This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.
This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.
“Norins is quick to cite sources and studies supporting his claim, among them a 2010 study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery showing that than they do from other disorders.”
Another study from that same year, published in The Journal of the American Geriatric Society found that people whose spouses have dementia are at a six-times greater risk for the condition themselves.
The article goes on to explain that it’s all complicated, but infection is at least a plausible factor.
An engineering question: let’s say you want to find a more fuel efficient way to get a Boeing 777 from sea level to 35000 ft, without worrying too much about safety or cost.
-Tow rope. a scaled up version of a glider tow rope, or one of those launch loops
-Catapult like on an aircraft carrier
-A flywheel, spun up by ground power on the runway, powering initial climb and then jettisoned
-A really long extension cord, or, some kind of laser that provides power wirelessly to the plane from the ground during climb
-Much bigger aircraft already at cruise altitude hangs a rope down pick it up
-A third engine optimized for lower altitudes, shut down once reaching cruise altitude
JATO. Any time safety is not a concern, the JATO is always the first thing to consider.
Rockets aren’t terribly fuel efficient. Strapping a bunch of JATO bottles to your plane is pretty good at getting it from zero to fast in an uncomfortably short time, but it probably won’t work out to consume less fuel than taking off the regular way.
A space elevator. Any of its variants. Their entire goal is lifting satellites and spaceships from the ground to out of the atmosphere so the individual launches are cheaper, and that should be fuel efficient already even if you want to get off at 10 kilometers height. There are variants proposed that do not require a cable made of super-strong materials that we aren’t able to create yet, ones that could probably be done with today’s technology if someone coughed up the ridiculously high budget for building and continuous maintenance.
Not this one. The best way to get efficiency gains is to reduce the weight that needs to be moved around.
I don’t think you’d get a high enough power density. But how about a really long jet fuel line?
Jet engines capable of lifting an airliner to cruising altitude don’t need to weigh more than 3-6% of the total gross weight of the aircraft. If splitting the propulsion system allows your cruise engines to be 3-6% more efficient in cruise flight, that’s going to be a net win even if the takeoff engines are pure dead weight once you’re finished.
I believe that this was the case ca. 1950, but is not so for plausible engine choices now, but it’s not out of the question. Alas, I don’t have time to do the math justice right now. In the 1950s, this was rarely done because the cost, complexity, and reliability issues outweighed the marginal fuel savings, which is almost certainly still true.
More plausibly, a tanker aircraft optimized for climb performance, in parallel with a transport that is optimized for cruise but can manage takeoff and climb with mostly-empty tanks. Possibly a marginal win on pure net-fuel-consumption grounds, but again a big cost/complexity/reliability penalty.
Re: third engine
I wasn’t so much thinking of the weight of the engine as that unlike the other answers that one didn’t allow for much fuel weight reduction. On the other hand it’s probably the most realistic.
I’d think the drag of a third engine was a much bigger concern than the weight.
Charge passengers a token amount per kilo of body and luggage weight
Use a ground based vacuum pump to suck out half the air in the cabin just prior to take-off
Remove the windows, seatback entertainment, alcoholic drinks, all meals are now those dehydrated bags for backpacking, and the water for everything comes from, ah, some kind of condenser?
If you’re thinking of launching this aircraft with something like a ground-based winch used to launch gliders, you will need a cable approximately twice the length of the target altitude. 70,000 feet of cable is an awful lot. And you’ll need more than 70,000 feet of runway for the launch, since you need to lay out the cable and have enough space to land ahead.
It wouldn’t need to go all the way up to 35000 on the tow rope, just enough as is “practical” to save a bit of fuel. I don’t know much about winch launching, what do you mean by needing to have enough space to land ahead?
If the rope breaks, the safest way to land is to land “ahead”, facing in the direction you were launched in. Turning 180 to land the other way requires two low-altitude turns, which can get risky in an emergency situation. This means you need runway space not just on the side of the winch the aircraft is coming from, but on the other side too.
We can keep the engines at flight idle then in case of rope break. I wonder though how much beefing up of the airframe would be required. The cable attachment point has to be near the centre of gravity, is that right? Or the centre of pressure?
I think it’s CG. A “CG hook”, used for winch launch, located well back of the regular hook, used for aero-tow, sounds familiar. But it has been a long time since I was into gliding.
What about a launch loop type rope, but instead of inertia keeping the loop airborne, just use kites that attach themselves to the rope and have automated flight paths? Sort of like using a winch to aerotow a glider (or series of gliders) to pull the 777. There would be much less tension on the rope that way.
It might be possible to keep a ginormous kite up in the jetstream permanently, holding the cable under tension. Then, to launch a plane, just start up a specialized vehicle that climbs the cable dragging the plane behind it, and drops the plane at the top.
Must be much easier than a space elevator. It wouldn’t need to be in a jet stream either I suspect, you could make a kite with adaptable surfaces that could provide enough lift as low as 30 knots indicated airspeed I imagine
If we’re really, really not worrying about safety and cost, I’d guess without having done any research that a very large number of balloons would be the way to go.
(Oh, you need it to fly somewhere? Float to a bit above target altitude, drop the plane at just the right angle, let gravity accelerate it to the appropriate speed, and then level it out; you’re at cruising altitude having used almost no fuel at all.)
Late Bronze Age effortpost: Crete circa ~1400-1200 BC.
At the dawn of the 20th century, Sir Arthur Evans upended our understanding of Western history by excavating a pre-Greek civilization on Crete, which he gave the problematic name Minoan after King Minos. While in Greek mythology Minos was a nephew of Kadmos the founder of Thebes, Knossos and lesser cities Evans excavated had palatial layers dating back to 2000 BC, half a millennium older than the mainland civilization. There was indoor plumbing and statuettes and frescoes depicted women in flounced, structured skirts and tight bodices with plunging necklines.
But you can read about that in any survey of the Minoans, from book-length to Wikipedia entry. What we’re concerned with are the last centuries of the Greek and Near Eastern Bronze Age. Alas, this is complicated by the long shadow Evans casts over Cretan archaeology: he dated the “final destruction” of the Knossos palace, which follows a Protopalatial Period (Middle Bronze Age), native Neopalatial and then a period of rule by Greek-speakers, to shortly after 1400 BC. However, later archaeologists found stirrup jars and other material Evans dated to 1400 BC at Thebes and Pylos in Late Helladic IIIB context – just before the Bronze Age collapse. The “Palmer-Boardman dispute” over whether to associate destruction at Knossos and the Linear B evidence with the general collapse or keep the ~1400 BC date remains unresolved.
In any case, it’s generally accepted that palaces at other cities on the island – Phaistos, Mallia and Zakros – were abandoned when Greek-speakers conquered the island circa 1450 BC. The towns themselves remained occupied with much-reduced population, but authority was centralized at Knossos. A second important center was Chania or Kydonia, a harbor town in the west. Chemical analysis suggests that the Cretan stirrup jars on the mainland were made from clay local to this area, unsurprising as it was well-suited to trade with the Peloponnese and central Greece. Linear B finds from this settlement are securely dated to Late Minoan IIIB (= LH IIIB), followed by evidence of fire.
In general, IIIB shows evidence of a breakdown in security/prosperity. Coastal villages where the pottery sequence goes through IIIA show a break in settlement, in favor of better-defended villages further inland. Then while civilization per se disappeared on Crete following the general collapse, the current evidence does not suggest post-apocalyptic depopulation: after probably absorbing an influx of refugees, LM IIIB settlements continued into IIIC and the Early Iron Age, including Knossos itself.
ObSF: the story of Theseus and Ariadne was retold based on Minoan archaeology by both Jack Williamson (The Reign of Wizardry, 1940) and Poul Anderson (The Dancer From Atlantis, 1971). The first is fantasy, the second time travel. Both got Frazetta covers.
Also The King Must Die by Mary Renault.
Crazy thing I learned about English today: a “stirrup jar” has nothing to do with a “stirrup”. I got suspicious and looked up the meaning after the second text in short succession that talked about a “stirrup jar” as an archaeological find dated to bronze age civilizations. Thank you.
“Post anything you want” means this is a culture war approved thread, right?
I’ve just seen this article: https://quillette.com/2018/09/07/academic-activists-send-a-published-paper-down-the-memory-hole/
A mathematician alleges that his paper, in which he presents a simple mathematical model to explain greater male variability, was subjected to a whispered campaign of defamation because of wrongthink, eventually was approved for publication and showed up in an electronic edition of a journal, only to mysteriously disappear a couple of days later without formal retraction.
If true, this paints a pretty bleak picture.
As usual, the apologists are out in force on the subreddit, claiming it was only unpublished and replaced because it was inappropriate for the journal and that journal boards threaten to resign in order to unpublish papers all the time. It’s just-worlding taken to an extreme.
The paper is now effectively unpublishable anywhere, as NYJM holds the rights as the publisher despite deleting and replacing the paper.
I know nothing about this particular case, but even if a journal holds rights to the paper, it doesn’t hold rights to the information in the paper, so the author could simply write a new article with the same information and publish it somewhere else.
Yeah, it sounds like he’s already done that two or three times at this point.
More generally, it seems like this would’ve been a lot more troubling pre-internet. Thirty years ago, he could’ve complained to anyone that would listen but the larger world would never even know about the affair. Today, the people who got his paper spiked probably did more to draw attention to it than the author could’ve.
Think of incentives. If this story is true (we have one person’s word–the guy writing the article in Quillette–so who knows?), then you have a couple academics and a couple journal editors who’ve been successfully strong-armed into rejecting an article for reasons that probably aren’t related to the scientific soundness of the work.
If that happens often, and you’re a researcher trying to get publications, are you interested in doing research in an area where this is likely to happen?
Try a thought experiment: Suppose sometime in the future, there is a large, powerful network of people who are really violently opposed to theories about global warming, and they start successfully spiking papers, threatening journal editors and researchers, etc., whenever they publish a paper that makes reference to global warming. Researchers are rational–what happens next? Climate modeling types will have little choice but to keep on doing their research and keep their heads down. But marine biologists and geologists and such will be *really careful* never to mention or even suggest anything about global warming in their work. Academic jobs don’t grow on trees, you know. Over time, the scientific literature will stop mentioning global warming in any way, except for the part of that literature that’s focused on climate modeling. Increasingly, both scientists and journalists will miss things that would make sense if they realized that, say, the climate could go through major rapid changes, or that the average temperature now was somewhat higher than it was in 1800.
This is how we, as a civilization, get dumber. Voluntarily.
And then he would then be accused of self-plagiarism and it would be proof that the he was up to no good from the very beginning, or something.
Anyway, it’s still on Arxiv. This story was published yesterday, so I suspect there will be a decently-sized shitstorm and everybody potentially interested will hear about the paper in the coming days.
Author’s retired, so it’s not like lack of publication will torpedo his career. Activists sure shot themselves in the foot.
I don’t know how it works with this publisher, but Elsevier’s Copyright Assignment Agreement has “Articles may sometimes be accepted for publication but later rejected in the
publication process, even in some cases after public posting in “Articles in
Press” form, in which case all rights will revert to the author”.
Springer’s Copyright Transfer Statement doesn’t have a similar sentence, but it has “The copyright to this article, including any graphic elements therein (e.g.
illustrations, charts, moving images), is hereby assigned for good and
valuable consideration to Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht effective
if and when the article is accepted for publication”. This doesn’t clearly imply that the rights are reversed if they accept the article for publication, but later retract it. But it seems to be implied in the contract that they publish the article, and I guess you may have recourse if they don’t do so, especially without a legitimate reason.
This is a really bizarre story. I wish someone serious would dig into it–call the relevant people and ask them their side of what happened, etc. And I’d really, really like to know whether this happens very often. Because if it does, that’s a huge issue w.r.t. our ability to know what reality looks like.
If this story is true it’s probably a bigger deal than e.g. the Damore fiasco.
I wonder if there are parts of the world where the leftist powers-that-be that allegedly unpublished this paper (twice!) are not so powerful, and where there is simultaneously a vibrant research community. Looking at the literature in those areas might be a way to test the extent to which this sort of censorship exists–is there a lot more research on this topic in South Korea, for example, proportional to population etc.?
That’s embarrassing. They updated the TOC but the new TOC points to
Comrade Yezhovthe old paper.
That men are overrepresented as both CEO’s and the homeless is so blindingly obvious that I’m puzzled by the controversy.
It isn’t a controversy over whether it’s true but over whether the true statement should be made or kept quiet.
One implication of a wider distribution is that a woman is less likely than a man to have the sort of extreme mathematical ability required for, say, a position in the math department at Harvard. Recognizing that has two consequences that some people don’t like.
First, it means that the shortage of women in the Harvard math department isn’t clear evidence of discrimination.
Second, it is a reason that a woman interested in mathematics might be discouraged from following an academic career, on the grounds that she probably isn’t good enough to succeed in it.
I don’t think either of those is a good argument for concealing the truth—someone considering a career in mathematics has better evidence than gender of how good he or she is—but I can see why some people might.
Note that we’re talking about concealing true (or at least plausibly true, defensible, evidence-supported) statements from researchers in an academic journal. This is not just saying “let’s not share this with the commoners, lest they get the wrong idea,” this is “let’s not let this information become available to mankind at all, lest they get the wrong idea.”
Being a scientist is at some level about trying to understand the world better, and make that understanding available to others. Suppressing scientific research is about deciding that some knowledge (or some models of the world) is knowledge that mankind should not have. And this is an abstract model of the world we’re talking about here. It’s not suppressing a recipe for making nukes in your garage because you don’t want Al Qaida making their own nukes, it’s suppressing a high-level description of reality because you don’t want anyone using that description in their political or social arguments, or in their personal decisions.
I wonder: how much of the male overrepresentation among homeless people is due to the combined factors that single mothers are far more common than single fathers and low-income families have access to more support services than low-income single people do? Or any number of other structural factors, for that matter.
I think there’s a lot to rule out here before we should start using it as evidence of any greater male variability.
I’m curious about this too. It seems like a worthwhile thing to look into. Maybe some researchers in the relevant areas could try to study this in depth, and let the world know what they find.
How should they do that, do you think? Publish their results in an academic journal?
The National Museum of Brazil burned down on 2018-09-02. No exact telly yet, because the rescue operations are still going, but it’s already clear that most of the collection is lost forever. The cause of the fire is yet unknown.
This makes me quite sad. It’s another big loss in our race to digitize and losslessly store forever every significant information we have access to but that is currently in inconvenient hard to copy forms such as printed books, typewritten or handwritten sheets of paper, paintings, photograph negatives or positives, analog sound or video recordings, sculptures and reliefs, intricate clockwork automata, archaeological finds of artifacts and dead remains, conserved dead biological specimens, before those original forms currently stored in museums and libraries and archives are lost to catastrophical events such as war, civil war, natural disasters, negligent politics, or just lack of funding needed for conservation. The grand finale will be making sure that we never have to lose any people to death, but there is so much to do before that.
(This is a non-literal cross-post from various other sites. The event just makes me so sad that I must share my emotions. And the lost value is not personally connected to me, so I can share the full pain with anyone listening.)
I also mourn the loss of information, of the work done previously, of the unreproducable data sets from which nothing more can be gained, from the books never read again. I share that grief. But…
…we lose like data every day. People forget. People experience life and don’t record it. People grow old, die, and the people who remember them die. Languages change. Buildings decay.
All that we know, *now*, is a living subset of all knowledge. Things have passed which can not be recovered. Ages and ages hence, others will recognize the gaps in their knowledge that we could now fill, could those great-great grandchildren form the question.
Other gaps – other gaps, our inheritors will never know what it is that they do not know.
This, too, shall pass.
As someone who’s nerding out over Bronze Age civilization, I feel this.
The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days
Perhaps you will not miss them. That’s the joke.
The universe winds down. That’s how it’s made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you’ll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.
John M Ford
This was a thing that I did not know.
(Fav: How Much For Just The Planet? or The Final Reflection?)
John M. Ford is criminally underappreciated.
Reading some interesting stories on my morning news, anyone watch the actual podcast and have anything to say? Right now, I have to say that to me, Elon is looking like the Donald Trump of the technocrati complete with dodgy tweeting at ungodly hours when his mental faculties may not be at full blast.
If this is all 4th dimensional tiddly-winks to make the Tesla brand so toxic Apple or another outside company will back off trying to take it over, it may be working a little too well.
I haven’t watched it but it’s long been known that Musk is a narcissist. He’s the only commonly known member of the Paypal Mafia except maybe Peter Thiel. That’s because he’s always been obsessed with his image and flash and self-promotion to the general public. And Peter Thiel is known because: a, he was the leader, and b, he is openly Republican in an otherwise very liberal space causing occasional flare-ups, c, he destroyed Gawker for outing him as gay.
As for 4th dimensional tiddly-winks, this is a terrible strategy to make the Tesla brand toxic. No amount of personally looking bad will help with that. If Apple acquires Tesla it can kick Musk out. Sure, they lose his marketability but does Apple really need help with marketing?
If Apple acquires Tesla it can kick Musk out. Sure, they lose his marketability but does Apple really need help with marketing?
That makes me wonder if Apple are chary of the Jobs Effect: charismatic (if flawed) founder pushes company to early success, is forced out by internal political power struggles, later triumphantly returns to company that has floundered in the meantime while he has gone on to other successes and resurrects it?
Musk might look a bit too like Jobs for them to feel comfortable about kicking him out.
Maybe. But that’s never happened with Musk. His companies have mostly done the same before or after he left. He also has never returned to a company of his.
I suspect, but have no evidence, that he has a relatively hands-off management style to facilitate his life as basically a celebrity. Jobs, like Gates, didn’t personal brand build the way Musk does. He spent a lot of time running the company to the point of being an infamous micromanager. Musk, meanwhile, makes cameos in movies and shows up at celebrity events and is dating a singer and all that.
That hands off style would make it more attractive to acquire and mean he was less important he be retained.
Quite the contrary, actually: Musk is notorious for being a micromanager – at least in SpaceX and Tesla – and for frequently overruling the recommendations of his subject-matter experts.
The podcast was interesting, Elon is nothing like I imagined him to be. He is not charismatic at all, certainly doesn’t seem like a narcissist. At a couple points he seems to be close to crying when discussing global warming and some other things. By the end he is open about not being terribly happy, and says (paraphrasing) that his brain is running at full speed all the time and he hates that he can’t turn it off. He thinks of himself more as an engineer than a businessman. The impression I got was of someone with a low self image who grew up feeling like an outsider/alien, who is compelled to be as useful to the world as possible in an effort to chase feelings of self worth.
Joe Rogan has a hard time getting good answers out of him, and I don’t think Joe did a very good job as interviewer. Overall the podcast was very awkward and not entertaining.
his brain is running at full speed all the time and he hates that he can’t turn it off
Ah, the Sherlock Holmes problem!
He thinks of himself more as an engineer than a businessman
Given that, and what Adrian has said – which I think is true based on what I’ve read – about Musk being a micromanager, I think it would be better all round for the company/companies, for him, for everyone, if he stepped back from Tesla and let a good CEO take over. He seems to have done that with SpaceX and that has nowhere near the problems of Tesla right now.
On the other hand, it does seem like Tesla is his baby in a particular sense, and I can see him being so invested in it (because its success is tied in with his feelings of self-worth) that he simply cannot make himself stand back and hand over the reins, and right now the stress and strain is not helping his mental and physical health, and the resulting freaking out on Twitter and crying in the NYT interview and smoking pot on the podcast are not helping the company or the brand at all. Step back, let the accountants and management manage, and deal with the technical problems as they come up. Don’t tweet notions about taking the company private in some convoluted plan to set a valuation on the shares, then have to walk it all back when you have to admit that actually you don’t have any outside investment lined up, you just thought ‘this is how it could work if we did it’.
Possibly he ran into the engineer’s mistake of thinking that all he had to do was come up with the brilliant ideas and then implement them, and ignored or discounted that running a business isn’t the same thing as engineering; there are skills and knowledge and practices that are part of the discipline that he won’t necessarily have (I think his man-management skills, for instance, probably are lacking due to a combination of impatience with having to lay it out for lesser brains to follow and not taking into account that you can’t just slot production line workers into place the same way you would robotics on an assembly line).
If anyone has considered but rejected taking, or is taking, a sirtuin supplement (e.g. Basis, Tru Niagen), I’d be interested in your thoughts on these questions:
1. If you are or were taking such a supplement, did you find any evidence about whether the manufacturer’s recommended dose (typically 2 capsules/day) is actually the “right” dose for efficacy? Given the prior discussions of melatonin dosing, I’m skeptical that there is good evidence saying 1 capsule vs 2 makes a difference, for instance.
2. If you considered but rejected taking such a supplement, what was your reason for rejecting?
(FWIW: I recently started taking Tru Niagen on the theory that it is much more evidence-supported than other purported healthspan maximizers, and I am entering a phase of my life where healthspan maximization seems more urgent than before; but I remain somewhat unconfident in that decision and recognize that “much more evidence-supported” is not the same as “well supported.”)
Can you tell us about sirtuin supplements? I don’t know anything about them. Is it worth taking?
Went fishing, caught really old deer 🙂
The folks behind the Extra Credits series of videos about video games are publishing new series of videos under the label Extra History. In their most recent series, they will be covering the Battle of Saipan, an absolutely brutal fight between US Marines and the Japanese Army.
Part 1 of N is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9qi1Ge3ThY
The remaining episodes are still to come.
I’ve sometimes shown these videos in classes. I like that they’re usually school friendly, and I like his style quite a bit more than John Green’s Crash Course videos (which are the other go-to these days).
I just finished reading The Essential Gandhi. It appears to me that Mahatma Gandhi had an unusual combination of very good and very bad traits. I’d like to hear what others think of him.
First the good traits:
1) He believed very strongly in non-violence. He led India to independence over a few decades with apparently zero cases of violent uprising. If India instead had an armed revolt, there might have been millions of dead. Gandhi also created a practical template for civil disobedience, copied successfully by Martin Luther King.
2) Gandhi clearly had great political skills, with the charisma to lead the Indians with his vision of non-violent resistance.
3) He seemed to be totally sincere when he claimed not to have harsh feelings for his opponents. He certainly thought the British to be morally wrong in their domination of India, but he didn’t blame any individual British for their actions. This helped him immensely in the political sphere, where he could have friends on the opposing side, greatly helping him to get sympathy.
Secondly, the bad traits:
4) He was against physical pleasure. He became celibate in his 30’s, and considered this to a great triumph over his sexual impulses, even though he was happily married. He was against contraceptives because no one should yield to sexual impulses except to have a family. He believed liquor stores should be banned. He stated that the pain caused by over-eating was a good thing, in that it discouraged the enjoyment of food.
5) He considered accumulating money to be a bad thing. He lumped making money with physical pleasure. He believed that eliminating poverty in India would result from backing away from the acquisitive instinct, and no large businesses. Instead national self-sufficiency was his watchword. Hence the symbolism of the spinning wheel.
6) Gandhi was obsessed with the principle of non-violence to the point of inanity. In the late 1930’s he recommended that the Jews on Germany use his method of non-violent resistance to the Nazis.
Gandhi was the right person for the right time. His principle of non-violence and his great political skills resulted in the freedom of India from Britain. At another point in history against another opponent, passive non-violence would likely have not achieved the desired result, and just gotten him killed. If Gandhi had been an Indian King in an earlier age, his reign would likely have been one of terrible despotism and economic decline. Even under the facts that existed, India would have done much better after independence if they hadn’t been influenced by Gandhi’s terrible economic ideas. India mostly ignored his ideas on non-violence and instead took up Gandhi’s poor economics.
You might enjoy this revisionist take on Gandhi.
Well, not exactly. In attacking the sainthood of Gandhi as implied by the movie, the author decided to go in the opposite direction and instead cherry picked all he could find bad about the man. Perhaps one could find the truth by taking an average? Probably not. I think Gandhi was a great man, though he also had great peculiarities, and he was great mostly because he was the right man for the times.
There was a discussion a few weeks back about the fifth amendment and when it is applicable. It got me thinking about the standard recommendations surrounding the fifth amendment: Never talk to the police, immediately ask for a lawyer etc. What I’m wondering is is this actually good advice in all situations?
Here’s a hypothetical. Your wife is murdered. You know that you are not the culprit. You are motivated to find the killer. Isn’t it best not to plead the fifth in this scenario even though it’s possible you will be suspected of the crime. For one thing, you don’t want to give the police reason to suspect you, and for another you legitimately want to help the police catch the person who did commit the crime.
Maybe this is obvious in which case ignore me, but the advice about the fifth that I usually see from lawyers online is essentially that you should always plead the fifth, so I just wanted to check my intuitions on this.
Just because you didn’t do it doesn’t mean you won’t be charged and maybe even convicted. Your best bet is to fully cooperate *with* the assistance of a good attorney.
I didn’t do it!
Isn’t that also something the real killer might say?
Why are you questioning me while the real killer is out there?
Is that something that the real killer might say?
The cops don’t show up with truthdars where they can figure out how YOU would naturally react to your wife’s murder, and everything you say to protest your innocence is something that a man who was trying to get away with killing his wife might also say.
No, the cops show up and they know that if you find a woman dead then there is a good chance that the husband did it, so even an honest, truth seeking super detective is going to give you a good going over, and maybe a couple of them.
Oh, and YOU JUST FOUND YOUR WIFE DEAD. You can’t trust anything, let alone how you are going to react (are you going to blame yourself because you argued with her, or stayed at the party while she went home alone and end up ignoring all of the questions and just end up muttering out loud “its my fault, I killed her” because you just can’t handle this shit?).
Brad and baconbits have it right; pleading the fifth or asking for a lawyer isn’t going to be what makes the police suspect you. If it’s your wife that’s been murdered, the police already think you did it (and in this case they’re being good Bayesian reasoners). Getting them to stop suspecting you, especially when, as baconbits mentions, you’re likely to be highly stressed and traumatized, is not something you should be trying to do on your own. Getting a lawyer and doing what they say is absolutely the way to go in this situation.
even though it’s possible you will be suspected of the crime
You will be suspected of the crime. Any policeman who goes “Seems like a nice chap/lady, couldn’t possibly have done this” is an idiot who is incompetent at their job. Any murder victim found in the home is more likely to have been killed by spouse, family member, or close acquaintance/friend rather than “a burglar broke in and did it”.
There is no way to convince the police, by how you behave and what you say, that you should not be a suspect. Eager to co-operate and willing to go on the telly appeal to the public to help find the murderer? Killer spouses have done that in the past. Too cool and detached when the news is broken to you – could be shock, your natural temperament, or guilt. Too emotional and weepy – same! (And if the cops don’t want to pre-judge, the tabloids have no qualms about getting a ‘evil monster/tragic spouse’ narrative going, depending on whether they think they’ll sell more papers going with the ‘evil monster slaughtered spouse and cold-bloodedly joked with police’ or ‘tragic spouse in floods of tears as they appeal for witnesses to brutal murder’ angle).
Getting a lawyer and keeping your mouth shut is the best thing to do, even if you are innocent and genuinely grieved by the death.
If your wife is dead, the police already suspect you. And you won’t be able to help them catch the person who did commit the crime when, A: you’re doing a life sentence for murder and B: they believe they already have caught the person who did commit the crime.
As others have noted, the police should suspect you if your wife dies in any remotely mysterious way. Most of the time, when a wife dies in a mysterious way, it’s the husband who did it.
And most of the time, the husband who did it then explains to the police that of course he didn’t do it and he really wants to help the police catch the real killer. So here you are, in the company of police officers who have seen this all before, saying and doing exactly the things ordinary common killers always do, hoping that this will result in your being treated as anything but an ordinary common killer.
The police are very good at getting murder suspects to slip up and say something that they, and the courts, will take as proof of an ordinary common killer’s guilt. They aren’t nearly so good at distinguishing between things ordinary common killers say in their guilt, and things the rare innocent husband of a murdered wife says in his grief. Their techniques have an enormous false positive rate because, being in the end positive they got it right every time, they can’t properly calibrate.
Your lawyer might be able to get this straightened out in court. But, at best, that means you spent a lot of time in jail while the real killer got a head start on his escape. And maybe you wind up convicted of murder after all.
The lawyers are right. They’re going to make an absurd amount of money being right, but on this one they actually are right. When the police read you your rights and tell you you can shut up and call a lawyer, shut up and call a lawyer. Maybe shut up and call a lawyer even before that point, but never wait one minute after.
I think one way to explain it is to understand that the police are going to divide their investigation into two parts: 1) Figure out who did it and 2) gather evidence against that person.
Once they start the second, they’re not going to spend much time looking for disconfirmatory evidence because, hey, they know who did it, and their job now is to get a large a pile of evidence against that person as they can in as easy a manner as possible. This is simply the same common human defect of not looking for adverse evidence and disbelieving the evidence that does wander into your field of view that we talk about here on SSC all the time, it’s just that this time it’s being done as part of a police investigation rather than social science or political arguments.
By talking to the police, you might be gabbling out a whole bunch of evidence both for or against your guilt, but if the cops already believe you’re guilty, the evidence for is what will show up at your trial, and you’ve just made it way harder for your defense attorney.
Well, I’m convinced that my intuitions were wrong here. Here’s a follow up. Is there ever a situation where you wouldn’t want to plead the fifth? Say there’s a murder in my neighborhood three houses down, and I saw a strange car parked outside that night. It’s cool to tell the police then right? I’m just trying to figure out where the line is; especially since clearly my intuitions are wrong. 🙂
“Really? So you were at the scene? What’s your name and address, and don’t leave town.”
I’m interested to see what other people say; surely not every witness lawyers up, and you have an interest, practical as well as moral, in preventing further violent crime. But I’d definitely want the number of a lawyer in my pocket before I approached official crime investigators.
If the police haven’t arrested or detained you and haven’t told you that you have the right to remain silent / call a lawyer, then you can probably use your own judgement as to whether it is safe and reasonable to talk to them. But even then, it should be a suspicious judgement.
Once you’re in custody, or have received a Miranda warning, then you need to shut up and lawyer up. The police consider you a suspect, and that means their incentives all align with “get enough evidence for a conviction and have faith that your first suspicion pointed towards the actually guilty party”.
Our host has deemed Popehat to be worthy of inclusion on his blogroll; head on over and do a search for “Shut Up” for details, explanations, and numerous object lessons.
If the police haven’t arrested or detained you and haven’t told you that you have the right to remain silent / call a lawyer, then you can probably use your own judgement as to whether it is safe and reasonable to talk to them.
Is that ‘you haven’t been arrested yet’ worth anything, though? In the article I linked in a comment below, the suspect (a veteran cop herself) was being reassured by the cops questioning her that no, she wasn’t arrested, she could walk out any time, she didn’t need a lawyer – so when she did walk out, bam! then they charged and arrested her. And the article treats it as “how stupid of her to really think she could just walk out”.
If they bring you down to the police station ‘just to clear a few things up’ (and they don’t even have to take you there in the cop car, they could ring you and say ‘hey, how about you call in on your way home from work, there’s just one or two things we need to clear up’), I’d treat “you can walk out of here any time you like” as being about as credible as “hello, I am a Nigerian prince who wants to enrich you”.
I think the obligatory video link is never talk to police. Lawyer spends the first half explaining his point of view, then cop chimes in and agrees with him.
Yeah, I was about to link to this as well.
Everyone should watch it.
My favorite part is when the cop asks the audience to raise their hands if they broke the speed limit on the way to class, and you hear the professor in the background shouting at the students to put their hands down.
Agree with everything above. The only extremely narrow exception should be you have pertinent information that needs to be acted upon quickly. Examples are I saw the murderer he looks like this or my child is missing. Tell only that information then plead the fifth. I would hesitate to even tell the cops that she received a death threat at work without a lawyer, since that wouldn’t have to be acted upon immediately and could wait a couple hours.
One big exception is when you killed someone in self defense. The standard recommendation is to immediately call 911, briefly report the killing and the circumstances, and then shut up and get a lawyer. IIRC, the reasoning is that police (and juries) find self-defense claims more credible if raised early, that concealing or failing to report the killing looks really bad and can be an offense in itself, and that raising a self-defense claim immediately put the police on a footing of investigating the question of “Was the killing justified?” rather than “Who committed the murder?”
You still want to keep your statements to the minimum necessary to assert your self defense claim, and you still want to lawyer up immediately afterwards, for the standard reasons why you normally shouldn’t talk to the police at all without a lawyer: the more you say, the more likely you are to trip yourself up and give the cops something that sounds like evidence you’re lying. If there’s more that you can say to the police to help your case, your lawyer can advise you of that and guide you through the best way of doing so.
I’ve heard that in this situation, you want to report the actions you took, rather than any particular results.
As in, “An intruder broke into my home, I fired my weapon at him, he may require medical attention” rather than “An intruder broke into my home, so I shot and killed him.”
Yes, that’s an example of where you really want to talk to a lawyer before talking to the cops.
I would think the question comes down to whether you can ever be sufficiently confident that the police think you’re a witness, and not a suspect. Hopefully there’s some point of lack of motive or personal involvement with the crime where that happens (it would be unfortunate if witnesses should never talk to the police), but I’m also curious as to where the line might be, if there is one. It certainly doesn’t help that the police can freely lie to you, so their telling you you’re not a suspect is worthless.
I recall reading once that if they come back to talk to you to “clear up some things” or “get more information” that’s a sign that you’re their suspect, and they are interviewing you to try to get you to say something incriminating.
Yes, that’s one of Popehat’s recurring points. And especially with Fedcops, note that lying to the police is itself a crime, of the auto-incriminating variety. One where “lying” can be defined very loosely, to include honest mistakes and technically-false colloquial simplifications.
If they’d like to clear up some things, well, gosh, now isn’t a very good time for that but you’ll have your lawyer set up a meeting at a time convenient for everyone. If they won’t accept that, SHUT UP NOW.
Well, Popehat’s already been linked once, I might as well link Mr. White’s answer to this question. The Privilege To Shut Up, where he notes that himself and many of his clients are affluent and important people who can do things like endure fines and post bail and get lawyers and keep their jobs after a few days in jail and get press attention if they get their heads smashed open on the pavement.
So the best legal strategy is probably (almost) always to shut up. But if you’re in a position where the best legal strategy may not be the best life strategy, then maybe it’s worth thinking twice.
I assume one cannot get a public defender if one isn’t formally charged with a crime.
Does anyone have experience with how good or bad a job these lawyers tend to do for their charges otherwise?
I’ve never had a Public Defender defend me, but having worked clearing their drains today I can tell you that many of them are mighty, mighty fine looking.
The defenders or the drains?
The drains, silly. Lawyers are very special people with perfect poops that slide right down the drains in orderly formations without even once clogging. The drains that serve them are things of beauty.
Sadly, the Defenders are better looking.
The drains are the work of low bid contractors of the 1980’s
I wish it were true.
In my experience, from the source of the most clogs to the least, it’s:
1) Inmates (“the guests”).
2) Lady District attorney.
3) Male cops.
4) Lady Public Defenders.
5) Lady general public.
5) Male general public.
6) Male Public Defenders.
7) Male District Attorney.
8) Lady cops.
I’m sure that sheer numbers play a role, but I still credit the lady cops for making the least work for me.
It varies but in general you are far better off with a public defender than any kind of lawyer that doesn’t specialize in criminal law. The worst attorneys in criminal court are the defendant’s brother-in-law that does real estate but is sure he can handle this. The best criminal defense lawyers are probably the former prosecutors working for white shoe law firms. Public defenders and ordinary criminal defense lawyers in private practice are a mixed bag. Partially it depends on the jurisdiction and how overloaded a particular PD office is.
That’s a good tip.
It’s funny. My family was big on the right to own a gun and kill an intruder in self-defense, but it was never mentioned how to get a criminal lawyer if you ever have to. That %*@# costs money.
I’m surprised and kind of disappointed at the discussion here. Of course you shouldn’t blindly trust cops, or other authority figures. But you shouldn’t blindly distrust them, either.
In the hypothetical case that your wife is murdered, I would hope you would be concerned with finding her killer, rather than selfishly trying to decrease the chance that you will get framed by a very small amount.
Anyway, the advice presented here is probably wrong even for selfish people. If I were a cop trying to interview the husband of the deceased, and the guy turned white as a sheet and slammed the door in my face, what am I going to think? Cops aren’t robots. They react to contextual clues and emotional attitudes.
Of course there are cases where you should keep your mouth shut and let your lawyer do the talking. But if your neighbor gets murdered and you refuse to help the cops, then you’re just a selfish dick. There’s a reason why lawyers are disliked, and stuff like this is part of it.
If I were a cop trying to interview the husband of the deceased, and the guy turned white as a sheet and slammed the door in my face, what am I going to think?
What is he trying to hide? is what you’ll think. You’re forgetting that people who have killed family members are not unknown, and they’ve all displayed all kinds of reactions, including “if I were innocent, how would I react? yeah, I’d probably break down crying/refuse to believe it/be eager to co-operate” and then they act in this manner. “Keeping your mouth shut and getting your lawyer” is not refusing to help the police, it’s basic self-protection.
The police are not robots, true. But they’ve seen it all, or been trained about it, and no matter what you do or don’t do, they will not (or should not) let “aw geez, poor guy seems awfully upset, let’s just take his word for it that he was out of town” affect their investigation. Indeed, being sympathetic may hinder the investigation, as in this strange tale of a cold case solved years later – the article is highly coloured because it’s written in the New Journalism style (which is old as Methuselah by now) but it has two salient points:
(1) The lead investigator at the time was sympathetic to the grieving husband, believed he was not involved, and so discounted the demand by the father-in-law about ‘have you checked his ex-girlfriend?’ because the husband was adamant she wasn’t involved (also presumably because the ex-girlfriend was a cop). Turns out it was the ex-girlfriend, and if he’d been less nice and more sceptical, he might have got on the trail of the real killer (though her being a cop really did muddy the waters, it was highly unlikely the cops would suspect one of their own, and the story floats speculation that there was a minor cover-up):
(2) The whole ‘you haven’t been arrested, you’re free to go, you can walk out any time you like, this isn’t an interrogation so you don’t need a lawyer’ spiel is a lie, and even a seasoned cop can fall for it:
Moral here? Apart from “don’t commit murder”, it’s “when the cops are the most insistent that this is just a friendly chat and you can walk out any moment you like, that is when you most need a lawyer”.
In the US, if they tell you you’re free to go, you should attempt to leave even if you’re 100% sure they are lying. Your right to remain silent is strongest under custodial interrogation (they have to Mirandize you, and they have to stop questioning you if you ask for a lawyer), so it’s to your advantage to make sure it is clear that is the case.
But if your neighbor gets murdered and you refuse to help the cops, then you’re just a selfish dick.
And in certain places, if your neighbour gets murdered and you help the cops, you get murdered too.
Ideally, we would all perform our civic duty. But this is not an ideal world.
So why not apply that logic to:
What percentage of cops would you think have ever perjured themselves either in a sworn report or on the stand?
Did you watch the video linked above where the actual cop told you what he is going to think, and what you should do about it?
The cop thought you were probably guilty before he even showed up to interview you. And he thought you were going to do one of the obvious things to trick him into changing his mind about that, so none of the obvious things (like offering to help him find the real killer) is actually going to change his mind.
There are some circumstances where the cop you are talking to might not think you are guilty, or might be willing to change his mind based on “emotional attitudes”. But that set has approximately zero overlap with the set of husbands of mysteriously dead wives.
Also, “turn white as a sheet and slam the door” is a strawman and you should feel bad for invoking it here.
You are taking to extreme of a position. The argument here isn’t “never, ever, ever help the cops” its “get a lawyer FIRST, then interact with the cops in the presence of or through your lawyer.”
Except that the first scenario is a whole lot likelier than the latter two.
It seems like “What would you do if the cops became convinced you had committed a serious crime despite your innocence” is to libertarians what “What would you do if the zombie apocalypse came” is to survival preppers, or “What would you do if your wife was kidnapped by a criminal gang who inexplicably eschew guns for martial arts” is to Steven Seagal.
It never occurred to me there were people who didn’t think about these things all the time.
Normies are weird.
If one had sufficient imagination to entertain the prospect of agents of the state not being completely reliable and trustworthy, they’d already be a libertarian.
“If one had sufficient imagination to entertain the prospect of agents of the state not being completely reliable and trustworthy, they’d already be a libertarian”
Not in my case.
I’ve worked around cops long enough that no imagination is required for me to know that they’re not ideals of honesty, but I still vehemently reject libertarianism.
Maybe a copy and paste of a post of mine from another thread will help explain why::
As far as I can tell, in some ways mass education is itself to blame.
The relative lack of births during the Great Depression and the Second World War, combined with a post war explosion in the birthrate (“the baby boom”), caused significant cultural age based segregation.
Previous generations worked along side their elders in fields and factories, and that along with many people of intermediate age (older siblings, younger aunts and uncles, et cetera) created more cultural transfusion than experienced by the “baby boomers” who spent much more of their time in age segregated schools with peers, and that plus growing up in remarkable different circumstances (an older generation who grew up in times of depression and war, and a younger generation who grew up in unprecedented broad based prosperity, and with television) created the “generation gap” of legend, and the boomers had an individualist “counter-culture” in opposition to their elders.
A draft for an unpopular war led to massive protests by those of draft age who had “student deferments” at college campuses, a widespread revulsion of those protests and the “youth culture” of the times led to the replacement of governor Edmund “Pat” Brown, who championed public works, and free college, with governor Ronald Reagan, who had a $150 fee for college enacted in 1970 for what had previously been a free education, plus he demonized students and the like then young and had tear gas used at UC Berkeley, which the wind carried to my nursery school and effected me and the other kids, at least according to my mother (I have no memory of it, but I looked it up and there was such an incident).
Efforts to combat an economic recession in the early 1970’s and the 1973 oil embargo led to spiralling inflation, and increased property taxes on homes going up in nominal price spured a “tax payers revolt” in 1978 and the passage of “Proposition 13”, and the resulting cut-backs were obvious to me as a child (the missing toilet paper, classes with not enough chairs for each student, much fewer new books, all of which I’m still angry about forty years later).
Age segregation led to the “baby boomers” not being properly socialized into responsible adults (the “me generation“), and who dissolved their marriages, leading to an epidemic of children from broken (yes, I’m still angry about that as well).
By 1980, former governor Ronald Reagan campaigned for President on a ‘Government is the problem, not the solution’ slogan, the baby boomers (with their memories of the ‘gulf of Tonkin incident’, the draft, and the Watergate break-in), and their elders elected him, and on getting into office he signed massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy (the 1986 reforms to “save social security” meant that more Americans paid more of their income in taxes, even though total receipts were down, as the tax burden was shifted away from income taxes towards “payroll taxes”).
By 1982 the efforts of the Federal Reserve to curb inflation resulted in an economic recession and massive unemployment, and soon beggers became very prominent (I tried to carefully choose which direction to leave school to avoid the many requests for “spare change”, but I was mostly unsuccessful).
By 1985 “turf battles” of cocaine dealers meant that weeks in which I didn’t hear gunfire from outside while I was in my bedroom in either my mothers house in south Berkeley, or my fathers apartment in north Oakland were rare (and yes, I’m still bitter about that as well!).
Is my rejection of both cultural and political libertarianism easier to understand?
When you see movies of the 1940’s and 50’s they have an “All in it together” ethos, but by now it’s been decades of “Rebel against the system” claptrap!
The rebels won, and we live in the ruins”
To put it plainly: The further in time and policies from the New Deal and the Great Society this nation has gotten, the worse living standards have become for the majority of Americans.
Adjusted for inflation, the median male worker earns less now than he did in 1979
C.E.O.’s at the largest companies now make 270 times as much as the average worker, up from 27 times as much in 1980.
Most of the recent economic growth has gone to soaring corporate profits, while median real wages have gone nowhere.
Welfare aid to the poor was mostly destroyed in the 1990’s.
Our sidewalks are increasingly covered with the tents of the otherwise homeless.
We’re back to 1920’s levels of wealth concentration at the top.
What more do does libertarianism have to win?
Oh, I guess they haven’t destroyed Social Security Insurance yet, but just like everything else the’ve done in my lifetime to ruin a once great Nation, I’m sure they’ll get around to it.
I’ve seen enough already.
I don’t want anymore “liberty”.
Part of your picture seems to be the idea that state and local governments have less money to spend than in the past. That is the precise opposite of the case. Federal expenditure relative to GNP has stayed reasonably constant since the mid-fifties. State and local has doubled.
On another of your points… I think the fact that our school system is age segregated is one of the things wrong with it.
Keep in mind that the bureaucracy has the perverse incentive to cut the things most important to the voters first. Cutbacks to, say, administrative overhead would be about last on the list.
“Part of your picture seems to be the idea that state and local governments have less money to spend than in the past. That is the precise opposite of the case. Federal expenditure relative to GNP has stayed reasonably constant since the mid-fifties. State and local has doubled….”
If that was the case in California from 1979 to 1985, then they certainly targeted the cuts to be most noticeable to this then student, and I certainly noticed that up the street at UC Berkeley they still had paper in their restrooms, as did City Hall down the street, I actually spoke to a young man who went to Berkeley High School a decade after I did and they still had no paper, and he said he walked to City Hall, just like I did (I didn’t ask him if he lost his lunch hour, or skipped a class to do that as I did).
Yeah, I’m definitely stilled steamed about it!
“On another of your points… I think the fact that our school system is age segregated is one of the things wrong with it.”
I quite agree, and this one area that I agree with libertarians, children (especially teenagers) should spend more time working with, and learning from adults, I know that other than pouring concrete with my Dad, I had little clue on how to earn a living.
I’m reminded that sometimes at my current job with The City we sometimes have interns from local high schools for a few weeks in the summer, but our work is deemed too dangerous for the interns to be around, so typically they just sort old documents, and I got reprimended when I showed the intern how to replace a lower floor faucet stem (it wasn’t like I took him up to the Jail to unclog a drain!).
In many ways I think the Tudor era apprenticeship system was better for educating youths wheras today, unless it’s for family, you can’t even start working most trades until your 18 in California, which I think is a waste of prime learning years.
“Keep in mind that the bureaucracy has the perverse incentive to cut the things most important to the voters first. Cutbacks to, say, administrative overhead would be about last on the list.”
In my experience the first things cutback are replacement parts and tools which, when the inevitable breakdowns occur, means more expense as overtime is called for staff to attempt lengthy repairs that would be much faster and cheaper with the right items.
Next there’s a hiring freeze on people who actually fix things, but seldom one on desk jockeys, and clipboard carriers, who just seem to keep getting added despite usually being in the way of getting things fixed, though lately we now have to spend 30 to 60 minutes out of each work day doing payroll entry on a computer instead of fixing things, so maybe someone got cut at a desk.
With all the mandatory meetings it often seems like upper managements goal is for no productive work to get actually get done, which I suppose reduces parts usage and workmen’s comp claims.
It took me a couple of years of working around cops before my first thought upon seeing one wasn’t “What could they bust me for?”.
In the hypothetical case that your wife is murdered, I would hope you would be concerned with finding her killer, rather than selfishly trying to decrease the chance that you will get framed by a very small amount.
Okay, pontifex, let’s look at the data. The FBI has a nice breakdown of homicides in 2015 including sorting by relationship of victim to murderer. Let’s see what we can extract from it (I’m a bit disappointed there isn’t a breakdown, that I can see anyway, of ‘murders by strangers versus murders where the killer was known to the victim’ but we’ll take what we can get).
So in 2015 there were 13,455 murders and men made up the majority of both victims and killers. I’m going to lump together husbands and boyfriends in one and wives and girlfriends in another set, rather than separate them out as the FBI has done, because the data I’m trying to get at here is “if your romantic interest – be that spouse or partner – is killed, how likely are you to have dunnit?” (Rather quaintly, the FBI includes same-sex romantic partners as acquaintances rather than spouses/partners; I have no idea if this is because gay marriage not a thing yet or if it has to do more with ‘same-sex murders are in the context of casual hook ups’: “The category of acquaintance includes homosexual relationships and the composite category of other known to victim.”)
As a side-note, if I go by this, you are much more likely to be murdered by an acquaintance than anyone else, so keep a wary eye on that person you vaguely know or work with!
Out of 13,455 murders, 265 of the victims were husbands/boyfriends and 1,005 were wives/girlfriends. That comes to about 2% of victims being husbands/boyfriends, 7% of victims being wives/girlfriends. So already we see a tilt in the likelihood of “if a spouse is murdered, is the killer more likely to be the wife or the husband?”
It gets even stronger if you break down the murders as follows: out of those 13,455 murders, 10,608 were where the victim was male – so 265 husband/boyfriends out of 10,608 male murder victims still comes in around 2.5% rate of spousal murder.
But there were only 2,818 murders where the victims were female. Plug in 1,005 wives/girlfriends out of 2,818 murders and suddenly we get roughly 36% spousal murder rate. That’s 36% rate of woman murdered by husband/boyfriend to 2.5% rate of man murdered by wife/girlfriend. Correct my dodgy maths, but that looks like a woman has a 1 in 3 chance of being killed by her romantic partner whereas a man has a 1 in 33 chance of same. EDIT: if they are murdered, goes without saying, not that every woman is 3/1 likely to be murdered by her boyfriend!
You see now why the first suspect a cop is going to look at where a woman is killed at home is the husband/boyfriend? Even if you turn white and slam the door in their face?
Isn’t the difference in ratio just due to men being way more likely to commit murder though? Men are more violent in general and commit way more murders, so it would be very strange if wives killed husbands at anything approaching the rate that husbands kill wives.
I’m curious about whether or not men or women are unusually driven to murder spouses compared to the base rate that each group commits murder in general.
Based on the data here, let’s assume that males commit 90% of murder.
Then there are 12110 murders committed by men in 2015 and 1345 by women. Of the murders men committed, they killed their wives or girlfriends 1005/12110 times or 8.3% of the time a male commits a murder. Of the murders women committed, 265/1345 times they killed their husband or boyfriend or 19.7% of the time a female commits a murder.
So it appears that although women are much less likely to commit murder than men (10x less so), if they commit murder then they are somewhat more likely to be the sort of violent person that murders a significant other (2x). I’m not sure what this implies, but it’s interesting. I was expecting a null result.
Isn’t the difference in ratio just due to men being way more likely to commit murder though?
Oh sure, that’s part of it: men are much more likely to both be murderers and victims. The surprising part, though, is how fewer women are murder victims – 2,818 to 10,608. That makes the huge difference where there’s a chunk of spousal murders where women are the victims, whereas spousal murders are only a dent in the male murder rate.
I take your point about the men as murderers versus women as murderers, but we were discussing the “if your wife turns up dead and the cops come to question you, is lawyering up a good idea?” part where it makes sense for the police to suspect the husband/boyfriend because when women are murdered, it’s much more likely to be a significant other than a stranger by comparison with when men are murdered.
The takeaway there is when women are the murderers, they are more likely to murder those close to them, and when they’re the victims they are more likely to be murdered by those close to them, whereas for men whether they’re murderers or victims, there’s a much greater chance it’ll be a stranger/acquaintance. So if you’re a cop investigating a murdered spouse, if it’s the wife the likelihood is greater that it’s the husband who did it, whereas if it’s the husband who is killed, it’s more credible that “burglars broke in and did it”. You should still suspect the surviving wife, but not as much as you’d suspect the surviving husband 🙂
One complicating point here: In the US, at least, about 1/3 of murders are not solved. (It’s much, much worse for most other crimes–a lot of them aren’t even reported.)
So what we know from crime statistics is who got arrested for the murder when the murder was solved. (Assuming they got the right guy–I don’t know how to check that.)
I suspect that messes up some of the statistics w.r.t. what fraction of murders are intimate partners, or acquaintances. Because if a newly-divorced woman turns up dead, every cop on Earth is going to go have a word with her ex-husband. (He’d better have a good allibi, too!) That kind of crime probably gets solved a large fraction of the time, because the cops know where to start looking. On the other hand, if some random guy turns up dead in a back alley with his wallet missing, the cops have a lot less to go on–that murder, which was probably a stranger, is less likely to get solved.
I’m not sure how you’d correct for this.
Yes, that’s a good way to put it. I was surprised. At least that women didn’t murder strangers more often or partners less.
One idea in principle; unworkable in practice. Some fraction of people who were found guilty should be innocent and some fraction found innocent should turn out to be guilty. Maybe if we look at the murders likely committed by the second group (say clear and convincing but not beyond a reasonable doubt) we’d get some idea of how much things vary between “solved” and “unsolved” murders?
The takeaway there is when women are the murderers, they are more likely to murder those close to them
Related: men are more likely to abuse those close to them than women (even more so when one emphasizes physical over emotional abuse.) But the victims of abuse by women are far more likely to die than the victims of abuse by men. Most abuse done by women is not *partner* abuse but abuse of children and elders.
Last minute reminder for Melbourne, Australia combined LW/SSC meetup on tonight (Friday 7th September) from 6pm. See the Facebook group for the details: https://www.facebook.com/groups/lesswrongmelbourne
Could high-speed, autonomous taxis replace short-distance passenger planes?
I define a “high-speed, autonomous taxi” as a passenger vehicle with space for 2 – 6 humans and optimized for 100 mph speed, and I define “short-distance” routes as being 100-300 miles long.
Assume that in the future, only autonomous vehicles will be allowed to drive on major highways. The machines would be capable of superhuman levels of coordination, making it possible for them to do things like drive nearly bumper-to-bumper at high speeds without risk of crashing, thus sharply increasing roadway capacity. Superior reaction times would also allow them to drive safely at speeds few humans can, like 100 mph. This makes me wonder if autonomous taxis, specialized for plying 100-300 mile routes at high speeds, could replace passenger planes by beating them on a combination of factors including fare price, travel times, and convenience.
Let me use the example of a San Francisco to Bakersfield journey, which is 283 miles by road, to address the last two of those factors. According to a travel website, a flight between the two cities would take 1 hour and 19 minutes, but that doesn’t include the time spent getting to and from each airport, or getting THROUGH each airport (the TSA checkpoint is the biggest time waster). Adding two hours for this would probably reflect the actual “travel time” if one made the journey by air, upping it to 3 hours and 19 minutes.
The “100 mph autonomous car” would cover the 283 miles in the same amount of time once you factor in the early and late portions of the route spent driving slowly on non-highway roads: The car would pick you up in front of your San Francisco house and drive slowly until it exited your neighborhood and reached the highway, and at the end of the trip it would also spend time driving slowly as it wove its way through downtown traffic to your Bakersfield hotel.
Second, the autonomous taxi’s daily schedule would be far more flexible than the plane’s: Instead of there being only one or two flights per day on the San Francisco-Bakersfield route–possibly at inconvenient times–autonomous taxis might be available to make the run every two hours. There would also be far fewer other passengers in the car than on the plane for you to deal with. You might even have the vehicle to yourself.
Even if a ticket on an autonomous taxi were more expensive than a seat on a plane, it would be worth it for many reasons.
High-speed, autonomous taxis sound so obviously superior, and the buzz about their potential is so strangely absent, that I fear there might be some serious flaw in my reasoning, which is why I’d like other people here to give me their thoughts. Underdeveloped counterarguments I’ve already come up with are:
1) Even if the highways only had autonomous cars on them, most of those vehicles would be performing non-urgent or minimally-time-sensitive runs, like delivering a load of merchandise to Wal-Mart, so they would drive at lower speeds to conserve fuel. This would physically prevent the taxis from reaching 100 mph. Alternatively, one lane on each highway could be reserved for 100 mph vehicles, but depending on how high the volume of said traffic was, the costs of road maintenance might not justify the benefits.
2) It might be that a car’s road noise increases exponentially as the car’s speed increases linearly (I know that wind resistance has this relationship). If so, then people living near highways might successfully petition the government to block 100 mph lanes. Could someone help me quantify this? Assume that the autonomous taxis have electric engines.
3) The faster you travel in a car, the more turbulent it is when the wheels go over potholes, road debris like small rocks, or dips in the surface of the road itself. Maybe at 100 mph, the ride gets unbearable for the average human. Again, I’ve never driven this fast, so I wouldn’t know.
I’d really appreciate feedback to develop this idea. Thanks.
You make a good case, assuming that a) wait times at airports do not improve, and b) there are no substantial legal or technological impediments to autonomous … automobiles. Autonomobiles?
Anyway, you can also discount the slow city time of the auto taxi from your comparison, since I expect it is more common to live close to a highway than to an airport, so that’s basically a wash, or worse, from the air travel perspective.
Uh, no. Unless you are traveling on really poor roads or in a really poor car, but I’ve done 90+ in Wyoming (an old native word meaning “nothing here).
People don’t like living next to airports, either, although there are more highways than airports. I think some thick walls around the highway (common in urban areas) would mitigate sound adequately, and it comes out better in the comparison to being in a flight path.
I think the real problem would be those little towns that force traffic to slow down to 45 as the highway passes through in order to make money off of speeding tickets and big gulps (I’ve also done 90+ in California).
I’m not sure this is true. Maybe for some shipped goods, but I think there would be economic factors incentivizing fast transport if it were possible to do so safely. On a lot of California highways, trucks are required to drive slower and keep to the right most lanes already.
I don’t see any of those objections being anything like the novelty and perceived unsafety of self-driven autos as factors to overcome.
That depends on what the numbers actually are, of course, but I assume it wouldn’t be much more than driving oneself is, which comes out favorably when carpooling a family, at least.
On the other hand, if I own a car then I’ve already payed the big costs of buying and insuring it. Marginal fuel and maintenance can be pretty cheap.
Rental companies keep their fleets new – one or two years old at most – presumably because people don’t want to use older cars. If everyone is relying on renting autonomous cars they won’t have as long lives or resale value. The cost of the car will have to be priced into a trip in a much bigger way than someone using their family car to take an extra trip.
That’s true about rental cars and we took advantage of that to pick up a recent but not quite new car off of an Enterprise resale cheaply.
I’m not sure that’s the case with Taxis or Ubers, so I think the market could adjust.
However, in the short term they would by necessity be new cars, unless ai could be retrofit, which seems unlikely.
I’m not sure that the distances you’re talking about pencil out with the non-autonomous vehicles of today. Are there a lot of people who are taking the Bakersfield-SF flight because they’re in Bakersfield and want to get to something in SF? Or are they in Bakersfield and want to go across the country, so they’re connecting to a long-haul flight in SF?
I’m sure there are some of the former, but I suspect that most of the money for that flight is coming from the latter.
I just picked SF-Bakersfield as a random example because the road distance is close to my 300-mile limit. Las Angeles to Las Vegas (270 miles) is more pertinent.
In most of the developed world outside the US, there already is a way to travel between two cities ~300 miles apart in ~3 hours door-to-door, about a dozen times a day, for about the same price as a flight or cheaper: the train.
One problem with passenger trains is that making them work well means optimizing your rail network in ways that make it very much less than optimal for freight. Freight isn’t sexy; visiting tourists aren’t going to see your nation’s boxcars and come away thinking you are the Future that Works, politicians can’t pose beside them for glossy photo ops, etc. But there’s an awful lot of it that has to be moved, and it is more tolerant of the constraints of rail travel, and the US system of using the rails for freight and the roads and sky for people is probably the way to go.
Which brings us to the second problem with passenger rail – while you talk about travel “between two cities”, what you really mean is travel between two railroad stations. The railroad station is usually in a city, but it’s usually not the part of the city that anyone actually wants to go to. Freight doesn’t mind sitting around for half a day waiting for you to arrange local delivery; passengers very much do. And since the quickest and most versatile way of delivering passengers to wherever they do want to go is an automobile operating on city streets, a transportation architecture where arriving intercity travelers happen to be in automobiles already is going to be favored in that regard.
In most of European big cities the passenger stations are in places where people want to be, and when they aren’t there is a good public transportation network to get you the rest of the way. Freight is often sent overnight, same network but different endpoints. But yes, without those public transport networks this isn’t a model that most of the US could follow.
That said, on slow news days in the UK there are <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/30/student-flies-london-via-spain-cheaper-train/frequent filler stories about people finding flights via a European city to be cheaper than taking the train direct between two UK cities.
I did say door-to-door, i.e. including the time to walk from your origin to the bus/metro station, take the bus/metro to the railroad station, …, and walk from the bus/metro station to your destination.
(E.g. going from the Antwerp city hall to the Paris city hall by train vs by car, according to Google Maps)
That’s great for politicians who want face time with other politicians, but for everyone else the relevant example will include a residential district on at least one end of the trip.
Of course, it’s not “everyone else” who lays out public-transit infrastructure.
I’m not a politician or anything like that (just a physics post-doc), and I live a 12-minute metro ride (incl. the time to walk to the metro station) from one of the train stations the train from the link in my previous post stops at.
Granted, since I don’t have a car I gave more weight to how connected a place was to the public transport system when deciding where to live than the average person does, but still, I asked Google Maps the same question from the address of various colleagues and friends (none of which a politician) to whose places I’ve been to, and the answers were 7 min, 12 min, 19 min, 22 min, 26 min, and 44 min. And that’s in a city not particularly famous for the efficiency of its public transport system, and that’s not counting the bike sharing system which is often faster than buses and metros.
(I once was offered a car ride to a conference about 60 km away; I declined when I realized that I would have had to leave my home earlier than if I had gone by train.)
This proposal suffers from the same major difficulty (imo) that proposals for high speed rail etc does with regards to “improving” on planes: Terrorism.
The main hassle and time waster in airplanes is the checkpoints. Without those you could simply walk onto the plane as you do a train. But we have terror checkpoints for planes because 9/11 and other highjackings pre 9/11. Guess what are actually super easy targets? High speed rail and a proposed high speed highway. The highway is extremely vulnerable. A few boulders that an adult male could toss onto a highway would cause a 300+ car pile up if they are indeed traveling bumper to bumper. This is just another 9/11 on a roadway, and every roadway is vulnerable. High speed rail has the same problem, but only 1 train will get derailed, but also has the issue of not being convenient.
Thus, somewhat counter-intuitively, for faster travel you always are going to want to be in the air, otherwise a rando can result in massive death with stone age weaponry.
This proposal suffers from the same major difficulty (imo) that proposals for high speed rail etc does with regards to “improving” on planes: Terrorism.
By coincidence, I was reading a local story about “developing new systems to combat vehicle-based terrorism”, and it seems to me that the vulnerability there is the danger of malign parties being able to hack into the systems – if they can get a signal out, surely someone can get a signal in?
But it also sounds as if the development of autonomous trucks (and the resulting lack of need for human drivers) is definitely on the way a lot sooner than might have been expected:
If you’re getting into that level of computerised control, then some kind of limited AI that will replace a driver altogether doesn’t sound that far off.
@Deiseach , @tandagore, @mattm, @ana53294
I think that, traditionally, the biggest security difference between planes and trains and cars is that planes are the only one that faces a significant risk posed by passengers. Whence, passengers face scrutiny (even though, IMO, current levels greatly outweigh their benefits). While attacking a train with an explosive or chemical attack can kill quite a few people, those attacks are quite difficult to pull off and you are often easily caught.
This is why the rise of car attacks has opened my eyes to the future of “train derailers” and “congestion creators”. While the terrorist who wants glory would surely still want to drive a semi into a crowded market, then shoot off as many rounds as he can carry before detonating a suicide vest, a few terrorists who prefer to stay alive and take credit with internet videos could wreak havoc in the countryside where the potential amount of road/track you would need to police is simply too massive. I am no train expert, but I am fairly sure there is a pretty big risk if a small amount of track was cut out on a bend. A tight formation of cars would face a similar risk. Put one of those spike strips on a bend and chaos ensues. This risk obviously increases when hazardous materials are targeted (as with the trucking example).
And I’m not saying you can’t do all this now (we seem to be relying on terrorist idiocy as a main component of our security), just that increased speed creates increased damage & fatalities, which is a goal of terrorists. The other thing is, that nowadays, it seems to me the arguments in favor of non-airplane travel are just arguments against the current level of airport scrutiny.
But is this not already an option? Maybe not in the US with their dismal infrastructure, but a lot of Europe already has trains that go at 150-200 mph and terrorism has so far not been a problem in this area, even though Europe has seen quite a few terrorist attacks lately.
There’s a luxury bus network in Texas that has virtually no security at all.
Now you’re probably right that this will change as soon as someone commits an act of terrorism on or using a luxury bus. But for now, you show up, show your ID, and walk right on.
ETA: I also remember traveling Europe mainly by train, and seeing remarkably little security around in most train stations. Particularly if you started in a rural station. Maybe it’s changed in the last few years?
Although security was increased at important train stations for a brief period after the Madrid train terror attack, train security has not changed much. There are more CCTV cameras in big stations, they check ID on the train, and make sure there are no abandoned bags. They also have an obsession with trash cans, and in big cities they frequently block the trash cans.
And there has been no major terror attack on trains, which to me shows how pointless airport security is. There are lots of targets that contain lots of packed bodies that have lax security; the only way in which a plane is worse than a train is the hijacking part. And surely, there are better ways to avoid hijacking than making everybody stand through hours of pointless controls?
Wait… busses have security? Every inter-state bus I’ve been on, you buy a ticket with cash or credit, weigh or get a ticket for your bag, wait for the bus, throw it in, flash your ticket, and you’re golden. No ID checks, no bag checks, no nothin’.
The highway is extremely vulnerable. A few boulders that an adult male could toss onto a highway would cause a 300+ car pile up if they are indeed traveling bumper to bumper.
That sounds like too high an estimate. Keep in mind the autonomous cars would be networked, so if a big rock fell into the roadway, every car in that whole lane, going back for an arbitrary distance, would brake instantly. Given that cars are designed to crumple a bit during accidents, there shouldn’t be a simple “chain reaction” of fender-benders between 300 cars.
Also, my use of “bumper-to-bumper” is almost in the figurative sense. What I really meant was that autonomous cars would be able to drive safely with much less distance between them than slow-reacting human drivers need. Of course, since the cars can’t stop instantly and the braking distance increases with speed, the networked autonomous cars would continuously adjust their distances from each other depending on several variables. At lower speeds and/or on stretches of highway where there is no risk of a large object suddenly appearing in the way, the autonomous cars would indeed drive nearly “bumper-to-bumper.”
High speed rail has the same problem, but only 1 train will get derailed, but also has the issue of not being convenient.
Even in my future scenario where cars routinely drive at 100 mph, I think trains would be a more tempting target for terrorists out of the two. One train could easily have hundreds of people in it.
Thus, somewhat counter-intuitively, for faster travel you always are going to want to be in the air, otherwise a rando can result in massive death with stone age weaponry.
What happens when randos can use freely available downloadable instructions to built quadcopter drones on their 3D printers that are programmed to do kamikaze attacks into the turbofans of slow-moving passenger planes that are taking off or landing at airports? Commercial flight may lose its safety advantage over 100 mph autonomous taxis.
Well if we’re going there, if you’re a terrorist organization with an Al Quieda scale budget, why not load grenade-sized charges in to a couple truckfulls of drones and have them zip around and dive-bomb any clusters of people they see?
Or just fill the truck with explosives.
Fact of the matter is, terrorism is really easy. The main reason people don’t push each-other in to traffic at crowded intersections or drive on the sidewalk or shoot each-other all the time is because very few people want to. There’s not a whole lot you can do to stop the people who do want to.
Don’t invite them into your country. Then the state has the smaller job of only removing domestic terrorists from circulation without jailing or killing an innocent suspect in the process.
The US has literally allowed in tens of millions of immigrants and how many have actually attempted, let alone pulled off, a terrorist attack? Attempting to prevent immigration would probably increase the terrorist threat as the sheer amount of resources needed would end up drawing money away from pursuing likely terrorists.
@baconbits: The US has allowed in tens of millions of immigrants who don’t want to kill us, and also a smaller number of Muslims who are responsible for about half of all terrorism despite Muslims being ~1% of the US population.
This is a general problem for all Western states that receive immigrants. Christian immigrants don’t hurl fuel-laden aircraft or trucks at us. Hindu immigrants mostly mind their own business and make software. East Asian infidels are fine regardless of faith too.
The terrorist doesn’t have to be an immigrant. The U.S. hosts about seventy million foreign tourists (“non-immigrant admissions”) a year.
@DavidFriedman: And in extremis, we’d have to deny those admissions to all Muslims. Fortunately that seems unnecessary as things stand: visitors from even from state sponsors of them rarely turn into terrorists, and while such a policy deserved to be slapped on Saudi Arabia, that gov’t is changing.
If a terrorist organization wants to get half a dozen people into the U.S., I expect they can do it with stolen passports that don’t signal “muslim.”
Or they can get them into Canada and then walk across a not very well guarded border.
Or … .
Do tourists commit terrorism ever? I feel like I’ve never really heard of that being a thing?
14 of the 9/11 hijackers came to the US on tourist visas.
FiveFour were on business visas and one on a student visa.
Perhaps, but in the first world stolen passports very reliably signal “criminal traveling on a stolen passport”. This isn’t the 20th century, when checking every passport at every port of entry against every nation’s passport database would take more than a few seconds.
Again, this is a problem that Mossad has serious problems with these days.
“for faster travel you always are going to want to be in the air”
I don’t think that’s right. If a terrorist can take out a plane traveling over a major metropolitan area, he kills not only everyone on the plane but 100’s of people on the ground below it. Throwing boulders on a roadway only kills the travelers.
Also, a plane falling out of the sky is basically unsurvivable, whereas a seatbelted driver has a decent chance of surviving a massive pile up, especially if they aren’t one of the first cars.
A couple of quick thoughts:
-People generally dislike travelling with strangers in close proximity, but plane travel works because a) there are flight attendants and b) it has been around long enough to have an established etiquette. I suppose the relative lack of personal safety associated with sharing a 300 mile car ride with 3 other strangers is priced-in to the fare?
I think some degree of control/vetting by each passenger over who their companions will be a good start. If i’m committed to being a terrible travel companion, I should have to pay more or wait longer in order to have the cab to myself or be accepted by less fussy people.
-When people travel by plane they often take substantial luggage. Such an autonomous taxi system would probably have to have a partner service that transported luggage separately.
Not sure I agree with you here. Can’t you just say when you book the taxi how much luggage you have, and then the taxi that is assigned to pick you up will have enough space?
Yeah, the notion that airplanes are somehow more efficient in transporting cargo than ground vehicles seems absurd on the face of it.
I was imagining taxi cars transporting 4 people with 4 suitcases + carry-on. I suppose a minivan would do the trick, if it was tuned up to do high speeds economically.
-People generally dislike travelling with strangers in close proximity, but plane travel works because a) there are flight attendants and b) it has been around long enough to have an established etiquette. I suppose the relative lack of personal safety associated with sharing a 300 mile car ride with 3 other strangers is priced-in to the fare?
I think some degree of control/vetting by each passenger over who their companions will be a good start. If i’m committed to being a terrible travel companion, I should have to pay more or wait longer in order to have the cab to myself or be accepted by less fussy people.
Tandem seating with a thin wall between the front and back rows (similar to the plexiglass barriers inside of contemporary taxi cabs) might be the solution. As an added benefit, the seating arrangement would let the 100 mph taxis be narrower and hence more aerodynamic and fuel efficient. This is more important at higher speeds since air resistance increases exponentially as speed increases linearly. And just as autonomous vehicles could safely drive bumper-to-bumper, they could safely drive “door-to-door,” so two narrow, tandem-layout cars could drive side-by-side in one, normal-width car lane.
You’re also right that passenger safety and comfort would necessitate a “reputation scoring system” for all riders. It could easily be implemented.
-When people travel by plane they often take substantial luggage. Such an autonomous taxi system would probably have to have a partner service that transported luggage separately.
I don’t think this will be a problem. The 100 mph taxis would have trunks with enough space for passengers to store the same amount of luggage that they could bring onto planes.
“reputation scoring system” for all riders. It could easily be implemented.
And then be promptly sued into non-existence for being racist.
That said, I have started using Uber Pool and Uber Express Pool a lot, and that does have you sharing space in a car with other passengers. The evolving etiquette is that you all generally mostly ignore each other. However, most such trips are usually well short of even half an hour, not multiple hours.
(And yeah, I really wish I could uprate and downrate other the other pool passengers. Pro tips: be toes on curb at the pickup point before the car arrives, don’t smell like a smoker, don’t smell at all, don’t spend the trip arguing with someone on your cellphone, and if you are going to eat, do it silently.)
I doubt it. Most people aren’t rationalists. They will see an autonomous car as basically a bus, which is less fancy and new and technological than a plane. They won’t be willing to pay more for a bus ticket than a plane ticket, even if it’s a bit faster and a bit less crowded.
As it stands today, you can take a non-autonomous “luxury bus” from Dallas to Houston for about $90 one way. I have, and they really are nice. Comfortable leather seats, usually nobody next to you, free snacks (used to include alcohol until some law made them stop that). Plane routes nowhere near as comfortable cost about twice as much, but do manage to still get you there quicker, even including airport transit time.
Aren’t universal speed limits preventing the bus from doing better on travel time? The OP was proposing dedicated highways that allow 100mph or more, whereas buses are often stuck at 70mph or less, which is a huge difference.
(Similar to how US regulations prevent high speed rail from going at optimal speed, even if the infrstructure was there.)
If we theorize the travel time of the bus improves by 30%, that makes a 4-hour trip become about a 3-hour trip. At that point it’s probably “about even” with the airplane in terms of time. That said, a four person “taxi” sounds to me like a small car, which would be significantly less comfortable than this large bus that seats about 20-30 people.
I don’t think the bus company could get away with doubling their prices to increase their speed by 30%, particularly if it also required a reduction in comfort.
ETA: In the specific case of the Dallas-Houston bus, the limiting factor is probably more related to traffic and congestion than speed limits, but I’d imagine the bus driver wouldn’t go much faster than 70, even if it was legal, for safety reasons.
Most passenger cars are already suitable for ~100 mph intercity trips, as are most drivers. Most != all, and a tiered drivers licensing system would be unpopular and difficult to enforce, so we set highway speed limits a bit below 100 mph. Noise and comfort are mostly solved problems whether at 70 mph or 100.
Still, there’s benefits to the automation you propose.
1. Code is standardized, so every auto-car should be safe at 100 mph. Time savings.
2. We don’t have to hire drivers for the taxis, which is a ~25% cost savings in this context
2a. If we use private cars, people who don’t enjoy long-distance driving can read/websurf/etc instead
3. It’s an ideal environment for operational testing of autonomous cars in the real world
4. “Platooning”, as you note, increases traffic throughpit
Down side is, especially if you exploit #4 above, the failures will be high-profile catastrophes.
The next question is, why taxis instead of privately owned vehicles? Advantages to the taxi:
1. Better utilization in time. Expensive automobiles spend less time sitting idle. Of course, this means expensive automobiles wear out faster and need to be replaced more often, which is almost but not quite a wash. 20-30% cost savings depending on time value of money
2. Better utilization in capacity. Figure 1.5 passengers average for a POV, 2.5 for an intercity taxi if we use a typical intermediate-size car chassis for both. Slight increase in fuel consumption, but still another 30-40% cost savings
3. Less need for parking space at the destination. Hard to quantify, but some cost savings here
4. Maintenance can be handled on a fleet basis, again hard to quantify but some cost savings
Disadvantages of the taxi model
1. Less efficient routing. Taxi will have to “deadhead” to pick up first outbound passenger, and will have to do short intracity legs for each subsequent passenger at each end.
2. Less efficient scheduling, ditto
3. Reduced privacy/personal space issues. Being stuck in a small unsupervised space with 2-3 random strangers for several hours is pretty much a worst-case fail in that regard; the 2-300 people on an airline constitute a “crowd” which is psychologically more tolerable, plus you get flight attendants to manage the problems that do come up.
4. Need a separate intracity transportation system at the destination, whereas using a POV for intercity travel conveniently gives the passengers a POV immediately available right there.
5. Dispatch uncertainty may mean sufficient taxis simply aren’t available to meet demand in any reasonable time frame, particularly an unexpected asymmetric demand.
Most passenger cars are already suitable for ~100 mph intercity trips,
I imagine that autonomous taxis intended for 100 mph cruise speeds for multi-hour trips would have different design features from ordinary passenger cars. Faster speeds would demand more aerodynamic body shapes and other features like different sized wheels.
By contrast, autonomous taxis designed for intracity transit would look like SmartCars.
I would be very surprised if autonomous vehicles didn’t cut a big chunk out of regional aviation, without even going above current speed limits. Air travel is a pain in the ass. Getting there, parking, security, bag check, waiting around. Arriving, waiting for bags, getting a taxi or renting a car, getting to your destination which is never close to the airport.
I don’t see much of a market for ride-sharing except for the poor, I imagine these would almost all be private trips.
For business travel especially, take the company limousine with lie-flat bed, mini-fridge and a desk including all the tools you need to work. Departs as soon as you leave your house since it has been waiting there for you since 3am. You’ll get work done on the way there or just take a nap.
This story came from an old (internet age) Chinese meme that came from a reality TV series where kids from a rich urban family in a city are exchanged with kids from a poor rural living in a village.
The meme itself is just from the overreaction from one of the boys, but what was more interesting was some controversy the show was facing.
There was some fairly typical reality TV controversy where some people complained that some of the interactions were either induced by the film crew or directors, and that they purposely edited the month long feed in a way to only showcase the narrative they wanted to tell.
Another was not so typical – as part of the direction, it was meant that this exchange reveal to the kids some greater truth and cause both sides to come to a better understanding of each other. However, what tended to happen was that the rich kids did not really change much such as being more grateful or humble or something. The poor kids though, often had some serious “withdraw” symptoms as they got used to the luxury they had during the exchange and did not cope well to reverting back to their poorer lifestyle. After some cases where they found previous participants having ran away from their home and begging in the city refusing to go back, the show was canceled (I think it was only temporarily).
Ironic this should be from a supposedly Maoist country, when you think about it.
Reposting from the end of the last culture war thread because I thought it was timely given the plug for Mastodon in the URL thread:
On the URL thread we talked about Mastodon. I was skeptical that Mastodon would be any more effective at controlling witches than Twitter or Reddit, but some including Mark Atwood insisted that was irrelevant, since the design of Mastodon enables witch containment while making witch hunts impossible.
Wil Wheaton was banned from Mastodon and then quit social media. Is this evidence Mastodon is not immune to witch hunts, or is this Mastodon working as intended, protecting women and transfolk who don’t feel safe around Wil’s toxic masculinity?
Also, h/t Plumber, Wil’s take on the events.
Is “banned from Mastodon” even a coherent thing? I haven’t actually used it but I thought the whole point of federation was that you couldn’t be banned from the whole thing (unless every admin coordinates to do so, anyway). If one instance tells you to take a hike you can just bounce to a different one. Won’t be connected to (all) the same people but still
It appears that he was banned from an instance (because the admin didn’t want to deal with the drama of hosting him) and he took that as a sign that it wasn’t any better platform than Twitter since angry mobs could still get their way. I think he could still join another instance, it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t want to after this experience.
But in terms of product quality, is “people were driven away because the experience made them miserable” really so much better than “people were banned?”
If I quit my job because I absolutely hate my boss and can’t stand going to work one more day, is that really so much different from being fired? Maybe a little as far as my ego is concerned, but from the boss’ perspective, probably not.
I think the point dodrian and Gobbobobble are making is that quitting because your boss makes you miserable without trying to transfer to a different boss first doesn’t really work as an indictment against the company. If you find the second boss is just as bad as the first, and even the third, well yeah, maybe the company is crap at management and you are right to leave. Even so, this is a qualitatively different situation than at your old workplace, where everyone’s boss was just the CEO and he fired people whose politics he didn’t like.
I’m not strictly trying to make a point either way.
I think that Mastodon has a better opportunity of being not completely awful — though a lot of Reddit is pretty toxic, there are a number of well moderated and respectful communities. It looks like Mastodon can emulate that, and take it in even better ways (note: I haven’t had any first-hand experience with Mastodon myself).
It’s definitely not a panacea, and Wheaton’s experience shows that it can fail in the same way as Twitter, even if he does technically have the option of trying again with a different host. If I were in his position I probably wouldn’t try either.
Yes. Being driven away because the experience made you miserable means you made a choice not to use their product, for the sake of improving your own quality of life over the long-term. It’s the same reason the Amish reject various technologies, and it’s a really damn good reason.
I think a high profile person like Wil Wheaton is maybe not a good test of Mastodon; it would seem that whatever “instance” he would sign up for (if he’s banned off this one, why not join another one instead?) would be subject to the same mobbing of anti-Wheaton/Wesley Crusher people, so that can’t really be a test of “can Joe Random be harassed off Mastodon completely?”
Though I’m not surprised the admins decided to give his account the chop, this is exactly what I imagined as worst-case scenario: mods/admins getting overwhelmed because of the amount of traffic and not able to keep the walled garden weeded and the gates locked. Once you hit high enough numbers, it doesn’t much matter if it’s only one area of the loosely federated grouping that is affected, that one goes down and the survivor(s) who flee elsewhere may be followed by pursuers willing to take down the next place of refuge.
Very much this. Back in the Usenet Days(*), I was one of the moderators of the Babylon 5 newsgroup, noteworthy for having J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5’s executive producer) as a regular participant. The level of drama associated with maintaining civil discussion involving A: a Genuine Hollywood Celebrity and B: any internet user who wants to show up, is extraordinary. The newsgroup for All Written Science Fiction Not By Robert Jordan (**), needed zero moderators. Keeping gun control politics out of the recreational shooting newsgroup, one moderator. We had nine.
I’m not sure how Twitter manages, other than the obvious “poorly”. But I’m not at all surprised that the solution designed by and for a bunch of congenial nerds and geeks, failed when extended to a Celebrity Geek.
* Dinosaurs roaming the earth, cars with proper tailfins, and no whippersnappers on my lawn, you know the drill.
** Yes, literally
he newsgroup for All Written Science Fiction Not By Robert Jordan (**), needed zero moderators.
TNH disagreed. She was firmly of the mind that it needed a moderator. Her. And her and her fans and ilk constantly seething that not enough people agreed with her on that point was a constant background grind there.
She kinda got her way, after the end.
That whole dynamic and aftermath was literally prophetic of entirely too much of the next two decades.
There doesn’t seem to be a good way to make what Wheaton wants, which seems to be a site (1) which deplatforms Alex Jones and Trump for being bad, but (2) doesn’t allow people to decide Wheaton is bad and harass him, and (3) still has enough people Wheaton wants to talk to in order for him to enjoy it.
Sure there is. You just need it to be run by a petty Internet tyrant who’s sympathetic to Wheaton and unsympathetic to Jones and Trump.
Arguably, a site like that already exists, and it’s called wilwheaton.net.
That’s why I included condition (3), but maybe WilWheaton.net qualifies. 🙂
Fixed. (at least for Alex Jones, Trump gets a major exception ONLY because he’s President – if he had lost, and kept tweeting the way he has, I’d be willing to bet at least one social media platform would have suspended him by now)
Twitter didn’t deplatform Jones; that’s why Wheaton left it for Mastodon. Facebook, etc. did, but they aren’t sympathetic enough to Wheaton.
I mean Jones and Wheaton are very specific examples, but if you’re looking for major social media platforms run by petty tyrants that are generally unsympathetic to icky right-wing people but generally very sympathetic to SJW-aligned minor celebrities and still have lots of people to talk to… that describes, well, basically all of the major social media websites on the Internet.
Well, when I say “sympathetic” there I’m pointing to some pretty strong sympathies. Wheaton only gets half of what he wants if his platform of choice pads every press release with mushy social-justice platitudes and throws its right-wingers to the wolves at every whiff of outrage; he also wants to be shielded from people on his side in the culture war who’re calling him e.g. a transphobe to score points with their more radical peers. That’s not a mess that Facebook wants to stick its fingers in, but the mods of wilwheaton.net or a Wil Wheaton subreddit would probably be willing to.
If your Overton window’s so small that you can’t handle non-balkanized social media, then you need to balkanize your social media experience. But, y’know, we do know how to do that.
I think Wil’s goal is to find a place where people don’t get run off by angry mobs, not to find a place where only other people get run off by angry mobs.
…but also where Alex Jones gets run off by people who are absolutely not angry mobs.
You don’t need an angry mob to run off Alex Jones, just mods with standards. No, what Wil wants is the advantages of a big site like Twitter (lots of content, lots of admirers and people to admire, most people use it) and the advantages of a small site (no mobs, effective moderation, doesn’t consume your life to participate in it) in one package.
Twitter has now banned Alex Jones.
The standards of twitter are entirely partisan, though. People have done experiments. If you post that you hate black people, you get banned. If you post that you hate white people, even when reported, you are not banned *.
If their standard was “free speech” they would allow both. If their standard was “no hate speech” they would disallow both. That they allow one and not the other is simple partisanship. Which is essentially the same thing as being sympathetic to Wil while running off Alex.
* For the record, I would ban neither but find both statements extremely distasteful and believe they should both not be posted.
This is the third time a right-wing commenter has implied that hating black people is a right-wing trait. If a left-winger said that you’d call bullshit, wouldn’t you?
Ditto for Alex Jones being used as an example of a right-winger. I guess he’s more right than left, but surely we can all agree his bans have more to do with him being a crazypants shill for nutritional supplements who makes up stuff than him favoring low taxes, right? I mean, I assume he’d be banned here too. Steve Sailer is banned right now, and Alex Jones makes him look like Oakeshott.
I’m open to the idea that Twitter’s policies are biased against conservatives, but a) it’s not clear that they are, unless you concede that anti-Semitism is a conservative trait, and b) if they are, it’s not clear why I’m supposed to care, as Twitter is not some sort of national infrastructure, and “this website keeps banning people I like but not people I don’t like” is not a policy issue.
I don’t agree with that at all.
There are tons of crazypants shills for nutritional supplements who are highly respected. I think it was on SSC that I first saw the link to how all the same nutritional supplements hawked by Alex Jones are also being hawked by Glyneth Paltrow on Goop, but with very different marketing labels…
Similarly, tons of people make stuff up and offer weird conspiracy theories with no evidence. They rarely get banned.
We can also point to other right wing personalities who don’t hawk nutritional supplements and who don’t really go for conspiracy theories that much who have also been banned, to further cast doubt on this claim.
“Hating black people is a right-wing trait” is ambiguous. If it means that it’s common for right-wingers to hate black people, it’s false. If it just means that P(Hates black people | right wing) >> P(Hates black people | left wing), it’s true.
No. He’s banned because he’s a tribal enemy. Certainly it has nothing to do with his position on nutritional supplements.
Well, feel free! Preferably, ones that didn’t just happen to be violating the TOS in some unrelated way right before they were persecuted for the crime of being right-wing.
Prager U has famously been hassled by Youtube and Facebook (although not Twitter as far as I know) and Dennis Prager and his friends are about as plain, vanilla, milquetoast as social conservatives can possibly be…
The first article I clicked on about him said that some of his youtube videos were deleted, and when he complained, youtube said it was an accident and re-enabled them and apologized. And Twitter appears to be perfectly happy with him. Is there more to it than this?
I looked up the Prager-Facebook thing as well and it seems similar to the Youtube thing (some videos got briefly removed and then re-added), except that this time the cause was user flagging.
Gotta say, this is not blowing my skirt up. YT and FB are notorious for deleting things for no apparent reason and then not doing anything when people complain. You’ve cited two instances of the opposite – where people complained and they promptly fixed the problem. So far you’ve convinced me that social media is more convivial to and supportive of right-wing views than I would’ve supposed.
The claim was never that you can get banned just for being right-wing, the claim is that you can get away with a hell of a lot more if you’re on the same side as the people whose job it is to enforce the rules. I’m pretty sure that’s a universal truth.
Most of the people who get banned DID just do something naughty. But way more people on the other side do the same thing and no-one pays any attention. I don’t think it even requires accusing Twitter of maliciously doing this on purpose – it’s just plain ol-fashioned bias.
And yeah, considering social justice types also complain that YouTube is targeting them too, I think it’s just Google turning the gain absurdly high on their neural network-driven demonetizing machine out of some mix of justified concern about advertisers, paranoia, and overconfidence in their technology.
Everyone interprets this via their priors that favor “someone didn’t like what you had to say and tried to stop you” over “Google has never made any money off this thing and really is that disinterested in your engagement with the site.”
Fair enough, and that may be true, but it’s also a subtle and subjective claim with naught but anecdotal evidence. The whole reason I’m here at SSC, as opposed to some other forum, is the notion that this is the sort of place where people would follow a claim like this with, “…but of course that’s what I’d expect someone like me to think even if Twitter weren’t biased, so let me tell you why I’m convinced that this is more than just my own bias.” So far everything I’ve seen is consistent with Twitter being perfectly neutral (or even mildly biased against the left).
Mastodon’s model seems to be well suited for that. Set up an instance or federated space or whatever they want to call it, whose target group is “left-leaning but not Hard SJW nerds and geeks who want polite conversation”, and that should add up to plenty of people who Wheaton will want to talk with and vice versa but no Jones, Trump, or harassers.
Implementation will have the problem that any such space will actively attract geek-adjacent hard SJWs who want to harass their less valiant and committed colleagues, and once Wil joins, a collection of specific Wheaton-harassers as well. It sounds like it was the latter that broke the current moderation team, but if they couldn’t handle that I’m not confident of their long-term viability against the generic SJW griefers. Good moderation is hard to sustain.
As far as I understand, the problem of the moderators was that they got too many reports of Wheaton. A simple solution to that for a moderator is to automatically ignore any reports against Wheaton (or anyone who is getting mobbed at the moment).
Automatic ignoring runs into the problem of “600 reports against Joe Schmoe who is legitimately terrible” and then you have the problem of “Brazen Nazi baby-eater allowed run wild on site” and everyone condemning the mods and accusing them of being crypto-Nazi baby-eaters themselves.
Or you have a mod or mods who go “I like Joe, so I’ll ignore the reports about him but I don’t like Bill, so I’ll ban him in response” even if there are 600 reports about Joe and 2 about Bill.
No good solution that will please everyone and work 100% of the time with little cost or effort, really.
Automatic ignoring runs into the problem of “600 reports against Joe Schmoe who is legitimately terrible”
How about a moderation system that guarantees checking for “legit terrible” after N reports (N could even be 1), and if false, further reports against Schmoe are auto-ignored for K days? (Or they’re stuffed in a log which can be checked at the mod’s discretion?)
To foil this, Schmoe would have to post something that gets N reports, then get on the auto-ignore free-ride train, and only then let lose with the dankery while their K-day window is open. This seems like too much trouble for a true troll to go through. Especially with a simple check to see if Schmoe’s post count and auto-ignored reports both go conspicuously up during that window.
Additionally, N and K are known only to the moderator, and are subject to change at any time.
@Deiseach I meant automatically ignoring reports against someone who is getting mobbed for no good reason. That is, if there are a lot of reports against someone, check the first few, and if they are without merit, auto-ignore the rest. It’s relatively unlikely that someone who has been mostly decent up to this point will suddenly turn terrible. Especially if he is not told that reports against him are now ignored.
10240, that’s a good control if the mods are able and willing to check N reports to see if they’re legit before deciding to ignore or ban. But they may not always be able and/or willing, especially if there’s a flood of reports coming in.
Over on the SSC sub-reddit, there seems at the moment to be an increasing reliance on automoderation and there’s a bit of a tussle going on where the mods are saying that they’re not doing this professionally, they have lives and problems of their own, they don’t have time to go through every individual thread with a fine tooth comb particularly as comments regularly get up into the thousands, etc.
Well, I presume moderators generally do look at reports and at reported comments, so looking at the first few reports against someone is nothing unusual. I don’t think N has to be more than, like, 5, and mass reportings are rare.
Good moderation is hard to sustain, but it is plausible. Identifying and booting harassers is the way to go a lot of the time.
How much of this is Wil Wheaton taking a stand against Alex Jones and how much of it is Wil Wheaton not liking Social media dynamics otherwise and using it as an excuse to remove himself?
I think “virtue signalling” is over-used, but it was pretty much invented for this sort of statement, where someone makes a show of an otherwise cost-less and ineffective action ostensibly for some cause–and just happens to get themselves widely (relatively) discussed for it.
I thought it was doing something expensive and without direct benefit in order to send a hard to fake message of dedication to some set of values. So for example a woman shaving her head and donating the hair to makes wigs for people with cancer would be virtue signaling. If it is cheap, much less cost-less, then it doesn’t make for much of a signal.
I’m pretty sure when people say “virtue signalling” they mean something like “public endorsements of some tribal value”.
So a person who constantly spouts stuff like “I stand for family values.” or “I believe in the sanctity of the earth.” It’s not a totally costless signal in the sense that it lowers your valuation in some people’s eyes (enemy tribe) while boosting it in others (your tribe).
With the shaving your hair example, it’d only be virtue signalling if the person brought it up all the damn time even when it had no relation to a conversation and no one asked.
One could claim that a woman shaving her head instead of just cutting it short is inviting questions about their hair so they can elaborate on their virtue or something, but without knowing more about the hypothetical I’m more inclined to blame people asking for being nosy.
That’s nearly exactly opposite of what it meant when it was coined in the context of behavioral economics (as offshoot of signaling in evolutionary theory). And we aren’t talking about centuries ago either. Nor is that usage filling any kind of glaring hole in the English language. It’s just another low density pejorative.
I may be a descriptivist, but that’s just a bad usage.
Sure, but who reads behavioral economics? It’s like asking normal people what “sexual selection” means and expecting them to say what a biologist means. A term which coincidentally involves very similar costly signalling issues.
Join the prescriptivists. Jooooooooooiiiiiiiiiin uuuuuuusssssssss
I think it is filling a hole in the language because it’s not exactly hypocrisy. The virtue signaler may actually hold the virtue they’re signaling. It’s just that they’re expecting a large return (recognition as a fighter against racism) for a small investment (sharing a FaceBook post about how racists are bad). It’s more like slacktivism maybe.
Sure, but I also don’t expect to find behavioral economics jargon being used out in the world as a non sequitur insult.
If I get killed in Call of Duty, I don’t expect the 14 year old that just beat me to say: “Boom! You just got sexually selected, bitch.”
Eh, just give it time and you’ll hear it.
But more seriously, if you ignore the technical idea “virtue signalling” still easily parses. The rough idea is clear just from the meaning of the two words, and whether or not the term is being used pejoratively or more neutrally will be clear from tone.
“Sexual selection” on the other hand, just sounds kind of weird. Maybe someone would use it if they were visiting a brothel?
I think Conrad’s idea that “virtue signalling” is used to mean something like “slacktivism” is pretty accurate. “Slacktivisim” is often a better description though. Also more pithy.
“Virtue signalling” is a relatively new term for me as well (I think that I first noticed it about one-and-a-half years ago), but unlike “SJW”, I understood the intended meaning as something like “moral peacock” right away.
It’s actually pretty clever.
imho, if it’s expensive it’s not a signal, it’s a genuine indicator
I think of virtue signaling as cheap because the whole point is that the person is being somewhat inauthentic. It’s not shaving off your hair for cancer victims, it’s wearing a little pink ribbon one day a year. It’s loudly demanding that others donate to cancer-related causes while you yourself do very little.
But you recognize that signaling in the sense of male peacock tails is the exact opposite, right?
Yes. But is a peacock tail called a “virtue signal?”
A peacock tail is a true signal: only a healthy, dominant male can waste the calories on otherwise useless plumage.
A little pink ribbon one day a year is a false signal: absolutely anyone can signal that they’re against breast cancer while not doing anything costly to help cancer victims, like shave their hair for wigs or donate significant time or money. I also think it’s different than hypocrisy because the ribbon-wearer is probably not doing anything to cause breast cancer while voicing opposition to it.
Unless I’m mistaken, “virtue signalling” is not the same thing as general signaling in behavioral economics or evolutionary theory because the econ/evolutionary signals are true signals while “virtue signalling” is at best dubious.
To go further, I’d also suggest the person wearing the ribbon generally does oppose cancer, and would absolutely prefer a world without it. They just aren’t willing to do much, personally, to bring that world about – but they would like to be seen as if they were such a person.
My understanding is that the meaning of “signal” is the same in both cases.
The basic idea was to explain deviation from the naive homo economus behavior by e.g. religious people in taking expensive actions without obvious benefits to themselves. The behavioral economists explained this as “virtue signaling”—that is the expense is undertaken to demonstrate to their community in a hard to fake way that they believe in the values of that community.
So you can see the definition being used here is pretty far from the origin. In fact almost opposite.
But that’s because the ordinary usage of the term signal usually refers to things like stoplights or talking. Things which are cheap and meant to communicate clearly.
Sexual selection, etc. are interesting phenomena to explain precisely because they are rather counter-intuitive. It’s not obvious from the outside scientific view what signal is being sent or that a signal is being sent at all.
One would think. Yet here we are.
I agree with your evolutionary point, so I may not actually be right about the “why the term was invented”–dramatic license for “this is the kind of situation that merits such derision”.
That Amber Enderton piece is challenging. Apparently, she feels that trans women need particular consideration ( and so, for example, a transwoman shouldn’t be reported to Mastodon for “bofa-ing” a demi-celebrity), but IIUC, it’s also wrong to try to track which women are also trans-women. (I guess you could research whether someone is publicly trans before taking offense at internet pranks – maybe that’s what Enderton expects of trans allies).
It’s ironic that other than being friends with Chris Hardwick, the major reason it’s apparently unsafe to talk about World of Warcraft with Wheaton is that he seems to have tried his best to be an opponent to the advocates of ethics in online recreation journalism. As a result, he apparently endorsed Randi Harper’s blocklist and Brianna Wu’s candidacy without realizing that they were apparently blacklisted for crimes against SJ.*
* Note: I don’t know what Harper and Wu did, and don’t mean to imply that they’re either fine or awful.
At some point political disputes become little more than proxies for personal feuds. I think that’s what’s going on here.
Or do they start that way but occasionally somehow wind up more high minded?
Anecdotally, the people I know who did SJ-left-type activist stuff really made it sound like this happened. Personal beefs and institutional power struggles usually escalated to claims of being problematic or whatever. It’s a larger manifestation of a human tendency, probably – to want to justify dislike or antagonism as being somehow ethical or moral.
However, is this something that would happen in a case like Wheaton’s? He doesn’t personally know these people; they aren’t competing for anything.
I have a hard time either taking seriously the idea that someone has a grudge against Wheaton for using a ban list that unbeknownst to him contained some particular trans activists. Maybe that’s their real objection, but it seems wildly disproportionate to even let such an inconsequential thing occupy a few neurons, let alone your emotions or actions.
It seems more likely they are trying to piggy back on his fame to promote their cause.
He doesn’t know them, but they know him.
Celebrity (even minor celebrity such as Wheaton’s) tends to attract crazies who easily persuade themselves that they are, in fact, involved in a personal feud or grudge with the celebrity. I have no doubt that there are numerous individuals out there in the Internet who believe that Wil Wheaton has personally wronged them in some major way, and who dedicate a non-trivial amount of their time to trying to bring him down in order to extract revenge.
And I don’t mean to imply this is specific to Wheaton because of his status in any particular activist community. I think this will end up being true of any marginally famous person who has ever made any statements that could in any way be interpreted as controversial.
Edit: Hell, there are multiple episodes of the Big Bang Theory showing this happen to literal actual Wil Wheaton. Sheldon holds a decades-long grudge against Wil for a perceived slight he experienced as a child, and treats Wheaton as his “sworn enemy” while Wheaton, meanwhile, doesn’t really care or realize or think much about Sheldon one way or another.
I know nothing about the Wheaton affair, but I wonder if there’s an expansion of what constitutes being “personally wronged in some major way” going on in this too. In my Twitter circles, I’ve seen some trans people claiming that a journalist named Jesse Singal was “literally putting their lives at risk” by publishing articles about trans desistance. The reasoning being that publishing such articles could spread the belief that trans folk are just faking it, leading to more prejudice against them, leading to more violence against them, and as such it was no less removed from anti-trans violence than publishing “go beat up some trans folk for being trans.”
In general, I’ve noticed that the way “the personal is political” plays out in practice is things like this, where any claim of fact or statement of opinion that has potential political implications that may possibly – but not necessarily – affect someone’s life is taken as a direct personal attack on that person.
Note that it’s not just using it, but promoting it. As I understand it, Wil’s promotion of this list led to its heavy use in certain circles, thus cutting off the ability of those on it to network.
Okay, that makes a little more sense. And if I put myself in the mindset of someone who thinks such lists do a good job of preventing trauma–very much not convincing to me, but for the sake of argument–I can make the leap that being put on such a list is–somehow–a serious harm meriting retaliation.
Particularly if WW was promoting the block list as “Here’s the block list to use if you want to avoid those awful right-wingers” when, in reality, it included people who were potentially more SJW than he was.
To those sorts of people, being lumped in the same group as evil rightists is the worst possible of all insults.
“He doesn’t personally know these people” – but on Twitter/Mastodon, we’re all just 280 characters. A celebrity, an email pen-pal, a personal acquaintance all look the same in your feed, blue checkmarks aside.
And among ultra-hard-line SJ people, intent isn’t magic, intent is meaningless, if you caused harm it’s on you regardless of what you meant to do. Some people take issue with this on its own. I don’t – with structural power comes structural responsibility. (The first “B” in “BBA” stands for Ben and I just became an uncle. That Spider-Man quote is in my head a lot lately. I hope I don’t die in the next scene.) But what they’re also doing is equating potential harm with real harm, and that can only lead to an endless spiral of misery and recriminations, especially when you discount intent. This is where I get off the social justice train.
I think this is a reasonable rule of thumb in a lot of cases since intentions tend to be invisible. But I think it only works really well when the rule also takes into account all the good someone does. Anyone in power will indirectly be related to a significant amount of harm. Even if their intentions are perfect and actions flawless, the constraints of other people will force them to make tradeoffs. It’s whether in the long run their choices do more good than harm. Or at least better than a hypothetical alternative person in power.
Wait, Wu is blacklisted?
I knew Harper was because TERF, and I think this is where Wil is getting devoured by his own mob. It’s unfair, as Wil didn’t know the Ants-banner also banned some trans activists, and he made efforts to correct that. But the mob is not fair, and will always eventually turn on each other and on you. This is why mobs are bad, and one should not join or lead them. I would hope that’s the lesson Wil might learn from this, but who knows.
According to Enderton, it’s reasonable to feel unsafe around Wheaton in part because Wheaton endorsed Wu’s candidacy, and Wu herself is out because she contributed money to the North Carolina GOP. (Again, I don’t have the background to opine on the underlying facts.)
I would hope that’s the lesson Wil might learn from this, but who knows.
Given that he’s publicly crying over “I made an honest mistake in using a block list I didn’t know had trans people on it, all you people accusing me of thoughtcrime and jumping on me are being hideously unfair” but also wants block and ban lists with people deemed undesirables on it as long as they’re of the right, he seems not to contemplate the notion that some of those on a right-wing to be blocked/banned list might also be innocent parties or wrongly included, so he’s happy with them being accused of thoughtcrime and jumped on by the same mob.
So looks like not learning any lessons at all.
Yes, his lack of self-awareness produces light sweet schadenfreude.
Wait, Wu is blacklisted?
Part of me wonders if this is an argument for a national SJ background check database.
I’m genuinely intrigued to see how far the purity spiral can get before the social capital of the victims becomes sufficient to counter it. I would have guessed it would sputter out waaaaaay before Wheaton.
Wil Wheaton is crying because social media sites don’t simultaneously ban rightists and stop people from denouncing him as insufficiently leftist.
These may be the first male tears I find delicious.
Is Will Wheaton not the very definition of the kind of person a properly functioning moderation system is supposed to exclude? He’s a Grade-A cunt to everyone, left and right. He’s pretty much the archetypal example of the kind of witch you need to keep out of no-witch-hunts-ville.
Is he a cunt to leftists? I genuinely don’t know. My impression was that he was your basic male feminist ally SJW nazi-puncher who accidentally offended those who don’t like TERFs by not understanding what a TERF was.
FWIW, Harper denies she is a TERF. (I don’t have the tools to judge the dispute.)
This search for crypto-enemies is an odd thing. I’m reminded of this case, which started when a woman became concerned that a fellow volunteer was actually an MRA and started trying to exclude him from the SJ community.
Not really; it’s a status-raising exercise. Same as the MsScribe thing there was a post about way back. How do you unite people behind you? Especially in a group that prides itself on defending the weak and victimized? Simple; create an enemy and pretend they attacked you.
He seems like a total male feminist, yeah, to the extent of raising his wife’s two children while she wouldn’t bear him any.
So AFAIK, it only took one mistake for him to be cast out of leftism by the internet.
I don’t remember the details, but I definitely remember there being two or three previous “Will Wheaton pretends to be on our side but he’s actually just an asshole who beats on anyone lower-status than him” incidences.
That doesn’t strike me as extreme male feminism. He might actually like her and/or her children.
Maybe I’m missing something, but marrying a woman who already has kids and then helping raise them doesn’t sound feminist, just like the sort of thing a decent guy does once he’s decided to marry a woman who already has kids.
Citation very much needed. And also a major rephrasing, because “Grade-A cunt” makes me wonder about the character and congeniality of exactly one person and it isn’t Wil Wheaton.
Have to say, it sounds like something Trump would say–approvingly.
Wil gave up too fast too soon.
He could have started his own instance, or asked a tech inclined fan to start one for him.
There may be a market opportunity here: a hardened instance for famous people.
Shitpost proposal: sports winners aren’t declared until P-value requirements are met, reps increase until statistical significance emerges
None of this "oh the gold medal just so happened to win by 0.0001 s today but it could change on the next run!" nonsense.
(This mostly applies to “competitors are independently racing each other” type sports. Vs.-type sports should use more robust forms of sorting than single-elimination brackets)
I wish I could find it, but I recently read a piece from some stats geek website comparing the four major American sports leagues playoff systems in terms of how much results reflected actual superiority versus random chance.
The major verdict was that the NFL, NHL, and MLB playoffs were highly on the random chance side, but the NBA playoffs were mainly towards what he was calling the “Pre-determined” side, meaning that the team that is “supposed to win” statistically, nearly always does.
In practice, his suggestion was to reduce NBA playoff series from best of 7 to best of 5, because those extra games are largely unnecessary and don’t add any value.
Nooo, this would not only threaten baseball’s single-game wildcard, which I love, but even the 7 game World Series!
I don’t think that winners are about which team is objectively “best” in some abstruse statistical system, but about which team executes on the field better, in that moment. That’s what keeps the uncertainty. That’s where you get classics like 1960’s Game 7, or 2011’s Game 6, or 2014’s wild card. Single elimination brackets are fun, they’re not meant to be statistically valid!
But the problem is that many people seem to treat “championship winner” as synonymous with “best team” without entertaining any nuance in the discussion.
Baseball is probably the most egregious example. They play what, 160+ games? Having the best record after that is a very impressive feat… that nobody cares about. Instead, all the value and prestige is attached to having the best record in 10 or so games in one particular month where if you run into a hot pitcher you can be quickly eliminated due mainly to bad luck.
I prefer the European Soccer model, where sustained superior performance in the season is highly valued, and one particular tournament is also highly valued but for different reasons.
>But the problem is that many people seem to treat “championship winner” as synonymous with “best team” without entertaining any nuance in the discussion.
Well, yeah, fans are gonna be fanatical about their team, and will seize on any opportunity to brag. This is part of the fun. On the other extreme you’ll see people who dismiss championships entirely and focus on regular season performance. Often these people are fans of the Oakland A’s or the Los Angeles Dodgers.
>Baseball is probably the most egregious example. They play what, 160+ games? Having the best record after that is a very impressive feat… that nobody cares about. Instead, all the value and prestige is attached to having the best record in 10 or so games in one particular month where if you run into a hot pitcher you can be quickly eliminated due mainly to bad luck.
This is why I love the baseball playoffs most of all. The NBA playoffs – hell, the entire NBA season – is boring. It is known before the season even begins who the likely final teams will be, and upsets are vanishingly rare. Hockey is a bit better, football better still, but best of all is baseball.
Remember, one hot pitcher can’t sink your World Series chances outside an elimination game – and that is entirely in your control. Win your division, and you’re guaranteed at least 3 playoff games. Come up second and you still get a shot via the wild card, where yes, a hot pitcher can indeed shut you down (just ask the Pittsburgh Pirates). Otherwise, though, in baseball you need an entire team to carry you through to victory. Clayton Kershaw can’t pitch every game, the Mets lost the World Series despite having a rotation of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard, and Madison Bumgarner is a legend because he was once able to put an entire team on his back and carry them to victory, against all odds.
Making things more statistically predictable would be better if championships were purely about which team is “better”, but that’s not at all why I enjoy sports. I like the competition, and I love nothing more than a good wild card game or Game 7 (I can’t believe we’ve had 3 Game 7s in 4 years in baseball, how lucky are we?). Doing away with those things and just going with regular season record or something would rob the world of a treasure.
As a Washington Capitals fan, my heart goes out to the Dodger fans. Is it reasonable to conclude that the Astros are glorious champions and the Dodgers just another pile of failures all because Yu Darvish had a horrible three innings (and may have been tipping his pitches)?
I don’t disagree that sports is about more than identifying the best team, but I still think that people who do care about identifying the best teams should put more stock in long-term rather than short-term success.
As an example, I vehemently oppose the attempts to create and expand a playoff system for college football. The value of college football is completely and totally divorced from the pursuit of identifying the best team, and the attempts to do so are making the sport less, not more, enjoyable. If I had my way, I’d go back to the pre-BCS bowl system, up to and including different polls declaring different teams the champion at the end of the year.
Sure, I agree with you – championships aren’t the sole criteria of determining the “best team,” otherwise we’d all be Yankees or Cardinals fans, God help us.
But to me, the “best team” debate is separate from the fun of championships. Championships are the top of the mountain, that’s what your team always aims for, the goal you organize everything around. Otherwise everything just becomes a complicated sort of exhibition match (which it basically is anyway, but you know what I mean).
“Best team” debates, on the other hand, are mostly fodder for barstool arguments, because there’s so many criteria to draw from. You can bring in overall records (and then argue about strength of schedule, the opposition, etc), number of championships, success relative to budget (a favorite of A’s fans), any number of things. That’s what makes for a fun beer argument.
But only declaring victors after a suitable number of trials would mean we never have another Game 7, which I think every thinking being would agree is a tragedy.
What’s so special about a Game 7?
Why not make it a Game 1 like the Super Bowl?
Eliminating the post-season basically just gives us a big best-of-160 round-robin style tournament. What’s so bad about that?
Snark aside, my issue with this is that you say “Every team aims for the championship” which is true, but also meaningless, because despite the occasional jock pundit insisting otherwise, there is no meaningful difference in how you attempt to build a great regular season team and how you attempt to build a get playoff team.
The difference between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Seattle Mariners is simply bad luck. That’s all. The Cardinals didn’t do anything particularly special to build a “championship” team that the Mariners didn’t do in the 90s.
The problem with the baseball seven game series is that it’s almost too much of a compromise. If baseball did go to a single game deciding things, then I might buy your argument of “aiming for a championship” somehow being a distinct effort from aiming for “best team after 160 games.” Then teams would be invested to go all-in for a single great starting pitcher, etc.
My stance is that more reps are better at establishing confidence, so it’s more like either series would get longer, or the fractal structures of baseball itself should have more reps (more allowed outs/strikes/balls, etc.)
And it is more complicated for team-vs-team sports. I wouldn’t count series-games as single-elimination in the first place, anyways. Multiple matches between the same opponents is increasing reps to establish confidence, and the use of season play (hopefully with multiple matches for each combo) to determine entry into the tournament is also what I prefer, compared to say, entry into the championship tournament depends on doing well in qualifying single-elimination tournaments, a la the Koushien system.
*Culture War hype* What are the top three things that irk you about:
A) Religion in general
Trying to see how much of opposition is due to hypocrisy of practitioners, what the fundamental teachings are, or disagreement with its function, etc.
*Note: I’m a Christian
Religion mostly doesn’t irk me, but I’m also kind of socially conservative. I remember religion irked me more when I was more socially liberal, and I think it was ultimately just because religion in general, as mentioned in the comment thread to the Islam collaboration, seems to act as a conservative force. If you want to put the brakes on social change, religion tends to be your intentional or unintentional ally, whereas if you want to hit the gas, it tends to get in one’s way.
To the extent religion continues to irk me it is largely anywhere it seems to stand in the way of technology or science, or when it acts as a talisman against critical thinking (though it’s hardly the only thought system that can do so, and I’d rather people be brainwashed by e.g. Christianity than e.g. Marxism).
Put another way, I think most opposition to religion (like most opposition to things in general?) isn’t actually about disagreement with the principles or believers’ failure to live up to them; it’s about the perceived social effects of belief in those principles.
How much of the view that
is a reference to the current US manifestation of “fundamentalists” who push literal creationism?
To me, there’s nothing in the religion that explicitly is anti-tech/science, and examples through history are largely products of self-interest and religion being used to serve self-interest. (All the following are personal impressions) For instance, it was monks who preserved classic texts in the dark ages. Columbus was told he was underestimating the distance to India the other way, not that the world was flat, as the church knew since Ptolemy that the world was round. Galileo was an asshole in general that irked the church so they were looking for a reason to bring him low.
Understandable that long-standing religions are almost tautologically conservative socially – if there is a belief that certain practices are encouraged by God, and God doesn’t change His mind, then deviation will be opposed. But then that gets to the heart of whether individual desire and self-interest is a more reliable way to live a fulfilling life than following God will, which requires a set of beliefs in God first, and His will second.
Re. monks preserving classic texts: I think there used to be a lot more overlap between what we’d now call “academia” and “the church” (and not only with Christianity). That is, if you were a smart person who liked reading all day to try to understand how the world works you used to become a monk but now you go to grad school (and I’d probably have some of the same problems with e.g. the Catholic church if I lived in medieval Europe as I do now with academia).
This makes perfect sense if, as some early anthropologists suggested, religion is a kind of proto-science. Thus, religion’s social function today may not be analogous to its function in times past.
To the extent religion continues to irk me it is largely anywhere it seems to stand in the way of technology or science
I think it’s not necessarily a bad thing if there are some barriers in the way of technology/science, and if religion is not there, what will replace it? Because pure unfettered “I’m just going where the research takes me, science is neither moral nor immoral, poison gas doesn’t kill people, people do” doctrinairism is just as bad as any other unchecked force running in society, and I think we do need something to go “so hang on a minute, yeah you’ve got some lovely new poison gas there, great bit of chemical research, but who’s going to use it? or decide if it gets used? and used on whom?”
Except for Young Earth Creationists (denying Geology and the Big Bang Theory) and Evolution denial, most of the other science denials I can think of are by groups that are not religious. And religious groups seem to limit themselves to trying to modify the school curriculum.
Anti-vaxxers, anti-GMO, AGW deniers, and most of the other anti-science activities, are organized by non-religious groups. And they don’t limit themselves to trying to change school curriculum, but they do try to change policies based on their views.
It helps if you stop seeing people as “anti-science”. They aren’t against science, they are against specific things specific people say are based in science, but which they (the people disagreeing) lack the ability to verify or refute.
Science-as-religion, in the “Take the word of your elders” sense, isn’t exactly an improvement over religion-as-religion. And those who question knowledge are a necessary precondition of creating new knowledge.
May they always trouble us. Because if they ever cease to, science has died.
Everyone gets his opinions on most subjects at second hand, from sources of information he trusts. The fact that someone gets his information from an authority that claims the mantle of science doesn’t make him pro-science or those who disagree anti-science.
Quite often, those who claim the mantle of science are providing false information. I linked above to a story on a BBC briefing note sent to its staff which includes in “common misconceptions” the claim that climate change has happened before, a claim that is quite obviously true.
Yep I agree also on science. It seems the common trope about science is that it is a bunch of facts. If you questions these facts, you are anti-science.
In my view, science is almost opposite that. Science is a way of thinking about the world. Reality is about what the evidence says it is. This evidence is always changing, so one’s view of reality should also be changing. Of course it does make sense that this view will change slowly, since science has built up an edifice of theories over centuries now, so major revisions should be rare. But we should honoring anyone looking for new revisions, if also skeptical of course.
I’m guessing this is addressed primarily to atheists/agnostics/skeptics, then. AKA Not Me. But for fun:
A. It’s ill-defined as a category, I guess?
B. It’s become fragmented, and a lot of the people who identify as it are Christian only in a cultural sense or aren’t familiar with doctrine beyond the most superficial level.
C. It did most of the work of extirpating Orthodoxy across most of its historic heartland, and continues to do so today. Or rather some Muslims did/do. I have theological objections as well, which is why I’m not a Muslim, but the violence bit is obviously more pressing.
“Culture War hype* What are the top three things that irk you about:
A) Religion in general”
I’ve grown up pretty secular, and most of my interactions with religious people have been positive, I think my main problem with religion is that the creeds don’t click with me emotionally and intellectually.
Most of the religious people I’ve known have been Christian, and for the most part I have a positive impression of them, a bit more with those that emphasize “Good works” than “Personal salvation”, but generally good either way, the “Prosperity gospel” types repel me though.
I’ve only worked closely with two Muslims, one (from Trinidad) was a jerk, the other (from Iran) is a great guy, so I have too small of a sample size.
“Trying to see how much of opposition is due to hypocrisy of practitioners, what the fundamental teachings are, or disagreement with its function, etc.
*Note: I’m a Christian”
You didn’t mention them (and since they’re not many worldwide I’m not suprised), but I have had more interactions with practicing Jews than with Muslims, which have been mostly positive as well, the same with Buddhists, the few Neo-pagans I’ve known, however, mostly annoyed me but that’s only about six people.
I suspect that my sense of most of my interactions with religious people being positive is simply do to my having positive enough interactions with them is what led me to know them well enough to find out that they were religious in the first place, throwing my sample off, but I don’t know for sure, and as I have no plans of asking jerks if they’re religious I’m unlikely to find out.
As far as the idea of religion on it’s own, while the creeds don’t make sense to me, community and tradition have a lot of appeal, and if my wife wanted to I could easily see myself going to the nearby Catholic or Episcopalian services, but going further or with only a few other worshippers doesn’t have much appeal.
Realized maybe it’d be helpful to answer A, B, C myself:
A) Sanctimony – to me religion in general is about laying out principles to lead a better life, but this easily turns into looking down on those who do not adhere to the principles you’re following. Eventually, ritual and tradition are done so much that the spirit of why certain things are practiced are forgotten. Finally, religion can be used as a flag to rally around to persecute out-tribes.
B) In the US, I think it’s regrettable that a lot of ministers and ‘leaders’ have aligned themselves with the Republican Party and its positions, like foreign policy hawkishness (along with bloated national defense budget), disdain and lack of engagement on environmental issues (like climate change), and anti-immigration stances (misinformation is spread on refugee policy, though I am sympathetic to enforcing existing laws). Christianity has been so dominant since its inception that in developed nations it has lost its roots, which is growth among the poor and persecuted due to its central message and been turned to a cultural rather than personal alignment. The divisions within the church have had regrettable sects emerge from prosperity preachers to Westboro screamers.
C) In speaking with Muslim friends, I have the impression that Muslims on the one hand find it blasphemous to even consider a personal relationship with God, but on the other want to transcend their human impulses in a sense. For instance, in the book of Job, it is noted that he did not sin against God by cursing him even though he was in great suffering and a lot of the “bad things happen to good people” text is him wishing he were never born and complaining and the like. On the other hand, my Muslim friend says Islam teaches that Job is an example of someone who never complained in suffering, which seems like brainwashing and denial of circumstance. The Christian stance would be that if people were plants, those with deep roots may be subject to seasons but in hardship draw on their roots rather than react the same to a drought as a monsoon. Finally, the penalty for apostasy is death within Islam.
Religion in general: I actually don’t think about it at all. It’s hard for me to picture “religion in general” because there are so many different religions and religious cultures.
Christianity: Two parts. One is that American Christianity seems like Cafeteria Christianity. And IMO you don’t have much of a religious belief system if it’s just a cafeteria religion. But that doesn’t bother me that much. What bothers me are when the Cafeteria Christians (read in-laws) try to shame me or others for not participating in the trappings of their religion when they have no grasp of the doctrine of their religion, don’t follow it, or pick and choose what they want to follow. For instance, my Catholic Mother-in-Law who is supremely religiously conservative, was married at 21, and mysteriously had no kids until she was 30, both she and her husband were finished with their graduate educations, and suddenly had 5 kids. I don’t need to be lectured about the Catholic Faith: Pretty sure you have a sin or two there.
Islam: You don’t drink and you don’t eat bacon. And you have to eat zabiha. That’s all cool. But when our workplace makes a work event and you complain about the food? Sorry, we’re giving you SOME accomodation, but we can’t just rework the entire thing to fit your needs. (Note, most Muslim co-workers don’t complain, just a few more vociferous ones).
Also, the community is insular. So my friends from high school and college vanished into Muslim-only communities once they graduated.
What are the top three things that irk you about:
A) Religion in general
1. Conceptually, it is an ill-defined category with very fuzzy boundaries where it shades into ideology or just worldview.
2. It is a very broad term making the category somewhat incoherent, as when discussing religious effects we are conflating Islam, Christianity, Budhism, Hinduism, Scientology, and sometimes those three people who hang out at the Farmer’s market and trade crystals, and these have very very little in common other than believing in some things that aren’t covered in (and perhaps contradict what is in) a couple hard science textbooks and having a loose organizational structure.
3. When it is used to stifle independent thought. I don’t think the grand truths of the universe will necessarily be always comprehensible to the average (or even exceptional) human mind, but “stop asking questions” is a terrible attitude.
1. Having to choose between an obviously fallible hierarchy who claim absolute and eternally reaching authority without scriptural support on the one hand and a multitude of unaccountable off-shoots, many of whom also claim to be sole truth bearer on the other.
2. When people elevate aesthetic or cultural preferences, especially to the point of schism.
Sprinklers. When people come to the scripture to validate preconceptions rather than be informed by truth.
There’s obviously lots of other problems, often more serious, among the church, but these are either not necessarily related to Christianity or even religion, or else understandable failings of trying to balance competing goals, that make these less applicable or less irksome.
1.It’s expansion by conquest, which is probably a result of
2. Elevating a flawed man to exemplar.
3. Tie between the people who say “You can’t understand the Koran unless you speak Arabic” (Possibly true in fine details, nonsense in broad strokes) and, probably consequently of this, the people who memorize large portions of the Koran in Arabic–without speaking Arabic.
I cannot think of anything in particular that I find annoying about Christianity in general, and most of my interactions with Christianity happen to be with Catholics or with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are really annoying because of their proselytizing activity. If you ever see a guy in a suit walking in a really rural area in the middle of Spanish summer (and they are wearing the jacket and the tie), you can guess with 95 % accuracy they are Jehovah’s Witnesses. They go and knock around on everybody’s doors, and try to talk to you about Jesus for hours. It is really hard to kick them out if you so much as look at them.
My major grudge against the Catholic Church is their support for Franco’s regime, and the fact that they haven’t acknowledged, to this day, that it was wrong. Also, they try to meddle into politics a bit too much, and the Spanish bishops are some of the most conservative in the church (Rouco Varela is a prominent member of the conservative faction).
I find practicing Muslims annoying in the same way I find vegans annoying, and I avoid social interactions with them, because social interactions usually involve food and drinks, and the kind of limitations that places on you are burdensome.
The other thing I find bothersome is when they pray in public places. One girl in my office would pray in the office, lay down a rug, and pray publicly. Everybody who was working or chatting felt weird about it, and it felt really uncomfortable.
A) It’s generally, anti-factual, poisonous, and very us-vs-them that serves as one more thing to divide all of us. It prevents progress when religious people feel that science is encroaching on their domain. I put a lot of stock in the saying that “For good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
B) A), plus the grip it has on US politics.
C) A), plus the jihad stuff.
I’m not sure how to answer (A). Religion doesn’t really irk me. I am irked when non-religious things get treated like religions, though. For instance: sports fandom. How is that not idol worship?
B1) Replacement theology.
B2) God as therapist, which irks me even more than God as wish-granting genie.
B3) Mickey Mouse Bible study classes that ask you to reflect on how a (poorly translated) verse makes you feel rather than delving into what the verse really means.
Bonus: B4) Contemporary Christian music.
Double bonus: B5) Idol worship and pagan compromises.
C1) They’re doing ancient Near East religion better (more faithfully) than we Judeo-Christians are. I guess that’s not a point against Islam, though.
C2) Dubious claims of Ibrahimism, and about worshiping the same God as Judeo-Christians.
C3) Too many Muslim guys named Mohammed (or some variation).
*Note: I’m a Karaite Jew. And not a very good one.
Man, look at all these people immanentizing the eschaton!
As I discussed in a previous thread, the worst thing about religion is the belief that faith is a good thing. I think that faith is a necessary evil. No one can take the time and effort to verify the truth of every aspect of their lives, but it is a good thing to do such verification to the extent one can. Those religions that treat faith as a positive good cater to the irrational in all of us.
I used to see it that way but now see it differently. Faith is something humans are kind of prone to do, and religion serves as a handy channel for faith, one that is social and practical and enriching.
The verification process can still be applied to faith in the context of religion, by the way, and there it can either be introspective (which is good because a lot of people might not otherwise have a structure around which to introspect, and thus flounder at it) or else it can lead people on a kind of scholarly journey into the meaning of very difficult-to-understand texts, which if done right can help develop the mind.
Religion in General
1. Unwillingness to admit that one’s belief system is largely a result of the time and place of one’s birth, making each religion’s claim to truth seem purely incidental.
2. Easily used to justify conflict, but not commensurately easy to talk someone down from their position if they believe they are doing God’s work
3. Encroachment into the state
1. Attitudes toward sexuality and the tendency for its repression to result in worse outcomes than if it were freely explored
2. Christian Rock music
3. ‘Papal Infallibility’
1. Martyrdom and Jihad
2. Attitudes toward women and women’s rights (where the fuck has feminism been on this?)
3. Endless justifications for barbaric intolerance of outsiders
3. ‘Papal Infallibility’
Oi Martin Luther, shouldn’t you be nailing some papers to a church door somewhere? 😀
“Bishop Sawyer tricked me into nailing each thesis up individually! Now he has a free fence!”
I can sympathise with the Christian Rock thing, as I think I’m one of the few Catholics who is “meh” about John Michael Talbot (my sister loves his stuff, I’m more “gimme real monks, real Latin or other liturgical language from sister traditions, and real thousand year old chant or nothing, and by ‘nothing’ I mean ‘deeply suspicious of this new-fangled polyphony fad’*”).
*Okay, you got me, I will make exceptions for things like Allegri’s Miserere and Tallis’ Spem in Alium and Pärt’s pretty much anything 🙂
EDIT: Okay, while I’m throwing in musical recommendations, Pur ti miro from Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppaea (exquisite vocal production, have no idea why they decided to give Nero makeup to make him look like one of the Addams Family unless they really thought we don’t know Nero is the Crazy Nutcase Hoo Boy This Guy You Wouldn’t Believe What He’s Done Emperor).
EDIT EDIT: In case you’re going “But Deiseach, isn’t that Caligula?” no, Caligula was the “Wow, You Thought Nero Was Bad? Wait Till You Get A Load Of This! Emperor”. And of course both of them are the “Making Creepy Uncle Tiberius Look Good By Comparison” Emperors.
That cracked me up, thanks @Le Maistre Chat!
Point. But if you think Christian rock is bad, try listening to southern gospel.
When I saw Dragonmilk’s post yesterday I didn’t expect comments insulting my musical tastes to be the most triggering responses for me!
Haha. Please understand that at my current workplace I get an at-least-weekly dose of both Christian rock and southern gospel quartets, so it’s a kind of social allergy for me.
I want to know if I have bad taste (probably, but it’s mine, confound it!); please list a couple bad Christian Rock groups and a couple good/least bad ones.
My tastes are admittedly a bit old, but I figure “I listed to it as a teenager and am still willing to listen to it unironically” is a good enough test for evaluating music, I’d recommend David Crowder Band, Third Day and Jars of Clay. The first has since dropped the band and pivoted into “Folktronica” (still good though), the latter two have sadly recently disbanded.
If I can cheat and include crossover bands, Needtobreathe is current and excellent, and I think Switchfoot are still together.
I won’t dive into YouTube to find anyone bad, but MercyMe gets an honorable mention for being simultaneously good, bad, and so unbelievably bad it’s embarrassingly catchy.
I do sympathise with Nick’s being forced to listen music (I’m guessing it’s the radio?), there is plenty of bad stuff out there.
Okay then, at least I have company. Third Day is my favorite group to sing along to, and I used to like Jars of Clay, too.
Where has feminism been? Feminism has been blooming throughout the female Muslim world, leading women to resist and protest across any number of regimes and cultures and sects? Trivial to Google dozens of such instances. The recent last few decades when feminism started spreading to the region and inspiring direct action have been by far the most empowering for female voices and preferences in the history of Islamic governance, even if they do not meet Western standards. It’s been a huge net positive
I was referring to the reluctance on the part of western feminists to criticize Islam due to “Islamophobia”. I agree there seems to have been an increase in critical voices from within the Muslim world.
There are many things I have against your other points but you can pry my David Crowder Band CDs from my cold, dead hands!!!
OT on a personal note- are you named after Dragon Milk beer? Good stuff.
It’s a coincidence! I have yet to try it as many friends have posted pictures of the beer and asked me about it.
A) i) That they’ve not all agreed
ii) Inherent conservatism
iii) Tendency to give rise to conflict when encountering other religions
B) i) The large amount of influence it has in otherwise forward-thinking countries
ii) Correlation with right-wing-ness and lack of poor-helping-ness and neighbour-loving
iii) An apparent fear of young people having and learning about sexual relationships
C) i) Treatment of women
ii) Intolerance of homosexuality
iii) The relative absence of a moderate tradition
To expand on A) i), I am an atheist, but I’m trying reasonably hard to find God. I pray regularly, even although it feels like I’m talking to myself. If God exists, then having a relationship with Him is the most important thing imaginable, but it really seems like He doesn’t. And it doesn’t help that all the religions give conflicting advice about how to find, serve and interact with God, sometimes even giving self-contradictory advice. This makes it look even more like these religions are all just a bunch of humans and their traditions and superstitions and that there’s nothing really there. Which, if God exists, is incredibly tragic, because people like me are being driven from Him by the squabbling of His followers.
To expand on A) ii), I don’t mean “conservative” in the sense it’s usually used, in terms of the political spectrum. I’m talking about resisting change. Modern religions feel like social institutions designed to operate in a different time to the present. To be fair, they do slowly change to meet new circumstances (for example, they tend to accept scientific progress these days, even when it contradicts their doctrines about the way the world is physically), but they never seem to drive that change. They always seem to lag behind. I know there are good arguments in favour of conservatism in this sense as a moderating force stopping us from going off too wildly, so maybe religion dragging its feet on social progress is a feature rather than a bug, but it still irks me, especially when I think of all the religious gay teenagers whose communities haven’t really kept up with broader societal progression.
To expand on C) iii), I’m not sure if I’m right about this, but from talking to Muslims and ex-Muslims who live in the UK, I get the impression that Christianity has much more of a “Believe in God and be kind to each other, but it doesn’t really matter if you go to church every week or have sex before marriage or lie from time to time” tradition than Islam, and that Islam is much more “all or nothing”. This is a problem because it means as the world gets more liberal, technological and democratic, Islam tends to give rise to conflict with that progression, and you get strong reactionary elements which are sometimes either violent or violently suppressed. Whereas Christianity seems to just gradually forfeit its old dogmas as they become incompatible with modern society. This means that Christianity can coexist with an increasingly liberal world without violent repercussions. (Not quite sure if I’ve got the chicken and the egg the right way around here…)
I could expand on the others, but I think they’re more self-explanatory.
On A) i), I think of religion as related to philosophy – each makes a set of claims of how the world really is and what it takes to live a fulfilling life, how to deal with suffering and injustice, and how to treat friends and enemies.
Just as philosophies have conflicting views, there’s no reason to assume that religions would come to an agreement, in fact your mention of having a (personal, I assume) relationship with God is from the Christian tradition – Jews and Muslims believe that the relationship is more akin to a serf to a king, while Christians believe that king is also a friend and brother. Of course, all this is meaningless and rather delusional if it’s not actually true.
Regarding finding God, how have you been approaching it beyond prayer? Have you been reading “about” religion or have you listened to sermons from the practitioners? If the former, I’d recommend the latter, as it’s quite easy to hear straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak via YouTube in the digital age. That way there’s no extra layer of interpretation when you hear directly what’s being preached to followers.
Regarding change, I am not of the view that change is inherently good (and you may say, ha! conservatism). I think it’s more a matter of what sorts of changes allow humans to flourish and achieve the most fulfillment in their lives. And if one is religious, and has a view that God knows best, then that person may defer to what they interpret God’s will to be. Now that in itself is fraught with issues and prone to abuse – in positions of power, people may decree what they deem God’s will to be. But if God actually exists and he does have a will, then those who earnestly seek it are not resisting change to be difficult or fulfill a personal agenda, they veer toward that moderating force stopping people from going off too wildly.
Anyway, ultimately it seems to me if you’re praying, you should also try exploring and assessing what you find to be true by listening to sermons. The link I posted is from my church which was started by a guy who moved to New York City in the late 80s and retired from preaching last year, but has hundreds of his sermons posted online. I imagine this goes for other religions as well.
Hope this helps
Thanks for your reply.
The difference between religions and philosophies is that religions are about an actual being. If that being exists, then it is the way it is and we should worship it the right way. So religions do teach us different ways of living a fulfilling life and interacting with our fellow humans, but these teachings are dictated by God. Surely that means there are right ones and wrong ones, and not just “different philosophies work for different people”?
Regarding the relationship with God, I tried to remain vague on that point and I did use the word “serve” at one point. If it is true that God is a king and I am a serf, then my relationship with Him will be me throwing myself at His feet and serving Him as best as I can. If it is true that God is a friend and brother, then my relationship with Him will be different. The point still stands that the most important thing in my life should be that relationship, and getting it right. But I’ve got some Wise Old Men and Old Books telling me that God is my king and other Wise Old Men and Old Books telling me God is my friend. And I can’t navigate that. What tools would I use? Faith? I haven’t learned it yet and so right now it’s symmetrical. Rationality? My best attempt at that leads me to believe God is a fiction.
Your advice about listening to preachers is probably a good one. I have had discussions with religious friends, but I know that’s not quite the same thing. And I attended church every week for a couple of years because I sang in the choir. But that was before I started taking God particularly seriously, so perhaps I was less receptive to it.
However, if I am to take your advice, that still leaves me with a problem: which sermons do I listen to? I can’t realistically go through all major religious denominations and find a representative sample of the sermons to listen to. Even if I did, what basis would I use to “choose” which one was right?
I’d also be worried that I’ll be biased in favour of religions whose teachings are similar to accepted wisdom of the society I’ve been brought up in. Probably something like Anglicanism. But the fact that I happened to be born in the same country in which, hundreds of years previously, Henry VIII invented a new religion for political reasons does not make it more likely that Anglicans interpret God correctly!
I will listen to the sermon you linked to, and if I like it perhaps I’ll listen to more, but I don’t see a good solution to the problems I described above.
Oh, and I’m not of the opinion that all change is inherently good either. But I think religion resists change whether the change is good or bad.
Is this still the case for England?
Anyhow, if you want a systematic way of approaching it, perhaps you could take a look at different holidays and find a corresponding service nearby. These services, ime, are more likely to be geared toward prospective or new members, although they’ll be busy, I’d wager most will have speakers able to answer questions after.
I go with Neitzsche – the proper relationship with a god, if there is one, is that of a mentor and a student.
If God exists and He has preferences, then there are certainly right and wrong ways to live out your life. I am only to speak to my own beliefs, however, and those come from a Christian perspective.
If God is active and personal and omnipotent – then the burden may not really be on you to find Him, so long as you are open, He will keep trying to reach out. And so it’s good to explore the different faith traditions and evaluate which you find to be the most true. My best advice would be to be honest to yourself in your search and not go with what’s merely attractive, but only what you believe to be true.
The personally had (the benefit of?) a traumatic religious experience in high school that led me to ponder existential issues that led me to Christianity, and I find it to be the most consistent with living a fulfilling life, fostering a welcoming community, and otherwise treating everyone with dignity and respect. My own post outlines issues I see with the American manifestation of cultural Christianity, but how a religion is portrayed or how certain factions utilize a religion is separate from its central message (which is why I recommended listening to sermons).
You rightly point out that many churches are not living up to poor-helping and love neighborliness, but I’d argue that such humanist values are in fact hold-overs from Christianity itself, as Nietsche pointed out. Nature itself is actually quite vicious (watch Planet Earth) for instance, and I don’t see how it lends itself to such values, which extend to opposition to honor-killing, and should extend to being good stewards of the environment and providing relief to refugees.
I think of religion a bit differently from DragonMilk (not surprisingly–I’m Catholic and they’re Protestant).
Protestant Christianity tends to emphasize thinking and understanding. My background, the Anabaptist world, tends to emphasize doing. Catholicism tends to emphasize ritual/worship.
One way I find helpful to think of the question is that religion is a map to interacting beneficially with a real but incomprehensible reality that is a particular entity (a “Person”, but an incomprehensibly complex person; it’s like the difference between a four-function calculator and a Cray). For some people, thinking is the right approach; for others, emotion and experience are. It’s like asking “should I use a mouse or keyboard commands”–there’s not a right answer, but there may be one that works for you.
One book I frequently recommend is N T Wright’s Simply Christian. It approaches Christian faith from numerous directions, and one of those explanations may work for you.
I would say that if you are willing to try several traditions within Christianity, you are likely to find one that just seems to work better for you. I of course recommend Catholicism, but preferably in an Ordinariate, Oratian, or Latin Mass church (basically, someone where people kneel to receive Communion); the average parish does a poor job of showing what’s awesome about Catholicism.
The other thing I’d say from experience is that Christianity in one of it’s more demanding forms can be worth it even if it’s just “going through the motions” for awhile. It’s sort of like magic; you can see that it changed you looking back, but at the time it didn’t make sense.
Is what still the case? The teachings of Anglicanism (and Christianity more broadly) are much more similar to the accepted wisdom of English society than are the teachings of Hinduism or Islam. Sure, the country is pretty secular now, but there is a lot about its culture that is inherited from the religion that used to (and to an extent still does) dominate.
Your idea about holiday services is a good one. It hadn’t occurred to me that some services would be predictably more accessible than others.
Easier said than done, but I’ll certainly try.
Hmm… I’m not sure this really solves the problem. People don’t even seem to agree on what the central message is, and even when they do, they don’t agree on the best way to communicate and understand that message. The sermons you suggested will be different to sermons from a different church; sometimes radically different.
Exactly. That’s my point. I guess I’m criticising hypocrisy in that point.
Thanks for your input; it’s good to hear as many perspectives as possible.
Woah, there! It’s *obviously* keyboard commands! 😛
Actually, I have a more serious point I want to make about this. A few times you talk about finding an approach that “works for me”. This seems a little strange to me. Why does it matter what works for me? God is the way He is; not what I want Him to be nor what would suit me to worship.
Second, how would I know if I’d found something that works for me? What does “the right approach for me” feel like? Right now, every religion seems factually wrong, and every religion seems to involve rituals that make me want to roll my eyes and be sarcastic. Now, I’m sure this is because I’ve been brought up in a secular way, but it’s hard for me to imagine trying a particular ritual and thinking “yes, this is the one for me” and even harder for me to imagine trying a particular ritual and thinking “yes, this is what the Incomprehensible Reality wants me to do.”
Also on this note:
I wasn’t planning to limit myself to Christianity. Islam, for example, is based on revelations that came after Christ. Maybe at one time Christianity was our best bet for worshiping God, but He has since clarified and surely we should be receptive to that.
Like I said earlier, I have an irrational bias against Islam that I think comes from me being raised in a (secularised) Christian country. But the nature of God doesn’t depend on what country I was born in.
Eternalism; the belief that rules that made sense when they were created (or handed to humanity) continue to apply forever. A possibly apocryphal example of this is the prohibition on pork, which might have gone bad really quickly in the regions where Judaism and Islam began, making that a really good rule.
Perpetual adolescence; the belief that any god(s) will keep intervening on our behalf, and letting us know when the rules, for example, need to be updated. At some point, I figure, even given a religion is true, humanity has to learn to be an “adult” group, and determine what is right and wrong for itself. Pork used to be a bad thing to eat; now that we have germ theory, and understand why that rule was important, maybe we are in a place to judge for ourselves whether it is still relevant.
Anti-isometry. Mathematical isometry is when two things that look different are, at a more fundamental level, different approaches to the same concepts. (Loosely translated.). Religions tend to treat themselves as unique and distinct; if any of them are true, however, they all should be, understanding that they are all metaphors for a more transcendental thing. (Why would a god only give advice to one group of people? Why is religious advice tailored to the specific needs of specific people?)
My complaints about Christianity and Islam amount to specific versions of the above complaints. Homosexuality and sodomy, for example, can effectively be substitute goods for contraception; indeed, contraception looks like a specifically despised practice in any form, including “pulling out”. Why? I can think of good reasons to discourage contraception, both for 2000 years ago (your tribe’s survival depends on numbers) and today (what does contraception select against?). Maybe the rule is still valid, maybe it isn’t – but it doesn’t look particularly to me like humanity has actually stepped up and been adult about the problem.
(And I think this is because religion has shaped our culture to make it difficult to have adult conversations about these things. But it may be that religion just played on a human weakness there, instead of creating it. I will drown you in treasure, indeed.)
You might be interested in the Talmudic story of the Furnace of Akhnai, in which the sages refuse to accept the arguments of a religious scholar even though it is supported by a series of miracles, culminating in a voice from heaven. The response:
“It is not in heaven.”
Translation: God has given us the job of interpreting the law, so he should butt out.
I like to say that by the standards of the Rabbis, every supreme court justice in history was a strict constructionist.
For Islam, part of the Mutazilite doctrine was that good and evil are perceptible by reason, as opposed to the idea that we only know them because God tells us. Unfortunately they lost.
A) Religion in general:
Nothing occurs to me.
The fact that so many modern Christians pretty clearly don’t really believe in the religion, base their views instead on the surrounding secular ideology. I think people who really believe in Christianity are living in a fantasy, but at least they really believe in what they say they believe in.
Rather like my attitude to economists who decide what they believe in on a non-economic basis then, if pressed, construct some sort of argument as to why it isn’t impossible that the belief is true.
That the Mutazilites lost out to the Ashurites.
A) Religion in general.
So many good ideas, such terrible implementations. Humans. I tell you, there’s NOTHING they can’t make a mess of.
Here comes everybody. Really, couldn’t some of you all go find a different side to be on? Because you are nuts; nuts; and I’d like to believe I’m on the side of sanity here. And yes, I know Sam’s rule of crazy is that every crazy person knows someone who makes them look sane by comparison; you all are still NUTS. Also, you’ve apparently forgotten that this isn’t a new question, and that answer doesn’t work–that was conclusively demonstrated in 523 AD. Maybe try getting familiar with your own history?
Heretics. It’s like you took Christianity and left out all the good parts.
When I search my brain for “religion irks me because”, it autocompletes to “religious arguments resolve as arguments from authority”, and the authorities are specific to the religion. In other words, they’re a form of begging the question.
For Christianity, the authority is God; for Islam, it’s Allah. The above applies in both cases.
It’s worth considering whether I have a less irksome substitute. My brain autocompletes that as “direct observation plus logic”. I consider that an authority, but it ought to be acceptable to anyone, so to me, it avoids the problem.
It’s also worth considering cases where religious people make arguments from direct observation plus logic; I find such arguments agreeable [confirmation bias check needed]. Also, I’m irked by arguments from authority from atheists, and this includes arguments for conclusions I agree with for other reasons [eu. ca.].
(Conclusions from observational / logical arguments that I disagree with irk me because I feel like I overlooked something. And all arguments irk me at least slightly, to the extent I believe they cannot get completely away from axiomata.)
I think it was Krugman had another one of those “our society is terrible because if you get sick you’ll go bankrupt” columns the other day.
I have what I think is an unusual take on this and similar issues (e.g. disaster relief). I don’t have any interest whatsoever in non-means tested social spending. My reaction to hearing about some tragedy that befalls a rich (or “upper middle class”) family that took them down to lower middle class is “That sucks. But you had money, you needed money, the system worked—why are you bothering the rest of us?”
Real insurance (i.e. spreading unknown risks) is a good social technology and should be allowed/encouraged, but where it isn’t applicable or available I don’t see why society ought to have as a priority keeping comfortable people comfortable when there are lots of people that were never comfortable to begin with that need help a lot more.
I’m willing to discuss this take if anyone wants to, but what I’m really curious about is where you’d situate it in terms of schools of though—left, right, socialist, libertarian or what. It doesn’t quite seem to fit.
It seems similar to the kind of response to stuff like crime and disease where you say “Well, that sucks. But did you know we live in the wealthiest, healthiest, safest time ever? And if you think about it, the poorest, most violent/dangerous parts of the country are actually still fairly well above the human historical norm in terms of standard of living!”
I think I see this from libertarians/”classical liberals” more than anyone else, but I think that’s probably more for personality reasons than ideological ones.
I can critique it a little off the cuff, but as a caveat let me first say I think it’s actually probably a helpful way to think — about your own experiences, at least. It’s not so helpful to others, since this project of civilization/society/whatever you want to call it has an often-unstated component of deliberate ratcheting upward: there’s a not-terribly-unreasonable expectation that if you fare better now than you did in the past, you will fare better in the future than you are faring now. Saying “Well, you spent all your money to make that problem go away. You have no money, but your problem’s gone. Sounds like a fair deal” violates that expectation and comes off as very tone-deaf.
Re: tone deaf
I can certainly make sympathetic noises if need be. I might even be willing to throw a few dollars at a go fund me if it happens to be a neighbor or co-worker. But the public policy question isn’t whether or not I’m an asshole, it’s whether our tax funded welfare programs should be in the form of a safety net or climbing harness.
The issue, I think, is that the idea of a climbing harness where some people are really taking advantage of it and living phenomenal lives is unacceptable (to most people) if it means a lot of other people are left floundering on the ground, even if you can pin it on their own laziness or whatever.
I guess you might say, in the West we kind of believe that no matter how lazy and incompetent you are, you deserve better than to starve/be homeless/etc. (as long as you’re not actively a criminal threat to others).
So, we like our climbing harnesses with safety nets under them. I think that’s a somewhat universal, non-controversial view.
I’m a little confused by this response because it reads to me like you think I favor the climbing harness model when the exact opposite is the case. You don’t need to convince me of the value of a safety net. On the contrary I think we should take all the money from the climbing harness programs and put it towards raising the safety net.
I’m tired, so I probably misread or lost track of where this was going.
Anyway, I don’t think letting those who are comfortable become uncomfortable is palatable to most people. Maybe because most people recognize that whatever their discomforts, there’s still a long way to fall, and the climb back up is difficult and for some might even seem impossible to repeat.
This is a common libertarian position, however I would say it originated mostly as a response to people claiming that capitalism/globalism had failed because look at all the starving, broke and murdered people in America.
I don’t think the societal problem is “rich person exhausts savings and must downgrade lifestyle.” The societal problem is “productive person exhausts savings and must downgrade productivity” – that’s the more correct version of the specific case.
The general case is “through no fault of their own, a member of society is laid low by the vicissitudes of fortune.”
Both the general case and the correct version of the specific case are IMHO housed very firmly on the left, because the left sees society’s job as collectively caring for citizens, whether they are rich or poor.
Right. The assumption is that the “rich person” was rich because they worked hard and that they deserved to be rich and that random chance knocking them down from rich to middle class is crappy and unfair, just the same as it’s crappy and unfair for random chance to knock a middle class person down to lower class, or a lower class person down to poverty.
And there’s enough upper/middle class people out there, and they have enough influence, that any government program pitched as “This will help out people who fall victim to the misfortunes of random chance – but only if they started out poor” won’t get much support.
Brad seems to think the purpose of the spending is to alleviate poverty, but I’d say perhaps that is wrong. Perhaps the purpose is to “make whole” people who have been victimized by random chance, regardless of their previous status.
Sure, but realpolitik explanations are generally not especially interesting.
If there’s a question about some or other question of principle and your response is: “people don’t have principles they just do whatever is in their interest and justify it post hoc with principle language”.
A) I wonder if that’s always your response or there’s something particular about this question that makes you want to raise this point now.
B) What more is there to talk about?
It’s a little like raising the epistemological nihilism point in some random social science discussion. It’s not wrong exactly it’s just boring and besides the point.
I don’t see why they’d need to downgrade productivity. If anything the marginal value of a dollar just shot up and you’d expect the equilibrium to shift towards work and away from leisure.
In which case, if I disagree with the “whether rich or poor” part it’s not-left and therefore right? That doesn’t feel quite correct. Maybe there’s a separate communitarian / non-communitarian axis.
The most important things people buy with money are time and certainty. For instance, I could carry a bucket to the river for water to boil whenever my family needed it, but it’s more effective to buy time in the form of a water utility. I could grow my own cotton, weave my own fabrics, and sew all my own clothes, but it’s more effective to buy time at a clothing store.
If you pay into a savings account, you are just buying raw certainty. You would like to cash out that certainty as time for my future self, but, it is also nearer-term certainty that you will survive some Bad Event. If some Bad Event wipes out your stores of certainty, that affects your near-future self (what if another Bad Event happens sometime soon?) and your distant-future self (it takes a lot of money to buy the amount of certainty that corresponds to self-sustaining time). So you need to buy more certainty, which means you can buy less time now.
If it just means your day is a little more stressful for a while, that sucks but it’s not a societally-damaging outcome. (This is your less-comfortable rich person.)
If it means that maintenance tasks (leisure time, home repair, automotive care, medical care) are sacrificed or self-undertaken or downgraded, that has palpable effects on one’s day-to-day productivity. If it means that significant psychosocial time supports (childcare for instance) can no longer be afforded, that may have immediate and lasting effects on your career and earning potential. If it means that the ante for normal gambles effectively constitutes another Bad Event, and your overall risk tolerance must decrease, that may have effects on your career and earning potential may suffer. If it means that one’s children lose training and growth opportunities (maybe even epigenetically? that’s probably controversial), those effects can propagate into other generations. These are all outcomes that may damage society.
It is (as you go on to say) that there are separate axes.
Other than the column being titled: “Get Sick, Go Bankrupt and Die“, I didn’t actually take away the impression that Krugman was talking about the problem of “keeping comfortable people comfortable”, but if he was: my general take on economic/political/social policy is a very subjective one, basically every household that has more money per person than mine should have that money mostly taxed away, and that every household with less money than mine should get more support, unless their income came from an easy money gravy job, in which case they should have a bit less money than mine (it would be completely right and proper for my white collar job having brother to have less wealth than me), but opportunities should exist (and it should be commonly known how to get those opportunities) to do real work and make the extra money, with one major caveat, my household should have had the wealth it has now twenty years earlier, plus I should have had more time in my life to luxuriate in classrooms and libraries.
I have a very Plumber-centric view of these matters.
At heart, you’ve probably described most people’s desires. Especially doing better than your siblings.
Seems straightforwardly left. The emphasis on helping the objectively badly off is obviously left. The part about refusing to help the well-off who were harmed by misfortune implies that you deemphasize what people “deserve” in deciding outcomes, and desert is generally something rightists emphasize more than leftists.
I’m going to second this. “The government should primarily help the poor, and not be too concerned with determining desert” is a decidedly left position. Its significantly farther left than the meritocratic liberal-capitalist wing that dominates the U.S. Democratic Party, at least.
There is disagreement on means testing even within the left, however. The counterarguments are that non-means tested benefits have reduced administrative costs (which could result in more money going to the poor in general), and that non-means tested benefits are more difficult to manipulate to reduce benefits. For example, public school, being 100% free at point of use, is all-or-nothing. It is a benefit that can’t be whittled away, unlike like food stamps.
This position is a straight up libertarian (even ancap) position, it only becomes weird and positionless if you tack on “there are lots of people that need help a lot more, and therefore the government ought to be setting up programs to help these people.”
The issue with the ‘compassionate-libertarian’ view is that it sounds suspiciously like trickle-down economics to the left, that government intervention is heavily involved in creating (I believe unintentionally but also predictably) the very situations that then it is being told to fix.
I’m pretty libertarian, but nothing you say strikes me as obviously wrong, with the slight exception of:
I would say it’s wrong to tax people (like, in general), but it’s especially wrong to tax people claiming the reason they’re being taxed is so that they themselves will receive some sort of benefit (i.e. insurance) but then deny them that benefit because they didn’t really need it.
I’m a pretty strong believer that most people over-insure, and that most moderately wealthy people would be statistically better off self-insuring against minor risks (this is, after all, why insurance companies are profitable enterprises, because they collect more in premiums than they pay in settlements).
That said, upper or middle class people cannot really “self-insure” against old age or disability or unemployment unless there is an option for them to actually opt-out of the government insurance. Self-insuring your iphone against breaking the screen is probably a bad financial decision for most people. But if AT&T forced you to pay for that insurance anyway, you’re probably entitled to file a claim when the screen breaks.
This sounds to me like a very middle-of-the-road, for lack of a better word, “American” (as opposed to “Canadian” or “Scandinavian”) take on government assistance.
As I perceive it, the moderate consensus position in the US is that the government should offer assistance to those in relatively dire need, but otherwise not interfere with market forces, private charity, bootstraps, etc. For some reason, we seem to kind of make an exception for the elderly, leading those US politicians (decidedly on the left side of our Overton window), like Bernie and Ocasio-Cortez, who advocate something like “Scandinavian socialism” to use phrases like “Medicare for all” (sounds more non-threatening because we’re already used to the idea of Medicare, i.e. a non-means-tested entitlement).
But I also feel recently that people like Krugman, Bernie, and Ocasio-Cortez have been pulling their party leftward relative to this consensus to the point where someone espousing the idea that government should provide a “safety net” for the most needy but not a demotivational “hammock” (as Paul Ryan was fond of putting it) intended to keep everyone at a certain comfortable-ish standard regardless of misfortune or lack of effort might be more successful running as a moderate Republican than a Democrat, and probably outside the mainstream in Canada or Western Europe (?).
I think it’s common in American rhetoric but not necessarily in American actions. Disaster relief comes especially to mind.
I think a not insignificant chunk of disaster relief in rich areas might be due to the Robin Hanson explanation. Sending aid after a disaster signals that we care in a particularly conspicuous manner.
I mean, who’s the last President who did something like veto disaster relief? Grover Cleveland is the only example I’m aware of.
This sort of thinking falls into all sorts of schools, so it is not married to any single school. It just depends on how much social spending you want and what your end goals are. Your typical conservative would absolutely agree with means-testing because we should only be spending money on the truly needy, but what they describe as “needy” is going to be less than what a progressive describes as “needy,” and they won’t agree with specific targets for income inequality reduction.
Riffing off that, conservative wonks who want to eliminate market failures or otherwise paternalistically nudged people but don’t want social redistribution are not going to agree with you. Like, for example, somene who thinks people don’t save enough for retirement, and therefore mandates savings accounts for everyone. That’s a paternalistic nudge. You don’t need to add a redistribution program to it.
Part of the conservative wonk objection to ACA is that it is an income redistribution scheme masquearding as a market failure correction scheme.
FWIW, I still have employer-based health insurance so Krugman’s article is falling on deaf ears here.
I think this sort of thing is a cornerstone of the American system. A lot of our programs try to exist simultaneously as paternalistic nudging and income redistribution, probably for political purposes (they can market themselves effectively to both the left and the right, by emphasizing one side or the other)
Libertarian; John Stossel makes it a cause of his to oppose things like federal flood insurance for people who choose to buy expensive beach side homes.
I’m assuming both you and he exclude things like “Once in a century river flooding that wipes out a small rural town”.
If you are really in a hundred year flood plain (as opposed to a we don’t believe in global warming hundred year flood plain) then flood insurance should be cheap, no?
Ah. So, definitely libertarian. Why’d you bother to bring rich and poor into it then?
I take you would have agreed with Grover Cleveland
This is, obviously, not a Republican or Democrat position of late. I’d tend to agree too, but I don’t get too bothered personally by helping Americans hit by disaster in an age of fiat currency, even if it invites corruption and foisting risk onto others in the marginal cases.
Is “small rural village” supposed to be synonymous with “everyone is desperately poor”? That’s not my understanding of the facts.
edit: I admit to unwittingly sacrificing clarity for evoking a particular image that I don’t find moored to a specific event. Sorry.
Everyone? No, but the modal beneficiary of disaster aid in a rural town (does America have any villages?) seems like it should imply something other than the upper middle class you were focusing on.
Well, I’m surprised.
If you mentally superimpose this map over this one, it does seem like wealth prefers salty oceans to fresh rivers.
Modal sure. But means testing captures that. I don’t think we need a proxy when we can test the thing we are interested in directly. I think having separate non-means tested rural programs are in place not for efficiency but rather as a means of ensuring that only the right people and none of the wrong people benefit.
I don’t know that there are such programs; I was trying to juxtapose “poor people suffering from unexpected tragedy” and “rich people experiencing entirely predictable negative consequences”, not trying to slyly support aid specifically to any demographic.
In any case, my original point was, John Stossel has written in the past to expose the poor cost-effectiveness and incentives of, for example, federal flood insurance that benefits wealthy people’s beach homes. He, at least, is libertarian, and might not agree on expanded means-tested aid but is definitely on your side for cutting the blanket relief.
I guess we posted past each other. Sorry for misunderstanding what you were trying to say.
Stossel’s point is that, generally speaking, flood insurance is pitched to the public as a program that is necessary to help struggling people recover from rare and unforeseeable disasters.
But in actuality, it mostly pays out to well off rich people to replace their fancy beach houses in areas where disaster is completely and entirely foreseeable, and occurs on a regular basis.
@Brad–No problem, it’s useful to be reminded that I don’t communicate quite as well as I think I do. And I got a chance to show off that Cleveland quote, after reading it on a waitbutwhy binge last week.
You brought up Cleveland before me. Truly a convergence of minds.
A 100-year flood is something of a misnomer. It’s the flood event that has a 1/100 chance of exceedance in any given year. So while it’s expected to occur on average every 100 years, the chances of it occurring in a 50-year project life are 29.4%. In other words, it’s somewhat likely that a building will be inundated at some point.
Regarding your question – it seems to be mainstream American sorta-centre-left. The US seems generally to have a much better tolerance for “social safety net” stuff than for cradle-to-grave universal social services.
I’m also going to push back. Non-means-tested social spending is great.
First, it ties that rich, upper-middle-class, whatever, family to everyone else. The “Canadian” model – across the board public insurance, with private insurance picking up stuff the public insurance doesn’t – means that even people who are quite wealthy are going to use the same system as poor people. There’s an incentive for them to support the system.
Second, it avoids the problems you get with means-tested services when people just above the cutoff feel ripped off. In practice, this usually means the lower-middle-class, and lower-middle-class resentment is a really dangerous thing politically speaking.
Third, it requires less bureaucracy to administer.
I think what you describe is the absolute best case for non-means tested welfare programs. I’m not sure I buy even that but it isn’t usually on offer.
I can’t speak to Canada, but in the US only Medicare sort-of fits this model (I say sort-of because access to care does vary by income for a variety of reasons.) No other program is one program for everyone, schools for example are quite segregated, and many of them are outright regressive (i.e. spend more, often much more on the rich than the poor)—subsidized flood insurance was mentioned above.
If you think about it, a climbing harness is naturally going to have this latter property. Rebuilding a mansion after an earthquake is going to cost more than rebuilding a bungalow. Paying for six months of maternity leave for Cheryl Sandberg is going to cost more than six months of maternity leave for someone that washes dishes. And so on.
I think if we had a flat relief program (all residents of x zip code get 10,000$ to rebuild with) it would be pretty progressive, for the same reason a flat tax is regressive. A much larger percentage of that person’s living expenses would be going to the poor.
Doesn’t answer the part about bad incentives, though.
Are you talking about public or private schools? Because even though there are a lot of outliers due to local school control, public spending on schools is very close to flat with respect to funding compared to student family income (very slightly progressive, but I highly doubt that it matters).
Yes, you can cherry pick examples where the relationship goes one way or the other, but it’s hiding the fact that spending is typically even and that in the U.S. range that spending doesn’t actually have much correlation with student outcomes. Where students go barely matters most of the time. Parents’ beliefs to the contrary.
U.S. public schools aren’t amazing overall, but neither are they terrible overall.
You cut the quote off too soon. That sentence says
1) Almost all social programs are in some way segregated—the rich and the poor aren’t going to the same schools.
2) Many non-means tested programs spend more on the rich than the poor. The example here was flood insurance.
I didn’t intend to imply, and don’t think I did, that schools fell into #2.
I thought you were implying that schools were in the same category of regressiveness as flood insurance. The antecedent of “many of them” was ambiguous and could have been “schools” or “program”.
But in that case, I don’t see why you shouldn’t count schools as an example of a successful not-means-tested program. People don’t usually travel farther than they have to to get medical care when on Medicare either.
What I view as bad news first. Since spending equalized, segregation probably hasn’t had much effect on student outcomes. Nothing anyone has tried so far to adjust student outcomes has scaled past a pilot project. Typically even the pilot project results are highly questionable or null. Test scores have been basically flat since the 80s. Before that, African American scores improved some from the 50 or 60s to 80s. Adding evidence that schools before civil rights acts passed really were much worse for African Americans.
The good news is pretty much everyone in the U.S. can read and write. Most can do basic arithmetic. And most schools have sports teams, band, etc. to give kids something organized and supervised to do. And it keeps kids off the streets while parents go to work. Roughly $10,000 a year (the typical order of spending, sometimes double that) for these services isn’t bad. Even if you look at school as just babysitting and ignore the benefits of literacy, that’s something like $10 or $20 per hour for babysitting which is pretty cheap.
In case it’s not clear to those who think schools should prepare all students for a future as an engineer or businessman, I’m really not trying to damn with faint praise here. I think if we were willing to experiment with a much more diverse range of pedagogy (and maybe adjust punishment too) we could probably raise everyone’s reading and arithmetic skills a bit although whether gaps would narrow or widen I don’t know. But I don’t expect any significant changes in real learning outcomes for the next few decades.
Many upper middle class and higher Americans are satisfied with their public schools and don’t bother with private schools. And those public schools don’t actually spend more on average than public schools where poor people go. A significant number of white people will even flee areas that have too many rich successful Asian people, so it’s not like white people are trying to put their kids in the “best” public schools. They’re mostly being sort of ethnocentric/tribal in the sort of low grade way that almost all humans are.
That schools don’t solve the problem of rich people not liking poor people or people clustering with people of a similar ethnic group… I dunno? Seems unlikely to be a workable solution to me.
In the U.S. right now, it’s not currently adaptive or rational behavior to try to live in an approximate ethnic enclave, but it’s not really that harmful to other people either in and of itself. Minority areas sometimes fight gentrifiers which is a similar behavior in reverse.
The point I was trying to make is that contra dndnrsn ideal take on non-means tested social spending schools, at least in the US, are not a “we are all in this together” situation.
I don’t think prime facia the government ought to give away $10,000*14 worth of services to, for example the child of a programmer and lawyer. I acknowledge that there are some indirect benefits to society of doing so, I’m not not convinced as to magnitude.
It’s an interesting question. I think Brad is literally correct that the very rich are not sending their children to the literal same schools that the very poor are.
That said, if the comparison is to state-run clinics in Europe, I’d have to imagine a similar affect is true there. As has been mentioned, people generally report to the closest clinic to their residence. So as long as the rich and poor remain segregated in where they live, they’ll go to different clinics as well.
The only way to force the rich and poor to associate together is to have some sort of mandatory government location that is so uncommon that it is the closest available such location for rich and poor alike. The DMV comes to mind. And that’s not exactly an institution most people take pride in. Maybe the post office as well, although there are UPS and Fedex and private “postal annex” type locations that are nicer/more expensive that the rich can choose to patronize.
This is a bad way of putting it, local taxes directly pay for most public schooling so the government isn’t ‘giving away’ those services, they are about as close to being directly paid for as it gets in the US. There are also a lot of situations where the upper classes are effectively subsidizing classes lower than they are by commuting into or shopping in lower income areas.
I don’t think that’s an accurate way of describing the situation. Public schools parents are not one in the same as taxpayers and even within that category their are families with different numbers of children. Given the amounts of money involved these are not small points.
Frankly, given how social security works (not to mention that the continued existence of a nation relies upon having people and the people of the richest nations have a bizarre habit of not reproducing), people without kids need to subsidize other people having children to some extent.
A doctor and a lawyer pay so much more proportionally in taxes that I don’t see any issue with their children receiving the same public schooling as a poor person.
Of course, I can imagine a simple solution where we tax rich people less and rich people pay for schools of their choice (I’m pretty sure the overall tax system will still be progressive). But that’s kind of like school choice or vouchers but even less restrained.
Segregation is significant in a lot of areas but in a lot of areas it really is true that the children of doctors and lawyers go to the same schools as the children of gardeners or plumbers or unemployed. You’re letting an imagined perfect be the enemy of the good.
Well, perfect or good for you. My best but extremely uncertain guess is that even a drastic change along these lines wouldn’t make much difference except in a symbolic way. The downstream consequences of the symbolic change might be significant though.
What is your proposed solution? Programmers and lawyers already pay much more proportional to their income in taxes than most people. Force them to pay directly for schooling and they’ll send their kids to private schools, and they’ll find some other way to get their tax bill reduced.
Frankly this last post just seems like throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. I have no interest in going off on a tangent about fertility in the West, the desirability or having progressive taxation, or whether or not the rich will get what they want “some other way”.
I think you understand the point I was making to dndnrsn about how American non-means tested social programs don’t work the way he described. If you don’t find that to be meaningful in the larger picture, so be it.
They aren’t one and the same, but within the same school district/tax base they are within a similar economic class, and when they aren’t it tends to be the poorer end that has more kids per tax dollar paid than the other way around. Further many and perhaps most of the local tax base without kids currently in the school system either did or will have kids go through it.
Moreover, there isn’t really evidence that paying more for public schools for poor children provides any additional benefit. Its basically a pass-through model where the end product is almost entirely based on the inputs (children and their parents), and the system really can’t do anything to change that.
This is a big problem with US social policy that focuses so much on “education”. I suspect this is the case because its an already existing system and its easier to advocate for “fixing” a system than creating a whole new system (which would, essentially, be a massive intrusion into the home life of anyone with children). But its just tinkering at the edges. Universal Pre-K is a bust, charter schools and vouchers are successful in that they demonstrate that you can get the same results for much cheaper (often around 50-60% cost), and maybe squeak out 5% of a Standard Deviation’s improvement, but nothing monumental. Kids of Doctors and Lawyers are going to outperform kids of fry boys and cashiers because intelligence is mostly determined by genetics and the environment before you are even 3.
I thought we were talking about health care primarily – you led with health care, at least; in Canada, health care does work that way. There are non-means-tested programs in Canada that work like their American equivalents, but we have universal health insurance.
There’s probably a reason that you couldn’t do a similar thing with schools – harder to centralize, for one thing. But for social services where you can do it non-means-tested, I think it’s superior, for the reasons I gave.
Even in healthcare I think you only get the effect you are talking about with government provisioned healthcare. That’s what, Canada and the UK only?
Even Bernie Sanders is calling for Medicare for all, not VA for all. So like I said your description is only the absolute strongest case for non-means tested social spending, not a description of how most actually work.
Government provisioned insurance, not healthcare, in Canada, technically. My doctor is a private operator, but gets reimbursed for services by the government.
What social services, or public services in general, would be made better by adding means-testing?
It seems like framing the question that way ignores opportunity cost.
Could you explain what you mean?
I assume Brad’s point is that means-testing would free up resources previously spent on the rich to now be spent on the poor.
So, if we stopped distributing social security checks to the richest 50% of recipients (but still taxed everyone for it), the bottom 50% could receive twice as much in terms of benefits.
Looking only at Medicare, is it a better program if it’s means tested? Maybe not. But now you have >$100B to do something else with.
My position is that public health insurance for everybody would make the system better – because the rich would be stuck with the same system as the poor. In Canada, you have to be quite wealthy before it make sense to leave the country rather than rely on the public system; the disadvantages of our system are less in the quality of the care than in the waiting times for nonemergency stuff that come of triage and in the generally poor customer-service side of things. The actual quality of the medical care is good. I get the same system as someone with a bunch more money than me and someone with a bunch less. The rich guy has a reason to buy into the system I get, and I have a reason to buy into the system someone with extremely limited resources gets – it’s all the same system.
A system that focuses on the poor has the problem that it becomes a system for poor people – stigmatized and first on the chopping block. That it’s stigmatized can be seen in the use of the slogan “Medicare for all” rather than “Medicaid for all” – as I understand it, they’re similar, but Medicare is for old people and Medicaid is for poor people. Keeping it off the chopping block requires everyone having an interest in it – the poor might need the money more than me, and I might need the money more than the rich person, but everyone having skin in the game is more important than the best possible allocation of resources.
It’s also worth it to avoid lower-middle-class resentment, which is a dangerous political force. There’s also the related issue of moral hazard, which you may or may not think is a factor in means-tested programs. Having a cutoff seems to be a factor in both of these.
As far as I can tell, you and Brad are misaligned on what this actually requires though. Does same system mean same general system with same general policies, etc. Or does it require actual shared physical spaces/resources/etc.?
The US Public Schools, as an example, are a “shared system” for the rich and poor alike. But Brad’s point is that typically, due to geographic constraints, the actual physical schools that the rich attend are different than the actual physical schools attended by the poor, so that they aren’t really “the same” at all.
But taxation isn’t just a pot of money that exists and then is distributed.
This isn’t an especially compelling response IMO. Property taxes aren’t tuition. They aren’t even an especially close substitute.
Yes. With the further observation(?) axiom(?) that physically separate inherently leads to other differences.
Your statement was
In the US this is not how it works, the school districts spending on individual students is primarily at the state and local level, the federal government does relatively little in terms of funding. Someone cannot be said to be on the receiving end of a ‘giveaway’ if they are, or will, pay for it.
In almost every way possible. First taxes are paid at multiple levels, and there is no one tax authority that has the legal ability to spend all of those dollars. Secondly there are some programs that are legally entitled to funding and some of that funding is tied to specific tax revenues. So from a legal perspective it is not true.
From a practical perspective the people who pay taxes have some ability to restrict their tax liability, be it through voting or tax avoidance. Shifts in where tax dollars go may very well shift how many tax dollars are collected, so in a practical sense the pot of money is not distinct from how it is spent.
From a theoretically perspective tax earnings are partially based on the tax structure itself, changing tax rates and payouts will shift real GDP meaning even the same % of GDP as tax will not be expected to be the same purchasing power, so again the taxes available are not distinct from how they are collected and spent.
But that’s not an accurate description of reality as I’ve already pointed out. There’s no one to one relationship between property taxes and waived tuition. There isn’t even an 80% relationship. There’s some hand waving about how “most” people “probably” used the local schools at “some point”.
That fact of the matter is, professional class cognitive dissonance notwithstanding, taxes are an unconditional obligation and paying them doesn’t in any way convert a welfare program into somehow not a welfare program.
Whatever constraints prevent schools from being an “all-in-it-together” system, or makes that harder, it doesn’t seem to exist for public health insurance. If you go to a major Canadian city, it’s not as though there’s one hospital for the poor people and one for the rich people or whatever.
EDIT: Maybe I’m hanging too much on Brad’s opening with health care and comment about a rich family going to less-rich.
But my reaction to that is, well, if the system cushions the rich family the same as everyone else, that keeps them on side. Everyone else gets the same cushion as they do, they want a nice cushion, so they push for a nicer cushion for everyone. And that’s just one benefit.
I was trying to see what sticks because I wanted to pin down more precisely what your reason is for why schools don’t fulfill dndnrsn’s criteria as being a successful shared public program other than that it could perhaps be slightly better. I think schools fulfill his criteria reasonably well given the constraints. And I don’t mean far out constraints.
Are you unhappy that people without children subsidize people with children? Are you unhappy that more school money doesn’t flow to the poor? Are you unhappy that people self-segregate? These are all different problems that you mentioned with different possible solutions. Improving things with respect to one criteria might hurt things with respect to another. I’m doubt any solution public or private can maximize all three simultaneously without tanking some other important criteria.
Almost 90% of children go to public school. By sheer mathematical necessity that includes a lot of upper middle class to even upper class children. NYC might be super heavily segregated but a lot of the U.S. is not like NYC. Even then, public schools can’t solve the fact that ethnicities are nowhere near evenly distributed throughout the U.S. Any measure of segregation across states or across the country would remain high even if local areas like cities were well mixed. People still wouldn’t really be sharing the same physical resources at school.
Not only are our schools not actually that badly mixed (worse than the country as a whole, but mostly reflecting segregation for other reasons), but large studies keep finding that the variance in educational outcomes within the U.S. for the past few decades due to school choice or pedagogy is small compared to variance in educational outcomes due to other reasons.
U.S. policy has largely succeeded by a reasonable standard. We’ve obliterated most of the variance in education outcomes due to school itself and have mostly well functioning schools. They work about as well as Europe’s or Japan’s or South Korea’s. I’d like to reduce some of the issues with really bad outlier schools by allowing for school choice, but I don’t expect much aggregate difference in results if this happened. Local measures of segregation would probably drop slightly and aggregate learning might slightly improve, but that’s all I’d expect.
Schools can improve but so can my computer. My computer still works reasonably well.
I largely agree, but even though outcomes are less than what people would hope for I doubt the U.S. literacy rate would be as high as it is without sending all children to school.
I think people tend to forget that having everyone be able to read (even at a third grade level to pick a low bar) is not a foregone conclusion.
I think the bottom results in math could also be improved by just slowing the curriculum down for many students and drilling students who have trouble more rather than demanding they master geometry proofs. The idea that everyone needs to understand proofs in Euclidean geometry or conic sections or that teaching these to everyone is a worthwhile use of time is batty.
I’m unhappy that we are gifting public moneys to people that don’t need it.
Specifically with respect to why this isn’t dndnrsn’s best case scenario it’s because the schools are segregated by class. It doesn’t meet the criteria of “we are all in this together”.
Someone from Scarsdale might care about the quality of the schools in Yonkers just because he happens to care, but because there’s a direct link with how good the schools are in Scarsdale. That phenomenon which dndnrsn claimed as a benefit of non-means tested social spending doesn’t apply to US schools. At least not to all or nearly all of them.
Can busing programs be seen as an attempt to force that?
It was put in place originally to deal with racial segregation, but it certainly had and could have salutary benefits as to economic segregation as well. I’m all for busing, I argued a few weeks back in an open thread that among other benefits it could rein in the real estate cost spiral.
But most people really are in it together somewhat even if not perfectly. The U.S. is not perfectly segregated by class. Maybe it is where you are, but not where I grew up by a long shot. And how much is it more segregated than any service which is geographically localized?
And because the federal funding formulas generally force equalization of funding per student (to the point of total funding being slightly progressive), a lot of people who would otherwise pay directly for their kids school really are in it together with the poor to some extent. If they had no investment in the public school system, funding would be more unequal.
But there is no real evidence that even if economic mixing was ideal gas level perfect we would see a significant shift in school outcomes. The schools really aren’t much better or worse in different parts of the U.S. most of the time. They were in 1950 but not anymore. I don’t think that equalization could have taken place if schools weren’t public and could thus be forced to be fairly uniform (in funding and amenities I mean). Outcomes are basically the same across the first world despite variance in school systems. Most of the variance is in the students or some other part of the environment.
I do agree with you though that real estate prices could be lowered somewhat by unlinking school from geography. I think busing assigning students to specific schools further away is an unnecessarily extreme step though. Even selling school choice between public schools is hard; busing is pretty much dead in the water due to opposition by parents. I doubt ending geographic requirements would make a huge relative difference in prices though, but 1% of 2 million is still 20 thousand. Multiply by some significant number of houses and it’s not a trivial drop.
but not because there’s a direct link with how good
I’m puzzled as to why you are bringing this up. I never claimed that schools were egregiously bad. Rather that they aren’t an example of the best case for non-means tested social spending. And in any event I never conceded that I would support even such a best case scenario.
First, I don’t think this is actually true. If you look at the highest and lowest spending per pupil districts in the country they are quite far apart. Even if you look at the state level rather than the district level, the differences are still significant.
But that said, even if it were true, I don’t think your conclusion follows. If the federal government were to give an equalization dollar to a school district in Arkansas for every dollar that a school district in suburban NYC spent out of local property taxes, in what sense are those two districts “in it together”? What concrete incentive does the suburban NYC parent have to care about the quality of education being provided in the rural Arkansas district.
Now I agree that a lot of voters in suburban NYC do care. But this doesn’t go to your overall point. In fact, it goes directly opposite to it. Given that they care despite their being no linkage with their own school quality is evidence that the parade of horribles where public schools become terrible after they are means tested because the rich no longer care, is not especially likely to happen.
So, what kind of social service are we talking about? Education in Canada is more similar to education in the US than health care is. There’s private schools, some public schools are clearly better than others, and some districts have two school boards (due to a weird compromise where there’s a public Catholic system for some reason).
However, health care in Canada does work as a “we’re all in this together” thing. It’s one of the more popular things in this country; a government that tried to replace the provincial system with something like what the US has would go down in flames most likely.
Imagine, though, if the US started to go means-tested for public schools: free public schooling only for those below a certain cutoff; above that you have to pay or go elsewhere. The middle classes would be livid, especially the lower middle classes.
There’s no reason that there needs to be a hard cutoff. We’ve learned to do means testing better over the years. There could be an means-adjusted tuition charge.
The people who used to get something “for free” (presumably some of their tax dollars went to it) who now have to pay are going to be pissed, regardless of how much they have to pay. For those able to afford private school, it’s going to look like a better deal compared to public school – and the more they leave the public system, the more they don’t have a reason to want funding to the public system (whether it’s overall or in their district). Those who can’t afford private school are going to be really pissed – even if they’re just paying a little, it’s more than they used to, and the system is going to degrade as the incentive to get out is stronger for those who can.
And you’ve still got the bureaucracy necessary to do the means-testing, and how the means-adjusting works is going to be a political football.
I think the lower classes would be pissed too.
You already have people like Brad arguing that the problem with public schools is that the rich are allowed to opt-out, which generally lowers the quality.
Imagine how much worse that sort of problem gets if the rich are required to opt out.
One might look to the VA as a comparison. The military is opt-in and mainly sources its recruits from the lower class. While eligible for care, most people who leave military service and enter middle or upper class jobs never go to VA clinics, because of their poor reputation for quality (I myself am eligible, but have never gone to one, and have no intention of ever doing so). Would we expect the quality of care to rise if instead of “veterans in middle/upper class don’t have to go and can opt-out for their own private care if they want” we went to a model of “veterans in middle/upper class are absolutely forbidden from going?”
This would probably make things worse not just for the upper/middle class veterans who might have gone, but for the remaining lower class veterans who have no other options as well.
No, that’s not my position. I have no problem with the rich opting out. I have a problem with the rich opting out and still have the public pay for their de facto private schools.
It gets better. In some places, there are four: French-Catholic, French-secular, English-Catholic, English-secular.
This is an additional reason to oppose such programs. Once you go down the road of middle and upper class welfare the recipients get very entitled over their giveaways.
Schools are rather unlike welfare or healthcare in that ideally they are a government investment in the long run. More analogous to infrastructure. When the wealthy drive on a public road through their neighborhoods are they receiving a form of welfare?
Utilization of public resources is never actually equally distributed across class.
I don’t think public roads are a good analogy. Schooling services are both rivalrous and excludable. Further looking specifically at the rich and “upper middle” class there is no market failure. It isn’t as though something with positive externalities would be underproduced without that spending. Those parents would pay for education if it were provided free. The government is merely displacing private spending—that is engaging in a giveaway.
In theory roads aren’t excludable or rivalrous. In practice, building a road that rich people will use and poor people won’t brings up much of the same issues. I’m not talking about major interstate highways, but public roads towards a rich suburb or within it.
Excludability is harder, but people manage that too. Hard to do by economic class, but not so hard to do by race. My uncle just had the cops tail him for miles on backroads in a predominantly rich white area. It’s not as strong as an exclusion as the way schooling works, but I think the difference is of degree. And my uncle is an upper class respectable looking man. If he was poor or hadn’t had his family with him, it might not have stopped at tailing.
I agree there is some displacement. School quality is fairly uniform though so I don’t expect that to change if the system does. But without public schooling, segregation would definitely increase. Types of schools would probably diversify. Which might be good or bad. And since schooling would suddenly become a huge visible and adjustable line item on people’s budgets, I would expect a massive shift in pretty much every category of taxation and spending as the effects of an enormous tax increase of ten to twenty thousand dollars start whacking people making six figures and the whole system slowly comes to a new equilibrium. I’d rather not even advocate for that experiment when we haven’t even tried letting people pick any public school for their kids in ten miles.
It’s possible it would have really good results. Maybe much less money would be spent on net on schools but results would remain the same (because we already know the effects of spending in the ranges Americans do is basically nil; you’ve got to step outside that range to get an effect although we don’t know how far). That’d be a pretty good result. Or maybe the middle class would be hollowed out over a couple generations as things fall apart.
Welcome to the revolution, comrade.
Seriously though, yes. And this is entirely leftist/socialist, the problem is that leftism/socialism has been largely subverted by the bourgeoisie. All the instruments of power we think of as “leftist” are being run by the top few percent. “Leftism” in the US is now buying middle class votes with half-assed handouts while pretending it is based on egalitarian or communitarian principles, and keeping people distracted from class issues by continually shifting between class and identity classes and pretending they are the same, then “treating” the identity issues while ignoring the class issues, and pretending they are fixing the problems.
Seriously, this is what leftism is. Or at least what it was. What we call leftism anymore is just opportunistic political positioning and an elaborate pretense that all the members of the faction have some kind of set of principles in common
There’s something to what you’re saying, but does it imply that Scandinavian style everything is provided by the state to everyone is not-left? That doesn’t sound quite right.
That is mostly because “leftism” and “liberal” melted together.
It is a communitarian authoritarianism. Historically, we would have called it right-wing socialism, I think. But that entire section of the political map was cut off and burned by fascism, so we mostly just pretend anything that would fit into it belongs somewhere else.
Which is not to imply US attempts at replicating Scandinavian systems are communitarian in nature. They are setting out to solve different problems; the Scandinavian system is solving the allocation of resources, whereas the US system already allocates resources, and the problem being solved (medical costs for middle classes, in this example) is that people are unhappy allocating their own resources. By and large, the people pushing for Scandinavian style healthcare would balk at Scandinavian style taxes to pay for it, and expect all the costs to be born by somebody else (“rich people”, where “rich” is defined as “Anyone with more money than me”).
That’s true in my case @Thegnskald, as while they’re some I think just deserve more wealth than me, it’s a short list.
Yup. Pretty much everyone operates this way; it is a natural outcome of a consumption-oriented culture, particularly one which, like our own, conflates happiness and wealth. People tend to attribute their negative affects to their troubles, and since people adjust consumption to match income, money is a nearly universal trouble.
Shows like Arrested Development and Bojack Horseman make an invaluable contribution to our culture, in showing that money doesn’t fix misery.
Forgot a link in the logic: Because people assume their misery is because they don’t have enough money, they assume any less money would lead to even more misery.
If I’m parsing your jargon correctly, you’re saying don’t confuse what’s currently called “the left” with the historic left that fought and even gave their lives for laboring people.
As far as I can tell, when most speak of “the left” today the mean either conservatives or reactionaries in congress who try to either slow down or reverse post Reagan changes who are in opposition to the conservatives or reactionaries in congress who want to slow down or reverse post Roosevelt changes, or the “campus left” which grew out of the “new left” of the 1960’s which enforces largely Pacific coast and north eastern secular collegiate class social mores in opposition to Dixieland and mountain west social mores.
As far as I know the historic “left” that organized the C.I.O. and supported Henry Wallace’s 1948 Progressive Party Presidential campaign is mostly dead, and the closest equivalent of people still alive that I’ve encountered are those who worked for the U.F.W. in the 1970’s, but they’re not many of them, and they’re pretty old now as well.
The Sanders movement apes the historic left in rhetoric, but once his supporters are free of their student loan debts I suspect that movement will disappear as well.
The movement to raise the minimum wage in some cities is the closest thing to the historic “left” left.
Mostly what people seem to mean by “left” and “right” now are the same cultural folkway divisions detailed in “Albion’s Seed”.
I call foul. You didn’t know what SJW and twitter mob meant, but you’ve read Albion’s seed? Pshaw.
(Just poking fun, we had a lengthy conversation about that book here about a year ago.)
@Randy M ,
Sadly, it’s true.
My current co-workers are similarly amused that my knowledge of 20th century minutia is combined with my ignorance of things that are relatively common knowledge in the 21st century (long story short: I was an avid reader and “nerd” in my youth, but for most of 1999 to 2012 I worked longed long hours as a new construction plumber, and had a very long commute, so I’m “out of it” and I’m trying to catch up), but in this case, while I’d love to claim that I was hip enough to read “Albion’s Seed” back when it was published in 1989, I actually read it after it was referenced in two books that I had mixed feelings about: “Black Rednecks and White Liberals”, and “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures”, which both mentioned “Albion’s Seed”, which I then read around 2012 (and later noticed is in a lot of other books bibliographies).
That Scott Alexander reviewed it is one of the reasons that I’m posting here!
Leftism is still alive, it just got… convoluted.
It is hard to define well, because the specific meaning has shifted so much over time, but the core of it seems to be an ideological opposition to hierarchical power structures. I think this is a fair and useful concept, and salvages the discrepancies between the French revolutionaries and communists.
Capitalism involves lots of hierarchical power structures. But capitalism is also a cyclical graph, as we have increasingly discovered. Likewise, modern political structures look increasingly like cyclic graphs; power doesn’t flow in a single direction. And it is difficult to say what needs to be changed, when you oppose hierarchies, but the hierarchies you see are part of a larger ecosystem that is chaotic and recursive. I think we are still around, it is just that… well, what do you do about it?
Some of us go some flavor of anarchist. I think that is the most common flavor of pure leftist left; since the hierarchies are now recursive, just knock all of them down. I regard this as a temporary solution that will likely just reset the complexity of our social structures, where I think the complexity is the only thing making the hierarchies bearable right now.
We used to go communist, but I think the knowledge gained since the fall of the Soviet Union has informed us that, contrary to dismantling capitalist hierarchies, they just repurposed them as political hierarchies. So communism doesn’t seem very popular anymore, at least among my leftism.
It is a tough problem. I do wonder how many of us have just gone silent, not pushing any solution until we figure out something that will work.
I’m curious. Is the conclusion “communism was as bad as capitalism” or “communism was even worse than capitalism”?
To me the latter is obviously true, but your view of the world is enough different from mine to make me wonder whether you agree.
Also, if you view capitalism as a hierarchical system, where does the customer go in the hierarchy–top, bottom, or somewhere else?
My gut feelings about anarchism echoes Bertrand Russell, who in “Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism” wrote on Anarchism:“….The result of this would be that everyone would have to learn how to fight, for fear a well-drilled minority should seize power and establish an old-fashioned oligarchic State….”
Essentially my guess is that Feudalism is what likely follows anarchy, and as much as we may wish otherwise, for maximum human happiness in the modern world our choices are either Denmark, rural Costa Rica, or Singapore, and you can’t be Amish without the security of living in the United States.
That said, of “actually existing socialism” all the reports of North Korea are that it is a hellscape, but those I’ve known who’ve been to Cuba said “It’s not that bad” (but they didn’t move there), and I have had a bunch of co-workers who grew up in the Soviet Union, and the one who left in 1979 said it was “Horrible!”, but the one’s who stayed until it fell in 1991 mostly say “It was better than what came after”.
AFAICT, Anarchists point to hunter- gatherer cultures as non-hierarchical societies, and Libertarians point to pre 1997 Hong Kong, but the thing about those peoples and places is that the can’t defend themselves against conquest.
If Britain had become like William Morris’ “Notes from Nowhere” before the Second World War I’ve little doubt that it would have been conquered.
Do I think things can be better than they are?
I do, and I point to the United States in 1973, or Canada today as examples, but I’m doubtful utopias can defend themselves for long.
” ..I’m curious. Is the conclusion “communism was as bad as capitalism” or “communism was even worse than capitalism”?…”
You didn’t ask me, but I’m going to chime in anyway, and I’m going to resist going to go with a flippant “What’s the difference between starving in a slum, or starving in a gulag?” answer.
Unless you’re going with a “bushman of the Kalahari desert” definition of “communism”, they’re few matches for the scale of human misery that happened under Marxist-Leninist regimes, and I’m coming from a perspective that thinks that Marx had some valid points as did the CPUSA in it’s heyday, but honesty demands that I acknowledge that there’s just more blood on the hands of Marxists.
The only way I can see of evening the scales is to place the crimes of Hitler and King Leopold as belonging to the side of “capitalism” (which I don’t), and even then I’m not sure.
To cite just two examples, Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” led to one of the worst famines in human history, and few equal the Khmer Rouge for savagery in modern times.
That said, I don’t think it’s an either/or situation.
The “Welfare State” of mid 20th century North America, and mid 20th century to early 21st century Northern and Western Europe shows that there’s a better way than both unfettered capitalism and Leninist communism.
It isn’t clear that the welfare state you describe is a stable system in the long term—and it seems to be showing some cracks in Europe already. Arguably, the Scandinavian system works for a while because of the carryover of norms developed before it existed that make going on welfare a shameful failure. As it becomes increasingly clear that one option is a high leisure life with a somewhat but not drastically reduced consumption level, those norms erode, and maintaining the system becomes increasingly costly.
Also note that one consequence of the welfare state is strong pressure to limit immigration, at least of poor people. The U.S. at the beginning of the 20th century was taking about a million immigrants a year into a population of about a hundred million. Currently we are taking about the same number into a population three times as large–and it is provoking a lot of opposition. Similarly what is happening in Europe.
“It isn’t clear that the welfare state you describe is a stable system in the long term….”
I fear that you may well be right
You shouldn’t write off non-anarchist and non-libertarian socialists so quickly. I was once an anarchist myself, and came to much of the same conclusions you have reached. I decided that leftism could still be reconciled, not all hope was lost.
Hierarchy tends to coincide with bad outcomes so often, that for many years I had made the mistake of treating opposition to hierarchy as if it was a core principle of mine. I’ve decided it is not.
For example, I can say that a parent having authority over a child is good, but a slave owner having authority over a slave is bad. This is because hierarchy is not actually my central axis for determining whether a policy is a net positive for society. If hierarchy can produce good outcomes, through solving coordination problems, utilization of experts, ect, then I’m fine with it. After all, isn’t the will of the democratic majority, imposed upon the minority, just another hierarchy? Even anarcho-communists haven’t found a way to get around that one.
Upon realization that hierarchy is everywhere and inevitable, my solution was to simply make peace with it. This doesn’t mean that a particular hierarchical structure is necessarily good. In fact, they are often bad. Its just they they are often bad for reasons other than having a hierarchical structure.
So, upon this resignation, then the questions become: who is going to be in charge? And what sort of policies should they implement? The non-anarchist left has answers.
If hierarchy can produce good outcomes, through solving coordination problems, utilization of experts, ect, then I’m fine with it. After all, isn’t the will of the democratic majority, imposed upon the minority, just another hierarchy?
Can you name hierarchical structures, other than parent-child or master-slave, where the lower rank is not permitted to leave when they wish, that you consider good in some sense? How do you categorize majority-minority?
[W]ho is going to be in charge? And what sort of policies should they implement? The non-anarchist left has answers.
So does the ancap right, incidentally. Part of their contention is that their answers beat the non-anarchists’. And they even have an explanation for why.
Likewise for the anarcho-communists, I assume. (I’m not quite convinced that they have no way around majority-minority, but I would need to find someone to ask. I might know someone, but it would take a little while, and to be fair, I’m not sure how well thought out his view is.)
“Not permitted to leave” is a confusing clause to add, since it is a non-essential feature of a hierarchical relationship. Even slaves were often permitted to buy their own freedom, for a steep price. And you can always emigrate from whatever state you live under, unless you live in a place like North Korea. So I’m having trouble thinking of where such a situation exists, where one is not permitted to leave. I suppose prison is a good example. I support the concept of prison, for certain dangerous people.
Other hierarchical situations that I think are good, include legal property rights, and democratic government.
Do you mean, how do I feel about the minority being democratically ruled by the majority? Its a hierarchy, and its better than the alternative. The option of “no one rules over anyone else” is not possible in a world of scarce resources.
“Not permitted to leave” is a confusing clause to add, since it is a non-essential feature of a hierarchical relationship.
That’s one of the disagreements you have with libertarians, then, and probably ancoms as well. Permission to leave a long term relationship is absolutely essential. If you can’t, then you’re not free, by definition.
Moreover, given the way you framed it, there’s now an additional point of weakness: did the individuals enter that hierarchy of their own free will? That entrance is understandable in the case of a child, but much less so in the case of a slave. Maybe this is why one is good to you, and the other bad? Hence my question: whether you think of other hierarchies the same way.
But even so, this still leaves us with leader-follower relationships where the follower is obligated to obey the leader, even against their will, and their only avenue of exit from that status is (per your description) paying for it, or selling off or leaving behind any non-movable possessions. This is something libertarians and ancoms oppose as unjust. You seem to acknolwedge this, but suggest such relationships will arise anyway. You then suggest they can be made a little less unjust by permitting exit, but for a price. Libertarians and ancoms (probably) think that price is just moving the injustice around. Meanwhile, they each propose other alternatives, such as permitting exit for free, and / or limiting the follower’s obligation in the mean time.
Wait, I’m using the word “essential” in a different way than you here. What I mean is you have:
I. The broad category of hierarchies
a. Hierarchies where you are permitted to leave
b. Hierarchies where you are not permitted to leave
So when I was saying that ability to leave is a “non-essential feature of hierarchies”, I meant that you can have hierarchies where you are permitted to leave. In fact, in most hierarchies you are permitted to leave. The state being the classic example.
I don’t think its possible for someone to “freely” do anything in the absolute sense, given the natural constraints of life (humans competing for limited resources, need for food and shelter, ect). We enter hierarchies because there’s no physical alternative. I view this as an unavoidable fact of reality, no more unjust than fall turning into winter.
Haven’t we already implemented a system of free-exit, almost entirely? I don’t know anyone who advocates for restricting emigration from their country. Or outlawing being able to quit your job. So except for the cost of passports, and for people in prison, aren’t we already there?
The catch of course, is that without free-entry, free-exit is a rather meaningless feature. And even then, “free exit/entry” looks a whole lot like just shuffling the hierarchy around. (Would you say that ancaps would be content with the state, so long as it had open borders? I doubt it.)
I didn’t mean to imply that I thought these relationships were necessarily unjust, or that they can be made more just by permitting exit.
Okay then, “essential” in the sense of a thing is only a thing if it has the other thing. In that case, we agree that there exist leader-follower relationships of both types. (I was using “essential” more in the sense of the matter of permissive exit being essential to the question of whether a given hierarchy was just.)
I agree that every decision is constrained by nature. And if you include people in nature, then nature is the only constraint. But if you define it that way, then it just means that people will classify some decisions as constrained at least partially by people and the rest as constrained by no people at all. So we may as well not talk about nature as all of reality and instead talk about people and other-than-people.
And in the context of hierarchies, there’s always at least one other person in the equation. And most people – including you – care about the conditions on which some person places another person into follower status. I think you can’t just claim all of those are unavoidable. If you could, then I could handwave any claims you care to make about how those ought to be arranged as similarly unavoidable. (“Stalin happens, man.”)
Haven’t we already implemented a system of free-exit, almost entirely? I don’t know anyone who advocates for restricting emigration from their country.
Not according to most libertarians and ancoms. Free emigration isn’t actually free, because you’re not allowed to take all of your property with you, such as your land. Not only that, but while you’re here, the state is authorized to make all sorts of decisions involving your property, including taking it away from you without your consent. I think you’re correct that ancaps would not be content with a state with open borders, and it’s for precisely the reasons I’m talking about here.
Again, you can exit this – for the price of some or all of your possessions. Libs and ancoms will claim this is unjust on moral grounds, or perhaps just unnecessary on consequentialist grounds.
Guy in TN –
You “reconciled” it by just deciding hierarchies are okay.
That is fine, but it stops being “leftism” in the sense I refer to. It is just accepting the ways things are and picking different priorities to focus on. And these priorities might be important in their own right, but they definitely aren’t “Eliminate hierarchical power structures”.
Customers are part of what make capitalism a recursive hierarchy and messy. At a system level, the flows of power are effectively inscrutable. I still oppose the bits that are recognizably hierarchical, but I don’t even see an alternative to those – it looks like the alternative to the hierarchical organization might be an eternal Twitter mob.
How do you plan on avoiding creation of a hierarchy? How do two people, in competition without each other and with irreconcilable interests (i.e., not willing to make a deal), decide who gets to use a scarce resource?
In the end, someone gets to use it, and someone else doesn’t (a “hierarchy” is created). This part is unavoidable. The part we can debate, the part we have control over, are what the particular structures of this hierarchy will be. Will the resource distribution be determined democratically? (with the majority having authority over the minority?) Or through the authority of the state? Or through the authority of property ownership? The particular mechanism is certainly not set in stone.
Then you are defining “free exit” as being able to take something that is not legally yours to take. The state never gave you the legal right to dispose of your property as you wish, to the extent that you could secede from the sovereignty of the state. In common law its fee simple, not allodial title. What you are advocating for is beyond being merely “free”, but “free + makes someone else worse off”, by demanding the state surrender its higher property rights (its sovereignty).
What? The only thing you can’t take is “your” land, and that’s because you never owned the legal right to do that to begin with. You would be opposed someone who is renting a house “exiting” the relationship with their landlord, and then demanding that they still get to live in the house, right?
So you can still sell your property title and take the monetary equivalent. All of your actual possessions, your clothes, your money, your car, I’m pretty sure you can move overseas with that. Granted, shipping cars and furniture overseas is expensive, but we can’t really blame the state for that.
In our system, the state is the entity that actually solves disputes over resources, so its the head of the hierarchy. In anarcho-capitalism, property owners are at the top of the hierarchy. You can tell this is the case, because they have exclusionary power over the people who are non-owners of a given property.
So when they trade, its like two kings from separate nations coming together to make a deal. They are both the heads of their respective hierarchies. How they settle irreconcilable disputes (i.e., where neither of them agree to arbitration) tells you which one is actually on the top.
That’s an odd definition of hierarchy.
Consider a simple market society, as libertarians imagine it–whether you believe in the existence of such a society is irrelevant. Everyone owns some stuff, most notably himself. Who gets to use something is determined by who offers the highest bid. That isn’t what I would call a hierarchy, since A outbids B for one thing, B outbids A for another.
Then you are defining “free exit” as being able to take something that is not legally yours to take.
Only because you are defining “legal” in a way that suits your characterization of my definition of “free exit”. You’re presupposing that the state gets to be the primary arbiter of who owns what land. Or to put it another way, you seem to be asserting that fee simple is the only way to handle land rights.
But if so, then that’s another way in which you disagree with libertarians and (again, presumably) ancoms. And it’s not a given that you’re making the state worse off by choosing to do something with your land that two other people in the state object to.
You would be opposed someone who is renting a house “exiting” the relationship with their landlord, and then demanding that they still get to live in the house, right?
Of course. Because that’s a completely different relationship.
You seem to be claiming that all land (in the US, say) is held under fee simple. I agree that that would appear to be the case. Libs and ancoms are claiming that it need not remain that way. And again, as long as it is, it isn’t really just, because it didn’t start out as fee simple; rather, the state came in and claimed fee simple without consent.
(I suppose you could say it had consent by way of constitutional ratification, or strongman intimidation, or any other means by which any government forms, but even if you claim that there exist such establishments which are consensual, any libertarian or ancom is likely to counter that that consent doesn’t extend to people who come of age within it.)
This is true only if the current owner agrees to sell it. When people are in mutual cooperation, you can’t see where the hierarchy is, since both people are getting what they want (this applies to both capitalism and the state). Its only when people can’t come to an agreement (e.g., the owner thinks my offering price is too low, or doesn’t want to sell for other reasons) that you can see the hierarchy.
Ownership is one person having authority over another, for a given resource. That is, the owner can control the terms in which other people can use the resource. In contrast, the non-owner cannot control the terms in which the owner can use the resource.
“One person having control over another” seems like a pretty straightforward definition of hierarchy, no?
Would you also say that since states can sell land to each other, that states are not hierarchies? Sometimes France owns the Louisiana Territory, sometimes the U.S. does. And this exchange even takes place on a market! So are states really hierarchies?
A having control over whether some transactions with B happen and B having control over whether some transactions with A happens isn’t equivalent to A having control over B.
Its true that the initial allocation of property was accomplished without the consent of the people who would be excluded from it. They now, without being asked, have to abide by the authority of the state, who unilaterally decided to claim this particular piece of ground as their own.
The catch, is this isn’t just how state property works: Its how all property works. My ancestors never agreed that a particular pioneer should own a block of land. They were just walking through the wilderness one day, and ran across guys with fences and guns claiming that pieces of land were “theirs”. There was no consultation, no vote, no consent. Ownership has always, ultimately, been enforced at the point of a gun for those who act in non-compliance.
Well, yeah, total agreement with you here. Even if my ancestors did agree to a certain private property arrangement, that doesn’t mean I did. I don’t care that in the 1920s we agreed that X Corporation should own an entire mountain: I think its bad, I’m against it, and I do not consent.
Why not? If Person A sets the terms in which Person B can use a given resource, then Person A is attempting to control Person B. How is that not as plain a hierarchy as a king saying “you can only eat if you do my bidding”? What even is a hierarchy, if not the position to control the terms in which other people can interact with pieces of the world?
Its true that B can always just leave, and try to find some other place to get what he wants. But you can leave your state too. So unless you want to define all states who don’t have North Korean emigration policies as non-hierarchical, “being able to leave” can’t be the distinction.
And person B can set the terms on which person A gets to control a different resource. If this is a hierarchy, who is above whom?
You seem to be simply ignoring this. First you put it in terms of one person controlling another, then you considered only the resource which belonged to A and not the resource that belonged to B.
Are you saying that A controls B and B controls A? That’s an odd meaning of “control” and equally odd as a description of hierarchy.
The question you seem to be interested in, is what about among the property owners? Where is the hierarchy there? Like I said earlier, as long as there is mutual cooperation between the groups, then the hierarchy is invisible. If all parties are getting along and in agreement, then hierarchy is unnecessary. Its what happens when there are irreconcilable disputes (i.e., no one agrees to arbitration) that the hierarchy manifests itself.
(This applies to states too. If everyone is willing to follow the law anyway, regardless of state enforcement, then the enforcement arm of the state appears invisible. This appearance is deceiving.)
Your same line of questioning can be applied to states. Is there really a hierarchy between the US, Korea, Yemen, ect? As long as they are in cooperation, they superficially look like equal players in a field. Its when they stop cooperating, which manifests itself in war, then one party “attempts to control another” quite explicitly, in this hierarchy dispute.
For a disputed resource, A attempts to control B, and B attempts to control A, and the winner (the person who actually controls the other successfully) becomes the top of the hierarchy.
Most often, we’re talking about a potential trade of money for goods/services. Could also be a barter of goods/services for goods/services. Suppose A has an apple and B has a dollar. A would like B’s dollar and B would like A’s apple. If they can come to an agreement, they trade. If A won’t give up the apple for less than $0.75, but B won’t give up more than $0.70 for the apple, then they don’t trade. The apple and the dollar are both disputed resources. Each of A and B is able to “control” the other, in that they can prevent the other from acquiring their property in the absence of a mutually-agreed trade.
Who “actually controls” the other in the case that they trade? Who “actually controls” the other in the case that they don’t trade?
Yes, they would each be the head of their hierarchy in their respective property domain, assuming its a stateless system.
If having multiple hierarchies seems like a weird/silly way of framing it, consider this: Its also how states work. The members of the US government are at the top of the hierarchy within the United States, and the members of the Mexican government are at the top of the hierarchy within Mexico. If a congressman from the US crosses the Mexico border, he will find that he is no longer at the top of the hierarchy. Having multiple hierarchies spread across different geographic areas is the normal way hierarchies work.
Agreeing not to trade is still cooperation. As long as people are in mutual agreement, then the hierarchy isn’t visible. It’s like agreeing to follow the law of a state: no police are needed.
My take, is that due to scarce resources and conflicting personal goals, complete mutual agreement isn’t possible with a handful of humans in a room, let alone with all of humanity. Until we have enough resources for everyone to fulfill all of their possible desires, irreconcilable conflicts (and therefore, a resulting hierarchy) is inevitable.
Multiple hierarchies seems like a silly way to frame it, not because it seems impossible to have multiple hierarchies, but because it’s far less sensible to try to impose weird one-off ‘hierarchies’ when we have a perfectly good concept that already describes it – rights.
Even the lowliest of the low, possessing property rights in their two mites, are considered to be atop the hierarchy of the whole world ‘in the domain respective to those two mites’. But it doesn’t stop here. It extends to all other personal rights. The lowliest of the low has a right to a jury trial? You’re atop the entire state in a hierarchy ‘in the domain respective to the method by which a criminal conviction may be obtained’. The most oppressed of the oppressed has a right to not be discriminated against in the public market? You’re atop all businesses in a hierarchy…
Rather than having these extremely abstruse hierarchies, which seem entirely disconnected from any reason why anyone talks about hierarchies in the first place, it’s vastly more simple and sensible to use the standard verbiage of rights.
Here also, it seems vastly more simple to say that irreconcilable conflicts result in winners and losers in particular conflicts. That doesn’t really imply a ‘hierarchy’ in any meaningful sense of the world (which I would at least ascribe some persistence to). It just implies conflict and result.
It’s a good observation. I’m okay with there not being any real difference between a “hierarchy” and a “right”. The “hierarchy” is often just the “right” being manifested. (A king professing the “right to rule” for instance).
The analysis of hierarchies, and rights, only gets strange when we have to think about ancap-world. In our world, where states are at the top of basically every hierarchy and have the legal right to make the law of the land, the setup is pretty clear. My hope is that ancaps will understand that by taking away the state, you don’t make the idea of the “highest sovereign” go away, you just change who that person is. The rights, and the resulting hierarchy just becomes decentralized.
Although I can’t speak for them, I would say the left-anarchist objection to the hierarchy (or, as you might say, the forceful resolution of human conflict) is the relationship of one human exerting dominance over the other. Whether this relationship is a one-off thing, or persistent, doesn’t make that much of a difference to them (I can imagine the argument, “it’s wrong to kidnap people, even just once, and even if they could kidnap you back at a later date”).
Since property ownership has a good level of persistence, would you agree it qualifies as a hierarchy?
In our world, where states are at the top of basically every hierarchy
I was beginning to wonder whether you believed there existed “omni-sovereigns”, when you began to suggest large numbers of hierarchies each with their own top…
My hope is that ancaps will understand that by taking away the state, you don’t make the idea of the “highest sovereign” go away, you just change who that person is. The rights, and the resulting hierarchy just becomes decentralized.
Well… there you go. I think you’ve suggested one of the ancaps’ ways out of that problem, possibly without realizing it. The ancaps agree that, for any domain, there will exist at least one hierarchy in your sense of the term, and there would exist some entity at its top. The key is that there would likely be more than one, because no one entity will get to strongarm all of the rest. There will likely be no “highest sovereign”. You say “the resulting hierarchy just becomes decentralized”; ancaps say “yes; that’s why we’ll be better off”.
The ancoms probably say that, too. (They might further insist that there would be no hierarchies, but I don’t know.)
I would say the left-anarchist objection to hierarchy is the relationship of one human exerting forceful dominance over the other. Whether this relationship is a one-off thing, or persistent, doesn’t make that much of a difference (I can imagine the argument, “it’s wrong to kidnap people, even just once, and even if you could kidnap them back at a later date”).
Whereas there are ancaps who would say “it’s wrong to kidnap people, even if they could be freed later, because their individual agency has been limited by force for that interval” but “in some sense, ‘wrong’ has little to do with it, since we recognize that it might happen anyway, and so we can expect rights enforcement agencies to appear in order to address this possibility”.
Side note: when you say “forceful dominance”, do you mean just threat of physical violence, or are you also including, say, a supplier threatening to embargo whatever they’re supplying (particularly high-value things like food or lifesaving drugs)?
Since property ownership has a good level of persistence, would you agree it qualifies as a hierarchy?
I suppose you could look at it that way. Although, again, it would be a very dispersed one. Everyone owns some property. In the limit, they own their bodies and brains, which turn out to be among the most valuable things in the observable universe.
I have hazy versus clear-and-complete thoughts concerning what all I think is buried in the term ‘hierarchy’. I think some sense of persistence is necessary, but not sufficient, and I don’t think property rights have the extra stuff that gets you to sufficiency. Traditional examples of hierarchy are things like the king/subjects, boss/employee, parent/child, teacher/student, commander/soldier. These are persistent relationships that have more content than just a negative power. Property rights, like a right to a jury trial are more like a negative power. “You can’t just take my property.” “You can’t just convict me of a crime without the verdict of a jury of my peers.” It’s a one-off that is attached to a specific thing that primarily affects the person who possesses the right. The canonical examples are all vastly more plenary and allow positive commands. The boss tells the employee, “You’re going to work on X.” The commander tells the soldier, “You’re going to rush this hill.” The parent tells the child, “You’re going to brush your teeth.” There’s a breadth of control to instruct those below to take positive actions that go beyond one particular relation between the two individuals, not simply, “You’re not allowed to do this one particular thing to me.”
In any event, even if I don’t have a clear-and-complete definition, I think most people would agree with the canonical examples and would also agree that things like “property rights” and “right to a jury trial”, if describable at all as a ‘hierarchy’, are extremely non-central examples. Far enough non-central that my intuition is that we shouldn’t use the word for them at all (for all the reasons Scott has given before about the problems with non-central labeling; it just smuggles in too much baggage).
While anarcho-capitalism reduces the geographic scope of the hierarchy to the private property level (which admittedly, are usually smaller than states, although not always), one can imagine an even more dispersed hierarchy than anarcho-capitalism. Below the property level is the personal level, which gives you hierarchical control over only you+things that you are holding.
So for ancap, you can initiate violence over:
you+ things you are physically holding + things you own
And below that, its:
you+ things you are physically holding
This is the smallest level, the most dispersed. With ancap, the hierarchy could span over an area at least the size of small states, but with the tier below, the hierarchy couldn’t spread past someone’s literal arm’s-length.
Threat of physical violence. It’s unavoidable, and no system can overcome it. Property absolutely requires it, if it is to have any meaning at all.
A side note of my own: I don’t think there’s much difference between directly killing someone, and indirectly killing someone by preventing them from accessing things they need to survive. Stabbing someone, destroying a diabetic’s insulin pump, and preventing someone from accessing life-saving medicine, differ only in the number of steps in the process.
If owning only your body is the most dispersed, then how does this imply support for capitalism, which allows ownership of a lot more? It seems like you are willing to sacrifice maximum-dispersal for some other cause?
This is probably because in our system, “property” is just an allocation granted by the state, with the state being the actual source of hierarchical power. Since the authority of property that most people experience has been tempered by state and democratic control, people haven’t developed hierarchical associations with it.
But when we are talking about unimplemented hypothetical systems such as anarcho-capitalism, we can’t rely too heavy on popular connotations of words, since the meaning of “property” for anarcho-capitalists is rather different than its meaning in the U.S. legal system. Ancap “property” is itself non-central to “property” as most people understand it.
My usage of the word “hierarchy” directed towards ancaps is: If that’s what you, in a non-central way, are going to call “property”, then it is hierarchical, in the central-way that people understand a king’s sovereignty to be”
I have a question that’s weighing on my mind.
Why am I the only autistic man who’s upset that feminists (and thus all Good And Decent People) consider autistic men’s participation in polite society to be an unacceptable hardship for women?
I mean, it can’t be because autists are particularly stoical and don’t like to complain, because a quick google search shows that they aren’t and they do. You can find any number of autistic people wailing about how hard it is to be autistic and how little those damn dirty neurotypicals understand or care, and how unfairly slanted society is against autistic people. There’s endless complaints about how autism is seen as a disability instead of as a wonderful, beautiful blessing. But feminists declaring that the sort of things autists will inevitably do (stand a little too close, talk a little too much, not pick up on subtle go-away-the-sight-of-you-makes-me-sick signals, etc, etc) are proof of misogyny? That, apparently, is something that only bothers me.
The only explanation I can think of is that autists are so bad at knowing how they come across to others that they don’t realise that they’re being hated. I mean, autism is totally not a disability, right? So when feminists describe any number of behaviours as “creepy” (and therefore completely unacceptable and in need of being eradicated), they can’t possibly be referring to anything autistic people do, because that would mean that autism had some kind of downsides and it absolutely doesn’t. I am almost cynical enough to believe that explanation, but… what about all the accounts by autists about how much they struggle to act neurotypical? Doesn’t that imply that they know which parts of their behaviour isn’t “normal”? Shouldn’t at least one or two of them read a list of feminist complaints and shoot back with, “hey, fuck you, lady! I’ve worked my ass off to come across as 99% neurotypical – what the hell gives you the right to shame me because I can’t help being 1% autistic?”
Why doesn’t that happen? Why doesn’t that happen even ONCE? Instead, when I try to find anything resembling that sentiment, the closest I found was this guy, who does recognise that there’s a problem between autist rights and feminism – that is, he considers it to be a huge problem that autistic men cause so much unbearable pain to women, HE’S SO SORRY HE’LL DO BETTER OH PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE FORGIVE HIM!!!
I swear it’s driving me crazy. Really, any ideas that might make the whole situation at least make a bit of sense would be very useful to me right now.
You’re not entirely alone. This article in Quillette goes in pretty much the same direction as your complaint, with more focus on campus speech codes and less on personal interactions, but you may still find it helpful:
For a honest inquriy your post has way too much hyperbole and snark from my perspective. So, could you please rephrase that as charitably as possible, without trying to get in any digs at anyone?
I haven’t studied this or anything, but from casual observation I would say awareness of — and thus, compassion for those with — the subtler flavors of autism (in adults, anyway) is far less common than you seem to think. Being autistic, you’re probably more immersed in the “autism is a disorder, and we’re dealing with it the best we can so please, take it easy on us” talk than the average person, including the average woman.
I’m pretty sure that’s been the subconcious reason so many of us are so suspicious of it. But you can’t go around saying “I’m one of those weird people everyone dislikes, and I think the way I’m being treated is unacceptable!” and expect anyone who wasn’t already 85% on your side to listen. Your only chance is to go a little more meta with it, finding all the other valid reasons to be opposed to it and be loud about those – which doesn’t make those criticisms any less valid, nor does it mean they woudn’t be valid justifications on their own, just that we’re human beings and we’re built to play these games.
I know little about autism (or 21st century feminism for the matter) but I thought that having a hard time perceiving social cues and thus “participation in polite society” being extremely difficult was the definition of autism.
What am I missing?
That (at least some) feminists take insufficient concern for females social needs by men (ie, manspreading, mansplaining, male gaze, creeping, not taking (possibly implied) no for an answer, etc.) a reason to write scathing indictments of men on-line, and apparently some people take such things seriously to heart.
For context, search the SSC archives for the “Things which I will regret writing” tag
You are not the only one. I have an autistic male cousin who’s in college right now, and he’s taken notice of the same thing you have and has grown concerned, though probably not to the same level as you, at least based on your writing. And as someone who’s not autistic myself, I’ve taken notice of it as well and have also grown concerned.
I think the reason you perceive that you’re the only one might have more to do with how modern feminism operates in general, rather than with autistic people or autism in particular. That is, much of modern feminism is involved in shutting down debate by harming people who present some opposition to their rhetoric and metaphorically holding up the scalps of such people as examples of what could happen to others. So even if there are a lot of people opposed to their rhetoric, such people end up not speaking out and thus creating the illusion of a lack of opposition. I.e. it’s a common knowledge problem.
That said, my perception of autistic people is that they tend to be less social, so it also may be harder for them to coordinate an opposition than non-autistic people, which exacerbates the common knowledge problem.
I’d take it a step further and suggest that modern feminists are primarily invested in wielding soft power, which is largely opaque to people on the spectrum.
Some combination of the following:
– Autists aren’t the most outspoken and loud of people, so you’re not going to hear very much in the first place.
– Autists grow up to become very, very well-aware what happens to people with unpopular opinions, and learn to know to keep those to themselves as well.
– Autists aren’t very sympathetic victims; most of us are male and not particularly cute and telling people they’re hurting you when you’re not angel-faced is a fool’s errand.
– Autists don’t exactly have note swapping gatherings, so you’re even less likely to hear about this.
– I have no data on this, but plenty autists are going to be sympathetic or ambivalent about feminism that they spend their time about different things entirely.
History question: why didn’t Native Americans develop any kind of metalworking? I’ve read what Jared Diamond and VD Hanson have to say on the matter, but I don’t really buy either. The Incas, Mayans, Aztecs etc. developed fairly sophisticated societies in a variety of ways–they all had very large building projects, the Mayans were excellent astronomers, they all had specialized artisans–but they were using things like wooden-paddle “swords” with embedded obsidian flakes on the eve of the Spanish conquests. The Americas are not poor in metals. And metalworking in the old world goes back a loooooong way; there’s a transitional period known as the “chalcolithic” where people started making copper copies of stone tools, and it predates written history.
Even more oddly, I just read in a military history that bows and arrows didn’t appear in Central America until c. 1000 AD. I don’t think you can blame all this on their not having large livestock.
I’m not sure if you’re talking about metalworking to a more significant extent, but there’s native copper in Michigan (i.e., free metal not requiring smelting). There’s evidence of mining going back several thousand years, as well as tools and trading in the metal.
IIRC, it waxed and waned for reasons I don’t know (and I don’t know if anyone knows), but there was at least some metalworking prior to European contact.
Even in late Rome the mob cut up Hypatia with sharpened seashells, because that’s what they had for cheap pocketknives. And the Americas only had what Eurasian tech was useful for arctic hunter-gatherers on the move.
That seashells thing is probably a myth caused by a mistranslation. Ostraca in Greek could mean either seashells or roof-tiles, and it’s more likely that the crowd took tiles from the nearby buildings and pelted her to death with them.
EDIT: Didn’t see that Robert Jones had already made the exact same point.
Wiki tells me ostraca were broken shards from seashells or roof tiles, as convenient. Used for small notes, okay, maybe nowadays students atrocity teachers with broken chunks of smartphones. My point is that these little scrapers were the poor man’s pocketknife even in fairly advanced Iron Age cities.
I’m not sure this requires explanation. Humans existed for countless millennia without developing metalworking.
Engleberg may have been using synecdoche, but in case anyone is confused, Hypatia was murdered in Alexandria in 415. This article suggests that “oyster shells” is a mistranslation, and she was in fact murdered with roof tiles.
https://history.stackexchange.com/a/40383/24029 and https://history.stackexchange.com/a/2208/24029 threads from History SE tries to give some other explanations. Quoting the part of RI Swamp Yankee’s answer about metalworking:
> the lack of easily exploited tin deposits in the Americas means that a bronze age never took off. There was a copper-working culture surrounding the Great Lakes, and it pre-dated the chalcolithic in the old world by a few thousand years, but this lasted only as long as the accessible copper ore did.
I could buy a lack of tin in one region, but I find it hard to believe that it’s rare across Mexico, Central America, and Peru, where civilization really took off otherwise. Diamond’s explanation that the material conditions didn’t allow the easy formation of large agricultural societies, but Mesoamerica had a bunch of large agricultural societies, at least as sophisticated as Sumer in most respects, going back something like two millennia before Columbus. We’re talking about societies with a very large number of people, more than sufficient to support specialists. The Olmecs wound up compensating for their lack of metal by making elaborately quilted armor out of cotton (to say nothing of the giant sculptures, etc). And the Olmecs were the first big Mesoamerican civ, roughly contemporary with Rome.
Speaking of Sumer, it also had no metal. Or stone. Or even wood. They still managed to trade for all of them with places some distance away. If it comes to that, tin wasn’t exactly common in the Old World either; it was by far the limiting factor in the development of bronze working.
EDIT: Hanson specifically says in a book (can’t recall which, I read it some time ago) that Mexico had readily available ore deposits. But his alternative explanation, as ever, was “culture,” which is kind of like invoking dark matter.
I agree that hammering native copper, silver, and gold shouldn’t really count in this context.
But you know where else there weren’t any tin deposits? Egypt. Mesopotamia. Sumer. Akkad. Babylonia. Assyria. Persia. Greece. Anatolia, except maybe some remote mountains. Pretty much the entire Fertile Crescent, the so-called “cradle of civilizations”.
Bronze isn’t the cause of Bronze-age civilization, it’s the result. If you have a large stable civilization with a strong central government and a good deal of surplus wealth and the ability to maintain trade networks across thousands of kilometers, then you have the logistical ability to manufacture bronze and it’s probably only a matter of time before some clever coppersmith with time on his hands discovers the merely technical recipe. Without the civilization in place, there’s nobody to whom you could give the recipe that could make any significant use of it.
The Mayans, Aztecs, etc, never operated at that level. Only the Incan Empire could equal the Old World civilizations in terms of e.g. the scope of their trade networks. And the Inca did work bronze, using tin from Bolivia.
Ah. I didn’t know about Inca bronze. Thank you. Do you happen to know why they persisted in using atlatls rather than bows for so long? Maybe compound bows wouldn’t have worked without access to horn, but one man can carry a lot more arrows than atlatl darts.
My personal guess would be that it’s a lot easier to train someone to use an atlatl effectively than a bow, which means that using the former allows you to put more people with missile weapons on the field. An individual soldier can carry a lot more arrows than atlatl darts, but 10 soldiers with atlatls can carry more darts between them than 1 archer can carry arrows.
In Europe ancient armies did use javelins with attached leather throwing straps that functioned similarly to the atlatl as late as the Roman period. So perhaps the Old and New worlds aren’t so different on this point as it might first seem.
Bows have a longer range, but an arrow will do less damage than a javelin or an atlatl dart, so the superiority of the bow may be less evident in practice than in theory.
The Phoenix and the Mirror by Avram Davidson is about Vergil (the medieval version who was a magician as well as a poet) being coerced into making a mirror out of materials which had never been used before. This wasn’t easy, since bronze was generally recycled.
My impression is that metal-working is a non-trivial technological leap and driven more by warfare, which Native Americans had on a lower scale due to being in a much more fertile area by tech as well as geography. That is, smelting is not obviously useful if you already have tools to build pyramids and architecture that is arguably superior to that of Europe.
Almost all metal exists naturally in ore form and smelting requires quite a bit of heat. As others mentioned, while bronze beats stone (and probably obsidian), it requires tin, which there were few deposits of. It’s also not obvious that the bluish copper deposits can be made into a metal, and copper itself is not really great for war. And yet the incas did smelt copper and silver for prettiness purposes.
Can you think of pre-industrial uses of metal that were not for warfare, decoration, or tools? To me there was just no need for these metals and therefore no technological advancements made to pursue them.
“Tools” is an extraordinarily broad and useful category.
Bronze was used in South America (since there actually are useful ores there). It took long enough to spread to Mesoamerica that the Spanish showed up before widespread adoption. Stone was still extensively used because bronze was hideously expensive – we underestimate how rare bronze actually was in the bronze age, even in Eurasia. Most pre-Assyrian armies still extensively used stone weapons, for example; bronze weapons and armor were for the elite.
Yea I think its basically this. People seem to misunderstand the “ages”. You enter the copper age/bronze age/iron age not because you invent that metal, you invent it and mass produce it because you got to that level of development.
Now, say there was no tin in all of the Americas, could the lack of bronze prevented development of iron? Possibly. But we don’t have such a situation, because bronze was developed in the Americas, just later than in Eurasia and it also did seem to proliferate more slowly.
That’s not what Sid Meier taught me.
It’s easy for moderns to miss the picture, but this is a super-warrior, and the description of his arms and armor is intended to make it clear: this is the early Iron Age version of a B-1 bomber.
Yes, good catch.
In more modern terms, David got a free crit that bypassed the super-warrior’s armor because he prayed for one. 😛
I never quite really understood why that the outcome of that champion conflict was supposed to be a supernatural miracle.
Killing game with a sling at range is tech that is tens of thousands of years older than hammered bronze. Probably a fairly significant percentage of all the young men on the planet who were around David’s age could have made that shot, as long as they don’t get distracted by mistakenly thinking a roaring warrior wearing a nation’s ransom in bronze is really any different from a bird sitting in in a tree, for the purpose of the weapon that David had in his hand, that he has likely been practicing with since he could walk.
I always thought the narrative was that David was at fairly close range, but Goliath, in his arrogance, allowed him to take the shot with the sling, rather than crushing him immediately.
The type of game you kill with a sling is generally small and unarmored, yes? All the other warriors were frightened by Goliath and therefore assumed he couldn’t be defeated by such simple means – but David’s faith in God allowed him to attempt what others considered foolhardy.
Is this not a reasonable interpretation?
If the warrior is worth his armor, he is aware that the slinger aims to peg him and is either attacking, dodging, or blocking. It’s only to modern ears unaccustomed to the sling being a weapon that it sounds literally miraculous, but I’d still have put money on the giant.
The text seems somewhat ambiguous as to whether Goliath fell to divine stone guidance or hubris, though David gives credit to God. I don’t think it’s by any means proof of a God, but back then any military victory was seen as evidence of being divinely favored.
As I understand the passage the point is not that it’s a miracle the point is that you have an entire army and their divinely anointed king, promised success by God, sniveling and cowering at the sight of their enemies. A young man, bringing his brothers there lunch, walks across the battlefield and says hang on do we believe in God or not?
As David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
One loose interpretation is that there is a large difference between armies battling and one on one combat. A massive human being, say the size of Andre the Giant (without the back problems) would have been an advantage in the former but virtually unbeatable in close combat in the latter. His size and strength combination would have given him the ability to have greater reach with heavier weapons and greater armor in terms of coverage and thickness. The Philistines would have been happy to turn any battle into one on one combat, and opposing generals after seeing Goliath may have frequently sent out not their best fighter to be slaughtered but one of far lesser value. Goliath then would have been accustomed to at least occasionally acting as a de facto executioner and would not have been surprised, nor expecting real resistance from an unarmed teenager who was stuck out there with him.
I’m not sure that’s true. The larger man needs to cover a larger area with armor. If you keep body proportions and the thickness of the armor fixed weight will go up with the square of height, as will muscle strength, since it depends on cross sectional area of the muscle. So no reason to think his armor will be thicker. Shield weight goes up as the square (thickness held constant), so does strength, so acceleration stays the same, but the larger man has to move his shield farther to cover himself.
As organisms increase in size there are both benefits and costs, the latter due most obviously to mass increasing as the cube and strength as the square. The giant is going to have a harder time moving his own body than a smaller man would.
The only combat form I know a lot about is SCA combat. I think there is some correlation between size and success, but not a very strong correlation.
It wasn’t supernatural; it was an improbable first shot that David credited God for. He had to hit Goliath in the face due to his helmet and mail (or scale) coat. With a different man-sized target like a Syrian brown bear, a good slinger might have been able to kill with a bullet anywhere in the head or torso.
If you don’t believe the Bible is inspired, it could still be factually true; just ignore the interpretation of the improbable first shot. (As to Goliath’s height, some manuscripts have “four cubits and a span”, approximately 6’4″.)
@ David Friedman
My (admittedly thin) understanding of armor is that the important considerations are the force of the weapon it has to deflect and the vulnerability of the area it covers. From a force perspective a giant would already have an advantage in that armor that would turn a slice or a thrust of an average weapon in the hands of an average strength warrior would be insufficient vs a strong enough man.
Your description of thickness of armor vs surface area vs strength sounds correct if we assume that the giant has to be armored in the same way and percentage of his body as his opponent. An optimally armored giant, particularly the only known giant, would not have to be as concerned about all angles though. The armor of an average sized man would have be able to protect against blows that came from men shorter, the same height and taller, while a giant would only have to be concerned with blows coming from those shorter. His armor then should be thicker in optimal places.
As a final piece of evidence I present the fact that all modern forms of competitive combat, wrestling (ie not the Andre the Giant type), boxing and MMA have weight divisions based on the assumption that the smaller competitors would be generally trounced by larger ones of similar skill levels.
There’s a big difference between armed and unarmed combat w.r.t. size and weight. I’ve studied Olympic fencing and kenjutsu, and in both, reach is an advantage but overall size isn’t so much — fencing doesn’t have weight classes, and while top women are at a disadvantage compared to top men, I’d estimate it’s less than an SD’s worth (the best woman in a tournament of a hundred people is usually somewhere in the top 10 competitors overall). World champions are usually tallish but not as tall as basketball players, and kinda wiry. Contrast the grappling arts, which I’ve also studied, and where a competitor twenty pounds heavier will win a match against an opponent of equal skill and fitness nine times out of ten.
These sorts of matches are necessarily kinda artificial, but the results are consistent with what we see in tameshigiri: it doesn’t take that much effort to make a cut, and putting too much muscle behind a stroke tends to diminish rather than increase its cutting ability after a certain point for complicated biomechanical reasons.
On the other hand these are unarmored disciplines, and armor probably complicates the picture somewhat, but I’d expect endurance rather than size or strength to be the biggest limiting factor.
On the contrary, too much practice fighting a bunch of people would cause him to learn different moves than he would need to use to only fight one.
The first statement I agree with, but I question the value of using fencing (I know nothing about kenjutsu) to illuminate the situation. Fencing has ritualized away many advantages of strength* with strict limits on not only weapon types, but weapon weights and scoring is generally binary with no added benefit for the power of the hit. In combat a single blow can be decisive, but to allow for such a victory with weapons would generate much higher risk to the participants, and significant injury and death would be common. I might even go so far as to say that the rules of fencing highlight how important strength is to armed combat in that you need an extremely tight set of rules to remove it’s impact from competition.
*This is not meant as a disparagement of fencers or fencing, simply an observation on the rules.
I have the general impression that in boxing, it’s considerably more likely for someone to go up in weight class than it is in MMA and grappling. In the latter, weight class changes are almost always someone going down in weight, because they’ve decided they’re not big enough and sucking up the increased weight cut is worth it.
On the other hand, there’s more weight classes in boxing. That might be a counterexample, or it might not be, depending on why there’s more weight classes.
From personal experience, I don’t know anything about striking, but on the ground, weight really makes a difference.
Since I know at least that kenjutsu uses very different weapons than western fencing, does anybody know if it has evolved in the direction of reducing the importance of strength to the same degree?
Like I said, it doesn’t take much strength to cut a guy. You should be letting the weapon do most of the work; putting muscle behind a cut tends to move the point of greatest extension forward in its arc, which reduces the shearing motion that’s actually responsible for the cut. It can also turn the blade and cause it to stall, though proper grip can mitigate this to some extent. Strength and size are mainly helpful in that they allow you to wield larger and heavier weapons, which have better reach and are harder to parry. They don’t do significantly more damage.
Note that kenjutsu isn’t the same thing as kendo; the two bear about the same relationship to each other as classical fencing does to Olympic.
Interesting to convert those figures to more familiar units. A shekel is variously estimated at eight to sixteen grams. If we take the lowest figure, his armor weighed 40 kg, his spear head weighed about five kg. Not impossible for a very large and strong man, but the spear head is definitely pushing it.
I’m too lazy to go and flip through my Hebrew books, but maybe “spear” is an approximate translation, and it was some other sort of pole arm? On the other hand, quick googling suggests that halberd heads were smaller than that.
Maybe the Israelites were reporting Philestine propaganda.
Or maybe that was a ceremonial spear head used to intimidate the enemy, and he’d actually fight with a smaller one?
Well, given that he’s reported as 9 feet 9 inches tall (with the most common cubit conversion of 18 inches)… His armor weighs a bit more than medieval mail and breastplate.
I do wonder what sort of fighting style this is, since he has a heavy iron-headed spear as well as a javelin, a sword, and a shield
I happened to have in the closet a Japanese spear, I assume a form of Yari, which always struck me as having a very much too heavy head. So I weighed the head–about 3 1/2 lbs. It feels clumsy to me but I could fight with it, assuming I had the relevant training, and I’ve known men considerably larger and stronger than I am.
So I can believe that a very large and strong man could fight with a spear that had a 5 kg head, although I doubt I could.
On the other hand, I don’t believe in a man 9′ 9″ tall, so am inclined to read all the figures as exaggerated for effect.
This is what would be generally expected for small height differences, for a large height difference even a weak linear relationship between height (and the argument for Andre would be his combined height and strength, he was 7’4 520 lbs and immensely strong, not just 7’4 and 300 lbs) and success would be significant and if it scaled exponentially it would be nearly insurmountable.
This is true in evolutionary terms where there are no rules, but combat like this would typically be rules based and would preclude some strategies (such as exploiting the likely lesser endurance a giant would have).
I was 5′ 3 1/2″ and didn’t find that a significant disadvantage against opponents who were over six feet. That’s close to the difference between a six foot individual and Andre.
Of course, it might have been different if our rules had permitted grappling.
I broke out in maniacal laughter during reading the David & Goliath discussion thread. It wasn’t any one particularly funny bit, but the cumulative effect of so many people with different sets of expertise, including in modern martial arts and ancient weaponry, analyzing the story so seriously. I’m still waiting for an expert of biblical hebrew to speak up though.
PS. the laughter came before I read “I happened to have in the closet a Japanese spear … I weighed the head–about 3 1/2 lbs”
Not an expert – just looking up the word and then looking in a lexicon. The word is translated as “spear” but some of the uses have the connotation of some kind of royal sign of office. So maybe it is a special big spear for intimidating people, then you put it away and use your normal spear. Who knows.
SSC is basically Reddit except without all the people whose comments you don’t want to read anyway.
The impression that I have is that the bow and arrow was invented approximately once in human history, most likely somewhere in Eurasia around 10,000 years ago. This meant that Native Americans didn’t get the bow until it managed to spread through cultural diffusion all the way through Siberia, across the Bering Straight, and South from the Arctic, not even reaching the American Midwest until the middle of the first millennium AD. Geographical barriers like the Southwestern deserts and the jungles of Central America slowed its spread even further beyond that, to the point that the Mesoamerican and Andean civilizations had only been using bows and arrows for a few centuries when the Conquistadors showed up.
So it seems that the bow and arrow was actually a very difficult invention to come up with, and the Native Americans just happened to be separated from whoever did think of it by oceans and a vast expanse of frozen wasteland.
That the bow was invented only once is surprising, but at least it’s believable that we found out about it. I’ve been in lots of museums showing prehistoric artifacts, and there’s a lot of arrowheads out there. I’ve just been to a very lousy museum (the Savaria Museum in Szombathely), which, despite sitting over the ruins of a city that was pretty important in ancient roman colonial times, had exactly one interesting object exhibited in the whole building (a 19th century marine chronometer). Even this museum had a decent collection of metalic arrowheads from prehistoric times. (If you visit Szombathely and want to see artifacts from ancient roman times, visit the Iseum instead.) Apparently the spreading of bows and arrows is very easy to track, because arrowheads are among the most plentiful prehistoric artifacts archaelogy finds.
It’s also theorized that this is why nobody in America had native musical string instruments before the arrival of the Europeans — the first string instruments to develop would have been musical bows, which then slowly evolved into harps, and eventually into lutes and zithers — a series of invention and innovation that were late enough that they never had time to reach the Americas through Asia.
All the native instruments in Americas are flutes, percussions, and the occasional horn/conch.
Native Australians, having separated from the “core” of Eurasia even earlier, had an even more primitive assortment of native instruments, lacking flutes and even drums, having only clapsticks and didgeridoos (the latter being in the categories of horns, but archeological evidence is that they have had those for less than a thousand years).
Wow. Thank you for sharing this tidbit.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to summarize a famous written work in 100 words or less.
Here is The Hobbit in 99 words:
Anyone want to take a stab at the Bible? Or Mein Kampf?
I’ll have a go at Crime and Punishment.
Rodya Raskolnikov is a young intellectual student of the law who lives out a squalid, brooding existence in an attic. In the grip of a dissociative fugue, he carries out a gruesome double-murder. Rodya’s prior motives and post-hoc rationalizations for the murders swirl around him, at once resulting from and competing with his ego. During the police investigation, an innocent bystander confesses to Rodya’s crime, but the lead investigator continues to subtly pursue and psychologically examine Rodya. After a tormented confession of guilt to his deeply religious lover Sonia, Rodya seeks absolution and turns himself in.
Jeez, talk about selling a book short.
I’ll take a shot at the Torah, but you’d probably need a completely different approach to cover the entire Tanakh (or worse, the entire Christian Bible).
Notable things I had to cut for space: Isaac, Joseph, Aaron, the Golden Calf, pretty much the entire book of Leviticus, and why Moses didn’t live to enter it.
Nice. You’d have to squeeze that to 20-25 words to fit the entire protestant version of the Bible into 100 words.
Squeezing any book-length work into 100 words requires a scythe and a machine gun.
The Tanakh is 24 books long, so you’d need to average 4 words per book. Something like “Genesis: God creates world. Exodus: Jews leave Egypt.” etc. etc.
“That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah, The rest is commentary. Go forth and study.”
(supposedly said by Rabbi Hillel while standing on one leg)
I think my version is short enough that you could still say it while standing on one foot, but yes, this is the correct answer.
… and Noah.
Eye of the World, book 1 of the Wheel of Time. Had to leave out a lot of characters and events. Comes in at 99 words. Could probably trim it a bit to drop mentions of Egwene, Nynaeve, Lan and Thom.
That summary makes me wonder what happened to Moiraine.
2/10, needs more references to smoothing skirts and folding arms under bosoms.
No braid-tugging in Eye of the World? Maybe that begins later, around the time they spend 3-4 books faffing about around Ebou Dar.
No, actually, there’s more in EOTW than in later books now I think of it.
tugs braid in frustration
I think this can be trimmed a lot.
For example: After a Trolloc attack farmboys Rand, Mat and Perrin flee their village. Guided by the sorceress Moiraine, they race the Dark One’s minions to the artifact “The Eye of the World”. Rand is revealed as the reborn chosen one and uses new-found magical power to slay the evil minions.
But I would rather add backstory than side characters. Though I’m not sure how much of the backstory is revealed in the very first book.
I can summarize a bunch of movies. Favorites include:
LOLITA: Man encourages step-daughter to take chances.
RED DAWN: Despite shock-and-awe tactics, a superior occupying force is no match for a tenacious sect of terrorist insurgents.
SLEEPY HOLLOW: Veteran harassed by neighbors.
TAXI DRIVER: Modern dating proves challenging for working class man.
SLEEPY HOLLOW: Veteran harassed by neighbors.
BEOWULF: Neighbor escalates noise complaint.
THE ODYSSEY: Man is too arrogant and sexy to get home to his wife at a reasonable time.
STAR WARS: A young farmer teams up with a smuggler, an exiled royal, and a religious militant to blow up a military base.
FINDING NEMO: PTSD sufferer teams up with mentally disabled woman after his only son is kidnapped.
THE HUNGER GAMES: Group of teenagers chosen to compete in prestigious televised competition, fabulous prizes to be won.
Reminds me of this classic (TV Guide):
THE WIZARD OF OZ: Transported to a magical world, a young girl kills the first person she meets, then teams up with three strangers to kill again.
GUR NSEVPNA DHRRA (ROT13)
Blaming foreign troops for the death of her cleric brother, a woman leads her lover in a vehicle bombing.
Taking a crack at The Hobbit again:
THE HOBBIT: Ne’er do well vagrant cons respectable citizen into life of crime as part of gang pursuing vendetta, predictable carnage ensues 🙂
THE HOBBIT: Gang of treasure-hunters cause death of rare animal.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: Short guy destroys priceless historical artefact.
@Matt M commented in a previous thread
and that question has really seized my imagination, as I pass by a lot of tents in my daily commute, and there’s been more every month for years now.
If true, why does Texas have less tent cities than California?
The obvious answer is “Texas has a lower cost of living”, but shouldn’t higher wages in California offset that, at least by a “trickle down” effect?
That they don’t has made me question my knee-jerk assumption that anything else on a ballot is less important than raising the minimum wage, and that Dixieland must be worse in every way (except barbeque and music).
So SSC, please tell me, why doesTexas has less tent cities than here?
Tent cities aren’t mainly useful as a living space. They’re an activist pressure tactic. More of the right kind of activists in California.
Can you say more about this? Tent cities seem useful as a living space if you’re homeless, and it’s hard to imagine activists living there if they have other options.
The activists don’t live in them, they organize them. They get a tent city set up in some (preferably prominent) location, then they get their friends in the press to film it to “highlight the plight of the homeless”. If the city eventually takes it down, they use that footage as well.
Do you have a citation for this? There are certainly activists involved here, doing things like asking the city to set aside land, but in my limited experience the tents are very much occupied by genuine homeless people (who tend to be much more right-wing than you might expect, on every issue other than “policies directly affecting homeless people”).
I don’t think this is accurate. There are tent cities built for various activist pressure plays in California, but there are a lot more tent cities being used as living space for the homeless. You can tell which is which because the former are in obtrusive areas and the latter are in unobtrusive ones, or in areas which are attractive as living space for other reasons (e.g. under overpasses, where it doesn’t rain). The incentives involved should be obvious.
Agreed. We have some activists here in Budapest that protest against the construction works changing the City Park to worse than it used to be. The goal itself is nice, but they protest by leaving tents and banners in highly visible places in the City Park for months, and they don’t even bother sleeping in them most of the nights, even in pleasant weather. There are also a few tents inhabited by homeless in the Park, but they’re in more hidden places.
RANT WARNING, skip the rest of the post. I’ve seen homeless tents in various other places of the city too. They are always in unobtrusive places. They’re often surrounded by extra objects that the people living their use, such as large pieces of cardboard to protect more against the weather than the old tent, or clothes drying in the sun. During the few months when a lot of fresh migrants were camping in the large Baross tér underpass in tents (the underpass is only partly covered from above), the underpass was cleaner than ever. The migrants cleaned the garbage from the underpass (everyone’s, not only theirs), and all other distracting people moved away, such as the beggars that wouldn’t leave you, the loudly singing group of religious activists, and the attractive girls who try to convince people to donate to Unicef to help the starving children in Africa by filling a bank transaction form with all your personal data right there in the underpass, rather than doing the same from your home through your internet bank access (they admitted they get a commission fee). The underpass was more pleasant as ever during those month, if you don’t count the fact that it was the only time I saw policemen with automatic weapons in person. I wish the Nyugati tér underpass would get such inhabitants.
Also agreed. I’ve biked past or flown over quite a few tent cities in Los Angeles, all of which appear to have been set up for inconspicuous functionality.
Right. The difference between genuine homeless encampments (which have existed approximately forever, see “hobo jungle”) and Occupy camps is pretty obvious.
And the genuine encampments provided some amount of discipline, because they were obvious high-value targets if the residents caused trouble for local residents.
Are there big cities with no homeless sleeping in the streets or tolerated encampments? We have some here in caring sharing Toronto the Good.
No, but not for the lack of trying. Some district governments in Budapest have strong reactions against homeless on the streets for NIMBY reasons. They tried not only the usual positive measures (i.e. encouraging the homeless to live in the terrible homeless shelters), but also negative ones. Most notably they attached an armrest to the middle of outdoor benches so that people can only sit on them, not lie down. They also tried to have the police enforce local laws that forbid sleeping in public places, but that never sticks, because there’s no way to collect fines from the homeless, and no way to coerce them to leave permanently.
New York has this sort of thing all over the place. All the benches in the subway are divided. Standpipes have spiked ironwork on top.
NYC has gotten significantly worse in the past few years. No tents but you do see people sleeping on the streets, in subway stations, and on the subway every day.
Before our current, terrible mayor it was much much less common. (Three mayors ago it was far more common than it is even today, but that was decades ago.)
Notably NYC is legally required to provide shelter spots for everyone that needs one. The people on the street want to be there. I don’t think we should let them.
My annoyance at the current situation notwithstanding from what I’m reading here it is nowhere near as bad as in California.
My gut instinct is “No one just chooses to live in a tent if they have other options”, but I can’t be sure, simply because, while they were a very few tents (that were barely visible) near the creek by the dump before 2011, it was after the “Occupy” protests at Justin Herman Plaza were cleared out in 2011 that tent encampments really started showing up in great numbers
Living in a tent is presumably better than living on the street without a tent.
As dick mentions below, it seems that in the past, if you tried to pitch a tent and camp on public property, the police would clear you out by force. But now, a lot of prominent cities (mostly on the west coast) have made it clear that they won’t clear you out by force. Hence, more tents.
Texas has a much nastier climate– hot summers, mostly. Real winters in some parts of the state. The occasional hurricanes are probably less relevant.
Google brings up multiple results for tent cities/encampments in Fresno California which had 30 straight days of triple digit temperatures this year. I don’t know how to compare numbers of tent cities in the inhospitable areas of CA to TX but I wouldn’t drop to the climate default.
You may not be giving humidity enough credit. I’d rather be in triple digits on the coast with 20% humidity than 85 degree weather with 80% humidity. Also, the winters in Texas are a little more extreme as well.
Texas is large and has a varied climate. As does California.
True. But the most relevant comparison here is probably something like “Why are there so many homeless people in SF/LA but not in Dallas/Houston” and in general, stating that the two California climates are much nicer and more hospitable than the two Texas climates is entirely accurate.
San Diego has a fantastic climate as well; it would be interesting to compare it to LA or San Fran.
I think San Diego tends to be a bit more conservative and a bit more Tourist-focused, so I’d assume they try to keep the homeless out of sight.
They uh, do not. I live in Phoenix, we have a few homeless people, a few people begging on corners, but San Diego is basically overrun. The whole downtown smells like piss. They recently had a hepatitis outbreak from all the feces around.
I was just there for Comic Con, and it was clear police had made an effort to clear the worst of it out of the core of the convention area, but go a few blocks and it was open homeless encampments. Saw a homeless woman drop trou and piss in the middle of the street (not even an alley) at 3 in the afternoon. Saw a couple guys smoking crack in the same area, again middle of the day in the open. This was less than a mile from the convention center.
ISTM that there is a lot of variability in the willingness of the local police to run off vagrants and beggars. And if you don’t run them off, you tend to lose common spaces–the formerly-nice park with a playground in it that turns into a homeless camp stops being a place where you take your small children to play.
Texas municipalities generally have far more permissive zoning, planning, and building permit regimes than California municipalities, so housing stocks in Texas should be much better able to keep pace with demand as it’s far easier both to build out and to build up.
Median household income in California in 2015 was $64500. In Texas, it was $55653.
Median house cost in California is about $520,000. In Texas, $177,000.
Based on this, I’d say higher wages make barely a dent in the difference.
(I couldn’t find the numbers for southern CA specifically.)
I think this is 80% of the explanation.
Another bit is that I expect Texas standards for minimal housing are more minimal. The alternative to tent cities isn’t nice studio apartments; it’s flops–two beds per room in a dirty house with holes in the floor. (There was still one flop left in my old neighborhood in RVA; according to the locals, it was super-expensive–a bed was $100 a week when it used to be only $5 a night.) I suspect California’s rules are both stricter and more strictly enforced, so there’s less really low-end housing available.
I believe that southern California has better/milder year-round weather than most parts of Texas, which makes a better destination for vagabonds. And while I’m not personally interested enough to check myself, California may offer better or easier to obtain financial and social assistance than Texas.
It’s also possible that these poeples’ typical encounters are on average better with Californians than they are with Texans (or maybe they just think they are or will be due to state stereotypes).
If I had to guess, there are two factors at work. First, California is well known for dramatic opportunities, and therefore attracts a lot of immigrants from other states and other countries. Far from their support networks, when these people fail, they disproportionately often end up on the street rather than in their relatives’ basements. Second, California government at several levels is particularly dysfunctional which causes, among other things, a severe imbalance between the demand for and supply of housing, particularly in the Bay Area where you live. This means a disproportionate number of people are precariously housed, and when things fall apart, they end up on the street.
A news story today demonstrates one reason for the Bay Area housing situation. Someone is selling an 800 acre plot in Milpitas, originally a family farm, for about fifteen million dollars. That’s about $19,000/acre, or under five thousand for a quarter acre lot, which is a big lot for a house in this area. Checking Zillow, houses in Milpitas typically go for about a million dollars, generally on lots smaller than that.
Alternate angles :
As I have been told by Texans, you are not a real Texan until you have either fallen into a cactus or been attacked by fire ants. The fire ants alone would be enough to break up any tent city.
Texas is also terribly desolate on any scale. The cities are flung out among vast areas, and even within municipalities, there is a ton of open space between sources of food and shelter. It would seem that a tent city would need to have good proximity to sustaining resources, and what I have seen of Texas does not offer that.
There is also the political climate, which is very conservative and extraordinarily gun-totin’.
So, building a tent city in Texas would be like living on the surface of the moon with fire ants, surrounded by armed people who hate your guts.
“living on the surface of the moon with fire ants, surrounded by armed people who hate your guts” sounds like an amazing pulp novel. Or a surrealist film.
Fire ants are predatory, and kill other insects, of particular interest ticks.
So they aren’t all bad. I missed them, living in areas where I actually had to check for ticks after every nature outing.
It doesn’t seem plausible that homelessness could be caused by high housing costs, even though that seems to be conventional wisdom here.
Does California have a different class of homeless than I see locally in Alabama, that could hold down a job that would enable them to afford to pay for more reasonably-priced housing? My impression of most homeless is that most could not afford (nor take care of) housing at any cost.
I get that low-cost housing would help people on the margins, but most ‘on the street’ homeless are well back from the margins, aren’t they? Most would need free housing, and probably medical care and careful vetting so that the free housing isn’t destroyed by the insane and drug-addicted.
From what I understand, official homelessness numbers often include a lot of people who we wouldn’t normally consider homeless. Someone who’s crashing with a relative while looking for a job is officially homeless according to some agency’s definitions:
More affordable housing would, ad arguendo, help some of these definitionally homeless people even if it wouldn’t help the street homeless that much.
I get that low-cost housing would help people on the margins, but most ‘on the street’ homeless are well back from the margins, aren’t they?
I guess I wasn’t explicit enough. I was trying to get at the idea that low-cost housing would assist people who have no better choice than a makeshift tent, which are the folks Plumber brought up originally.
Right. I always distinguish between “temporary” homeless and the “homeless as a lifestyle” folks, and tent cities will be comprised almost exclusively of the latter.
The temporary folks generally aren’t quite as noticeable. They tend to be embarrassed about their condition and stay out of the way generally, flopping on friends couches, living out of their cars, or complying with the discipline of various shelters, halfway houses, turnaround programs, etc.
The people we see and interact with on a day to day basis are mainly lifestyle homeless – who have been homeless for some time, and have no particular plan to ever stop being so.
A few who live in RV’s (like those near the city limits of Palo Alto) do have jobs, but once they get to the tents they’re pretty destitute.
We did have a young guy working as a custodian for a month at my work who had a strong body odor and I was told he was homeless, but I never learned the exact circumstances.
I get that low-cost housing would help people on the margins, but most ‘on the street’ homeless are well back from the margins, aren’t they?
That wasn’t my observation in Richmond a couple decades ago. There were people who were “homeless”, and well back from marginally able to afford an apartment, who could get the $5 together to pay for a bed in a flophouse most days.
But flophouses (along with their even less expensive counterpart, homeless shelters) have rules. There are lights out hours. You can’t bring drugs or alcohol. If you’re loud or violent or otherwise a problem, you will be removed, etc.
A lot of the people on the street are unable or unwilling to comply with those rules. My dad reports that my hometown keeps building more and more homeless shelters, which mostly remain largely empty. People see folks living in tent cities and say “We should build shelters for them” but never consider that any decent/respectable shelter will have to enforce some minimum standards of behavior that most of the tent city people are wholly uninterested in complying with.
My impression (and remember that this is based on very unreliable oral histories, and the one flophouse that was still in my neighborhood) is that flophouses tended to have rules that were much less demanding than the homeless shelters. The rules tended to be in the “don’t make it impossible to rent the other beds” category, not the “appear reasonably functional” category.
Which fits what I’d expect: the profit motive is an awesome thing for inducing adaptation.
George Orwell, in Down and Out in Paris and London, describes two sorts of very low cost housing in London. One was run by the Salvation Army or some similar organization, the other was private. The former offered better conditions, I think at a lower cost, but a lot people preferred the latter because they were left alone.
Those are fair points.
But I suspect that in modern California, even the cheapest flophouses still have some rules. Or at least, they are legally required to. Perhaps there are some that operate illegally and don’t bother following the volumes of regulations they are undoubtedly subject to.
Some would argue that there is a step up issue caused by housing, going from a tent to high priced housing is harder than moving up to crummy, but better housing. That basic level of housing allows you a place to shower and a mailing address making it easier to get a better job and store goods without them being constantly stolen reducing your cost of living. One (of many) issue with being homeless is that you have to hide or carry with you any level of wealth you might acquire.
Texas is, pragmatically, a good place to go looking for a basic job. It is also e.g. the place Phillip Sheridan said he’d rent out so he could live someplace more comfortable like Hell, and if that’s not a pragmatically accurate description of the climate, neither is it one Texas goes out of its way to rebut.
California, while it may not be a terribly good place to find a basic job or to find a home one can afford with only the salary from a basic job, has been selling hopes and dreams of a brighter future since 1848. And they do have a propaganda department for that.
So, at a guess, the kind of people who move to Texas looking for a better future, are economic pragmatists who are likely to actually build themselves a better future and not need to live in a tent city. California, gets the clueless dreamers who aren’t going to make it anywhere. It may also matter that Texas has traditionally treated drug use as a crime and mental illness as a moral failing, whereas California almost seems to make both into civic virtues. Again, that pushes future tent city residents towards the Land of Fruits and Nuts.
This seems fair.
For further context, the quote Plumber attributes to me was made in response to his suggestion that it makes sense for the place where economic opportunity is to attract a lot of out-of-towners in search of said opportunity, some of which will inevitably fail to find said opportunity, and become homeless.
Given such, it seems that we can entertain the possibility that “Where the economic opportunity actually is” and “Where people think the economic opportunity is” may be different places. And that the smarter and more capable people are more likely to find out where the real opportunity is and go there, while the wild-eyed dreamers fall for the propaganda and go to California.
Generally speaking, my belief is that California attracts homeless people because of favorable weather and a local political climate that is favorable to the homeless class in general. That the existence of prominent homelessness in California is not mainly attributable to people moving there in search of work and becoming homeless, but rather, people who are already, or know they will soon be homeless, going to the place where it’s easiest to be homeless.
“….the quote Plumber attributes to me was made in response to his suggestion…”
It was John Schilling who suggested that in the previous thread not me, I just bellyached about the problem.
I see a lot of indirect causes being listed here, like permissive zoning laws and cost of living, but I can say that Portland went from “almost no tents” to “a fucking lot of tents” very quickly, and the reason was obvious: the city adopted a policy of not tearing down tents.
So, is it the case that putting a tent up on a piece of government-owned property next to an overpass will get you hassled by the cops in TX but not CA? If so, it doesn’t seem like much explanation beyond that is needed.
There was a homeless encampment at an overpass a mile or so from our house in San Jose, California–I never noticed it but saw discussions of it. It got removed by the relevant authorities. So some level of hassling does occur in California.
So, I guess the big news item today would be the New York Times running an op-ed from an anonymous “senior official” within the Trump administration about how the author and other members of the administration work to foil Trump’s impulsivity, ignorance, and incompetence.
I personally think The Unit of Caring said it well here:
What do people think of this?
I think that most people think they’re in a heroic struggle to do a good job despite the best efforts of, if not their boss, certainly their boss’s boss.
And you write about it in the New York times for the same reason anyone writes anything there, because you want attention, and because deep down you know that Trump isn’t going to destroy the world, but your ego won’t stroke itself.
I’m reminded of a bit in Christopher Clark’s Sleepwalkers, about how the militant Serbian nationalist movement organized as a “secret” society which regularly held semi-public meetings in coffeehouses:
If we consider possibilities like
1) Actual senior official, as in a close advisor, doing this and telling the NYT they did this
2) Relatively junior “senior official” telling the NYT they did this for an ego boost. (apparently there’s several hundred people who could be called “senior official”)
3) Same as 2, but the official actually does it.
4) The NYT getting played by someone within the Trump administration
5) The NYT making it up
I think 1 is probably the least likely, with 2 and 3 the most likely.
There’s no reason for anyone actually doing this and believing it is important to go to the New York Times until Trump is safely gone.
I’d say that 5 is considerably less likely than 1.
Agreed. The NYT undoubtedly has higher professional ethical standards than senior government officials.
I’d like to add #6: Some officials do something a little like the NYT says, but not nearly as serious, with informal collusion but no outright conspiracy. One or more members of the collusion are seriously against Trump ideologically, personally, morally, and so on and wish to push the collusion to do something the rest of them don’t want to do, punish them for not having done so, or something like that. Plus they want to harm Trump. So they leak this sort of stuff.
I’m not sure this is the most likely option, but it seems plausible enough.
That said, I agree with the spirit of the analysis that went into your 1 through 5.
My guess is that it’s a bit like the Duke Lacrosse Hoax — which, as I recall, the New York Times fell for. i.e. the article is the wild exaggeration of a low-level staffer; something that would never be taken seriously let alone published except that the New York Times is extremely hungry for news which is consistent with their anti-Trump worldview.
Haven’t many of the recurring themes of Trump’s presidency been things like “The GOP establishment doesn’t like him and wants to downplay / undermine him”, Trump says the “deep state” is actively sabotaging him, Trump makes an official-sounding order or statement only to have other administration members ignore or contradict it (I think Nikki Haley does this frequently?), Trump announcing his disappointment that some of his people haven’t been doing what he appointed them to do (Sessions, Fed Chair Jerome Powell)?
How implausible is it really that there are multiple senior members of Trump’s administration who are deliberately acting against Pres. Trump, whether by… “redirecting” his statements and actions away from whatever it is he says he wants to do, or just by ignoring him and doing things their own way? I’d believe that this op-ed is a partially embellished account from a low-level source, but “Seems like Trump and his admin don’t always get along” was a theme long before Wednesday. “Hoax” and “wild exaggeration” seem unlikely.
Especially plausible given that there is a real cost to Trump to just firing these people. It makes him look bad. Each additional firing adds fuel to the “ADMINISTRATION IN CHAOS” media fire. So he has some motivation not to fire people unless they really really piss him off.
There was a real cost to firing those people. Now, firing anyone who might plausibly be part of Anonymous OpEd’s cabal, looks like legitimate housecleaning.
The cost of firing your own staff is, as you note, that it feeds the “Administration in Chaos” narrative, makes you look like you don’t know how to run a tight ship and were inexcusably sloppy when you hired those people in the first place. That’s real, and it’s significant, and it’s right for Trump to want to not pay it. And, yes, that plausibly gives room for a cabal of “grownups” in the White House to quietly keep Trump’s tantrums in check while he seethes but doesn’t do anything.
He’s just been forced to pay that cost, in full and up front, for his entire administration. If you’ve even partially concealed the internal chaos of your administration, a firing calls public attention to what had been a secret(ish) failure. But once the full chaos has been revealed, and between Anonymous and Woodward that’s a done deal, it’s not firing the apparently treacherous subordinates that makes you look like a weakling that can’t run a tight ship.
If Trump can’t properly identify Anonymous and his cohorts, he’s going to have to find some scapegoats to fire anyway.
apparently there’s several hundred people who could be called “senior official”
So something like stories about “senior official in the Vatican makes shock revelations” where it turns out to be “our stringer in Rome had an agreeable gossipy luncheon with a guy dressed as a priest who told him all kinds of fascinating scandalous things but we only have his bare word for it that they’re true and that he’s even working in any capacity at all in the Vatican”? Except when it really does turn out, the one time in ten, to be a real senior official making shock revelations!
Possibility #7 – It’s part of the “palace intrigue” game where one person is attempting to lower the status of others. I suppose that could be a variant of #4.
Possibility #8 – You genuinely believe that impeachment or article 25 should be seriously pursued, and you are trying to lay the groundwork for public acceptance of such an outcome.
Otherwise, I’m generally mystified why, if you believed the things in the op-ed, you would say what you are doing publicly.
If you are trying to lay the groundwork for impeachment, this seems like the worst way to do it.
If you really think it is important, publicly testify. As is, telling Trump “there are traitors in your ranks” will just encourage a round of firings and quittings until Trump is surrounded by only lackeys. Trump’s been ranting about a deep state conspiracy for years and the New York Times just confirmed it for him.
This will almost assuredly make things worse, not better, unless 1. You think Trump is going to lose his so much so that he becomes obviously impeachable, in which case I want to see how you predicted that was going to happen, or 2. You live in a bubble where merely opposing Trump is a good thing, and it doesn’t matter if you set things back. I know most people aren’t consequentialists but when you start the hand-wringing about this being for the greater good you have locked yourself into consequentialism.
It’s an attempt to distract us from the Kavanaugh hearings. (Which are, themselves, an attempt to distract us from Benghazi.)
I believe it was a senior official who wanted to assure the populace that Trump is not going to blow up the world and thus we can all rest easy. And not oppose this administration so vociferously.
It seems like it should be totally overshadowed by the Woodward excerpt that ran the day before that identifies specific actions by specific people. The NYT article is only informative if you trust the Times more than you trust Woodward.
Is it a response to the Woodward book? Is it a factual endorsement, for people who trust the Times to do such verification? Perhaps it is a reframing of the Woodward book, a pep talk for the staff, but it just doesn’t seem different enough to me to be worth bothering with.
This is, I think, the answer to the “Why talk about your secret coup?” question. Thanks to Woodward’s book it isn’t secret anymore.
Apparently Woodward’s book goes into great detail on the degree to which Trump’s staff are actively trying to thwart his orders. So keeping mum about it isn’t really an option – the cat is now out of the bag.
So now the question is just, “Once Trump fires me, how do I still make myself look good?” Or possibly, “When all of this is remembered as a debacle of historic proportions, how do I make myself look good?”
Personally I trust the Times more than Woodward, even though I trust neither to be particularly thorough. Woodward is basically famous for being taken advantage of by the Deputy Director of the FBI to push his personal agenda, which happened to net a big story.
Well, I guess there is a difference, in that this claims to be a current official, whereas Woodward’s examples of sabotage are done by his sources, who are talking to him because they are gone. Except Mattis. He’s still there and it’s not clear who alleged to Woodward what Mattis did.
In most organizations a gasbag like this would stick out like a sore thumb. The most alarming revelation here is that this administration has enough Sir Humphreys in it to allow this particular one to strut and preen without fear of discovery.
These aren’t patriots. They’re mercenary agents of Capital and Empire who are trying to rehabilitate Bush-era Republican orthodoxy by making common cause with the liberal opposition to Trump. These cretins are more frightened by industrial tariffs than they were the Iraq War. If these are their principles, I am happy to see Trump demolish them.
It’s certainly interesting.
I would really like to see Trump drain the swamp but I don’t, and didn’t, expect him to seriously attempt it much less succeed. But given how desperately the swamp critters are fighting him that might have been defeatism on my part. If they’re still this afraid of the President then that’s a sign for hope.
Either way, whether he’s a real threat to their power or his continued presence just insults them, this latest barrage of bad press isn’t going to do anything that the last several years of continuous bad press failed to do before. The more the media hammers on this, the more credibility they lose.
What I’ve never managed to wrap my head around is this: if you’re looking for someone to “drain the swamp”, why, of all the 300 million people in the US, would you choose a real estate businessman from New York, with known ties to organized crime, with literally no experience in politics except for bribing politicians?
with literally no experience in politics except for bribing politicians?
“Of course I know politicians are crooked!
I kept the receipts!”
The sad thing is, I have no idea whether that’s actually a Trump quote or not.
It’s pretty close.
I mean Donald Trump is and was a terrible choice for that role, he just happened to be the only choice.
You can only vote for the people who actually run for office, not hypothetical ideal candidates.
He was the only one who wanted the job.
Politicians are corrupt because, in theory, they need campaign funds and the approval of the elite within the media to get the necessary air-time and positive coverage.
If you’re so arranged that you don’t need either of these things, then you’re (in theory) free to govern as you please.
I’d also add that the US government is set up to make enacting sweeping changes very very difficult. If you’re a president or congressperson, your choices are “Obey the limits on my authority, meaning I can only tinker around the edges of the system” or “Force the sweeping changes I want by bending/breaking the rules”. Also, voters say they want bipartisanship but will punish compromise in practice, incentivizing politicians to defect instead of cooperate.
@Nabil ad Dajjal
Only among Trump cultists. l’eminence orange is objectively the least popular president since the second world war. I suspect that administration’s endless parade of public dysfunction has something to do with that.
538’s measure of Trump’s disapproval does not prove that media’s credibility is a problem only for Trump cultists. I suspect Goodhart’s Law has something to do with that.
A few thoughts:
– the point may be to make the fact that there is internal resistance common knowledge, i.e., let others who work on subverting Trump (or would do it if they could be sure they’re not alone) know that they are in fact not alone.
– also, if your goal is to make Trump seem weak and incompetent, exposing that he doesn’t even have control of his immediate subordinates is not a bad move.
– by making all this public, you’re going to cause another week or so in which Trump will be busy chasing moles and is distracted from pursuing his other bad ideas. (Seeing how it only takes him a tweet or two to cause massive damage, this may not be very effective, though.)
What “massive damage” did his tweets cause? Seriously, I wish you people would stop with the hyperbole.
We’ll have to see how this thing unfolds over the next years, but his statements implying that NATO is obsolete, and that protection of NATO members from attack may not be unconditional, but depend on how much they pay, are the sort of thing that could lead to a destabilization of Europe.
To put it bluntly: the point of pacts like NATO is to draw a clear line and raise the stakes for any potential attacker who is tempted to swallow a small, weak member of the pact, figuring “they won’t go to all-out war over a puny country like that.” By stating clearly that yes, you are willing to go to all-out war, you prevent that same war. Any waffling on commitments like that amounts to saying, “yeah, whatever, our threats have no credibility even to ourselves, go ahead and do what you please.”
Right, so even accepting that nations decide whether or not to go to war based on tweets (which they don’t, and stop pretending that they do) he didn’t “cause massive damage”, he did something that maybe might possibly cause damage sometime in the future.
Also, the result of Trump slapping NATO around has been increased NATO spending (or pledges to increase NATO spending), and weakening European dependence on Russian energy.
If the result of Trump’s tweets it’s a stronger, more heavily armed, more independent NATO, isn’t that the exact opposite of “massive damage?” I’m more interested in actions than words.
I’m pretty sure we’ve been over this before.
In 2014, well before Trump was elected, NATO members pledged to increase their spending to 2% of GDP by 2024. Since that point, they have been steadily ramping up spending. Looking at the graph at the bottom of page 4 here, the case for Trump “slapping NATO around” as a cause of increased spending is very weak.
Trump walked out of the NATO summit making outlandish claims about how he’d convinced everybody to start spending more. None of the countries that he’d purportedly convinced agreed with these claims:
I grow tried of this particular two step, the seamless transition from “trump is destroying everything” to “things are getting better but trump has nothing to do with it.”
You can argue trump is wrecking this, or you can argue that he’s not accomplishing much, but you can’t argue both at the same time.
@cassander – what two step?
Fluffy buffalo says trump is undermining the credibility of NATO and a United response. Conrad honcho says that the same act led to a different thing which is good for NATO. Iain argues that it didn’t.
The original claim wasn’t that trump had led.to lower spending from other NATO countries.
You are correct, I was conflating fluffy buffalo & Ian’s comments, I missed that they were different names.
Releasing the op-ed has more of a chance to backfire than any other potential outcome. Now, when Trump inevitably fails to follow-through on any of his campaign claims, he and his supporters can fall back on “there are people in his administration literally preventing him from doing what needs to be done. The People need to support Trump more than ever against the tides of this actual and real deep state obstructionism.”
Colossally stupid and completely at odds with any sort of positive effect that could have been intended.
Trump has already followed through on many of campaign claims. He killed TPP, has renegotiated NAFTA, nixed the Paris climate accords, has slapped tariffs on China, has bullied NATO into pulling their own weight, has bombed the sh*t out of ISIS, passed huge tax reforms, has slashed the federal register by a third (!!!!), has reshaped the federal judiciary, and I cou