy of the constitution in Basque Country is relevant here.

            Anyway, my point is that secession is a nuclear option, which requires severe abuses. I can understand why you have a complaint about a lack of teaching in the Basque language in regions with fewer Basque speakers, but this seems like a ‘normal’ political conflict to me, not an example of severe abuse.

            IMO, the proper response to relatively minor abuses is political activism and such, not secession.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Aapje

            I think you are missing my point. Heavy taxation for the benefit of the populace is perfectly legitimate, as is practiced in Sweden or such. Both Sweden and Spain are democracies where the populace can decide together how much taxation is valid.

            Although, presumbly, if Catalonians decided to have a referendum on whether they did want to pay so high taxes you would support their getting beaten and attack them for just trying to cause trouble. I do not see how ‘the populace can decide together’when you think that putting a marked piece of paper in a ballot box (other than at times determined by the Spanish state) is considered by you to be a gross provocation.

            If the Catalonian government had only polled a sample of the Catalonian people rather than the whole Catalonian population would that also have justified violence on the part of the Spnish state against the poll-takers (in your opinion)?

            What is far less legitimate is a more colonial arrangement, where riches are extracted from one population to enrich another population, in an extremely excessive manner. This is especially the case if a money is transferred from a relatively poorer region to a relatively richer region. I don’t think that this is happening in Spain right now. Catalonia is one of the richest regions and taxation & wealth transfers don’t seem that excessive.

            Were the Dutch people much poorer than the Spanish? Since, obviously, one cannot deny that Catalonia is a piggybank for the greater Spanish government.

            Aapje – who is not Catalonian, doesn’t care much about Catalonia, probably doesn’t know much about Catalonia – thinks that Catalonian granmothers are over reacting as they get thrown down stairs by the Spanish state.

          • albatross11 says:

            A interesting aside, looking at this from the US, is that I’m convinced that an actual attempt by a US state to secede[1] would be met by as much force as needed to stop it–all using the letter of the law and legal mechanisms as much as possible. It would look very much like Spain’s handling of Catalonia in the last year or so.

            [1] As opposed to some kind of referendum where nobody really took it seriously.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Aapje

            We are discussing Catalonia, so I don’t see how the legitimacy of the constitution in Basque Country is relevant here.

            I am using the example of the Basque Country to discuss the legitimacy of the Spanish Constitution’s clause on seccession. Do you agree or disagree whether the lack of support for the constitution in the Basque country means that the secession clause does not apply there?

            Frankly, my ideal in the matters of seccession is Liechnstein: every smally village has a right to seccede after a referendum.

            I don’t think they ever would, but the fact that they could do it at any moment means that if things go bad, they can do so within an established legal framework. This means that, if a small town in Liechnstein thinks that they are better off outside of Liechnstein, then they can at anytime choose to do so. I don’t view seccession as a nuclear option, but as a perfectly normal form of democratic activity.

            Nobody has to be attached to anybody in perpetuity, not anymore. Perpetual contracts are illegal; we have divorce; children can renege their parents and refuse to help them if they choose to; parents can do the same, after kids turn 18. Why do we deny groups of people to not interact with other groups of people, though? Why should we not have collective rights of association? Why should our collective be bound in perpetuity by a contract signed 40 years ago, at gunpoint, and not by all members (some of the ones who signed it are dead, while everybody under the age of 58 did not vote for it)?

            If we don’t count those who are not of voting age, there are 24,2 million Spanish people who did not participate in the constitutional referendum (which, again, was done at gunpoint). There are 8,2 million minors, also. The total population of Spain is 46,5 million. This means that less than half of the population voted for the constitution.

            Out of those 22,3 million who had the opportunity to vote, only 59 % did, 90 % for yes (I am adjusting upward). This means that 22,4*0.59*0.9=11.84 voted yes. So, out of the Spanish population alive today, only 25.4 % voted for the constitution. Why should we still be bound by it? If we assume a similar trend for Catalonia, only 25.4 % of Catalans voted for the Constitution, too.

            I don’t think I should be bound by contracts made by my parents, to be honest. And I especially don’t think I should be bound by that contract, if the other choice my parents got offered was being killed in a Civil War.

          • albatross11 says:

            ana:

            I am not convinced that a right to secession upon a majority vote of the inhabitants is a great policy. I can see times it’s a good policy, but others when secession just makes it easier for an outside power to divide-and-conquer an enemy, or makes it harder for the nation to do anything as a nation for fear of losing the secession referendum.

            One issue here is that while you have every right to seek a different political arrangement than your parents did, you don’t really have the right to impose that different political arrangement on all your neighbors.

            This isn’t about the situation w.r.t. Spain and its regional governments (particularly the Basque region and Catalunya), because I don’t really know enough to have strong opinions on those disputes. But as a general principle, I don’t think the world would be a better place with a 51% secession vote rule for every state and province and region and town. I’m not sure what the right rule would be, but I don’t think that’s the right one.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            @albatross11, a simple majority would be a bad rule, IMO. See Brexit.

            How about a rule that requires an affirmative vote for independence from at least 62.5% of eligible voters? That’s not going to happen unless people are seriously unhappy with the status quo.

            … and then you still need negotiations over the placement of the new border, compensation for people on the wrong side of it, oh, lots of stuff. And another vote once there’s a specific proposal, though perhaps that one should be by simple majority.

            But, well, the Catalan separatists would freak out at this proposal because they know they’d never get that level of support, and I’m inclined to think they’d freak out at the idea of the border changing too. Meanwhile Spain would still be singing the “indissoluble unity” tune. So, well, whatever, I guess. A plague on both their houses.

          • Aapje says:

            @johansenindustries

            You are aware that if you refuse to pay the taxes you owe in the US, you go to prison? See Wesley Snipes.

            This is rather normal everywhere.

            @ana53294

            I think that the Basque people have a slightly better claim than the Catalonian people, but not such a good one that secession seems warranted.

            I don’t think that there is severe oppression. Furthermore, the Basque country is neither linguistically nor culturally homogeneous. Also, part is in France. A standardized form of the Basque language was only created in 1960, so it’s not like there has been a common language for ages.

            Frankly, my ideal in the matters of seccession is Liechtenstein

            A tax haven, leeching off other countries, rather than creating value. Nice model you have there.

            Why do we deny groups of people to not interact with other groups of people, though?

            Part of the reason is that it doesn’t actually work, since Spanish people will still be living in Basque Country. Will you deport them from their homes? Will you deny them Spanish schools?

            I think that most secessionists are hopelessly naive about the consequences, seeing secession as a miracle cure that will solve their issues.

            I don’t object to it in all cases, but I think that most secessionists need some serious push back.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I am not convinced that a right to secession upon a majority vote of the inhabitants is a great policy.

            I’ve always thought that subgroups should have the right of succession, but only with a super-majority (2/3’s sounds about right to me). A major change like that should not occur if just a slight majority agrees. It could then easily switch back to a majority wanting to stay the next year. And such a change to the status quo is a severe imposition to the slight minority that disagrees. But this does give an option for succession if there is strong approval by the people.

            I think Brexit is a good example of a bare majority making a very big decision, which might well swing to the other side the next year. Brexit should not have been a thing based on the tiny majority that agreed.

            Edit: Harry, you beat me to it. Nice to see someone else thinking the same way.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Aapje

            You are aware that if you refuse to pay the taxes you owe in the US, you go to prison? See Wesley Snipes.

            This is rather normal everywhere.

            Non-responsive? Nobody is talking about not paying taxes, we are talking about expressing a wish to see taxes lower. I’m sure in America that doesn’t get you imprissoned.

            When the Lib-Dems (in the UK) hold their (party) referendums on how they would like the tax system to change. We do not steal the votes regardless of how it will bolster position or ho like the lib-dems are to effect them.

          • ana53294 says:

            I would be happy if we introduced an Article into our constitution that said any territory has the right to seccession, if 66% of voters vote for it. Basically, a credible club that means that the Spanish state doesn’t get too tempted to trumple our rights, but at the same time a hard enough hoop to jump through that it is only practical for really serious stuff.

            I actually don’t really want independence, to be honest. I would be happy with the American model of federalism, where we get as much autonomy as US states have, and that includes control over our education system. I just want to safeguard my culture and my nation so that we don’t get assimilation by (internal) migration. Part of Franco’s strategy to eliminate Basque and Catalan cultures, which were in industrialized, rich parts of Spain, was to purposefully foment internal migration to those areas, and not to spend money on developing the areas those migrants came from.

            So yes, I favor a strong policy of culturally assimilating Spanish economic migrants into the Basque Country, by making it much more necessary than it is now to learn our language.

            In Switzerland, for example, you can’t really move from the French speaking area to the German speaking area and expect to be hired. But Spaniards always complain when they come to the Basque Country and they find that yes, for some professions Basque is required or is a big plus. Would they do it if it was a different country? If Spaniards were not Spaniards, we may have less desire for independence.

            So I do favor policies that would contribute to evening economic outcomes to other regions of Spain, because I don’t want people unwilling to learn Basque to be forced to move to the Basque country. But those contributions should be effective and pay off by growing their economies, instead of putting people on the dole.

          • Obelix says:

            ana53294:

            I actually don’t really want independence, to be honest. I would be happy with the American model of federalism, where we get as much autonomy as US states have, and that includes control over our education system. I just want to safeguard my culture and my nation so that we don’t get assimilation by (internal) migration.

            As a Quebecer I understand your viewpoint very well. Canada is a federation, and Canadian provinces do have control over their education systems, but there are some limits imposed by the Canadian constitution. Quebec made French its only official language in 1977, and made it the official language of primary and secondary public schooling, while maintaining the right to English-language public schooling for Quebec’s English-speaking minority (English speakers are a minority in Quebec but a majority in Canada as a whole). At first, this right was reserved to anglophones actually from Quebec (defined as having a family member who studied in English in Quebec), for the reason you give: to protect anglophones as a national minority of Quebec while avoiding francophones being stamped out by a possible influx of English-speakers from the rest of Canada. However, the Supreme Court of Canada then ruled that this right would have to be expanded to any Canadian anglophone who moved to Quebec. I don’t think this has had too much of an impact, though, since there hasn’t been too much of an influx of English-speakers from the rest of Canada to Quebec since then. Some regions (such as Montreal) do hold some attraction for other Canadians though.

            Quebec has also negotiated with the Canadian federal government control over part of its immigration policy, for the same reason, to focus on prospective immigrants who speak French or are willing to learn.

            Your comment about Spaniards moving to the Basque country and complaining about the fact that Basque is spoken and is required for some jobs rings very true. Some Canadians seem to think of any way in which Quebec might differ in culture from wherever in Canada they’re from as a personal insult, as if we’re doing it only to be difficult to them. Language, and the fact that many Quebecers actually do not speak English at all or only very little, features prominently in these complaints, as well as the fact that some positions in the federal public service require both English and French since both are official at the federal level.

        • mtl1882 says:

          The main issue about secession for me is how many people want to secede. I feel like the number should have to be really high. I don’t think the U.S. government would be as quick to shut down a secession movement with force as we think. It’s ugly and doesn’t look good. I think they’d try to negotiate for a while. The problem is that there are always dissenters who live in that area. I support the right to self-determination, and I don’t think a strong reason is necessary, though probably wise. The declaration of independence in my opinion is not saying a good cause is necessary at all, but wants to make clear that it had one. It’s clearly saying it is a natural right. The later part that is described as confusing shows how strongly they believed this – if the people are unhappy, change the situation. Go ahead and rebel. For all the worship of what the Founders wanted and intended, they were pretty clear they did not intend this stuff to be set in stone. But it is also very vague, and that is the issue I have. One of the real problems in the Civil War was that the US government couldn’t just abandon its loyal citizens who lived in the South. It was understandable that they felt a responsibility to those U.S. citizens who were essentially being conquered. Lincoln believed there were way more loyal or borderline loyal people who were being mislead than was probably the case in reality, and made rather misdirected efforts based on that belief. But it was a dilemma – do you let the Confederacy seize their property? Those types of issues are the real problem. If even 10% of people want to remain Americans, I feel like the U.S. government has a duty to shut down the secession if it’s possible to do so with minimal violence. If they would have to kill 90% of the people, I think they’d let them secede. The American public would prefer it, I think. One state is not as much of an issue as it has been in past conflicts, where significant territory and economic value were involved. In the Civil War, a lot of what probably motivated the North was that they knew secession would result in them having a powerful and problematic neighbor and there would be constant conflict that would threaten the North’s future. The South seemed oddly unworried about this, seeming to think the relations would not be much different than before and we’d negotiate it out. But the whole point was those relations weren’t working and negotiation had failed. Secession was unlikely to change that longterm.

          If California passes a referendum, particularly a non-binding one, it baffles me that anyone thinks we should interfere. They have a right to consider anything they want. The Constitution can be changed. If they acted on it and violated the Constitution, the courts would correct that. Preventing them from proposing the issue would backfire badly.

    • J Mann says:

      To clarify, the alleged abuses in question are that after the Catalonians voted to secede from Spain, Spain dissolved the local government, put in a caretaker government of its own, and has now ceded power back to representatives with apparently less immediate separatist intentions?

      I confess, when I heard human rights abuses, I assumed at least beatings or imprisonments without due process.

      • ana53294 says:

        has now ceded power back to representatives with apparently less immediate separatist intentions?

        They pulled all kinds of grey-level stuff to avoid the winning party to name the representatives of their choice, though. For example, one of the candidates, who was out on bail, was temporarily jailed the day he was going to be nominated.

        I confess, when I heard human rights abuses, I assumed at least beatings or imprisonments without due process.

        Beatings: Video showing police shoving people down the stairs and kicking them with military boots.

        As for the imprisonments: there are politicians in jail for sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds. Now, I think that rebellion and sedition are bogus charges (the violence during the referendum came from the Spanish police, not the voters; besides, I don’t think calling for a referendum qualifies as inciting rebellion). Germany agrees with this, as they refused to extradite the leader of the Catalan government on sedition and rebellion charges. As for the misuse of public funds, the Spanish government says there were none, although the prosecutor and judges insist.

        And we haven’t even started to talk about the torture of Basque activists by Spanish police (they haven’t tried this shit on Catalans yet).

        • J Mann says:

          No question that that sounds like human rights abuses. Sorry for not being better informed, but I appreciate the education.

  24. ana53294 says:

    The FDA mulls making current prescription-only drugs non-prescription

    So, hypothetically, if the SC does roll back Roe v. Wade, and some states ban abortion, could the next Democratic President pressure the FDA into making abortifacients non-prescription medicines?

    This would mean that a lot of women would be able to just drive to the next state, go to the pharmacy and buy the drugs, without having to go through bullshit waiting periods or stuff like that. Or she could ask a friend to buy her some. Would carrying non-prescription abortifacients across state lines break the law?

    • mtl1882 says:

      I think it is unlikely that Roe v. Wade would be “rolled back” to the point of preventing abortions that early, but if it was, the states could presumably just ban sales of it. So the status of it probably wouldn’t matter. Women could drive to see a doctor out of state, although I guess insurance might be an issue there. Also, I think those drugs have some risks, so it would be hard to make them OTC. Not impossible, but probably not desirable. I think Plan B is OTC some places? But Plan B is probably safer than a drug taken a few weeks later. Very unlikely transport would violate state law – that is usually a federal offense. Possession could be an offense, but that would be a very invasive law that I don’t think would be passed/upheld. If a woman fills a prescription and then visits her family in a state where it is banned, going after her for possessing her prescribed medication is extreme. And laws usually target doctors, not the women themselves. Which may have been your point regarding OTC – if they went after doctors, OTC would make sense, but I’m doubtful we’d get anywhere near this point even if Roe v. Wade was overturned/modified. Once people tried to make effective laws, they’d run into so many complications that they’d be looking for an out. And I think even most people sympathetic to the pro-life cause are wary of depriving doctors of their medical judgment, once they realize that it’s hard to legislate all their individual beliefs of which abortions are okay and which are not.

      • ana53294 says:

        Driving over the state lines, and going to the first pharmacy you can find to buy the drug and drinking it right there is much easier than driving over state lines, paying for an out-of-network doctor (no insurance there), getting an ultrasound, waiting the time you are expected, and them getting the pill. You may need to pay for a hotel while you are getting the prescription. In fact, making it over the counter also makes it easier, for example, for teenage girls who have abusive or very religious families.

        In Spain, the 24 h pill (the pill that is not technically an abortifacient, because it prevents implantation instead of flushing an implanted embryo), became over-the-counter, and this was hugely controversial. But it did make it easier for rape victims, for teenage girls and other women to make sure they didn’t get pregnant after unsafe sex.

        I don’t think anybody would be taking abortifacients for fun (they are not opioids, or addictive), so making them over-the-counter would actually be a huge help for easier abortion.

        You can’t use the pill at later stages, anyway (that has to be done surgically).

        • mtl1882 says:

          Yes, I didn’t mean to imply I thought anyone would use them for fun! That’s one of my pet peeves in this debate – that women just enjoy having abortions or that it’s no big deal to them, when it invariably involves some level of physical and mental suffering, quite often significant.

          I don’t know enough to know if the pill has enough risks to make an ultrasound wise. As in, if you take it when you don’t need it, is there an issue? Do you need certain assessments and follow up? If there isn’t any issue, I’d support OTC, definitely, but I suspect there might be. I totally agree that avoiding the doctor is a huge benefit that would make life much easier, but I don’t know how safe it is to cut the doctor out of the process. If it is, then it should be done.

          • ana53294 says:

            The ultrasound is a completely medically unnecessary procedure made to show pregnant women “Look, it has a heartbeat, so it is a human”.

            There are risks attached to abortifacients, but I don’t think that having a doctor will help that much avoid those risks. The way most doctors test whether you get secondary effects from something, is to give it to you and then change the dosage/chemical. As this is something you only take once, why do you need a doctor?

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, I didn’t mean to imply I thought anyone would use them for fun! That’s one of my pet peeves in this debate – that women just enjoy having abortions or that it’s no big deal to them, when it invariably involves some level of physical and mental suffering, quite often significant.

            And yet…

          • rlms says:

            @Matt M
            Is a commanding officer no big deal as well?

        • INH5 says:

          Driving over the state lines, and going to the first pharmacy you can find to buy the drug and drinking it right there is much easier than driving over state lines, paying for an out-of-network doctor (no insurance there), getting an ultrasound, waiting the time you are expected, and them getting the pill.

          That, and making abortion pills available over-the-counter anywhere in the mainland US would likely make it at least as widely available on the black market as marijuana is even in states where it is illegal. Probably even easier, since far less would have to be smuggled across state lines to turn a profit.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @mtl:

        Once people tried to make effective laws, they’d run into so many complications that they’d be looking for an out.

        Abortion would be immediately illegal in 4 states which have passed laws with triggers in them that take effect if Roe v. Wade.

        Louisiana’s law, for instance, would punish anyone who performs or aides in an abortion with up to 10 years in prison and a maximum $100,000 fine.

        • mtl1882 says:

          Sounds like only one would be immediate. The rest may go into effect, but they’ve left themselves some time to deal with it. I believe they would probably modify the laws pretty quickly to be less extreme.

          Additionally, the issue isn’t exactly Roe v. Wade getting overturned. The issue is the constitutional right to an abortion, as established in Roe v. Wade, getting effectively overturned. The court could overrule part or all of the doctrines in Roe v. Wade, but it’s unlikely to just overrule it. It could possibly preserve the right but change the standard from viability to something else. It could preserve the right but make the decision on other grounds to make it more solid. It could find there is no right and leave it up to the states, and I have a feeling if it did so, later suits would force the strictest states to modify a little. It is important to realize there is almost no chance of the court recognizing fetuses of having full rights, even if it overturned the right to an abortion. So it would be hard to avoid some exceptions. I’m having trouble finding the actual text of the laws (pet peeve of mind – it should be in the article). Are they defining abortion as including early chemical abortions/Plan B? I can’t imagine they include tossing IVF embryos. Abortions of severely deformed/nonfunctional fetuses? (Apparently Louisiana’s law does ban this, but I don’t think the court would uphold it, and I think doctors would fight it hard. Once the public was educated about some of the extreme cases, they’d start to feel uncomfortable. People picture Down Syndrome as the reason people get abortions – it is a reason, but there are far more horrifying genetic disorders).

          Once the states had some bad cases that showed the consequences of a ban, I think there would be changes. At the very least, rape and incest. Once they realize how difficult, painful and possibly dangerous it is to make someone prove these things, most people may start to question their pro-life beliefs. Most of them think too abstractly to get it, though some are true believers. I believe it would change quickly, but it is terrible that some women would have to be sacrificed along the way. I also think the medical community would probably get up in arms about this, but I don’t know how effective that would be.

          Louisiana’s law also contains:

          – a proposal that requires women and their doctors to cremate or bury remains of a fetus after an abortion.

          – a proposal that would impose a prison term of hard labor for receiving reimbursements for covering expenses for a woman who wants to donate fetal tissue after an abortion. The law specifically excludes those who help women who want to donate fetal tissue after a miscarriage.

          The first one could go into effect now if they wanted to pass it. It’s not related to abortion rights. The court would almost certainly not consider fetuses equivalent to born humans and therefore burial would not be required even if the right to an abortion was overturned. But states can make that decision. I think people who sued over it would have a good chance of winning, though.

          The second one sounds pretty ridiculous. It seems to be trying to avoid women being bribed to have abortions by medical researchers. But the way it is written is bizarre, if that’s an accurate summary. It almost certainly would not hold up in court. It also seems unrelated to Roe v. Wade and could be implemented now if it was written in a way that wasn’t so broad and unclear.

  25. rlms says:

    Are there any studies on whether ideology correlates with criminality (of various kinds) in politicians? Brought to mind by this.

    • C_B says:

      He told the call handler: “I’ve er…just killed my wife.”

      The call handler replied: “Is it just the two of you in the house?”

      Searle replied: “Er…well just the one of us now.”

      Top 10 Most British Murderers 2k18

    • Tarpitz says:

      How did I not hear that at the time? That’s brilliant.

  26. Whatever you think of Assange, this is a stupid way for him to finally get caught and Ecuador has lost whatever goodwill it might have gained in my mind from holding out this long.

    Julian Assange is apparently a really abrasive guy. It could all be rumors started by people who don’t like him, but he does seem to do a good job of making sure no one likes him. This may be a function of the fact that he’s used up all his goodwill from Ecuador, just as he has with a lot of other people over the last decade.

    I’m not saying his politics are right or wrong, or that the world doesn’t need an anonymous publication where sources know they can drop off very embarrassing intel, it just might not be a political call.

    For sources on his personality, I would just Google “Julian Assange personality”. There have been a lot of profiles of him over the years. The most positive ones acknowledge he has strong personality traits, and the most negative ones indicate he is impossible to deal with.

    • Matt M says:

      Julian Assange is apparently a really abrasive guy.

      I tried to watch a sympathetic documentary on him once. It was one of those styles of documentary that has next to zero narration, and is mostly just a camera following him around as he talks.

      I lasted about 15 minutes. Something about the guy was just so goddamn irritating I didn’t want to listen to him for one more second. And I say this as someone largely sympathetic to his policies…

    • Alexander Turok says:

      Another possibility is that, after the Swedish charges for “rape” were dropped and he still insisted on staying in the embassy, they finally got wise to his act, realizing it was always about his personal legal issues rather than his political activities. Granted, I’d have probably done the same if I were in his shoes, and must praise him for the brilliance of his charade. It almost worked.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Why would Scott think Ecuador is giving him shelter based on priciple? Unless I have missed something, there is no reason to believe that.

      • Matt M says:

        Agreed. I’ve never really thought about what they might be – but I’ve always just assumed Ecudaor had its own selfish reasons for harboring him.

  27. AISec says:

    Katja Grace’s point on ethical asymmetries implies a lot more about the difficulty of AI Alignment and Bayesian reasoning than is immediately obvious. The difference between an AI utility function that doesn’t have to include ethical asymmetries and one that does is precisely the mathematical difference between the complexity of a simple linear regression and a deep neural net. Deep Neural Nets have to use asymmetric activations in order to encode arbitrary amounts of complexity. You can plot out KG’s ethical asymmetry as an upside-down RELU activation function.

    Consequently, ethical AI systems that have to include asymmetries like those implied by property rights in their utility calculations should be expected to be just as hard to train, and just as imperfect and susceptible to adversarial manipulation, as Deep Neural Nets are today. This probably implies that ethical AGI will have to be trained using supervised learning – i.e. by lots of examples rather than encoded principles – because this is the only semi-reliable way we know to fit a utility function in high-dimensional spaces like real-world ethics.

    Of course, Stochastic Gradient Descent is probably the logical way to approach this sort of ethics training in AI systems today, but it’s interesting to think about how the brain has evolved to do the same thing using Spike Timing Dependent Plasticity. It’s not hard to imagine that deontological norms might have derived over time from this process.

  28. Gregor Sansa says:

    I’d like to point out that “win forever by breaking all rules and abandoning all honor” is extremely biased language. I understand that Scott’s using hyperbole to make a point, but in a domain like politics which is already extremely prone to tribalism and halo/horns effects, using a word like “honor” here goes beyond mere hyperbole into bias. At the very least, replace “honor” with “historic norms”.

    A Democratic response to the resulting characterization might be: “we are in a kind of iterated prisoners’ dilemma, with historic norms that have pushed things towards an equilibrium that was cooperative in at least certain sub-contexts. Through both circumstance and enemy action, those norms have now been uniformly broken on the other side; refusing to break them on our side, through such means as court-packing, would mean allowing ourselves to be exploited. If we’re going to accomplish or even credibly threaten court-packing when we get power, we have to start openly discussing it now.”

    …While I’m here, I’ll also point out that the “marginal prisoners are bad parents” study shows only *average* parenting quality. “Half of them are horrible, the other half are OK” is probably closer to the truth than “they’re all worse than nothing”.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Let’s say we have a norm against hitting each other. The Republicans pushed a Democrat. Some of the Democrats are proposing breaking his legs and stabbing him in the gut. It’s wildly disproportionate.

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        Not only that, but it misunderstands the precedent. The tat was Gorsuch. The tit was ending the filibuster for judicial nominees by Reid. Or, more broadly, the first Tit was Bork.

        • 10240 says:

          Off-topic: these references to tit and tat are hard to follow. Often tit is used to refer to the first action and tat to the revenge, but literally “tit for tat” means tat is the first action and tit is the revenge.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            And if I pressed my tits into someone who gave me a tat, I don’t think it would turn out like the game theory phrase…

      • dick says:

        Isn’t threatening a disproportionate response a pretty common way to maintain norms?

        • Wrong Species says:

          Republicans decide to do whatever it is they are supposed to do to get Democrats to agree not to court pack. Do you think that would be the end of it?

          • EchoChaos says:

            Also, what is it? Impeach Trump? Nominate Merrick Garland? Agree that the Supreme Court be ruled by an embalmed Anthony Kennedy in perpetuity?

  29. Loriot says:

    Regarding the ballot proposition: The reason is because the soda industry is willing to spend massive amounts of money on it, since it directly impacts their bottom line. The Republican party has better things to do with their money, like promote their actual candidates.

  30. honoredb says:

    The Democrats could (if they got the ability in 2020) make a case for appointing two extra judges to cancel out the “theft” of Obama’s seat (minus one Dem-appointed judge, plus one Rep-appointed judge due to violating a norm). This has some advantages–it’s not exactly retribution, just “restorative justice”, like rolling back an executive order, and it keeps the court small and odd-numbered. But actions like that still erode norms, if only slightly, since clearly it’s not universally agreed that publicly refusing to consider any Obama nominee was a defection.

    Tit-for-tat would be appointing four extra judges, for a kabbalistically appropriate court size that future generations will assume came from the 13 founding colonies. But then the Republicans would definitely retaliate.

  31. ksvanhorn says:

    None of the images of God in that study look right to me. Where are the noodly appendages?

  32. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    But for some reason the exodus continues even now that the economy is improving.

    For some mysterious unknown reason people on the ground are behaving as though the economy sucks. We know that can’t possibly be the case, since the experts and prestige media all loudly agree that the five year plan was completed in four years the economy is recovering. Such a mystery. /s

    Seriously though, job prospects for nearly any degree suck right now. When even the classic standbys are taking a haircut who is going to sign on for a major in underwater basket weaving?

    • pontifex says:

      That’s strange. Around here the media are constantly trumpeting that we are on the verge of doom! DOOM! and an economic crash is right around the corner. Meanwhile, the stock market seems to be doing pretty well, and employment numbers as well.

      There also seem to be a huge amount of news stories about how everything is terrible for younger people. They have to take McJobs, can’t afford houses, etc. etc.

      Perhaps we are reading different media sources?

  33. Jiro says:

    Scott’s attitude towards murder offsets was not anywhere near as accepting as his attitude towards meat offsets here, even though it seems like most of the same objections apply to both.

  34. Wrong Species says:

    The abortion thing doesn’t surprise me because infanticide itself was routinely practiced all the way up to the 19th century.

    Often, societies treat neonaticide as not-quite-murder. In many legal systems, the killing of a neonate by its mother is a crime distinct from homicide, and punished less harshly, while the murder of a baby by its father is not. In the late Middle Ages, when official attempts were made to stamp out infanticide by punishing its perpetrators, they were met by the public with stonewalling. People were often reluctant to report their neighbours for this crime; even maids who shared the same bed would claim not to have noticed that one among them had been pregnant. In 1624, England introduced a draconian law that tried to stop mothers passing off murdered newborns as stillbirths by punishing any woman who gave birth without a witness and couldn’t produce a living child. This law remained on the books for 180 years, but relatively few women were prosecuted under it, and even fewer were convicted; between 1730 and 1774, for instance, only 61 cases of infanticide were tried at the Old Bailey in London. Of the 12 infanticide cases from 1680-88, nine ended in not-guilty verdicts, and three were dismissed for insufficient evidence.

    It would be comforting to attribute these low numbers to the rarity of the crime. But this was not the case. Thomas Coram, who helped to found the London Foundling Hospital in the 1730s, was motivated by seeing, on his daily walk to work, the large number of infants thrown on dunghills or on the sides of the road, ‘sometimes alive, sometimes dead, and sometimes dying’.

    • mtl1882 says:

      Yeah, people should pull up some 1800s newspapers – they’re free at Chronicling America, and some are available at newspapers.com. The ads for (early chemical) abortion are everywhere.

      Here are some: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2014/08/06/history_of_contraception_19th_century_classified_ads_for_abortifacients.html

      The Wikipedia article “History of Abortion” is a pretty interesting narrative.

      Many people who had to actually deal with reality, particularly in that time period, would understandably be forgiving towards mothers who made these decisions, as the article points out. Women were constantly pregnant and nursing, and if they had a baby out of wedlock, they were ruined. Childbirth was extremely dangerous. Sometimes they simply could not afford one more. Many times they were in a coercive position. It was a lot less easy to judge. And infant mortality was so high that it was a lot easier to argue the baby just didn’t make it.

  35. Freddie deBoer says:

    Per usual, there are a lot of claims about relative merits of majors re: eventual economic outcomes that are based on no empirical evidence and which are almost 100% the product of selection bias.

    Edit: I was unclear; I don’t mean in the blog post in particular but in the general conversation about the humanities.

    • Lasagna says:

      Hi Freddie! Genuinely good to see you again. I’ve been really enjoying your writing on movies, and looking forward to reading your thoughts on Dune. Not a good movie, but there IS something about it that keeps your attention.

      EDIT: Deleted the rest because I’m not interested in arguing. It’s a nice day. 🙂

      Anyway, really glad to see you writing on your blog again. Always one of the first places I stop each day.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      All that is true of the relative merit of the college degree. It is also largely a product of selection bias. Same with graduating high school.

      So…uhh…why does it matter?

  36. drunkfish says:

    Anybody know of an algae oil that has the right (according to the study above) EPA/DHA ratio? All the ones on Amazon seem to be 1:2 in favor of DHA

  37. fluorocarbon says:

    I’ve always been a little frustrated with the rationalist and the atheist movements’ tendency towards Jesus Mythicism (being an atheist and a semi-reationalist myself). I’m not an expert, and actual experts should correct me if I’m wrong about something, but I did study the New Testament as an undergraduate and graduate (before dropping out of grad school). There are two reasons that mythicism annoys me:

    1 – It mirrors the global warming debate: 99% of the experts are on one side but, for entirely ideological reasons, a certain group of people gives a lot of prominence to the 1%. There’s approximately the same amount of evidence for Socrates existing as there is for Jesus, but I’ve yet to meet a Socrates mythicist.

    2 – People don’t really have an understanding of how bat-shit insane ancient histories are. They’re full of magic, prophecies, dragons etc. Wikipedia and history books often won’t mention these things in summaries, so people assume histories didn’t have miracles and magic fish or whatever. Then when they read a primary source for the first time, like Luke/Acts, it seems made up. We also don’t have census records or birth certificates in the ancient world. The best evidence we have about any pre-modern era are weird books full of miracles and later interpolations.

    Overall, the main reason I think it very likely Jesus existed is similar to the main reason I think evolution is real: it provides a framework for understanding other things. I couldn’t debate a creationist about the individual facts about genetics, mutation rates, speciation, or whatever. However, just looking at tetrapod skeletons or mollusk eyes through the lens evolution makes it all make sense. In the same way, there’s not a huge amount of direct evidence for Jesus, but looking at the texts and the early Christian movement through the lens of Jesus having existed makes it make sense. That later sources make excuses for John baptizing Jesus, that Jesus “born of a virgin” has a father, and the fights in the early church about sex and marriage all make sense when viewed through a lens of some guy named Jesus existing, saying the world was going to end, then dying before it happened. I really don’t see how the gospels and the evolution of early Christianity make sense if we assume Jesus didn’t exist.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Yep. At least some of the biographical material being accurate is the most parsimonious solution.

      (I’m pretty sure Luke is not technically a primary source as a biography, though)

      • fluorocarbon says:

        You’re completely right, it was likely written several decades after Jesus’ death. I’m using the term “primary source” in a sloppy way.

        I only mean that it’s an early source, close to and in the same cultural context as the events that it’s about, and written before modern historiography was invented. I’m blanking on what the word for that is.

        • dndnrsn says:

          On the one hand, it’s not an original source. Luke used Mark, Q, and L. Q and L are entirely hypothetical as sources (Q is by definition all stuff in Luke and Matthew not in Mark, L is by definition all stuff in Luke that isn’t found elsewhere). Mark probably was not a primary source (in the sense that the author was almost certainly working from older sources/traditions, not writing from experience). I wouldn’t call it a primary source; I imagine that standards differ? In comparison, Paul is definitely a primary source.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Generally agree with you, but did you read the review?

      • fluorocarbon says:

        I read his review when it was posted subreddit a while ago. Jesus mythicism has been floating around in my head since then, which is probably why I left a comment though I normally lurk. I should’ve refreshed the page first. I didn’t realize half the comments would be about that article…

        Anyway, I do think Gwern is largely correct, but I disagree with him on a few points.

        I still can’t believe that Christian scholars seriously try to argue that “yes, the passage is partially forged by early Christians but underneath the forgery is still a real passage discussing Jesus”

        There are two mentions of Jesus by Josephus. I’m assuming that Gwern is referring to the one called “Testimonium Flavianum,” which is certainly partially forged and possibly completely forged. But this is an example where I think unfamiliarity with ancient documents is the issue. In the ancient world, scribes would often write things in the margins of documents that would later get included in the main text. (They sometimes also just made things up). If you look at a modern critical edition of an ancient document, each page will have a big section at the bottom explaining how they decided what text to include based on all the sources. It’s not super common for entire sections to get interpolated, but it definitely happens. I don’t think someone needs to be a Christian or a bad scholar to argue that the passage is partially authentic.

        I read some of the criticisms listed by Carrier and there don’t seem to be any major flaws in Carrier’s claims

        This is what I had in my head about when I thought up my evolution analogy. I agree with Gwern that there aren’t any flaws in Carrier’s argument and I think a lot of the criticisms are weak, but that’s because they mostly address specific factual points. To me, the more convincing argument is that Jesus historicism provides a framework that makes sense of everything else we know about the texts and the early Jesus movement better.

        On a side note, after reading On the Historicity of Jesus, I began wondering a little about Islam & Muhammed too.

        I didn’t think of this before, but I think the mythicist argument is actually largely correct if we phrase it as “it’s possible, but unlikely, that Jesus didn’t exist. It’s also about as possible that Socrates, Buddha, and Muhammed didn’t exist. We really only have a handful of texts and we’re doing our best to figure out what really happened.” The mythicist position I’m arguing against (and I’ve heard in person) is “every historical figure in antiquity existed for sure except Jesus who definitely didn’t exist.” Maybe this is just people talking past each other? Maybe Carrier is making the first argument but is being misunderstood as making the second argument?

      • Robert Jones says:

        I have read the review, and I’m not sure I understand what you think it adds. It just seems like a cavalcade of the usual mythicist arguments.

        As to Josephus, Wikipedia saith, “The general scholarly view is that while the Testimonium Flavianum is most likely not authentic in its entirety, it is broadly agreed upon that it originally consisted of an authentic nucleus, which was then subject to Christian interpolation and/or alteration.[5][6][7][8][9][10]” It’s fine to argue with the scholarly consensus, but just dismissing it out of hand is a bad look. As fluorocarbon suggests, it suggests a lack of familiarity with classical documents.

        It seems highly probable to me that the mythic elements of the Jesus story owe a great deal to mythic tropes in circulation at the time, but I don’t think that affects our assessment of Jesus’ historicity. Haven’t we been having this conversation for 128 years now?

    • Nornagest says:

      There’s approximately the same amount of evidence for Socrates existing as there is for Jesus, but I’ve yet to meet a Socrates mythicist.

      That’s not thinking big enough. Let’s get a George Washington mythicist theory going.

      • EchoChaos says:

        “I won’t be in the history books anyway, only you. Franklin did this and Franklin did that and Franklin did some other damn thing. Franklin smote the ground and out sprang George Washington, fully grown and on his horse. Franklin then electrified him with his miraculous lightning rod and the three of them – Franklin, Washington, and the horse – conducted the entire revolution by themselves. “

      • Eric Rall says:

        That’s not thinking big enough. Let’s get a George Washington mythicist theory going.

        That’s not thinking big enough, either. There’s a theory going that a roughly 300 year time span of the Early Middle Ages (from 614 AD to 911 AD) didn’t exist. Basically, the idea is that around 1000 AD, the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the Byzantine Emperor cooperated to propagate a politically-convenient mythical history of an era between the fall of the immediate post-Roman world and the rise of the medieval successor states.

    • Davide S. says:

      2 – People don’t really have an understanding of how bat-shit insane ancient histories are. They’re full of magic, prophecies, dragons etc. Wikipedia and history books often won’t mention these things in summaries, so people assume histories didn’t have miracles and magic fish or whatever. Then when they read a primary source for the first time, like Luke/Acts, it seems made up. We also don’t have census records or birth certificates in the ancient world. The best evidence we have about any pre-modern era are weird books full of miracles and later interpolations.

      How often are the “bat-shit insane ancient histories” considered reliable, though? Especially when the writers treats the miracles as facts rather than hearsay.

      Also, as I wrote in another comment above – compare and contrast the role of the supernatural in the Gospels to its role in the biographies of non-religious historical characters.

      Disbelieving the supernatural is a much bigger strike against Jesus’ real existence than, say, Caesar’s or Alexander’s.

      • mtl1882 says:

        There are some really strange things that have crept into history that simply don’t check out when you look at primary sources. Often when you stop to think about them, you realize how bizarre it was that no one questioned it. Literal miracles we’ve gotten away from quoting unquestioningly, although sometimes that is worse because other parts of the work are authoritatively quoted when the whole thing should be scrutinized in light of the credulity of the author. Things just take on a life of their own.

        Of course my brain isn’t providing me with a good example right now, but it’s something I’ve noticed a lot. A related issue is that many modern historical books unquestioningly accept the medical diagnosis/cause of death given at the time. Very often health conditions were diagnosed as fevers brought on by various emotional issues or foods. Historians quite often go along with this, when they should immediately realize that fevers are almost always caused by some sort of infection. They should state that it was blamed on X cause, but that the person had obviously caught a virus or bacterial infection. But it sounds more dramatic to say it was because his wife cheated on him or he stayed outside too long or something.

      • dndnrsn says:

        There are ancient histories that are considered reliable in some aspects but not in others. There are historical events we know happened, but the speeches associated with them were all written later by historians. Given the time and place, making up a speech that seemed like it had the right vibe was OK for a historian to do.

        You can see this in the Synoptic Gospels, where short sayings (the sort of thing that would actually get remembered and passed on) are embedded in narratives and discourses. The authors preserved at least a few real sayings and a few traditions that were for real, and embedded it in other stuff that felt right.

        • Eric Rall says:

          There are ancient histories that are considered reliable in some aspects but not in others.

          My favorite example of this is Procopius: he’s one of the best primary sources for the reign of Justinian I, but he was also (particularly in his later work Secret Histories) prone to rather nasty and implausible gossip: for instance, historians are pretty sure that Justinian’s head didn’t mysteriously leave his body late at night.

      • Deiseach says:

        Disbelieving the supernatural is a much bigger strike against Jesus’ real existence than, say, Caesar’s or Alexander’s.

        What. you don’t believe Alexander was the son of Zeus? If it wasn’t for that inconvenient historical reality of battles fought and lands conquered, we could do a neat little article about the mythical Alexander – plainly the whole ‘son of Zeus’ thing means we can’t take any of it seriously and come on, a twenty year old kid from a nowhere Greek state takes out the Middle Eastern superpower of the day, then goes on a run of implausible victories and conquests? Pure fantasy! 🙂

        • Davide S. says:

          Well, how many sources on Alexander describe his divine parentage as a fact rather than rumour or propaganda?

          I do wonder what his tutor Aristotle’s opinion on this was – I don’t think he was the type to believe such things were possible.

          Anyway, my favorite Alexander romance anecdote is Onesicritus (a famously unreliable ‘historian’) making up a tryst between Alexander and Thalestis, a mythical amazon queen – and being mocked for it by Lysimachus, who having been one of Alexander’s bodyguards & generals quipped “I wonder where I was at the time”.

      • fluorocarbon says:

        Also, as I wrote in another comment above – compare and contrast the role of the supernatural in the Gospels to its role in the biographies of non-religious historical characters. … Disbelieving the supernatural is a much bigger strike against Jesus’ real existence than, say, Caesar’s or Alexander’s.

        I don’t think this is entirely accurate. If you read through the gospel of Mark, the earliest narrative source we have, there’s not that much that’s supernatural. There’s no virgin birth and there’s barely a resurrection (someone mentions Jesus got resurrected, then the book immediately ends). Most of the supernatural stuff is faith healing, which still exists today, and a few underwhelming miracles. Casting out demons also meant something different at the time: illnesses, especially mental illnesses, were thought to be caused by spirits entering your body, making casting them out another type of faith healing.

        The later gospels add more supernatural, but they almost always contradict each other when they do. For example, Matthew’s and Luke’s birth narratives are incompatible. This would fit the pattern of a historical core that later got embellished.

        How often are the “bat-shit insane ancient histories” considered reliable, though? Especially when the writers treats the miracles as facts rather than hearsay.

        Every ancient historian believed, at a minimum, in divination, astrology, omens, magicians, and spirits. They vary in their credulity but if we limit ourselves to sources that don’t attribute anything to the supernatural, we wouldn’t have any sources at all.

        I don’t have time to find quotes for all of that, but I’d like to mention two sources in particular. First, “The Romance of Alexander” written in the 2nd or 3rd century. This is a good source to bring up because it’s pretty similar to the gospels. It’s a biography of Alexander the Great, but very much mythologized. From 1.10 (Source: http://www.attalus.org/translate/alexander1a.html)

        Such was the situation in the palace. Now Nectanebos, by spying, heard Philip say to Olympias: “You have deceived me, Lady. For you have not conceived by a god, but by a human being.” So, when there was a great banquet, he changed himself by magic into a serpent much larger than the first one and came through the middle of the dining-room with a strange and terrible hissing sound so that fear and confusion fell on all on the couches. But Olympias, seeing her own lover, sitting up stretched out from her couch her right hand. He, rearing up, placed his chin in her hand, and coiled his whole body in her bosom. Then, darting out his cloven tongue, he kissed her, giving a proof of friendship and love to the spectators and to Philip himself. And having produced this evidence, he disappeared. o

        Even though this source is “bat-shit insane,” all of the people mentioned above actually existed. Nectanebus was the last pharaoh of Egypt, Philip was Alexander the Great’s father, and Olympias was his mother. We can also learn a lot from sources like this: first, it was widely known that Alexander’s father and mother were Philip and Olympias. Second, there was probably a legend that Alexander was the son of Nectanebus; this would be a way for Egyptians to feel better about being conquered: they weren’t actually conquered by a Greek, Alexander was son of the pharaoh! Joke’s on you, Macedon! Last, there must have also been a legend that Alexander was the son of a god. The author of The Romance clumsily combined them into this weird mix.

        This is somewhat similar to the virgin birth narrative in the gospels. The sources are using combinations of different myths floating around, sometimes in contradictory ways. They also have to do all sorts of contortions to explain how the apparent father (Philip, Joseph) isn’t the actual father (Nectanebus, God).

        The other source I want to mention is The City of God by Augustine of Hippo (4th century), specifically Book 10. He rambles a lot, but he’s essentially arguing in this book against non-Christians who didn’t deny the miracles in the Bible happened, but rather claimed that miracles were just regular magic. An educated Greek or Roman would have probably thought Jesus was a magician or divine man. They might have disbelieved the resurrection, but (to them) the other miracles could have plausibly been regular old magic and spirits. From 10.9 (Penguin Classics edition):

        Those miracles and many other of the same kind – it would take too long to mention them all – were intended to support the worship of the one true God, and to prevent the cult of many false deities. They were achieved by simple faith and devout confidence, not by spells and charms composed according to the rules of criminal superstition, the craft of which is called magic, or sorcery – name of detestation – or by the more honourable title of ‘theurgy’.

        The early Jesus followers lived in a world where people really honestly believed there were magicians who could turn into snakes and that you could tell the future by looking at birds. We have to look at the gospels through that lens.

        • dndnrsn says:

          This is all correct; in fact, I’d go further and question the use of the word “believed” – they didn’t hold that gods were real, magic was real, etc etc as a matter of faith or of opinion. It was something that they knew existed.

          It’s hard to understand Jesus and his context, early Christianity and its context, etc, without getting that their world was one that included a lot of magic. Instead of a division between natural and supernatural, there was a shading: you’re unlikely to meet Zeus (although attractive women had a higher-than-normal chance), and maybe there’s some ineffable philosophical-monotheistic deity behind everything or whatever, but praying at the temple of Aesclepius might heal you, and if you went into those deep woods you might run into a faun, and you might pay a magician to work up a curse or a love charm for you, and…

          Likewise, the miracles attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark don’t contain a lot that would seem off to a Jew of the time. Their God was less accessible than pagan deities, but still acted in the world, if perhaps less directly than some pagan deities.

          For Judaism and the Hellenistic paganism or whatever you want to call it of the time, there wasn’t a secular-religious division either. You obey God’s rules/sacrifice to the local god(s) because that’s how you get good fortune. Worshipping foreign gods pisses off God if you’re a Jew, and if you’re a pagan of whatever sort, spurning your traditional local observances are like not standing during the national anthem, but moreso.

          Either they were wrong, or magic and so on somehow left the world. The former is obviously the most likely hypothesis; the latter is more fun.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Either they were wrong, or magic and so on somehow left the world. The former is obviously the most likely hypothesis; the latter is more fun.

            Much more fun, and it’s an idea with an ancient lineage. I collected some ancient sources on the idea a while back, which is put forth by a number of the church fathers (and Plutarch* as well) in first 400 years AD.

            * Working out what it would mean for ancient history if we applied the “disregard histories written by people who believed in the supernatural” rule to Plutarch is left as an exercise for the reader.

          • Davide S. says:

            We know there were also people who were effectively non-religious, though they might not state that openly; the Epicureans claimed that the gods existed but did not interfere in human affairs, which presumably was more acceptable than claiming the gods didn’t exist at all.

            I’m not claiming people like these were a majority, but they certainly existed, and in some times and places Epicureism was relatively popular.

            Interestingly, Epicureans were actually singled out by Judaism as people who ‘would not have a share in the world to come’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epikoros

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          The early Jesus followers lived in a world where people really honestly believed there were magicians who could turn into snakes and that you could tell the future by looking at birds.

          Appealing to the criterion of embarrassment you’d think if they were making it all up whole cloth they’d have had Jesus conjure up some dragons and shoot lightening out of his eyes or something instead of just magicking up booze at a wedding and taking a stroll on the sea.

          • Davide S. says:

            I knew about this logic and have seen apologists use it in the past, but didn’t know it had a proper name so thanks for mentioning it.

            I can see why it sounds reasonable, though as the wikipedia article notes it’s easy to abuse this to make a story appear credible.

          • Protagoras says:

            Anybody who takes the criterion of embarrassment seriously either hasn’t studied the texts of very many religions, or must believe a huge number of incompatible religious narratives.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t take it seriously as far as religion goes, but it’s a useful name for types of heuristics we apply in every day life. If your buddy tells you about this awesome party he was at with supermodels hanging all over him and then they gave him a Ferrari for being such a swell guy you can assume he’s probably lying. If he tells you about this awesome party he was at with beautiful women and then he crapped his pants and everyone laughed at him he’s probably telling the truth because why the hell would anyone make up a story like that?

        • Davide S. says:

          If you read through the gospel of Mark, the earliest narrative source we have, there’s not that much that’s supernatural
          […]The later gospels add more supernatural, but they almost always contradict each other when they do.

          Matthew is the worst, isn’t it? (of the synoptics) He writes about the dead rising from their tombs and walking around Jerusalem ‘wher many people saw them’.

          They vary in their credulity but if we limit ourselves to sources that don’t attribute anything to the supernatural, we wouldn’t have any sources at all

          My perhaps poorly-phrased argument is that the more numerous and central to the account the supernatural (according to the modern understanding of the term) elements are, the less reliable the account should be considered.

          For Alexander, we also have less fantastical sources (and of course, the fact that fabricating his conquests would be simply be impossible); and I mentioned elsewhere that someone making up a story about Alexander and an amazon queen was actually called on it by one of his former bodyguards (implying some people DID care about actual factual accuracy).

          On magic in the bible: believing ‘magic’ and ‘miracles’ are real does not contradict believing fakes (fradulent or in good faith). This should be really obvious to modern believers.
          An educated man of the time could believe Jesus had real power, but I see no reason he couldn’t instead believe that he was a charlatan.

          I’m pretty sure both Romans & Greeks believed that omens & prophecies could be real, but could also be fabricated for political convenience.

          You also had at least a few early pseudo-rationalists who did go out of their own way to criticize some of these beliefs;
          Consider Lucretius, who wrote about why centaurs could never have existed.
          I don’t believe his argument (something about horses & humans growing at different ratesIIRC) was especially good, but it’s an example of educated people openly disbelieving & criticizing myths.

          As an aside, Biblical ‘sorcery’ has interesting implications for modern believers who believe only God has ‘supernatural’ power – consider Moses turning his staff into a snake and having it eat the snakes conjured by the Pharaoh’s court sorcerers. There is no implication that the sorcerers were fakes – only that their sorcery was obviously inferior to the power of God.

          Claiming they were charlatans or were performing ‘Satanic miracles’ could be an explanation, but the story doesnt’ seem to suggest that at all.

          EDIT: For a later example (apocryphal though IIRC) writings on Simon Magus also seem relevant. There’s one story where he is using his magic to fly, and Peter prays to God to make him fall (and he does).

          We have to look at the gospels through that lens.

          But why is it wrong to point out that if ‘miracles’ and ‘magic’ didn’t really exist this lens is really flawed and unreliable, perhaps even when it comes to mundane events?

          • dndnrsn says:

            There are, however, things that have natural explanations but that are experienced as miracles or magic. Faith healing is the best example – some psychosomatic thing is going on. There were also tricksters – that some “psychic” is using psychological tricks, rather than actual mind-reading powers, doesn’t mean that the cold-reading some people are fooled into believing is mind-reading isn’t happening. Etc.

    • Robert Jones says:

      I think people do occasionally suggest that Socrates may not have been a real person, it’s just that it doesn’t generate as much controversy.

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      There’s approximately the same amount of evidence for Socrates existing as there is for Jesus, but I’ve yet to meet a Socrates mythicist.

      Really? I’ve definitely heard people suggest that it’s entirely possible that Plato either invented Socrates as a teaching device, or at least mythologised him and attributed a lot of his own work to him.

      • johansenindustries says:

        That Plato is not quoting Socrates verbatin is pretty much obvious. The extent of which and how deliberately Plato uses Socrates to bolster his argument is in question. But as long as you accept there is a Socrates to be used, then that’s completely far from being a Socrates mythicist.

  38. dndnrsn says:

    On the Jesus thing, this is something I actually know a bit about; studied it back in school. The standard Carrier applies to Jesus is a standard that would lead us to conclude a lot of historical figures didn’t exist. Further, the Jesus story doesn’t seem made up; if it were made up, a lot of inconvenient things would have been left out. Consider the three possibilities:

    1. Jewish religious movement leader causes a kerfuffle, is quickly executed by colonial authorities in a particularly awful and humiliating fashion. He may or may not have claimed to be the Messiah (on the one hand, Messianic Secret in Mark, on the other hand, there’s been enough Jewish Messiah claimants over the years that it’s hardly implausible). His followers produce the ad-hoc hypothesis that this was all part of the plan.
    2. As 1, but it was all part of the plan. Some degree of Christology is factual.
    3. A religious group makes up 2.

    The general conclusion I reached after several years studying this was that 3 is far less plausible than 1, and honestly, in some ways it’s less plausible than 2 (and I’m an atheist). It doesn’t make sense for all these different accounts – some of deeds, some of words, quite diverse in form and content – to suddenly appear in the second half of the first century. If the story had been made up, presumably there would have been one canonical beginning story that then diverged; the textual sources and the oral traditions presumably behind them have instead the character of different testimonies combined in various permutations (which then diverged a little later on).

    Further, a Jewish sect making up a Messiah would have been relatively unlikely to make up one whose life pattern follows Jesus’. The tendencies among Jews of the time expecting the Messiah were different. Similarly, a story of a son of a god intended to attract Hellenistic gentiles (pagans) would be quite different. There are wonder workers, both Jewish and Hellenistic gentile, whose life stories resemble Jesus’ in some ways, but there is enough evidence even now of charismatic people who are understood by their followers to have special abilities (to, say, cure illness) that it is not implausible for such a person to have existed in a particular place and time.

    The level of skepticism required to show Jesus didn’t exist is a level of skepticism rarely applied to non-religious figures.

    • Davide S. says:

      The standard Carrier applies to Jesus is a standard that would lead us to conclude a lot of historical figures didn’t exist.
      […]
      The level of skepticism required to show Jesus didn’t exist is a level of skepticism rarely applied to non-religious figures.

      But non-religious historical figures are rarely described as having miracolous powers or being involved in ‘supernatural’ events; and when they are, this is often not presented as central to the narrative.

      IF we assume these miracles and events simply never happened, why is that not a good reason to assume that Jesus was mostly mythical or, at least, that the writers were extremely unreliable (or willing to simply make things up)?

      Believing that Julius Caesar, Alexander and other historical characters were never involved in ‘miracolous’ events described by some historians but still existed is one thing; believing that all the miracles described in the Gospels didn’t but Jesus was still real it’s another.

      • rahien.din says:

        Believing that Julius Caesar, Alexander and other historical characters were never involved in ‘miracolous’ events described by some historians but still existed is one thing; believing that all the miracles described in the Gospels didn’t but Jesus was still real it’s another.

        You’re not applying a consistent standard.

        For some persons, you’re allowing that inaccurate descriptions do not provide evidence of nonexistence. For other persons, you’re claiming that inaccurate descriptions provide evidence of nonexistence. That doesn’t cohere.

        You apply the latter standard mainly to Christ. Do you also apply it to his disciples? They were also described as performing miracles. Do you similarly dispute their existence?

        • Davide S. says:

          Why is it inconsistent to believe that a few peripheral, secondary inaccuracies don’t give significant evidence for non-existance, but many central ones do?

          For an actual example, consider Pyrrhus, King of Epirus. I don’t think many would dispute his existence.
          I’m going to quote Plutarch’s parallel lives (from http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/e/roman/texts/plutarch/lives/pyrrhus*.html)
          “People of a splenetic habit believed that he cured their ailment; he would sacrifice a white cock, and, while the patient lay flat upon his back, would press gently with his right foot against the spleen. Nor was any one so obscure or poor as not to get this healing service from him if he asked it. The king would also accept the cock after he had sacrificed it, and this honorarium was most pleasing to him. It is said, further, that the great toe of his right foot had a divine virtue, so that after the rest of his body had been consumed, this was found to be untouched and unharmed by the fire. These things, however, belong to a later period.”

          It’s an amusing story, but that’s it; it’s not as if Pyrrhus’ whole biography is built on claims like these, and the text itself can be read as implying they are legends, not facts. It would not be reasonable at all to believe that because these legends must be false Pyrrhus must not have existed.

          In Jesus’ case his supernatural powers & nature are a huge part of the Gospels.
          I don’t think it’s reasonable to see them as the kind of claim that can simply be dismissed without damaging the credibility of the sources.

          It’s not as if the Gospels claim that Jesus was a ‘normal’ preacher that may or may not have done a few really weird things.

          As for his disciples, I’m not as familiar with the relevant stories, but I understand that
          1)the miracles attributed to them were generally not as impressive
          2)Some people DO dispute the existence of at least a few of them.

          • rahien.din says:

            Some people

            Oh dear.

            We weren’t talking about “some people.” Those people might be applying consistent standards.

            Whereas you, seemingly, are not.

            That’s why I asked you about Davide S, and why I didn’t ask you about “some people.”

          • Davide S. says:

            My claim is simply that sources involving supernatural claims should be considered less reliable than those who don’t.
            It does not imply that people who were attribuited supernatural powers or involvement in supernatural events did not exist; or that any such claim at all completely invalidates of the source.

            This is hardly inconsistent.

            As for the disciples themselves, can you consider the claims that at least one of them didn’t actually exist absurd, when there are not especially controversial theories that some later saints didn’t?

            Consider Saint Brigid of Ireland, often argued as being a Christianized pagan goddess rather than a real person.

          • rahien.din says:

            My claim is simply that sources involving supernatural claims should be considered less reliable than those who don’t.

            No, it’s not. Your claim is that we can apply a sort of discounting function to these accounts, whereby the more numerous and more central/essential are the supernatural claims, the less veracity we assign to the account. Or, if these claims to the supernatural are merely embellishments, they may prevent us from accessing the actual historical details.

            EG : Beowulf might have been an actual Dane, but we will never know because his story is so heavily embellished with the supernatural. If someone told me that Hannibal Barca was described as having some minor uncanny abilities unrelated to his military service, I would not doubt what he accomplished on the battlefield.

            It’s a fair claim. I just don’t think you’re applying that discounting function consistently.

      • dndnrsn says:

        The miraculous powers he’d be assigned in the most trimmed-back versions (remember, none of the Gospels was an original eyewitness document) are miraculous powers that some people believe exist right now (faith healers are still a thing, regardless of whether they’re for real or not). The reason miraculous powers are attributed among religious figures far more often than historical figures in general is that wonder-workers are very often associated with religion. There are historical figures who existed who people at the time claimed were wizards – is it a strike against their existence too?

        • Davide S. says:

          We generally don’t consider sources describing miracolous powers especially reliable though (at least, I don’t think we would-should on a rationalist site).

          As for

          There are historical figures who existed who people at the time claimed were wizards – is it a strike against their existence too?

          If the main sources about them are so focused on the supernatural and we don’t really have other, more credible descriptions of their life and deeds, then yes. It’s not proof, but it’s certainly evidence.

          I don’t understand what’s so controversial about what I’m trying to say – credibility matters when judging historical claims and getting things wrong – such as by claiming that supernatural events that couldn’t have happened DID happen- damages credibility.

          Could it be that the biblical Jesus was inspired by one (or more) historical preachers? Sure.
          But that’s still a mythical character; the false supernatural claims aren’t details that can be dismissed while leaving the credibility of the source mostly intact, unlike with the biographies of historical characters who contain only a small number of minor supernatural events (who might even be described as non-supernatural by the sources themselves).

          • CatCube says:

            We generally don’t consider sources describing miracolous powers especially reliable though (at least, I don’t think we would-should on a rationalist site).

            Scott might be rationalist (including the atheism), but the “we” on this site does include us believing Christians who take the Gospel accounts as, well, gospel.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yes, some of us are an older kind of rationalist. 😀

          • dndnrsn says:

            There are a significant number of Biblical scholars who do, in fact, think that it is possible to disentangle the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth from later Christian notions of Christ, that it is possible to disentangle miracles for which there is no possible natural explanation from those for which there is (eg, that casting out demons is really just his ability to calm down someone having a psychotic break, or whatever), etc.

            Further, you are applying modern understandings of supernatural vs natural that draw lines that likely would not have been drawn by someone in the first century Hellenistic world. They didn’t believe that so-and-so was able to do xyz, they knew that these things happened, and their worldview didn’t really draw a line between natural/supernatural and secular/religious the way we enlightened moderns do.

          • Davide S. says:

            casting out demons is really just his ability to calm down someone having a psychotic break, or whatever

            How does that fit with the demons going into pigs, then?
            And if the people writing the account couldn’t distinguish between a ‘proper’ exorcism and simply calming down someone that also makes their credibility suspect.

            you are applying modern understandings of supernatural vs natural that draw lines that likely would not have been drawn by someone in the first century Hellenistic world.

            There are 3 issues with this:
            1)Even they did not generally make such a distinction most people today do; so it makes sense to distinguish between the ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ when discussing these sources.

            2)Even then people could believe that some things were possible but that some ‘miracle workers’ were simply frauds and charlatans at worst, and honestly mistaken at best.
            People do that today – surely the people defending Biblical miracles as factual (that’s how I interpreted CatCube’s ‘taking the Gospel accounts as gospel’) don’t also believe that all the claimed miracles of OTHER religions also happened?

            3)Related to 1, but if they ‘knew’ things that today we have really good reasons to believe are simply false that’s another reason to consider them unreliable.

          • Deiseach says:

            that casting out demons is really just his ability to calm down someone having a psychotic break

            33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another”

            … “Wow, he has a really good bedside manner, such a calm therapeutic presence” 😉

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Davide S

            That there are well-attested people throughout history who are understood by those around them as doing supernatural things ranging from “there’s a natural explanation for this, but it gets understood as supernatural” to “OK, these people are describing something as impossible” is a strike against the notion that supernatural acts attributed to a figure are a reason to think that figure might not have existed.

            Further, there’s a whole strand of non-supernatural, non-miraculous teachings attributed to Jesus. The Synoptics aren’t just the story of a guy who goes around being a rural faith healer.

        • Aron Wall says:

          @dndnrsn

          remember, none of the Gospels was an original eyewitness document

          Speaking as someone who thinks (in accordance with the virtually unanimous external evidence) that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were most probably written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John respectively*; the first and last of whom were in the group of Jesus’ Twelve disciples and would therefore have been eyewitnesses to many of the events in the Gospels:

          I don’t think my opinion is so crazy that you can appeal to its negation as if it were an uncontroversial and indisputable fact.

          But feel free to save this argument until you get to the NT in your effortpost series.

          *In saying this I am not at all denying that Matthew and Luke incorporated material from Mark, and likely from other written sources as well. Some people think this makes Matthew unlikely to be also an eyewitness, but I think that argument imports modern assumptions about authorship into a very different social context that cared much less than we do about originality.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s not a crazy opinion, but the generic scholarly view – that the different gospels were cobbled together from sources we no longer have (textual sources that have been lost, traditions preserved orally perhaps) by different authors from different communities – seems to me to explain the documents we have now the best. The Synoptics are all at least one degree of separation from what Jesus actually said and did, and I don’t know how you can have the Synoptics and John as eyewitness testimony from people who were there.

            I will indeed expand on this when I get to the NT. Especially because that will give me a chance to refresh my memory on what exactly Raymond Brown’s arguments for John’s historicity (or, elements of John) were.

          • Aron Wall says:

            @dndnrsn

            I think you may be underestimating just how radically eyewitness-based biographies of the same person can diverge from each other, while still being rooted in factual events. John is unique, but a good part of why this uniqueness seems like such an anomaly, is that the synoptics are so similar to each other. And the best explanation for that is well known—their similarities are largely due to incorporating common source material. If they had not done so, perhaps all 4 gospels would be nearly as different from each other as John is from Mark.

            Not denying that membership in particular Christian communities may have shaped the authors’ pictures of Jesus (whether they were eyewitnesses or not). The whole point of having four Gospels, instead of one, is to get different perspectives on the same individual.

            I think it would be very difficult to write a short biography of almost any active individual that didn’t leave out key aspects of what that person was like. Imagine a biography of Scott that focused on his blogging vs. one that focused on his medical career. They clearly contradict, right? Nobody has time to do all that!

          • dndnrsn says:

            The canonical gospels all incorporate teaching (blogging) and faith healing/wonder-working (medical career). If we had 3 accounts of Scott which painted roughly similar pictures of his blogging + day job, and then a fourth which painted a very different picture of both, that would at least raise some questions.

            Matthew and Luke definitely show different eyewitness testimonies, or at least different traditions, in the Q stuff and in their special sources.

  39. bbeck310 says:

    I’m seeing some confusion on the no-poach article, so time for a lawsplainer comment:

    There are three types of restrictions on employee mobility in the fast food world; two of them are already generally illegal, but this is about the third.

    The first is an employee non-compete. This is a contract between the employee and the employer that prohibits the employee from working for a competing restaurant for some period of time after the termination of employment. Non-competes were “created to prevent people with trade secrets from disclosing them to competitors” as Scott says, but are generally unenforceable for unskilled or low-skill employees. This hasn’t stopped employers from putting them in contracts because (1) most low-level employees don’t think about those restrictions when they’re hired, and (2) there’s no harm to the employer from putting in an unenforceable contract provision. Since just making the provisions unenforceable hasn’t stopped the practice, some states have passed laws more clearly restricting low-wage employee non-compete agreements. For example, the Illinois Freedom to Work Act explicitly declares non-compete agreements void if applied to an employee making under $13/hr or the applicable minimum wage, whichever is larger. But this isn’t what the linked article is about.

    No-poach agreements are not between the employee and employer, but between different employers. They are contracts in which multiple employers agree that they will not hire away the others’ employees. These are not about protecting trade secrets, but about avoiding losing money by spending the money to train employees only to see them take the training and go elsewhere. When they are between different companies, they are generally unenforceable as antitrust violations. The US Department of Justice has gone after businesses that do this. These are closer to what Scott’s linked article is about, but not quite.

    What the linked article discusses are no-poach agreements between different franchises of the same fast food company: “Now 11 U.S. states want to restrict chains’ ability to bar employees from jumping to another franchisee across town.” These are agreements between franchisers and franchisees saying that, e.g., a Burger King franchise owner won’t hire away employees from another Burger King. Since the franchises are under the same corporate umbrella, these are generally enforceable under the common law as a way of preventing franchisees from destructively competing with each other to everyone’s benefit (except maybe the employees’)–again, they have nothing to do with protecting trade secrets. Because these agreements only restrict mobility between the same chain, they are far less restrictive and generally lawful, absent these new state actions.

    (associated bleg: If you have any personal legal needs related to non-competes, trade secrets, intellectual property, etc., please contact me at brian dot beck at spencepc dot com).

  40. zzzzort says:

    States consider banning fast food companies from banning employee poaching.

    *epistemic status: seems reasonable?*
    I’m interested to see how this interacts with the ongoing case before the NLRB that seeks to label McDonald’s a joint employer and essentially allow franchise wide unionization and collective bargaining.

    Franchises exist in the liminal space where they aren’t really the same company, but they aren’t really different either. Currently, most head offices require franchisees not to poach from their fellow franchisees. This would be totally illegal if they were separate companies, but maybe ok if they are all one company.

    At the same time, the same workers can’t collectively bargain with the head office about pay and
    conditions. This would be totally illegal if it was all one company, but maybe ok if franchises are separate.

    Both of these arguments I can really see going either way, but I can’t see how McDonald’s can coordinate hiring among franchise owners but not allow coordination among franchise employees. Part of me thinks they will beat a strategic retreat on the poaching issue to strengthen their argument on the unionization issue.

  41. boboddy says:

    14, 88, and 1488 are in fact “known white supremacist code numbers”.

    If you took a person who’s generically highly aware of internet culture, showed them the list of all two-digit numbers from 00 to 99, and asked them to pick which two are the white supremacist code numbers, they would reliably pick 14 and 88. You would get the same result if you did this one year ago, before this DHS thing made these numbers more well known. You could also ask them to pick out the white supremacist code number from a list of all four-digit numbers, and they would reliably pick 1488.

    (Does anyone even dispute the above?)

    Of course, this doesn’t prove that it wasn’t a coincidence that 14 and 88 showed up in the article.

    As for the headline, here’s the “14 words”, a well-known white supremacist slogan:

    We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children

    (This slogan is what the number 14 comes from. Again, it was well-known before any of this DHS stuff came up. If you asked a generically highly culturally aware person to name five different white supremacist slogans, the 14 words would reliably be included in the reply.)

    And here’s the headline of that DHL document:

    We Must Secure The Border And Build The Wall To Make America Safe Again

    (The headline also has fourteen words.)

    This doesn’t prove anything. But I think you distorted the issue here by

    1) Not quoting the 14 words and the headline, which would have made it obvious that they are in fact very similar
    2) Implying that 14, 88 and the fourteen words weren’t already well-known white supremacist memes long before the DHS document came out, and implying that people who claimed that they were, were making stuff up after the fact.

    Personally, I think it’s perfectly realistic that someone at DHS deliberately chose that headline because it resembled the 14 words. Maybe it was a /pol/ poster that wanted to cause drama and, yes, send a plausibly-deniable message that there are white supremacist sympathizers at DHS. It could also have been an apolitical troll that only wanted only to cause drama. Or it could even have been an anti-racist who did it as a false flag.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I think you overestimate how many people are actually aware of /pol/ and 1488. The average person is more likely to say “wait, how are frogs racist now?”

      • boboddy says:

        Yes, if the message was indeed deliberate, then the person who snuck in the message was non-average, and the initial target audience consisted of non-average people. But it was predictable that the initial target audience would spread it around and it would eventually blow up, with lots of fun, juicy drama.

      • C_B says:

        Anecdatum: I am modestly internet-literate, but have never visited /pol/ and don’t really pay any attention to internet Nazis. I am vaguely aware that Pepe is linked via *mumbles incoherently* to white supremacism, but don’t really understand it and think it’s kind of silly; I mostly associate Pepe with Twitch chat.

        I wasn’t aware of the 14 words, but was aware of 88 = Heil Hitler, due to the neo-Nazi supervillain organization Empire Eighty-Eight from Worm.

        boboddy’s post has substantially lowered my confidence that Scott is right about it being a coincidence; the document’s title is particularly questionable. I’m now leaning toward “guy in charge of compiling the document was a /pol/ troll, got shit past his bosses’ radar” as my leading hypothesis.

        • WashedOut says:

          /pol/ has been a cesspool for about 10 years and should not be visited with any intent other than a stealth reconnaissance mission into neckbeard meme culture.

          Pepe was appropriated by a group of people some of whom will identify as having National Socialist sympathies. Around the same time the fictional republic of Kekistan was formed (“lol” -> “lel” -> “kek” -> realisation that Kek was coincidentally an Egyptian frog-god -> meme ratified) as an experimental online space for ‘alt-right’ views. This is all a fairly small subset of usage of Pepe; most of it is totally benign.

          • Matt M says:

            “lol” -> “lel” -> “kek”

            Doesn’t “kek” originate from World of Warcraft’s clumsy attempts at ensuring Alliance and Horde couldn’t communicate with each other?

            (i.e. when a Horde player says “lol” near an alliance player, it is translated as “kek”)

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The only thing I know about /pol/ is it’s an insult even on 4chan, and 4chan has people who are either openly racist or think racist jokes are the last edgy humor (and given how un-offended Hollywood and the mainstream media seem by James Gunn’s thousands of pederasty jokes with no punchlines, I can’t say they’re wrong).
        Neo-nazis are a media boogeyman.

      • Tenacious D says:

        Like C_B, I was aware that 88 was used as a code for HH (though my top mental associations would be the year or Eric Lindros), but 14 is a new one for me.

      • A1987dM says:

        FWIW, I can remember goalkeeper Gigi Buffon being criticized for picking 88 as his jersey number, like, at least one and a half decade ago.

    • S_J says:

      I think that “14” and “88” are less well-known (as racist flags) than “420” is (as a code-word for marijuana).

      Amusingly, I’ve seen a few comment threads on Book of Faces where someone asks what do you mean, the guy offered you a ‘420’? What is ‘420’?

      More on-point, this is the first time I’ve seen anyone attempt to explain “14” and “88” as racist flags, and I would not have known about them (or picked them out a list of two-digit numbers) before this point.

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        I know someone whose dad chose “88” as a license plate a little while ago (I think about 10 years)–he obviously didn’t know (he liked the symmetry), but my friend apparently got questioned about it. This was in South Africa, by the way, which I assume is at least somewhat insulated from American neo-Nazism.

        Personally, I have known about both the fourteen words and 88 for years; they have also been in the news somewhat recently as there are pictures of Dylann Roof using 1488 iconography. It’s still niche, but it’s definitely something that has made the news in recent years.

        • Matt M says:

          Hall of fame Wide Receiver and current broadcaster Michael Irvin of the Dallas Cowboys famously wore the number 88.

          Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently came out against national anthem protests and said the players would be required to stand for the anthem.

          COINCIDENCE I THINK NOT!!!

    • rlms says:

      I think 18 (Adolf Hitler) is similarly well-known. People who have read the web serial Worm should be aware of the significance of 88: Empire Eighty-Eight are a white supremacist gang in it.

    • helloo says:

      Another confounding factor – the Chinese considers the number 8 to be good fortune. Bigger chains of 8 are generally luckier.

      So if you see a custom license plate with lots of 8s, it’s probably more likely to be a Chinese person than a supremacist.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I was probably too snarky by putting those words in Scare Capitals. I agree these are all known white supremacist code numbers.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      We Must Secure The Border And Build The Wall To Make America Safe Again
      Personally, I think it’s perfectly realistic that someone at DHS deliberately chose that headline because it resembled the 14 words

      The DHS was using the phrase “we must secure our borders” under Obama. Clever girl, /pol/, clever girl.

      “We must guard against terrorism; we must secure our borders; we must enforce our immigration laws; we must improve our readiness for, response to, and recovery from disasters; and we must unify the Department so that we can even more effectively carry out our mission,”

      link

    • FLWAB says:

      (Does anyone even dispute the above?)

      I do. I was vaguely familiar with 88 (though I couldn’t remember what the number was, just that there was a number that was code for Hiel Hitler) but I have never heard of 14, nor heard of the slogan it is associated with. If you asked me to pick which two numbers were associated with white supremacists, I would say “Beats me, I don’t know.”

      Similarly if you asked me to “name five different white supremacist slogans” I would draw a complete blank. Maybe something about there being countries for black people but no countries for white people? I think I saw that once. But slogans? Beats me. Why should I know such things? Why should anyone? Most people are not white supremacists, and most people don’t spend time with them, online or off.

      Maybe I’m alone here, but your post seems to have a lot of typical minding going on. Am I wrong? Is there anyone else here who would have no idea how to answer the two questions he posed that supposedly generic people can answer?

      • Nornagest says:

        I knew about 14 and 88 and the fourteen words, but only as trivia that I know about because I spend too much time reading about random shit (in this case, prison gangs) on Wikipedia. I would definitely not expect an average person who’s reasonably familiar with Internet culture to know them.

        I probably couldn’t get to five slogans.

      • keranih says:

        Same-same, and some of the circles I run in are *highly* Confederate sympathetic. (I think this says more about how “confederate sympathetic” =/= “white supremacist” than anything else.)

        I think that people who are Highly Concerned About White Supremacists ™ know and recognize this sort of thing. Overlapping with people who see patterns and Signs in *everything*.

        (I also can’t see anything *overtly* wrong with “we must secure a future…etc” – I mean, seriously, change “white” to “black” and you’ve got the *intent* of the Negro College Fund right there. People should be able to promote and assist the people they are related to and that they care about, yes? The *context* of the slogan being related to forcing inequality under the law/of opportunity based on race is bad…but in that case so is overt affirmative action.)

        • Matt M says:

          I think that people who are Highly Concerned About White Supremacists ™

          A group that includes about 1% of society, but about 90% of professional journalists.

        • mtl1882 says:

          The “problem” with it is that when the Negro College Fund was formed, there was a very real uncertainty about the future of black Americans. White leaders had been exhorting them since 1862 to “lift up their race” and often spoke of the future of black people as a “race.” Yes, they could have just said, “let’s secure a future for all Americans,” which would have included them, but it’s quite understandable why they viewed things that way, and why they still do. It wasn’t about the perpetuation of their physical characteristics (though I’m sure many did want that and that’s fine), but of their fulfillment as people.

          There has never been a concern about the future of “white America” specifically, unless one means recent fears about voluntary intermarriage destroying the white race at some future point. It’s really not a pressing issue, and the focus is on perpetuating physical characteristics, which is fine in itself, but I don’t think it’s interchangeable as people are arguing. If you believe it is a crucial concern, which is at least more questionable, it still is not something that’s going to happen soon or involuntarily. And rightly or wrongly, it makes people think of eugenics or other negative social movements. Because being concerned about white Americans specifically doesn’t make sense in the way it does for black Americans. I realize this is a subjective point, but I also think people play dumb on it. A friend who seemed thoughtful and intelligent asked me why we couldn’t have white pride day. Are we really going to act like things like gay pride day are a enviable, restricted privilege instead of an understandable reaction to a belief that they should not have pride? There is no need for a white pride day, because there has never been a serious threat to straight white Americans’ pride. There’s nothing to assert. She’s also Irish, so I suggested St. Patrick’s Day as an option. Celebrating cultures is great, but there is no “white American culture” to celebrate. There is an Irish culture to celebrate, or a local culture to celebrate, or a religious tradition to celebrate, and many other options for Americans who may be white.

          I put problem in quotes because you are right that, taken in a vacuum, there is no problem, and we’re just arguing about words. But we’re not in a vacuum. I’m not someone who gets worked up about slogans or wording or social media scandals/the latest outrage, but all that aside, I do think getting these concepts straight is important, because I think we get distracted by what I consider false equivocation and a very unproductive argument. I think most people are capable of being more big picture about this.

          Also, to comment on the thread itself, I’d never heard of any of this number stuff. And I like to look up weird things, though, thankfully, I don’t feel drawn to white supremacist circles. Obviously it is a real thing and many people here are familiar with it, but I don’t find it hard to believe that many people have never heard of it.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Celebrating cultures is great, but there is no “white American culture” to celebrate.

            I DESPISE this, it is both inaccurate and dismissive.

            I’m a Son of the Revolution, and my family has lived in the Americas since the 1600s. There is absolutely a “white American culture”, starting with Jamestown and Plymouth, including people like George Washington, John Adams, Daniel Boone, Jim Bowie, Teddy Roosevelt, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Calvin Coolidge, etc.

            The fact that our culture has welcomed people from across the world to our home and shared it with them doesn’t make our culture not exist, and acting like it does is infuriating.

          • j r says:

            @EchoChaos

            It’s funny that you mention Jamestown. Here’s John Rolf writing in 1619:

            About the latter end of August, a Dutch man of Warr of the burden of a 160 tunes arrived at Point-Comfort, the Comandors name Capt Jope, his Pilott for the West Indies one Mr Marmaduke an Englishman. … He brought not any thing but 20. and odd Negroes…

            So yeah, there is a “white American” culture; unfortunately that culture has a habit of systematically erasing non-whites from the picture.

            It’s not an axiom or anything, but I find it a useful heuristic that people who express pride in being Irish/Italian/Scottish/English-American mean something quite different than those expressing pride in being “white,” and that the latter tend to be some form of bigot. Like I said, it’s not a hard and fast rule, but definitely a useful heuristic.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I’m not sure what point you’re making there. That white American culture has included enslaving blacks?

            It sure has. Every culture has good and bad points. That doesn’t make it not exist.

            You edited after I posted, but here goes.

            “White American” is the general name for Americans whose descent is so far in the past that they don’t have a clear idea of where they’re from, especially Scots-Irish Americans.

            We have a very distinctive culture that we are justifiably proud of. It is unique to us, even though other races shared the country when it was forged, and it’s uniquely both “white” and “American”.

            The idea that saying “I am proud of my Revolutionary heritage and the Protestant culture that is the core of modern America and was brought by English settlers” is somehow less evil than “I am proud of my white heritage” is silly.

            My sister-in-law, as I’ve mentioned, is black, and she is proud of her black heritage. But it’s not the same, and my heritage doesn’t include hers, and it would be disingenuous to pretend it does.

          • mtl1882 says:

            @EchoChaos

            I certainly did not intend to be dismissive, and I apologize if it came across that way.

            Where we disagree is that I don’t see those men as sharing a culture that can be identified as “white American.” They are representative of some pretty different cultures, John Adams in particular sticking out in comparison to some others. To the extent that you could fit them into an American culture based on living in the new world and the associated “conquer the frontier”/freedom mindset of new possibilities, I would include free blacks in that, and some other small groups that may not be white. In the revolutionary war and the Civil War, blacks fought in not insignificant numbers.

            There’s a pretty good argument that culturally, white Northerners and Southerners were more different from each other than from the black Americans that lived among them. And the New England culture was a very distinct thing, as was the Southern gentlemen culture, as was the frontier culture, and they did not like being lumped together. Abraham Lincoln would never have claimed he was of the same culture as a New Englander. Frederick Douglass later said he and Lincoln connected because of their similar experiences starting at the “bottom rung of the ladder.” But had Douglass been a field slave, he would never have said that, because the west considered plantation slave culture very alien.

            For that reason, I find state-based pride more reasonable – Texas has its cultural lore, so does Massachusetts, etc. Quite often the historical leaders were white, but I don’t consider it an exclusively white culture. There were usually others participating. The regional cultures were American, responding to the unique political and geographical situations we were in, but were not necessarily white.

            Once you get to Teddy Roosevelt’s time, we’re at a point where we have an actual non-regional American culture, but at that point I definitely don’t consider it a separate white culture. It included blacks and others. They may not have had full rights everywhere, but they felt like Americans, acted like Americans, and significantly influenced and participated in American culture.

            It’s not that “our culture” existed and then brought in others, who erased it. It’s that at first, there was no “our culture,” just various people of European cultures. It was more or less English culture, and remained so for some time. The culture that began developing into ours was influenced by people who were not white who were there from the beginning. Someone might be proud of their English history, as many great things came to America from England (basis of the legal system, etc.) It’s hard for me to see it as a “white American culture” instead of an “English culture,” though. And then the west basically dropped most of the English culture, so there was no “white American culture” to speak of.

            To boil it down, I maintain there is no discernible white American culture. There is eventually an American culture, which is not defined by being white, and various subsets of it based mainly on country of origin, geography, class, or time, and sometimes race or ethnicity or religion. Those men were the faces of American culture, but it included women and people of other backgrounds, all working together to develop a culture that started out regional and became more broadly American over time.

          • keranih says:

            Celebrating cultures is great, but there is no “white American culture” to celebrate.

            …I completely, utterly, and wholeheartedly disagree with this. More over, I am infuriated by your attempt to erase the unique perspectives and values of Euro-descent Americans in this manner. Please stop doing this.

            I don’t insist that you value that culture. I do insist that you not pretend that it doesn’t exist.

          • j r says:

            @EchoChaos

            I’m not sure what point you’re making there. That white American culture has included enslaving blacks?

            No. The point is the culture that you’re calling “white American” is actually just American and has been taking contributions from non-whites since before there even was an America.

            And just to be clear, this is not just a white thing. There are black people who express pride in the African-American contribution to the United States or who are proud to be of the Nigerian diaspora or whatever and those people tend to be different than the explicit black nationalists who talk about having melanin as a superpower and believe that Napolean shot the nose off of the Sphinx to hide the fact that the ancient Egyptians were black.

            So yes, in my experience the person who says, “as someone of Scottish descent, I am proud of the contributions of the Scottish Enlightenment and its role in shaping American culture” is markedly different than the person going on about “white culture” or white pride or whatever.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I don’t see how “your culture doesn’t exist” can’t be seen as dismissive towards white Americans, and although I don’t think you meant it maliciously, I think it’s a good reminder to avoid cultural erasure of any kind.

            What you’re doing is I think pretty classic motte and bailey. The argument “white American culture doesn’t exist” becomes “some minorities contributed in some ways to white American culture, therefore it’s not exclusively white”.

            There are of course cultural differences between American states, even in the same region, and Michiganders can be proud of being Michiganders and Americans at the same time.

            Similarly, although there are differences between regions, within regions and within America, there are also similarities large enough to be a white American culture, which is clearly not European, and from which minorities were broadly excluded.

            So broadly as to form their own cultures, and while the minority cultures certainly influenced the majority (and vice versa) they were distinct. Blacks have had a very different American experience, and saying that they’re both part of the same culture still isn’t true.

            Ask any black whether they identify with Abraham Lincoln or Harriet Tubman and I don’t doubt you’ll get a pretty clear answer.

            Additionally, you see a lot of what happened to me in this thread, where the positives of American culture are given to another cultural group (the English! Multiracial groups!) and the negatives are happily assigned to “white Americans” (Slavery! Segregation! Stealing Land!).

            American was distinct enough and cohesive enough that De Tocqueville was able to write a treatise on it in the 1830s, so I also don’t buy your argument that it was a post Civil War invention. Certainly there was a great push in the aftermath of Reconstruction to try to heal some of those wounds, but the rhetoric is always “brothers who fought who now come together”. And even post civil war, the law was very clear that white was “default American” and everyone else was excluded. Witness the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1920.

          • rlms says:

            @keranih

            I am infuriated by your attempt to erase the unique perspectives and values of Euro-descent Americans in this manner.

            Name three.

          • keranih says:

            (this was originally posted in error further up and on a different subthread. My apologies.)

            @rlms –

            I’ll give you four – industriousness, faithful marriages, honesty, and religiousity.

            A fifth and sixth are appreciation for independence over security, and improvisation over following established rules in order to meet the goal.

            Before anyone jumps to claim that I am trying to say that all Caucasian Americans exhibit all these traits all the time, or that no non-Caucasians exhibit any of these traits ever – *no*, not what I’m saying.

            Might be good to recall this culture model.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Can you describe what “white American culture” is? What foods it eats? Accent and vocabulary? Clothing? Values and attitudes? Recreation? Religion?

            America is a massive place. Do white Portlanders count as white American culture, or is it white Texans? or white New Yorkers? Red or blue tribe?

          • Matt M says:

            Can you describe what “white American culture” is?

            A comprehensive effort at cataloging such things already exists!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Does it include raisins in the potato salad?

          • rlms says:

            @keranih
            Firstly, I think you’re wrong that white Americans disproportionately embody those traits. Some actually seem like non-white American culture — I think Asian Americans would be widely regarded as more industrious and black Americans are factually more religious — and I don’t see any evidence that the others are significantly more prevalent among white Americans than e.g. white Europeans.

            But secondly, I don’t think those traits (or many of the other things in the hidden part of the iceberg) are commonly regarded as part of culture. Specific instances of them might be, say if all white Americans go to a particular kind of church. That’s the kind of thing I was looking for examples of.

          • RobJ says:

            I’ll give you four – industriousness, faithful marriages, honesty, and religiousity.

            That just seems like a statement of conservatives values to me. I have a hard time seeing those as “white American” cultural values. I’d be interested to hear from outside America if they see a distinct “white American” culture, because being a white American it is much easier for me to see the dramatic differences than what is similar.

            I guess I don’t see why “white” is a necessary part of the cultural identification. If you relate to conservative American cultural values, then there is your culture, it’s already there and mostly white. Why exclude people with shared values of other races? If you take pride in the institutions constructed by our founding fathers, how about just “American”? The only reasons I see for choosing “white” are either bigotry or an unjustifiably cohesive idea of what being white in America means.

            I also have some problem with invoking the founding fathers / colonial Americans. There has been so much white immigration to America since it’s founding that it’s hard to imagine a strong through-line that is common to any majority of the white population aside from what draws people of all races to come here (so again why the need for “white”).

          • johansenindustries says:

            Do all African-Americans have to go to the same sort of church or listen to the same music for them to have a culture?

          • AG says:

            Does it include raisins in the potato salad?

            Do you mean the unsatisfying middle ground of a rehydrated dehydrated grape? Is that actually a white people thing? I thought that was an asian fusion abomination.

          • rlms says:

            @johansenindustries
            No, don’t be obtuse.

          • johansenindustries says:

            I’m not being obstuse. You’re making an isolated demand for rigour.

          • mdet says:

            (“Raisins in the potato salad” was a joke from SNL, and something of a meme among black people generally, about white people poorly adapting soul food recipes. Although it’s not really unique to that context — I’ve seen Red Tribe make similar jokes about Blue Tribe obsession with kale / arugula)

          • Nornagest says:

            Huh, TIL. It sounded to me like a joke about Midwestern food.

            Kale’s pretty good. Arugula tastes like rotten eggs, though. I mistakenly bought a thing of arugula pesto once and it made the whole dish inedible.

            I’ve heard plenty of jokes about avocados — about half directed at Californians and the other half at millennials. Mea culpa on that one, although they go bad so quickly that they’re hard to actually cook with.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:
            I was referencing SNL (specifically this Black Jeopardy skit), but I think they are cribbing off of an older joke/meme that IS about Midwestern food (for instance, church social potluck fare).

          • rlms says:

            @johansenindustries
            sufficient \neq necessary; git logic, scrub

          • johansenindustries says:

            If hugely core values like the one’s keranih don’t count and you flat out reject them if they don’t include or are more like ‘Specific instances of them might be, say if all white Americans go to a particular kind of church.’ then it suggests that you need some surface-fetish like Tacos, Mega-Churches, or ‘fish n chips, guvnor’ to have a culture. Which is completely backwards.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Everyone who is against “White American culture” says one of two things:

            “American culture belongs to everyone, therefore it isn’t just white”. Which is generous, but I’d put it differently: “White American culture is very accommodating of others mimicking it and lets them join”. The idea that a small minority joining a larger culture makes it not the larger culture is as silly as claiming there is no black urban culture because wiggers exist.

            Or “There are smaller cultures but no bigger one”, which is fairly obviously wrong, since white Americans are more similar to each other (whether from Montana or Florida) than they are to Europeans.

            Take gun rights as a simple example. White Americans are WAY crazier about guns than any other whites (or any other race) in the world. It’s very unique, but it spans the entire country, from New Hampshire, in the heart of Yankeedom, to the South, to the Mountain West and even the Left Coast.

            And the idea that minority Americans think of themselves more as Americans than their race is obviously silly. Take Black Panther. In that movie, the villain is a black American and the hero a black African, who is specifically NOT American. Yet black Americans identify with him more than they ever did with Captain America, who is the embodiment of “America”.

            White American is a real culture with a real heritage different than Europeans, Latin Americans, Black Americans or any other.

          • Matt M says:

            It might also be worth pointing out that the formation of the United States of America happened before the unification of Germany and Italy, as we know of them today.

            The notion that “German” or “Italian” culture gains its legitimacy due to having a long and lengthy tradition, but “American” culture is no such thing because it’s so new is a little strange in that regard.

            Prior to the 19th century, a “German” was simple a resident of Europe who happened to speak the German language. This granted some cultural commonalities, but certainly not all of them.

          • j r says:

            White American is a real culture with a real heritage different than Europeans, Latin Americans, Black Americans or any other.

            This is kind of true, but only in the sense that the very idea of “white” identity was specifically constructed to delineate who did and did not get the full slate of rights promised under the constitution and common law and the full protection of the law.

            I don’t want to get into a “is race a social construct” debate and I do believe that there is a biological/genetic basis for splitting people into different population groups. That said, the racial taxonomy of “white, black, asian, whatever else” is way more about social and political distinctions than about biology.

            There is certainly an “American culture,” but almost everything associated with that culture either derives directly from people of color or have people of color as significant contributors to the history and development of that thing. Look at the things that are most identifiable with America: jazz, rock and roll, cowboys, baseball. I guess apple pie is one thing that has solely European roots. But heck, even country music wouldn’t exist as it does now if it weren’t for the blues.

            I’m not being obstuse. You’re making an isolated demand for rigour.

            I don’t think that’s what happened at all. @Keranih mad the claim that religiosity is something that is distinctly identifiable as white American culture. In fact, black Americans have much higher rates of religiosity by almost any measure. See for yourself: http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/racial-and-ethnic-composition/. That’s not a selective demand for rigour; that’s just a factual correction.

            … I’d put it differently: “White American culture is very accommodating of others mimicking it and lets them join”.

            Yeah, I guess you could put it that way, but that’s a very… (please pardon the pun) whitewashed view of American history.

          • johansenindustries says:

            I don’t think that’s what happened at all. @Keranih mad the claim that religiosity is something that is distinctly identifiable as white American culture. In fact, black Americans have much higher rates of religiosity by almost any measure. See for yourself: http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/racial-and-ethnic-composition/. That’s not a selective demand for rigour; that’s just a factual correction.

            He gave six elements and they were all dismissed.

            Would we say to somebody describing the family-orientated culture of Mexicans: ‘what, look at Mormons’.

            Or somebody discussing the wordplay-loving of African Americans, ‘actually look at all these punning white people’.

            Somebody mentioned Country music taking from the blues, do we say that RnB is not part of African American culture since it is descended from western tradition?

          • j r says:

            Somebody mentioned Country music taking from the blues, do we say that RnB is not part of African American culture since it is descended from western tradition?

            The point is not that white people don’t exist or don’t have any group characteristics. The point is that all of these efforts to define American culture as white are built around erasing other people from the historical record.

            Just to be clear, I think that Northeastern WASP culture is a thing, I think that Appalachian Hillbilly culture is a thing, you can probably talk of the culture of the Bible Belt, and maybe I could think of a few more, but the idea of a singular “white American” culture is mostly a chimera.

            And when people talk about the culture of African Americans, they’re almost always talking about it as an ethnicity akin to Italian Americans or Polish Americans and not as the opposite of white. I say almost, because yes, there are black nationalists, but they represent a pretty small and marginalized part of the whole.

          • johansenindustries says:

            Nobody is saying that American culture is white, people are suggesting that there exists a white american culture which makes up part of that broader american culture.

            Just to be clear, I think that Northeastern WASP culture is a thing, I think that Appalachian Hillbilly culture is a thing, you can probably talk of the culture of the Bible Belt, and maybe I could think of a few more, but the idea of a singular “white American” culture is mostly a chimera.

            Would you agree that in terms of culture and shared touchstones that hillbillies and WASPs are more similar to each other than they are to English or Indians. That if you were to ask, for example, for a typical member to give the best author from their culture that they are both pretty likely to say something like ‘Mark Twain’. If you were to ask about the importance of free speech that they’d both be very strong in their support for it? Do they cook with the same sort of spice amount and vegetable-to-meat ratio. Do either group eat horse or haggis? What about pork or beef?

            And when people talk about the culture of African Americans, they’re almost always talking about it as an ethnicity akin to Italian Americans or Polish Americans and not as the opposite of white. I say almost, because yes, there are black nationalists, but they represent a pretty small and marginalized part of the whole.

            When mocking people objecting to Black History* Month, the response is that the other eleven are white history month not that the other eleven months are Polish or Italian history month. The backlash against George Michael popularity as a soul singer was not that he was Italian or Polish but because he was white. Nobody says that White is the opposite of Black in this case, just that they are recognized as being distinct.

            * History – who you support, take as an icon etc. – obviously is a major part of a shared culture.

          • j r says:

            Nobody is saying that American culture is white, people are suggesting that there exists a white american culture which makes up part of that broader american culture.

            The problem is that, in practice, these two things tend to look an awful lot alike.

            Go back to my original exchange with @EchoChaos. He cited Jamestown as part of “white American culture.” I pointed out that there were blacks in Jamestown, which he took to mean that I was bringing up slavery. I wasn’t. I was pointing out that a good deal of the things that get wrapped up into white American culture are just American culture, as they involve significant contributions from people of color. They become “white American” culture when you erase other people.

            Also, I’m really just not sure how I am supposed to interpret this:

            I don’t want a “White Homeland”. I want a white American homeland.

            If that’s not an explicit call for white nationalism, then I don’t know what is.

            When mocking people objecting to Black History* Month, the response is that the other eleven are white history month not that the other eleven months are Polish or Italian history month. The backlash against George Michael popularity as a soul singer was not that he was Italian or Polish but because he was white.

            That’s right and that fits exactly with the idea that, in this case, black is not the opposite of white, but the equivalent of Polish or Italian.

            And I don’t really get the point of the George Michael example. Sure, someone somewhere probably objected to George Michael or other white people singing something that sounds like soul music. So what?

            That didn’t stop George Michael from having a tremendously successful career with millions of fans (many of them black). And it didn’t stop Justin Timberlake or Teena Marie or Michael McDonald from having their own successful careers. Nor does it stop Kylie Jenner from making millions of dollars on having artificially plumped lips.

            Some of the complaints coming from the white resentment side of these conversations are really really trite.

          • johansenindustries says:

            I am not complaining about how George Michael was treated, I am saying that your world view that has a place for particular Italian, Irish cultures but not the general white is wrong. The backlash against George Michael is not reasonably described as ‘someone somewhere probably objected’ but the point is that he wasn’t objected to because of him being a particular white sub-ethnicity but because he was white.

            I don’t want a “White Homeland”. I want a white American homeland.

            If that’s not an explicit call for white nationalism, then I don’t know what is.

            That is somebody responding with the same language as his interlocutor to get to the nub of the disagreement (White American culture is not Swedish culture) in the interest of disinterested debate rather than getting on his outrage horse or throwing insults.

            It is in fact the more White Nationalist positions to think that a ‘white homeland’ is enough and that differences are racial not cultural.

            The problem is that, in practice, these two things tend to look an awful lot alike.

            As an Englishman I’m aware of this. (If I were a Scotsman, then I might be even more aware of it.) There is a British culture, an English culture, a Scottish culture etc. The English dominates because we are many, you’re more likely to hear about Shakespeare than Burns etc. But that doesn’t deny a difference. And sometimes people will mistake something that is from Scotland as being from England – people make mistakes. Film at 11 – that does not demonstrate the lack of a real distinction.

            To a certain extent I wonder how much is semantics. (I believe in an incomplete (for the individual)American culture which is made complete by the addition of the unique black American culture (which is itself incomplete because Crompton blacks are not Detroit blacks etc.) or white American culture (which is itself incomplete) whereas you believe in an American culture which black or Poles or Italian etc.deviate (in part) from.

            I am interested in the question ‘is there such a thing as a distinct white American culture’. Are you interested in a different question?

          • keranih says:

            To hit a few high (and low) points of the replies –

            – All cultures share common points with *some* other cultures, just as all human groups share genes with other human groups (or for that matter, with other species, be they ape or banana). It is a fundamental error to say “other groups are also X so being X can’t be a distinguishing characteristic of *this* group”.

            – I deliberately use ‘Caucasian’ instead of ‘white’ (and African-American instead of black) to highlight the shared ancestry part of the cultural transmission. Another term is ‘Euro-descent’ – and so is ‘Anglo-American’. None of these terms is perfect – but neither is ‘African-American’ which fails to convey the limited selection of individuals who were funneled through the slave trade to the Americas. (It wasn’t a representative selection of all of Africa, or even sub-Sahara Africa.)

            – For the SSC commentators here – consider that you yourself might not be a typical member of the culture under consideration. ‘Caucasian American culture’ – aka ‘stuff white people like’ – is *not* the same as ‘urban globalist culture subset United States’. There is overlap, yes, but its not the same.

            — those who point out that WASP is a thing, and so is the Appalachian culture, and Portandia (although that’s more globalist than many) and so is the West…*yes*. You’re getting it. You see a difference between the average majority expression of preferences by the people in one group vs the people of another group. There are like differences between Euro-descent Americans and all those not Euro-descent Americans.

            —those who say that ‘the majority of those differences in preferences originated in, and can not be distinguished from, the influences of [non-Euro-descent Americans but mostly African Americans]’ – no, not correct in my opinion. There are strong influences, yes, and ‘American South’ culture is a mix of the African American culture and the Euro-descent culture that is now (and for some time) its own thing, (much to the surprise of non-South people who only encountered dark-skinned people who ate greens & watermelon) But Euro-descent culture has habits and expressed preferences quite distinct from African-American.

            —-African-American culture isn’t African, either.

            – Yes, there are groups that are more religious than Euro-descent Americans. Yes, there are groups that are more industrious (Germans, for a notorious example). There are groups with a higher average honesty (English would be my go-to here, but I am willing to accept other suggestions.) The grouping of the distinct traits is what makes Euro-Americans distinguishable from others.

            – As previously indicated – another trait that is both distinct and fairly unique is the tolerance for mimicry and incursions – that is, Euro-descent Americans take up new habits with ease and are not jealous of others taking up their own. For comparison – the French and the Japanese (each in different ways.)

            – As for ‘pop culture’ preferences – there is science fiction, which is popular across American culture and to a depth into the hinterlands in a way that is unique, and there is what Tai-Nelson Coates called “white people guitars” – the emphasis on strings vs on drums/horns/other rhythm devices in music. Salad is served before a meal (ask the Australians about this) and is generally served instead of soup. Bread is wheat-based and sliced. Cold milk and cereal is a typical breakfast. these are things that can be seen in any household across the planet. But they appear commonly and typically ‘mongst mine own kind.

            As I said in the beginning – one doesn’t have to be part of this culture. One doesn’t have see it as all that valuable. But it is *there*. Stop saying that it isn’t.

            annnddd as a final point – it’s “she” – as in, when keranih said that, I think SHE meant… Not because I’m cranky at anyone, but just as a point of fact.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s right and that fits exactly with the idea that, in this case, black is not the opposite of white, but the equivalent of Polish or Italian.

            Does this even make sense though?

            “Black” is, also, a very generic term to describe a very large group of people with wildly different genetic histories and ethnic traditions. The “culture” of African-Americans is very different from the culture of Jamaicans, which is very different from the culture of West Africa, which is very different from the culture of South Africa, etc.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t identify with any specific European ethnicity. My father’s line comes from Poland and I’ve got their religion (Catholic) and we make grandma’s khruchiki recipe at Christmas, but that’s about it. My mother’s father descends from Italian immigrants and my mother’s mother’s family predates the Revolution. My 23 & Me results are a map of Europe.

            One can say my culture is “American,” as I like guns, the flag, freedom, self-reliance, burgers, the Constitution, free speech, driving my own car, capitalism, stadium sports that aren’t soccer, and the awesome power of the US military. But my culture is clearly distinct from black American (or African-American) culture because if I tried to do stuff commonly associated with black people like rap or sway and clap in church people would make fun of me.

            What subset of American culture is my specific culture, then, if not “white American?”

          • j r says:

            Does this even make sense though?

            Yes, if you put it in the context in which it was mentioned, which is in regards to Black History Month. Black History Month equals African American History month. It doesn’t equal History of the Black Race Month.

            As I mentioned above, there are in fact black nationalists, where the black refers to a racial category and not the specific ethnic category of African Americans. And black nationalists tend to be pretty similar to white nationalists. That is, both groups have an agenda beyond simple appreciation of a shared culture.

            I’m not sure why this is such a controversial topic for some people. This is how these categories are used in the real world. If you were on a college campus and you saw a flyer for the Greek Student Union sponsored Greek Cultural Appreciation Day, you’d probably expect to find a party with people serving souvlaki and musaka Maybe there’d be some folk dancing and someone playing the bouzouki. If you saw a flyer for the Black Student Union having an African American Cultural Appreciation Day, maybe you’d find some kind of politically charged grievance fest, but you’d just as likely find soul food and jazz music and lessons in hip hop dance. That is, in those situations, there’s a good chance that you’re going to find people with no political motive, but who really just want to celebrate that culture.

            If, however, you’re on a college campus and you see a flyer for White Appreciate Day, you can be pretty sure that you’re not just going to find a bunch of people playing the banjo or talking about the history of Mainline Protestantism. No, you’re going to find one of two things: a gathering of actual white nationalists or some kind of protest/publicity stunt meant to harp on the supposed double-standard of not being able to openly celebrate white culture.

            Again, there are factual claims. Go investigate them for yourself. Here’s a Wikipedia article on White Student Unions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Student_Unions. Almost all the cases mention fall into one of the above two categories.

          • albatross11 says:

            Fuzzy categories are fuzzy; If I say Mexican culture includes a love of fireworks, that’s not invalidated by pointing out that many other people also love fireworks, nor by pointing out that some Mexicans can’t stand fireworks.

          • Matt M says:

            Black History Month equals African American History month.

            Does it?

            I recall plenty of celebration of “African-American” and Caribbean history included within the overall purview of “black history month.”

            And even if I concede your point, there are still numerous different African tribes. In that case, the equivalent would NOT be “Irish History Month” but rather “European History Month”

          • johansenindustries says:

            Again, there are factual claims

            Sure it is a factual claim, but it isn’t a factual claim that favours ‘there is no such thing as white american culture’ over white american culture it does not need a designated space.

            For example, in the UK there are ‘American-style’ restaurants/diners we can go to. I would assume that is not the case in the US. (You might have 50s style diners, but that’s a bit different).

          • Nornagest says:

            It might also be worth pointing out that the formation of the United States of America happened before the unification of Germany and Italy, as we know of them today.

            This is true, but it’s also true that nationalism — viz. the idea that ethnic/cultural/linguistic nations should coincide with political borders — is a fairly new thing. That idea won so thoroughly that most of us don’t really think about it anymore (though ethnic nationalism is very much still an active issue in various places), but it wasn’t well established at all as late as the 17th century; Germany and Italy were relative latecomers as far as Europe goes, but only relative ones. Generally, the further back you go, the less well the political borders match the cultural ones.

            That doesn’t mean that German culture, f’rex, doesn’t have a long history. It just means that most of it was the history of the German-speaking peoples, not the history of the German nation-state.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Conrad Honcho,

            You’re red tribe

            Remember how Scott has 150 facebook friends and none of them are creationists, yet half of Americans are creationists? That’s because it is a different culture

          • Matt M says:

            That doesn’t mean that German culture, f’rex, doesn’t have a long history.

            My suggestion is that it means that “German culture” as we understand it is actually a “melting pot” (if you will) of Prussian culture and Bavarian culture and other Germanic cultures that started combining together in a national form in the 19th century.

            Which is remarkably similar to “American culture” in that sense. The claim here seems to be that American culture has a categorically different built-in demand for diversity and multi-ethnicity that does not exist in any other culture. I dispute this claim.

          • RobJ says:

            I think part of the issue I have is the disproportionality of it. It’s certainly possible that you can come up with things that are more common among white Americans than other groups. And sure, there are black people who don’t identify with black culture, which doesn’t completely invalidate the existence of black culture. But when a huge percentage of the people that are in the culture you claim (white Americans) reject it, that should tell you something. And I think part of the reason so many people reject it is that it is too big. As mentioned previously, a lot of the things being claimed as white American culture are just red tribe culture. That’s a big chunk of white Americans, no doubt, but I don’t think it’s even a majority. Can you really claim to be part of a culture that more than half the people in it don’t identify with?

          • EchoChaos says:

            I think the “culture” thing has been beaten to death, but I’ll say that I stand by my statement that motte and baileying is going on a lot here.

            But I do want to address the “White nationalist” part, because I think it’s a fairly interesting point. I want an America that is dominated by white American culture. I identify that with baseball, apple pie, guns, God, family, patriotism, etc.

            There is basically only one people in the world that has that, and it’s white Americans. This isn’t because other people are bad, but it isn’t their culture.

            To maintain that, you have to maintain the demography of the country, which means maintaining majority white. In places that are majority-minority, the culture I love is gone.

            So I am “white nationalist” in the sense that I want my culture maintained and my culture is white American. But I’d be just as against a mass movement of white Frenchmen that were turning my country French (and anti-Irish/Italian/German sentiment in the past shows this is a pretty traditional American view).

            But this view is also held by my Grandfather, who literally fought Hitler. If you want to call that white nationalism, go ahead. But I’m explicitly not white supremacist and I don’t want the internal laws of the US to oppress the minorities here.

          • dick says:

            Thank you for typing this up, this is a clear and earnest description of a position that I’ve had little exposure to. Which is what I’m here for! And I’m sympathetic to loving and wanting to preserve your culture. What I don’t really buy is the idea that the culture you’re trying to preserve is “white American culture.” After reading this thread, it seems fairer to say that there are a bunch of different overlapping and intermingled American cultures, and you love the subset you grew up with or identify with. Nothing wrong with that, but “I’m concerned that my favorite subset of American culture is being subsumed by competing American cultures” does not quite have the same heft.

            Anyway, one question:

            To maintain that, you have to maintain the demography of the country, which means maintaining majority white.

            Why? America has a lot of non-white people who love baseball and guns and Jesus, and a lot of white people who don’t. Is it the culture you want to keep, or the skin tone?

            (NB: Texas isn’t majority white, and they have two baseball teams. California isn’t either, and they have four. Five, if you count the Padres.)

          • EchoChaos says:

            @dick

            You continue to take a reductive “Thing X is your culture and there are non-white people who like Thing X, therefore you should be okay importing millions of them” approach.

            A culture is far too large to distill to a series of points, and there are substantial differences even when people like the same things.

            There is a reason that a constant refrain among white Americans on the right is that there is a feeling of loss, that the American communities that their parents and grandparents belonged to is under siege and perhaps vanishing entirely.

            Making reductive statements like “but there are still baseball teams in California” doesn’t reassure those people.

            Especially when they are gleefully saying that the culture people are worried about losing doesn’t exist.

          • dick says:

            I didn’t mean your culture was only baseball and Jesus and guns. I accept that there is a hard-to-define thing that called “your culture” and I’m not demanding that you be able to define it precisely. But whatever it is, aren’t there non-white Americans who share it with you, and white Americans who don’t? And if so, doesn’t it follow that the way to preserve your culture is to spread it to people who don’t share it (regardless of their race), not to maximize the number of white people (regardless of their culture)?

          • EchoChaos says:

            But whatever it is, aren’t there non-white Americans who share it with you, and white Americans who don’t?

            Absolutely there are. You can probably think of examples off the top of your head. They are the minorities of both groups (i.e. the majority of white Americans share my culture and the majority of non-white Americans don’t).

            And if so, doesn’t it follow that the way to preserve your culture is to spread it to people who don’t share it (regardless of their race), not to maximize the number of white people (regardless of their culture)?

            Culture is something you’re born into. Humans really don’t change culture much during life, and those few people who do generally find it a traumatic and uncomfortable experience. Most minorities who share white American culture have either had an usual life story or have consciously changed culture.

            Let’s say I was the most amazing cultural changer in the world and could convince a full third of people to share my culture. That would still mean I would become more outnumbered the more people came.

            And the rejoined “Italians and Irishmen joined your culture”, well, that’s mostly false. They had very different cultures, and it was only intermarriage with the white American community and generations that made them “white Americans”.

            I don’t care about “more white people” in the abstract, although as their sort-of cousin I do wish them well. I DO care about more white Americans, because that’s who I am. And I believe that the only way to make more is the old fashioned way, which is why I am expecting my fourth child within the week.

          • Matt M says:

            And if so, doesn’t it follow that the way to preserve your culture is to spread it to people who don’t share it (regardless of their race)

            Well the British definitely tried that.

            A lot of people seem to have not appreciated the attempt.

          • Dan L says:

            @EchoChaos

            They are the minorities of both groups (i.e. the majority of white Americans share my culture and the majority of non-white Americans don’t).

            This isn’t obvious to me. I would like you to make an empirical case that the culture you’re indicating is better described by ethnicity than by, say, time period and socio-economic status. (Or by the words “red tribe”.) “The majority of white Americans share my culture” is a tough case to make about anyone who predates the current identifiable trappings.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @EchoChaos

            I am sympathetic for the most part to your stance about what you’re calling “White American Culture”, but I have to push back on something because I think it is a fundamental tactical error. When you say “there is basically only one people in the world that has that, and it’s White Americans”, that basically is doing too much work. Are the majority of the people who have that culture Caucasian? I’m almost positive that the answer is yes. But it’s an exaggeration and a serious mistake to ignore the degree to which that culture HAS successfully assimilated non-white individuals and families from the 1800s to today.

            I won’t even object to a claim like “Irish, Italian, and English immigrants can be assimilated faster than Hispanics, who can be assimilated faster than Asians, who can be assimilated faster than Arabs, who can be assimilated faster than African-Americans”, at least not for the purposes of our current conversation (I think it has less to do with racial makeup and a lot to do with a combination of individual attitudes and parent culture, but we’ll set that aside for now). The fact remains that we DO have fully assimilated and integrated Hispanics, Asians, Blacks, Arabs, and so forth who ARE part of your “White American Culture”. And that means that you’re wrong in your assumption that the only way to preserve that culture is to maintain majority-white demographics. You dismiss this as “intermarriage and generations”, but what is intermarriage if not a marker of cultural assimilation, and multi-generational assimilation is still assimilation.

            Now, that potentially long timescale DOES indicate that there are levels and more importantly rates of demographic change beyond which the integrity of your culture is threatened. But that’s something that can be addressed with tweaks to immigration policy and to culture well short of framing it as a matter of “We have to make sure there are more whites than blacks in this neighborhood/state/country or else our culture will be destroyed”. And I think we want to avoid that sort of framing and thinking because it is precisely that approach that not only slows the rate of assimilation of new immigrants (which we are going to have) but it puts everyone who isn’t already well-integrated even more on the defensive and makes it more of an explicit culture war.

            I will freely admit that it’s not as simple at this point as the sorts of strategies employed by politicians like Mitt Romney. I’m talking more long term and not primarily focused on granting of political favors to specific minority interests (in part because that would simply reinforce the coherence of a ‘minority interest’, when I want to decohere and assimilate that group into the whole as much as possible).

          • Aapje says:

            @j r

            If you saw a flyer for the Black Student Union having an African American Cultural Appreciation Day, maybe you’d find some kind of politically charged grievance fest, but you’d just as likely find soul food and jazz music and lessons in hip hop dance. That is, in those situations, there’s a good chance that you’re going to find people with no political motive, but who really just want to celebrate that culture.

            If, however, you’re on a college campus and you see a flyer for White Appreciate Day, you can be pretty sure that you’re not just going to find a bunch of people playing the banjo or talking about the history of Mainline Protestantism.

            Sure, but that is because specifically appreciating White American culture is associated with racism, so non-racist people don’t do it.

            So if you want to play the Banjo in a group, you call it Banjo Appreciation Day or if you want to have both Banjo playing and talking about the history of Mainline Protestantism, you find another pretext, like Southern Culture Appreciation Day.

            Black Americans have more leeway to explicitly celebrate their culture.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @LesHapablap

            You’re red tribe

            Remember how Scott has 150 facebook friends and none of them are creationists, yet half of Americans are creationists? That’s because it is a different culture

            In that same essay, Scott repeatedly called out liberal publications using “white” and “America” as synonyms for what he called “Red Tribe.”

            If I say “Red Tribe” everyone here nods and understands what I mean. If I say “White American,” well, that just doesn’t exist. This does not follow. What SSC refers to as “red tribe” everyone else, supporters and critics alike, refers to as “white America.”

            Regardless of what actions one thinks are acceptable to preserve or destroy this culture, I don’t understand the claim it doesn’t exist.

            Is there anyone else in the world, besides white Americans who do not identify with a European ethnicity, who also do not have a culture?

          • RobJ says:

            What SSC refers to as “red tribe” everyone else, supporters and critics alike, refers to as “white America.”

            That’s definitely not true. Sometimes, sure, but it more often gets referred to as “rural America”, or maybe sometimes the “white working class” or more pejoratively “rednecks”. “White America” mostly gets invoked in relation to minority issues. Things like “What white America doesn’t understand about [insert minority culture here]” or “privilege” talk, etc…

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @RobJ

            So “white American culture” does exist, and it’s broader than merely the Red Tribe, encompassing the things white Red/Blue/Grey tribe Americans have in common?

            Or does it only exist when one wants to criticize it, but not when one wants to defend it? Like you can indict “white America” for racism, but one can’t defend “white America” for valuing individual liberty, self-reliance or adherence to the rule of law without being told that “white America” doesn’t exist?

          • AG says:

            I want an America that is dominated by white American culture. I identify that with baseball, apple pie, guns, God, family, patriotism, etc.

            As was pointed out above, most of the signifiers chosen here were historically developed with ample participation or origination in minority groups. They only became red tribe territory recently, because red tribers systematically excluded minorities until said minorities, tired of fighting the gatekeeping, abandoned those aspects to make new ones. And then some historical erasure was gleefully had to finish staking their claim to that culture.

            This isn’t just a red tribe thing. I side-eye the “white people stole jazz from black people” narrative a bit because it does the same erasure of how much Jews shaped jazz. To claim jazz as inherently white or black culture is just factually wrong.

            The most American thing I’ve ever seen was a South Bay 4th of July parade. A troupe of Sikh Boy Scouts marched with American flags, wearing both Eagle Scout uniforms and turbans. People celebrated baseball, apple pie, guns, God, family, patriotism, and fish tacos and tikki masala and Panda Express Fried Rice, and even masala pizza. Utopia, honestly. I support the Melting Pot/And Culture/Culture Plus Culture.

            (People mock the implications of melting pot via Brazilian fusion food, but honestly, goals)

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Is there anyone else in the world, besides white Americans who do not identify with a European ethnicity, who also do not have a culture?

            Yes, loads! Ethnic Asians in Asia, and ditto for Europe and Africa. Of course, Japanese Japanese, white French and black Nigerians all have cultures, but so do white South Dakotans. It’s true that the US is more or less unique in not having a majority ethnic group culture, but that’s because it’s unique in various other ways: it has a pretty short history; no unique language; and a relatively small ethnic majority containing people who are very culturally influential on a national and global level.

          • albatross11 says:

            AG:

            That scene kind-of catches a big part of what I think of as white American culture, to be honest.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Got it. So the next time someone brings up white privilege, or how the legacy of slavery benefits white people today, or writes a “What White People Need to Understand About X” post you’ll be sure to inform them that their premise is incoherent because there is no group of “white people.” They’ll need to specifically address “white South Dakotan privilege,” how the legacy of slavery benefits white South Dakotans today, and reframe their article to address “What White South Dakotans Need to Understand About X.”

          • RobJ says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            So “white American culture” does exist, and it’s broader than merely the Red Tribe, encompassing the things white Red/Blue/Grey tribe Americans have in common?

            What white Americans have in common is white skin, which in America could approximate to not visibly belonging to a minority group. Things that relate to this particular feature are generally what is being discussed in those types of articles (sure, not always). If you want to hang a culture on that, ok, but it doesn’t seem like much to me. Maybe you could come up with a few other things in common between blue/grey/red but I just have a hard time coming up with a coherent culture from that.

            Is there anyone else in the world, besides white Americans who do not identify with a European ethnicity, who also do not have a culture?

            Everyone is part of some culture. I just object one named “white Americans”. Can’t you pick something a little smaller and more coherent? It feels like the motivation not to do that is to somehow win identity politics by gathering white people under the same cultural banner. I’d prefer to just push back on the foregrounding of identity politics altogether.

          • rlms says:

            “White culture doesn’t exist” \neq “white people doesn’t exist”, pls logic moar.

            Although of course “what white people need to understand” would be an incoherent headline anyway.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It feels like the motivation not to do that is to somehow win identity politics by gathering white people under the same cultural banner. I’d prefer to just push back on the foregrounding of identity politics altogether.

            But I’m not trying to gather white people under the same cultural banner. I’ve always been trying to do the color blind thing, and judge someone by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Deal with people as individuals.

            But then we got all the white privilege and “smash white supremacy” rhetoric and lots and lots of criticisms of “white people” and it feels like some of the non-white identity politics people are really trying to gather up all the white people into one group to excoriate them.

            It all seems extremely muddy and ill-defined and the rules of what you can say without pushback vary wildly depending on who you are and whether the statements are positive or negative. You can say white people are racist, responsible for slavery and all sorts of other injustices, should defer to and/or compensate other races, but also white people don’t exist so anything nice about them is incoherent but also white privilege is real and white supremacy should be smashed.

            It’s all very confusing. I’m just going to stick with liking the things I like in whatever it is I have that approximates a culture and being against people trying to change them.

          • rlms says:

            You can say white people are racist, responsible for slavery and all sorts of other injustices, should defer to and/or compensate other races

            Well, I don’t actually think you should say those things (where “white people” means “all” not “some”) but regardless only the first one could be a claim about culture.

          • Dan L says:

            I retract my earlier post in this thread in favor of +1’ing Trofim_Lysenko… though more empiricism is always good.

            @Conrad Honcho:

            But I’m not trying to gather white people under the same cultural banner. I’ve always been trying to do the color blind thing, and judge someone by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Deal with people as individuals.

            But then we got all the white privilege and “smash white supremacy” rhetoric and lots and lots of criticisms of “white people” and it feels like some of the non-white identity politics people are really trying to gather up all the white people into one group to excoriate them.

            It all seems extremely muddy and ill-defined and the rules of what you can say without pushback vary wildly depending on who you are and whether the statements are positive or negative. You can say white people are racist, responsible for slavery and all sorts of other injustices, should defer to and/or compensate other races, but also white people don’t exist so anything nice about them is incoherent but also white privilege is real and white supremacy should be smashed.

            It’s all very confusing. I’m just going to stick with liking the things I like in whatever it is I have that approximates a culture and being against people trying to change them.

            I actually agree with all of this. I’ll probably always resent Social Justice for taking the color blinders I had in childhood away from me.

            But I still object to the object-level argument that “White” is a useful description of the cultural group (I think) you are gesturing toward.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        I move in some confederate but no white supremacist circles, and I never knew anything edgy or cultural about 14 or 88 until this thread (but did you know that neither one can be written as a sum of two squares? 😉 ).

    • EchoChaos says:

      The Fourteen Words, like “It’s okay to be white”, always struck me as a powerful bit of trolling rhetoric by the white supremacists.

      Because the Fourteen Words are so clearly unobjectionable when said by anyone else about their own homeland.

      If the Prime Minister of Japan said “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for Japanese children”, he would be basically in line with all his rhetoric since forever.

      Same with Israel, Nigeria, Egypt, etc. The fact that people flip out when it says “white” is clearly meant to make leftists appear anti-white. Given that it is considered hate speech, it seems to be working.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Complicating factor: why the heck would a good person reject the possibility of marrying someone of a different race, in a country where citizens of different races are a fait accompli, so long as they’re the right religion?

        • EchoChaos says:

          I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask here, because I’m not actually a white supremacist and have mixed race marriages in my own family, but I’d say that the most common reason is that you want your kids to look like you.

          My black sister-in-law has commented that it is lamentable to her that all her kids can pass for Mediterranean or lighter because they don’t look as much like her, and she’s been asked if they’re adopted.

          • Tarpitz says:

            My mixed-race half-brothers look a lot like my Dad (and like me, and like my full brothers). There’s a lot more to visual similarity than skin tone.

            Though in fairness, I do occasionally suspect that Dad actually reproduces by cloning, not sexually…

        • hls2003 says:

          I suppose if race is a useful proxy for culture, then that could explain it. It would be the same phenomenon you’re gesturing at with “the right religion” – compatibility on cultural values and likelihood of inter-family harmony.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I suppose if race is a useful proxy for culture, then that could explain it. It would be the same phenomenon you’re gesturing at with “the right religion”

            Sure, and in some countries I think that’d be a pretty valid proxy.
            Meanwhile the point EchoChaos brought up about their sister-in-law doesn’t fit my moral intuitions. Their point doesn’t seem outright evil, but I wouldn’t feel right about having a racial bias toward redheads for the sake of my future children.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Really? I have heard many redheads concerned about a future without redheads, even hypothetically, and commenting about how amazing something like Redhead Days are.

            When you have a racial gap large enough that your kids’ resemblance is faint enough that you are mistaken for a non-relative, I can see how that would hurt a lot, especially when it’s relentless.

            When added to other proxies like culture and class, it can certainly form a pretty substantial barrier.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            When you have a racial gap large enough that your kids’ resemblance is faint enough that you are mistaken for a non-relative, I can see how that would hurt a lot, especially when it’s relentless.

            Oh, I sympathize with where she’s coming from. It’s just not something that had previously even been in my thought-world as a redhead American mutt.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          You said would and not should so I will list reasons without justifying them. I’m not prepared to litigate these at length.

          1. Outbreeding depression
          2. Higher rates of inter-partner abuse
          3. Identity issues for the offspring
          4. “Unfair competition” for members of one sex of a particular ethnic group. [In the case where these couples are asymmetrically weighted in favor of one gender, the opposite gender has fewer partner options in relative and absolute terms]
          5. “Colorism” [this might be the wrong term] But I mean it as a situation where theoretically everyone could identify in part as being one race but class distinctions are still very real along the lines of skin tone.
          6. Chesterton’s fence (I’d say this is the weakest argument)

      • mdet says:

        The difference is that ethnic Japanese and nationality Japanese are pretty much the same thing. But part of the premise of America for most people is that we’re supposed to stand apart from other nations who define themselves by ethnicity, and simply welcome the best of everyone. The Fourteen Words deliberately imply that America should prioritize white people.

        But I do have some sympathy for what you’re saying — I recently had a conversation with family about some little cousins who are light enough that they could easily pass for white. As they grow up, should they identify as “mixed”? “White”? Neither? If they choose “white”, does that affect their relationship to our side of the family? Should we care?

        • EchoChaos says:

          I think that’s the exact point that they’re making.

          They’re angry that as Americans they don’t get a country that “ethnic” and “nationality” are the same.

          • perlhaqr says:

            They’re angry that as Americans they don’t get a country that “ethnic” and “nationality” are the same.

            Which, given that America is explicitly multicultural in origin, seems foolish. If they want a White Homeland, they should move to Sweden and agitate for one there. It’s a perfectly nice, historically “White” country.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            America is explicitly multicultural in origin

            Hmm. What? Certainly before 1800 the citizenry was overwhelmingly British Isles and even more overwhelmingly Northern European.

            Granted that the founders generally did not espouse an ethnic foundation to their new nation — but ethnic nationalism is a rather later invention. In any case, in a world of considerably lower geographic mobility, one could argue that it went without saying.

          • Matt M says:

            Granted that the founders generally did not espouse an ethnic foundation to their new nation

            The founders also didn’t espouse a hugely centralized national government. The complete and total erosion and subjugation of states rights came much later, and with it, the sublimation of localized culture.

            Do we really need to go back into our Albion’s Seed here?

          • EchoChaos says:

            Which, given that America is explicitly multicultural in origin, seems foolish.

            What? The Founders wrote “For us and our Posterity” into the Constitution. That’s about as explicitly racial as you get.

            Then they passed a naturalization law that restricted citizenship to only “whites”.

            It was pretty clear that they thought in starkly racial terms.

            If they want a White Homeland, they should move to Sweden and agitate for one there. It’s a perfectly nice, historically “White” country.

            I don’t want a “White Homeland”. I want a white American homeland. I’m not Swedish, Polish, English, Norwegian or French.

            I’m American.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            The founders also didn’t espouse a hugely centralized national government.

            True enough, but I don’t see the relevance: perlhaqr asserted that America is explicitly multicultural in origin, and I countered that the originators were thoroughly unicultural, so where did that assertion come from?

            I have no objection to the claim that America is currently multicultural, both in its population and in its consensus ideals (to the extent that it actually has those). It was the assertion that it was always thus that struck me as mistaken.

          • perlhaqr says:

            True enough, but I don’t see the relevance: perlhaqr asserted that America is explicitly multicultural in origin, and I countered that the originators were thoroughly unicultural, so where did that assertion come from?

            “Catholic” and “Protestant” are cultures. Those two things getting along without killing each other was a new thing at the time, and still not something we’ve precisely mastered all over the world.

            Likewise, as other people have mentioned, Scots, Irish, Welsh, English, etc, are not all the same culture. And there were Germans here at the time of the Founding.

            It wasn’t broadly multicultural, but it was multicultural.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Wikipedia says that in 1785, Catholics were 0.6% of the population.

            But I’ll still grudgingly concede your point. The motivation for “freedom of religion” does seem explicitly multicultural, though at the time it was mainly about keeping the various Protestant sects from being at each other’s throats.

            Regarding the various flavors of Brits, I’m not that convinced. Yes, there were cultural differences, but they had been British subjects for a hundred years, and the rationale for independence was related to how the British government ought to be treating its American subjects. I’ve certainly never seen anything suggesting the line of thought that America was a haven where Scots and Welsh and English could come and live together happily as they could not in Britain.

            Germans I’ll sort of grant you: wikipedia says they were about 9% of the white population shortly after the founding. Still, Franklin said:

            Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.

            That’s just Franklin, of course, a generation older than most of the founders, but it doesn’t sound like someone with a particularly multicultural vision.

        • Matt M says:

          But part of the premise of America for most people is that we’re supposed to

          One might also argue that another part of the premise of America is that the citizenry can change its mind and decide to have a different premise, if they so choose.

          The requirement to embrace diversity may have found its way into our founding mythos via a large statue from France, but I might suggest that if it was as critical of a component of our nation as everyone today seems to insist it is, they might have written it into the constitution?

          • mdet says:

            It’s definitely true that the Founders didn’t hold ethnic diversity as any kind of ideal. (They DID hold religious tolerance and pluralism as an ideal though) But it wasn’t too long after America was founded that the country went from “A bunch of British immigrants” to “A bunch of British, French, German, Spanish, etc immigrants”. We’ve been ethnically pluralistic as a country for much longer than not.

            I think there’s a difference between “We should not champion diversity at the cost of other ideals” (fine with me), “Here are ways that the progressive left is hostile to white people in the name of ‘diversity’” (fine with me) and “America should prioritize white people” (We tried that. My grandparents were not fans)

          • albatross11 says:

            +1

          • baconbits9 says:

            It is also worth noting that “British” then was more fragmented of an identity than British is now, and that the English, Welsh, Scots and Irish really didn’t consider themselves culturally homogeneous to any extent (heck, they still don’t).

          • Iain says:

            “E pluribus unum” was a founding motto of the United States. The scope of “pluribus” has indisputably changed since then; on the other hand, so has the scope of “all men” in “all men are created equal”.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          1. The ambiguity about who is and isn’t in a particular group is no greater or less than that concerning the laws governing protected classes as well as policies like affirmative action.
          2. There’s an enormous amount of revisionism that goes on about the intent of the founders as well as US immigration history. And I mean revisionism in the very negative sense.
          a. The first naturalization act of the united states, which IIRC the 9th law passed by the same congress that ratified the constitution [and this law was passed before the bill of rights] was explicitly racial. Later on exceptions were made for freemen
          b. IIRC a court case determined that Indians did not meet naturalization criteria and Chinese were explicitly discriminated against (I will need to double check this fact myself)
          c. The criteria ostsensibly did not exclude eastern Europeans, but the shift in the ethnic composition of the US during the turn of the century prompted congress to make an even stricter criteria by instituting a national origins quotas.

          This is also a point people get wrong. If Irish and Italians were legally not thought of as white they would have been subject to expatriation. (retroactively rescinding citizenship on these grounds had been done before) However the large influx of them likely prompted a tightening of the rules so as to keep the US more NW European.
          d. The law was changed in 1965 and from then on the bulk of US immigration comes from Latin America and Asia. This is also why some people refer to new generations of immigrants derogatorily as ‘Hart-Celler Americans’ i.e. referencing the law that made it possible.
          e. A large number of people are convinced, or have convinced others that the 1965 criteria had always been the criteria and that this criteria was the intent of the founders. And they’ll do this by mentioning the title of a play written by a British playwright as the poem written on a French statue celebrating French-American cooperation in the war of independence which has no relevance to independence. It’s fair to say, both of these people in question were projecting their own feelings on what they saw the united States as and were hardly representative of mainstream US opinion both at the time and at the founding.

        • perlhaqr says:

          any more than they can acquire our Complexion.

          Heh. Still more evidence as to how what constitutes “white” is ever changing. Honestly, if we just wait another 200 years, sub-saharan Africans will be considered “white”. *laughing headshake*

          Anyway. Yes, it’s not very strong evidence, and I’m kind of cheating anyway, since America was the first country (as far as I’m aware) on something other than “I’m the King and this is now my country.” But the Founders made a point of laying the groundwork for some remarkably different people to work together, even if the pool of “differentness” was smaller at the time they were doing it.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            But the Founders made a point of laying the groundwork for some remarkably different people to work together

            Granted. But to me a huge part of “multicultural” is the connotation that it’s intentional, a critical part of the design, and I just believe there was nothing like that in the minds of most of the founders, and that the evidence suggests that most of them would have denied it. They knew who they were and what they were doing, and “multiculturalism” had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

            As Daniel Hannan writes in Inventing Freedom, the genius of the Anglo-American liberal project is that it depends not on race or ethnicity but rather on a shared intellectual heritage, and its correctness is validated by the places where British colonialism managed to imbue that intellectual heritage even in places with other races and ethnicities. (I’m paraphrasing a much longer argument.) But the intellectual heritage is the foundation while the multiculturalism is nice fallout; don’t put the cart before the horse.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Because the Fourteen Words are so clearly unobjectionable when said by anyone else about their own homeland.

        I have to strongly disagree with you there. I mean — well, first of all, what do you mean, “about their own homeland”? The fourteen words mention no homeland.

        Fundamentally they’re not unobjectionable at all because they only make sense from a point of view where races or other collectives are considered morally important — from an individualist point of view it’s nonsense. Who on earth is “our people”? Why do we care about the future of this group?

        I think there’s a bit of sleight of hand going on here. See, when you speak of securing your existence, that suggests that one is worried about being killed. But a group can be diminished in number, or eventually cease to exist, not only by deaths, but also by people leaving. I think language that implicitly groups together people leaving with people dying is, um, not good. I mean I’ll grant you that from a collectivist perspective, where groups of people have moral relevance beyond that of the individuals composing them, it makes perfect sense. I just object strongly to such a perspective.

        (I mean, in this particular case, you can’t really leave the group that is “white people” — although you can have non-white children, which from the point of view of the fourteen words is much the same. But we can replace “white” with, say, a religion or something.)

        I do agree that a lot of why it’s considered objectionable is a matter of context. As you say, if the PM of Japan were to say “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for Japanese children”, I don’t think I’d read it so objectionably. But that’s for two reasons:
        1. What does context suggest he’s talking about? He’s the leader of a government so he’s probably talking about war or something, i.e., he’s worried about people getting killed — not about conversion or intermarriage!
        2. Or maybe he’s not talking about war, but he’s almost certainly talking about Japan as a sovereign country, not Japan as a race. In which case the alternative, I suppose, is that he’d be talking about emigration or possibly low birth rates. Which, OK, might not make sense from an individualist perspective, but, well, he’s the leader of the government, we expect him to consider his country-as-a-group important, you know? (Country, not race.)

        Similar readings can perhaps be applied, to a lesser or greater extent depending on their individual contexts, to the other countries you mention, though I wouldn’t say always.

        But the context of the actual fourteen words is neither that they’re worried about killings nor that they’re being said by the PM of Whiteland. It’s very clear that they’re meant in the collectivist apostasy-is-equivalent-to-death sense. Not unobjectionable at all.

        (Of course, this is from a liberal perspective, not from a leftist/SJer perspective. I’d agree that the latter are being hypocritical. Sort of. I mean it makes sense given their whole wacky view of the world, but I would object to that view, etc., I don’t need to go on about this.)

        • EchoChaos says:

          I’m conservative but not white supremacist, but the idea that you want white children to be protected seems pretty non controversial.

          I agree that there are all those contexts, just like “It’s okay to be white” or “Black Lives Matter”. The whole point of the statements are to be obvious statements that everyone agrees with that people with an agenda back their agenda.

          That’s why they’re powerful rhetoric. Everyone but the most monstrous believes that Black Lives Matter. And they should. That doesn’t mean they agree with the people who are spewing the rhetoric.

          Similarly, anyone who doesn’t believe white children deserve a future is a monster unworthy of engaging with.

          Also, the idea the genocide by breeding whites out of existence makes it better is a terrible meme and liberals should please stop using it. I’m not a white genocide believer. There are too many whites in the world (more than ever in history) for that to be plausible. But if liberals keep responding to “white children need a future” with “its okay to have a future without white children”, they’re going to make a lot of enemies among moderate whites.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I’m not sure you’ve really replied to the substance of my comment.

            I’m conservative but not white supremacist, but the idea that you want white children to be protected seems pretty non controversial.

            This seems like the same rhetorical sleight-of-hand as above. Conflating protection of the existence of the group (as a group), with protection of the existence of its members (actual individual people). As such I’ll skip responding to it in further detail.

            That’s why they’re powerful rhetoric. Everyone but the most monstrous believes that Black Lives Matter. And they should. That doesn’t mean they agree with the people who are spewing the rhetoric.

            Completely agreed!

            Similarly, anyone who doesn’t believe white children deserve a future is a monster unworthy of engaging with.

            Same conflation as above.

            But if liberals keep responding to “white children need a future” with “its okay to have a future without white children”, they’re going to make a lot of enemies among moderate whites.

            I mean, I agree it’s never going to be a popular sentiment, but — again, taking an individualist viewpoint — “its okay to have a future without white children” sounds completely correct to me. (Which is obviously not to say that one should push for such a thing, that’s just stupid.) I don’t see how one can object to that without once again taking the collectivist view that the group “white people” has some moral relevance beyond that of the individual white people composing it. Which you might well be taking, but I want to show why all this is not, in fact, clearly unobjectionable.

            (Though I do have to admit that people making my objection are probably in the minority of objectors… :-/ )

          • EchoChaos says:

            Right, that’s what I’m pointing out. It’s fine for blacks to argue for the existence of blacks as a group and nobody minds it. It’s fine for Jews to argue for the existence of Jews as a group and nobody minds it. Nobody thinks that it is a problem when people say there shouldn’t be another Holocaust because they’re conflating Jews as a group with individual Jews.

            You immediately say “Completely agreed” on BLM, but don’t agree with the following statement, which in my morality should be just as uncontroversial.

            Understand that “It’s okay to have a future without white children” is a passively genocidal statement about me and my specific children. I have children, they are all white. There is, to me, no future that does not contain them.

            Now, I don’t doubt you don’t have the ability to enforce that, and I think white genocide is a bad meme, but I will do everything humanly possible to prevent you and people who think like you from getting into power because white people are real and saying the elimination of a group is acceptable is a bad thing to say. Even if you are just acquiescing to it and not actively encouraging it.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Right, that’s what I’m pointing out. It’s fine for blacks to argue for the existence of blacks as a group and nobody minds it. It’s fine for Jews to argue for the existence of Jews as a group and nobody minds it. Nobody thinks that it is a problem when people say there shouldn’t be another Holocaust because they’re conflating Jews as a group with individual Jews.

            Um, the Holocaust was a policy of actually actual Jews, not just about ending the existence of the group while allowing the people composing that group to live. You could not, for instance, escape it by conversion. (I mean, of course not, seeing as the Nazis were targeting the racial rather than religious group, but imagine for the sake of the example they were instead targeting the religion.) Saying that there should not be another Holocaust is, in fact, about the protection of the existence of individual Jews, not merely protection of the group identity.

            (Which is not to say, that, forcible conversion is OK, but I would say that “It is not OK if in the future there are no longer any Jews (because everyone has converted away from Judaism, of their own free choice)” is, at least, not an obviously true statement.)

            I do agree with your more general point that most people are not very consistent on this, but it’s not sounding like you’ve quite the whole group/individual thing down, you know?

            Understand that “It’s okay to have a future without white children” is a passively genocidal statement about me and my specific children. I have children, they are all white. There is, to me, no future that does not contain them.

            Unfortunately, people have a finite lifespan, so, there almost certainly is, sad to say. I mean, sure, we could postulate that radical life extension technologies are developed soon in which case, great! But if we’re postulating that sort of thing, we may as well postulate all sorts of other advanced technology, at which point your children may continue to live while choosing to live as, say, bodiless uploads or spider-shaped beings or, yes, humans of non-white appearance. And at that point the group/individual distinction once again becomes relevant; we once again have the possibility of leaving the group by a means other than death.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Nobody thinks that it is a problem when people say there shouldn’t be another Holocaust because they’re conflating Jews as a group with individual Jews.

            The problem with the Holocaust is what it did to individual Jews.

            Understand that “It’s okay to have a future without white children” is a passively genocidal statement about me and my specific children.

            No, not unless one specifies why there are no white children–if there are no white children because everyone has voluntarily and of their own accord married in such a way that no children three or four generations down look white, this is unobjectionable; if there are no white children because voluntarily people stop identifying as “white”, this is unobjectionable.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Blargh, my comment above is supposed to say “actually killing actual Jews”, not “actually actual Jews”. Oops.

          • Matt M says:

            if there are no white children because everyone has voluntarily and of their own accord married in such a way that no children three or four generations down look white, this is unobjectionable

            I posit that there are large amounts of black and Jewish people who would, in fact, consider this very objectionable for their group – and that nobody in the mainstream would dare denounce them for saying or believing such a thing.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Black Americans have consistently approved of intermarriage at higher rates than whites have since at least 1969, by Gallup; not until 1997 did white support for intermarriage match the level of black support for intermarriage in 1969. As of 2013, 96% of blacks approve of intermarriage. So, it’s not clear that there are large numbers of black Americans who think having black babies is of primary importance.

            Jews are a little trickier because Judaism is of course a religion as well. I know of no denomination of Jew that is concerned that Judaism as an ethnicity survives: all denominations accept interfaith marriages as long as there is a conversion.

            And, to the extent that Jews do make scaremongering demographic arguments, for example with respect to Israel, they very much are opposed: the idea that Israel needs to worry about its “demographic time bomb” is widely perceived to be racist, and more generally Jewish nationalism is absolutely seen as racism.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I posit that there are large amounts of black and Jewish people who would, in fact, consider this very objectionable for their group – and that nobody in the mainstream would dare denounce them for saying or believing such a thing.

            Let’s be careful about what’s being argued here. Eugene and I both argued that there’s nothing morally wrong with this happening. Your reply is, people will object to it. Those aren’t the same thing! I don’t deny that most people would have a problem with it happening. I’m just saying those people are wrong, that actually it’s OK.

          • albatross11 says:

            When you’re talking about a culture, there’s the possibility of outsiders assimilating into your culture. For example, I have a goddaughter whose dad is black and whose mom is white, who grew up in an overwhelmingly white community. She’s culturally white, but racially black. Similarly, it’s common for hispanics to intermarry with whites, and their grandkids are usually culturally white, even if their last name is Garcia or Ramirez or something. This is, in fact, how white culture has grown over the years, ultimately incorporating Irish and Italian people whose grandparents were definitely not thought of as being part of the main line of American white culture. Where I live, plenty of people of East Asian descent have apparently assimilated into American white culture.[1]

            When you’re talking about a race, you’ve kind-of got to think about whether you’re talking about genes or about appearance.

            Suppose Alice and Bob are black, and Carol and Dave are white.

            In world #1, Alice marries Bob, Carol marries Dave, and each couple has two kids–there are two black kids and two white kids. Genetically, the white and black peoples’ genes have both made it to the next generation; in terms of what you can observe, you see two black kids and two white kids.

            In world #2, Alice marries Dave and Bob marries Carol, and each couple has two kids. We end up with four mixed-race kids. In terms of what you can observe, there is nobody clearly black or clearly white in the second generation. In terms of genes, though, the white peoples’ genes and the black peoples’ genes have spread equally into the next generation.

            My understanding is that a white supremacist / white nationalist/ whatever thinks world #1 is much better than world #2. It looks to me like that’s one of the defining features of that worldview.

            [1] IMO, the best future for America is one in which most people from every ethnic group assimilate into one big shared culture that has the positive features of current American white culture.

          • Matt M says:

            My understanding is that a white supremacist / white nationalist/ whatever thinks world #1 is much better than world #2. It looks to me like that’s one of the defining features of that worldview.

            Of course, the black/asian/whatever nationalist/supremacist/whatever would agree with this as well.

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M:

            Definitely. This is just a place where I can clearly demarcate the beliefs–I think world #1 and world #2 are both fine, and what matters is Alice, Bob, Carol, and Dave having happy marriages and raising healthy kids. I don’t object to communities holding on to being white or black, I just don’t think that goal should trump individual choice/freedom. But then, that’s American white culture for you.

            If you want to see people who really strongly take the opposite view, look at the Indian caste system. They’ve mostly managed to keep hundreds of endogamous groups from intermarrying for centuries.

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        Given that it is considered hate speech, it seems to be working.

        The reason it is considered hate speech is because it was coined by a white supremacist in jail for participating in the murder of a Jew as a member of a white supremacist organization, not because the left has been successfully “trolled”.

        • Matt M says:

          So, the classification of “hate speech” is determined based on the behavior of the originator of the phrase, not the content of the phrase itself?

          What are your thoughts on Earth Day?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            The classification of hate speech is determined by how the phrase is used. This is in part because the content of speech is determined by usage as well, so in part I’d say you’re making a false distinction.

            If it were literally only originated by a white supremacist, that might not be enough to make it “hate speech” if it were also widely used by others. Since that’s not the case, and the fourteen words are only used by white supremacists, that doesn’t matter.

            But either way, the origination of the phrase is evidence that it wasn’t a “troll”, it was a sincere statement of belief by a man willing to murder for those beliefs.

          • Matt M says:

            it was a sincere statement of belief by a man willing to murder for those beliefs

            I also sincerely believe that it’s okay to be white. And that it is important for white children to have a future.

            And I would also engage in lethal force against anyone who posed a credible threat to those ideals (i.e., someone who was killing white people or engaging in genocide against the white race)

            Do those facts make me a white supremacist?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Would you engage in lethal force against someone who threatened those ideals by trying to make intermarriage more common through non-coercive means? Would you even consider that an example of threatening those ideals?

            EDIT: My questions don’t get at the heart of the matter, actually. I should really ask: do you think it’s important to have a future with white children simply because it’s important to you that white people exist into the future?

    • CatCube says:

      Personally, I think it’s perfectly realistic that someone at DHS deliberately chose that headline because it resembled the 14 words.

      This is “realistic” in the sense that it’s physically possible, as opposed to, I dunno, wizards in charge of the border or something. However, it’s far more likely that somebody wrote that by coincidence, because who the fuck counts the words of their sentences? Seriously, do you do that? I’ll believe you if you say you do, because it’s a weird world, but it would never occur to me to make sure that there are a specific number of words (or rather, that there are not a specific number of words) when I’m writing document headings.

      I think there’s a good case that the most likely explanation is simple conspiratorial thinking–latching onto unrelated coincidences and reading meaning into them.

    • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

      Not quoting the 14 words and the headline, which would have made it obvious that they are in fact very similar

      … well, the first three words are the same. Apart from that, I’m not seeing it.

    • Deiseach says:

      14, 88, and 1488 are in fact “known white supremacist code numbers”.

      If you took a person who’s generically highly aware of internet culture, showed them the list of all two-digit numbers from 00 to 99, and asked them to pick which two are the white supremacist code numbers, they would reliably pick 14 and 88.

      Really? I had no idea about “the fourteen words” and “eighty-eight” and I think your “generically highly aware” person in reality means “someone already politicised and worried about white supremacy movements who makes sure to keep up on the news about them”.

      (Does anyone even dispute the above?)

      I mean, would you know what I meant if I started talking about “of course, So-and-So is one of the Blueshirts”? Is Eoin O’Duffy a name you have on the tip of your tongue? Could you identify which Irish political party has historic links with same?

      This is the kind of thing that is well known to those who know about this type of thing but is not known in general, yet is assumed to be more widely known than it is because it’s Nazis, for crying out loud, everyone knows all about the Nazis!

    • Deiseach says:

      If you asked a generically highly culturally aware person to name five different white supremacist slogans, the 14 words would reliably be included in the reply.

      Then I am definitely not generically highly culturally aware, because I never heard of the 14 words until all this blew up recently, and I couldn’t tell you one let alone five white supremacist slogans. I’ve heard of Combat 18, mainly because of the 1995 riot at Lansdowne Road at a friendly match between Ireland and England, and I couldn’t tell you what slogans they have!

      Again, someone who’s genned up on white supremacism will probably know all this but for most people who don’t worry about skinheads under the beds, it’s “who? what?” territory.

    • Spookykou says:

      As someone born in 88 just learning about this I am deeply distressed by all my web identities where I slapped an 88 to the end because my name was taken…

      • Matt M says:

        Boy did Taylor Swift narrowly dodge a bullet…

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Conspiracy theory: Django Unchained was Tarantino’s apology for making the Crazy 88s…

        • Controls Freak says:

          Boy did Taylor Swift narrowly dodge a bullet…

          Narrowly. I remember this being big on reddit for a time.

          • Matt M says:

            I vaguely remember a Twitter thing where someone was accusing her of making a “T” symbol with her arms out that was actually supposed to represent a cross, and presumably a burning one, as a gesture of white supremacy.

            Can’t be sure if that was legit or just parody though…

      • FLWAB says:

        A while back I got interested in Nordic and old English runes. I was going to change my profile pick to the Tiwaz rune because I liked it and wanted people to ask me about runes. Then I found out that apparently runes, and particularly the Tiwaz, make people think you’re a white supremacist. Because they’re used a lot by white supremacists.

        White supremacists! Why you gotta ruin innocuous numbers and symbols!

        • ec429 says:

          White supremacists! Why you gotta ruin innocuous numbers and symbols!

          Now you know how the Jains felt.

      • ec429 says:

        I’m just wondering whether this means Doc Emmett Brown is a white supremacist now…

  42. Deiseach says:

    (a) Anytime I read vegan/animal rights activism material, even the sane not shrieking moral denunciation at you rapist torturer bloodmouth carnists stuff, I come away with a craving for a nice juicy meat meal. I have no idea why this is, but if there are any others like me, perhaps the vegan case is not really helping itself? 🙂

    (b) Re: the California soda tax (or not), has anyone got any figures to back this claim up?

    The state has passed more soda taxes than any other, shepherded by progressive lawmakers who see them as a source of revenue for schools and public services

    I see a lot of that used as a rationale for such taxes, but I have no idea if it’s true: does it raise extra revenue (probably) and where does that go – I have a suspicion it doesn’t go to the schools/nice things but goes into the general pot for running the place. Are there places where there is enough extra revenue that is ring-fenced that they were able to hire sixty more teachers and build ten new schools?

    Also, it probably is down to the clout and experience of the industry and its lobbyists, but I do wonder – could there be a Machiavellian reason lurking behind all this? If local towns can’t impose soda taxes of their own but then a state tax comes in, and the revenue goes right to the state coffers – I can’t see the Californian state government refusing extra money, though they do seem to have finally balanced the books after their crisis decade.

    • MartMart says:

      Some years ago, a close friends became plant eating, for health reasons. Sometime after that (a year or two) they started broadcasting the ethical case of veganism, rather loudly.
      I was rather opposed to the whole thing, mainly because it sounded like something people from other tribes did, and I wanted my friend to remain ideologically close to me. This was around the time I started reading SSC. My first impression is that this was nothing more than virtue signalling. After all, if some people respect the decision to go ethically vegan (according to my friends, you aren’t vegan unless you are doing so for ethical reasons) and you are already plant eating for unrelated reasons, then the cost of claiming ethical superiority is essentially zero. That made me feel smug and satisfied.
      And that made me feel suspicious. Here is an explanation that proves I was right about everything all along, and that people who disagree with me are stupid. And I’m talking about good friends, people whom I generally respect, and so I felt I owe it to them and myself to try to seek an alternative explanation that doesn’t appeal to my priors, and then trying to somehow see which one fits better. I was at a loss as to what that explanation would be, so finally I came up with “maybe people actually believe that meat is murder, and I can’t bring myself to seriously consider this argument, because my very next meal depends on my not understanding it”. It can be very difficult to explain concept to people whose income depends on not understanding it.
      My first encounter with healthy eating people was with the anti gmo movement. I felt there were 2 strong arguments against them 1. It’s a bunch of non scientific quackery. 2. Organic food has lower yields/is more expensive. So adopting this idea wasn’t something that everyone could practically do. At first I just assume that vegans belonged to the same camp.
      In the interest of trying to think about this clearly (well, to no small part for that reason), I stopped being a meat eater (I wanted to see if the meat is murder still sounds as ridiculous to me 6 months later).
      First thing I noticed that is that unlike anti-gmo veganism scales just fine. In fact, it scales better. The environment and economical arguments for everyone being plant eating are pretty strong. My own food costs dropped noticeably.
      The health arguments appear to be conflicted, in a way that isn’t likely to ever be untangled. Maybe eating just plants is the healthiest thing ever. Maybe it isn’t the ultimate healthy thing. But there isn’t a very credible argument that going 98% plant eating is actually unhealthy. If there is some kind of deficiency that comes from not eating meat, its very small and hard to detect.
      A year later, I don’t entirely buy the ethical argument. It seems to rely on a lot of assumptions, and it has the flaws that many utilitarian arguments have. But I don’t find it ridiculous. It may not be virtuous to eat plants. But I can’t construct an argument that says that people are somehow morally bound to eat meat.
      So, this is how I see that vegan opposition: “Be more like me, or I’m going to be mean to you”

  43. Aapje says:

    I found this rather old, but very interesting series on the failure of racial policies in the US, from a liberal, but non-partisan perspective (he blames everyone, essentially):

    How the left’s embrace of busing hurt the cause of integration.
    Affirmative action doesn’t work. It never did. It’s time for a new solution.
    The Civil Rights movement ignored one very important, very difficult question. It’s time to answer it.

    Some interesting claims:
    – That school busing threatened to force (mostly white, but also some black) people into schools below their ‘class’, which white people fiercely resisted by self-segregating to suburbs and private schools, since very few will sacrifice their kids’ future for an ideal.
    – Busing was opposed by by 77% of whites and 47% of blacks.
    – That Nixon had given up on 65% of black people and wanted to keep them in line by tough policing, while he wanted to pacify the black elite by affirmative action. Then when the left adopted affirmative action as the right abandoned it, they also copied this dichotomy, where the black elite gets a big leg up, while for lower class blacks the focus is on how law enforcement should treat them.
    – That civil rights activists never decided whether they wanted actual integration or ‘separate but equal’ (achieving things in a pillarized manner, having their own institutions with a separate culture). As a result, they did a little of both, failing at both due to never making a choice.

    I consider this last part especially interesting. The US still engages in affirmative action, yet there are separate black studies courses where it is expected that only black students take them, calls for separate black dorms, Black Culture Centers, etc. The demand for safe spaces also seems to partly boil down to a demand to not be asked to adapt to others, which is antithetical to integration. You get these kinds of articles that discuss whether segregation is harmful/beneficial to learning or unfair to one group or the other, yet completely sidesteps the question of racial integration. Is the goal to create universities and by extension a society where racial groups have their own culture and are thus segregated or where they mix?

    In general, I think that there is a large misunderstanding among most of the proponents of multiculturalism, who don’t seem to recognize that culture and segregation are linked. You can’t have separate cultures without some segregation and people can’t mix if their cultures are too different. So an integrated society (rather than a collection of separate communities) can only exist by limiting cultural diversity. The more multicultural a society is, the more people will live past each other in their own enclaves with different behaviors and thus different outcomes.

    • Matt M says:

      Is the goal to create universities and by extension a society where racial groups have their own culture and are thus segregated or where they mix?

      The problem, as you hint at above, is that the answer is both. Demands are made simultaneously for the existence of “black” spaces where whites are allowed to enter, AND for the elimination of any remaining “white” spaces where blacks aren’t fully embraced. It’s a “have your cake and eat it too” situation. They want to be able to exclude whites at their leisure, but will not tolerate being excluded by whites in any situation.

      Many white people, understandably, are not too enthused with adopting this obvious double-standard.

      • mdet says:

        Aapje’s / the third article’s whole point is that the black community doesn’t have a consensus on “Fully integrate” vs “Separate but actually-equal-this-time”. It’s less a deliberate double-standard than it is “different people saying different things, and some individuals who are genuinely unsure”

        • Matt M says:

          different people saying different things, and some individuals who are genuinely unsure

          And my argument is that no, that is not correct. That in large, it is NOT two different groups with different ideas, or people who can’t decide which is best. That it is, mainly, people who want both things, but at their own discretion with zero input from other effected groups.

          • Skivverus says:

            That it is, mainly, people who want both things, but at their own discretion with zero input from other effected groups.

            Dunno, it seems to me that mdet’s probably got a better firsthand perspective here; even aside from that, I doubt that it’s any more “people want both things” than on any other issue with unpleasant tradeoffs.
            Also, the why-not-both people could probably point to, say, Chinatown, and go “we’re aiming for something like that.”

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            I think that a major issue is that the debate is so unsophisticated that people are often not aware that they are making incompatible demands.

            I can understand that it is hard to believe, because it seems rather obvious that if you demand segregation, you cannot simultaneously expect to take equal advantage of mainstream social networks, get jobs at mainstream companies, get awarded a proportional number of mainstream Oscars for your movies, etc. Instead, you then have to build up an entire pillar yourself and make it equally successful under mostly your own power.

            However, the consequences of an unsophisticated debate is that people end up with very unsophisticated beliefs, with enormous blind spots and unexamined assumptions. They then honestly don’t see why they can’t have their cake and eat it too; nor that it is unfair to blame other groups for supposedly holding back the ‘just and proper’ outcome.

            PS. Also, regularly morality is confused for truth, where people succumb to a just world fallacy. This can help maintain the unsophisticated debate when the kid who says that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes is forced to sell matches on the street and dies of hypothermia. The heterodox opinion is then a priori disregarded as being offensive and considered so obviously wrong, that no effort is made to check whether it is actually wrong.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t understand your point.

            They can have their cake and eat it too. It’s technically possible. They advocate for it, and a non-trivial amount of people who aren’t in their ingroup believe it is perfectly just and proper for them to do so.

            You might say that such a demand is unfair. Or that it is logically inconsistent. But it’s not truly incompatible. We can, in fact, live in a society where white males are not allowed to have any exclusive spaces, but every participant in the oppression olympics is, in fact, allowed to have such things. Where blacks can exclude whites, but whites are not allowed to exclude blacks.

            Not only can such a society exist, it already does. Any college campus in the US essentially already operates under such a construct.

          • onyomi says:

            Re. MDet’s feeling like there is no consensus and Matt M’s sense that there are a lot of influential people out there demanding genuinely contradictory things, I feel like it may be a product of a broader phenomenon that causes problems in many different areas:

            Most people don’t start out with a carefully articulated, principled worldview or ideal future vision and then, upon encountering a particular issue, figure out how they should feel about it. Instead, most people have a vaguely articulated sense of “being a good person” and “what’s good for me and the people/issues I care about” and then make up their minds about each individual issue based on how they perceive it will affect them and/or the issues/people they care about.

            So if you’re the type of person, black or not, inclined to think about issues in terms of what’s good for the black community it could be that Tuesday you’re telling a pollster “yes, I think it’s important for black people to patronize black-owned businesses when possible” and Wednesday you’re telling a pollster “yes, I think it’s important there be no obstacles to black people advancing in majority-white companies” because both of these seem “good” for the issues/people you care about, even if fully supporting one or the other might be self-defeating/impossible.

            And as for political leaders who advocate clearly contradictory positions, I really think they’re just playing the same game at a higher level: if you ask them Tuesday if they think it’s good to support black people building their own institutions they’ll think “my constituents would like that” and say yes. Ask them Wednesday if they think black people should have more opportunities to advance in white-owned businesses and they’ll think “my constituents would like that” and answer yes again.

          • mdet says:

            It’s just like the debate a few threads ago over “What’s better for Christianity? That the US remain a majority Christian nation, even if that means diluting the faith? Or that Christianity become a niche countercultural movement full of truly devout believers?”

            If you’d ask most Christians, I bet they’d try to say that they both want America to be broadly Christian AND that the faith should emphasize true devotion with a countercultural mentality.

            That might be less of an inherent contradiction than the racial one, but I think every subculture (heck, every person) faces the dilemma of “Do you want to be popular or do you want to keep your current identity?”, and everyone wants to say “Why can’t I be both?”

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            Double standards can indeed give a group a bit of both, but not all of both. It’s simply not possible to replicate the incentives that result from actually having compatible cultures by forcing it. The tools to do so are too crude.

            Furthermore, at a certain point the burdens become too large and nearly everyone will revolt, if only by acting in their own self-interest. Schooling is a good example here. Very, very few people will sacrifice their children for an ideal.

          • j r says:

            I can understand that it is hard to believe, because it seems rather obvious that if you demand segregation, you cannot simultaneously expect to take equal advantage of mainstream social network…

            Having a Black Student Union on campus is no more an example of segregation than having a Hindu Student Union would be like instituting the caste system. That’s not how segregation works, either historically or in practice. The Amish segregate themselves, so to for ultra-religious Jews. Being an African American Studies major is not segregation (thought it may have some impact on your job prospects).

            I am trying to have a better understanding of the other side of this conversation, but it is proving difficult. What’s the steal man here? What are you guys worried about? Is it just a reaction to the worst excesses of post-structural/SJW activists? Because despite what the internets say, it’s pretty easy to have nothing to do with those people in the real world. I just don’t see what’s driving this resentment.

            For example, I am a straight man. If a gay person came up to me and said, “It’s important for me to have explicitly gay spaces where I am around other people like me, but I would also like to have the freedom to fully participate in the wider society,” my reaction wouldn’t be “how dare you try to have it both ways!.” My reaction would be something like, “sure, I get it.”

            What’s the threat to me if queer people can have a gay bars and an LGBT Student Union and can still go to regular bars or join other student groups? That doesn’t deprive me of anything.

          • Matt M says:

            For example, I am a straight man. If a gay person came up to me and said, “It’s important for me to have explicitly gay spaces where I am around other people like me, but I would also like to have the freedom to fully participate in the wider society,” my reaction wouldn’t be “how dare you try to have it both ways!.” My reaction would be something like, “sure, I get it.”

            And if you asked him to tolerate the existence of explicitly straight spaces where you could be around other people like yourself, do you think he would be as accommodating?

            I feel like such a demand would likely get you arrested in many western countries…

          • Aapje says:

            @j r

            Perhaps (part of) our disagreement on segregation is about what definition we use? For this discussion, I am focusing on the effects of people interacting more and much more intensely with their own race than with other races, because of social forces.

            If people organize and attend things specifically by and for a certain race, then that is segregation according to me. It causes culture to align itself with race, for people to build up a (more) racially homogeneous social networks, racial stereotypes, etc, etc. There are various severities of segregation. It’s not black/white, there is a lot of grey.

            Is it just a reaction to the worst excesses of post-structural/SJW activists? Because despite what the internets say, it’s pretty easy to have nothing to do with those people in the real world. I just don’t see what’s driving this resentment.

            You seem to desire a simple, clear narrative, but this doesn’t exist. There are different concerns, objections, grievances, etc. ‘My’ side is not homogenous, just like ‘your’ side. Giving you what you want requires a very large essay or perhaps even a book, which I’m not going to write here.

            So instead, I’ll specifically debate your claim that the only thing I could worry about is easily avoidable excesses. Someone very close to me was not considered when applying for a job because he is a man. The Dutch government created various jobs for women only. Despite this discrimination by gender not being legal according to the constitution, apparently this right doesn’t exist for men (the same is true in the US, despite it also being clearly unconstitutional). The rhetoric used to defend this is equally applicable to non-whites, so the risk is that this discrimination is extended to race as well. so it is a threat both from the perspective of gender as of race.

            I read two of the top center-left newspapers in my country and they have increasingly featured racist and sexist content aimed at me.

            I used to visit various websites that adopted SJ as a core value and as a result, changed their content to include SJ bias in many places, driving me off. These sites were part of my life before they changed.

            In none of these cases, did I or the person I know go out of their way to seek out SJ. Instead, it started encroaching on my life.

            What’s the threat to me if queer people can have a gay bars and an LGBT Student Union and can still go to regular bars or join other student groups?

            There is no threat if they organize around having sex with men or other stuff that doesn’t effect me. However, if they start organizing around a false narrative of being oppressed by straights much more than is the case and out of ressentiment, develop an ideology where harming, silencing, taking jobs away from innocent straight people is justified, then there is a threat.

            You can compare it with some white people who come together to celebrate St Patrick’s Day vs a KKK rally. The former is not a threat to others, the latter is. I don’t mind the former, I do mind the latter.

            Also, there is the specific issue that black Americans most likely perpetuate their problems if they self-segregate, which, combined with an ideology that blames whites for the problems of blacks and demands racist treatment of whites to solve the issue, results in perpetual racist treatment of whites.

          • j r says:

            And if you asked him to tolerate the existence of explicitly straight spaces where you could be around other people like yourself, do you think he would be as accommodating?

            Why would I do that? Most of the world is accommodating to straight identity. I don’t get anything by excluding a gay person from the spaces where I am. And I don’t lose anything when the gay person spends time at the gay bar or at the LGBT Student Union.

            Where’s the harm? Because this mostly seems to be about you having sore feelings or being hung up about some supposed double-standard.

          • albatross11 says:

            A fair number of explicitly religious communities exclude gays, at least in the sense of being clear that gays aren’t welcome. There’s not some magic gaydar-scan someone can use to tell for sure, so if a straight guy goes to the gay safe-space or a gay guy goes to the straight safe-space, probably they get away with it.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Why would I do that? Most of the world is accommodating to straight identity.

            What does accomodation to gay identity mean in this example? If I let two gay guys kiss my bar, is that insufficient accomodation that still demands we create specific gay bars for gays? Can these gay bars ban women or transsexuals for being insufficiently gay?

          • j r says:

            is that insufficient accomodation that still demands we create specific gay bars for gays? Can these gay bars ban women or transsexuals for being insufficiently gay?

            That’s not how gay bars work.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Based on conversations with gay friends, the impression I get is that the main value of gay bars is that they concentrate the dating pool. When only a small proportion of the population is a prospective partner before you even start to consider the questions of singleness and specific mutual attraction, that’s a pretty valuable service.

            Regarding attitude to outsiders, my experience of going (as a straight man) to gay pubs with my femme lesbian friend who hoped to meet women but didn’t want to be alone until she did so was that the response of bar staff and other customers to me was generally frosty verging on rude or even hostile. After a while, I started doing a fruity-old-queen schtick on such occasions (I would literally call people “ducky”), which immediately made everyone extremely friendly. I highly doubt many (or any) of the people concerned had hostile feelings towards straight people in every day life; given what I take to be the purpose of gay pubs in 21st Century southern England, I think being a little put out at the presence of a straight guy is understandable.

          • onyomi says:

            Why would I do that? Most of the world is accommodating to straight identity.

            The Western world is no longer accommodating to the continued existence of explicitly male-only spaces. Nor white-only spaces.

            The more general problem with SJ-type thought is that it is based on a false premise that because a group has historically or does now enjoy certain advantages over other groups therefore it does not face any disadvantages or challenges.

            For example, let’s just accept for the sake of argument the (in my view quite debatable) premise that, in most societies, historically, you were better off, on average, being born a man than a woman. Even accepting that, it would not mean that being a man was in every way better than being a woman, nor that there exist no unique or particular challenges or pitfalls for men.

            Thus, double standards are harmful because even if, from some bird’s eye view discounting individual variation, men, white people, and straight people have it better in life than women, non-white people, and non-straight people on average, it wouldn’t imply that all men, white people, and straight people have it better than others in every way, or that they couldn’t also benefit from exclusive spaces of their own, assuming such a thing is beneficial to others. It’s like saying “breast cancer is more deadly than prostate cancer; therefore, until breast cancer is fully cured, no resources whatsoever should be devoted to prostate cancer.”

          • Aapje says:

            @onyomi

            For example, let’s just accept for the sake of argument the (in my view quite debatable) premise that, in most societies, historically, you were better off, on average, being born a man than a woman. Even accepting that, it would not mean that being a man was in every way better than being a woman, nor that there exist no unique or particular challenges or pitfalls for men.

            Given the premise that men are better off on average, it is even possible that a majority of men have it worse than the average woman or even worse than any woman.

            By their nature, averages tend to not reflect the median experience, but instead, weigh outlier experiences far more heavily. If you have a small group of men who live like kings and many men and women who live in the muck, then the great advantage of the small group can distort the perception of the entire group, if you only look at the average.

            It is even worse if one doesn’t even look at the average of all men, but falsely attributes the average well-being of the small group of elite men to all men. This mistake is easily made, given that people logically have a far greater interest in the powerful, successful and fortunate, than in the downtrodden. So analysis of historical sources tends to paint a false picture unless one actively corrects for this bias.

          • onyomi says:

            @Aapje

            Yes, among a number of reasons I think the premise is debatable is that, overall, men seem to be the “high risk-high reward” sex. Their life outcomes have “fatter tails.” More male billionaires, but also more male homeless. And there are a lot more homeless people in the world than billionaires. Plus, I guess the positive personal utility of being a billionaire is probably not so high, relative to being merely comfortably well off as the negative utility of being homeless, relative to being merely poor-ish, is low.

            Related, one of the things that most annoys me about diversity initiatives: when the old, white men who run the company decide they need to increase representation of women and minorities at the company, they don’t hire old, black women to replace themselves; instead, they hire more young, black women than young, white men in the entry-level positions. So, while the group who previously enjoyed an advantage (“white men”) is now relatively less advantaged compared to the group who once suffered a disadvantage (“black women”), such attempts to redress supposed historical inequities rarely involve disadvantaging the individuals who enjoyed advantage, nor advantaging the individuals who actually suffered disadvantage.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Related, one of the things that most annoys me about diversity initiatives: when the old, white men who run the company decide they need to increase representation of women and minorities at the company, they don’t hire old, black women to replace themselves; instead, they hire more young, black women than young, white men in the entry-level positions.

            That’s because they are using “diversity” as an excuse to build a harem.

      • Susanne Mesoy says:

        How similar is this to the entry of women into higher education. Several universities simultaneously had women-only colleges and demands for all male-only colleges to be opened to women, and now have no men-only spaces but retain a few women-only colleges. (Eg Cambridge, UK, where Magdalen college was heavily pressured into being the last college to stop excluding women in the eighties, but more than one college currently does not accept any men).

        • Simon_Jester says:

          Perhaps this is because the men-only colleges were more prestigious than the women-only colleges? Thus, women had an incentive to seek the right to compete to enter the (prestigious) colleges once open only to men, but men had no incentive to do the reverse.

          In the US, for example, Radcliffe College (women only) was founded as the distaff side as Harvard College (men only). However, a Harvard degree was at all times more prestigious than a Radcliffe degree. Eventually, Harvard went co-ed. Radcliffe didn’t. Radcliffe was in effect absorbed into Harvard, and the Radcliffe students became Harvard students, because the ‘separate’ was very much ‘unequal.’

          At no point were there men protesting that they wanted to be Radcliffe graduates, at least not men who were serious and present in meaningful numbers.

          I predict that in the long run, women’s-only colleges will cease to exist, or be absorbed into co-ed institutions, or exist only as tiny niche institutions that survive by being so inconsequential that nobody cares. Men’s-only colleges fail to survive in this way because they tend to be prestigious institutions.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Seconded – for a more recent example consider St. Hilda’s College, Oxford, which finally started admitting men in 2008 and is now roughly 50/50. The demand for women-only colleges is dwindling to almost nothing.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      In general, I think that there is a large misunderstanding among most of the proponents of multiculturalism, who don’t seem to recognize that culture and segregation are linked. You can’t have separate cultures without some segregation and people can’t mix if their cultures are too different. So an integrated society (rather than a collection of separate communities) can only exist by limiting cultural diversity. The more multicultural a society is, the more people will live past each other in their own enclaves with different behaviors and thus different outcomes.

      Is this true? Or I guess, more precisely, how true is this? Consider so-called “ethnic white” cultures–the Irish, Italians, Poles, Jews, etc. who certainly tend to live in neighbourhoods with members of their own culture, and who are segregated to some extent–but who still attend public schools with one another, share public accommodations, and go to the same colleges, etc.

      I can’t speak to anyone else, but I think a reasonable model of integration is something like what Jews have achieved: Jews have their own private Jewish schools and universities, Jewish Studies programs that are presumably mostly of interest to Jews, Hillel Organizations on campus, and they tend to live together. With the exception of the call for black-only dorms, I think everything you say above applies just as well to Jews–and it’s certainly true that there is some tension in American Jewish life between maintaining a distinct Jewish identity and assimilating into American culture–but I would guess that even so, most people would regard American Jews as “integrated” into American culture (with exceptions like the inhabitants of Kiryas Joel) while still maintaining their own distinct culture. I don’t see why roughly the same couldn’t obtain for African Americans.

      • Urstoff says:

        Do Irish-, Italian-, Polish- Americans still live in cultural enclaves in the 21st century? Maybe somewhat among the lower classes, but this seems definitely not the case among middle- and upper-class populations where white people are just white people and ethnic heritage is nothing more than an idle curiosity.

      • EchoChaos says:

        The fact that “Old Americans”/WASPs/Scots-Irish can’t have their own private American schools and universities, American Studies programs and cetera is the exact same problem that Matt M refered to up above.

        In addition, blacks have social/behavioral problems that make them being your neighbors especially irksome, which is why despite starting in a similar place to the Chinese in the 1880s, the Chinese aren’t viewed as negatively by any but the most devoted Racists.

        • Nornagest says:

          American Studies is absolutely a thing. Berkeley’s got a department for it. It’s ambivalent at best about American culture, though.

          And I don’t think there are any American schools or universities in the modern day which accept only black students — the gray area that enables affirmative action doesn’t extend that far. Historically black schools, per Wikipedia, now range from 8% to 84% black and average around sixty. You would have had a better argument if you’d said “scholarships” — those are still common.

        • mdet says:

          How many Chinese Americans are descended from the 1880s Chinese vs immigrants who arrived in the past 50 years?

        • mtl1882 says:

          Schools can’t bar any race from attending. A historically black college is not set up to exclude whites. It was set up because whites excluded blacks! Now everyone has to admit everyone. There may be some influence due to affirmative action, legacies, etc., but there are no limits. No one has their own private school. If you want schools that are historically Irish, you have options. Boston College comes to mind.

          Catholic schools have strict rules on rejecting students because of the fear they’d discriminate against Protestants. They also take everyone. No one is being left out, as a group, here.

          Check out Senate debates from the 1880s, when the Chinese were widely considered “obviously stupid/inferior” and many other things. More effort was made to exclude them than had ever been made before with any other group. I’m not an expert on exactly how that perception changed, but I get the sense that it was the observers who changed more than the immigrants. Perception of them must not be self-evident if we went from the horrific comments made at that time to now, when some people believe them superior.

          American studies exists, and I imagine that at certain places you can study things like Irish American history (I know BC has some stuff on that). You could almost major in Abraham Lincoln studies until recently. If you feel like you are looking for WASP male history studies, the Revolutionary period might be a good place to start, or early American literature.

          While some of the modern studies admittedly sound kind of trivial at first glance, I’ve realized they are not. I read a lot of history, and it is quite interesting to view the primary sources and see all the “minority” players (mainly women, but people of all backgrounds) who are right there, playing a part, and are simply not mentioned. These studies, done rightly (I know some people make things ridiculous, but that’s true of all areas of study), are restoring huge parts of history that we cut out to talk about white males only. It is real history and not a PC invention. Historians only recently figured out that you can get good information from a naval officer’s wife’s diary. They hadn’t thought to look there – only at his.

        • j r says:

          The fact that “Old Americans”/WASPs/Scots-Irish can’t have their own private American schools and universities, American Studies programs and cetera is the exact same problem that Matt M refered to up above.

          In addition, blacks have social/behavioral problems that make them being your neighbors especially irksome…

          I am going to go ahead and say that I’ve seen nothing in this thread to make me believe that my race pride v. ethnic pride heuristic needs to be updated.

          Also, I’ll just point out that your “old Americans” excludes the people of color who were here before the first European settlers and the people of color who got here at the same time as the European settlers.

          • Matt M says:

            Also, I’ll just point out that your “old Americans” excludes the people of color who were here before the first European settlers and the people of color who got here at the same time as the European settlers.

            No it doesn’t.

            Native Americans already have their own private organizations that outsiders are not allowed to join – complete with literal genetic requirements for entry.

            The only request is for Irish or Italians or whoever to be allowed to do the things that blacks and natives and Jews are already doing.

          • j r says:

            The only request is for Irish or Italians or whoever to be allowed to do the things that blacks and natives and Jews are already doing.

            Serious question: what are you talking about? What things can blacks and Jews do that the Irish or the Italians can’t?

            As for Native Americans, you do realize that the things that they have are essentially booby prizes for a long history of confiscated land and broken treaties? Times must be real tough for some people if there are white people coveting what Native Americans have.

          • Matt M says:

            Serious question: what are you talking about? What things can blacks and Jews do that the Irish or the Italians can’t?

            Set up scholarships that are open to only people within their own groups. Designate physical spaces on college campuses that are only open to their own groups. Publicly declare pride in and allegiance to their own groups without being accused of murderous racism.

            As for Native Americans, you do realize that the things that they have are essentially booby prizes for a long history of confiscated land and broken treaties? Times must be real tough for some people if there are white people coveting what Native Americans have.

            I absolutely realize that, and I absolutely would not trade my present circumstances for those of the Native Americans, who are administered and ruled by one of the worst kinds of socialism.

            But that’s beside the point. That isn’t a necessary trade-off. Being allowed to discriminate in favor of people in your genetic tribe doesn’t have to include all the horrible shit that also accompanies current conditions in most native reservations.

            It’s also a logically inconsistent policy. If “diversity is our strength” then allowing native tribes to legally protect their homogeneous culture is, necessarily, a punishment, not a prize. If we truly wanted to better their lives and living conditions, why not force the clear and obvious benefits of diversity upon them, like we do to our white citizens?

          • j r says:

            Set up scholarships that are open to only people within their own groups. Designate physical spaces on college campuses that are only open to their own groups. Publicly declare pride in and allegiance to their own groups without being accused of murderous racism.

            https://www.top10onlinecolleges.org/scholarships-for/italian-students/

            Congratulations! At long last white people finally have parity. More seriously, I found that in 20 seconds. Is it possible that your model of the world needs some factual updating? For instance, being forced onto reservations and being given token privileges is in fact a form of punishment. This should be clear to anyone with modicum of knowledge about American history.

            Also, “murderous.” Who talks like that?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What things can blacks and Jews do that the Irish or the Italians can’t?

            I think it’s more like “whatever the pseudo-ethnicity that is the mix of broadly European-descended people occupying America commonly called ‘White'” rather than a specific European ethnicity. I just see myself as an American, and don’t really identify with a specific ethnic heritage. My 23 and Me results have me spread all over Europe: eastern, southern, northern, western.

            Incidentally, I’m also 1% African, so I demand my .4 acres and small piece of mule. And 2% Ashkenazi Jew, so shalom to my Jewish friends on SSC! We’re practically brothers!

            (I kid, I kid…)

          • Nornagest says:

            1/100 of a mule would be, what, about an eight-pound steak? That’s not nothing.

      • Aapje says:

        @Eugene Dawn

        When those white groups had a truly significantly different culture, there was a lot of dislike between them and the groups that were in America longer and whose culture was (very close to) default American culture. Just like blacks now, many members of those groups felt discriminated against and felt a lack of opportunity.

        I would argue that those groups eventually mostly integrated in the ways that matter. The Irish-Americans still celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and the Italian-Americans still…make mafia movies, but this is not a meaningful difference. The issue is friction and not all cultural differences generate (substantial) friction.

        As for American Jews, my perception is that they accept that they either integrate or depend on their own pillar. You have many American Jews like John Stewart, who gave up nearly everything of their background. He even gave up his name. On the other hand, you have the orthodox who strongly reject integration, but also don’t demand the benefits of integration.

        The Chinese typically strongly focus on building up a pillar, based on an extreme work ethic. They don’t seem to care that they have to work twice as hard for half the reward in the short term. They do it. When the Chinese came to my country, they sold peanuts in the streets. When one of them opened a Chinese restaurant and make it work after adapting to Dutch tastes, very many copied that. They didn’t demand CEO jobs or banking jobs or whatever. They min-max the shit out of whatever works for their community. Their culture is very sensitive to shame, so if there is friction between them and others, they tend to give way (and just exit the situation if they can, retreating into their community). Supposedly, there is an issue with the Dutch-Chinese mafia extorting Dutch-Chinese businesses. The mafia don’t go after Dutch businesses, so few Dutch people even know, let alone feel the pain. It’s really easy to be tolerant of people who behave like that.

        Anyway, my strong perception is that there a sort of uncanny valley of culture/integration, where groups can consider themselves sufficiently integrated and demand equal outcomes, but the cultural elements that they believe should not prohibit them from being accepted are nevertheless not accepted by the mainstream.

        An example is the Turkish-German soccer player Mesut Özil, who got into hot water for posing with Erdogan. Very many Turkish-Europeans seem to rather strongly support Erdogan and feel that Erdogan is their leader, rather than (just) the leader of the country they live in. Erdogan has in the past told Turkish-Europeans not to assimilate and said that they are part of Turkey. Turkey also controls European Mosques (by way of the Directorate of Religious Affairs aka Diyanet). Of course, Erdogan is rather illiberal as well.

        This level of meddling is seen as a threat by many native Europeans and is not accepted by them, while Özil believed that his soccer-playing prowess should be enough for him to be fully accepted. So this is a conflict over how much migrants and their offspring should adapt to mainstream culture.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          When those white groups had a truly significantly different culture, there was a lot of dislike between them and the groups that were in America longer and whose culture was (very close to) default American culture. Just like blacks now, many members of those groups felt discriminated against and felt a lack of opportunity.

          I would argue that those groups eventually mostly integrated in the ways that matter. The Irish-Americans still celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and the Italian-Americans still…make mafia movies, but this is not a meaningful difference. The issue is friction and not all cultural differences generate (substantial) friction.

          Right, but the question is what cultural differences generate friction, and why? Why can’t black communities split on integration vs. segregation aim for a model like Italians, where you keep plenty of the important stuff about your culture and have it contribute to overall cultural diversity, but still integrate in many important ways?

          Also, I think you’re understating the extent to which the assimilation happened the other way: that Irish and Italian customs became regarded as “normal American”, rather than Irish and Italians adapting the customs of “normal Americans”.

          This is most obvious in the matter of religion: Lyman Beecher worried that Catholic immigration was incompatible with republicanism because Catholics would always support the Pope and Metternich, and such beliefs even briefly led to the creation of an anti-Catholic political party. There was an attempt to add an anti-Catholic school amendment to the Constitution. When Al Smith ran for president in 1928, he was opposed on the basis that he would take secret orders from the Pope.

          Now of course, Catholicism is completely unremarkable as a religious belief, and no one worries about the “influence of the Pope” on American politics just because Catholics tend to be pro-life and anti-death penalty.

          As for American Jews, my perception is that they accept that they either integrate or depend on their own pillar.

          This sets up a dichotomy that is way too strong–there are certainly Jews who are completely integrated into America, and there are the Kiryas Joel Jews who have absolutely not, but most Jews are very much in between. Combining Pew data and Wiki I calculate that 14% or so of American Jewish children attend Jewish day schools, for example, and Jews tend to live in the same places as one another.
          Most American Jews still keep at least some religious observances: 70% observed Passover Seder; over half fasted on Yom Kippur; and nearly a quarter light Shabbat candles and keep kosher in the home.
          This is a far cry from “giving up nearly everything of their background”.

          And, again, the assimilation has been very much both ways.

          So I still think the Irish/Jewish/Italian model is something that splits the difference between assimilation and segregation.

          It’s a side note to the main discussion, but your Ozil example has parallels among other groups: there is an American politician who used to support the IRA quite vocally, calling the British government a “murder machine”, and saying “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it”.
          And Jews castigating others for not supporting Israel is a very much a real thing.

          • Matt M says:

            Why can’t black communities split on integration vs. segregation aim for a model like Italians, where you keep plenty of the important stuff about your culture and have it contribute to overall cultural diversity, but still integrate in many important ways?

            They can, but they don’t want to. Their goals are much more ambitious.

            The Italians never demanded the Irish cease having their own cultural traditions. They never demanded entry into Irish-only spaces. And the Irish did the same as it regards the Italians.

            American blacks are aiming much higher than this. They want their own spaces and their own culture and traditions preserved. And they also want the destruction, or forcible integration (on exclusively their own terms) of white culture and traditions.

          • Aapje says:

            Part of the issue is the assumption of good faith vs bad faith. Historically, it’s quite understandable why protestants would fear a coordinated effort by Catholics to suppress other religions. So it took getting experience with American Catholics to realize that they weren’t going to do that.

            However, it can also go the other way, with people assuming compatibility between groups and then getting burned. Frankly, I think that a lot of progressive claims of cultural compatibility are exaggerated and cause people to feel betrayed when they have bad experiences.

            Ultimately, what generates lots of friction and to what extent people are willing to change depends on the specific cultures. However, there are some obvious sources of friction, like criminal behavior.

            Anger at these sources of friction can then result in basic outgroup rejection behavior, where everything that is associated with the outgroup is rejected and vilified.

            Anyway, it is true that my argument is essentially unfalsifiable, because I can just declare that any differences that don’t result in incriminations are insignificant cultural differences, while those that make people upset are (or are outgroup vilification).

            My personal opinion is that the established culture mostly gets to decide to what extent the newcomers have to adapt and to what extent they themselves are obligated to adapt. A complicating factor is that this is a multi-generation process, so people like Özil understandably feel that as they were born and raised inside the country, others have to accept them how they are. However, as they are raised in a culture that hasn’t sufficiently adapted itself yet, that cannot work.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            American blacks are aiming much higher than this. They want their own spaces and their own culture and traditions preserved. And they also want the destruction, or forcible integration (on exclusively their own terms) of white culture and traditions.

            Ummm…cite please?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @Aapje

            There are two issues here. First, your original link and your comments on it suggested black Americans, by preferring historically black colleges and asking for African American studies departments, were going down a path of segregation, not integration. I think we have established that this is not necessarily the case: many ethnicities that are widely agreed to have integrated into American life still have their own schools and colleges, neighbourhoods, studies programs, etc.
            So, it is presumably at least not impossible for black Americans to pursue this model as well, in which case asking for those amenities isn’t necessarily backing away from integration.

            Second is the question of why these other groups seem to have struck the right balance between integration and cultural separation in a way that has mostly eluded black Americans, which is what I take you to be addressing in the most recent comment.

            Whatever the answer though, it can’t just be because black Americans are striving for some sort of cultural diversity–there must be something about the brand of diversity that they bring that functions differently from Polish-, Irish-, Jewish-, or Italian-Americans all of whom have managed to balance diversity and integration.

          • AG says:

            They want reparations on top of integration.
            They also want other minority groups to follow their model, instead of the existing model. Anyone who doesn’t clearly can only do so because they have privilege.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            They want reparations on top of integration.
            They also want other minority groups to follow their model, instead of the existing model. Anyone who doesn’t clearly can only do so because they have privilege.

            The Japanese were granted reparations for internment, so there are other minority groups who have asked for reparations; since slavery was worse and more pervasive than Japanese internment, I don’t think this is obviously unreasonable. Note also that Germany has paid reparations to Jews for the Holocaust and Jews are not widely regarded to be pursuing a separate model of integration there.

            What are the differences between the black model and the existing model? The only one you’ve mentioned is a desire for reparations: is that it?

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            I disagree that Jews (and Amish) who have their own schools are integrated (when it comes to schooling). They are partially segregated in a way that is acceptable to themselves and most of the rest of society.

            Of course, Jews do immensely well materially and don’t commit more crime than the average, so aside from envy, there is generally not too much reason to be upset at them. This is similar to how the Chinese are generally perceived (worldwide).

            The Amish are probably a better example. They have their own segregated culture which they and society accept, even though it results in materially (relatively) poor outcomes, despite a strong work ethic.

            However, I’ve never seen a Social Justice advocate call the Amish discriminated against or oppressed. In general, the consensus seems to be that their life outcomes are a result of a choice for a certain culture.

            Similarly, the consensus in society seems to be that men have a criminal culture and/or biology, so the bad things that happen to them as a result, is something that is not done to them, but things they do.

            From my perspective, the progressive view on black people is very inconsistent with how other groups are treated. This was more defensible in the past, when one could point to very strong discrimination, limiting the ability of black people to make choices. Yet as this is receding in the past and black people are not taking advantage as much as they can and one would hope for, the narrative that a lack of achievement and/or significant upward mobility is entirely or even mostly due to a lack of opportunity becomes rather absurd.

            Whatever the answer though, it can’t just be because black Americans are striving for some sort of cultural diversity–there must be something about the brand of diversity that they bring that functions differently from Polish-, Irish-, Jewish-, or Italian-Americans all of whom have managed to balance diversity and integration.

            It’s common for (sub)cultures to define themselves in part by being different from other cultures. So then people gain status in the culture by acting more like the self-defined stereotype of their own culture and less like the stereotype of the other culture(s). Some of these traits are purely decorative, while others have more serious consequences.

            It seems to me that some cultures pick traits to define themselves by that work out very positively, while others pick traits that work out poorly. Jews tend to value education very highly, which obviously works out very well in modern society. Asians tend to really value a strong work ethic and not being a nuisance to others, which are also very successful traits. Both groups do better than white Americans.

            It seems to me that black Americans tend to value traits that result in poor outcomes. In a way this makes a lot of sense when looking at history, where black Americans would be punished for being uppity or such & where working hard would give benefits to the slave owner, not to the slave. Black Americans may have chosen to engage in policing their own, to keep themselves safe in an environment where having ambitions and believing that you have agency will just get one punished and where one slave working harder, would result in the demands on all slaves increasing, where the vigilantism works better than to trust authority to punish crime, etc.

            However, this then resulted in a culture that, when the oppression was reduced/lifted, keeps acting like it hasn’t.

            So then to achieve success, these parts of black culture need to change. Without that, I don’t see how reparations will make a significant change.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I disagree that Jews (and Amish) who have their own schools are integrated (when it comes to schooling). They are partially segregated in a way that is acceptable to themselves and most of the rest of society.

            Ok, but this was originally a response to

            As for American Jews, my perception is that they accept that they either integrate or depend on their own pillar. You have many American Jews like John Stewart, who gave up nearly everything of their background. He even gave up his name. On the other hand, you have the orthodox who strongly reject integration, but also don’t demand the benefits of integration.

            I think the two quotes above are in tension: to what extent does the existence of Jewish schools (and Jewish camps, etc) mean that Jews have failed to integrate and “depend on their pillar”?
            My point with the example was to show that a large number of Jews “split the difference”–they segregate to some extent, but still do things like attend universities with everyone else, join the Army, and otherwise participate in American culture and mix with other Americans. I still contend that this is in fact the case.

            Of course, Jews do immensely well materially and don’t commit more crime than the average, so aside from envy, there is generally not too much reason to be upset at them. This is similar to how the Chinese are generally perceived (worldwide).

            In fact, people have managed to find reasons to be upset at Jews despite this, sometimes quite violently so. This is sometimes even justified in terms of crime. The same is very much true for the Chinese.

            The Amish are probably a better example. They have their own segregated culture which they and society accept, even though it results in materially (relatively) poor outcomes, despite a strong work ethic.
            However, I’ve never seen a Social Justice advocate call the Amish discriminated against or oppressed. In general, the consensus seems to be that their life outcomes are a result of a choice for a certain culture.

            Right…because they very explicitly are a choice. There has never been an “Amish Jim Crow” that forced Amish people to live Amish lifestyles.

            From my perspective, the progressive view on black people is very inconsistent with how other groups are treated. This was more defensible in the past, when one could point to very strong discrimination, limiting the ability of black people to make choices. Yet as this is receding in the past and black people are not taking advantage as much as they can and one would hope for, the narrative that a lack of achievement and/or significant upward mobility is entirely or even mostly due to a lack of opportunity becomes rather absurd.

            I suspect it will be too much to argue directly for or against the proposition that Jim Crow and the black experience in America more generally are plausible causes of the social and economic situation of African Americans, but can we at least agree that if you concede that the legacy of that discrimination hasn’t gone away, that completely explains the distinction in how progressives talk about African Americans vs. the Amish?
            That believing that the distinction is that the poverty of the Amish lifestyle is self-chosen for religious reasons dating back 400 years, whereas black poverty until at least 50 years ago was state policy enforced by violence is at least a consistent point of view?

            It seems to me that some cultures pick traits to define themselves by that work out very positively, while others pick traits that work out poorly. Jews tend to value education very highly, which obviously works out very well in modern society. Asians tend to really value a strong work ethic and not being a nuisance to others, which are also very successful traits. Both groups do better than white Americans.

            What about the Irish? Poles? Italians? Are they famous for their good stereotypes?

            Anyway, as I allude to above, this is very much cherry-picking. Jews and Chinese are not uniformly highly educated and polite, nor have they always been seen to be so (if they even are now)–both groups have, in the recent past, been regarded as carriers of disease, crime, social dysfunction, and alien cultural values.
            My guess is that, at least for Jews, it is the aftermath of the Holocaust more than anything else that has changed how Americans regard Jews, and Wikipedia seems to agree, though ideally I’d like more information. It’s perhaps interesting that I can find people arguing for WWII as a turning point in acceptance of the Italian community in America as well, although again it’d be useful to find more detail.

            It seems to me that black Americans tend to value traits that result in poor outcomes. In a way this makes a lot of sense when looking at history, where black Americans would be punished for being uppity or such & where working hard would give benefits to the slave owner, not to the slave. Black Americans may have chosen to engage in policing their own, to keep themselves safe in an environment where having ambitions and believing that you have agency will just get one punished and where one slave working harder, would result in the demands on all slaves increasing, where the vigilantism works better than to trust authority to punish crime, etc.

            However, this then resulted in a culture that, when the oppression was reduced/lifted, keeps acting like it hasn’t.

            So then to achieve success, these parts of black culture need to change. Without that, I don’t see how reparations will make a significant change.

            So…you think that the main difference between African Americans and other hyphenated Americans isn’t actually that other Americans have given themselves over to complete integration, but rather integration for blacks is less successful because of elements of their culture resulting from the history of oppression they suffered?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I’m going to add another response because I think to some extent we’ve gone off-track here, and the details of Jewish or Chinese assimilation are red herrings.

            To my mind, the discussion so far has been over to what extent demand for African American Studies and HBCUs shows that black Americans are pursuing a different model of integration to other, more successful American minorities.

            As far as I can see, everyone seems to agree now that it’s not the demand for those semi-segregated institutions per se that makes the black pursuit of integration different, since other minorities have those sorts of institutions as well.

            Now, the claim as best I can tell is the difference is either in some more extreme demands like reparations, or more generally, in a different attitude towards mainstream American society–possibly resulting from a difference in culture.

            I think that, since Japanese-Americans have received reparations, and no one seems too worked up about, I suspect that even reparations can be subsumed under the second possibility: reparations is an extreme demand for blacks but not Japanese because the Japanese held a different attitude towards integration–the idea is that blacks are demanding reparations as a “fast-track” to parity, whereas Japanese-Americans integrated the right way, and so “earned” reparations.

            Is this an accurate-ish summary of the argument so far, and a fair statement of where we now stand? Because I’m worried that everyone is talking very much past each other at this point, and I’ve been responding as if the discussion is still where it started–whether or not demands for -studies programs and separate colleges shows a distinction between the African American strategy and other -American strategies.

          • ana53294 says:

            I think that, since Japanese-Americans have received reparations, and no one seems too worked up about, I suspect that even reparations can be subsumed under the second possibility: reparations is an extreme demand for blacks but not Japanese because the Japanese held a different attitude towards integration–the idea is that blacks are demanding reparations as a “fast-track” to parity, whereas Japanese-Americans integrated the right way, and so “earned” reparations.

            I would assume that reparations to Japanese-Americans are more acceptable because they are a fait accompli, and because they are much, much cheaper than reparations to African-Americans would be. I couldn’t find the exact number of Japanese Americans, but Asian-Americans are less than 6 %, and a lot of Asians are Chinese and Indians.

            African-Americans are 12 % of the populations. Also, there weren’t as many interned Japanese Americans as there are descendants of citizens who were slaves and people who suffered Jim Crow laws. There is better documentation of who was interned, too. Proving you are a descendant of a slave would be hard, because nobody kept records of that for very good reasons. How would you distinguish more recent African-American inmigrants from slaves’ descendants?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Simpler explanations:
            * There are far fewer Japanese-Americans-who-were-interned than there are African-Americans. The much lower cost matters.
            * Reparations in the Japanese case did not go to Japanese-Americans, it went to the people who were actually interned, or very close descendants. The much more direct connection between the wrong-doing and the persons impacted matters.

          • Matt M says:

            reparations is an extreme demand for blacks but not Japanese because the Japanese held a different attitude towards integration–the idea is that blacks are demanding reparations as a “fast-track” to parity, whereas Japanese-Americans integrated the right way, and so “earned” reparations.

            I would say the two cases are extremely different in terms of simple logistics.

            I’m not familiar with the details of Japanese reparations, but I’m assuming that they were paid within the lifetimes of the victims, and that documentation of precisely who was in interned, for how long, etc. were easily available.

            With black reparations, I’m just not sure how it would work logistically. We’re multiple generations removed from the crime. Documentation of who was enslaved and when they were freed, etc. is sparse and limited. Proving that any particular black person is descended from a particular slave is likely difficult.

            I wouldn’t necessarily be against black reparations in principle, but the time to do that was in the immediate aftermath of slavery, not 150 years later. The way to do it was to compensate recently freed slaves immediately, not wait and pay some large benefit to their great-great-grandchildren. Part of me also feels like the whole “40 acres and a mule” thing was intended to be just that. That the government at the time did make some efforts to “compensate” freedmen.

            Edit: What Jask said also. Japanese reparations involve a settlement between the specific people who perpetrated a wrong (the federal government) and the specific people who were victimized by the wrong (the interred), whereas black reparations demand a settlement between all current US taxpayers (none of whom practiced slavery) and all current blacks residing in America (many of whom are not descended from slaves)

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @ana53294 and Jaskologist
            The post I’m referring to says “They want reparations on top of integration”, in response to a question asking what is different between the model of integration pursued by African Americans vs other minorities.

            From context, it sounds to me like an objection to reparations for the black community per se, not just based on practicality. although of course AG can clarify.

            EDIT to point out that my remarks can be directed at Matt M as well.

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            My country has a history of groups developing their own pillar, learning to stand on their own feet, etc. The Dutch government tried to encourage the Maroccan and Turkish immigrants to do the same, by subsidizing migrant organizations, sports, culture and such, but it didn’t work, because they didn’t have the cultural background that made it work. I remember a letter in my newspaper by a frustrated volunteer who put in his own money for a while to organize a sports event and who had kids with expensive clothes and iPhones attend who seemed to enjoy it, but as soon as he asked a small fee, they bailed. So they wouldn’t take steps towards adopting it for their own and taking responsibility for taking on a little burden to keep the nice things goings. Similarly, as soon as the Dutch leaders try to hand over the reigns, it tends to go wrong. This is especially true for Maroccans, as most are Berber mountain people, who are unused to working together in larger groups. They were also selected for being poorly educated, resulting in a lack of good leaders.

            Jewish Americans very much do have the ability to create a solid pillar. If anything, if they partly have their own pillar, they gain more opportunity than they miss out on, because so many Jews are well-educated and have good jobs. AFAIK, the ability for Jews to prosper in the face of even fairly severe oppression has vexed many an antisemite government/populace.

            The Chinese and Amish are substantially less capable to make their pillar work in a way that we typically consider successful and they are in some ways quite marginalized, but they accept it and they don’t have much friction with others. Italian Americans did have traits that made it hard for them to integrate and it took 150 years after the first Italians came and 60 years after the largest migration surge for them to achieve a national average income, with a lot of pain.

            So my point is that the culture and/or background of the group determines in large part how well certain strategies work. Segregation doesn’t seem to work well for black Americans, or do you think that they are making decent progress? I mean, median hispanic household income seems to already be above black household incomes and a ton of hispanics came to America fairly recently with generally poor education and wealth.

            I suspect it will be too much to argue directly for or against the proposition that Jim Crow and the black experience in America more generally are plausible causes of the social and economic situation of African Americans, but can we at least agree that if you concede that the legacy of that discrimination hasn’t gone away, that completely explains the distinction in how progressives talk about African Americans vs. the Amish?

            I agree that feelings of guilt are a major factor in why this distinction is made. I just think that these feelings cause people to act irrationally. Ultimately, the cause is irrelevant if the goal is not assign blame (which seems rather unhelpful, since the most severe perpetrators are mostly dead and the beneficiaries are unclear), but to figure out the best path to prosperity in the future. We can’t undo the past and I don’t think it is healthy to be obsessed with trying to do so. One result of wanting to do this is that some have a strong need to believe that discrimination is still happening that actually isn’t, so the modern white man has full agency to undo the consequences of the wrongs in the past. A sort of white men’s burden.

            This is just not how life works. The Germans can’t undo the consequences of the Holocaust either.

            Ultimately, it’s also a bit of a weird situation that is reminiscent of a trolley problem, where Jack feels obligated to compensate the family of Bob who was pushed in front of the train by Jack’s parents, but not to Frank who was already bound to the railroad tracks. However, both Frank’s and Bob’s family suffered the exact same hardship in their lives, by losing someone. I understand that a conservative person would make this distinction, but I can’t see how this is consistent with progressivism, where I understand the main goal to be equal opportunity, regardless of whether a lack of opportunity resulted from harm from a person or harm from nature.

            PS. Of course there is diversity in any group, but that is always going to be the case. It’s about the general trends.

            PS2. I just don’t think that reparations that give a one-time boost to wealth result in a significant increase in education levels, the quality of the jobs that people can obtain or other factors that result in long term boost, rather than temporarily increased consumption. Of course, if you just care about making people’s lives better off temporarily, then you can favor it, but I see a long term boost as the important issue (teach a man to fish…).

            PS. Japanese Americans who were interned were compensated with $20k in 1988, which is about $40k in today’s money. The compensation was only to a surviving victim.

          • John Schilling says:

            The Japanese were granted reparations for internment, so there are other minority groups who have asked for reparations; since slavery was worse and more pervasive than Japanese internment, I don’t think this is obviously unreasonable.

            The only Japanese-Americans who ever recieved reparations, were the ones who had actually, personally been interned. And then not until nearly half a century had passed and most of them were conveniently dead so that paying reparations was a cheap token gesture.

            I am fairly certain that if someone were to propose reparations for Americans who had been personally enslaved, this would pass without controversy. And I wonder if it would have been possible in, say 1908. But, as you say, slavery is worse than internment. Probably we could swing reparations to the actual children of slaves.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            And I wonder if it would have been possible in, say 1908.

            Really doubt it. Really, really. When those same former slaves are still officially “others” and unofficially barely second class citizens…

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            So my point is that the culture and/or background of the group determines in large part how well certain strategies work. Segregation doesn’t seem to work well for black Americans, or do you think that they are making decent progress? I mean, median hispanic household income seems to already be above black household incomes and a ton of hispanics came to America fairly recently with generally poor education and wealth.

            Ok. So, to be clear, the argument is that asking for -studies programs and tailored universities works for Jews and Italians, but not for blacks, because blacks have a different culture that makes this strategy less successful?

            I guess my next question is: why are you sure that an integrationist strategy would be more successful for blacks?

            Your comment has a lot of comparisons to other minority groups that have integrated more successfully. I think to a large extent you are projecting the present onto the past.

            In particular, while it’s obvious to you now that all those ethnic white cultures were perfectly compatible with mainstream American culture, that’s not how people felt at the time: as I mentioned, the Catholicism of some immigrants was seen as incompatible with the very idea of Republicanism. Meanwhile, Italians were seen as mafiosi and banditti, while Jews were Bolsheviks, criminals, and anarchists.
            The hyphenated status of these groups was very much suspicious.

            So a simple culture-based explanation needs to explain why Italians and Jews were able to overcome these cultural shortcomings–it’s all well and good to note that Jews do fine now because they stay out of trouble and act like good Americans except for their religious schools and funny holidays, but it requires an explanation as to how this state of affairs came to be.

            I think this discussion would be a lot clearer if you explained exactly which minority groups you consider to have adopted successful assimilation strategies, and what those strategies are.

            For example, at the beginning you argued that black attempts to self-segregate would hurt their attempt to integrate; but now you say that Jews can be successful relying on their own community, and perhaps even have greater opportunities doing so. Can blacks not do that? Why or why not?

            If the big difference is one of culture, how do you reconcile this with the fact that more successful immigrant communities also did not have “good” cultural habits when they arrived–in particular, how did they develop those cultural habits?

            As to the rest:
            I am not arguing for reparations! I am responding to a comment that the difference between black attempts at assimilation and other minorities’ attempts is that blacks ask for reparation. Since in fact other minorities have asked for reparations (and even received them!), this difference is imaginary. Perhaps the difference is that blacks made an unreasonable demand for reparations, whereas other minorities have made reasonable demands, but that’s not what the comment I am responding to said.

            You are also misunderstanding my comparison with the Amish–I am responding to your claim that you have “never seen a Social Justice advocate call the Amish discriminated against or oppressed”, even though they have “(relatively) poor outcomes”.
            I am pointing it that you are misunderstanding the SJ claim–it’s not that “poor outcomes can only be explained by oppression”.
            Rather, the reason SJs believe African Americans are discriminated against and oppressed is because of stuff like slavery, Jim Crow, and redlining.
            You may dispute whether it is correct to believe that African Americans today are oppressed by these and their legacy, but granting this premise it explains the difference between how SJs talk about Amish- vs. African-Americans.

          • johansenindustries says:

            THe Italins and Mafia points can have the simple explanation of the federal government cracking down on Mafiosos.

            When the consensus was that African Americn culture was sufficiently wrong as to be worth denying them civil rights over then they acted in a more stereotypiclly ‘white’ way too, I beleive.

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            So, to be clear, the argument is that asking for -studies programs and tailored universities works for Jews and Italians, but not for blacks, because blacks have a different culture that makes this strategy less successful?

            I’m not arguing that it doesn’t work at all, I’m arguing that it doesn’t work very well where black culture is a major reason for that. However, I think that the current mainstream culture encourages ressentiment by blacks (resulting in demands that others change to resolve friction and an unwillingness to compromise and change themselves). Ironically, the desire to treat blacks better due to guilt, then actually keeps the black man down.

            why are you sure that an integrationist strategy would be more successful for blacks?

            Because if your culture has traits that make you less successful, adopting the traits that make you more successful results in the obvious. Of course, one doesn’t have to integrate to do so. It’s also possible to adopt the traits while remaining separate (see the Meiji Restoration, for example). However, this is more difficult, because integration forces you to adapt.

            In particular, while it’s obvious to you now that all those ethnic white cultures were perfectly compatible with mainstream American culture

            That’s not what I claimed. I pointed out that the Italians had a really tough time. That is not ‘perfectly compatible.’ Ultimately, it’s also not all in the hands of the ethnic group, what groups can get away with depends on mainstream culture as well. For example, today’s mainstream culture accepts non-white skin color, different religions and such a lot more than in the past, but is probably less accepting of criminality.

            I think this discussion would be a lot clearer if you explained exactly which minority groups you consider to have adopted successful assimilation strategies, and what those strategies are.

            For modern mainstream culture: Chinese, Jews, Indians.

            Some strategies:
            – speak/learn the language
            – study hard
            – work hard
            – interact with/date/etc the successful groups
            – don’t complain too easily if a cultural mismatch results in difficulty getting good jobs or such, but adapt to others
            – Date boring partners that help raise children and help create two-income households, rather than exciting partners that don’t
            – trust the police
            – Don’t have too many children and invest in the few you have
            – Be willing to rebel against your parents/family if they hold you back
            – Don’t strongly enforce (unsuccessful) cultural elements that strongly mismatch with mainstream society

            Can blacks not [be successful by relying on their own community]?

            Theoretically they can, sure. That’s what they mostly seem to be trying to do. As far as I can tell, no one thinks that it is going well (including most black Americans).

            It is quite plausible that the current path results in black Americans eventually getting on par with white America. My guess would be at least another 100 years at this pace. Is that acceptable to you? To black Americans?

            If the big difference is one of culture, how do you reconcile this with the fact that more successful immigrant communities also did not have “good” cultural habits when they arrived–in particular, how did they develop those cultural habits?

            Just about every immigrant community does better than Black Americans, even those with bad habits (and those with various skin colors). But the general answer is step by step and with inter-group conflict:

            “It was well understood that the first generation of Italians that immigrated to America did not want to forgo a part of their ancestry and assimilate into the American culture. It was the second
            and third generations that felt in order to best succeed in America they needed to become more “American.” Alba touches on this in length and examines why both sides struggled so badly in their attempt to persuade their family members who thought otherwise.”

            In part, people slowly change and in part, the old conservative people die and make place for newer generations who hopefully are more open to change. Ultimately, people have to be willing to make the changes to be successful.

          • AG says:

            Some of the responses here have better clarified my comment. Yes, I mean how the reparations demanded in the SJ context are much more abstract than the existing reparations that have been paid. When non-black minorities have acquiesced to the non-integrating diversity model, they, too, begin to demand that, e.g., Asian studies be prioritized, or speak of the damages of colonialism as like a debt to be repaid.

            As a new hypothesis, it may be about the thorough severing of heritage. Most Asians or integrated Europeans can point to a home country in which their own ethnicity retains dignity and a significant level of global dominance. Black Americans, however, do not hold a connection to Africa, and even then, they cannot view the African nations as having overcome colonialism to gain global dignity. (Hence why they love Afrofuturist fantasy of Wakanda, whereas other cultures’ scifi imagines a melting pot Earth culture.) So they seek to establish the equivalent of the Golden Age Kingdom that other cultures have, here at home.
            This theory doesn’t jive well with Central and South America, admittedly, but you could argue that those people still have that connection to Europe, and have historical ethnic agency/dominance in their own countries, like white Americans do.

            There are jokes about “Elite Asians” vs. “Jungle Asians,” and it somewhat bears out, that Asian Americans from a cultural heritage without a historical dominance (Southeast Asians, Vietnamese) have not been so consistently model minorities as the ones who were able to engage in cultural imperialism (China, Japan, Korea).

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @Aapje

            I’m not arguing that it doesn’t work at all, I’m arguing that it doesn’t work very well where black culture is a major reason for that. However, I think that the current mainstream culture encourages ressentiment by blacks (resulting in demands that others change to resolve friction and an unwillingness to compromise and change themselves). Ironically, the desire to treat blacks better due to guilt, then actually keeps the black man down.

            What sorts of mainstream attitudes do you think are at fault? I’m assuming you’re referring to things like support for affirmative action (which only has 22% support among whites—and support for “merit-based” admissions only is at 50% in the black community) or indulging a belief that blacks are unable to get good jobs (70% of white Americans disagreed in 2016—a 23-year low), educations (75% of whites disagree, an all-time low as far back as Gallup has polling), housing (75% o f white Americans disagree—a 25-year low). But, as my parenthetical statistics illustrate, this view is not particularly mainstream among white Americans—79% of Americans think are not treated less fairly at work, and 72% of all Americans believe the same. Only 51% of Americans (and 55% of whites) think that blacks are treated less fairly by the police, and 61% of Americans (56% of whites) think that “racism is widespread”, but those are the only issues where the “non-indulgent” attitude drops below 70%; majorities, and in most case supermajorities of Americans seem to think that blacks are treated more or less equally, and this belief was even stronger in the recent past.
            So, why do you think this attitude is mainstream? To me, it looks like the mainstream position is “blacks are treated mostly fairly, except by the police”. I would also be curious to know for how long you think this cluster of attitudes has been mainstream—as I say, looking back, the mainstream view by public polling over the last few decades would have been even more in favour of the position that “blacks are treated mostly fairly”, so how long has this attitude warped the ability of blacks to integrate?
            I’d also be curious if you characterize the desire for Jewish-studies programs for example as “encouraging ressentiment” among Jews—if not, what’s different about demands for African American studies programs and black spaces at universities from the Jewish demand for Hillel Houses?

            For modern mainstream culture: Chinese, Jews, Indians.

            Even though the Chinese “are substantially less capable to make their pillar work in a way that we typically consider successful and they are in some ways quite marginalized”?

            Some strategies:
            – speak/learn the language
            – study hard
            – work hard
            – interact with/date/etc the successful groups
            – don’t complain too easily if a cultural mismatch results in difficulty getting good jobs or such, but adapt to others
            – Date boring partners that help raise children and help create two-income households, rather than exciting partners that don’t
            – trust the police
            – Don’t have too many children and invest in the few you have
            – Be willing to rebel against your parents/family if they hold you back
            – Don’t strongly enforce (unsuccessful) cultural elements that strongly mismatch with mainstream society

            I think these are all good ideas, but some of them depend on the mainstream society: “interact/date” the mainstream groups was…not an option for black Americans by force of law until 50 years ago and by public attitude until sometime around the ‘90s (and note that it was white attitudes much more so than black attitudes that were responsible for this: in 1985 71% of blacks approved of intermarriage, while only 38% of whites did). Also, it is at least possible that blacks might have good reason not to “trust the police”.
            However, I think it makes more sense to hear your response to my first points before digging too much into this; I think in the abstract, most of the above make sense, though I note they are not at all incompatible with demands for black studies and black cultural centres.

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            By mainstream I don’t mean what you find in polls, but rather what is written in WaPo, The NY Times, etc & what message is sent in many cultural sources, like Hollywood movies. African Americans vote 90% Democrat and when it comes to adopting a narrative on race relations, a major influence seems to be the narrative of a substantial subset of the blue tribe.

            Note that mainstream is not the same as majority. My point is that ressentiment is fed from outside of the community, which increases it beyond what the community would generate on its own.

            I’d also be curious if you characterize the desire for Jewish-studies programs for example as “encouraging ressentiment” among Jews—if not, what’s different about demands for African American studies programs and black spaces at universities from the Jewish demand for Hillel Houses?

            I don’t think that Jewish-studies tends to create the specific type of ressentiment that African American studies tend to.

            It is true that Zionism has its roots in ressentiment against gentiles, because the very claim is that Jews cannot be accepted by gentiles and must have their own state for safety. However, the solution proposed is emigration. Of course one can always ‘fix’ the perceived problems of multicultural society by leaving and going to a more or less monocultural society*.

            The thesis that started this discussion was that paths that can work are:
            – to not accept major compromises to be more like majority culture as to gain acceptance, but then also not to expect the benefits that come from that acceptance
            – to adapt significantly to majority culture and then to seek the the benefits that come from acceptance

            What doesn’t work is to refuse to make sufficient compromise, yet then to demand acceptance.

            * Of course, Black Americans also have their Israel, in Liberia, but this is a very sad country (less than half the GDP per capita as Zimbabwe).

            Even though the Chinese “are substantially less capable to make their pillar work in a way that we typically consider successful and they are in some ways quite marginalized”?

            If you choose the path of the pillar, then this is a rejection of the values of others & their status hierarchy, which means that you can also decide to define success differently from how they define it. A very good way to prevent self-destructive feelings of ressentiment is to redefine ‘success’ as something that is compatible with the (cultural) choices that you make.

            For example, the Amish don’t seem to care that they don’t have political representation in the senate. The chinese don’t seem to be angry because very few CEOs are chinese.

            I think these are all good ideas, but some of them depend on the mainstream society

            Of course. What works doesn’t just depend on you, but also on the rest of society.

            I note they are not at all incompatible with demands for black studies and black cultural centres.

            I’m not saying that this is the case. I’m just saying that if black studies consists of a claim that since the beginning of time, white people set up a system of ‘whiteness’ that oppresses others and that this is the natural tendency of white people, requiring constant painful self-monitoring on their end for white and black people to be able to live together; then that this is not a basis for pleasant coexistence.

            If it’s: look at these people in history, black people can also achieve things if they study and work real hard, then that can be helpful.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            By mainstream I don’t mean what you find in polls, but rather what is written in WaPo, The NY Times

            Why do you think the black community bases its standards on what the Washington Post says? And can you provide some evidence that what you are referring to is actually found in those sources? Here are the first three WaPo articles I found searching for “Washington post black success”. I do not think they fit your characterization of the message that black America is receiving.

            African Americans vote 90% Democrat and when it comes to adopting a narrative on race relations, a major influence seems to be the narrative of a substantial subset of the blue tribe.

            Democrats like Barack Obama?

            I don’t think that Jewish-studies tends to create the specific type of ressentiment that African American studies tend to.

            Jews have a whole field called Holocaust studies; the idea among Jews that anti-Semitism is an implacable ancient hatred that is literally universal is not at all uncommon, nor is a sense that all of Jewish history is a series of
            near-death experiences at the hands of gentiles.
            There’s an interesting movie from 2009 called Defamation about the ADL in which you see Jewish community leaders indulging in what I think is basically paranoia about the odds of their gentile neighbours turning on them in another Holocaust.
            If I only had access to the way that ADL members talk, and the more extreme things my relatives say about Jews and anti-Semitism, I would think that Jews are ruled by an insane paranoia that gentile society is out to get us at every turn. And truly, there are people like this, and you can genuinely find this message pushed by Jewish advocacy groups. But I think most Jews, though they will indulge this attitude jokingly, and maybe won’t dismiss it completely, understand that this is dramatically overhyped. Unless you have some evidence to the contrary, I’m assuming that you should take talk about white supremacy the same way: an overheated response to genuine persecution that some ideologues genuinely believe and some advocates will absolutely push, but that most people understand is hyperbolic.

            You have so far given no evidence whatsoever that blacks in America even hold the views you attribute, much less that they get these views from Hollywood, much less that these views shape the black sociological experience: I think the timing is wrong, since blacks have struggled to assimilate for literally centuries, whereas social justice is two decades-ish old; I think it sounds completely implausible (imagine suggesting that those paranoid Jews I mentioned above got their paranoia from watching too many Holocaust movies); and I think you yourself provided a better explanation earlier when you said that black America picked up many cultural habits from an earlier era of oppression and explanation.

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            It seems rather obvious to me that BLM is derived from Social Justice. Similarly, you very often see black women demand that feminism caters to their needs more. Those women are clearly not rejecting the thrust of the ideology, but instead want an adapted version.

            It is true that I’m speculating about the role that WaPo, the NY Times, etc play in shaping the beliefs of the ‘influencers.’

            Democrats like Barack Obama?

            Your link is broken, so I don’t know what your point is exactly, although I’m guessing that you intended to point me to Bill Cosby-like statements by Obama. If so, it seems relevant to note that many Democrats seemed rather disenchanted with his race policies and that the Democrats radicalized on this topic during his term.

            Of course, Obama is not of slave descent, he was raised by white and Indonesian parents for most of his life and did not grow up in America, so culturally he can’t really be called African-American.

            If I only had access to the way that ADL members talk, and the more extreme things my relatives say about Jews and anti-Semitism, I would think that Jews are ruled by an insane paranoia that gentile society is out to get us at every turn.

            Yet the Jews who feel this way don’t seem to reject politics, the police, etc. As I said, I think that Israel works as a safety valve, where extremist Jews who reject American society leave instead of agitate.

            You have so far given no evidence whatsoever that blacks in America even hold the views you attribute, much less that they get these views from Hollywood, much less that these views shape the black sociological experience: I think the timing is wrong, since blacks have struggled to assimilate for literally centuries, whereas social justice is two decades-ish old; I think it sounds completely implausible (imagine suggesting that those paranoid Jews I mentioned above got their paranoia from watching too many Holocaust movies); and I think you yourself provided a better explanation earlier when you said that black America picked up many cultural habits from an earlier era of oppression and explanation.

            My claim is not that problematic assimilation was caused by Social Justice, but rather, that SJ provides an attractive narrative that allows black Americans to cling to their culture, which is more comfortable than assimilating, and yet believe in the possibility of positive change merely by demanding things (and then having others do things for them).

            White American attitudes towards black Americans are better than ever, with many racism measurements having reached lizardman status. The main resistance is to have black people be given preferential treatment, which tends to be considered racist by progressives, although I don’t think it is. Progressives tend to agree that the preferential treatment is in itself undesirable, but merely intended to be used temporarily to achieve a breakthrough. I don’t think that it works that way, because preferential treatment destroys the development of the ingroup feelings that one needs to take the final step. At a certain point, the last step can only be taken by having people leave their ingroup comfort zone. White Americans have little incentive to leave their ingroup comfort zone, because doing so risks their future prospects and that of their children. So black Americans are going to mostly have to do it.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I think I’ve misunderstood your argument: does this characterize your position:
            “Until recently (last two or three decades or so), the failure of black Americans to achieve parity with white Americans was in fact driven largely by white racism, but finally there is a window for black Americans to rise to success, only they risk wasting their opportunity if they focus on past grievances instead? And that the rise of Social Justice risks focusing the black community’s attention on grievances rather than taking advantage of opportunities”?
            In other words, you don’t think that Social Justice has been a problem for assimilation, but will be going forward? If so, I’m curious what you think the mechanism behind this will be? Will a focus on Social Justice inflame white American attitudes and narrow the window of opportunity? Does the mechanism depend on how justified the grievances presented are?
            Depending on the exact argument you’re making, I actually think you might agree with a lot of SJ-people.
            Even so, I still think you are dramatically overstating the influence of the Social Justice narrative in black communities, misstating where it comes from, and improperly conflating it with things like African American studies and then acting like this presents black Americans with a dichotomy that I think is false.
            First of all: that according to Gallup, while there is a large gap in black and white attitudes, still a majority of blacks think that “black children have as good a chance as white children in [their] community” to get good educations, and housing they can afford, and 60% of blacks blame “mostly something else” for “blacks’ inferior jobs, income and housing situation” (compare with 83% of whites). For confidence in the police, blacks are 37% likely to have a great deal of confidence, 37% some, and 25% very little or none; the numbers for whites are 59%, 29% and 12%. So, a gap, but I’m not sure it’s evidence that the black community has committed itself to the most extreme version of the SJ ideology.
            I also think your focus on the Washington Post and the Democrats as vectors for this is, frankly, silly. The WaPo articles I linked, and the Obama thing (correct link here) seem to me pretty solid evidence that the mainline view in opinion pages and among mainstream Democrats is that parental involvement, better education, and more stable families are a key component of black success. I sincerely doubt you can find many mainstream publications arguing that black Americans don’t need to study hard, or invest more in their children in order to achieve success, and I really wish you provide any evidence at all that this view exists, much less is mainstream among either the “opinion set”, or among African Americans.
            As an analogy, consider where the grievance-based attitudes I mentioned in the Jewish community come from: the Holocaust ended 20 years earlier than Jim Crow did, and my family more or less completely escaped the Holocaust—none of my grandparents were born in Europe, and even a few of my great-grandparents were born in North America; the closest relatives I have who personally suffered in the Holocaust are some cousins of my grandparents. And yet, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism were topics I was raised with, passed down through my family and community; I didn’t learn about them from newspapers or advocacy groups or academics. I imagine, insofar as black Americans believe in “white supremacy”, it is much more a cultural memory passed down by grandparents who lived under Jim Crow, and parents who spent their childhoods under it, than something learned by reading academic books white supremacy.

            I also do not think the demand for African American studies programs and Black Culture Centres, and so forth, are good examples of the rise of grievance-based SJ ideas: You keep saying that African Americans want “preferential treatment”, and are “demanding things” and that “others do things for them”—but as I keep pointing out, having your own student centres and studies programs is not “preferential”: Chinese students, Jewish students, Italian students, and many more have these as well.
            You seem to think that African American studies is particularly grievance based, but have literally not presented any evidence at all; you seem to think that Jewish studies for example are not particularly grievance-based, and when presented with evidence to the contrary assert that the most resentful Jews just go to Israel—again with no evidence. I promise you that the view that anti-Semitism is widespread, universal, and a constant threat is not confined to Israeli Jews, and can absolutely be found in mainstream Jewish advocacy groups in North America as well as promoted by Jewish Studies and Holocaust Studies professors. How the ressentiment compares to black studies I have no idea, but in order for me to be convinced there is a real difference, I am going to want to see some evidence.
            So, I don’t see any evidence that the dichotomy you present is anything other than a false one: “segregation” via AA studies programs vs. integration strikes me as mostly separate from the question of whether black Americans will take advantage of a historic improvement in white racism.

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            I think I’ve misunderstood your argument: does this characterize your position:
            “Until recently (last two or three decades or so), the failure of black Americans to achieve parity with white Americans was in fact driven largely by white racism, but finally there is a window for black Americans to rise to success, only they risk wasting their opportunity if they focus on past grievances instead? And that the rise of Social Justice risks focusing the black community’s attention on grievances rather than taking advantage of opportunities”?

            That is a major part of my argument, but I think that reality is too complex to just reduce to a single narrative. So I refuse to state that only one thing is the problem.

            SJ has only fairly recently gained the prominence among the left that it has now. The way I see it, SJ is designed around a sentiment of grievance and entitlement without a willingness to sacrifice (instead, it demands maximum sacrifice from the ‘other’). That is not a successful strategy unless you can get society to accept an unfair deal in favor of the group, which works (to some extent) for women, but not so much for black people.

            In other words, you don’t think that Social Justice has been a problem for assimilation, but will be going forward?

            I think that it always was a bit of a problem, but that it is and is going to be a bigger problem.

            Will a focus on Social Justice inflame white American attitudes and narrow the window of opportunity?

            I think that quite a few white Americans will logically feel threatened and resentful by racial discrimination against them.

            I also think that the narrative that lack of success is solely due to white American attitudes reduces the willingness to make the sacrifices that are necessary for successful integration with white America.

            Does the mechanism depend on how justified the grievances presented are?

            Yes.

            according to Gallup, while there is a large gap in black and white attitudes, still a majority of blacks think that “black children have as good a chance as white children in [their] community” to get good educations, and housing they can afford

            The lesser belief by black Americans that their kids have as good a chance for a good education probably reflects reality to some extent. The real issue is how to improve this, presumably. The second statement is true if black people tend to live in cheap and unpleasant housing, in neighborhoods with lots of crime and such. That seem like a problem to me.

            Only the police statistics really address attitudes towards outsiders versus the ingroup.

            So, a gap, but I’m not sure it’s evidence that the black community has committed itself to the most extreme version of the SJ ideology.

            This is not my claim. I believe that certain cultural behaviors involve tipping points. A bad influence that only affects a sizable minority group can prevent a tipping point from being reached.

            PS. You seem to do something weird for your links. In this post you also have a superfluous ” at the end of the links, which sometimes breaks them.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        @Eugene Dawn

        That’s just it, though, Eugene. They manifestly do not. New York City’s Little Italy is only 5% Italian-American as of 2011! Staten Island has the highest Italian-American concentration of any county in the US at over half the population, and yet walking into the borough is nothing like walking into a “Little Italy” neighborhood circa 1950, much less 1900. There are three million “German-Texans” today that identify as such and trace their lineage back to 19th century immigration to Texas, and yet only something like 6,000 have retained any vestiges of Texasdeutsch.

        As far as integration being a two-way street, I agree that it is, but I disagree with your characterization that the end result was one where “you keep plenty of the important stuff about your culture and have it contribute to overall cultural diversity”. In terms of long-term permanent changes to what constitutes “American Culture”, I am hard-pressed to think of a lot of distinctly Italian-originated customs and traditions other than the popularity of certain foods. Our Irish immigrant population was large enough that they got St. Patrick’s Day added to the national culture, but even there my understanding is that even the “commercialized” post-80s variant in Ireland (paging Deiseach!) still retains far more cultural markers that have been pretty much stripped out of the American version. There are some neighborhoods that have marketed themselves as the source of authentic imported culture and they continue to do so because it’s good for business, but the reality behind that is that outside of a few lingering relict families and businesses those neighborhoods are not in fact coherent communities with a shared cultural heritage and haven’t been for decades.

        The image of the vibrant, bustling Irish/Italian/Polish/German/etc immigrant neighborhood is one that was probably still pretty true in living memory (that 5% in NYC’s Little Italy was 50% in the 50s), but is now mostly a function of a few relict families and/or businesses combined with commercial marketing, and does not actually reflect a distinct cultural identity for the vast majority of [Insert Western Euro Nationality Here]-Americans.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          Almost certainly the biggest counterexample to your argument is the religion of many of those immigrants: Catholicism was very much not a part of mainstream ProtestantAmerican culture.

          But now Catholicism is more or less completely unremarkable as a religious identity in the United States, and this owes mostly to Irish, Italian, and Polish immigration.

          More generally, the culture and politics of New York City are basically unimaginable without Jewish and Italian immigrants having shaped them, and something similar is true for Chicago w.r.t. Poles and Boston w.r.t. Irish.

          In literature, you have Saul Bellow, I.B. Singer (who even wrote in Yiddish!), and Philip Roth. In cinema you have Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen. These creators are not just Italian- or Jewish-American, but their work deals with distinctly Italian or Jewish themes, while also being very distinctively American.

          Yiddish, Italian, and Irish-derived words have entered the American lexicon.

          Jews are still fairly concentrated geographically in America and it looks to me as if the same is true of Irish Americans. I also believe that neighbourhoods like Howard Beach in New York are still distinctively Italian, though I can’t find precise numbers.

          You’ve already dismissed food, but still: pizza, spaghetti, bagels, pierogis, etc. have all become normalized as “American food”.

          As to a “coherent community” with a “shared cultural heritage”, I can only speak to Jews, but that is very much still a real thing. I am Canadian, so my experience is slightly different, but I have American family whose friends are primarily Jewish, who are involved in their local synagogues, who celebrate important holidays together, who volunteer for Jewish volunteer organizations, etc., etc. Obviously the religious component plays an important role here, but you can see the more general cultural cohesion in things like pro-Israel politics, Jewish schools, etc.

          • Aapje says:

            You’ve already dismissed food, but still: pizza, spaghetti, bagels, pierogis, etc. have all become normalized as “American food”.

            Note that Italian-American food is no longer the same as Italian food. American pizza is different from Italian pizza.

            American spaghetti and meat balls is not an Italian dish.

            You could not get New York bagels in Israel until they were brought over from America.

            As for pierogi: “Many of these grocery-brand pierogi contain non-traditional ingredients to appeal to American tastes, including spinach, jalapeño and chicken.”

            Take a Chinese citizen to a Chinese restaurant in the US or EU and they will generally call the dishes Americanized.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I think the fact that “ethnic” food Americanizes proves my point that these foods have been assimilated into American culture, rather than the opposite.

          • Aapje says:

            Italian-americans no longer eat the same foods as Italians, though, so each side adapted a bit to the other, with Italians adapting more than vice versa.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m not sure who’s argument it supports at this point, but it’s definitely true that eating General Tso’s Chicken and Pepperoni Pizza are part of white American culture, and not part of Chinese or Italian culture.

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M:

            This is, in fact, one of my favorite parts of white American culture[1]. We beg, borrow, and steal stuff from other cultures and adapt them to work in our own.

            [1] This is also why I think the concept of cultural appropriation, as I’ve generally seen it used, is nuts. Cultural appropriation is a force for good in the world, and throwing a temper-tantrum when nice things from one culture get adopted into another is just making the world a worse place.

          • Matt M says:

            Cultural appropriation is a force for good in the world, and throwing a temper-tantrum when nice things from one culture get adopted into another is just making the world a worse place.

            It’s even worse than that. The double standard has created a situation wherein white Americans literally cannot do anything as it regards culture without causing offense.

            Attempting to spread our own culture to minorities is considered some mixture of colonialism and bigotry. While any white person who attempts to adopt the culture of a different race/ethnicity/nationality is denounced as an evil cultural appropriator.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I’m not sure who’s argument it supports at this point, but it’s definitely true that eating General Tso’s Chicken and Pepperoni Pizza are part of white American culture, and not part of Chinese or Italian culture.

            I’m pretty sure that supports mine.
            Hilariously, in reading up on Italian-American immigration, I found a profile of Joe DiMaggio from 1939, that, attempting to show how integrated an American he was, says of him “Although he learned Italian first, Joe now speaks English without an accent. … Instead of olive oil or smelly bear grease, he keeps his hair slicked with water. He never reeks of garlic and prefers chicken chow mein to spaghetti.”

            I love the idea that he doesn’t eat un-American spaghetti–he eats true-blue chicken chow mein.

          • ana53294 says:

            In regards to cultural appropriation:

            I find the definition confusing, so I want to ask, is this an example of cultural appropriation or not?

            Cordoba’s cathedral-mosque. When Cordoba was conquered, their mosque was consacrated as a cathedral. Muslims in Spain have demanded the right to use the cathedral as a mosque for a very long time, but they are denied.

            Turkey has converted St. Sophia’s Church in Constantinople into a museum, although it had been a mosque for a long time.

          • albatross11 says:

            ana:

            That sounds more like literal appropriation–we kick you out and take over your mosque to use as a church. I think cultural appropriation would be more like if some Christian denomination decided to build some churches that looked very much like mosques or something. And it’s pretty-much guaranteed that any time two cultures are in close contact, lots of that will happen.

          • albatross11 says:

            The best article I’ve seen discussing cultural appropriation from something close to my perspective on the issue is this article by Claire Lehmann.

          • ana53294 says:

            Understandably, indigenous communities have been protective of their sacred objects and cultural artifacts, not wishing the experience of exploitation to be repeated generation after generation.

            There was this case recently where an Inuit shaman’s ritual costume was copied into a high end jacket. I do understand the complaints about that, and I do think that we should respect other people’s religious symbols (we would probably completely desacrate them because we don’t understand them). But the complaints about a girl wearing a qipao still sound silly to me. I wouldn’t call the Chinese culture a minority culture, either. They are one of the biggest cultures in the world, and they are going to become even more important. Why should we protect them?

            Personally, I love it when people appropriate my culture. So if people get inspired by traditional Basque cuisine and make these weird ungodly creations, great. I only get slightly annoyed when they use stuff incorrectly. For example, the world for parents in Spanish is fathers. We have a specific world for parents in Spanish, but some Spanish people say fathers in Basque. Unless it happens to be a child of a gay couple, this is incorrect. I do like that they try to make an effort, though.

            Learning another culture’s language is a sign of respect. Why is wearing that culture’s clothing a sign of lack of respect, though?

          • hls2003 says:

            @albatross11:

            Pretty good article, thanks. However, from the article, I think I would draw the line somewhat differently. I would think improper “appropriation” would involve the actual artifacts, not a certain aesthetic. If there is an original relic or item, taken by a member of another culture (even if not for sale) and used improperly, that is likely a moral problem (though even there there are line-drawing issues; what looks like looting to one may look like preservation to another if the local environment is sufficiently chaotic).

            However, this only extends to actual cultural artifacts. The appropriation of the aesthetic, to my mind, only becomes a problem when there is fraud or unfair competition. For example, if a Native American makes traditional jewelry in a traditional style (and perhaps with traditional handcraft) and offers it for sale as “authentic Indian jewelry,” and then a non-native entrepreneur sets up a stand next door offering the same design and also claiming to be “authentic,” that’s improper. But Woolworth’s selling the same line in New York City without appellation should be non-problematic (outside of certain design patent / IP issues that are too specialized to be applicable in most situations).

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, I think the world is massively better off because, say, blacks appropriated a bunch of western musical ideas and traditions and then invented or helped invent a bunch of modern musical styles–regae, rap, Motown, jazz, blues, etc.. Or because peppers and potatoes from the Americas got incorporated into some Indian cuisine. Or because Mexican and Italian and Chinese food all got incorporated into American cuisine, changing some in the process.

            The most important thing to remember about most kinds of outrage/callout stuff is that there are two statements:

            a. This (pretty white girl wearing a Chinese dress, Japanese partygoer wearing a nun’s habit as a costume, American of Scots-Irish descent making tacos) offends me because they’re using some of my culture.

            b. You should support my being offended and join in, rather than saying “Hmmm, that fellow sure seems worked up over that girl in the pretty dress.”

            There’s no point trying to argue about (a)–we’re in “no accounting for tastes” territory. But with this and most other outrage/callout culture instances, the point is (b)–getting others to go along with my outrage. The place to break the chain here is at (b). Accept that some people will be offended at *anything*–some idiot somewhere is probably offended that the Japanese appropriated joint-stock corporations and car manufacturing. But also be clear that nobody else is obliged to go along with their outrage.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I would think improper “appropriation” would involve the actual artifacts, not a certain aesthetic.

            Are you saying that if someone made their own replica of a sacred artifact, it would be okay for them to then depict that artifact in any way they please? Because that sounds to me exactly like the type of act that drives the honest offense at cultural appropriation.

            It’s especially bad if it’s overtly negative, such as flag burning or putting a crucifix in a container of urine. It’s less bad, but still considered bad, if it’s not negative, but merely banal – imagine taking a crucifix and surrounding it in marquee lights and using that as the figurehead of a casino.

            (Contrast this with a young girl using a cheongsam as a prom dress – if we assume this is an important night for her, then it’s not at all clear that this depiction is banal. And using one culture’s flavors in another culture’s dish sounds more like a tribute – the opposite of appropriation.)

          • disposablecat says:

            I’m offended on behalf of the Romans by the gauche monstrosity that is Caesar’s Palace!

            (I joke, but I did actually know someone who got offended by jokes about the destruction of Pompeii, 2000 odd years ago).

          • hls2003 says:

            @Paul Brinkley:

            The situations you’re describing that I consider improper (again, from the perspective of “having some moral weight” or “being ill-mannered”, not legally actionable) all involve deliberate disrespect. Your examples of flag burning or crucifix in urine are on point. They are using specific knowledge of an object or shape’s status with a group, and intentionally using that knowledge to show disrespect to the group by proxy. It’s no different from burning an effigy. This can, certainly, be offensive – in fact it has been deliberately designed to be so. I consider it part of free speech, but generally uncivil. It’s offensive not because you’re using the object, but because you’re (figuratively) shouting insults. Insults are offensive, basically a tautology.

            Banal usages are, to my mind, not a problem unless there is evidence of the mens rea described above. If, however, we take your crucifix-on-casino example and postulate instead that it is the marquee of a BDSM group called “The Hellfire Club” – that is clearly intended to signal the group’s disrespect for the original tradition, and fits neatly into the “deliberate insult” category. (Of course, that is the whole point – a pressure campaign by any offended Christians would presumably be ignored or celebrated because it shows the insult has been heard and hit home). If we take truly “banal” examples – eating unleavened bread with wine, stitching cross-shaped patterns onto fabric, selling jewelry in the shape of a Chinese or Arabic symbol – then no, I don’t think there’s a problem at all.

            The simpler way of describing the situation is that “deliberate cultural disrespect” can be a problem (insofar as it is deliberately insulting), but “cultural appropriation” is not. To the extent “appropriation” is being expanded by partisans in discourse to encompass both concepts, it is an incorrect use of language designed to allow a motte and bailey of offense.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            Again, to be clear, my central objection to your argument is the claim that Italian-Americans, German-Americans, British-Americans, Irish-Americans, and other caucasian/european immigrant communities:

            A)

            tend to live in neighbourhoods with members of their own culture, and who are segregated to some extent

            I think this claim is empirically testable in the form of the claim: “more than 50% of X-Americans live in neighborhoods that are culturally, linguistically, and demographically closer to a comparable neighborhood in Country X than a matching neighborhood that is not majority X-American. These neighborhoods and their associated cultures are at least partially segregated from mainstream American culture.”

            I think I have provided at least a few data points that show that this is not an accurate characterization of the Italian-American and German-American communities. If you are unconvinced, I am happy to do my best to repeat the exercise with Americans of Irish, Polish, and English ancestry, assuming you don’t mind waiting because I do this in my limited free time. Better yet, if you have convincing empirical evidence to the contrary, point us to it.

            and

            B) That these segregated, separate, and culturally homogenous X-American cultures

            keep plenty of important aspects of their own culture.

            I will admit that I am annoyed by the fuzziness of this claim, but this is a fuzzy area, so let’s look at your points of evidence one by one.

            Religion: On the one hand, I will concede that this is an important part of family life for many people, and I should have thought of it. On the other hand, which Italian-American communities shut down their major businesses and civil services and offices for Santo Stefano? The Feast of the Immaculate Conception? The Assumption of the Virgin? Does even Staten Island? I checked, and as far as I can tell the answer is “no, but you can maybe find an isolated individual who will close their family owned store on those days, but even then not really”. So again, I’d say that tends more towards “Assimilated with American Mainstream” than “Maintained Cultural Identity”.

            X-American Individuals had great influence on the current landscape of cities like Chicago, Boston, and NYC: I agree, but I don’t think this in any way counts as evidence for your claim that these individuals tend to live somewhat segregated lives in parallel cultural traditions separate from mainstream American life! Rather the opposite!

            Literature: See above, and note your concession about the voice still being “Distinctly American”.

            Food: See Above, and Aapje’s comment below. Ask an Italian what they think of Domino’s, or a Czech or German what they think of Budweiser and Coors (both founded by european immigrants).

            I think you are absolutely correct about Jewish-Americans, but I think that you’re making the mistake of thinking your observation about Jewish-Americans and Jewish-Canadians applies to Italian-, German-, Irish-, etc Americans.

            Now, to be clear, I am talking about American as it stands right now. As I said, if you go back as recently as 1950, I think you would be at least partly right, if not mostly right. But as of the 90s through to the early 21st century, that sort cultural cohesiveness is pretty unique to Jewish-Americans in terms of European-descended populations in America.

            My hope is that in 100 more years it will be similarly impossible to stake out much in the way of a coherent “Iranian-American”, “Cuban-American”, “Mexican-American”, or “Chinese-American” community outside of a few relicts and neighborhoods that still have the trappings of the days when they USED to be ethnic enclaves but are now mostly called such out of a combination of tradition and commercial marketing.

            And that’s not because I dislike or disdain what various immigrants have to offer. I’m with those in this thread who think that cultural appropriation is awesome.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I think this claim is empirically testable in the form of the claim: “more than 50% of X-Americans live in neighborhoods that are culturally, linguistically, and demographically closer to a comparable neighborhood in Country X than a matching neighborhood that is not majority X-American. These neighborhoods and their associated cultures are at least partially segregated from mainstream American culture.”

            Why “closer to a comparable neighborhood in Country X”? The immigrants we’re talking about are populations that would have left their original countries in many cases over a century ago—we should expect some drift to have happened from the original country. As long as they maintain distinctive neighbourhoods, that should count, even if the neighbourhoods don’t bear much resemblance to neighbourhoods in the originating countries.

            I think I have provided at least a few data points that show that this is not an accurate characterization of the Italian-American and German-American communities. If you are unconvinced, I am happy to do my best to repeat the exercise with Americans of Irish, Polish, and English ancestry, assuming you don’t mind waiting because I do this in my limited free time. Better yet, if you have convincing empirical evidence to the contrary, point us to it.

            60% of the Jewish population of America lives in one of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, or Massachusetts. The same report notes that within New Jersey, “the Jewish population of Middlesex is very highly concentrated geographically. The 66 percent of Jewish households who live in the three zip code areas containing the highest percentages of Jewish households is the second highest of about 50 comparison Jewish communities“.
            If you check Wikipedia you will observe that the urban areas in America with the highest Jewish populations include at least some neighbourhoods that are essentially completely Jewish, but even within New York City, Jews are nine times more populous than they are in the country at large.

            You can also look at similar data for Irish Americans, and discover places like Havertown, Pennsylvania: “Havertown is also known for its large Irish-American population. Many Irish-Americans still live there today. According to the 2000 US Census, Haverford Twp. ranks in the top 60 of census-recognized municipalities nationwide in percentage of population with Irish ancestry.[1] The neighborhood takes pride in its distinct Irish heritage and is home to many Irish pubs and shops.[2] Many locals still reverentially (and only half-jokingly) refer to Havertown as the “33rd county” (of Ireland). For these reasons the neighborhood remains a very popular destination for Irish immigrants” and Sciutate, Massachusetts, “the most Irish town in America”, in which 47.5 residents listed their primary ancestry as Irish—I think 10.5% of Americans have Irish ancestry, so this is a concentration four times as high as in the general population. The Washington Post has a nice map where you can clearly see the density of people of Irish descent, and its clustering in the northeast. This is not a neighbourhood-level view, of course, but the same link has another map for Massachusetts, and you can see some neighbourhood-level clustering there as well. According to the same article, new Irish immigrants “tend to settle in places that already have large Irish populations, like Boston” and “people from Ireland tend to search more for homes in places where more Irish-Americans live”.
            For Italians, check this list of Italian-American neighbourhoods; I won’t check the details, but I think this is plenty of evidence that these minority groups do still tend to live with one another in neighbourhoods where they are the majority, or, if that’s not possible (they are minorities, after all), strong pluralities.
            I think this is good evidence of “segregation to some extent”.

            Religion: On the one hand, I will concede that this is an important part of family life for many people, and I should have thought of it. On the other hand, which Italian-American communities shut down their major businesses and civil services and offices for Santo Stefano? The Feast of the Immaculate Conception? The Assumption of the Virgin? Does even Staten Island? I checked, and as far as I can tell the answer is “no, but you can maybe find an isolated individual who will close their family owned store on those days, but even then not really”. So again, I’d say that tends more towards “Assimilated with American Mainstream” than “Maintained Cultural Identity”.

            This seems like moving the goalposts: as recently as 1960 being Catholic was alien enough that people worried about a Catholic President. Now, there are millions of Catholics who practice freely and openly, and the role of Catholics in politics and culture is completely mainstream—but as long as businesses don’t close down for their holidays, that doesn’t count? I don’t see why this is a reasonable standard. Catholocism has gone from “Popish plot to subvert republicanism” to “meh”; I think that is a major change in American culture. For contrast, if in fifty years there are tens of millions of Muslims in America, and no one gives them a second thought, would you count that as a change in American culture, or would you demand to know how religiously observant those Muslims are?
            Anyway, Jews do absolutely close stuff down for Yom Kippur and Rosh HaShanah, so even with your stricter criteria, you can see that there are groups of immigrants who keep their own culture strongly.
            I’ll also mention that Italian-Americans have in fact gotten a holiday onto the American calendar, and the Irish-Americans have one that is informal, but even more strongly celebrated.

            Ask an Italian what they think of Domino’s, or a Czech or German what they think of Budweiser and Coors (both founded by european immigrants).

            I’m sure they would say something like “that’s not truly pizza—it’s pizza that’s been Americanized!” i.e., pizza that has been taken up by American culture, i.e., assimilated into American culture. This proves my point, not yours.

            I agree, but I don’t think this in any way counts as evidence for your claim that these individuals tend to live somewhat segregated lives in parallel cultural traditions separate from mainstream American life! Rather the opposite!

            No, these are two separate trends—the cultures have been taken up by the mainstream, even though people still tend to cluster with others from the same culture.

            See above, and note your concession about the voice still being “Distinctly American”.

            It’s not a concession, it’s my point! The fact that a book about an angsty New York Jew is seen as “American literature”, and a movie about a Sicilian mobster is “American cinema” shows the influence that that those cultures have had on mainstream American culture.

            Perhaps some clarification is in order: I am not arguing that hyphenated-Americans live isolated lives shut off from mainstream American society. They clearly do not. However, they are still often distinct within American society, and there is at least some kind of semi-impermeable membrane, if not a full wall, between many of these groups and the mainstream. They have not fully assimilated: they preserve their religion, their food, their literature, and their culture—not in “pure” form, whatever that is, but distinct. The stereotype New Yorker is a Jew or an Italian—not a Jew from Vilnius, nor an Italian from Sicily—but also not just “an American”, with no other qualifications. Jewish-Americans and Italian-Americans are distinct from Jews and Italians, but also distinct from Americans. Does that clarify what I am trying to say?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            As long as they maintain distinctive neighbourhoods, that should count,

            But distinctive how? Most neighborhoods in large cities distinctive by one measure or another. And I think it’s a cheat to count neighborhoods that put on a surface veneer of distinction that is not borne out by demographics and day-to-day life, such as the various supposedly ‘ethnic’ neighborhoods that in fact haven’t been majority-minority for decades and retain that status mostly as a matter of tourist appeal. If you feel my initial definition is overly narrow, how would you word it so as to also exclude cases like NYC’s Little Italy and similar neighborhoods that have the outer guise of separate X-American communities but lack the substance?

            Regarding the Brandeis report (the link is broken, BTW), I’d note that even though I actually agree that Jewish Americans tends to be more culturally separate and more culturally cohesive than your average German-American or Italian-American, I don’t think this report actually provides strong evidence for your original claim. The segment you quoted is the only one which directly addresses concentration in separate neighborhoods, and I couldn’t find any other information in the report indicating to what degree the 52,000 Jewish residents of Middlesex county are representative of the 6 million Jewish-Americans. The fact that the report made a point of calling out the degree to which Middlesex county’s Jewish population is densely clustered leads me to believe that they are not. The rest of the data gives figures at the city, county, and state level, too coarse to help us.

            Regarding areas like Haverford township and lists of neighborhoods claiming ethnic status or that “everyone knows” have an immigrant history, I think you’re missing my point, which is that when you start digging in and actually go and visit these areas, that doesn’t reflect reality. If you click through to the “top Irish ancestry” locations, you’ll note that they top out at just under 40%. In other words, something like 2/3rds of the people in Haverford Township “taking pride in the neighborhood’s Irish Heritage” aren’t in fact of Irish extraction! When your “Little Italy” is only 5% Italian-American and “The most Irish town in America” can’t top 40%, it’s time to start being more skeptical and requiring higher levels of proof that these neighborhoods are in fact at least partially segregated.

            Now, you said there was a Massachusetts map that showed neighborhood-level clustering of Irish-American descent. Do you have a direct link to that map, because it would be very helpful. Your links are broken, and I couldn’t find it with a google search. To give us a baseline to compare to, here is the diversity map from the Washington Post that shows racial distribution based on the US Census. My claim is that if we could break down those “white” regions into Italian-American, Irish-American, German-American, Polish-American, and German-American, you would see a distribution like the racial distribution of Clarksville, TN . I think that your claim is that you would see a distribution more like Nashville, TN (esp. the way the black and white populations have a very sharp gradient around the NW quadrant of the city).

            Regarding religion, I would absolutely demand to know how religiously observant those hypothetical Muslims are, and the degree to which American Imams’ teachings diverged from those of Imams in Saudia Arabia, Iran, and so on. My prediction is that if in 50 years’ time we have a large Muslim minority and everyone is as “meh” about it as we generally are about Catholics, it will be precisely because of the distinct ways in which American Muslims are integrated into mainstream American culture and seen as distinct and different from their co-religionists abroad. In fact, it’s my contention that to the degree we already see this (Hey, I go to school with Zia and Anwar, and my buddy Joe invited me to join him for Iftar last Ramadan, they’re cool!) it is precisely because this is already increasingly true.

            To try and clarify my point in turn, I am not saying that Italian-Americans or Irish-Americans are so thoroughly assimilated that they have ceased to exist. Rather, I am saying that they are so thoroughly assimilated that when you go to [Name Of City]’s Little Italy, the majority of the residents in most cases will not be Italian-American. Finding a household of Italian-Americans or German-Americans where Italian or German is the language at home is going to be incredibly difficult (<10% of the relevant population, probably <5%). When you look at ancestry (especially Irish-American) via genetic testing you will find out that the %-age of Irish heritage is lower and more intermixed than claimed by the family, if it is present at all. That, in short, the central example of [Euro Country]-American is the midwestern native who not only can't tell you where in the old country his family's from but mangles his last name by old country standards, not the multi-generational family that's lived in an ethnic enclave in a large city and marrying within that enclave's community. Those people -exist-, but they are a vanishing minority and have been for decades.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Distinctive by virtue of the types of restaurants and grocery stores, the holidays they observe communally, the cultural institutions, and the demographics of the people.
            I agree that many of these neighbourhoods are less distinctive than they once were, by all of the criteria above, but that’s why I said “to some extent”–with different extents for different groups.

            I agree that it can be hard to distinguish relics from former eras of stronger distinction from actual currently existing distinction, but if the demographics and the culture of a neighbourhood roughly match, I think that should count. Note though, I think “majority-minority” is not necessarily the most reasonable criterion: for small enough immigrant groups, making up a majority in all but a small handful of areas might not be possible–I think plurality-minority should count, and even disproportionately-minority should fall under consideration.
            I’m also not sure what it means to only put on a “surface veneer”–if a neighbourhood has Italian stores, restaurants, groceries, an Italian cultural centre, and puts on a Columbus Day parade and an Italian film festival, what could it mean for that not to be “borne out” by day-to-day life? For most people, that kind of stuff is basically what culture is about.

            [..] it’s time to start being more skeptical and requiring higher levels of proof that these neighborhoods are in fact at least partially segregated.

            Irish Americans make up about 10.5% of the American population. A neighbourhood that is 40% Irish is a neighbourhood that has 4 times the concentration of Irish-descended Americans as the population at large. Obviously you’d want to know a lot more about the distributions, but that is certainly compatible with “segregated to some extent”.
            You dismissed my evidence about Jews, but recall that Jews are only 1.75% of the American population–a neighbourhood that is only 10% Jewish is still 6 times more clustered than you’d expect if Jews were evenly distributed.
            I agree though, that it would be better to have data on the probability of living in a neighbourhood with other members of one’s minority group, rather than the probability of being in given minority group given residence in a certain neighbourhood.

            Sorry about the quality of my links in the last post, don’t know what happened. Here is the WaPo piece on Irish neighbourhoods; you can see that neighbourhoods with >30% Irish ancestry are clustered in the NE, and specifically clustered in certain areas of Massachusetts. You will say, 30% isn’t majority minority, but some of those neighbourhoods are >50% Irish (follow the link to the HuffPo piece which has more data), and 30% might still be plurality-Irish, and is certainly disproportionately-Irish. The fact that new Irish immigrants move to those areas shows that there is still some affinity between the culture of current Irish immigrants and these Irish-American enclaves.

            Again, let me reiterate: I am not claiming that these areas represent undigested “lumps” of Ireland inside the United States. I am claiming that these areas are disproportionately Irish-American–a culture somewhat distinct from mainstream American culture, with some affinities to traditional Irish culture.

            that if in 50 years’ time we have a large Muslim minority and everyone is as “meh” about it as we generally are about Catholics, it will be precisely because of the distinct ways in which American Muslims are integrated into mainstream American culture and seen as distinct and different from their co-religionists abroad.

            Yes, of course they will be distinct from their co-religionists abroad–but they will still be distinct from their non-co-religionists in America! And any American culture that encompasses large groups of people whose culture is primarily Islamic-derived will be distinct from current-day American culture!
            If in fifty years, a Mawlid-al Nabi parade is a major feature of multiple large American cities, that tons of non-Muslims participate it, this would be almost a paradigmatic example of the influence of Islamic culture on American life–even if the Muslims who celebrate it have Americanized in many ways.
            As an analogy, consider Christmas: Christmas celebrations in America are obviously very heavily “Americanized”–but it is absurd to suggest that the widespread celebration of Christmas doesn’t count as “Christian cultural influence on America”.

            In summation: I think we broadly agree on the extent of assimilation by Irish-, Italian-, etc. Americans, we just disagree on how to characterize it. We both think that there is still some geographical affinity of these groups for one another, and that neighbourhoods in which they live bear some traces of their cultures–you want to regard this as incidental unless the affinity is strong enough for the groups to be majorities in their neighbourhoods and their culture is still essentially the culture of the homeland.

            Finally, recall that the point of this was to contrast hyphenated-Americans of European descent to African Americans. I think it is beyond dispute that African Americans do not have a completely separate culture either; even neighbourhoods that are “black neighbourhoods” are often only 25% African American; Ferguson is 53% black, not out of line with the Irish numbers. By the standards you set, it’s not clear to me that you would be able to count African Americans as unassimilated.

        • Tarpitz says:

          It’s an interesting timeline to think about. All the Right Moves (1983) portrays racial abuse against Americans of Eastern European extraction as current and commonplace (in small town Pennsylvania) and as far as I can tell no-one found this implausible. My impression is that that would now be surprising. Am I wrong? And if so, when did it change?

          • John Schilling says:

            I believe it had significantly changed by 1983, and that this plot point was a deliberate jibe at the small-mindedness of at least one small town. It was probably not an accurate critique of small towns generally, though you wouldn’t have had to look too hard to find living examples.

  44. j1000000 says:

    The comments on that nanny article cover everything pretty well, but he doesn’t really describe much about the application pool. Were these illegal immigrants, who make up a good portion of the nanny market? If so, of course they can’t write a page in flawless English, and it makes sense that they sound stand off-ish on the phone in their non-native language.

    Were they college students? If so, of course they only put down a couple months — they’re looking for a summer job.

    None of this has any impact on how employable I think I am. Seems more like the sort of thing the right holds up as evidence that high-IQ people don’t understand what it’s like at the low end of the bell curve. (I mean, I’ve never read Zvi before, but judging by the exploits detailed on his Wikipedia page and his recent blog posts, he’s got a laughably high IQ.)

    • Deiseach says:

      I started off with a certain modicum of sympathy for his plight, but having read more posts on that blog, I’ve swung round sharply to the “yet another employer who wants a highly-qualified caretaker to look after the kids 24/7 all week, taking little Sequoia and Tarquin on enrichment trips, doing extra tutoring on top of the homework correction, being a nutritionist and lifestyle coach and in whole charge of the kids while mother and father work Real Jobs and is stumped why they can’t get that when they’re offering your very own shoebox to sleep in and a whole half an hour’s free time every week on top of sixpence pocket money”.

      For someone who worked in companies hiring on people, he seems to have no notion that (a) any vacancy will attract a lot of speculative, desperate and ‘apply for everything’ replies (b) yes there are a lot of people out there who have dreadful CVs (c) yes there are a lot of people out there who won’t bother to turn up for interview and won’t bother to notify you beforehand (d) you have to sift through a lot of rocks before you turn up a diamond.

      I don’t know what the terms of the job offer were: if he was offering good wages and conditions as would be expected by qualified candidates, or was it as above – we’ll throw you a few bob well under professional wage levels while you act as nanny, housemaid, laundry maid, chef and taxi driver for the kids and don’t bother us unless the house goes on fire. If the job offer reads like “hiring an illegal immigrant”, it’ll attract illegal immigrants.

      • knockknock says:

        A few years ago I saw a teen working in a drugstore who actually had Sequoia on her nametag

    • pontifex says:

      Yeah, I thought that post was weird. What does writing a page of flawless English have to do with being a nanny? That has more to do with being a white-collar professional.

      Also this:

      Many others wouldn’t work with multiple children, or had higher salary requirements than we listed.

      So he wants someone who writes flawless English, is willing to work with multiple children, and will “enthusiastically” accept a low salary. And when it’s difficult to find this unicorn, he says ZOMG there is a talent shortage.

      This reminds me of how there used to be constant talk about a huge shortage of software developers. Microsoft used to talk about this a lot, and I think IBM did too. In every case the “shortage” was just code for “we don’t want to pay the current market rate”.

      • Matt M says:

        I wonder if the problem here is a mismatch between expectations and reality.

        Having a nanny, at all, is something that would typically be associated with the upper class of society. An extreme luxury good. Anyone who is thinking about hiring a nanny, at all, likely thinks of themselves as… the upper class of society, and therefore deserving of the very best.

        And there are a ton of portrayals of “the very best” in terms of nannies. The guy basically wants Mary Poppins. That’s his vision of what a nanny IS. So he googles “average salary for a nanny” and sticks that on his job description and is just shocked, shocked, that Mary Poppins isn’t applying. But of course, Mary Poppins isn’t an average nanny at all. She’s the best nanny. You have to pay more to get her.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          But he got Mary Poppins in the end. If anything, this line of thought should be: he wanted Mary Poppins, he got her, so clearly he was prepared to pay at least average wages, and likely above average. And even so most applicants didn’t even make it to the interview. They didn’t fail at being good nannies – they failed at being even passable applicants.

          This matches my experience hiring people btw, in a different corner of the world and different profession. So many don’t even proof-read their CVs – it’s so obviously a half-hour’s chore, and not a defining document for their career.

      • Deiseach says:

        had higher salary requirements than we listed

        Yeah, that was the part that had me going “oh for crying out loud”. A qualified professional nanny can command and would expect the going rate, just like any other qualified professional. If you think you can get childcare on the cheap, and it’s not “my mother in law will mind the kids three mornings a week” or hiring a babysitter for two hours on a weekday night, then you will get cheap childcare applicants.

        Who won’t have perfect English, a highly literate prose style, a polished telephone manner, or maybe not even that great at turning up (because they already got a job elsewhere).

        You pay peanuts, you get monkeys, as the saying goes.

        • ec429 says:

          My interpretation of the word listed there is the following:
          * Zvi posts job offer with the salary-on-offer included in the listing
          * Zvi receives many applications demanding a higher salary than in the listing
          Now, from a ‘negotiations’ perspective that may be fine. But if the offer Zvi is making is truly Zvi’s reserve price / marginal value, then any higher demand isn’t going to be accepted and therefore applying in that case is just wasting Zvi’s time.
          Obviously I don’t know how credible the listing was in this regard, so I don’t know whether the applicants were behaving reasonably or unreasonably.
          But there’s a difference between complaining you can’t find an employee matching a given set of requirements, and complaining that you get deluged with applicants who don’t match your requirements despite having clearly stated those requirements. From author’s comment under TFA:

          When I say these things did not fit, I refer only to things we explicitly mentioned in the job post.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve often received advice, in the white collar world, to go ahead and apply for jobs that seemed interesting, even if the listed salary was lower than I would accept.

            The gambit is that once you get in and interview, and if they decide to select you, they’ve already been impressed and they’re emotionally invested in having you. At which point, you have some power to turn the tables and say “Actually, I demand more money” and have a shot at it.

          • ec429 says:

            Matt M: If I were an employer, you tried that on me, and I didn’t hire you because that really was my reserve price, I don’t think it would be wrong of me to whine on the Internet about you wasting my time. Thus I don’t censure Zvi for doing the same (and AFAICT Zvi was only complaining about the presence of bad applicants, not the absence of good ones; the criticisms of him for demanding too much and paying too little implicitly suggest the latter, which is unfair to Zvi).
            Of course, in the white collar world (or at least in tech, which is where I work), the reserve price varies a lot more from one potential hire to another; the interview is deciding both “do we want this guy working for us at all” and “how much can we offer him (should he demand it) and still be getting our money’s worth?”. So in that case the pre-commitment to the listed salary is a lot less credible, which is (a) why the ‘gambit’ sometimes works and (b) why it’s not ‘wasting my time’ to try it. (Indeed, the two are linked: if the gambit works, I have benefited too, because I (revealed-)prefer hiring you at the higher salary to not hiring you at all, which is what happens if you don’t try the gambit and thus don’t apply. So the chance that I might accept the gambit is exactly what makes me OK with people trying it.)
            For something like childcare, I think the two questions are a lot more decoupled in that most possible hires fall into either the bucket of “do not want” or a bucket of hires all worth about the same; it doesn’t sound like Zvi would have been willing to pay more if a really amazing candidate applied.

            This is the sort of thing I was trying to wave at when I said “from a ‘negotiations’ perspective that may be fine.”

          • Matt M says:

            For something like childcare, I think the two questions are a lot more decoupled in that most possible hires fall into either the bucket of “do not want” or a bucket of hires all worth about the same; it doesn’t sound like Zvi would have been willing to pay more if a really amazing candidate applied.

            Ah, but perhaps this betrays a lack of understanding about the childcare sector. I’m just speculating here, I personally know nothing about the childcare sector.

            But it feels like you (and also Zvi potentially) are simply assuming the variance among workers is low, and therefore having a simple and consistent salary requirement works well. But perhaps this is not the case. Perhaps variability is quite high, and he would have been better off having a far more flexible salary?

          • ec429 says:

            Matt M:

            But it feels like you (and also Zvi potentially) are simply assuming the variance among workers is low

            It’s not just about the workers; it’s also about what Zvi wants. There may be an applicant who is, on some objective measure, twice as good. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Zvi would be willing to pay more to employ them rather than someone merely adequate; Zvi’s objective function could be flat past the ‘merely adequate’ point.

            And I still think the question of whether a flexible-salary strategy would be better is irrelevant, if in fact Zvi made it sufficiently clear in the listing that Zvi was following a fixed-salary strategy; if applicants know that the salary is not negotiable, and they try to negotiate it anyway, they are wasting Zvi’s time, whether Zvi ‘should’ have made it negotiable or not.

            To take an analogy outside of hiring (where people have a lot of messed-up intuitions): the price of apples in the supermarket is not negotiable; it’s whatever’s on the shelf ticket. Everyone knows the price is not negotiable. If you try to haggle with the cashier, you are wasting the cashier’s time, and the cashier is justified in being annoyed with you, and arguments that being willing to negotiate would be better for the supermarket are irrelevant to the specific case of you right now with a long queue behind you at the checkout.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Most people do not advertise their reserve prices. For obvious reasons. Regardless of whether some individual advertises their actual reserve price, expecting the market to believe this is foolish.

          • ec429 says:

            @HeelBearCub:
            In practice, the price a supermarket advertises for apples is its reserve price, because it considers the foregone profit from sales at a slightly lower price to be less than the cost of allowing haggling.
            I may be using the term “reserve price” slightly differently to you here.

            When we’ve agreed on the apples, then we can see whether the analogy applies to hiring.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You have made two rather important alterations, one is that you are talking about commodities, the other is that you are talking about selling.

            But yes, when people advertise commodities for sale, they will publish a current price. Whether you want to call it their reserve price depends slightly on what you consider a reserve price (and you may actually have meant reservation price, as reserve prices usually only apply to sales). A reserve price is the one below which they will choose to keep the item rather than make a sale. If we are talking about actual reserve prices, then the advertised price is frequently not the reserve price, as they may happily sell the item for less if the item does not sell at the current one.

          • ec429 says:

            @HeelBearCub

            You have made two rather important alterations, one is that you are talking about commodities, the other is that you are talking about selling.

            One of the premises in my Zvi-hypothetical was essentially equivalent to the assumption that good nannies are a commodity (and I noted that white-collar workers often aren’t).

            But yes, when people advertise commodities for sale, they will publish a current price. Whether you want to call it their reserve price depends slightly on what you consider a reserve price (and you may actually have meant reservation price, as reserve prices usually only apply to sales).

            I’m not sure what distinction(s) you’re making here; Wikipedia states that both terms apply to both the seller’s reserve price and the buyer’s reserve price.

            A reserve price is the one below which they will choose to keep the item rather than make a sale. If we are talking about actual reserve prices, then the advertised price is frequently not the reserve price, as they may happily sell the item for less if the item does not sell at the current one.

            But only at a later time, and only by advertising a new price; not by negotiation with a specific potential buyer, which is the relevant case here. (I would argue that the ‘later time’ part means that the advertised price is the reserve price but that the reserve price can change over time; however, that would be arguing over definitions and lead to lost purposes.)

            The fact that I might reduce the price of the apples tomorrow if they haven’t sold doesn’t mean that I might reduce the price now if you asked me to (even if you mentioned that fact in support of your request), therefore by asking me you are wasting my time. Negotiation is only productive if there is a possibility of agreement, and if the costs of negotiation would predictably outweigh the gains produced by that agreement then it is efficient for me to credibly pre-commit not to negotiate. That is why supermarkets don’t haggle at the till. Market stalls are presumably operating under a different set of cost curves, because they sometimes do haggle.

            The net gain produced by preventing haggling, however, requires that the buyer responds to that unwillingness to negotiate by not attempting to negotiate. If enough buyers try it anyway, then too few negotiation-attempts (and their costs) are avoided by the policy, their costs no longer outweigh the benefits of selling apples to the hagglers, and the supermarket may abandon the policy. This outcome is worse than the outcome where no-one haggles, since now everyone is stuck in long queues just so that a few people can get their apples slightly cheaper. Quite possibly the long queues make even the hagglers worse off on net.

            So if someone says they are advertising their reserve price because they don’t want the hassle of having to negotiate, respect that — the alternative is often defecting on the PD.

          • Aapje says:

            If there is sufficient competition among suppliers and you have a fixed budget & simply want to have the best offering for that budget, it makes sense to state a specific salary. However, it doesn’t make much sense to then complain that all offerings are too poor in quality, because clearly you then offered too little money to entice Mary Poppins, if she doesn’t show up even during a lengthy search.

            If you then actually really want Mary Poppins, you have to increase the budget. If you are unwilling to do so and demand that Mary Poppins works for you for a below market salary, you are being entitled.

            If only people apply who accept the stated salary, you never learn how much it actually costs to hire Mary Poppins, because no Mary Poppins will then ever show up to tell you her salary demands. So there is a some benefit to people showing up with higher demands.

            Another option is to state a salary range, if you are willing to pay more for a better candidate, but are also willing to accept a poorer one for less money. This also gives a negotiation benefit, as it gives you more flexibility to negotiate and ‘play’ the other person.

            In this case, another interesting question is whether the transaction costs and risks of the site he was using were higher for both parties than a search among friends and family. If so, it makes sense that good workers demand a premium when applying through that website.

            This could explain why Zvi thinks that he was offering an appropriate salary, as he could find his Mary Poppins by a direct search, while his mistake may have been to not realize that doing the same search through the website requires a higher salary to compensate for the transaction costs and risks.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @ec249:
            Who goes out to the market and advertises their reserve price to buy a singleton of a commodity? Can you give me any examples of situations similar to taking out an ad “Want to buy: one apple, Granny Smith, unblemished, grown on the eastern slope of a hill, $0.25”? I think the times when you see an advertised price to buy a commodity, it is a commodities market, where the goods are being traded in bulk and the prices are part of a system of immediate negotiation.

            As to whether you can treat nannies as commodities, I think here we need to decide what we mean by commodity. I would say “a mass-produced unspecialized product”, “a good or service whose wide availability typically leads to smaller profit margins and diminishes the importance of factors (such as brand name) other than price”

            Do we agree that this is the definition of commodity we are working with?

          • ec429 says:

            @Aapje:

            However, it doesn’t make much sense to then complain that all offerings are too poor in quality

            Which, as I keep stressing, Zvi did not do. Rather, Zvi complained that the applicants did not fulfil objective conditions of the offer. And moreover, was not complaining about the absence of applicants who fulfilled the conditions, but about the presence of applicants who didn’t fulfil them but applied anyway, in (what Zvi presumably thought to be) full knowledge that they wouldn’t be accepted.

            This could explain why Zvi thinks that he was offering an appropriate salary

            I have not argued that Zvi thinks anything of the sort; only that he was upfront about what salary he was offering.

            I really don’t know how much clearer I can make this: the position you are attacking is not the one I am proposing.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I have applied for jobs where I didn’t meet the stated qualifications. Sometimes I’ve even gotten the job. There is no way to tell which qualifications are really must-haves and which just got inflated into that without the messy search.

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed.

            And I don’t think it’s fair to claim, without evidence, something like “Well we all know that happens in tech, but certainly it doesn’t happen in the perfectly-commoditized field of nannies.”

          • John Schilling says:

            Almost nobody in the real world advertises a job opening with only non-negotiable minimum requirements and their absolute maximum salary offer. The ones that do, mostly fail Negotiation 101, and the exceptions mostly make it explicit that this is really a no-negotiation offer.

            And, explicit disclaimers or otherwise, if there is a gross mismatch between requirements and salary, e.g. Mary Poppins for the price of a generic nanny, the only applicants you will get are ones that don’t meet your requirements and ones that will demand more money. If your whining about dishonesty and the difficulty of getting good help were at all effective at screening out these “nonresponsive” applicants, then you’d have no applicants at all, and either way it would be your fault for not understanding the market.

          • Aapje says:

            Indeed, what Zvi is doing is a typical mistake that many highly systematizing and low EQ people make: typical minding other people and assuming that they are extremely conscientious, make hard commitments, don’t copy often very successful dark triad strategies from others (while having no clue what they actually are doing, except that it works), apply serious thought to achieve what they want, etc.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            if there is a gross mismatch between requirements and salary

            I don’t think that is what happened here, since he did wind up hiring someone and there’s no indication that he had to change either requirements or salary from those indicated in the job listing.

            (If this had happened in New Zealand my guess would have been that most of the applicants were just going through the motions, with no actual desire to actually obtain this particular job, simply in order to remain eligible for the unemployment benefit. That would explain the carelessness, the grumpiness, and the disregard for the advertised conditions, all at once. Whether that’s a plausible explanation in this case I have no idea.)

          • ec429 says:

            Indeed, what Zvi is doing is a typical mistake that many highly systematizing and low EQ people make

            Now that I can agree with. Logical thinker expects other people to behave logically, film at 11.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Even a rationalist job-seeker will quickly realize that he needs to adopt the mindset of employers, who are not just submitting a bid to a computer to be filled.

          • Aapje says:

            Sure, but Zvi may not be an atypical employer (for that avenue).

  45. knockknock says:

    Marginal Revolution is very good a lot of weeks — but banning comments has been not so good.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      The comments tended to be low quality.

      Perhaps we can do more here to discuss MR material.

      • knockknock says:

        There’s so much logrolling and mutual back-scratching between these two excellent sites that I’ve suggested they simply merge into one.

    • Urstoff says:

      MR hasn’t had a good comments section for 10 years. It’s just been 8-10 people with the same immovable ideologies making the same types of comments on every MR post.

      • knockknock says:

        You clearly fail to include my unfailingly witty and insightful comments there (under a different pen name).

        But the point is, why not have a comment section? Sites that shut them down seem to be saying, “Our readers are idiots and we can’t be bothered to patrol them.”

        • Nornagest says:

          To be fair, readers are generally idiots and I probably couldn’t be bothered to patrol them if I maintained a popular blog.

        • Urstoff says:

          It’s more saying “the remaining commenters that haven’t been driven out by other commenters are idiots”.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          An unmaintained comment section on a site attached to you professionally can be worse than nothing.

          Scott is doing yeoman’s work by maintaining the comment section at SSC, but I can see why the GMU guys don’t want to do the same. Although they may be able to hire someone, or otherwise offload the work.

  46. Deiseach says:

    (1) That face of God study is terrible. “Goodness me, however is it that the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel depicts God as Bearded Old Guy while modern Americans think of him as Less Bearded Young Guy?”

    Uh – how about Michaelangelo was painting Old Testament scenes and thus GOD THE FATHER; modern Americans who are Christian (of however vague a sort) will think more about Jesus, GOD THE SON? As for the “we mooshed up a ton of faces of vaguely different ages and etnicities, showed them to different groups, and guess what – black people tended to pick black (or close enough) faces, young people picked young faces? Who’da thunk?”, well I suppose “black people pick black faces, white people pick white faces” may actually help shore up those Implicit Bias tests after all and that’s about all you can say for it.

    (2) While we’re on the topic of God – oh boy, Richard Carrier? Yes, and I can conclusively prove George Washington never existed because there is a blatant admission that ‘events’ in the ‘life’ of this figure were invented by his disciple for the explicit purpose of making him a model of virtue for others to copy, checkmate Republicans And Democracy!

    I’ll stick with “images of Isis and Horus prove the Catholic Church is pagan because they copied these for Mary and Jesus” and Catholicism was really founded by Nimrod and Semiramis for my religious conspiracy needs, thanks.

    (3) This seems to be the time for debunking the health benefits of fish oil – I’ve recently read stories all about how it is in fact no good at all for heart health. Next week in nutrition studies – load up on salt, sugar and cholesterol after all, keep away from leafy green vegetables!

    (4) I’ve thought the San Francisco Board of Supervisors were away in their own little world ever since their various resolutions and open letters from 2010 onwards calling on various high-ranking members of the hierarchy to throw off the shackles of the Church and instead teach doctrines the Board likes. I’m not surprised they’ve started dictating to people where they should eat.

  47. eqdw says:

    So regarding that soda tax saga:

    Beverage companies spent at least $7 million to get an initiative on the ballot this November that would have prevented local communities from raising taxes without approval from two-thirds of voters or an elected body, rather than a simple majority. Such a change would have made it much more difficult for localities to pay for police, fire, transit and other public services.

    Am I reading this right? Lobbyists spent ONLY seven million dollars and this was enough to get a ballot initiative banning ALL new local taxes? This seems like an absurdly small amount of money to achieve a massive political goal supported by a large swath of the electorate. There’s no way this could possibly be real.

  48. HeirOfDivineThings says:

    A “proof” of Trump “dog-whistling” white supremacy recently went viral in the blogosphere and media…

    How is this anything other than an attempt by the media and these bloggers at secular Gematria?

    • Lambert says:

      I see a Sokal-esque Kabbalistic dog whistle ‘Le Roi Trump = 666’ hoax coming along.

      Go full Poe’s law and see what they’ll buy.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Don’t forget nominative determinism, though. The name Donald means “world leader,” and “trump” means “to outdo or surpass,” so “Donald Trump” could mean “the world leader to surpass all others.”

        Of course, “trumped up” also means “to devise fraudulently” and there is the “final trump” which sounds the end of the world and raises the dead on judgement day. So “Donald Trump” could also mean the “fraudulent ruler who ends the world.”

  49. Anon. says:

    We say the cows laid out Boston. Well, there are worse surveyors. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1860

    re: city street orientations and cows, from Against the Day:

    As they came in low over the Stockyards, the smell found them, the smell and the uproar of flesh learning its mortality—like the dark conjugate of some daylit fiction they had flown here, as appeared increasingly likely, to help promote. Somewhere down there was the White City promised in the Columbian Exposition brochures, somewhere among the tall smokestacks unceasingly vomiting black greasesmoke, the effluvia of butchery unremitting, into which the buildings of the leagues of city lying downwind retreated, like children into sleep which bringeth not reprieve from the day. In the Stockyards, workers coming off shift, overwhelmingly of the Roman faith, able to detach from earth and blood for a few precious seconds, looked up at the airship in wonder, imagining a detachment of not necessarily helpful angels.

    Beneath the rubbernecking Chums of Chance wheeled streets and alleyways in a Cartesian grid, sketched in sepia, mile on mile. “The Great Bovine City of the World,” breathed Lindsay in wonder. Indeed, the backs of cattle far outnumbered the tops of human hats. From this height it was as if the Chums, who, out on adventures past, had often witnessed the vast herds of cattle adrift in everchanging cloudlike patterns across the Western plains, here saw that unshaped freedom being rationalized into movement only in straight lines and at right angles and a progressive reduction of choices, until the final turn through the final gate that led to the killingfloor.

  50. onyomi says:

    An objection to the ahistoricity of Jesus and/or Mohammed: we have seen new religions form much more recently than this (Mormonism, Scientology) and they seem to follow a pattern: charismatic leader claims secret access to God/revelations, attracts a bunch of followers who buy into it enough to fall into a weird suggestible state, and, after he dies, continue to tell stories of the great charismatic master at the same time as they gloss over and rationalize the weirder stuff. And one can imagine how much better things would take off in an age without, well, the ATF.

    But the point is, there’s always some charismatic guy at the center of such movements. He claims access to secret knowledge, but he himself is a real person people are drawn to. I can’t think of any examples (though maybe they are out there) of a group of people spreading stories of a charismatic guy who didn’t exist.

    • JPNunez says:

      Depends on your definition of “existing”.

      Moses as depicted in Exodus probably did not exist at all. Yet he is a central figure in Judaism, wrote the main books of it, etc, etc. Did an early jewish leader conduct an exodus from another country at some point? probably? Was he interpolated into Moses? I doubt Moses was made whole cloth, but I find it hard believing in its historicity.

      Buddha probably existed, but did he really create a religion around him? Or was his story just appropiated by later Buddhists?

      A ton of legendary figures were worshipped in the old helenistic religions. People claimed to descend from Hercules, diverse figures from the Iliad, etc, etc, but maybe these are not really charismatic central figures. And on the subject of the Iliad, maybe Homer did not exist? And while he is not worshipped himself, we still attribute works to him.

      Honestly my opinion is that Jesus existed, but I’d say there’s a good chance he was made up, gonna go with 90% on Jesus existing and 80% on him having met Paul at all.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Given the timeline, that’s about an 80% chance of Christ having indeed resurrected.

      • Deiseach says:

        80% on him having met Paul at all

        You can go 0% on him having met St Paul; that’s the big part of the conversion story. Paul started off as Saul, very zealous persecutor. Acts first mentions him in association with the martyrdom of St Stephen:

        58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.

        Saul/Paul’s account of himself in Acts 22 doesn’t mention any meeting with Jesus before the conversion on the road to Damascus:

        3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

        6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11