THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 114.25

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831 Responses to Open Thread 114.25

  1. benwave says:

    This week there was a news story about health insurance in New Zealand (link).

    I was surprised to see that the terms of this person’s policy had changed significantly after several years. Is this common practice in health insurance? I would have thought that if you sign a contract with X amount of fees for Y amount of cover, then you should get Y amount of cover, not Z amount of cover that the company decides on its own terms some time later. But then I don’t have any actual experience with the health insurance industry.

    • BBA says:

      In America it’s a yearly contract. When you renew each year you might get a notice that some of the terms have changed from last year’s contract, which almost everyone ignores.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yes, from the article it sounds like New Zealand is the same. It is kind of hard to believe that this lady had the option of having any surgery she thought necessary for preventative reasons. Yes she has the gene that makes cancer more likely, but it certainly is a matter of judgment whether or not it is necessary. If the insurance company is paying for it, they should have some input into it.

        And for $120/month?! And I assume this is in NZD, which is worth only 60% of USD. I assume there must be some government subsidy of this? I constantly hear that the US is the only developed country in the world with private medical care. And yet this article sounds like private medical care to me, other than the absurdly cheap premium. Of course the US having private medical care is only an approximation too. It’s probably at least 50% socialized in the US, based on the all the regulations and subsidies.

        • benwave says:

          Yes, I thought their way of deciding whether or not to pay for the treatment was strange, but maybe that is the usual way? I don’t know.

          Medical care is public in New Zealand, this woman could get the operation for free through the socialised health care but it would mean waiting. (By the sounds of it, maybe up to about a year?) Many people have additional medical insurance which allows them to get faster or different care than what the state provides. I didn’t think that the state subsidised any of that kind of treatment, but again I could be wrong about that.

        • rlms says:

          “I constantly hear that the US is the only developed country in the world with private medical care.”
          You should stop listening to whoever tells you that, because they’re wrong. The classic factoid is that the US is the only developed country without universal healthcare, i.e. where not everyone has access to healthcare (this is orthogonal to how the healthcare is funded; it would be perfectly possible to have a universal private-only system if everyone was insured). The US is also unusual in how high spending on private healthcare is (both as a proportion and in total), but I believe all developed countries have some amount of private healthcare in some form. A confusing factor (to Americans) is that Canada kind of bans private healthcare, but it is (I think) unique in that.

          Also, $120/month would be considered expensive in UK. I (young, non-smoker) just got a quote for £56 ($73)/month, with AFAICT no excesses or other costs. As far as I know, private healthcare is not directly subsidised in the UK (but doctors are trained with public money etc.).

          • 1soru1 says:

            You know how people smugglers are able to $10,000 a head for a risky trip on an leaky boat? One that might cost a tourist $100?

            Economics 101: supply and demand; for their customers, the alternative is worse. ‘Travel or die in poverty or war’ causes a demand to persist to a higher price point than ‘travel or be mildly bored at home’.

            In any country, the price of private insurance is largely driven by the availability and quality of public healthcare, capped only at ‘I’d rather die than pay that much’.

          • 10240 says:

            it would be perfectly possible to have a universal private-only system if everyone was insured

            Switzerland has such a system based on the information I find on the internet. (Obligatory insurance from private insurers, with the government subsidizing your premium if it exceeds a certain percentage of your income.)

          • rlms says:

            @1soru1
            I don’t think that makes sense. In your smuggler example, you’re implying that the cost of the trip is below $100, so the profit margin is huge. That’s plausible for people smuggling, which I imagine is not a particularly efficient market, but I don’t think it’s accurate for health insurance. I don’t believe insurance companies or downstream systems like hospitals have monopolies with price fixing, and a quick glance at the UnitedHealth Group Wikipedia page doesn’t suggest high margins.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Yeah, and only about 3 Hollywood films have ever made any money. Profit margin is a thing you calculate after you run out of ideas for things to spend money on.

            And competition doesn’t help because health insurance companies don’t have any ability to actually demonstrate superior performance over the relevant timescales. The difference between efficiency and inferior coverage only becomes evident ~30 years after making your purchase.

          • Economics 101: supply and demand …

            In any country, the price of private insurance is largely driven by the availability and quality of public healthcare, capped only at ‘I’d rather die than pay that much’.

            You are forgetting the supply half of your economics 101. The price of food in the grocery store isn’t determined either by my unwillingness to starve to death or by the availability of free food from the government. If the store decided to charge $5/lb for apricots in season, they would discover all their customers buying them at a different store.

            Similarly for health insurance. If an insurance company in a society without government provided health insurance tried to charge twice what it costs them to provide insurance they would soon find themselves with no customers–not because people don’t want medical care or medical insurance but because they would be buying from someone else.

          • AG says:

            @DavidFriedman
            Isn’t this empirically more complex than your stated hypothesis, by the facts that
            1) Nations exist with non-market insurance that spend far less on healthcare
            2) People apparently are choosing not to move to said nations, showing that the international insurance market doesn’t have such a customer flow
            3) Certain states within the US often have little to no insurer choice

            #2 could also be scaled down to the US’s current state, where people are choosing not to select lesser plans, because they either can’t get anything cheaper (because all companies with cheaper plans reject them on preexisting conditions, or there aren’t other insurers in their rural region, or something), or because other factors are keeping them where they are, where the plans are all expensive.

          • cassander says:

            @ag

            1) Nations exist with non-market insurance that spend far less on healthcare

            American insurance has almost nothing to do with markets. American insurance is a bizarre creation of government subsidies, regulation, and tax law.

            2) People apparently are choosing not to move to said nations, showing that the international insurance market doesn’t have such a customer flow

            there is no international insurance market, or at least no meaningful one, because as an american you cannot buy, e.g. a swiss insurance plan, because doing that would run afoul of the aforementioned subsidy/tax/regulatory scheme.

            3) Certain states within the US often have little to no insurer choice

            Something that would be rapidly fixed if we had an actual market for insurance, instead of the current pretend market.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > If an insurance company in a society without government provided health insurance tried to charge twice what it costs them to provide insurance they would soon find themselves with no customers

            Yes, the thing about a system governed the laws of economics is that no-one actor can voluntarily choose not to follow them without facing the consequences.

            The most profitable approach for a health care supplier is to charge prices at the limits of the customers willingness to not say ‘I would rather die’. Noone has yet found a path to higher profit based on providing service at a price cheaper than that. It is a matter of faith over evidence to believe that one exists.

            Remember, by some accounts, the richest person who ever lived was Crassus of Rome, who died controlling property equivalent to the Imperial budget. He got so rich mostly by running the Roman fire service. using the pricing rule ‘how much is that building worth to you unburnt?’. He didn’t even need to always start the fires.

            Now, maybe Crassus could have operated a service based on preventing and putting out fires cheaply and efficiently, and ended up richer. But that is not the way to bet.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Remember, by some accounts, the richest person who ever lived was Crassus of Rome, who died controlling property equivalent to the Imperial budget. He got so rich mostly by running the Roman fire service. using the pricing rule ‘how much is that building worth to you unburnt?’. He didn’t even need to always start the fires.

            Why was there only 1 roman fire service?

          • The most profitable approach for a health care supplier is to charge prices at the limits of the customers willingness to not say ‘I would rather die’.

            Only if it is a monopoly. Which is only likely to happen if the government makes it illegal for anyone else to sell health care.

            Alternatively, it can be a monopoly if it is able to sell at a lower price than anyone else can–but that won’t be the price you just described.

            Could explain why my grocery store doesn’t charge the price for food that is at the limit of what the customer is willing to pay in order not to starve to death?

          • 1soru1 says:

            > Could explain why my grocery store doesn’t charge the price for food that is at the limit of what the customer is willing to pay in order not to starve to death?

            One reason is that if you were about to literally starve to death, the government would send in the military with transport planes and hand out free rations. In situations where this is not the case, such as pre-independence India, you do see those prices being charged.

            Competition doesn’t help in cases where the ratio between the highest price chargeable and the highest achievable market share clearly favours the former, strategy. For example, in cases where there were other fire services operating, like 17C Britain; they all charged the same prices, because why wouldn’t they?

            Another is that for a grocery store, competition happens on a viable timescale; you see the price, buy the apple, see if it is rotten or not, decide not to go back or not. That process takes about 30 minutes. So within a few hundred iterations of that feedback cycle year, the bad grocery stores go bankrupt or reorganise. This takes less than a year.

            The corresponding feedback cycle for health insurance takes 30-50 years, which is longer than the lifecycle of management regimes, and so can’t provide a useful quality-improving signal. And a few hundred iterations of it would take longer than recorded history.

            It is plausible that if you solved the immediate problems and established a meaningful free market in heath insurance, it would start to be an improvement over the alternatives by 8000 AD or so. That’s little compensation for anyone living in the next 60 centuries.

          • 10240 says:

            One reason is that if you were about to literally starve to death, the government would send in the military with transport planes and hand out free rations.

            They could charge significantly higher prices than at present, without anyone being in danger of starvation.

            Also, whatever price health insurers charge at present, plenty of Americans could afford to pay more, and since ACA it was obligatory to get health insurance. If your theory is correct, why do they charge what they charge, and not even more?

            Another is that for a grocery store, competition happens on a viable timescale; you see the price, buy the apple, see if it is rotten or not, decide not to go back or not.

            The quality is a different question, but you do see the price of each insurance. But, speaking of quality, you also see what’s covered, you don’t have to wait 30 years for that. I guess you also hear about other people’s experiences.

            Competition doesn’t help in cases where the ratio between the highest price chargeable and the highest achievable market share clearly favours the former, strategy.

            You haven’t offered any evidence that this was the case, other than that American healthcare is expensive, which is not evidence because it may have other causes, such as extensive, in many cases anti-competitive regulation.

          • For example, in cases where there were other fire services operating, like 17C Britain; they all charged the same prices, because why wouldn’t they?

            Your link says nothing at all about their all charging the same prices.

            But you don’t have to go that far back, just open your eyes and look around you. Grocery stores don’t all charge the same price. Car dealers don’t all charge the same price. Gas stations don’t all charge the same price. Prices tend to be close because of competition, but that doesn’t make them identical.

            And none of those charge the highest price a customer would pay, because they are all constrained by competition, know that if they charge too high a price their customers will go somewhere else. You are describing a fantasy world and ignoring what you observe in the world around you.

            You might find it worth studying some economics to get a more accurate, although not still perfectly accurate, picture of how real markets work. I can point you at a book that’s freely available online.

          • 1soru1 says:

            ‘constrained by competition’ isn’t a magic phrase you can invoke on command, it is a description of certain dynamics within a causal system. When those dynamics don’t apply, you can repeat the magic phrase three, five or seven times; still nothing happens.

            Over the course of the last 50 years, no-one has been able to successfully deliver european quality health care at european prices to american customers. If you have a theory that proves that fact to be impossible, then you need to either drop the theory, or move to the universe to which it applies.

          • Your original claim was a general one about markets and was obvious nonsense, as already pointed out.

            You are now narrowing it to the specific case of health care and, I presume, health insurance. The problem with that argument is that the U.S. doesn’t have a free market in health care and hasn’t for quite a long time, so we don’t have evidence on how one would work. Prior to the ACA being passed, about half of all health care expenditure was by governments and the market was in addition heavily regulated. To take one example of why it wasn’t an example of free competition, starting a new medical facility required and requires government permission and is generally opposed by existing facilities for obvious reasons.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > so we don’t have evidence on how one would work.

            At what point do you plan give up and say ‘maybe this capitalist health thing could work out, but it’s been enough decades and megadeaths that it’s clear we don’t know how. So lets just copy the rest of the world for the moment’?

            For example, the federal requirement for a Certificate of Need for new health facilities was abolished _in 1987_, and a wide variety of states including both California and Texas have no state law. You could look at the data state by state and see if the hypothesis ‘government regulation is preventing competition working as it otherwise could’ actually holds.

            Or you could hold that belief as a doctrine, which mere facts cannot challenge.

            Is there a limit to this process, or to you plan to keep believing in the golden promised future indefinitely, no matter what the available real world evidence says?

          • 10240 says:

            So lets just copy the rest of the world for the moment’?

            Which part of the rest of the world? The UK with its entirely tax-funded system of government-owned providers? Switzerland with its public and private hospitals, private insurance companies and subsidies for the poor? Or another of the highly varied systems around the world?

          • John Schilling says:

            At what point do you plan give up and say ‘maybe this capitalist health thing could work out, but it’s been enough decades and megadeaths that it’s clear we don’t know how.

            How many megadeaths has it been, and how did you count them?

            The usual and correct criticism of the American health care system (not capitalist health care generally), is its cost, not its efficacy. If you’re going to claim megadeaths, I’m going to want a t least a cite or two.

          • Googling around, what was abolished was federal legislation pressuring states to adopt state CON laws. The fact that federal pressure resulted in all but one state enacting such laws, with a sizable majority retaining them after the federal pressure was released, is one explanation of why the U.S. system is so expensive. It isn’t the only one.

            Or you could hold that belief as a doctrine, which mere facts cannot challenge.

            You have offered no facts showing that a free market health care system wouldn’t work. What current facts show is that our current system, largely paid for and controlled by our government, is considerably more expensive than systems in other countries, in part paid for and controlled by their governments. That leaves open the question of why.

            You, on the other hand, claimed that firms always charge the highest price at which the customer would rather buy what they were selling than go without. As I pointed out, that claim is inconsistent with evidence that you observe every day, every time you buy groceries or a bottle of aspirin. I have not yet noticed you conceding that your claim was nonsense.

          • albatross11 says:

            There are parts of the US healthcare system that are entirely or mostly free market and free of insurance. I think both Lasik surgery and plastic surgery are mostly privately funded, and most of that is out-of-pocket. Veterinary care is private and mostly out-of-pocket. Even dental care is mostly privately funded and out-of-pocket.

            So these are all places we can look to see whether free-market healthcare in the US is unworkable. My impression is that all those areas of healthcare work reasonably well in the sense of not having crazy cost inflation every year and having more-or-less predictable prices. But they all also have the property that if you genuinely can’t afford them, you probably either don’t get them at all or you wait a long time for what little charity care is available.

          • Lambert says:

            Cosmetic surgeons etc. are still hired from the limited pool of doctors and still bound by heavy regulation.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think plastic surgeons are always/almost always dermatologists. So this is a pretty nice place to look for the effect of more vs less market forces in health care, because you can have the same person (or at least people with the same training) doing:

            a. Things that are covered by medicare, medicaid, and every insurance, like treating skin cancer.

            b. Things that are sometimes covered by medicare/medicaid/insurance. (Anything cosmetic that is repairing the result of accident or illness has some chance of being covered.)

            c. Stuff that’s never covered (boob job, face lift, tummy tuck, liposuction).

            The same practice and sometimes the same people can be involved on all those cases. It would be really interesting to see how they have changed over time. For example, has the price of a nose job gone up twice as fast as inflation over the last several decades? How about treatment of a skin cancer?

          • Another Throw says:

            I think the question you are looking for is the difference between plastic and cosmetic surgery. The purpose of plastic surgery is to achieve normal function/appearance, while cosmetic surgery is to enhance appearance. It also looks like, to be certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgeons requires, as a prerequisite, being certified by the appropriate board in one of six surgical specialties (including plastic surgery) and completing some amount of additional training and experience. I don’t know how necessary it is to be ABCS certified in order to perform cosmetic surgery, how much it improves the product, and how much that additional education and training requirement adds to the price but the answer to all of them is probably not zero.

            At a practical level, I would hypothesis that the difference in expenditures (which I think is what you’re looking for?) between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery would be overwhelmingly driven by a disagreement between the patient, and the insurance and health care providers about what “normal” means. The insurance company will be willing to pay to slapping in the necessary grafts/implants to replace the missing skin/tissue/bone and hook everything back together so it functions and looks good enough so that small children don’t flee in terror. Especially in the face, the patient is going to be extremely keen to achieve as close as possible to the pre-injury condition. This may require, for example, better/customized grafts/implants in order to not just replace but simulate the pre-injury skin/tissue/bone. “I look like me again” is, I understand, an incredibly important factor for patients with disfiguring injuries. I suspect that purely elective surgery (as opposed to elective enhancements to plastic surgery) is a perhaps substantial but secondary line of cosmetic surgery. Repairing congenital defects probably has a lower demand for high fidelity cosmetic enhancements so is probably a third in line; any improvement is a substantial boon and there is much less emotional valence in hitting a particular target.

            I don’t really know, but would be interested to find out. I am not sure how to disentangle the three lines, though. Furthermore, I am not sure how, once you’ve disentangled them, you arrive at useful insight into the difference between super-not-free-market and not-free-market health care. But it would be interesting to see.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            So lets just copy the rest of the world for the moment’?

            I love this. It’s the myth that the US uses Type 1 health care system, and Everyone Else uses Type 2 health care system. Type 1 is private and super expensive, Type 2 is public and super efficient.

            It’s nonsense, of course. The US system is in the middle of the pack. Germany and the US are closer to each other in health care systems than either is to the UK.

            It’s a myth. Weirdly, this is a myth that I hear from both conservatives and liberals.

            As for LASIK, I think it’s a little unfair to bring this up. There are a bunch of reasons it has gotten so cheap, and the big one is that it started from infinite price a few decades ago. Surely, there are lessons we could gather from it. But there are also lessons we could gather from other countries’ health care systems, and the hard part is picking out the things we could replicate from the things we can’t, with big heaping dose of political mind-killing we have to dig through first.

          • rlms says:

            @Edward Scizorhands
            Well, kind of. It’s true that a lot of discussion about the US healthcare system is misguided in the way you describe (and more specifically, Americans tend to assume that most developed countries’ healthcare systems are like those of Canada and the UK when those are outliers). But that doesn’t mean the US system is typical. I think a more accurate view is that healthcare systems in developed countries form a spectrum something like this:

            UK – single payer, national health service with largely public providers.
            Most Nordic and Southern European countries – single payer, decentralised with regional governments being responsible for providing healthcare.
            Most other European countries, Israel, Japan probably – some kind of mandatory insurance deal. These are qualitatively similar to the US, but differ in a few significant ways: they tend to have non-profit, more tightly regulated insurers; a universal government-funded baseline policy; and regulations on discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions etc. that predate the ACA. Not all of the countries in this category differ from the US in all of these ways — for instance I think the Netherlands’ system looks quite similar to how the US’s would if it worked properly — but the US is certainly on the edge of the category.
            The classic weird countries: Switzerland, Singapore etc. with their own unique systems.

            So while the US isn’t wildly unusual, I think it is the most privatised developed country on the public-private spectrum if you discount the usual idiosyncratic bunch. But it *is* an outlier on other axes, namely how much it spends in total on healthcare, and the proportion of healthcare spending that is private. That’s notable, even if the issue of inefficiency can’t be simply fixed by fiddling with the system slightly.

  2. Does anyone have useful information on preventing memory decline, either a nootropic or a nutritional–or anything else?

    I used to be able to memorize poetry very easily, getting most of a poem in a few readings. A year or two back I tried to memorize a long poem and found it extremely difficult. I also think that the problem of feeling for words–I know what it means but can’t remember the word–has gotten greater in recent years. It occurred to me that someone here might know something relevant.

    • Plumber says:

      I don’t remember anything other than that getting enough sleep helps.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      @David

      I have nothing to offer in response to your request, but I want you to know that I very much hope that you find success in delaying the ravages of age. Good luck, and I hope to continue basking in your eloquence for a long time.

    • SameW says:

      In terms of nootropics, I’d recommend Bacopa Monnieri, which supposedly enhances memory formation and reduces anxiety (And may also reduce depression). It has a decent body of evidence supporting it’s memory enhancement effects and safety, especially in age related memory decline.

      Like with most of nootropics, the mechanism through which it works is kind of vague and unclear, but it probably either works by increasing dendritic proliferation or through interacting with the serotonin and acetylcholine systems (Which also *probably* also give the drug it’s anti-anxiety effects). The link I gave above explains it much more elegantly than I can.

      Most studies have the participants take a 300mg extract over the course of a few months, and it’s important to note that the memory effects take about 4 to 6 weeks to start working, though the anti-anxiety effects may be immediate. Like I said above, Bacopa is pretty safe, but it does have two major side-effects: A decrease in motivation (Likely from it’s anti-anxiety effects), and GI discomfort (Likely from the sudden increase in acetylcholine in the gut).

      Personally speaking, I’ve been taking Bacopa for about 4 months and I’d say that my memory is probably better than before (Though I haven’t properly tested this). I definitely get the GI discomfort side effect which is why I’d suggest taking it before bed, but even then it’s just farting more than usual. I can’t really speak for the motivation impact since I take Vyvanse which supposedly counteracts it, but I haven’t really noticed a decline.

      Other supplements I’ve heard about for memory are Lions Mane, the racetam family of drugs (Oxiracetam), choline supplements (Alpha GPC) and Nicotine. And obviously getting enough sleep and exercise will help.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      One thing that can help is to relax when trying to access a memory rather than chasing it actively.

      I’ve been having some problems along those lines myself, and I hope something turns up in this discussion.

      https://www.learningstrategies.com/Birkenbihl.asp

      This is a link to a course on memory– it’s an impressive collection of methods for remembering more, partly by actively exploring one’s memories and partly by paying more attention in the present (Hermione was right!). Unfortunately, it’s expensive. Birkenbihl has a fair amount of material in German, but this is the only thing I can find in English.

      Learning Strategies mostly offers New Age sorts of things, but this course is firmly attached to ordinary experience.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        In the hopes of improving my Dutch (itself largely a memory-related task), I am currently reading this book, originally written in German, but no English translation yet, about how our memory works, by a guy who is a big name in competitive memory ‘sports’. I haven’t got very far yet, but I’ll try to report back if it contains anything useful.

    • psmith says:

      Creatine is cheap, essentially zero side effects, and may help, especially if you don’t eat a lot of red meat:
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1691485/
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4715403/ (animal study, but see references)

      I use Hard Rhino creatine monohydrate; branding aside, it’s cheap, a reputable brand, and comes with a conveniently sized scoop.

    • arlie says:

      It’s worth considering that you may simply be out of practice at the skill of memorizing poems. I’ve had several different experiences of having a skill I thought was reliably strong turn out to be far less than I remembered it, when I turned to it again after a considerable absence. So far, in all cases where I’ve kept at it, my ability has improved – back to my prior normal if worked at long enough. Where it’s been a one-of case of needing to do something I hadn’t done in a while, though, there’s really no notable improvement.

      OTOH, like you, I find myself fumbling for a word – or even more commonly, a name – a lot more than I used to. Oddly though, I’ll generally know the word if someone with me is fumbling for it.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      There is a guy called Bredesen who is doing some interesting things on general cognitive decline. Does not seem to allow for many side effects and contains a lot of general good advice even if it turns out not to work. Google “bredesen protocol”.

    • schazjmd says:

      I noticed similar cognitive issues after I started taking a statin. I stopped the statin, and noticed some gradual improvements since (although not back to my state before taking them).

      The whole experience gave me great sympathy for Charlie in “Flowers for Algernon” — knowing what your mind used to be able to do easily and watching it dissipate.

    • Education Hero says:

      There is strong evidence to suggest that gingko biloba and piracetam provide notable decreases in cognitive decline.

  3. Vermillion says:

    Post reserved for Rumbling.

    • Vermillion says:

      Heroes, Heroines and interested observers, the time has come to rumble. Is it mind control? The dictate of an all-powerful cosmic force? Just can’t stand that guy? Perhaps it is all of these, or none, but battle they must! Five have gathered at this windswept arena but only one will leave.

      First is the one they call Subject4056, a seemingly mortal man but within him pulses a life force that can deliver great power-or peril.

      His mirror image is the one they call GobboBobble, he too has tapped into the life force, but careful observation shows that in terms of raw power he might have the edge over Subject4056.

      On the next tip of the pentagram stands honoredb. He seems to be…at peace somehow. As if in addition to tapping into the life force he has also somehow found out how to balance it all. How to turn resistance into weakness, and reaction into action. What’s more, his eyes have a certain preternatural glow that suggest mind crushing psionic abilities are latent within him.

      Then comes the one known as Particle Man (the nom de guerre of one Randy M). In addition to the now standard pulsing life force around him seem to dance a plethora of duplicates. Somehow these seem to grant him exceptional levels of defense and if that weren’t enough, a limited ability to see and select the future, like that one Nicholas Cage movie. In addition to these powers, he also appears to be wielding…a Nobel Peace Prize?

      Finally there is the one known merely as…Jake. One fateful Halloween eve he mistook a real wizard for a hobo and was cursed in a suitably ironic way because of it. Now he is an animate piece of candy who is forced to give either tricks or treats to all who cross his path. But being made of candy has it’s advantages, like being able to attach several additional arms around his torso made of Twizzlers, and this curse happened awhile ago so at least he’s pretty well trained in how to use his powers.

      The die is cast, battle lines are drawn so…let’s get ready to RUUMMMMBLE!!!

      And now for the nitty gritty, here are the results of all the bids, power strength is in parenthesis:

      Hero: Subject 4056
      Powers: Shared Life-force (17)
      Starting Energy: 89

      Hero: Jake
      Powers: Made of Candy (20), Trick or Treat (20), Extra Arms (22), Expert Training (12), Shared Life-force (17)
      Starting Energy: 23
      Expert Training on Trick or Treat: (2) is now Quadruple Damage

      Hero: honoredb
      Powers: The One Who Brings Balance (22), Mind Controlled Minion (4), Shared Life-force (17)
      Starting Energy: 73

      Hero: Gobbobobble
      Powers: Shared Life-force (17)
      Starting Energy: 99

      Hero: Randy M
      Powers: Shadow Duplicates (15), Shared Life-force (17), Branch (10), I Thought We Were Playing Diplomacy (10)
      Starting Energy: 64

      Powers:
      Made of Candy Defense Spend 3: If the total amount of damage dealt to you in a round is odd, instead each attacker gains energy equal to the damage that attacker would have inflicted.

      Shadow Duplicates Defense Once per turn Burn X: This turn, each attack on you has no effect unless the amount of energy allocated to it was divisible by X.

      The One Who Brings Balance Mixed Each of your attacks is increased by the total energy spent on Defense by all heroes minus the total energy spent on Attack by all heroes divided by 2 (negative numbers are allowed). Your Defense is decreased by the same amount. Your own allocation is not included in this calculation.

      Shared Life-force Offense Any number of heroes may bid on this power and it’s strength is equal to the sum of all bids. Spend 10: add PS to attacks. If multiple heroes attempt to use the power in the same round, all heroes that attempt to use the power take PS/n damage, where n is the number of heroes that attempted to use the power this round.

      Trick or Treat Offense When a player takes Damage from one of your Attacks, they must choose to either (1) let you gain that much Energy or (2) double the Damage taken.

      Extra Arms Offense You may only assign one Attack per round, but a copy of that Attack is made against every other opponent.

      Branch Special Burn 1: You may submit two different allocations and power activation choices each round, a primary and an alternate. If the primary choice would cause you to be knocked out (after resolving all effects), the alternate one is chosen instead.

      Mind Controlled Minion
      Special Once per game, burn 20 to choose another player to be your minion starting next round. If you lose the game, and there are any players other than your minion still in the game, your minion loses as well. Note: does not apply in case of suicide.

      Expert Training Special When you win this Power, you may halve or double a single number, in any other Power you won.

      I Thought We Were Playing Diplomacy Support Spend X and secretly chose another player: Add 2X to their largest Attack this round (Game Master randomizes ties), even if it is targeting yourself! Effects from the supported player’s powers apply, not your own.

      Next up: allocations for round 1!

      • Jake says:

        Hey particle man, we are both low on energy compared to everyone else. Support me with as much as you can, and I can turn it into 4x damage against everyone else.

        • Randy M says:

          First I’m going to need to know exactly how much you plan to spend and an adjudication of how Shadow duplicates interacts with diplomacy.

          Because of course I am a subset of the “every player” mentioned by those extra arms.

          • Jake says:

            That’s sneaky, and makes us combo ridiculously well. I’m putting 20 into attack. That should let you burn 3 and not be affected by me (plus whatever you want to dump in)

          • Randy M says:

            Depends on if the points I put into diplomacy are counted as being allocated to the power.
            That’s not too bad, I can find a number that isn’t a factor of either.
            But do I trust you? Your groovy turquoise gravitar is giving me positive vibes, but that’s not a ton to go on.

            Wait, I keep forgetting I’m Coil. I should be good.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Though bear in mind Branch and Dupes are both Burn abilities and, if I’m not mistaken, the only ways to regain energy this game are either to be or to attack the candyman 😉

          • Randy M says:

            Huh… It seems like Jake can neither lose nor win.
            On the one hand, this makes it dangerous to oppose him.
            On the other hand, this makes it dangerous to support him.
            On the other hand, he has more hands than me…

          • Vermillion says:

            Shadow Duplicates keys off power allocated, so all that matters is what is originally assigned not whatever extra damage is added on top it, be it from Shared Life Force, Diplomacy or whatnot.

      • honoredb says:

        Correction: I tapped into the life force too!

        Jake has excellent flavor.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Oh my. Sup supes

        • Gobbobobble says:

          I’m imagining the omni-shared life force as some sort of ominously glowing collar used to keep us all in line for Vermillion’s twisted entertainment program

          This week on Rumble TV: two mooks, a monk, and a mind get thrown into… THE CANDY PIT

        • Subject4056 says:

          Gobbo, we’ve clearly brought a normal amount of limbs to an abnormal-amount-of-limbs fight. Truce?

          Also I’m going to take a bite out of The Candyman, and I’ll be using the life force.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Yeah, as the unpowered* individuals, I see no reason to slap-fight for the capes’ amusement.

            You paid the most for life force, so it’s only fair you get to use it first. (Though quick rules question: does backfiring SLF round up or down?)

            *if everyone has SLF can it really be considered a superpower?

          • Vermillion says:

            Anytime a power interaction leads to a fractional number I’ll round down.

      • Randy M says:

        Judging by the amount and the ubiquity, I think I was not the only one who decided to free ride on Shared Life Force.

      • Vermillion says:

        I’m gonna say Saturday 9PM EST deadline for allocations, if I don’t hear anything by then you’ll spend it all on defense.

  4. Plumber says:

    Well I was wrong about the mid-term Congressional elections.

    With their focus on health care the Democrats did better than I expected, and when I said:

    “….The Democrats going for “fiscal conservative, social liberal suburban moms” is a fools errand, because there’s not enough voters like that!…”

    I was also wrong, I guess they were some voters to be picked up.

    I’m most happy about union-buster Scott Walker not being re-elected, which also suprised me. 

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      I’d be cautious to affix any gains this election to ideology. It was about an average midterm, and in some ways less than average turnover considering it was Republican control in all 3 political branches.

      • Brad says:

        Seat swing is probably not the metric to use to compare across midterms given that gerrymandering and other extrinsic factors are changing rapidly. It’s better to look at turnout and aggregate vote totals by party.

    • I was wrong as well. I figured the situation was sufficiently odd so that the rules used by the polls to predict the election wouldn’t be reliable, and with lots of close election that meant things would go substantially off what was expected, in one direction or the other. But they ended up going just about as the pollsters predicted.

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      FWIW, my takeaways from the midterms:

      — Trump is going to be even harder to beat in 2020 than I thought, given the relatively limited gains the Ds achieved for an enormous expenditure of money, time, and energy and given the likely dynamics of the 2020 D primaries. The “nominate a Midwestern moderate” strategy going around has some sense to it, but seems unlikely to get enough nonwhite turnout, and the “resistance fighter!” strategy the primary base will likely favor is just going to produce another run-up-the-score-in-CA-and-lose-the-Electoral-College outcome. This seems likely to hold whether the economy is strong (in which case Trump will take credit for it) or if there is another recession (in which case Trump will blame the recession on the same groups he always blames for everything).

      — On the other hand, a candidate viewed less negatively nationally than Hillary was really could pull it off by re-blueing WI, PA, and MI. But even this is a coinflip at best given incumbency advantage. Overall I would say 75% probability of reelection at this point and would love to hear evidence-backed arguments for why I should put it lower.

      — AGW is even less likely than it was before to be effectively addressed by political action. I-1631 failing with the very blue WA electorate means there is no way enough jurisdictions, here or worldwide, are going to be persuaded to sign on to a carbon tax scheme to make a real difference in the next couple of decades. It’s going to have to be a series of engineering breakthroughs that does it; fortunately I think we have a good shot at those.

      — No matter who holds power at the federal level, for the foreseeable future, it will be the case that at least 40% of the population regards them, not just as opponents, but as an essentially foreign and usurping enemy. There is no way to have well-functioning institutions, or even forestall further institutional rot, in that situation, and no election result can change it. If this does not somehow change, there remains a significant (though still 50% risk of further decline in the institutional quality of the federal government dragging down economic growth in that time frame. Again, I would love to hear evidence-backed arguments against my pessimism here.

      • cassander says:

        — No matter who holds power at the federal level, for the foreseeable future, it will be the case that at least 40% of the population regards them, not just as opponents, but as an essentially foreign and usurping enemy. There is no way to have well-functioning institutions, or even forestall further institutional rot, in that situation, and no election result can change it.

        there’s an easy solution to this problem, return power to the states!

        • albatross11 says:

          Would greater federalism lead to less fraught national-level politics?

          On the “yes” side, it seems like maybe marijuana legalization will work out this way. Colorado can legalize it without Texas having to.

          On the “no” side, it sure seems like the current trend is to turn these issues into campaigns where, say, big companies threaten boycotts when the wrong local culture-war policies are pursued, and local ballot initiatives are overturned by judges. If the conservatives get the upper hand in these areas, it would be really surprising to me if they didn’t carry out the same policy in the other direction.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          While I agree powerfully with the principles behind that solution, I’m not sure it’s on the table anymore even if it were politically possible to do so. Our conception of ourselves as a nation, our cultural identity, IS unified. It’s been “The United States” for too long for the majority to accept “These United States”.

          Even if I could snap my fingers and devolve powers to the States tomorrow, think about the various culture war issues, and how they’re viewed. How likely is it that activists are going to accept their next door neighbors enacting and enforcing policies that they see as not only misguided, but somewhere between “immoral” and “deliberately evil”? I’m not confident that we’d simply settle down into a conservative state vs. liberal state modus vivendi.

          • cassander says:

            the way to change people’s thinking is to change their incentives. If your finger snapping resulted in a re-alignment of political power so that state governors were the most powerful figures in the system, then political conflict would eventually focus on them rather than the feds. It’s not that people would stop caring about what other states did, but you’d limit their ability to do much about it besides try to affect state level policy (e.g. beto o’rourke becomes fan favorite because of his bid for governor, not senator).

            Granted, the appetite for systematic change of that sort is basically zero, maybe even less than zero, but it’s at least theoretically possible to do.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          I would love love love this to be the solution, but see it as extremely unlikely since it has no significant and sincere constituency on either side.

          • cassander says:

            the commitment on the right is usually sincere. the trouble is that it’s mostly half hearted and, like their equally sincere and even more halfhearted (quarter hearted, perhaps?) commitment to lowering government spending, it’s something that requires legislators vote themselves into being less powerful.

        • 1soru1 says:

          > there’s an easy solution to this problem, return power to the states!

          Only if you count ‘abolish capitalism’ as easy.

          The US has a single market for both jobs and goods. So any decision left to the market cannot be made differently in different states. At least unless there are border and custom controls that make the US-Mexico border look like an administrative division.

          You are not going to get a functioning system out of people growing up in FreeSchoolia, working in ZeroTaxLand, then heading to Retiresville.

          • cassander says:

            The various countries of the EU manage it just fine, with considerably larger cultural differences between regions. The system will function just fine without overarching bureaucratic power, if people would just let it. Markets will adjust.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Seems like if that is the case you have 3 separate, unsustainable, and poor models of governance.

            That is not an argument against federalism, just that certain people’s preferences are bad.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think this can be an issue, but it’s worth noting that we actually do have substantial differences in tax rates and benefits available in different states now. That’s an existence proof that some form of federalism can work. What I’m talking about is mainly accepting more federalism for CW type issues. It seems like the issue there is more the one John’s talking about–the fact that North Carolina has an offensive law about which bathroom transpeople use is an issue that must be addressed by the people and companies of California and New York. Or, given a change of supreme court, perhaps Alabama and North Carolina end up campaigning to put an end to abortion even in California and Massachussets, or to put an end to legal pot in Colorado.

        • John Schilling says:

          there’s an easy solution to this problem, return power to the states!

          But the power the (people of the various) states most want to have, is the power to push around people in other states.

          There are millions of Californians who are outraged when they hear that e.g. Arkansas has passed an unenforceable law against abortions after the 14th week of pregnancy except in cases of documented cases of rape, incest, or health risk to the mother, who do not care or even care to know that France has long enforced equally strict laws. And millions of Americans in other states who are outraged that a bunch of California liberals can block fracking or offshore oil drilling without caring about similar rules in other countries.

          As long as these attitudes hold, Federalism can only be an uneasy truce between heavily-armed parties facing each other across No Man’s Land. I very much wish that were not the case, but it is.

      • onyomi says:

        It’s also conceivable that Trump will be better off with Nancy Pelosi to blame for the things he fails to accomplish in the next two years, given that, had the GOP maintained a slim majority, I still don’t expect they would have accomplished much of note, given their “Washington Generals” track record and the fact it would likely have been a slimmer majority than present.

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        Overall I would say 75% probability of reelection at this point and would love to hear evidence-backed arguments for why I should put it lower.

        75% is just about the average reelection rate for Presidents seeking reelection since WWII (depending on how you think about, eg, LBJ deciding not to run in ’68). So I think 75% is pretty defensible, but Trump does seem to be underperforming fundamentals (fundamentals tended to think Trump should have won the popular vote in 2016, for example; and his approval ratings are pretty low given the economic climate) so you can probably penalize him a little for that. Given the apparent shift in PA, MI, and WI which were necessary for his underperformance in the popular vote to be negated, I think you can argue 75 is too high.

        Obviously though, what will matter the most is what happens over the next two years, and modelling that, or attaching numbers to it, is going to be highly subjective.

      • AG says:

        the “resistance fighter!” strategy the primary base will likely favor is just going to produce another run-up-the-score-in-CA-and-lose-the-Electoral-College outcome

        This is uncharitable, and inaccurate. This was the strategy they ran in 2016, and have since learned from. The almost-upset races and the flipped wins were mostly run on healthcare: that the Republicans were going to fuck their constituents on it.
        See also the phenomenon of Republican voters voting for liberal ballot initiatives even when they voted for their party’s candidates. Like states that went for Trump in 2016 voting to expand Medicaid.

        So the Democrats ran on the issues (especially after getting burned by the Kavanaugh defeat). It’s the Republicans that tried to rally with idpol things, by ramping up on the immigration rhetoric in the last stretch (which didn’t work, the most vitriolic anti-immigration candidates lost).

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          Running on issues still leaves plenty of room to run too far to the left for the Midwest, though. Health care is actually a great example: Medicaid expansion is a very different animal from “Medicare for All” and a primary campaign run on strong support for the latter will please the base but may well have large costs in the general. Trump can simply point out, for once accurately though I’m sure he’ll exaggerate even further, how much taxes would need to go up to pay for it; Medicaid expansion, OTOH, is cheap enough to feel like it’s free.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            Yes, Medicare for all is different – it is more popular.

            Seriously, on many issues, the actual preference of US voters is somewhere off way to the left of the current overton window.

            As for taxes going up.. the median voter can do the math and go “I will be paying x more in taxes, and x + n less in insurance premiums. I win” – Which is how it would shake out assuming even minimal competence.
            Current US health care provision is horribly inefficient – a reform that burned the entire insurance side of things to the ground would save a lot of money.

            It would also make a whole lot of medical billing specialists unemployed, but… there are not enough of them to swing elections, and besides, by the time the next election swings around, they would to a first approximation all be working less soul-destroying jobs and over it.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It’s popular until you tell them “okay, and you are giving up your employer-provided healthcare, and going into this new plan, okay?”

          • John Schilling says:

            What Edward says. There is a reason Barack Obama had to tell the flat-out lie, “If you like your plan, you can keep it”. Without that, there would have been no Obamacare. Most Americans were quite happy with their private health insurance plans, whether paid for out of pocket or by their employers, and a lot of the ones with employer-provided health care are still happy with it.

            The popularity of “Medicare for all”, is often really “Medicare as an option for all, but I’m keeping my plan and my doctor until I retire (and even then Medicare will let me keep my doctor, right?)”. Americans want the fallback protection, and they want to know that the less fortunate are being provided for across the board, but they mostly do not want to give up their own access to private health care.

            Which means that even the mathematically literate among them, will not go for the bit where you have them balance their increased taxes against their reduced insurance premiums, because A: they’d rather have good private insurance than Medicare and B: most of them never actually pay premiums for whatever private insurance they have. Once they realize how much their taxes will have to increase, for a service they would rather not use themselves, a lot of them will balk and then you won’t have the political consensus they need

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            “And we are making your employer pay you the cash value of your old plan”

            This is not difficult to sell, if you want to sell it.

            The US spends far, far more than anyone else on health care without corresponding results to show for it. Reforms that change that will have losers.

            Entire firms and legions of workers will have the sky fall of them like the hammer of a wrathful goddess. But for the average Joe and Jane not currently working in medical billing or insurance sales? Great big win, as they get to keep a very large portion of their earnings for themselves that are currently disappearing into a kafkaesque hole of redundant paperwork and corporate gouging.

            Best of all, politically, it follows the axiom of “Never do an enemy a small injury”. Medical insurance firms that collapsed like a house of cards in a category five hurricane do not sponsor the political campaigns of your enemies.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “And we are making your employer pay you the cash value of your old plan”

            This isn’t relevant. (It’s also one of those laws suggested by a person who has no idea that money is fungible. Are you going to make it illegal to reduce someone’s compensation?)

            What’s relevant is the fact that I know I have really good health care. I have switched employers when they said they were going to reduce my health care plan. They didn’t even have a chance to let me experience the new one. They tried “just give it a shot. You know, you might like the new one better,” which we all recognize as an obvious HR lie.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            I do not need to – companies are themselves very, very reluctant to do that.

            It is a necessary part of the reform, though – if you let firms pocket the former payments to the insurance companies, that is an effective huge pay-cut, which would have predictably catastrophic effects on overall demand – instant great depression time.

            I mean, you could just hide everything from the typical employee and pay for government provided health-insurance via a head-count tax on employers. but I think, politically, “Your pay went up 20% and your taxes went up by less than that” is going to sell better.

            And again, by the time the next election came around, you would be over it. I have met a fair few expat citizens of the US, none of them missed their old insurance providers, and the diabetic went to some considerable length to stay an expat.

          • John Schilling says:

            But for the average Joe and Jane not currently working in medical billing or insurance sales? Great big win, as they get to keep a very large portion of their earnings for themselves that are currently disappearing into a kafkaesque hole of redundant paperwork and corporate gouging.

            Instead, they will have their family doctor, their trusted Ob-Gyn, or the oncologist who helped them beat that cancer into remission, disappear into a kafkaesque hole of redundant paperwork and bureaucratic indifference. I don’t think you understand how seriously Americans take that.

            And no, they won’t “keep a very large portion of their earnings”, because those earnings aren’t theirs to keep. They never see that money in the first place, and they won’t believe you when you tell them that their employers will start giving it to them in the future. Edward is right – that sort of ham-fisted price and wage fixing never works. W/re American health care, that sort of ham-fisted price and wage fixing is how we got into this mess in the first place. You understand that, right?

            Best of all, politically, it follows the axiom of “Never do an enemy a small injury”. Medical insurance firms that collapsed like a house of cards in a category five hurricane do not sponsor the political campaigns of your enemies.

            Medical insurance firms that imagine they will collapse if you get your way, very much do. But apparently you are envisioning A: entirely destroying a class of firms that are central to one-sixth of the US economy, without warning in the course of a single election cycle, and B: this leading to a happy ending where everything works much better and the transient disruptions are quickly forgotten.

            At least in the former Soviet Union, the planners had a five-year grace period before being purged for failure to accomplish the impossible. You’re demanding the complete reconstruction of the US health care industry in under two years.

            I think we will pass on your plan, and instead endure your sanctimonious criticism.

          • RobJ says:

            And no, they won’t “keep a very large portion of their earnings”, because those earnings aren’t theirs to keep. They never see that money in the first place, and they won’t believe you when you tell them that their employers will start giving it to them in the future.

            On every pay statement I get it tells me what my gross pay is and what deductions were made from that, including how many dollars went to health insurance contribution. Just that portion is hardly insignificant. As to the employer match, that’s more difficult, but I fail to see why it’s a particularly hard problem (not that there aren’t plenty of other hard problems which you point out).

          • cassander says:

            @Thomas Jørgensen

            Entire firms and legions of workers will have the sky fall of them like the hammer of a wrathful goddess. But for the average Joe and Jane not currently working in medical billing or insurance sales? Great big win, as they get to keep a very large portion of their earnings for themselves that are currently disappearing into a kafkaesque hole of redundant paperwork and corporate gouging.

            Wait, you think that in a democracy, with a situation of extremely concentrated costs and highly diffuse benefits, the side being offered diffuse benefits is the only likely to prevail? Especially when the concentrated cost sides includes the people who literally heal the sick? Well, sir, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

            Best of all, politically, it follows the axiom of “Never do an enemy a small injury”. Medical insurance firms that collapsed like a house of cards in a category five hurricane do not sponsor the political campaigns of your enemies.

            The medical insurance firms are the enemy of no meaningful political faction.

          • johan_larson says:

            How would one campaign to pull the US toward single-payer health-care, gradually, without having to revamp everything all at once? I’m thinking you’d have to start small. Find something the currently is unfunded or poorly funded, but most people agree everyone should get, and make that an explicit entitlement funded by tax-money and administered by an appropriate bureaucracy.

            Emergency care might be a good place to start. Currently hospitals can’t refuse to provide emergency care, and they are supposed to worry about payment after. In practice that’s a bit dicy, since lots of indigents who have basically nothing use ERs as doctors’ offices.

            Once that’s up and running, start expanding it. A good place to look for things to add in are things that insurers have to pay for by law. Presumably these are things that are broadly supported, but which insurers are reluctant to pay for. Then ratchet up the degree of coverage whenever there is a hue and cry about some condition or other going untreated. Repeat over 20 years, and you’ll have a program of baseline care provided for everyone at taxpayer expense.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            As for taxes going up.. the median voter can do the math and go “I will be paying x more in taxes, and x + n less in insurance premiums. I win” – Which is how it would shake out assuming even minimal competence.

            I’m sure that’s how progressive and center-left Facebook see it, but a lot of people will see this as “see those guys who gave Flint lead poisoning? They are in charge of your healthcare now. They can’t possibly be that stupid. “

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            We can expect that employers will increase the take-home pay of their workers by more or less the amount they’re spending on health insurance now, without the need for a law to make them do it– for the same reason they’ve been paying for the insurance without any law making them do that. The workers will be a bit worse off than before (taking the pay situation in isolation) since the additional pay– unlike the insurance premiums– will be subject to tax.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @Thomas Jørgensen

            As for taxes going up.. the median voter can do the math and go “I will be paying x more in taxes, and x + n less in insurance premiums. I win” – Which is how it would shake out assuming even minimal competence.

            No, they can’t. Because the median voter will have to be told that in order to provide medicare for all it will be the median voter that will bear the brunt of the burden through doubling or tripling the payroll tax, or the introduction of a whole new kind of tax (like the VAT or national sales tax).

            The reality of America is that even with recent tax breaks, the top 10% of earners are essentially tapped out. Their contribution as a % of overall tax revenue is the highest in the Western world, and those top 10% or so even pay a larger portion of overall income taxes. Only the introduction of a regressive tax can pay for even current expenditures, let alone a new one.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            US health spending, as a percentage of gdp : 17 percent. That is 5 percent gdp higher than anyone else in the oecd, and you cannot blame it on higher pay – doing the math in percent gdp should account for that.

            Indeed, if you look into the numbers, it is mostly because the US medical system has uniquely high administrative overhead. (and because you pay way over the going rate for drugs. But mostly, it is the billing) Something like five times as much money spent on shoveling paper compared to best practice.

            There is a lot of space here to bring the actual cost of health insurance for US citizens way down – but it cannot be done without a massive, massive round of “creative destruction” because the excess costs are almost entirely labor costs for a job that, uhm, does not need doing to deliver health care.

            Arguments that it is un-affordable miss the point entirely – The US pays more for health insurance than anyone else, and you currently find the money. That is solid proof that you could afford a cheaper system.

            This is not unique to socializing the medical insurance industry. Adopting the Swiss structure wholesale would still be entirely private insurance, but would end up with just as huge a round of sackings.

          • cassander says:

            @Thomas Jørgensen says:

            Indeed, if you look into the numbers, it is mostly because the US medical system has uniquely high administrative overhead. (and because you pay way over the going rate for drugs. But mostly, it is the billing) Something like five times as much money spent on shoveling paper compared to best practice.

            The US does not spend 5% of GDP on medical billing. and total drug spending is about 10% of US healthcare spending, so high drug spending is not a meaningful contributor either.

            The US spends more on healthcare because it consumes more healthcare, full stop. It consumes that extra healthcare because consumers are totally insulated from healthcare costs and there is no central authority at the top to ration things out on the basis of qualys or such.

            There is a lot of space here to bring the actual cost of health insurance for US citizens way down – but it cannot be done without a massive, massive round of “creative destruction” because the excess costs are almost entirely labor costs for a job that, uhm, does not need doing to deliver health care.

            This is absolutely true. And it will never, ever happen, because the people who you want to creatively destroy (and I say this as someone who shares your desire to disrupt them) are well organized and politically sympathetic, while the people who benefit from destroying them are not.

            Arguments that it is un-affordable miss the point entirely – The US pays more for health insurance than anyone else, and you currently find the money. That is solid proof that you could afford a cheaper system.

            That the US could spend less does not mean that there is a politically feasible way for the US to get there. Any future healthcare reform will end up looking a lot like the ACA, that is, it will throw more money at the system in an attempt to expand coverage without fundamental reform of the system because Concentrated interests beat diffuse interests at least 9 times out of 10. Medicare for all, if it ever passes, will not result in the US spending less money on care. It will come about by locking in at least current levels of spending with all stakeholders in order to buy their support for the bill.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            … Ehhr.. You kind of do, broadly defined. Look it up – the usual number is that 30% of US healthcare spending is admin. 17 % of gdp total, means 5 % of US gdp is healthcare admin. Now, of course, you cant get rid of all five percent, some overhead is unavoidable.. but 30% is one heck of a long way from the frontiers of lean practice.

          • cassander says:

            @Thomas Jørgensen says:

            … Ehhr.. You kind of do, broadly defined. Look it up – the usual number is that 30% of US healthcare spending is admin. 17 % of gdp total, means 5 % of US gdp is healthcare admin. Now, of course, you cant get rid of all five percent, some overhead is unavoidable.. but 30% is one heck of a long way from the frontiers of lean practice.

            I’m not sure what source you’re quoting, but assure you that “overhead” is not counted the same way in different countries around the world, which will make any apples to apples comparison extremely difficult. I know it’s not even counted the same way in among different institutions in the US. I would be extremely careful of such numbers unless you know exactly where they come from.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I do not need to – companies are themselves very, very reluctant to do that.

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            They are reluctant to be the FIRST to do it in a market where there is competition for employees, for fear that employees will jump ship to another employer. In market environments where outside forces increase costs to all employers in an industry (or industries) roughly equally, and/or in cases where there is more labor supply and less competition between firms for the same employees, that reluctance vanishes.

            And we can in fact observe that by looking at changes in employee health care coverage and cost in American firms post-ACA. AFAICT from my research, the only firms NOT decreasing the quantity and quality of employee insurance, increasing the employee’s share of the costs, or both are firms in industries where competition for top-end talent is still very important (high-end tech, finance, law, etc), firms that have a big enough bankroll to absorb the hit, and/or firms dealing with public sector unions. Everyone else is tightening their belts and telling their employees good luck finding any other employer who isn’t.

            As for how this happens, it’s quite simple. Employees at their annual Insurance meeting are told: “So, plan coverage has changed this year. The Low Deductible plan is now $1,000 annual instead of $500 annual. The High deductible plan is now $3,000 instead of $1,000. Co-pays have doubled across the board. And the company will no longer pay the cost of disability, hospitalization, or critical illness insurance policies for salaried employees, only for hourly employees.” They don’t mention that on top of that items that last year were flat co-pay now go to the deductible first, then a 50-50 coinsurance, etc etc.

            We can expect that employers will increase the take-home pay of their workers by more or less the amount they’re spending on health insurance now, without the need for a law to make them do it– for the same reason they’ve been paying for the insurance without any law making them do that.

            See above. We can expect that employers don’t cut employee compensation for reasons of competition. We may eventually expect take-home pay to increase for employees, but only to the extent that they are unable to fill positions from the labor supply for the current rates.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            That research is somewhat impacted by the Obamacare Cadillac Plan tax, which specifically disincentivizes expensive employer health care plans.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Edward Scizorhands says:

            It’s popular until you tell them “okay, and you are giving up your employer-provided healthcare, and going into this new plan, okay?”

            And John Shilling says:

            they’d rather have good private insurance than Medicare

            But the actual polling results show that people on government-ran health insurance are more satisfied with their plan than people on private. So really, we ought to be talking about the pain we are causing by not allowing young people the option of Medicare, rather than the supposed pain we are inflicting by switching people to a insurance they end up liking better.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I’m 100% on board with setting up a system that lets people opt-in to a system run like NICE in the UK. I think it delivers better performance at better price. A big way HillaryCare was going to save money was by being able to deny care that didn’t pass a QALY threshold, with very limited appeal when you get told no.

            I think it’s a fine way to run a system, but people really hate being told no. Maybe they are irrational. Fine, they are irrational. But forcing your preferences on others over their screaming objections — besides being kind of rapey — is doomed in a system with as much democracy as ours. I will watch with popcorn as you try to implement it, though.

    • Dan L says:

      Was going to post my writeup as a top-level comment, but it’s not a bad idea to consolidate election talk into a few threads. The timing of the Open Threads was very convenient in that it effectively forced the hot-takes to delay a bit and let the data come in… but that said, I drafted most of this Wednesday morning. Ah well.

      The Good:

      A very good night for House Democrats, obviously. Given the fact that supermajorities are rarely necessary in the House, shifting from a significant minority to a significant majority in this part of Congress is a dramatic increase in the Democrats’ power at the Federal level. That margin is going to matter very early, as it’s an open question whether or not Pelosi is going to regain the Speakership – if she does hold on though, my bet is that you can expect her to keep a better hold over her caucus than Ryan did. The House also has two key powers: investigation and impeachment. If Pelosi is running things, I expect her to attempt to downplay impeachment possibility for the near future. If something happens to affect the Mueller investigations* however, you can bet that the Democrats are going to be drawing plenty of inspiration from how the Benghazi hearings went down. But until then, there’s a definite possibility of their grandstanding actually getting in Mueller’s way.

      Similarly obvious positive results for Senate Republicans, where at present it looks like they’ll be picking up 1-3 seats. This also gets them into comfortable-margin territory, whereas before moderate swing Senators were able to exercise quite a bit of power on the margins. With the death of the fillibuster for appointments one can expect those to essentially be rubber-stamps, with the possible exception of a few Cabinet seats*. More on that below.

      Pollsters can safely claim vindication. If we’re taking the 538 model as representative, then there are indications they might have actually been underconfident. There’s lots to say on the micro race-by-race level, but the macro level went pretty much exactly as expected.

      The Bad:

      Incumbents didn’t lose en-masse, but the statistical advantage from incumbency appears to be weaker than ever before. That’s a little less alarming than it might have been for a midterm election given the high turnout, but update your priors going forward.

      Red-state Democrats not named Joe Manchin took a shellacking, but this is one that needs a fair amount of nuance. While 2018 definitely adds to the trend of elections becoming increasingly nationalized, there are still a number of paths for local candidates to win a district in a hostile state. For demographic reasons, this affects the parties asymmetrically – Democrats take the brunt for now, but there are a few plausible maps that start to shift the structural advantages by 2020~2024.

      Anti-Trump Republicans might have gained a figurehead in Mitt Romney, but they definitely lost a lot of power. Some of this comes from no longer being able to play swing vote in the Senate. Some of this comes from the need to be more united in the face of an opposition party with actual teeth. And some of it comes from more narrative reasons, and their decreased share of media attention. I’m calling Graham as a weather vane*.

      Actually, the fringes of each party in general had a bad night. I’m tempted to attribute this to an entrenchment in partisanship overall – tossups broke pretty evenly, but for the most case races bent towards whomever was already favored by their state’s fundamentals. More analysis as data comes in.

      The Ugly:

      Fucking Florida. To paraphrase a comment spotted on Twitter: “Florida could find a way for a race between ice cream and a kick to the groin to go to a recount”. Ugh. I’m looking forward to digging into the micro to see how exactly Nelson outperformed Gillum, but ugh, Florida.

      Beto O’Rourke did not turn Texas Blue. Please stop asking. He did seem to have a substantial coattails effect though, and there are a ton of more local elections that were undoubtedly swung by the massive turnout spike among certain demographics. But I wouldn’t put too much stock into the narrow margin he pulled against the legendarily-unlikable Cruz. Watch this space in 2024.

      One thing that has me uneasy on a macro-scale after this election is the seemingly widening gap between urban and rural. Suburbs play tiebreaker, this time going blue. There are a lot of ways to slice the results, but I think this one has a lot of explanatory power and I don’t think it’s a healthy trend for the country.

      The Rest:

      A mixed bag for Trump personally – any sweeping legislative actions he wanted are pretty much dead, but the depowering of a lot of his opposition in the Republican party gives him quite a bit of leeway in certain ways. A Cabinet shakeup wouldn’t be unusual at this point, and I’m betting Trump is going to take a good opportunity to replace some of the Party’s choices with some of his own. Sessions is out*, and maaaaybe Mattis? Not sure I buy that second one, but politicos apparently don’t like his odds. Kelly is a wildcard. House Democrats have the potential to cause him a lot of trouble with subpoena power, but how that escalates will very much depend on Trump’s reactions.

      Going to the micro level, there were a few interesting things to notice in the differences between Governor and Senate races within the same state. The hot-take is that Governorships are increasingly determined by how the state breaks on national issues, but there’s rich data here – for now, resist convenient narratives.

      Redistricting is complicated, more so as time goes on. Expect it to be less powerful in the 2020s than the 2010s, but how that takes shape is going to depend a lot on how the next few years go.

      *As mentioned, I originally drafted this Wednesday morning. The fact of Sessions’ departure a few hours later wasn’t particularly surprising – Trump’s been telegraphing that for a while – but the sheer speed of it was. The particulars of how this’ll take shape is still developing, but plenty of eyes are back on the Mueller investigation and we can safely increase the odds of further Cabinet shakeups.

      • Brad says:

        Rural is 19% of the population. Even state by state, only 18 states have at least 30% rural population, and of those only 4 have more than 50% (as of 2010). The Republicans are in control of the Senate because while Kansas City, Kansas is blue, its suburbs are pink at best and even city limits Wichita isn’t blue.

        • Dan L says:

          19% sounds like a census definition. I’m more partial to something like CityLab’s metrics.

          But to be clear, I’m not arguing that rural populations are the Republicans’ only – or even main – point of support. Any explanation as to why one party does well on the macro level is a complex topic with a huge number of contributing factors. I’m worried because urban v. rural factors were unusually predictive this cycle, the urban v. rural population ratio isn’t stable, and political polarization along these lines seems likely to produce some very… inefficient… outcomes.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      My guess was a bit off, but I hewed to the polling. Not a lot to claim credit for. The GOP did better in the Senate than I expected, boosted by pickups in Indiana and possibly Florida. Dems performed about as well in the House as I expected. I was off on Wisconsin and Georgia. I like Walker, so I am sad to see him go.

      I’m a suburban Republican. Based on results from last night and current trends, I might as well be a Bourbon Democrat. The areas I have lived are slowly turning into Democratic bastions, a process accelerated by Trump’s antics. However, Trumpism is still electorally competitive, at relatively little political cost and shockingly little financial cost. So this election just entrenched Trumpism, IMO.

      In IL, we have a Dem trifecta again. My conservative friends are obviously not pleased. There have been a lot of grumbling about leaving the state in the last few years, and I expect more people to pull the trigger, since our tax burden is about to spike substantially (after already spiking substantially). The Beta household’s backup choices are WI, TN, and NH. WI actually is a bit worse from a tax perspective right now, but it doesn’t have quite the budget nightmare IL has.

    • John Schilling says:

      When in doubt, assume the outcome will fall within Nate Silver’s error bars. But don’t assume this tells us much of anything about 2020, because the way Trump plays off a Democratic House, and vice versa, is going to change the way people think about both of them by at least an error bar or two. And that can’t be at all predicted, because too much of it depends on the highly idiosyncratic behavior of one man.

      Or maybe two men, because to no one’s great surprise Beto O’Rourke is not going to be a Senator from Texas but he might become President of the United States. In order to do that, he has to find something to do between now and then that doesn’t just remind people that he is a loser. I’m not at all sure what that is going to be, but I can’t imagine he doesn’t have a plan.

      • Walter says:

        I’d be super surprised if the Democrats nominate a white dude. I think he’d win the general, but I expect he won’t make it through the primary.

        • John Schilling says:

          They nominated white dudes for most of the Senate seats they contested this time around, and they almost nominated Bernie Sanders in 2016. I think you greatly overestimate the extent to which the Democratic party has been captured by the SJW Oppression Olympic Committe.

          • Aapje says:

            Aren’t the Democratic primaries extremely strongly rigged in favor of the candidate that is endorsed by the party hotshots, rather than the primary voters?

            And weren’t the party hotshots extremely in favor of Clinton?

            Did Sanders actually have a chance?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Sanders lost before the super delegates were taken into account. If Sanders had won minus the super-delegates, well, that would have been very interesting, but it isn’t what happened.

            In addition, Sanders performed much better in caucuses than in primaries, so the idea that he was burdened by the fact that Democratic voters were robbed of their preference is even more incorrect.

            Finally, I’m too lazy to look it up, but I believe that the Dems got rid of super delegates for the next presidential cycle.

            (Aside: super delegates were designed, IIRC, to protect against weirdness of various kinds, but of course systems like that don’t stay like that).

          • Walter says:

            I guess we disagree about a future thing. Let’s circle back after the democratic primary when we know who was right, and the guy who was wrong can update in the correct direction.

          • John Schilling says:

            Aren’t the Democratic primaries extremely strongly rigged in favor of the candidate that is endorsed by the party hotshots, rather than the primary voters?

            They aren’t “rigged” in the sense of the party leaders only pretending to let the voters have a choice and then meeting in smoke-filled rooms to decide who the candidate will really be. The voting is fair, and the unelected delegates are rarely decisive. But the party leaders do control a private PR machine that can give a huge boost to whichever candidate they prefer, and they can sometimes threaten significant professional retaliation against any party member who seriously threatens their plans by running against the Annointed One in a primary and losing.

            This is roughly equally true in Senate and Presidential primaries, hence my using the former as a proxy for the latter.

            Sanders was a special case in that he was an Independent candidate who usually caucuses with the Democrats but is not one of them, so limiting their ability to play the “lay off the Annointed One or else!” card. And Hillary was a special case in that she had basically spent a masterful lifetime locking up the Democratic party machine behind her candidacy. Each of them thus brought a powerful and unconstrained PR machine to a fair election, and it came down to their relative popularity with the Democratic voters.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Sanders never had a chance but it was for a lot of reasons. The same way Hillary lost the general election for a lot of small reasons that added up.

    • 10240 says:

      Re: discussion a few OTs ago about how a 8% Democratic lead in the opinion polls didn’t translate to near-certain Democratic control of the House:

      I wrote that (part of) the uncertainty could be explained not only by a difference between the popular vote and seat distribution, but also by a possible difference between opinion polls and the popular vote, coming from either a last week swing in public opinion or a difference between answers to pollsters and actual votes. In the end, opinion poll aggregates still showed a 8% Democratic lead right before the election (according to 538), but the difference in the actual result was 4.3% (according to Wikipedia).

      Democrats got 51.3% of the popular vote and 52% of the seats, and Republicans got 47% of the vote and 46% of the seats (with a few seats not yet called), so seat distribution closely matches the popular vote, with a very slight advantage to the Democrats. There seems to have been no significant effect from gerrymandering.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Wait until all election results are certified before you count the popular vote total. As we can see from Florida and Arizona, there are lots of votes outstanding. I also haven’t seen any numbers on provisional ballots that have been rejected, yet.

        You also have the issue of California, where their top two primary system is now suppressing turnout in many areas, where there isn’t a “top of the ticket”draw.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          You also have the issue of California, where their top two primary system is now suppressing turnout in many areas, where there isn’t a “top of the ticket”draw.

          That’s a shame, I quite like the open primary. I would expect that to be a large-but-insufficient improvement in giving voters a real choice and in taking power away from institutional interests.

      • fluorocarbon says:

        Even though most races are called, the votes are still being tallied, especially on the West Coast. The Democrats will probably win the popular vote by somewhere between 6.5-7.5% once everything is counted. See Nate Silver’s prediction. I don’t want this to come off rude, but this is one of my pet peeves. Do not draw conclusions from vote totals until all votes have been counted!

        Also, I don’t know where Wikipedia gets its vote total numbers, but it’s important to be cautious when taking the exact vote margins in the House as a meaningful proxy for the Popular Will: many districts don’t have challengers, Florida (and possibly other states) do not tally votes in districts with only one person running, and some districts (especially in California with its “jungle primary”) have two people of the same party running.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Florida and Arizona are very different, even though Trump tries to make them the same.

          Arizona is still counting votes. It may switch to a D just because they have a big log to get through. It’s inconvenient but this happens essentially in every election — it just doesn’t matter because most races are not so close that those ballots don’t matter for knowing who wins.

          Florida, specifically Broward county, smells like Fraud. At the very least, they are obviously ignoring the public reporting requirements that all other counties do about the total number of ballots left to tabulate, and appear to be completely unconcerned about defying this law, and aren’t even deigning to comment about why they are ignoring the law.

          (This Fraud is separate from the Incompetence of what looks like a stupidly designed ballot that caused a few percent of voters to just miss the vote for US Senate.)

          The election commissioner there has been found guilty several times of violating election law, but somehow still has their job, so I guess they know they don’t need to change anything.

          • Slicer says:

            Broward County is just such a festering mess of corruption and incompetence that it’s a wonder that nobody’s stepped in before now. After 2000, all of Florida got its shit together (electorally, at least) – except Broward County. The Parkland school shooting happened guess where? Cesar Sayoc was sending his not-really-mail bombs from guess where?

            Are there any mechanisms to utterly disband a county and give its land to other counties?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            They’re the Serbia of the US.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            (This Fraud is separate from the Incompetence of what looks like a stupidly designed ballot that caused a few percent of voters to just miss the vote for US Senate.)

            Stupid or 4D-chess cunning?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Well, it will cause their own voters to undervote for Senate. It’s possible that the difference in #FLSEN will be within the margin of those undervotes from a predominantly Democratic area.

            So this one is definitely Stupid.

            But what would a Florida recount look like if we didn’t have a stupid ballot design?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      As an optimist, I hope the Democratic House can use its investigative powers to expose Trump’s bad behavior. My inner pessimist worries that they will overplay this (the way the Senate Democrats overplayed their hand in Kavanaugh) and waste time going after stupid shit. There are so many genuinely rotten things in Trump’s administration that it should not be hard to only stick to those genuine rotten things. So I please please please urge them to stay on task.

      I anticipate lots of impeachments of Trump that won’t go anywhere because they won’t be held up in the Senate (like the way that Republicans voted unanimously to revoke Obamacare until they got the votes to make it happen and then backed off). I don’t know how this will play out.

  5. johan_larson says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to teach the history of Jesus and the early Christian church in ten hours. You are doing this in a high school freshman world history course about the ancient world, in the middle of the unit on Rome. Nothing in the course has covered the Abrahamic faiths before. If you set the bar low, half the students are Christians and another quarter are cultural Christians.

    What will you teach in these ten hours and what homework will you assign?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I mean, if this is a challenging high school where the students can handle the Great Books curriculum, they should be reading Tacitus. So I’ll just say we assign a selection from Tacitus that starts before the Great Fire and ends after the Jewish War. And any high school class should be able to handle Luke-Acts in a modern word-for-word translation. I don’t know how much we need to tackle apocalyptism, but I’ll assign either one of St. Paul’s core letters most accepted as authentic, or Hebrews if the students can handle the Platonic content vis-a-vis effects the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple had on Judaism and the nascent Church.
      We’d discuss the evidence that Nero’s law making Christianity a capital crime apparently remained on the books, with special emphasis on Pliny’s letter asking how to apply the law (showcasing lax enforcement) and the vigorous persecution of Diocletian in its context of making the living Emperor someone to be worshiped as the Roman economy collapsed. Discuss growth of the Christian minority through banning infanticide and charity even to unbelievers ( there’s a telling passage in The Golden Ass Where the hero exploits a Christian woman), and mention where Church Fathers credit martyrs above those other two factors.
      I forget the name of the best primary source on Constantine, but that’ll be essential. Then swiftly cover the history from the Edict of Milan to abolition of Hellenism with special emphasis on the triumph of the Church’s effect on ntelligentsia whose works survive,, assigning part of St. Augustine’s Confessions if the students can handle it.

    • cassander says:

      Play them this, with the speed cranked up a bit to give them time for questions.

    • dndnrsn says:

      What is “the early Christian church” – until when does this history have to cover? I went through a lesson plan and then realized without knowing the answer to this question I’m frontloading the course really dramatically.

      • johan_larson says:

        What is “the early Christian church” – until when does this history have to cover?

        Good question. How about ending it when Christianity becomes the official religion of the Roman Empire? That was 380.

      • dndnrsn says:

        OK, here’s the plan. 10 1-hour classes, because less than that isn’t really enough, and more than that and people start getting bored and fidgety (if these were university students, 2 hours with a short break would be fine).

        Readings before class 1: the introduction of a decent Hebrew Bible textbook (something with a really super brief summary of the general ideas), a smattering of prophetic excerpts so that they recognize stuff in the New Testament that’s meant to call back to prophecy, some excerpted historical stuff (Tacitus and Josephus?)

        Class 1: Jewish history up to the end of the first century, including the war. Tie it into the Hellenistic context that presumably they already know – talk specifically about religion in the Hellenistic world. Jewish context of Christianity: Jewish apocalypticism, issues facing the Jews in Palestine in the early 1st century. Overall question: why was the fertile ground there for Jesus to teach, and his teachings, stories of his life, etc to not become a footnote after he was horrifyingly executed by an imperial power, but rather to remain, and grow, and spread all over that same empire? (This is, to me, the cool stuff; I’m getting actual tingles right now)

        Readings for class 2: Mark, Matthew, Luke.

        Class 2: Mark, Matthew, Luke. The synoptic problem. The issue of sources. How the emphases differ in the synoptics.

        Readings for class 3: Authentic Pauline epistles (some if not all), Acts.

        Class 3: really early expansion of the religion. What do we know, historically?

        Readings for class 4: John, Thomas.

        Class 4: John as evolution of view of Christ? Thomas as proto-Gnostic.

        Readings for class 5: 1 Clement, Didache.

        Class 5: later first century expansion of the church. What was this still quite early Christianity like?

        Readings for class 6: Revelation, selections from Ignatius, Martyrdom of Polycarp.

        Class 6: Persecution. How, why, when? Christian responses.

        Readings for class 7: some selections of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen.

        Class 7: Development of the church in the second and third century. Increasing centralization? Increasing impact of Hellenistic philosophy. Increasing solidification of doctrines on the one hand versus heresy on the other.

        Readings for class 8: Athanasius selections, Nicene Creed, probably want some piece of historical background but I’m not sure what.

        Class 8: Developments in the early 4th century, toleration, Constantine, Christianity becoming increasingly official, etc.

        Readings for class 9: Some Augustine.

        Class 9: Augustine. His impact on later developments. Prep for last class.

        Readings for class 10: Go over anything that you think you need to. Nature of next class will be advertised.

        Class 10: Recap; discussion class. So, what just happened? How did a local religious leader in rural Palestine lead to all this? How did we get from there to here?

        Final (only) project: keep notes on this last class and write up a brief, informal (use the first person) thing (not even really an essay) expressing what you think about all this. The goal here would not be to get the students to parrot me, or to fall into either “well we don’t know anything and scholar a says x and scholar y says b” hungover-undergraduate hedging (yes, I am a kind of a hypocrite) or needlessly edgy stances, but rather to show that they’ve been thinking about what all of this means.

        Comments:

        1. I’m very biased in my interests towards the earlier stuff; I tried not to frontload the course too much (the first stab I had at it only left 4 classes for everything outside of the New Testament).

        2. The problem with this lesson plan is that it jumps around chronologically early on – but it is very hard not to. It is very confusing to start with Paul unless you are also simultaneously talking about stuff before Mark, and that requires a ton of speculation and a fair bit of chutzpah. One scholarly approach starts off with looking at a reconstruction of Q and all sorts of stuff about the supposed earliest stuff, and I just think that’s a bridge too far.

        3. Anyone who, unprompted, makes mild fun of the Jesus Seminar will get 1% bonus.

        • Jaskologist says:

          You and I have pretty much the same readings post-Bible. And we both have one class dedicated entirely to Augustine. Sounds about right.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Bonus readings, for entertainment value: Infancy Gospel of Thomas (is it the first example in history of a spinoff where the character is shown as a child?), Acts of Paul and Thecla (mainly for the scene where animals fight each other during the martyrdom of Thecla and the line “even the governor shed tears because the seals were about to devour such beauty.” Plus, on a serious note, it shows some of the appeal that Christianity had to women – which Roman anti-Christian authors held against it, as I recall).

    • theredsheep says:

      On a somewhat related note, I’m writing a history of the Byzantine Empire for kids (Orthodox homeschoolers are feeling its absence). But it picks up where you say to leave off. Anyway, I’m halfway through Alexios Komnenos.

      • cassander says:

        I’d think that a G rated history of Byzantium would have to cut out most of Byzantine history!

        • theredsheep says:

          It’s more PG; I intend it for nine- or ten-year-olds. If you can’t handle a certain amount of moral complexity, you can’t handle Byzantium, I agree. Even so, it’s tricky balancing between bowdlerization and brutal disillusionment.

      • SamChevre says:

        Any chance that I could get a copy? We are (Catholic) homeschoolers, and anything that covers what was going on east of Rome would be a huge help in covering history.

        My username at gmail.

        • theredsheep says:

          Working on it. I’m only up through Alexios Komnenos so far, and that’s just in the main narrative; I still have to add a lot of end-of-chapter biographies of personalities like Michael Psellos, plus other extras, revise it, and publish it. For this one, I might have to go with traditional publishers, too. I’m afraid it will add up to some delay.

          Sent you an e-mail, though.

    • johan_larson says:

      If I were doing this I would use the PBS series From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians. It covers the Judaism of the time, the life of Jesus, Paul, the Gospel accounts, and the growth of the faith within the Roman Empire. That’s four hours. Have the kids fill out answer sheets so they pay attention, and take up the sheets after. That’s maybe another two hours. Spend the remaining four hours reading and talking about some of the works mentioned in the series: Josephus’ The Jewish War, the four Gospels, some Pauline letters, and the few contemporary Roman accounts of early Christianity. Assign some of the longer pieces as homework, so we don’t have to read every word in class.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I have done this (curriculum here). That was for Adult Sunday School, so I skipped Jesus, and had slightly more hours, but I could trim it to 10 1-hour lessons pretty easily. I think I’d still skip past the Jesus bit. They can get that elsewhere easily enough, and we’ll cover the concepts several times over in early christian texts during the course.

      The main things about my approach:
      * Only lightly chronological. I focus on concepts more than timeline. Most of these lessons cover overlapping periods of time.
      * Emphasis to original documents. Every class involves reading primary sources relevant to the topic/person being discussed.

      1. Persecution of the Saints
      The persecutions of the early church. Learn the stories of Ignatius, Polycarp, and Perpetua.

      2. Dos, Don’t, and Donatists
      Schisms! Is the church a society of saints, or a school for sinners? How should we deal with those who lapsed?

      3. Montanus to the right of them, Marcion to the left of them
      While schisms threatened to divide the church, heresies threatened to turn it into something it wasn’t.

      Canon in front of them: How the New Testament was formed
      This one can be omitted. Save it for the standing ovation at the end of the course when the students demand an encore lesson.

      4. Love the Lord with all thy mind
      The early apologists and how they built the intellectual foundations for the faith. Justin Martyr, Iranaeus, Origen.

      5. Love not the world
      St. Anthony and the birth of monasticism

      6. By this sign, conquer!
      Constantine the Great, and how Christianity went from being persecuted to ruling the empire.

      7. Who do you say that I am?
      The Council of Niceae and the Arian controversy.

      8. Preachers and Politicians
      The tangled webs of church and state issues. A few case studies where Ambrose got involved in state issues. This one is fun because when you ask moderns how he should have handled things from general principles, they come out against him, but all reverse themselves once you get into the specifics.

      9 Saint Augustine of Hippo
      “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”

      10. The Fall of Rome
      With some caveats about how historians get mad when you call this “the fall of Rome” yada yada. Touch on “City of God” and close out the era.

    • Deiseach says:

      johan_larson, I’m laughing here because while I’d love to do a course like this, I think I’d last five to ten minutes before being hauled out for not sticking to inoffensiveness.

      “Right kids, first off the bat – there are no ‘alternative Christianities’ that were ruthlessly and brutally boo-hoo persecuted, there were heresies – ” School official intervenes, Teacher Deiseach is replaced by “Hi kids, now we will be learning how niceness is nice and it’s nice to be nice and God would like us to be nice so let’s be nice!” Approved Teacher 🙂

      Assuming I didn’t start off with the artillery barrage, I’d like to cover the Eastern and Oriental Churches as well, ancient Christian churches in places like India, ecumenical councils and the rest of it. Basically that not all Christianity is American Protestant Non-Denominational 19th and 20th Century churches.

      EDIT: Depending on age of class and level of knowledge, I think the safe thing to assume is that nobody knows anything (not even the Christian students) and start the first lesson-hour (dndnrsn’s lesson plan idea is great) with “God and the gods – what is monotheism?”, get a bit into that (versus polytheism, henotheism, pantheism, panentheism and monolatrism so we thrash that out), and very much the Jewish roots of the faith before getting into Jesus, Acts, the Gospels, etc. Also try to move outside the European view, the suggestions about St. Augustine are also good here to show that the Church was also present in North Africa (places associated with the Roman Empire and beyond) and that of course brings us on to the other churches as mentioned above. What to end on is a good question – I’d be tempted to push it out to as late as the eighth century, but that might be too late. Somewhere around the fifth-sixth centuries?

    • SamChevre says:

      I do not think I can beat some of the suggestions above. One teacher resource I’d recommend is Diarmaid Macculloch, Christianity: the first 3000 years, which covers the Greek philosophy and post-Exile Judaism that are central to the theological development.

      Also, Jim McDonald’s Victory to the People is a hilarious overview, mostly about the canon.

  6. Hoopyfreud says:

    Aside from some wild transients in the live updating (too responsive to early swings?), statistical models held pretty well this Election Day. That reassures me. Fear not, reality distortion fields are not making data-gathering impossible.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      It helps that Trump wasn’t a candidate in any race. Think of statistical modelers as Hari Seldon and Trump as the Mule.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        I feel that’s not entirely true; I don’t think polls about voting for Trump are likely to be vastly less reliable than polls about voting for Feinstein. Maybe slightly less accurate, but I think it’s more likely that polling is broken than that Trump breaks polls. And this week suggests that polling isn’t broken.

        • albatross11 says:

          It seems really weird to me how there are a lot of people (or maybe a really vocal minority) who are hostile to and dismissive of polls. I mean, polls can be flawed, and some are badly flawed. But even crappy polls are way better as a source of information than punditry, which is the actual alternative on offer. Nate Silver may be biased in some complicated way, but he actually describes his methods and makes falsifiable predictions with probabilities attached. Basically the rest of the political commentary world is either people making prudently impossible-to-falsify statements or imprudent actual predictions that they’re confident nobody is going to remember in a year.

          It’s like getting mad at the evidence-based medicine guys because they’re too stringent with their studies, and that’s why you’re going to go back to the nice, friendly homeopath instead.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I think that punditry is valuable for understanding why certain things happen, but I also don’t get why people are dismissive of polls. We’ll have to ask the pundits.

          • albatross11 says:

            If someone can’t make any predictions that are testable and check out, what makes you think their answers to the “why” questions have any value?

          • cassander says:

            Depends what you mean by “polls”. If the question is “which of these two people are you going to vote for next month” I think polls are very good. Any more complicated question, though, sees them get unreliable very quickly. Polling for a very crowded field is much less useful and any polling about policy issues is all but meaningless, you can get 60% approval of basically anything without even trying.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @albatross

            I think that people care about things.

            Less-flippantly, political contests are dependent on lots of factors, and are always natural experiments. It’s very hard to make a good model of the relationships between issues and voters, and “finding the most plausible relationship” seems like a better strategy than “finding the best-correlated relationship” since it’s impossible to remove confounding factors and no population votes multiple times under the same conditions.

            You could train a model to correlate the content of the news and the candidates’ effectiveness at exploiting topical things, but that model would be horrific and I have serious doubts about it’s ability to avoid over-fitting its training data and panicking as soon as there’s a hurricane in New York.

            So instead, I’m in favor of giving dumb stats to pundits. I think humans are better at understanding the importance of novel issues within a larger culture.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m not objecting to people talking about issues without having polls or statistics or a mathematical model. If someone wants to talk about qualitative stuff, fine. But pundits have an abysmal track record for actually predicting anything. And the reason that matters is that it’s very hard to know whether the pundit knows anything more than you do about the issue or whether he’s just very verbally adept and clever enough to spin out a plausible sounding story on demand.

            I mean, at some point, talking head shows about politics end up being equivalent to those sports talking head shows intended to fill time before the big ball game.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          My recollection from last time was that the problem wasn’t so much with the polls themselves as with the predictive edifices built on them by the modelers. Perhaps it wasn’t Trump– alternative hypotheses welcome– but something seemed to be broken by something.

      • broblawsky says:

        That’s a load of bullshit. The polling averages on 2016 were off by ~3%. That’s a normal polling error.

      • The national polls were actually more accurate for Trump than Obama. It’s just in the latter case, they were off in a way that worked in his favor.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        The polls in 2016 were almost dead on for the popular vote.

  7. Douglas Knight says:

    Are people excluded from running for Congress by the eligibility requirements? I mean people who might have wanted to run, but didn’t, which is a hypothetical, thus hard to observe.

    The age requirements are 25, 30, 35, for the House, Senate, and Presidency. These seem very young to me. Do they exclude any plausible candidates? Was Zuckerberg 2016 at all plausible?

    The citizenship requirements are 7 years, 9 years, and life. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a famous example of someone who wanted to be President, but was not a natural-born citizen. Anyone else? Someone from a century ago? The Congressional citizenship rules seem more plausibly binding. I could imagine someone immigrating as an adult, spending ~10 years as a resident before becoming a citizen and then being a plausible political candidate, but being ineligible for Congress for another 7 years. But politicians don’t usually start in Congress, so being a plausible Congressional candidate is a further bar to clear.

    • Nornagest says:

      The age requirements are 25, 30, 35, for the House, Senate, and Presidency. These seem very young to me.

      Bear in mind that people didn’t live as long in 1789.

      • cassander says:

        I actually did the math, once, presidential age hasn’t gone up over time. IIRC it was actually higher in the early US, went down for a while from the mid 19th to early 20th century, then and has since creeped back up.

      • semioldguy says:

        I’m not so sure the “people didn’t live as long in 1789” is entirely accurate.

        Life expectancy numbers have increased since then, but that is largely due to much fewer infant/child deaths. Even two hundred plus years ago, as long long as someone survived to young adulthood, their life could be expected to last about as long as ours does today. Especially the wealthy/well-off, which are more likely to be the ones vying for political office.

        There have been some things in history to move the needle (ex: wars, 1880s cigarette production, etc.) but nothing to change the numbers as drastically as the change in infant mortality.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      Well there was that kid who’s school got shot up and then he decided to become a political operative instead of going to college. I forget his name, but surely he wanted to run for something before his 15 minutes were up.

    • I have seen the claim that Altgeld would have been a plausible presidential candidate if he hadn’t been foreign born.

  8. Rack says:

    So I live in Thousand Oaks and have been to Borderline a couple times. Weird f-ing day, I can tell you. It’s gonna feel quite tragic around here for a while. Hard to know how to feel. Everyone I personally know is fine physically. I’ll probably end up knowing someone who knows someone more directly affected. I see no reason to believe my physical risk in this usually extremely safe community is any higher or lower than it was 24 hours ago, but I doubt things will be spun that way.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      It’s horrific.

      Also, know that we have a “3 day” rule about discussing these kinds of events, so don’t take non responses as being uncaring.

      • Rack says:

        Thanks for the heads up. I’m a huge SSC fan, so I’m very sorry to violate any norms.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          I don’t think you have; the moratorium as I understand it is about politicizing tragedy. I feel strongly that reaching out to this community to share your feelings and experience without advocating for any particular response is appropriate.

      • Plumber says:

        Well there was a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh a week ago, and before that there was a mass shooting at a church in Texas with 26 killed last year, so those were over three days ago.

        And there was the mass shooting in Tallahassee Florida, on November 2nd, 2018, 

        and the one on Springfield, Missouri on November 1st, 2018,

        and the one in Detroit, Michigan on October 31, 2018,

        and the one in Vallejo, California on October 30, 2018, 

        and the one on October 29, 2018,

        and on October 28, 2018,

        two on October 27, 2018,

        one on October 26, 2018,

        and on October 24, 2018,

        and on October 22, 2018,

        and two on October 21, 2018,

        but before that there was the mass shooting on October 16, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia where four were injured with bullets but fortunately none were killed, so there was at least one three day window in which no Americans were killed in a mass shooting this last month!

        I well remember hearing the gunfire of the 1980’s, but those were primarily “turf” battles, nothing like this..

        At the time it seemed like the violent crime of the ’80’s  was just goimg to keep getting worse but eventually it slowed down.

        Nowadays tese “incidents” seem to be increasing.

        Please someone suggest a way out of many more Pittsburgh’s, 

        and Jersey City’s,

        and Chicago’s, 

        and Jacksonville’s, 

        and Lakewood’s,

        and et cetera, 

        et cetera, 

        et cetera, 

        et cetera….

        • HeelBearCub says:

          There isn’t any stricture on discussing these things, just the current event where facts are likely unknown (and false information is likely rampant).

          But it becomes hard to avoid referring to the current event. Of course, these days it seems like we are always three days from a mass shooting…

        • bean says:

          The problem is the difference between the statistical definition of “mass shooting” and the popular/media one. The former is any case where a few people get shot. The second usually involves more people getting shot somewhere that the average media viewer (or their family) might actually go by a nutjob who just wants to kill people. I suspect your list is dominated by shootings that meet the first definition, but not the second.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Speaking as a Missourian, the Springfield example from November 1 definitely meets the first but not the second. I have friends and family in Springfield and not one of them mentioned any kind of “shooting” at all.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            This feels a little beside the point, while technically correct.

            We have had multiple mass shootings of the “disaffected individual shoots people with which they have no relationship” kind in the last week or so. Apparently, someone who survived Las Vegas died in Thousand Oaks. This is basically commonplace now.

          • bean says:

            @HBC

            I think you’re not using statistics properly here, but I’m not going to say more because of the 3-day rule.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @bean:

            Yes, improbable things happen all the time because the set of things that happen in a given time interval is very large, if that’s what you mean.

            But, if you are trying to argue that the number of events of type “disaffected individual engages in mass murder of unknowns” hasn’t increased incredibly, I think you are simply wrong.

          • Plumber says:

            @bean

            “….I suspect your list is dominated by shootings that meet the first definition, but not the second”

            Maybe? 

            Here’s a week of shootings in which Americans were hit by bullets, you decide which definition they fit:

            October 6th, Oakland, 
            California
            (my hometown),

            October 6th, Houston, Texas,

            October 6th, Tulsa, Oklahoma

            October 8th, 
            Birmingham, Alabama

            October 12th, Las Vegas, Nevada

            October 12th, Spartanburg, South Carolina,

            and here’s the following month. 

            Finland, and Switzerland also have lots of guns in private hands, but they don’t have the carnage we have here.

            Why?

            I’ll make my prejudices clear:

            I’ve owned guns, both for protection and recreation, my step father worked at a gun shop (Siegel’s Sporting Goods, in Oakland, California) which a local measure closed, much to his unhappiness, but I’ve also lived for over a year in which at least once a month I heard gunfire, twice I’ve seen muzzleflashes on city streets (multiple shots fired), many times have I heard bullets land on my roof, and twice have I had loaded firearms pointed at me.

            I don’t like that.

            Parse it however you want, I think too many bullets meet the flesh of too many Americans, and I’d like to hear suggestions for ways of less bullets going into bodies.

          • bean says:

            @HBC

            Saying “it’s happened twice in the past week” isn’t good evidence for a substantial increase recently. Sometimes the dice come up that way. This is why we use actual statistics. Is it up relative to a few decades ago? Probably. But that’s because we splash it all over the media when it happens, and people get ideas.

            @Plumber

            I looked over the first few links. One literally says “gang-related”, and of the others that have enough details (one is “some people wounded, no further information”) all seem to have involved a dispute that escalated to gunfire. Which is absolutely a mass shooting in statistical terms, but not what most people think of when you say that word.

            Finland, and Switzerland also have lots of guns in private hands, but they don’t have the carnage we have here.

            Finland and Switzerland don’t have our population. A substantial fraction of our population is made up of people who got kicked out of their own countries for being bad neighbors, the Borderers being the most obvious example. And they don’t have our inner cities. If you look at white non-southern US crime stats, they’re broadly in line with European norms.

          • albatross11 says:

            Cite?

            Okay, less lazily:

            Wikipedia on murder rate by state shows Iowa with 3.3/100000, and Wikipedia on murder rate by country shows about a 3.3 / 100000 rate from all of Europe. It looks like Eastern Europe is a big part of that, though–the UK is about 1.2, Germany is 1.18, France is 1.35, Belgium is about 1.95. Clearly there are substantial differences in culture, general crime rate, gun availability, etc., but it looks like even a very white, high-performing rural US state has like twice the rate of these large European countries with substantial urban populations. (Spain and Austria are in the 0.6 range.)

          • bean says:

            @albatross

            Iowa is at 3.3 in 2017, but 1.9 in 2014 and 1.2 in 2010. The total US homicide rate might be up some during that time, but not that much. (I have no information on any drivers of specifically increased homicide in Iowa during that interval, and the scatter in other largely-rural states looks to be fairly flat during that time.) New Hampshire, by the way, was 1.0, 0.9, 1.0 during that interval, and there are a couple other states which didn’t crack 2.0.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @bean:

            Your’re the one who objected to the list provided by Plumber by claiming they weren’t actually “real” mass murders. When I point out that there have, in fact, been a disturbing amount of mass murders lately you can’t retreat and say “My real objection is something else about expected statistical frequency”.

            In any case, if you really think mass murders (of the disaffected individual type) in the US haven’t climbed substantially I’d like you to state that outright. If you actually agree that yes, these types of murders are in fact more common now, and disturbingly so, then I’d like you to state that.

            Otherwise, we are doing this thing where you object to something you can find “technically wrong” so that you can avoid the actual point that is being made.

          • albatross11 says:

            Wow, any idea what caused the murder rate to triple in Iowa in 8 years? That is not at all what I would have expected!

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            More interestingly the increase seems to have been driven more by smaller towns in rural areas. The answer, BTW, appears to be meth.

            EDIT: Mmm, I should clarify. Meth AND increasing hollowing out of rural economies in the aftermath of the “recovery” (it’s been discussed here before that the economic crisis of 2008 onward hit everywhere, while the recovery mostly took place in large cities and metro areas). It should be noted that the trends in Iowa can be seen to a greater or lesser extent in other rural areas in the US.

            Looking at these stats, BTW, causes me to shift my priors on black urban criminality somewhat more towards “lack of economic opportunity/prospects hope” and somewhat away from “cultural issues”. I still think there are cultural issues, but seeing the changes in predominately white rural areas makes me think that the cultural erosion is downstream of the economic issues, and that they need to be addressed simultaneously.

          • albatross11 says:

            I suspect that lack of economic opportunity and bad culture re-enforce one another.

            If there’s some kind of plausible-to-you path upward through good choices, hard work, and generally playing by the rules of society, that re-enforces a culture where people are expected to make good choices, work hard, and play by the rules. Kids see successful people doing those things, their parents and teachers point out the good examples, etc.

            If you don’t see any plausible path upward–if nobody you know or know of has really been successful by making good choices, working hard, and playing by the rules, then there’s nothing re-enforcing that kind of culture. Parents and teachers have a hard time convincing you to do that stuff, because neither you nor they can really see any payoff for it.

            And then a culture full of people who don’t do those things (say, a culture where unwed pregnancy is common and hardly anyone has a job that’s worth anything and the high-status people are mostly criminals) makes it harder for there to *be* an upward path. Who wants to set up a factory in a neighborhood where you can’t get anyone to show up regularly to work, and where the cars in the parking lot get broken into twice a week?

          • bean says:

            @HBC

            Do I believe the rate of those murders has climbed? Probably. I’m not willing to say I’m absolutely sure because I don’t have statistics. Is it disturbing? Absolutely. But I also think the solution is to try to not shut the country down for three days of Special Intense Culture War every time one happens. Embargo the name of the perpetrator, dump him in a shallow grave, and move on. Probably impossible, alas. It’s not that guns are becoming easier to get (this wasn’t a problem in the 60s, and guns were much more available) and general criminality is trending down, or was until very recently.

            Your’re the one who objected to the list provided by Plumber by claiming they weren’t actually “real” mass murders.

            Most of them weren’t murders of any sort. The median headline is “four wounded by gunfire after dispute, all expected to live”.

        • S_J says:

          Events like that make nationwide news for a week.

          A different kind of shooting, that ends in a different way, makes regional news for a day.

          I don’t know if this is fixable, but I really wish that this second kind of story got national attention in the same way as the stories you mention.

          • beleester says:

            My stance is, if a random bystander with a gun was the only thing preventing another tragedy on the national news, the system is still failing. Sort of like how a crashing plane is a problem even if everyone on board had a parachute.

            I don’t mean to diminish what he did – round of applause for our heroic bystander and I’m happy to signal-boost him – but I also don’t want anyone to point to this as a good way to prevent mass shootings in general.

          • but I also don’t want anyone to point to this as a good way to prevent mass shootings in general.

            Do you have a better way?

            Carrying the argument a little farther, it is that some things done to reduce the number of shootings actually increase them, most obviously making it illegal for random bystanders to have guns in the places where the shooting happens. So not doing those things is a way to reduce the number of shootings.

          • arlie says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I’ve noticed two interesting things

            1) pro-gun people frequently trot out the apparantly self-evident truth that having more guns in the hands of members of the general public prevents more gun violence than it causes, or at least gets more of the right people killed. About half of them (Trump included!) personally envisage themselves as rushing in to save the day. But they don’t seem to have a standard stock of URLs for supporting research, just a standard self-evident truth.

            2) This is new(*). It used to be, self-defence was way down the list of reasons to carry a gun. And defence of others pretty much never made the cut, unless you were miltiary or law enforcement. People had guns – primarily long guns, or shotguns – for hunting, and sometimes to kill agricultural pests. Pistols were strictly for target shooting, unless you were a cop, or a criminal.

            I don’t think any of the non-gun crowd believe this self-evident truth. I personally suspect that, to the extent it’s not NRA-advertising, it’s basically Rambo fantasies, increasingly popular for lack of other ways to feel sufficiently masculine.

            (*) with the exception of a small number of novelists. Heinlein for example was big on the “an armed society is a polite society” shtick. and even he wasn’t talking about deterring or preventing crime, per se.

          • @Arlie:

            I’m not sure what you mean about not having a stock of URL’s. As was I think pointed out earlier, defensive shootings get a lot less publicity than mass shootings, so you are less likely to be aware of them. But there are lots of examples of someone with a gun preventing a crime, although people disagree about how many.

            Preventing mass shootings isn’t a major reason to legalize concealed carry because mass shootings, although very dramatic, represent a tiny fraction of the crime rate. But preventing or deterring crime is a major reason for people to own handguns. For hunting, long guns make more sense in almost all circumstances, and while handgun target practice can be fun, its ultimate purpose is to make you better at using a handgun. And the purpose of that skill is mostly self defense.

            There is a whole academic literature, stemming from the old Lott and Mustard JLS piece, on whether and to what extent concealed carry reduces confrontational crime.

          • The Nybbler says:

            pro-gun people frequently trot out the apparantly self-evident truth that having more guns in the hands of members of the general public prevents more gun violence than it causes, or at least gets more of the right people killed.

            That research usually starts with surveys by Gary Kleck and John Lott. Post those, and the response will be a “debunking” by anti-gun researchers, followed by a debunking of the debunking, etc. The quantitative claims convince no one anyway. Because it’s not really about crime for most of those on the anti-gun side; as the late Senator Howard Metzenbaum said, “I don’t care about crime, I just want to get the guns.” The NRA has a feature called “The Armed Citizen” where they relate stories of defensive gun uses; of course, no one on the anti-gun side accepts anything about it because it’s from the NRA.

            2) This is new(*). It used to be, self-defence was way down the list of reasons to carry a gun.

            No. It was huge in the late 1980s/early 1990s, because crime was ridiculously high then and the idea of needing a gun for self defense was not easily dismissed (though anti-gun people tried anyway). Violent crime is creeping back up now.

            I personally suspect that, to the extent it’s not NRA-advertising, it’s basically Rambo fantasies, increasingly popular for lack of other ways to feel sufficiently masculine.

            The anti-gun side has said that at least since Rambo came out. It comes across as a sneer and says nothing more than that rational discussion is not possible.

          • John Schilling says:

            But they don’t seem to have a standard stock of URLs for supporting research, just a standard self-evident truth.

            Did you miss the part where, in a different branch of this very thead, I posted two URLs specifically referencing the issue of armed self-defense against mass shootings? Both of which had been discussed previously in SSC?

            Mostly we don’t bother because, A: posting the same bland linkpost every single time is tedious and unpersuasive, and B: the best research in the field is in dead tree format anyway. But if you insist on something purely electronic, and not even paywalled, here.

            I personally suspect that, to the extent it’s not NRA-advertising, it’s basically Rambo fantasies, increasingly popular for lack of other ways to feel sufficiently masculine.

            Just because you admit your own feelings on this subject come from a wholly irrational fear, doesn’t mean you get to accuse everyone else of holding a similarly irrational bloodlust. If you are so certain that everyone on both sides is so irrational, I have to wonder about the sincerity of your request for URLs to quantitative evidence. And it certainly seems that you have decided that this is a matter of no-quarter Culture War, where you have preemptively demonized your foe into a malevolence that cannot be reasoned with and need not be extended intellectual charity or even basic courtesy. So be it.

          • arlie says:

            I try to be careful with my language – what is a suspicion, what is an emotion, and what is, AFAIK, a fact.

            @John Schilling – but I could be a raving lunatic, convinced I was getting The Truth from Martians beaming it into my tinfoil helmet, and I’d still “get to accuse everyone else of” whatever I (or my Martians) wanted, short of a successful prosecution for libel or slander.

            I’m aware that I am to an extent irrational on this subject. Assuming you are human, and care enough to be posting on the subject (without being paid to do so) I’m essentially certain your position also has irrational elements, though perhaps not to the same extent mine does.

            On the one hand, given the strength of my dislike for people carrying guns around me, it would take a huge rise in violent crime (and my perceived risk from that crime) to overcome this aversion, even with strong statistical support for the value of concealed carry at preventing such crimes.

            OTOH, it’s still somewhat worth it to me to look at whether such evidence exists, and whether it’s reasonably solid. It would be convenient if I could find that it doesn’t exist, or is of sufficiently low quality that my decades-old statistical and research design training can easily debunk it; then I wouldn’t have to adjust my beliefs. But if the research is valid – even to a presumably biased evaluator such as myself – then at least I’d know I was trading off real safety for emotional comfort, and could consider alternatives.

            To complicate matters farther, I enjoy Rambo fantasies. I read lots and lots of fiction where the armed civilian saves the day. (I’ll cite the 1632 series as an example, since it’s not obviously problematic, and arguably presents gun culture at its best.)

            I simply don’t believe it’s any more plausible than any other fiction.

          • If you want to evaluate the research on whether concealed carry deters confrontational crime, you will need at this point a fairly high level of statistical expertise–I dropped out of that quite a while back when it got past mine. The original article was by Lott and Mustard in the Journal of Legal Studies, and should be easy to find. With a little searching you should be able to find the later articles by a variety of people, some of which supported and some of which failed to support their conclusion.

            On the question of whether defensive use of handguns sometimes prevents crimes, which seems to be what your lack of URL’s was about, you can easily check that you are mistaken, since the arguments are about how frequent it is, not about whether it often happens.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I simply don’t believe it’s any more plausible than any other fiction.

            The idea of a military vet (with the Medal of Honor, no less) walking into a southern town, getting harassed and tortured by a cruel sheriff, and then conducting a successful one-man war against both the sheriff and his National Guard backup… yeah, that’s pretty implausible.

            On the other hand, so is the real life story of a group of WWII vets overthrowing the government of a southern town during an election, and getting away with it.

          • arlie says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Thanks. If nothing else, it’ll be a good exercise in recalling something I used to be competent at. (Statistics, I mean.)

            And for clarity – I don’t question that this sometimes happens. I read a news article just recently where a store employee was singing the praises of an unnamed armed customer who’d dealt effectively with a situation-in-progress. It may have been the same incident cited up thread, but I’d found it in my regular news feed. IIRC, it was notable because the customer was not an off duty cop, and because he insisted on not being named.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Did anyone else react to Lott’s findings as hilarious?

            From my point of view, there’d been so much arguing, but when there was research, the effects turned out to be small, at most.

          • John Schilling says:

            From my point of view, there’d been so much arguing, but when there was research, the effects turned out to be small, at most.

            The number of Americans who habitually go armed, even in red states, is fairly small. And most American murders, at least, occur within criminal subcultures where almost nobody can be legally armed. So there never was much possibility that an American-style armed citizenry could have a strong positive effect, at least in the places Lott was looking.

            But so long as there were people arguing that the effect was very strongly negative, that America’s homicide rate would drop 80-90% to match England’s if only we did away with culture, showing that the effect of gun culture was a mild positive was still a very important finding.

            Lott has earned a fair bit of criticism in some aspects of his work, but the effect size shouldn’t be one of them.

          • beleester says:

            @DavidFriedman: If I had a better way, I’d probably be in Congress, not here. But you don’t have to know how to fix a problem to recognize that a problem exists.

            Or as the Onion puts it (the same article every time this happens): ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m not criticizing Lott, I’m criticizing all the people who were convinced they were correct to predict large effect sizes. I respect Lott for doing the research.

          • Did people predict large effect sizes? What Lott and Mustard were testing was the effect of concealed carry laws. Even if you believe that concealed carry has a large deterrent effect, the effect of the law depends on how many people choose to take advantage of it.

            My rather casual impression is that in this case as in the case of deterrence by the death penalty, the orthodox position was against–that legalizing concealed carry would increase crime and the death penalty wouldn’t deter. Then someone did a serious statistical study and it gave the opposite sign for the result, and that set off a controversy of dueling statisticians.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I may have been unfair. My impression was that people on both sides of the debate expected a lot of effect from guns, one way or the other.

    • arlie says:

      According to the latest news, Thousand Oaks has now had to be evacuated because of wildfires, making somewhat of a one-two punch for residents. You have my sympathy. I hope you are somewhere safe, and nothing bad happens to your home.

  9. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Suppose that gun control was enacted in the US, and there’s some plausible level of enforcement.

    How likely do you think it would make a difference to mass killings? How long would it take for it to make a difference? What effects would you predict for small-scale murder? Accidents? Suicides?

    • Nornagest says:

      I hate talking about guns because it always turns into sanctimonious hand-wringing, and in this case there’s the three-day rule to think about. But mass killings would probably be the last thing to be affected.

      Everything else depends on the kind of gun control we’re talking about. “Assault weapons” legislation isn’t going to have a substantial effect on anything — long arms are hardly ever used to kill people. If you want to cut down on murder, and probably accidents and suicides too, handguns are the thing you want to restrict. But they’re also what you want for self-defense, and so have the best 2A justifications going for them under post-Heller interpretations. Off the top of my head, my best shot at effective gun control might involve a training requirement for sale of handguns, a steep enough one to make buying your first handgun substantially more expensive and ensure some level of commitment (and adequate to ensure safe and competent use of the weapon, as a bonus). I think that’d have a real shot at putting a dent in murder rates, although it’d be a while before you saw any effects.

      Because I’m generally supportive of gun rights, I’d want to pair this stick with a carrot. If you offered me national CCW reciprocity and some relaxation of NFA restrictions, I’d be tempted. A lot of gun owners will balk, though, because they (not unreasonably) see any gun laws as the narrow end of a wedge. If you want a grand bargain, you’ll need to figure out a way to convince them otherwise.

      • sfoil says:

        If the suppressor and “short gun” provisions of the NFA were ditched, and there were something along the lines of the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act that applied to all citizens instead of just samurai cops, I’d be fine with a handgun registry and training requirements to purchase handguns. In theory. In practice there’s basically no way to enforce such a “deal”, reasonable-sounding regulations have been used to systematically deprive people of their rights, both sides have obvious ulterior motives, the status quo isn’t terrible, and gun legislation either way mostly appears to involve one side enforcing its will on the other rather than any sort of compromise.

        • Nornagest says:

          The last time I thought about this, I had the impression that an effective way to prevent a training requirement from escalating into a de-facto ban might be to delegate assessment to civilian groups like the NRA. They already do a lot of training, so they’ve got the expertise, and they’re incentivized to make it comprehensive because it creates a cash cow for them, but they’re also incentivized not to choke gun culture to death with it.

          Trouble is that you’d need some sort of certification process if you didn’t want to hand e.g. the NRA a monopoly, and it’d be easy to escalate that into a de-facto ban too. Maybe some sort of peer certification would work?

          • sfoil says:

            This is pretty out there, but you could have something like the MPAA or college accreditation where everything’s theoretically voluntary. Say, the NRA and some smaller organizations offer training classes, and major manufacturers won’t sell to distributors that sell to noncertified customers. The economic incentives for those involved not to kill gun culture are obvious. And I don’t know about college accreditation but the MPAA was specifically formed to pre-empt government regulation.

            I don’t think it’s actually necessary, but it’s an interesting thought. One problem is the secondary market for firearms is huge, and used guns are a lot more fungible with new production than the equivalent in movie showings and college degrees.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        My grand bargain regulatory scheme:

        Owner/Operator Licensing, all “shall issue”, broken into tiers:

        For ALL Tiers: Criminal Background Check (this is already in place for the most part), Mental Health Background Check (Depression/Anxiety/Non-Violent issues Should NOT be a bar to licensing, I don’t want people to kill themselves but I am unwilling to get them killed to prevent it), Safe Handling/Storage training, range safety, and education on relevant laws.

        NATIONAL Collector/Target Shooter: cheapest because it’s basically just the baseline stuff above and grants you no carry rights. Transport to and from ranges/gun shows/etc only and weapons must be secured in storage containers at all times during transport. Renews every 3-5 years.

        STATE Hunting License: Everything included in collector/target shooter license, plus training on carrying and moving with loaded weapons, identification of targets, backstop concerns, relevant hunting regulations for your state. Renews every 2-3 years. Grants the right to carry a single weapon appropriate for hunting a given type of game in the area where the game is found during that game’s season while in possession of the seasonal hunting license, in addition to the range/transport privileges and duties listed above. States should be encouraged to offer a de minimis “refresher” certification for people already current in another state that basically tests their safe handling skills and fills them in on the relevant local legal differences for minimum time and cost.

        NATIONAL Self Defense License: Additional training in law of self-defense, de-escalation of conflict/conflict avoidance, shoot/no-shoot decisions, safe daily carry, practical self-defense shooting drills in multiple environments. Grants national CCW for a period of 2-3 years. At this point I think basic marksmanship requirement should be part of it, but the emphasis is on basic. Most of your shots on the silhouette at self-defense ranges, that sort of thing.

        Remove Suppressors, SBR, some AOWs from the NFA Registry.

        Keep Federal NFA registry for Destructive Devices, Machine Guns, etc, but open up the Machine Gun Registry again for new entries.

        Intent is for getting your firearms license to be potentially more expensive than (due to training) but not more hassle and paperwork than, getting and maintaining your driver’s license. Keep the longer wait lists and more intrusive bureaucratic paperwork and storage requirement inspections and so on for the items still on the NFA registry after this.

        I’d like to avoid type and quantity restrictions, but maybe include something requiring an actual vault/armory for sufficient quantities of weapons and/or ammunition. Pretty sure BATFE or other agencies already have safe storage regulations for ammo, propellant, primers, etc.

        All transactions involving the sale of firearms and ammunition requires both parties to be licensed, and the licenses to be verified. I’d prefer this to mean a licensing database that’s publically accessible, since the alternative would seem to be requiring a FFL holder to act as middle man for all secondary market transactions and I’d prefer to allow owner-to-owner sales, but I’m open to suggestions here.

        Unless otherwise noted (like machine guns, DD, etc), there is no limit to type of ammunition, amount of ammunition, magazine capacity, caliber, etc that you may purchase or own under this regulatory scheme.

        EDIT: I’d prefer private training to ensure competition keeps costs down. Private certification as Nornagest and Sfoil discussed would be nifty, but I could live with government administered testing (written and practical) so long as there were mechanisms to ensure it wasn’t being used to try and turn “shall issue” into “may issue” or arbitrarily cranking the standards.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          Lack of training isn’t AFAICT the problem with mass shooters, though, or indeed most perpetrators of gun homicide. Training requirements for licensing might put some dent in accidental deaths and miiiiight have a second-order effect by imposing a de facto conscientiousness filter to keep out those with poor impulse control, but they’re not going to stop the sort of person who stockpiles weapons and plans mass murder.

          What you’d want for a keyhole solution is something like: make initial license acquisition on the same order of difficulty as a driver’s license, have that give you pretty broad own-and-carry rights, and then for both acquisition and periodic renewal you have to show one of the following (besides no violent crime record, obviously):

          1. you are female
          2. you are over some age cutoff, say 40, exact value negotiable, basically whatever the criminologists say the “age out of crime” cutoff is
          3. you have a spouse (not estranged, not separated, no domestic violence complaints)
          4. you have no spouse, but have custody of a minor child
          5. you have satisfactorily completed anger management training within the previous renewal period.

          Keep guns away from lonely young men with poor anger management, who are a small minority of the population, and leave the rest free. Profiling >> security theater.

          • Nornagest says:

            As a youngish, single man, I’m dead-set against this type of scheme on identity grounds. Fortunately, it clearly fails the equal-protection test and thus would never fly.

            The point of a fairly strict training requirement isn’t to make sure everyone that owns a gun is trained in its use, although that’s a nice side effect (and will probably bring accident numbers down). It’s to prove some level of conscientiousness (probably the most important part), to provide a barrier to impulsive crimes similar to waiting-period laws but more natural and less of a pain in the ass, and to make buying your first gun for sketchy reasons more expensive in money and time and thus less attractive. It also has the advantage of working with the gun culture, the hard core of which is pretty serious about training and safety — the biggest gun nuts I know are all NRA instructors. Angry, reckless young men will wash out. This is a feature.

            I think it’d work really well, partly because it’s effectively already in place for CCW holders in a lot of jurisdictions, and CCW holders have very low rates of violent crime. Even though they’re mostly men and often young and single.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          I agree that lack of training isn’t the problem with mass shooters. I’m less concerned with gun control laws as a solution to mass shooters for the same reason that the median American liberal is less concerned with expanding law enforcement and intelligence agency surveillance powers as a solution to preventing the next 9/11. I think they’re statistical outliers best addressed through other approaches, if addressed at all.

          A conscientiousness filter is a definite part of my thinking here, to include simply having to be the sort of person who can and will show up in place and on time for training, pay the fees, fill out the forms, etc. That plus the two background checks (criminal and mental health for potentially violent/unstable conditions) should catch -enough- of the people. I think being much more restrictive exceeds my personal cost:benefit ratio on this issue.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And this reminds me the New Jersey system. Here on this form just write down the name, address, and hospital affiliation of every mental health provider you have ever seen. Since birth. Oh, you don’t remember and don’t have all records from your childhood? Gee too bad no gun for you. Of course you could always leave it out and then if we find out we prosecute you for perjury.

            Which is the problem with any system which requires people to jump through hoops. It’ll be abused; it always is.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @The Nybbler

            And that is why my Grand Compromise is well outside the Overton Window. Because

            1) Most Republicans would be utterly convinced that the licensing scheme would be made as onerous/underfunded as possible so as to make it as hard as possible to use and to deny the right to as many people as possible, while the Democrats would simultaneously continue to push for further legislation as if the Grand Compromise had been no such thing.

            2) Most Democrats would be falling all over themselves to prove those Republicans were hopeless optimists.

            It’s still the compromise I’d prefer, and I think I’m being pretty reasonable when my personal preference would be to start with removing the NFA in its entirety and go on from there.

      • fluorocarbon says:

        If you offered me national CCW reciprocity and some relaxation of NFA restrictions, I’d be tempted.

        I’ve seen multiple pro-gun rights people mention national CCW reciprocity as part of a grand bargain. I live in a pretty anti-gun state. While I personally don’t like guns, I’m undecided about gun control. But CCW reciprocity seems absolutely insane to me (edit: I mean this is my emotional response, I’m not in any way suggesting people who think this are insane). To start with, it’s possibly unconstitutional and anti-federalist.

        This is an imperfect analogy, but imagine that you hate the smell of incense and your neighbor burns incense all day. Sometimes the smell drifts into your open windows and you argue about it. Then your neighbor proposes a bargain, “OK, I’ll burn incense slightly less often but now I’m allowed to burn it inside your house.” Who would possibly accept that?

        I don’t know what a grand bargain would look like, but I think most anti-gun people who live in states with strong gun control would prefer the status quo over any deal with national CCW reciprocity.

        • The Nybbler says:

          But CCW reciprocity seems absolutely insane to me. To start with, it’s possibly unconstitutional and anti-states’ rights.

          Once you’re infringing people’s right to bear arms in the first place, you don’t have a lot of room to complain about unconstitutionality.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            I think I communicated that wrong, see my edit.

            Could you expand on your point? Even if you think gun control is certain states is unconstitutional (which I don’t think it is), wouldn’t it be better not to do even more unconstitutional things?

          • The Nybbler says:

            I want to keep and bear arms. The governments of anti-gun states like NJ and MA don’t want me to. The Constitution says I have the right to keep and bear arms, but those states say “So what? You’ll never get 5 justices to agree before you go bankrupt and your cellmate rips you a new one”. But they’d like to be able to put restrictions on guns on people in other states, which they really do lack the power to do.

            So we have this proposed “grand bargain”, which includes CCW reciprocity. Complaining about the unconstitutionality of federally mandated reciprocity in such a bargain is a very isolated demand for constitutionality.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            Complaining about the unconstitutionality of federally mandated reciprocity in such a bargain is a very isolated demand for constitutionality.

            I honestly don’t see how it is an “isolated demand for constitutionality” in a discussion about making a grand bargain about gun control/rights. Isn’t the fact that one part of the deal may be unconstitutional (regardless of whatever Massachusetts or New Jersey are doing) important?

            I also think advocates of gun rights should be super careful about making any deal that means the federal government is constitutionally allowed to get involved in licensing. While certain state governments will always be pro-gun rights, there’s no guarantee that the federal government will be. In that case, the federal government could legislate more restrictive requirements for getting a CCW permit or make it very difficult to get one.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Isn’t the fact that one part of the deal may be unconstitutional (regardless of whatever Massachusetts or New Jersey are doing) important?

            The whole deal is unconstitutional, as is the impetus for the deal. Once the “grand bargain” path is accepted, the Constitution is already in the shredder, and worrying about any particular part being unconstitutional is cherry-picking. Of course this would mean that any sensible pro-gun legislator would insist that there be an anti-severability clause, so if any part of the deal is declared unconstitutional, the whole thing is inoperative. These are exceedingly rare.

            I also think advocates of gun rights should be super careful of making any deal that means the federal government gets involved in licensing.

            Realistically, there isn’t going to be such a deal in the foreseeable future, because there is zero trust in the other side and no viable enforcement mechanism. Most likely the anti-gun side will simply win eventually.

          • Garrett says:

            @fluorocarbon:

            Isn’t the fact that one part of the deal may be unconstitutional (regardless of whatever Massachusetts or New Jersey are doing) important?

            Sure. But the people you are talking to start with the premise that roughly all current Federal firearms laws are in violation of the constitution. That nationwide CCW reciprocity gets your hackles up is one small part of the point! It requires you to deal with the discomfort that they already deal with on a regular basis. Alternatively, if you care so much about the Constitutionality of CCW reciprocity, the right solution would be for your side to drop all Federal firearms restrictions and start the negotiation from there.

        • Salem says:

          Why is CCW reciprocity unconstitutional? Article IV section 1. Would federally mandated driving licence reciprocity be unconstitutional?

          • fluorocarbon says:

            ould federally mandated driving licence reciprocity be unconstitutional?

            Yes it would be unconstitutional. Drivers’s license reciprocity is not federally mandated in the US. Each state agrees to accept the other states’ (and Canadian provinces’!).

            Most licenses (like teaching licenses) are not reciprocal. Driver’s licenses are more the exception than the rule.

          • S_J says:

            @Salem

            would federally mandated driving licence reciprocity be unconstitutional?

            @fluorcarbon

            Yes it would be unconstitutional. Drivers’s license reciprocity is not federally mandated in the US. Each state agrees to accept the other states’ (and Canadian provinces’!).

            A trio of comments:

            (1) As a hypothetical, from the time before any Federal Court ruling had been issued about same-sex marriages:

            If the State of Oregon issued a marriage license to a same-sex couple, should the State of Alabama accept that marriage license as valid?

            Would it be constitutional to require it, or un-constitutional?

            Is this a different category than CCW reciprocity, or the same type of category?

            (2) Similarly, there was a time in American history when well-off people could take a long vacation in Nevada, and be temporary-resident long enough to get a divorce under Nevada’s divorce laws. The level of proof required for divorce in Nevada included one category that had a very low bar-of-proof.

            Most other States required a higher level of proof before issuing a divorce certificate.

            Generally, the State of New York (or the State of California, or the State of Texas) admitted these divorces as valid.

            Would it be unconstitutional to require this, constitutional to require this?

            Is that different from, or similar to, the category of CCW reciprocity?

            (3) When various Southern States had laws against inter-racial marriage, it was hypothetically possible for a mixed-race couple to travel to a State that allowed such marriages, and go through the process for marriage by out-of-State residents.

            When they traveled back to their State of residence, would the State honor that marriage license?

            Would it be constitutional to require that? Or unconstitutional?

            Is this similar to CCW reciprocity, or different?

          • fluorocarbon says:

            @S_J

            I think 1 would be unconstitutional but not 2, though I’m far from a constitutional scholar.

            Note that driver’s license reciprocity is not universal. In New York State, for example, you cannot drive if you are under 16 even if you have a license from another state.

            My original comment was “it’s possibly unconstitutional and anti-federalist” and I believe that is true. Anything beyond that would really just be conjecture on my part. I think the courts could go either way.

          • Salem says:

            Yes it would be unconstitutional. Drivers’s license reciprocity is not federally mandated in the US.

            I am aware it is not currently federally mandated. But that is not an argument that doing so would be unconstitutional.

            You have repeatedly stated that CCW reciprocity would, or might, be unconstitutional, but you have nowhere provided any reason why it might be. This strikes me as unfortunate.

            Congress appears to have power to pass CCW reciprocity, under two independent sources of power:
            * Article IV section 1 (the “Full Faith and Credit Clause”) gives Congress the power to define the effects in other states of acts and proceedings taken in one state. A licence to drive (or carry weapons) is almost certainly such an act.
            * 14th Amendment section 5 (the “Enforcement Clause”) gives Congress the power to pass legislation enforcing the 14th Amendment. Section 1 of the 14th Amendment incorporates various substantive rights against the states. This includes the right to travel (US v Wheeler, US v Guest) and the right to bear arms (McDonald v Chicago). So again, Congress has the right to act here.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            @Salem

            You have repeatedly stated that CCW reciprocity would, or might, be unconstitutional, but you have nowhere provided any reason why it might be.

            I said it might be unconstitutional and I stand by that. I should have said “yes it could be unconstitutional” instead of “yes it would be unconstitutional” when talking about driver’s licenses a few comments up. Mea culpa.

            According to Josh Blackman (pro-gun), a law professor in Texas:

            I should make clear that my reading of the 2nd Amendment and Heller protects a right to concealed carry outside the home, but I can’t envision any Supreme Court decision mandating that all 50 states must adhere to the same standard as the most lax state. Congress can’t achieve that result, through either its commerce or N&P powers. The structural protections of our Constitution–enumerated powers and state sovereignty–should not be so easily cast aside. If the Court does (as it should) hold that the 2nd Amendment protects conceal carry, regimes in dozens of states will have to be changed.

            Constitutional law is complicated. Asking a non-attorney to wade into the details of Article IV or whatever isn’t going to enlighten anyone. I can only say that there are smart people who know a lot more about the law than I do who think it would be unconstitutional as well as people who think it would be not be. Thence, it might be.

        • John Schilling says:

          To start with, it’s possibly unconstitutional and anti-federalist.

          Meh, as Salem notes it’s no more unconstitutional than drivers’ license reciprocity or the national 21-year drinking age. Probably in a grey area re the “full faith and credit” clause where a strict constructionist is concerned, but as noted in another subthread, strict federalism is pretty much, and you don’t get to invoke a zombie form for just this issue.

          I don’t know what a grand bargain would look like, but I think most anti-gun people who live in states with strong gun control would prefer the status quo over any deal with national CCW reciprocity.

          And most pro-gun people who live in states with “weak” gun control would prefer to be able to carry their guns anywhere in the Union with no paperwork whatsoever, and probably to see their gun-culture mates in e.g. Massachusetts liberated from that state’s oppressive rules no matter how much the MA gun-grabbers hate it.

          A “grand bargain” has to be a bargain, and a bargain means both sides give up something that they actually care about. If not CCW reciprocity, what do you see the anti-gun people in Massachusetts giving up? It doesn’t count if it’s not something they really care about.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            A “grand bargain” has to be a bargain, and a bargain means both sides give up something that they actually care about.

            But why does there have to be a “grand bargain” in the first place? The point I’m making is that if the choice is “bargain with CCW reciprocity” or “no bargain and keep the status quo” I think most anti-gun people would choose “no bargain.”

            I think most anti-gun people who live in states with strong gun control would prefer the status quo over any deal with national CCW reciprocity

            And most pro-gun people who live in states with “weak” gun control would prefer to be able to carry their guns anywhere in the Union with no paperwork whatsoever

            I don’t see how this is comparable to what I was saying. Maybe I’m misunderstanding? I said anti-gun people would prefer not changing current laws to making a certain deal. You’re saying that pro-gun people would like to make large pro-gun changes to state laws? I mean, that’s trivially true, but I don’t think it’s relevant.

            liberated from that state’s oppressive rules no matter how much the MA gun-grabbers hate it.

            (Emphasis added) These terms only take away from the discussion. I apologize in advance if I’m using terms like that in my post, and ask that you please point them out to me.

          • John Schilling says:

            The point I’m making is that if the choice is “bargain with CCW reciprocity” or “no bargain and keep the status quo” I think most anti-gun people would choose “no bargain.”

            “No bargain” and “keep the status quo” are two different things. Sometimes “no bargain” means losing everything in the ensuing fight, e.g. when the Gorsuch-and-Kavanaugh SCOTUS starts looking at the boundary conditions of Heller and McDonald.

          • Salem says:

            Don’t forget about s5 of the 14th Amendment John. The Second Amendment is incorporated against the states, and recognising an out-of-state gun licence is undoubtedly state action. This is right in the wheelhouse of explicitly authorised Congressional power.

        • arlie says:

          Yeah.

          My reaction to folks carrying guns is that I don’t want anything to do with them. They aren’t welcome in any premises I control. I don’t want to give them directions, or sell anything to them, buy anything from them, or even speak to them.

          My actual behaviour is tempered by the risk that they might shoot me if I dared not to treat them as Great Heroes protecting me (from other strangers carrying guns :-().

          I feel the same way even if they are uniformed members of a profession that normally carries weapons openly. (In some ways, I’m more afraid of a LEO shooting me for “bad attitude” than for some random CCW dude doing the same.)

          This is completely non-rational. I can argue against it logically myself; no need for anyone else to do so.

          But frankly, I think I’d prefer to have the gun culture states have double or triple the number of innocent casualties, rather than have it legal for one of my coworkers to casually wear a pistol at the office. Or since that scenario’s unlikely – most California tech employers would probably declare their property to be weapons-free-zones – how about random people on the streets.

          Yep, emotional NIMBYism at its best. Guns are for killing people. I don’t want to be around people with that agenda. And I’ve heard too many jokes from gun culture people about how to avoid getting in trouble after killing someone to be really sure they are any more safe to be around than so many large dangerous predators.

          My emotions do make an exception for target shooters. Not hunters – too many stories of cows, dogs, and humans accidentally shot, sometimes while wearing the brightest colours imaginable. Statistically, those may in fact be rare. My gut still thinks “there are hunters active in the area” means “stay indoors, or better yet, spend hunting season in some distant city”

          • Nornagest says:

            Yep, emotional NIMBYism at its best. Guns are for killing people. I don’t want to be around people with that agenda. And I’ve heard too many jokes from gun culture people about how to avoid getting in trouble after killing someone to be really sure they are any more safe to be around than so many large dangerous predators.

            Then you’d better give up the pretense that gun control is about getting fewer dead bodies with holes in them, because compromises like the one I proposed are how you get fewer dead bodies with holes in them. If it’s all about feeling safe or screwing a culture you don’t like, then fine, negotiating those conflicts of interest is a legitimate function of government, but you don’t get to take the moral high ground when Florida Man decides it’s really important to his feelings and culture that he be allowed to shoot seagulls from his back porch, in the suburbs, with an anti-aircraft gun.

          • gbdub says:

            I think this may speak to something important – both the pro and anti gun sides seems to have become more polarized, and I think it has something to do with increased “fetishization” of guns, combined with a denormalizing of gun ownership.

            What I mean is that, in a culture with lots of hunters and farmers and frontier folk and boys just back from the war, guns are a tool. A tool for very serious tasks, to be sure, but not something with much more moral valence than a chainsaw or a tractor.

            I suspect, but don’t really have the data to prove, that the percentage of people with the sort of visceral disgust reaction to being in the presence of a gun that arlie describes was lower.

            I also suspect that there has been an increase in the percentage of gun owners who own guns primarily for collecting, gearheading, because they saw it on Call of Duty, and fantasizing about shooting bad guys (as opposed to for hunting, serious target shooting, or because they are in a profession that requires it). Again, hard to prove, but perhaps correlated with the fact that the average number of guns per gun owners seems to have gone way up.

            Both of these attitudes toward guns seem unhealthy.

          • arlie says:

            @gbdub – also add news media that are eager to tell me (and everyone else) about every wacko that gets himself (or herself – I recall one female in this category) 15 minutes of infamy by shooting up some event or office.

            There have been maybe 4 of these incidents that could be called “local” to me in any sense, in 40 years. None were remotely local enough that anyone I knew was present. (I do have a likely 3rd order connection to Columbine – a friend had graduated from that school, and *may* have known staff who actually witnessed that incident.) My head knows I’m more likely to get killed crossing the road. My gut just heard about yet another one, and it was even within the state where I (and 39 million other people) live.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            @Nornagest

            Then you’d better give up the pretense that gun control is about getting fewer dead bodies with holes in them, because compromises like the one I proposed are how you get fewer dead bodies with holes in them. If it’s all about feeling safe or screwing a culture you don’t like, then fine

            I think this is a little uncharitable. Pretty much everyone, regardless of where they are on the political spectrum, cares more about the people close to them than strangers. It would make sense that people would prefer to keep their neighborhoods safe (at least in their minds) by keeping guns out than reduce deaths marginally (I think that’s what you’re implying your policy would do) in places far away. (This is why at a gut level CCW reciprocity seems like a terrible bargaining chip to me.)

            … compromises like the one I proposed are how you get fewer dead bodies with holes in them.

            This is probably going to come off snarky, but I mean it as an honest question: if there’s a compromise that will reduce the number of people killed and that gun owners are all right with… isn’t that just a good policy? Gun owners want to reduce gun deaths too, right?

          • Nornagest says:

            if there’s a compromise that will reduce the number of people killed and that gun owners are all right with… isn’t that just a good policy? Why is it part of some gran deal, gun owners want to reduce gun deaths too, right?

            This is one of those “why we can’t have nice things” situations.

            People in the gun culture want a lower murder rate. They also want to keep enjoying their culture. When they look at existing gun control proposals, they see them as attacking their culture rather than doing anything about the murder rate, and they kinda have a point: most of the stuff on the table right now is either pointless theater, or is optimized for making timid Jersey soccer moms feel like something is being done about scary black rifles and the scary white people that own them, or both. That whole genre of policies is totally ineffective at its stated goals, and we can see that in the murder rate, which has historically tracked gun restrictions not at all. But it’s pretty effective at making owning guns more of a pain in the ass, and it’s not too much of a leap to see that as the policies’ tacit goal. Especially when you can turn on the TV any day of the week and find some talking head trashing the gun culture.

            So, they’re going to interpret any new gun control proposals in the same light, as being primarily aimed at screwing them. Even if they’d actually save a lot of lives and wouldn’t infringe much on anyone’s ability to hunt or target shoot or carry in self-defense, they’ll still have really bad priors to get over, and plus they’ll see them as a step towards confiscation, which is totally unacceptable to them on an identity level. And so they’re going to resist them, unless you can convince them that you’re not attacking their culture. And they have the political power to make that stick. Fortunately, because of the history of ineffective kneejerk regulation that we’re dealing with here, there’s a ton of bones you could easily throw them without making anybody substantially less safe.

            But a few people might feel less safe. And we can’t have that, apparently.

          • gbdub says:

            @arlie – I agree… farther down the thread someone asked “what’s changed in the last 20 years”, and that (media coverage) almost has to be part of it, causing copycats and so on.

            It’s probably also not trivial that most of the people covering these murders come from the “visceral disgust reaction to guns” class. Their fear and hatred of the tool is palpable in their coverage. And I think it feeds the copycat… Look how afraid these people are of this lone gunman image – that’s what I will mimic to become legendary

            Whereas me, coming from a “basically always around guns and/or people that own them” place, I just don’t get that immediate focus on the gun. Suicide bombings, plane hijackings, or getting caught in wildfire are a lot scarier to me, presumably unfamiliarity plays a role in that.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Look how afraid these people are of this lone gunman image – that’s what I will mimic to become legendary

            Yep, you can see this in lesser offenses as well, particularly vandalism. Ever seen anyone draw a Star of David? A Christian cross? A hexagon? A square root symbol? Nope, it’s swastikas and pentagrams and genitalia.

          • Nornagest says:

            My favorite graffiti exchange is the following:

            “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”

            (below, in a different hand)

            “No it doesn’t”

            …but that was on a college campus.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            @Nornagest

            This is one of those “why we can’t have nice things” situations. etc.

            Thank you, that was a great answer and really informative for someone who doesn’t come from a gun culture background.

          • CatCube says:

            To expand on @Nornagest above, I think an analogy from Ken White at Popehat about the level of terminology and knowledge in many previous proposals is illustrative:

            So imagine we’re going through one of our periodic moral panics over dogs and I’m trying to persuade you that there should be restrictions on, say, Rottweilers.

            Me: I don’t want to take away dog owners’ rights. But we need to do something about Rottweilers.

            You: So what do you propose?

            Me: I just think that there should be some sort of training or restrictions on owning an attack dog.

            You: Wait. What’s an “attack dog?”

            Me: You know what I mean. Like military dogs.

            You: Huh? Rottweilers aren’t military dogs. In fact “military dogs” isn’t a thing. You mean like German Shepherds?

            Me: Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody’s trying to take away your German Shepherds. But civilians shouldn’t own fighting dogs.

            You: I have no idea what dogs you’re talking about now.

            Me: You’re being both picky and obtuse. You know I mean hounds.

            You: What the fuck.

            Me: OK, maybe not actually ::air quotes:: hounds ::air quotes::. Maybe I have the terminology wrong. I’m not obsessed with vicious dogs like you. But we can identify kinds of dogs that civilians just don’t need to own.

            You: Can we?

            This is a little hyperbolic to illustrate the point, but it is only very slightly so. This is roughly the level that many previous gun-control proposals have been on (cf assault weapons ban), so when us anti-gun control people see a new proposal it has to overcome the perception that the people proposing it are either A) stupid, B) disingenuous, or C) some combination of A and B. Consider also that many of us consider it a right on par with the right to free speech–there can certainly be some limitations, for example slander–they should be very tightly drawn and well thought out. When our opponents talk roughly like the “dog control” example above in complete seriousness…well, we’re not assuming “good faith” or “well-thought-out” on the part of our interlocuters, that’s for sure.

          • Brad says:

            Re: gun culture and “on an identity level”

            I think there’s an analogy to be made here with those on the right that over the top flip out when presented with transgender claims and requests for accommodation — the “four lights” and “I identify as a ham sandwich” type stuff.

            To some/many that are left of center the idea that owning, carrying, and firing guns is central to someone’s identity seems insane and demands that this identity be respected and accommodated highly unreasonable.

            I wouldn’t necessarily draw any conclusions from this similarity–personally I think the meta level is overrated–but maybe it can offer an aha moment of what the other guy is thinking and feeling.

          • gbdub says:

            @Brad – I don’t think it makes sense to talk about “gun owner” as an identity the way “transgender” is an identity. Not saying no gun owners have ever tried but I’d guess that’s more a case of just trying to co-opt your opponents’ language.

            But you (and others in the thread) are onto something in that a big part of why “common sense gun control” gets so little traction in the gun owner community is because of the obvious contempt of gun culture from so much of the gun control movement. The demands to alter / eradicate a culture without any charitable effort to understand it.

            If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard presented as a checkmate argument some combination of “no one needs a gun”, “guns are only for killing”, “no one should want a weapon of war in their home”, or the classic “the only reason to own a gun is to compensate for your small dick”… well I wouldn’t be rich but I could definitely purchase a nice firearm to convince you of the majestic scale of my manhood.

            A better analogy to me is that a lot of gun control advocates are like that particular brand of militant atheist that likes to loudly declare how stupid anyone who believes in god is. It’s hard to expect even the most reasonable Christians to have a productive discussion about the separation of church and state if that’s who is arguing the other side.

          • Brad says:

            @gbdub
            The point was not to analogize gun owners to transgender people, but rather to analogize the reaction of some people on the left to the existence and demands of gun enthusiasts to the reaction of some people on the right to the existence and demands of transgender people.

            Your counter analogy is attempting to relay what it feels like to be confronted by gun control advocates, but the original one was intended to get at what it feels like to be a gun control advocate.

            If you can put yourself in the shoes of the one of the guys that completely flip out when asked to refer to Chelsea Manning as Chelsea Manning then you can access some of the same sorts of feelings people experience when confronted gun enthusiasts. The “you must have a small dick” is the same kind of unhelpful over-the-top reaction as “I identify as a ham sandwich”. Those reactions bespeak not just contempt but also at least a touch of bewilderment.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The particular phrase “common sense gun control” also brings with it the natural annoyance that comes from being told, by people who disagree with you, that everyone agrees with them.

    • Plumber says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz,

      I really don’t know,

      but I want something to be tried.

      Please.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      We have quite a bit of gun control law with fairly good enforcement, so precisely what measures do you have in mind? That quibble stated:

      Mass Shootings of the Thousand Oaks, Columbine, : No effect at all from any measures short of national ban on and confiscation of all handguns and semi-automatic rifles. Such a policy would probably result in a baseline rate higher than the UK and Canada but lower than we have now. Note that here I define Mass Shooting in the sense of Ecole Polytechnique, Columbine, etc, not the various bullshit definitions trotted out anytime someone wants to create a sense of moral panic. Active Shooter/Spree Killer incidents rather than “shootout between drug dealers in which more than one or two people were shot”.

      Murder: Varies wildly depending on exact method, but I’d place the ceiling at around a 25-30% reduction. Most of this would come in the form of reduced lethality of wounds rather than a reduction in violent crime. Fewer murders, more aggravated assaults, assault with a deadly weapon, whatever the relevant jurisdiction calls it, etc. To get that 30% reduction I think it would take, again, full on bans and confiscation of most weapons with extremely heavy regulation on the rest.

      Accidents: Accidents are already pretty rare (0.15 per 100,00 in 2016 according to the CDC), but I would expect them to drop in a fairly linear correlation with gun ownership, so again, how much do you intend to restrict gun ownership?

      Suicides: I think Scott covered this in one of his earlier posts. Similar to Murder, maybe a bit more effective.

    • albatross11 says:

      It’s useful to look at some numbers:

      From this NIH document on gun fatalities, we get these numbers for 2016:

      a. Suicide (20,012)
      b. Homicide (11,256)
      c. Accidents (about 582)

      From this Vox Article on Mass Shootings, we get 456 deaths from mass-shootings.

      So in terms of actual fatalities, I think we’re down around the same order of magnitude for accidental shootings and mass-shootings. (I didn’t dig to see what definition Vox used for mass shootings.) This is still more than the number of deaths from terrorism in any year but 2001, but it’s not a huge number. But very much like terrorism, it’s spectacular and scary, and it strikes at people who have otherwise arranged their lives not to be subject to much risk of violence.

      As far as what can be done, I think the choices come down to about four things: Make guns harder for dangerous lunatics to get, pre-emptively lock up/treat more dangerous lunatics, try to get more potential dangerous lunatics into some kind of voluntary mental health care and head off the explosions, or try to find some way to make going postal less of a thing socially.

      The problem with the first option is that non-crazy gun owners will suspect that anything done in this direction is a first step toward taking their guns. And since there are plenty of people willing to say exactly that, and several other countries where exactly that happened, it’s not like they’re being unreasonable.

      The problem with the second option is that there’s going to be a massive false-positive rate, so for every mass-shooting you prevent, you’ll needlessly involuntarily commit a couple hundred people who were really only a danger to themselves.

      The problem with the third option is that it probably won’t do much about mass-shootings. On the other hand, making it a lot easier to get mental health care when you can’t pay for it will probably make the lives of a lot of not-going-to-go-postal people who just have crushing depression or anxiety and no money to pay for a psychiatrist a whole lot better, so we should do that regardless of mass shooting worries.

      The problem with the fourth option is that it looks hard, and if it can be done at all, it might require trampling on the first amendment. (The saturation coverage of mass shooters with their faces and names and manifestos everywhere seems like it’s probably setting up a societal pattern that future violent lunatics follow. But it’s not like you can actually ban coverage of these things.)

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        I wonder where the NIH got their numbers, because I was -just- looking at the CDC numbers for 2016 to refresh my memory, and the overall numbers were higher while accident deaths were lower: https://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate.html

      • Nicholas Weininger says:

        It is not clear that mass shooters are “lunatics” so much as they are lonely, angry, young white men. One can spin various plausible theories for why we might have more of those than other countries, and/or why they might feel more justified in shooting people. But whatever the cause, if you want to target a subpopulation either for help or restrictions or both, that’s the one to target.

        • albatross11 says:

          From this Politifact article, in mass public shootings (spree killings, not gang fights or robberies gone wrong), whites are the majority of the perpetrators, but slightly below their portion of the population. First cut, I think mass-shooters are almost always male, but aren’t in general much more white than the population as a whole.

          Some of the mass shooters are just long-term nonfunctional nuts, like the VA Tech shooter and the loon that shot Gabby Giffords. Other mass shooters are crazy at the time but otherwise have had functional periods of their lives, like the Aurora shooter who thought he was the Joker and killed a bunch of people in a showing of a Batman moive. (The Unabomber fits in here somehow, though he mailed bombs instead of shooting people.) Still others are people with an evil ideology, like the guy who shot up the temple in Pennsylvania recently, or the guy who killed a bunch of cops awhile back in Dallas. Some are personally bitter about life, like the whackjob that shot up Santa Barbara because he couldn’t get laid.

          I think there’s a social learning/imitation aspect to this. Greg Cochran pointed out at some point that Malay men sometimes run amok with a bloody kris, whereas Americans go postal with a Glock. For a few people who are crazy/bitter/etc., I think that social pattern kind of offers a path for how they can finally get even with life or “show them all.” I guess this gets mixed somehow into the worldview and delusions of severely crazy people who think they’re going to impress Jody Foster or fight off the evil conspiracy or something.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It is not clear that mass shooters are “lunatics” so much as they are lonely, angry, young white men.

          The Mother Jones analysis done a few years ago showed they were men all right (don’t know about young), but not so much “white” as “looked like America”; races were fairly proportionally represented, unlike for ordinary murder.

    • keranih says:

      How likely do you think it would make a difference to mass killings? How long would it take for it to make a difference? What effects would you predict for small-scale murder? Accidents? Suicides?

      I predict that regardless of the methods enacted to “control guns” that the rate of murder, assault, and wounding in the USA will always be higher than that of most of the rest of the “West” and certainly greater than most of Europe-n-Japan. As a metric – I suggest that one compare the per-capita rate of murder by feet/hands and by knives for each nation.

      If the rate of ‘people murdered by knives’ in the USA is greater than the rate of people murdered by knives in country X, then the murder rate in the USA isn’t going to approach that of country X *no matter* what restrictions on the liberty, movement, and commerce of US citizens.

      (The extreme control of firearms in Japan doesn’t prevent their suicide rate from being far in excess of the USA. Likewise, the suicide rate in the USA varies widely by gender and ethnic group.)

      (We should be asking why is this *before* we start saying this is how we change this.)

      • Thomas Jørgensen says:

        The simplest explanation is that the US police are, comparatively, shit at solving murders.

        Homocide clearance rates in the US are one hell of a lot lower than any other first world nation, and this matters, because it changes the calculus of premeditated murders – There is always some joker who thinks they are special, but generally speaking, the enforcer for the local dealer is going to stick to legbreaking to deal with rivals rather than leave bodies when the local po-po have a record of putting more than 95% of murderers away. After all, mr Breaker-of-legs probably knew some of those people who are now behind bars, and knows he is not that much smarter than they are.

        • cassander says:

          that sort of begs the question, doesn’t it? Why are police in america, supposedly the land of the overaggressive cops and extraordinarily punitive justice system, so shit at solving murders?

          • John Schilling says:

            At a guess, because many American murders occur within communities that don’t want or don’t trust the police to solve their murders, and the police return the sentiment. Most “first-world” nations don’t have communities like that, though this may change with recent immigration patterns.

          • albatross11 says:

            If this is right, then the murder clearance rate should be way higher in wealthy communities with good relations with the police. Is there any data either way on this?

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/tables/26tabledatadecoverviewpdfs/table_26_percent_of_offenses_cleared_by_arrest_or_exceptional_means_by_region_and_geographic_division_2012.xls

            Nowhere in the US has actually good clearance numbers.

            At a guess, the problem is exactly that the cops are under trained and over aggressive? Possibly also a tendency to fund prisons over training and investigative resources.

            Seriously, police reform ought to be way, way higher on the US political agenda.

            The homicide clearance rate in the US is falling – and this is in the face of generally lower crime rates. Wtf? The police have lower work load and they are getting worse at their jobs? That should be a national scandal.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > Why are police in america, supposedly the land of the overaggressive cops and extraordinarily punitive justice system, so shit at solving murders?

            If you look at the cop-per-murder ratio, it would be hard for it to be otherwise. To solve more murders, you first need to have fewer murders.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Nowhere in the US has actually good clearance numbers.

            Regional breakdown isn’t fine enough granularity to see if the wealthy community vs poor community idea holds up.

            My suspicion is it does, because wealthy communities have few homicides and wealthy people have few enemies so gauche as to resort to actual killing (and the exceptions tend to have really good security). Places where career criminals live have the opposite characteristics. But I don’t have data.

          • Walter says:

            That one is easy. People don’t tell the police stuff here.

            Like, tv shows aside, the way you solve crimes is someone tells you who did the crime and then you arrest that person, and they take a plea because their lawyer walks them through why they should.

            Mostly, the someone who tells you what happened, who kicks the whole thing off is the victim. But in a murder, that guy is dead. So now you are dependent on bystanders. But they have been taught ‘don’t snitch’, so they keep quiet and now what.

          • John Schilling says:

            At a guess, the problem is exactly that the cops are under trained and over aggressive?

            As has been discussed here repeatedly in the past, US cops mostly have either 2- or 4-year college degrees in How to Be A Cop, or comparable experience in the law-enforcement ares of the military services, and are at least as well trained as their counterparts in most other nations. And homicide investigations are generally done by specialist homicide detectives, who outside of Hollywood don’t really have much scope for aggression. So your guess seems ill-informed re: policing in the United States.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            Well, yes, no direct experience, but I was not actually thinking of the direct homocide detectives, but just general alienation towards the police making the job of everyone with a badge much harder than it needs to be.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Is there a way to cross reference these numbers against total manpower, per precinct? And then by nation? It seems as if an interesting question to answer here would be how many murders et.al. are being solved per cop. (Or more specifically, if possible, crimes solved per investigator.)

          • albatross11 says:

            Walter:

            But the clearance rate for other crimes is even lower than for murder, which doesn’t seem to agree with your model.

        • albatross11 says:

          Any idea what fraction of the people in prison for murder in those 95% clearance rate for murders countries are innocent?

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            To a first approximation? None. The advent of DNA evidence did not lead to any rash of reversals of old cases, which is as good a test of the record as we are likely to get.
            European law enforcement expends a whole lot of effort on solving killings, and it works. – in some sense it is just a superior Nash equilibrium – once you have a record of nearly always solving murders, the only murders left are acts of passion and people so infested with dunning-kruger that they believe they can beat the odds, so the overwhelming majority of cases are slam dunks, and for the 5 genuine mysteries you get each year, well, it does not break the bank to just throw bodies at the investigation until it is solved. It is, after all, only five cases.

          • albatross11 says:

            I am just automatically skeptical of places like Japan, where nearly all crimes are solved by a confession. I know little about Japan, but if that were happening anywhere in the US, I would be certain that the local cops were beating confessions out of people.

          • John Schilling says:

            To a first approximation? None. The advent of DNA evidence did not lead to any rash of reversals of old cases, which is as good a test of the record as we are likely to get.

            These are murders we’re talking about, not rapes. DNA evidence is usually not dispositive even if it is available, which it usually isn’t. And to get a “rash of reversals”, rather than a dribble, you’d need one of the countries that prides itself on it’s 95% conviction rate to authorize a comprehensive reinvestigation of every potentially relevant conviction, which I’ve never heard of. And, as albatross11 note, many of those countries also have a suspiciously high 95% confession or at least “confession” rate, which makes it hard to argue that a DNA recount is needed.

            Your not having heard of a “rash of reversals” may give you a warm fuzzy, but I don’t see it as having any evidentiary value at all. If that’s the best we are likely to get, it still isn’t good enough to negate the strong and well-justified suspicion of wrongdoing.

            European law enforcement expends a whole lot of effort on solving killings, and it work … for the 5 genuine mysteries you get each year, well, it does not break the bank to just throw bodies at the investigation until it is solved. It is, after all, only five cases.

            So how are you all doing on finding the guy who shot the Prime Minister of Sweden in front of at least twenty-five eyewitnesses?

            I remain skeptical of the theory that all murders are solvable if you just try hard enough and that American police are obviously not trying hard enough.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            I do not know about Japan, but the top scorers on “Solves murders” is pretty consistently Finland and the Swiss (the year where the Swiss solved literally every single murder in the country is pretty noteworthy). Both of which have police forces with astonishingly good reputations.

            .. Actually, eyeballing this, it looks a lot like “Public trust in the police” and “percentage murders solved” correlate really, really well.

            So, yhea, as Deadpool would say, MAXIMUM EFFORT! works. Especially if you operate in an environment where everyone talks to the cops.

          • Lambert says:

            I hear that in Japan, it’s hard to get a suspicious death classed as a murder unless it looks likely the murderer will be caught. Keeping up appearances and all that.

          • John Schilling says:

            So, yhea, as Deadpool would say, MAXIMUM EFFORT! works. Especially if you operate in an environment where everyone talks to the cops.

            Still waiting for you to catch the Palme killer. Still waiting for you to do more than “eyeball this”, particularly if you are going to avert your eyes from counterexamples llike Japan.

            Nonetheless, you’ve just admitted that your preferred solution probably isn’t going to work for nations with large non-first-world immigrant populations. So either you’re endorsing the policies of Donald Trump, or you’ve got nothing useful to say about the United States.

          • DeWitt says:

            Public trust in the police isn’t a fixed matter, not even in the non-first world immigrant populations you mention. It’s an argument for declaring them all legal and free citizens as much as it is for not letting any more in, and that’s before taking into account the way the police may or may not behave.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Public trust in the police isn’t a fixed matter, not even in the non-first world immigrant populations you mention. It’s an argument for declaring them all legal and free citizens as much as it is for not letting any more in, and that’s before taking into account the way the police may or may not behave.

            Only if the only reason for the non-first-world immigrant populations’ distrust of the police is because they’re worried about getting deported. If, on the other hand, they distrust the police because the authorities back home were all corrupt and it’s difficult to shake off this attitude even after moving to a less corrupt country, then declaring them all legal citizens is unlikely to make much of a difference.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, you should be suspicious of the 95% clearance rate for Japanese murder, that for every murder the police identify a suspect. But you know who else is suspicious? The prosecutors. They decline to prosecute half of these “cleared” murders.

            There’s no reason to expect a rash of reversals even in rapes, because people don’t save old evidence. When they do, they find 15% of rape convicts are the wrong man. This also doesn’t lead to a rash of reversals, which is more disturbing.

          • They decline to prosecute half of these “cleared” murders.

            Link?

            When they do, they find 15% of rape convicts are the wrong man.

            Between 8 and 15%.

            Those figures are for Virginia, not Japan. We don’t know what the figure would be for Japan, which is what was being discussed.

            This also doesn’t lead to a rash of reversals, which is more disturbing.

            The cases were from 1973-1987, before DNA testing, the relevant evidence preserved by accident. It was discovered in 2001. The testing started in 2008, twenty-one years after the most recent of the cases.

            I don’t know what your “does not lead to a rash of reversals” is based on. The relevant bits from the article are:

            Suspect 1 was pardoned and released from prison in 2005.

            The convicted suspect was exonerated
            in 2011.

            This finding was used to support exoneration.

            and the convicted suspect was exonerated.

            Though the convicted suspect has not been exonerated yet, the state is currently reviewing the case for potential exoneration.

            Of the eight case studies described in the article, the other three are ones where the DNA evidence was not sufficient to eliminate the convicted defendant

          • DeWitt says:

            Only if the only reason for the non-first-world immigrant populations’ distrust of the police is because they’re worried about getting deported. If, on the other hand, they distrust the police because the authorities back home were all corrupt and it’s difficult to shake off this attitude even after moving to a less corrupt country, then declaring them all legal citizens is unlikely to make much of a difference.

            From a N = 1 personal anecdote where my father was an Eastern European immigrant, this doesn’t seem to hold true. Even intuitively, I don’t know whether this checks out: I’d be very surprised if perfectly legal H-1B Chinese immigrants had less trust in the police than the local black community. As best I can tell, public trust is shaped by the actual police’s behavior than by parent culture.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            8% is based on assuming that the DNA of convicted rapists decays faster than the DNA of rapists for whom an innocent man has been convicted in his place. The correct answer is 15%.

            The paper reports 33 convicts for whom the DNA exonerates them and 7 for whom it is exculpatory but insufficient, generally because of multiple rapists. Of the 33 convicts only 4 were exonerated by the state of Virginia. The case studies are not representative; they include “all four known exonerations.”

            ———

            According to page 9 of this, in 1995(?), the Japanese police arrested 1800 people for 1300 murders, and prosecuted 43% of them. In 2/3 of the cases not prosecuted, it was because the prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence. This leaves a mystery of why they dropped the other 1/3, 18% of the total. But, anyhow, (1) 95% clearance does not mean 95% conviction and (2) the prosecutors are not convinced by the 95% clearance.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @John Schilling

            Still waiting for you to catch the Palme killer

            Isn’t the Palme case a bit too special thing to wave around like that? High-level political assassinations like that are outliers in the first place, because killer might actually be a hired professional who has an idea what they are doing. (Journalists have used a great deal of ink to speculate that the Palme murderer was someone with friends in high places.) Secondly, the technology and procedures used in the 1980s are not likely reflective of the current situation. Mostly the “25 eyewitnesses” of Palme case tells us that eyewitness testimony, especially when it comes to identifying strangers, is very unreliable evidence.

            For the record, they caught killer of Anna Lindh quite soon, with the help of modern DNA forensics and CCTV.

          • John Schilling says:

            Isn’t the Palme case a bit too special thing to wave around like that? High-level political assassinations like that are outliers in the first place, because killer might actually be a hired professional who has an idea what they are doing.

            The bit where he shot the man in public in front of a couple dozen eyewitnesses would seem to argue against the “professional with a plan” hypothesis.

            Which was shaky before we got that far, because “professional assassin” is a vanishingly small category in the real world, and one that I don’t think has ever targeted the head of state or head of government of a modern first-world nation. And even in the more unstable regimes that sort of thing mostly happens as part of a coup.

            And professional assassins killing people openly in front of witnesses and then walking away, also basically doesn’t happen except in the sort of community where everybody knows that everybody keeps their mouth shut and doesn’t talk to the police. The police were called within seconds of the attack, with a patrol unit already only a block or two away and another not far from the killer’s escape route – he escaped because the initial call was misrouted by the dispatcher, which seems unlikely to have been part of a professional assassin’s plan.

            Or, of course, we can make that one more ingredient in the conspiracy theory stew, which is going to be quite tasty in a case like this. But really, it was almost certainly some random nutcase or aggrieved citizen who got lucky, or perhaps a case of mistaken identity.

    • BBA says:

      The price of liberty is eternal violence.

    • John Schilling says:

      I would very much prefer that we not have this discussion any time in the next three days, because the words “Gubhfnaq Bnxf” are printed in fifty-point bold psychic ink between every link of your post.

      But, since you ask, in the short term there would be slightly fewer mass killings by virtue of the fact that the particular suicidal revenge fantasy being peddled by the media to the impressionably stupid will be slightly harder for many of them to implement. And most of them are highly unimaginative copycats.

      Not all of them, and the original thinkers will turn to substitutes. Since guns are hardly the most effective way to turn a crowd of celebrants into a pile of corpses, and since the media will signal-boost the new techniques just as they did the old, I expect the long-term effect will be no significant change in the number of incidents but some increase in average lethality.

      As always, to get a large effect either way you need to change the media or change the society.

    • The Nybbler says:

      With a plausible level of enforcement, nothing happens. With an implausible level of enforcement and something like “Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in”.

      Accidents due to firearms are small, and would become smaller. Successful suicides drop, then go back up over a few years as alternative high-effectiveness methods become known in the culture. Small-scale murder drops a little bit as criminals start using less-effective weapons to attack each other (but this is the most implausible part of enforcement). Robbery and burglary go up.

      Mass killings… I suspect the news is bad there. The killers will find substitutes, and some of them can be worse than firearms, like arson of occupied buildings and explosives.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Except we don’t see that substitution effect elsewhere in the world. Not for “disaffected mass murderer”.

        • Statismagician says:

          Are you aware of anywhere that’s tried something like this in the era of mass media? It’s really important to compare apples to apples here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The NY Times published an overview of a study yesterday.

            You can object they are using the “wrong” definition of mass murder, but that seems rather spurious to me, because what we are really talking about is lethality.

            In China, about a dozen seemingly random attacks on schoolchildren killed 25 people between 2010 and 2012. Most used knives; none used a gun.

            By contrast, in this same window, the United States experienced five of its deadliest mass shootings, which killed 78 people. Scaled by population, the American attacks were 12 times as deadly.

            In addition:

            [T]hey found, in data that has since been repeatedly confirmed, that American crime is simply more lethal. A New Yorker is just as likely to be robbed as a Londoner, for instance, but the New Yorker is 54 times more likely to be killed in the process.

            Now, we do see the phrase “gun deaths” which is likely to rankle some, but overall they seem to be looking for substitution and not finding it.

        • gbdub says:

          There is a large part of the world where “disaffected mass murderers” strap bombs to themselves and blow up.

          The US is unusual in the number of mass murders that are not apparently part of organized terrorist/revolutionary/civil war violence.

          Honestly the fact that some other countries aren’t seeing substitution effects seems to me like decent evidence that guns might be an enhancement effect, but probably aren’t the root cause – something else is driving an unusually large number of American young men to engage in random mass killing.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m not talking about the IRA, Al Queda, the Tamil Tigers or anyone else engaged in actual organized political killing. These aren’t the same kinds of issues at all.

          • gbdub says:

            Did you read past my first sentence?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes, I was simply clarifying that we shouldn’t classify political as “disaffected mass murderers”, which seemed like you were trying to do.

            But I should have also acknowledged that you make a good point that people in these other countries who are engaging political violence manage to commit mass murder in other ways, but the non-political murderers do not. That is a valid point and I was remiss in not responding in the affirmative.

          • albatross11 says:

            One sideline is that if you’re a not-all-that functional-or-smart person looking to kill a lot of people, buying a couple guns is a fairly straightforward way to accomplish your goal. There may be a lot better ways if you’re smart and functional and capable of thinking clearly, but most such people don’t want to murder a bunch of strangers to get even with life. (And when you have terrorists who are planning some kind of attack, that goes out the window, and sometimes you have someone who’s smart and patient and coldly rational.)

          • gbdub says:

            @HeelBearCub – thanks for acknowledging that. It’s certainly worth distinguishing between organized political violence and “diasaffected mass murderers”. Although, thinking about it, I suspect that organized political violence absorbs a lot of potential DMMs. Notably, ISIS seems to be specifically encouraging foreign DMMs to engage in violence under the ISIS brand (a la the Pulse shooter). If that guy lived in the Middle East, I suspect he’d have ended up participating in ISIS more directly.

            @albatross11 – is a gun really easier or just more obvious? A can of gas, a match, and something heavy to block a door, or a rented U-Haul pointed at a crowd… those are cheaper, just as effective (if not more so) and do they really take that much planning? “Active shooter” is basically a meme, and that probably has as much to do with it as anything.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:
            I agree that there is some memetic component to mass killings, but I also think there is a psychological need that is being fulfilled as well. The killer is in control of the gun, actively exerting power. Political killers are trying (however likely success is) to change the overall situation. Even political killers who engage in suicidal killings are most likely being exploited by someone else trying to accomplish a goal.

            Perhaps ISIS is absorbing some DMMs, but I don’t think they would become suicide bombers within ISIS if they were overseas. It seems more likely to me that they would become soldiers.

          • albatross11 says:

            My guess: Some things are basically tropes–everyone knows what they are, they’re familiar ideas, etc. One of these, in US culture, is a mass-shooting. It’s a familiar idea to almost everyone–most of us are horrified by the idea, but it’s still a standard part of everyone’s vocabulary.

            So when some not-very-bright, not-very-functional person has decided to get even with life/go out in a blaze of glory, that very familiar idea comes to mind immediately. I suspect the same sort of mechanism functions w.r.t. suicide. A smart functional person thinking clearly can probably come up with a couple dozen effective ways of committing suicide; a seriously messed up person in the throes of a mental health crisis is pretty likely to reach for a standard cultural trope, like shooting themselves in the US, or poisoning themselves in places where extremely lethal pesticides are available.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      The reason I posted this is that my social circle includes a lot of “common sense gun control”people, and I’m dubious about it. I was mostly looking for arguments against.

      Also, I consider victimless crime laws (and owning a gun without permission is a victimless crime) to be catnip for abusive justice systems.

      • John Schilling says:

        The first question, then, is whether your social circle can be made to A: know and B: care that high-profile mass shootings account for maybe 1% of US shooting deaths and are thus a very bad basis for making legal or policy decisions. What sort of arguments you can usefully make, will depend on the answer to that top-level question.

        If they do only care about the mass shootings, then you may be in Dark Arts territory because you are dealing with a strongly non-consequentialist and non-rational position. But one true and rational point you can make, is that most of the really high-profile mass shootings occur in places where ordinary citizens are prohibited from having guns, and that active-shooter incidents generally don’t reach the level of “mass shootings” and are associated with ~30% fewer fatalities when they do occur in places where victims or bystanders might be armed.

        There is insufficient data to know how much of this is because the active shooters specifically target disarmed populations, and how much because they get shot before they rack up a newsworthy death toll. But if you walk into a crowd of a hundred ordinary American adults, probably about three of them will be armed (including e.g. off-duty police officers). The would-be mass murderer won’t know who they are, but they will all know who he is the moment he starts shooting. And, empirically, there are zero cases of armed citizens trying to engage a mass murderer and shooting each other by mistake / in the confusion.

        Addressed in more detail by Volokh Conspiracy and myself

        • 1soru1 says:

          If they do only care about the mass shootings, then you may be in Dark Arts territory because you are dealing with a strongly non-consequentialist and non-rational position.

          Assumes facts not in evidence; it is entirely rational to worry more about a new, growing and poorly-understood issue than about a long-standing, well-studied and declining one.

          There doesn’t appear to be an obvious upper bound on the annual number of gun-based murder-suicides; if 10% of the 22,000 annual gun suicides switched methods to ‘kill until I am killed’, then getting shot by a stranger could top traffic accidents and start to catch up with kidney disease or perhaps diabetes as a cause of death.

          Sometimes a terrorist threat should just be downplayed or ignored; sometimes it is the start of an insurgency or civil war that is going to be the defining influence of quality of life of a generation. And you don;t get to call anyone irrational for counting the latter as a possibility unless you have actually done the work to show that is the case.

    • veeloxtrox says:

      Follow up question, what has changed in the last ~20 years to cause the marked increase in mass shootings? I was not old enough at the time to understand what the state of the world before Columbine was by my general understanding is that it marks the beginning mass shootings. So what is different from say 1970 and now that has caused the to be such a big issue? I feel that if you cannot answer why mass shootings have went up, you cannot be sure what to change to make them go down.

      • Plumber says:

        I think it’s copy-cat.

        I’m (just barely) old enough to remember when bombings were more common, which I imagine was from a similarly copy-cat effect.

        Once someone saw what was done, the idea to do it themselves festered.

      • John Schilling says:

        A big part of it is definitely the willingness of the media (including, now, decentralized social media) to signal-boost mass murder in a way that inspires copying the demonstrated recipe for fifteen minutes of fame before you ragequit the game. May also be significant that social media allows would-be killers to brag about their badassitude in advance in a way that feeds their ego for a while but can’t be sustained without going ahead and killing a bunch of people.

        And there’s also a bit of straight Islamist terrorism in the mix, but that’s usually pretty easy to distinguish if you don’t insist that all mass shootings have to be the same one thing.

        Beyond that, and somewhat more speculative, is I think the increase in the number of people who live highly regimented lives with little hope for a better future.

        In olden times, we called this sort of thing “going postal”, because reasons. And in olden times, the USPS was a federally-mandated employer of last resort for mentally almost-disabled veterans and the like who could at least sort mail in an extremely regimented workplace, at least until it was time for them to move into some sort of warehouse and run out the clock.

        Now, the cliche is “school shootings”, at a time when schools are increasingly devoted to standardized test preparation because standardized tests are what determine whether you will go to a Good College, and Everybody Knows that if you don’t go to a Good College you wind up working someplace like the post office until it’s time for you to check into a warehouse and run out the clock.

        Meanwhile, assembly-line factory jobs don’t seem to have this effect, but assembly-line factory jobs traditionally came with (and to the extent that you can still find them, mostly still do) come with a path to a white picket fence and 2.3 children who may themselves go to a Good College, so it probably has to be both the strict regimentation and the no hope combined that makes people susceptible to “here’s how to go out with a blaze of glory” messaging.

      • gbdub says:

        This is my question. Guns weren’t really any harder to get. The overall murder rate was actually higher. I doubt mental health treatment was any better. Therefore “easy access to guns”, “general increase in violence”, and “bad mental health care”, explanations you usually see discussed, don’t seem like they can be causal.

        I lean toward the copycat / slow-motion-riot (Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this) explanation.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Mental health treatment may have been worse, but I think the overall level of mental health problems was still lower. So it’s possible that the rise in mental health problems has more than outweighed the increased effectiveness of treatment, so that there are now more dangerously mentally ill people now than there were back in the ’70s.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Dagnabbit, they’ve gone and put the lead back in gasoline and paint when I wasn’t looking.

      • dorrk says:

        While “mental health” has gotten a few mentions in this thread, I’m surprised that there has been no citing of the increased presence of mood altering prescriptions drugs. Surely this is a topic that Scott knows better than most of us, and I don’t have supporting facts on this, just a general impression based on common facts that eventually leak out about shooters in these types of cases.

        Here are my assumptions (I’m also certain that my terminology is going to be suspect-to-wrong; please correct me whether I’m totally off-base or just talking about it incorrectly):

        1. Mood altering prescription drugs, while very helpful in normalizing erratic behavior, can create serious reactions in former users who have recently stopped taking them. The sudden loss of induced well-being, combined with the pre-existing condition of manic/irrational/extreme/psychotic thoughts can combine into devastatingly violent reactions (paranoia and delusions of grandeur seem to be involved in many high profile cases).

        2. Middle class young white men are far more likely to be prescribed use of these types of drugs than are other demographics, for a variety of reasons (economic, cultural, etc.).

        3. I seem to recall that many past shooters were reported to have previously sought treatment for mental health issues, the type of which were or might have been treated with mood altering drugs.

        I’m not convinced that there has been a statistical rise in mass killings overall, but there certainly has been a shift in their nature and prominence in our cultural awareness, and going back to Columbine and a bit earlier, the patterns have suggested to me that the concurrent increase in psychiatric drugs should be explored as a potentially relevant factor.

  10. Hoopyfreud says:

    Apologies for the double-post, but recent experience has shown that if two unrelated topics are touched upon in a single post, one will drown out the other, and I want to avoid that.

    There’s a strain of technolibertarian thought that – as far as I can tell – puts faith in conscientious encryption as a means to preserve privacy, arguing that it is easy enough to cloak one’s identity with computers that the question of a fundamental right to privacy from other people can be mostly sidestepped; after all, the same technologies that let people spy on you mean that you have the ability to avoid their spying.

    Except that’s not really true.

    The privacy race is asymmetrical on two different levels. Technological security trumps technological surveillance, but technological surveillance trumps meat.

    It’s impossible right now to hide anything besides the exchange of information or the exchange of currency from someone dedicated to watching you. Medical history, for example. Work history, if your job involves more than producing information. Race. Sex. Age. Relationships. Desire – it’ll soon be easy, if prohibitively expensive, for Facebook to use cameras to measure how long you looked at that billboard for. Or that man passing by. Now it knows what you want. Who you find sexy. Now the people working there know too.

    I’m not too sure about advocating for strong privacy laws – that just increases the asymmetry of the cyberpunk future we’re surfing towards – but I am scared. I don’t like this dynamic, and I fear it’ll be incredibly exploitable. It feels like I’m losing something, and I can’t tell if that feeling is real or not.

    • For what it’s worth, I discussed the tension between increased privacy via encryption and decreased privacy via surveillance tech in Chapter 3 and Chapter 5 of my Future Imperfect.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      To be honest, I’ve never been particularly sold on the idea of encryption as privacy-preserving mechanism and this is unlikely to change. There are several reasons for this.

      1. Anything that’s encrypted can be decrypted – if only through the use of $5 wrench decryption. Anything you have on record can and will be read. The only way to safeguard against this is to use a lossy scheme – such as hashing – that doesn’t actually preserve the input (in the sense of the ability to read the input from the stored data).

      2. Computer networks excel at tracking and preserving data – including meta-data – meaning that everything you do will leave a trail, possibly forever (or close enough). Stored data is trivially and accurately copied, meaning that anyone wishing to track you or access your encrypted data can potentially exfiltrate a personal copy of whatever interests them to a system they control and then work on it at their leisure (to the best of my knowledge, numerous high-profile hacks involved copying databases, as opposed to cracking them in-situ).

      2a. The architecture of the internet is such that a lot of the really interesting meta-data travels on open, well-known channels and there’s no guarantee of secure route (meaning: free of threats). This is, in itself, a privacy threat – given that the very fact of Alice sending a message to Bob is something they may wish to conceal. Tor tries to work around this, but ultimately it only obfuscates the trail.

      3. A broader issue with internet architecture is that it was designed for a vastly different use case and it shows. Many original design elements assumed a high-trust environment (academic networks) – mostly because it wasn’t anticipated that any particularly sensitive information would be sent or need to be safeguarded against malicious actors. Real-world use of the internet today needs to be conducted in a zero-trust environment with malicious actors ranging from state-level to script-kiddies-with-too-much-time-on-their-hands. Unfortunately, we are very much subject to the technological lock-in described by Jaron Lanier in the very first chapter of You Are Not a Gadget – changing the internet to cope with current threat models would pretty much involve scrapping what we have and starting over.

      4. Techno-libertarians and techno-utopians are a major part of the problem. A fundamental part of the “techno-positive” mindset seems to be: “if we can do something, we should do it and should be allowed to do it”. The lion’s share of policy/laws surrounding information technologies has been shaped by this kind of thinking (because those same folks had the most knowledge/credibility about emerging technologies) – despite numerous people pointing out very real ways in which this would end in tears. As a result, some of the biggest businesses (and highest-spending lobbyists) on the planet have arisen through contributing to the problem (we all know who they are). Only recently, have lawmakers finally started to grasp what some of us have been going on about for ages, but it’s going to be a long road to travel.

      To end on a more practical note: given that in my job, I occasionally have to deal with sensitive information and that I am in a country subject to the GDPR – to say nothing of the fact, that I’m one of those people who actually values the privacy of others – I’ve recently had the opportunity to make several recommendations to management, that I submit for the benefit of everyone else: unless you’re really sure you need to store some piece of data – don’t.

    • Alliumnsk says:

      The only solution to that asymmetry that I see is than everyone should be able to monitor others. Because the powerful will have this ability unaway and

  11. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve noodled around with the question of whether it could make sense to send an expert to even moderately distant space. I’d like a situation that’s, say, a hundred light years away, and there’s ftl that can get the expert there in ten years. Change the numbers any way you want to get an interesting story.

    I can’t think of any situation where it’s urgent enough to have an expert on the ground, even with those modest delays and even if you have courier ships sending information back and forth.

    Other categories would be entertainers– maybe in a culture with long time horizon, though it would be hard to be sure someone would still be popular, and politicians/generals as a show of force.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Digging science seems somewhat likely – archaeology/geology/paleontology. Robots that can dig, collect samples, operate GPR devices, and explore caves on treacherous terrain are hard to build, and it’d be impractical for the scientists to send instructions.

      • John Schilling says:

        I believe it was the PI for Spirit and Opportunity who noted that, however impressive the feats of the robots in his charge, everything they accomplished on Mars would have been about a solid day’s work for a field geologist on Earth. So, yeah. More generally, fixing things when they break really calls for an on-site human, or human-level robot if we ever figure out how to build such a thing, and if you can’t fix things when they break, all but the most mind-numbingly tedious forms of exploration are probably not going to happen. Industrial activity would be particularly difficult.

        But it isn’t clear whether Nancy was asking about sending specialist human experts to a place where there are no humans, or sending specialist experts to a place where there are already non-specialist humans in residence. In the latter case, I would expect the first wave of humans will be highly capable fixers, JOATs, and polymaths, which will ease the pressure for sending experts later. But, as the human population grows, there may be a need for specialized human-wranglers.

    • sfoil says:

      There were a lot more wandering entertainers before broadcast media, because once your act got stale you just went to the next town. If your ships are faster than transmitted messages (I know, I know, but it’s been done e.g. The Mote in God’s Eye) then you might have vaudeville-esque showmen trying to stay ahead of high-latency broadcasts from “core” systems. There are other categories of people who might want to stay ahead of such broadcasts, as well.

      As far as experts, you probably don’t want them for urgent but for long-term problems. If you’ve got an interstellar civilization, then astro-engineering and terraforming projects probably have long timelines with slow changes. Delaying years or decades might be worth it to avoid finding out you made a mistake a century down the line. Alternately, they might be urgent but involve devices or materials that can only be handled, either practically or by regulation, by certified experts.

    • albatross11 says:

      I suspect really expensive, non-time-critical projects might wait around for the top expert from the home office. But I also suspect with a ten-year travel time and anything like current life expectancies, you might end up with the young expert trained by the top expert, emigrating to the new colony world with his family.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Presumably, it would be subject to the same considerations as “do I really need to send an expert half-way around the world”.

      One reason you might want to send an expert is to deal with unknown unknowns. Any kind of remote information gathering is subject to the problem of assumptions regarding what information is going to be gathered – your remote sensor suite is likely to be blind to all information outside its scope, so your remote experts will be too. If the inadequacy of data being gathered by remote sensors would become glaringly obvious to an expert on site, sending them is a good idea.

      Of course, given the scenario, it’s conceivable that we could send a sufficiently advanced AI rather than a human, but that’s still sending an expert, who just happens to be artificial.

    • helloo says:

      Isn’t a simple scenario where cost of issue delaying everything * probability of issue(s) > cost of sending an expert there during the project?

      Another possibility is that people might be much more willing to talk/deal with a local expert than with needing to send a formal request/complaint to headquarters. The whole working remote vs. office question.

  12. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Mixing magic with science fiction: how do you like to see it done? I ask because fast space travel is almost always magic, but what happens if you acknowledge that in-story? Do you feel “in for a penny, in for a pound” and like to see FTL ships coexist with Doctor Strange? Or more subtle?
    @Nornagest, I even remember you saying it’s preferable for fantasy space to use geocentric cosmology. 🙂

    • Nornagest says:

      I even remember you saying it’s preferable for fantasy space to use geocentric cosmology.

      I’m not sure I’d I’d want to prescribe it for all fantasy settings, but it’s the best option for Standard European Fantasy: it’s flavorful, doesn’t break versimilitude, and adapts easily to the metaphysics you tend to find there. Heliocentrism raises all sorts of awkward questions if you try to pair it with e.g. the D&D cosmology, but it might work better for Weird Fiction-flavored stuff, depending on which authors tickle your fancy.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Heliocentrism raises all sorts of awkward questions if you try to pair it with e.g. the D&D cosmology, but it might work better for Weird Fiction-flavored stuff, depending on which authors tickle your fancy.

        I mean, I reckon it’s a bad idea to lock yourself into geocentrism if you want your fantasy writing to be in-continuity with HP Lovecraft/Clark Ashton Smith. Otherwise you get the advantages of fitting easily with Classical/Standard European/Middle Eastern fantasy and it doesn’t bite you in the butt unless you advance your timeline to 1969 Earth.

        • Nornagest says:

          Sure. Lovecraft and friends need to be heliocentric; the entire point of the genre is that people aren’t the center of the universe*. But Standard European Fantasy has the opposite assumptions lurking in the background, even if it throws in some tentacles sometimes for flavor.

          You know what I mean by Standard European Fantasy, of course. Elves. Dwarves. Goblins. Dragons sleeping on more gold than anyone’s ever mined. Flashy battle magic. Government that’s somewhere between feudalism and absolute monarchy, but poorly defined either way. One-handed cruciform swords that everyone calls “longswords” for some reason. Busty tavern wenches. Mundane miracles. Suspiciously ancient-looking polytheism. Suspiciously modern-looking mores. No cannons.

          (*) A blind idiot god is, attended by pipers whose music is madness. It’s too bad Lovecraft didn’t live long enough to learn about Sagittarius A*.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            (*) A blind idiot god is [ the center of the universe], attended by pipers whose music is madness. It’s too bad Lovecraft didn’t live long enough to learn about Sagittarius A*.

            And Azathoth was just a twist on the old idea of the Demiurge who was stupid and blind enough to create the material universe (the twist being “and materialism is true, so be driven to madness rather than Gnosticism.”) So Sagittarius A* would just be a… mini-Azathoth.

            (It’s not perfectly clear that the canon supports materialism, Lovecraft’s personal beliefs notwithstanding. Yog-Sothoth appears like a rather Platonic deity in Through the Gates of the Silver Key.)

            Mundane miracles. Suspiciously ancient-looking polytheism. Suspiciously modern-looking mores. No cannons.

            Yeah, yeah, I know. I just have nothing to say when we’re talking about those cod-European non-Earth worlds.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s not perfectly clear that the canon supports materialism, Lovecraft’s personal beliefs notwithstanding. Yog-Sothoth appears like a rather Platonic deity in Through the Gates of the Silver Key.

            Oh, I know. But materialistic or not, a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy is a Lovecraftian enough concept to fit right into the canon, even though Lovecraft himself had nothing to do with it. I’d have loved to see what he’d have made of it. Or William Hope Hodgson, whose Green and Black Suns* are within spitting distance of the concept already.

            Odd that no revisionist Mythos writers have taken it up. Maybe it’s too I Fucking Love Science for them.

            (*) The House on the Borderland.

          • Baeraad says:

            One-handed cruciform swords that everyone calls “longswords” for some reason.

            Because they’re swords and they’re long? Don’t get me wrong, I am suitably impressed whenever some medieval weapons geek shows that he’s really done his homework and can explain the intent, use and cultural significance of a given design, but I don’t try to memorise it. It’s a sword. You hit people you don’t like with it. That’s about all I really need to know.

            Mind you, I am also comfortable referring to anything you hold in your hand that goes “BANG!” and spits out bullets when you pull the trigger as a “gun” and leave it at that, even though I know in theory that there is considerably more detail involved.

          • John Schilling says:

            Because they’re swords and they’re long?

            How are they long? They are vastly shorter than, e.g., pythons, freight trains, and national borders. They are maybe half the length of an average human being, which is our default reference for scale. And they are roughly the second-shortest entry on the list of “sword” categories.

            Neither are they particularly broad. The “problem” is, they don’t have a cool name of the form, [X]-sword; being perfectly generic median examples of the sword as optimized for use by the largest user community, everybody just called them “swords”. But a PC’s weapon can’t be generically boring, it has to have a Cool Name, with “longsword” and “broadsword” being the only things RPG designers can really crib from history to fill that role.

            The thing a medieval knight carries is a “sword”, just like the thing a 1950s beat cop carries is a “revolver” and the thing a soldier carried 1850-1950 was a “rifle”; adjectives are neither necessary nor really appropriate.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The thing a 1950s cop carried was not a “handgun”, nor was it a like referred to as a “pistol”, that’s the difference. Even “rifle” is descriptive of a specific aspect of a long gun.

            People like descriptive names…

          • Civilis says:

            Adjectives are neither necessary nor really appropriate.

            I suspect the nomenclature is heavily driven by fantasy, which itself is heavily driven by the needs of fantasy RPG players, for whom using the generic description “sword” doesn’t work and so an adjective is indeed necessary. A RPG player in the generic Western fantasy setting can commonly expect to encounter many different types of swords, and knowing the type is often very important, so if presented with the generic term, they’re going to have to ask for some sort of clarification.

            If the setting is one in which 99% of the swords are of the same general type, you can get away with setting one type as generic “sword”. In most cases, to a modern gamer, the differences between a gladius and a spatha are probably not important enough to require differing terms, even if they were important historical distinctions.

            On the flip side, your fantasy hero probably will obviously be able to recognize and react differently depending on whether the opponent has a common standard European-style one-handed sword (or “longsword”), a two-handed sword, a fencing sword, or an exotic foreign sword (assuming, realistically, they know nothing about the culture it comes from, it’s still a mark that the individual likely has a very different fighting style than the hero).

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yeah, “revolver” and “rifle” are cool descriptive names. Plain “sword” is more like “sidearm”, unless it’s two-handed and thus can’t be sheathed at your side.

          • John Schilling says:

            Even “rifle” is descriptive of a specific aspect of a long gun

            And “sword” is descriptive of a specific aspect of a lethal blade.

            People like descriptive names…

            If by “people” you mean “gamers”, sure.

            But almost all of the people who actually used long knightly or arming swords during the high middle ages, or were on the wrong end of their use, seem to have just called them “swords”. Even during the later middle ages, when actual “longswords” came into use, the traditional arming sword was I believe still just a “sword”.

          • Randy M says:

            I wonder if there is an inverse in the other emblematic element of knightly combat–the horse. D&D tends to have horse, war-horse, and more exotic (read:pretend) creatures, whereas I’d wager the medieval chaps had a large vocabulary to refer to different horse breeds.

          • Nornagest says:

            This sort of blew up, so maybe I should clarify. I don’t think it really deserves more than a single line — it’s a pet peeve, not the end of the world — but the problem is that I’m sort of a sword nerd. Calling the D&D PC’s weapon — viz. an obligate one-hander often paired with a shield — a “longsword” gives me the same sort of dissonance that a gun enthusiast feels when you call a magazine a “clip”, and for some of the same reasons.

            In the archaeology of weapons, “longsword” has a specific meaning: it refers to the slender hand-and-a-half cutting swords, with blades between 30-odd and 40-odd inches, that proliferated in the late 14th century after shields started falling out of use. It’s a longsword because it’s long relative to the arming swords (a modern term; in period they’d just be swords) of the previous 300 years, which typically had a blade length around 28 inches. Games usually call arming swords longswords, which is unambiguously wrong, and longswords bastard swords, which is correct — “bastard sword” is a Victorian term for the same thing, referring to its position between High Medieval arming swords and Renaissance two-handers — but nonstandard. On the other hand, HEMA types call what they’re studying “longsword fencing”, which is correct — the manuals they’re reconstructing their styles from were written in the late Middle Ages into the early Renaissance, when these were the most common sidearms.

            “Broadsword” is even worse: that term dates from the early modern period, after rapiers and their friends became the usual civilian weapons, and describes double-edged cutting swords wider than usual for the era, with basket hilts. Games, once again, usually use it for arming swords.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’d wager the medieval chaps had a large vocabulary to refer to different horse breeds.

            Yep. Some of that vocabulary made it into A Song of Ice and Fire, though, so I’d wager it’ll become more common in later fantasy.

          • Randy M says:

            Some of that vocabulary made it into A Song of Ice and Fire, though, so I’d wager it’ll become more common in later fantasy.

            Maybe. But only if mounted combat’s popularity/complexity ratio increases.

          • bullseye says:

            In D&D, at least in 3rd and 5th edition, you can wield a longsword with either one hand or both. If the sword is strictly one-handed, it’s a rapier, scimitar, or shortsword. So I guess D&D doesn’t have arming swords?

            I suspect the various horse types didn’t make it into D&D because you’re mostly fighting underground, and therefore on foot. The Pendragon RPG, which assumes you’re a knight, does include them. (I say type rather than breed because they cared about function rather than blood purity.)

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m pretty sure that 3rd edition’s longswords were one-handed. “Bastard swords” (see above) could be either, but you had to take an exotic weapon proficiency (and thus burn a precious feat slot) to use them one-handed. The d20 SRD seems to agree with me.

            I’ve spend very little time playing 5E, but from its version of the SRD it looks like bastard swords have been deleted and longswords can be used two-handed for more damage. Which is a reasonable way to do it, at long as you’re in a late medieval setting. Its shortswords are piercing weapons, though, so it looks like you’d need to stat arming/knightly swords as a scimitar (which is more expensive for some reason?) or deal with its absence.

          • bullseye says:

            I have the books for both 3.5 and 5th edition.
            3.5 confusingly uses “One-handed” to mean a weapon that be used with one or both hands. Using both hands means more damage because you add 1.5xStr to the damage instead of just Str. You’re right about 3rd ed. bastard swords. A longsword in that edition is basically a bastard sword with slightly lower damage and no need for the exotic feat.
            5th ed. ditched bastard swords because it ditched exotic weapons in general. They also ditched the strength-and-a-half rule, so using a longsword two-handed has a bigger damage die instead.

          • Nornagest says:

            You’re right, I’d forgotten about that rule.

            But the SRD also places such things as rapiers, scimitars, and whips in the “one-handed” category, so I think it’s supposed to model awkwardly swinging with both hands with some extra oomph, not to model weapons that’re designed for two-handed use. Giving the bastard sword its own unique rules would support this.

          • bullseye says:

            The rapier’s description specifically says you can’t use both hands for the extra damage. Also, in the picture (which the SRD doesn’t have), the longsword’s hilt is almost twice as long as the shortsword’s.

          • albatross11 says:

            Would a knight have normally carried an arming sword?

          • Nornagest says:

            Would a knight have normally carried an arming sword?

            Depends on the era. Arming swords would have been a knight’s usual sidearm until about 1350, although they always coexisted with other weapons. In the late Middle Ages, weaponry became much more diverse, but the arming sword was becoming obsolete at the same time.

            This is basically a response to developments in armor, which made shields less necessary (thus making two-handed weapons more practical) but simultaneously made the old weapons less effective.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I like my magitech with rules.

      Those rules don’t have to make intuitive or logical sense, but they have to exist. The more that magic is bound by rules, the better. This means that you cannot Macgyver magic unless you’re very, very good at it, and it’s not safe even if you are.

      As long as that’s the case, I’m happy to play a game where elf cyborgs throw blasts of flame at fungal life-forms from a distant star.

    • Civilis says:

      The important part is that, unless you explain otherwise*, a science fiction setting should be one with scientists and the scientific method. There’s no reason you can’t have science and magic, but if you do, the scientists are going to want to apply ‘science’ to the magic. This rule should apply to any type of magic, be it Sufficiently Advanced Technology, phenomena such as psionics, or actual Vancian Magic.

      A lot of fantasy stories where someone from our world ends up in a fantasy world get this right, in that they frequently have the person from our world sitting down and applying scientific logic to the magic to see what they can do with it. I’ve also seen it in reverse, where a user of magic with access to modern science is shown as curiously sitting down with basic science texts to try to figure out how they relate.

      This doesn’t mean you can’t have magicians that want the status quo, and they may be in charge, but at the very least there should be some sign of that push to combine the two disciplines.

      *Warhammer 40K is a ‘science fiction and magic’ world without much in the way of scientific thought, explained by an enforced scientific stasis by the Empire of Mankind, but even there, factions like the Adeptus Mechanicus are shown as secretly somewhat pushing the bounds and experimenting (often with horrific results, this being a grimdark setting).

      • You can have straight magic with the scientific method applied–that’s what I did in Salamander. The setting is a few decades after the magical equivalent of Newton has taken the first steps to converting magic from a craft to a science.

      • albatross11 says:

        One approach to this is to rename the magic psi, and maybe put it into the hands of a guild. (“The corps is mother, the corps is father.”)

        Another is just to have some kind of parallel thing with both going on. I thought that was done pretty well in the Mageworlds books (which I thought were basically trying to do a Star Wars type story well). But those books didn’t really have any scientists onscreen, so it wasn’t obvious what the relationship was between the powers of mages/adepts and the stuff that powers starship engines or engineers civilization-killing plagues.

        • Civilis says:

          I don’t think you need to have the actual scientists onscreen. For that matter, I think you don’t need actual scientists, just moderately intelligent people raised in or familiar with a culture of science. The average anime/manga high school student should be curious enough to be incentivized to figure out how the powers of the fantasy world he ends up in work (and has the incentive that it’s something he can use to get an edge on beating the inevitable demon lord). The student also doesn’t have the superstitions that often inhibit research in a purely fantasy world.

          Ultimately, I don’t think you even need to see the research, just the end results. If magic and science/technology exist, they’re going to have to be side by side and interacting with each other, and the world will show this even if the people experimenting are off screen. Some series (the Dresden Files) hand wave it with ‘magic inhibits technology’ (or vice versa) and that’s somewhat valid, if a bit lazy, but even there that’s an effect which can be researched or utilized. If you’re going to say ‘magic inhibits technology’, you can’t only use it to explain why the main character can’t use a cell phone when that would be more convenient than magic but break the plot, it has to constantly be in play, and the character should be smart enough to remember it.

          I think this is starting to feed into Hoopyfreud’s ‘magitech requires rules’ in the post above my original comment.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            This is the sort of thing Poul Anderson specialized in when he wrote fantasy. The hero of Three Hearts and Three Lions is one of Charlemagne’s Paladins magically reincarnated on our Earth, and returns to his home universe as an engineer. Operation Chaos is about the study of magic in and after World War 2.

    • Mixing magic with science fiction: how do you like to see it done?

      I’m fond of Five-Twelfths of Heaven and its sequels.

    • sfoil says:

      If you’re going to mix them, it’s usually best to have just a whiff of one or the other. In a “science fiction” setting, the existence of magic should generally be kept plausibly deniable, and vice versa for fantasy. At any rate turning them both up usually results in something silly.

      I would consider something like WH40K to be a setting which is basically magic/fantasy, with Actual Science maybe happening in a secret guild. Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is an example of the opposite.

      The gold standard is probably the Solar Cycle but not everybody can be Gene Wolfe.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        If you’re going to mix them, it’s usually best to have just a whiff of one or the other. In a “science fiction” setting, the existence of magic should generally be kept plausibly deniable, and vice versa for fantasy. At any rate turning them both up usually results in something silly.

        You can’t have magic be deniable if you’re admitting that it’s how spaceship engines work. I’m thinking about how the FTL black box in your standard SF story could as well be called an Atlantean power crystal as anything else, and accepting the consequences of that.

        • sfoil says:

          Obviously it’s possible to build a setting where starships move through portals opened by wizards. I just don’t particularly like them. I’m open to having my mind changed, and settings like Shadowrun can be fun, but overall I’m not a fan.

          As far as deniability, it can be done and it tends make for better stories. Here’s an example: in That Hideous Strength, a severed human head is kept alive as part of a scientific experiment. Or is it? Actually, the “science experiment” is just a cover for keeping a demonic mouthpiece around in sort-of plain sight and convincing non-initiates to follow its instructions.

          • albatross11 says:

            This would just be screaming for a magic=alien advanced superscience reveal.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            As far as deniability, it can be done and it tends make for better stories. Here’s an example: in That Hideous Strength, a severed human head is kept alive as part of a scientific experiment. Or is it? Actually, the “science experiment” is just a cover for keeping a demonic mouthpiece around in sort-of plain sight and convincing non-initiates to follow its instructions.

            Ooh, good point.

          • Deiseach says:

            This would just be screaming for a magic=alien advanced superscience reveal.

            Well, that is the plot twist there: ‘advanced superscience’ is revealed to be demonic magic 🙂

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Deiseach: This setting has fast space travel because humans invented superhuman AI, then the AI invented a black box that teleports a vehicle containing from the orbit of one astronomical object to another.
            The computer hardware is host brains for demons, and the space vehicles are passing through a dimension of evil spirits as their shortcut through 3-dimensional space.

          • Nick says:

            the space vehicles are passing through a dimension of evil spirits as their shortcut through 3-dimensional space.

            Man, how many settings have hyperspace-as-hell? I thought it was neat when I saw it in Warhammer 40k, but now I feel like I see it everywhere. Even Minecraft, come to think of it.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Nightcrawler from X-Men also teleports by slipping briefly into a Hell dimension. Presumably his staunch Catholicism protects him.

          • Deiseach says:

            Le Maistre Chat, can we say Lewis is the first to use this trope, then? I remember the 90s “Event Horizon” movie and I’ve seen a lot of the use of “hyperspace-as-hell” since, but who first used this concept?

            As for Nightcrawler, isn’t he part demon himself (I can’t keep up with all the retconning). And the way Marvel write Hell/hell dimensions, it and demons strike me as more along the lines of “sufficiently advanced aliens” or “material entities with magic powers” than purely supernatural, given that human characters can also use magic and people seem to have no trouble getting into and out of hell when the plot needs it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            TV Tropes gives us an example of hyperspace-as-hell from Lovecraft’s The Dreams in the Witch House, so older than Lewis.

      • silver_swift says:

        In a “science fiction” setting, the existence of magic should generally be kept plausibly deniable, and vice versa for fantasy.

        The fantasy with a whiff of sci fi version pretty much inevitably leads to the old “fantasy world is actually the remnants of a super advanced, possibly even space-faring, civilization that inexplicably regressed to a more or less exact replica of late medieval Europe” cliche, which I really dislike.

        I recently read Red Sister and I like it a lot, but I still think the story would gain a lot in willing suspension of disbelief (and not really lose anything) if the writer had just replaced all sci-fi elements with ancient supermagic and kept it the story contained to a single genre.

    • James C says:

      My rule of thumb for science vs magic is to take it back a step and say whether the story is about organisations or people. Science fiction stories are almost always focused on large groups of people, how they interact and what impacts this has on people within and without these groups. Fantasy, at least in the modern understanding, is deeply personal and is generally works from the bottom up studying what impact people have on other people and the world around them.

      I’m sure this breaks down around the margins but does nicely put Star Wars into the fantasy bucket.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        This might be unpleasantly contrary, but…

        I’ve no idea where this distinction comes from, what motivates it, or why Star Wars is always so central. Genre is not synonymous with style or themes, and while I appreciate linguistic prescriptivism when it comes to technical terms, I have never understood why people are prescriptive about something this poorly defined. Science fiction is barely definable when it comes to creating a setting, let alone storytelling, and the attempts to do so leave me desperately clutching at Silverberg and Bradbury and Bear, hoping that they won’t be overlooked because they don’t affirm the existence of these categories.

        Gah!

    • AG says:

      Mass Effect’s version is fine. Steampunk is another approach.

      Hell, the superhero world itself is basically this. And the general consensus is “knowing the scientific explanations for things is only necessary if they’re used to allow for an interesting application of the powers.” Midi-chlorians were reviled because, in practice, the knowledge of their existence influenced nothing. In contrast, revealing that the source of Superman’s power comes from his cells absorbing certain light frequencies allows for interesting villain schemes or taking measures against said schemes.

      Conservation of detail is good.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I didn’t mind midichlorians existing, but once you had them, they created a lot of issues that would need to be addressed. Like, how you could ever have a Senator be a secret Sith. Just give him a blood test on the Senate floor.

        Long-form entertainment, like a TV show or a novel or a comic book series, can deal with those. A movie only has so many minutes.

        • AG says:

          Yeah, I think the key is to determine what the thematic purpose of a power is meant to be. The Force is about the intangible power of will, something that cannot be gamed by the mind, but felt from the heart. Midi-chlorians defiles that thematic purpose, as even if you start down a road of interesting schemes like testing and avoiding testing of people for them to check for things, that gets away from the point that The Force isn’t supposed to be about that sort of thing.

          So that might be what defines magic vs. Clarke’s Third Law, in the end. Magic is the part that is intentionally enigmatic, with the strongest observer effects.

          In that sense, anime commonly has the case of a supposedly science fiction world actually running off of magic, with all them willpower/catharsis-fuelled weapons.

          Or as per The Last Jedi, it’s not “Doctor Strange alongside FTL ships,” it’s “General Leia alongside FTL ships.”

    • beleester says:

      I like it both ways. Going full magitech has a lot of advantages. It lets you get more mileage out of your magical handwave – if you want to do the Mass Effect thing where the new discovery not only powers spaceships but also your soldiers’ weapons and armor and it also gives them superpowers, then you should pick a very general-purpose handwave, and magic fits that bill. Having everything be an application of a single handwave makes the world feel more coherent, and it also makes it look like magic has been studied in detail and applied sensibly in your world.

      It also allows you to leverage different tropes that are okay in fantasy but not in sci-fi. Nobody complains if your magic becomes stronger due to The Power of Love, but people would cry foul if the Enterprise suddenly refueled itself due to Captain Kirk’s determination.

      Plus I think the magitech aesthetic just looks really cool. Viewing magic through a technological lens can help get you away from the bog-standard wizards with staffs and pointy hats and into something cool and unusual. Why not give your magical girl a giant laser cannon (Lyrical Nanoha)? Why not wizard cowboys (Use Sword on Monster)?

      But having magic and technology be two things that are firmly “separate but equal” also lets you tell some interesting stories by comparing and contrasting them. Shadowrun is my favorite example of this – mages and technology-users are both essential parts of a running team (or a corporation), but they’ll have extremely different outlooks and approaches to problems and you generally can’t use both at once.

      I think it only fails if you don’t really do anything with them co-existing. If magic exists in the ship’s warp core but everything else is standard rockets and lasers, then you’re basically violating the “only one unicorn” rule for no gain.

    • Orpheus says:

      In a word: Warhammer 40k. I mean, if you are going to mix magic with scifi, it will probably be stupid, so you might as well go all the way past stupid and into awesome.

  13. Atlas says:

    Open question to Scott, and actually to anyone who wants to comment on these issues:

    (This part is the actual question; I’ll post a reply to this comment with my own preliminary thoughts and reflections on the Libya adventure that Scott/people in general can feel free to skip.)

    I’d been meaning to ask this, and the recent “I Was Wrong” series is a fortuitous coincidence. I was very surprised when I read a piece of yours from several years ago where you expressed strong support for military intervention in Libya against Qaddafi’s government. My surprise was both to due to the fact that it seemed like a lapse in what I consider to be your otherwise excellent judgement about public policy and the uncharacteristic vehemence with which you attacked people who were not even opposed to the idea of intervention, but merely weren’t 100% convinced it was a slam-dunk idea. Has the aftermath of the Libya intervention had any impact on your views on 1) the wisdom of the specific intervention itself 2) the wisdom of war/military intervention/US foreign policy more generally 3) epistemology, the inside v. outside view, the value of expert (or “expert”) consensus, etc. ?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      You mean this piece?

      I don’t think that’s a very accurate description of the piece. He’s attacking an argument, not a position. The very first three words of the piece walk back the headline, which wasn’t even about Libya at all. It’s saying that if Yglesias believes what he says, his conclusion is backwards. I think Scott did agree with Yglesias, but that wasn’t the point and I’d hardly call that “strong support.” Consider this exchange:

      Deciding about military interventions based on superficial QALY calculations seems like a really bad idea. The indirect political consequences are almost certainly more important in the long run, though maybe not easily calculable.

      Okay, but if you’re going to do it (like Slate) you can at least try to do it right.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yes. I’ve written about this somewhere a little, but I can’t remember which post right now.

      I continue to think that there’s a moral obligation to save people, including foreigners, from tyranny and genocide (cf. “Never forget the Holocaust”) and I get really angry when people say that doesn’t matter.

      After having it beaten into me by Reality a bunch of times, I no longer expect US intervention to successfully non-backfiringly accomplish this goal. After Iraq I vacillated between an Outside View position that intervention doesn’t work, and an Inside View position whenever a particular possible intervention comes up that surely this time we can take out the tinpot dictator and prevent a moral atrocity without it all blowing up in our face. Libya shifted me more towards a hard Outside View position.

      • 10240 says:

        an Outside View position that intervention doesn’t work, […] Libya shifted me more towards a hard Outside View position.

        What about WWII, Yugoslavia? Rwanda, Cambodia?

        • Salem says:

          Yugoslavia is a very interesting one, because I think it cuts both ways. Initially, there was no outside intervention, and Slovenia got independence pretty cleanly. Phase 2, outside intervention happened, principally in the form of arms embargoes and peacekeepers, and this was likely counterproductive, because it froze in place Yugoslav military superiority in Bosnia, turned the war into an attritional slog, and failed to prevent genocide – the Srebrenica massacre taking place in front of the Dutch peacekeepers being the most notorious example. Phase 3, outside intervention was stepped up, and played a major role in bringing about the peace agreement. Phase 4, immediate and massive intervention successfully resolved the Kosovo crisis in the short term, but caused a lot of long-term problems and is often argues to have been an overreaction.

          I think the overall moral of the Yugoslav interventions is:
          1. Outside intervention done well improves the situation, and done badly make it worse.
          2. The major Western powers cannot reliably do outside intervention well.

          • Tenacious D says:

            Salem,
            My inclination is to synthesize your morals re: Yugoslavia into one: outside intervention is more likely to be successful the less “outside” it is. The Balkans are foreign to NATO, but not nearly as much as Rwanda. Libya would be somewhere in between. Greater foreignness leads to more unknown unknowns for a mission.

            I recently watched “The Siege of Jadotville”. It’s about Irish troops on one of the first UN peacekeeping missions in the Congo who held out for several days against a much larger force before surrendering when all their ammo was exhausted. After watching, I respected their bravery but couldn’t help wondering what the point was. Is the Congo better off today because Katanga was prevented from permanently separating?

        • baconbits9 says:

          WW2 freed Western Europe and put Eastern Europe under Stalin, and freed China while paving the way for Mao.

          • 10240 says:

            Without an American (+British) intervention it would have been full Hitler or full Stalin, or perhaps half Hitler and half Stalin. Half free and half Stalin was still better.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Maybe, but it is still not nearly the wildly successful intervention that it is portrayed as.

      • Deiseach says:

        I think part of the problem is that nobody wants to look too hard at how the tin-pot dictator got to be dictator. Yeah yeah he’s evil and wicked with a lust for power and wealth and wanting to destroy his personal enemies and enslave the people, but why is he Generalissimo El Presidente with a fanatically loyal following and not just another criminal bum? Because that often involves inconvenient truths for Western intervention – either “turns out he’s our tin-pot dictator whom we helped get installed because he was willing to cut deals with our banana importing companies” or “because he brutally crushed all opposition the country is functional, even in a stumbling broken way, but take him out and it’s taking the lid off the pressure cooker”.

        We very much prefer the “good guys versus bad guys, good guys always win, happy ending” movie version of history where you cut the head off the snake and the happy grateful populace all become a peaceful democratic republic, instead of fracturing into a mess of warlords staking out their tribal territories and zealots wanting to cut the infidels’ throats.

  14. HeelBearCub says:

    Here is Kevin Drum with a great chart showing the effects of pre-registration on studies of drugs and dietary supplements and cardiovascular disease funded by the National Heart Lung, and Blood Institute

    Basically before pre-registration was required, every study had a positive result. After pre-registration, no studies returned positive results.

    I’m not sure I’m willing to go quite as far as Drum here, but it’s certainly an arresting result.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      I’d love to see major universities pledge to do this with all departments.

    • quanta413 says:

      I think this sort of issue affects a lot more fields than we’ve even noticed so far. idontknow’s idea of preregistering any test of hypothesis is an interesting one.

      But we also need a way to handle exploratory research and long term bulk data collection. If you’re engineering something new, it’s often not clear exactly what you’ll be able to do with it or how well it will work ahead of time. Same thing with things like the general social survey. You ask a lot of questions in that sort of survey, and it seems like you wouldn’t want to preregister every hypothesis for it. Rather if you find a result in the GSS, then you form a hypothesis and preregister it before doing a new survey.

    • Aapje says:

      @HeelBearCub

      Thanks for the link!

      Apparently p-hacking truly is the main problem, at least for these fields.

    • brmic says:

      I couldn’t be bothered to check Drum’s source, but if you look at something like http://compare-trials.org/ it appears to be the case that complete and honest reporting would yield even worse results.

      On the flip side, contra Drum:
      – The old studies had some low hanging fruit which are harder to come buy. Maybe average effect size should be going down, unless we can out-tech the effect.
      – Some ‘hidden’ stuff is fine, just sacrificed to statistical significance, story and brevity. E.g. you have 7 outcomes, effects in the right direction on 6, what is essentially a null result on 1, and 3 of the 6 are significant. You publish the 4 most important outcomes, 3 of which are significant, one which is ‘marginally’ so. Because the journal has a character limit, you don’t really have any compelling theory as to why 3 outcomes were nonsignificant and 1 was null, except power was probably lower than it should be because money is always tight and it wouldn’t really add to the paper if you speculated any further except you’d probably have to if you reported all 7 results and every reviewer would force his pet theories on you. You’re pretty confident the effect is real in those 3 outcomes, so you’re not actually misinforming the scientific community.

  15. Mark V Anderson says:

    I want to talk about consequentialism. There has been on and off talk about it, but it appears to me that a lot of people don’t really understand what it means. Or at least they don’t describe it from my point of view. I will explain below my conception of consequentialism. I think this is the mainstream definition of consequentialism, but maybe I’m wrong. I’d be very interested in getting cites of folks claiming to be consequentialists whose comments contrast to mine.

    A consequentialist determines the morality of any given actions based on a judgment of the results of those actions. This moral judgment is necessarily based on the view of the person when the actions need to be taken, not based on any retrospective vision. If unexpected results occur from some action, that doesn’t turn an act that originally appeared good or bad into its opposite. If a thug had killed Hitler or Stalin or Mao when they were children; that would have likely saved millions of lives. That doesn’t turn the killer into a great humanitarian. It just makes humanity lucky. Consequences matter, but the morality of consequentialism depends on why the human actor took these actions. Pretty much like any other system of morality.

    Consequences can be very hard to determine. It doesn’t make sense for a consequentialist to examine every act he takes to calculate the results. That would be too cumbersome. It is rational for a consequentialist to usually act on basic principles, much like a deontologist. Thus a consequentialist may strive to be honest, because that usually results in better consequences than lying. But if the Nazis visit, basic honesty doesn’t mean telling them about the Jews in the basement, because in that case he DOES know the consequences. Consequentialists may use the same principles as deontologists in everyday life, but they have a higher level of morality that allows them to ignore these basic principles in cases where this will have better results.

    Consequentialists believe in acting in a way to achieve the best results, but this tells you nothing of the actual values held by the consequentialist. A nasty white supremacist consequentialist may value the deaths of minority groups, and so act in a way to achieve this goal. I don’t agree with the morals of this person, but I do think he is being rational in achieving his goals.

    Many people have used the trolley problem as a critique of consequentialism, so I will discuss this too. In the trolley problem, people are asked if they would push a fat man in the way of a speeding trolley in order to stop the trolley and save the lives of five more people on the tracks ahead. This is a good thought problem to think about consequentialism and utilitarianism. But one must dive in pretty deeply to make reasonable statements, because the unreality of the scenario otherwise makes for deceptive judgments. There are several issues that should be discussed before deciding on the answer.
    1) How certain are you that pushing the fat man to his death will save the lives of the other five? Perhaps the fat man won’t stop the trolley and the five will still die, or the five will escape without the trolley stopping, or there is another way to stop the trolley. In any of those scenarios, pushing the fat man will cause an extra death, not save anyone.
    2) The pusher may well go to jail for homicide.
    3) Even if it is certain that killing the fat man will save the others, this may set a bad precedent for others who may claim to be saving lives by killing others. In almost every case, this “ends justifies the means” calculation will be incorrect and usually self serving. Such calculations have killed many millions of people in the past. Maybe it is a better idea not to accept such calculations as acceptable even in the case one knows it is true.
    4) Another precedent that one may be setting is that of uncivility in public. If it becomes acceptable to harm bystanders for supposedly good reasons; that would greatly reduce the trust strangers have for each other, making public spaces a lot less friendly.
    After reviewing all these possibilities, a person that is a 100% consequentialist and also agrees that one death is superior to five deaths, may decide not to push the fat man. Or maybe he will decide to push. Consequentialism will not determine the answer.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      I’ve been meaning to write this for some time, but I find the biggest problem with consequentialism (of whatever flavour) is that while it’s a decent ethical filter – as in: “this action is clearly worse than the alternative” – it’s actually pretty poor as an ethical guide – as in: “I should do this action and not one of the alternatives”.

      This is best demonstrated with utilitarianism, because of its “mathematical” nature – but actually works equally for all other forms of consequentialism. Assuming you are maximising utility and that there exists some number representing the absolute maximum utility achievable under a set of circumstances, create the single possible function that produces this number.

      A more abstract take: for a real number y, create a mathematical function that is the only mathematically valid way of producing this number.

      I conjecture that for any real number y, there is, in fact, an infinite number of mathematically valid functions that will give y as their result. It is trivially easy to disprove that any particular function f(x) is the only mathematically valid way to produce y, simply by producing a different mathematically valid function g(z) that also produces y as a result.

      From this it stems that for any consequence C that we may decide is optimal (a separate can of worms, that I will touch on later), there is likely an infinite number of valid paths we can achieve it. Consequentialism does not allow us to differentiate between these paths, without introducing an infinite number of other filters into the system.

      Addressing a possible objection: consequentialism could work in a full deterministic system, because determinism – by definition – implies there’s one and only one way to get to whatever is our desired state. Demonstrating how we can even have ethics (which implies making choices) in a fully deterministic system (where choices are impossible) is left as an exercise for the Reader.

      Then, of course, is the matter of how exactly we determine what the “optimal” consequence is – and again consequentialism is of no help there. Given an infinite set of real numbers, how exactly does one determine which unique number is, in fact, the “right” one – other than assuming some function and looking at what number it produces.

      In short, consequentialism – as an ethical guide – is a sleight-of-hand that lends an air of objectivity to the moral prejudices we covertly inject into the system. As previously mentioned, it is still useful as a way to check which choices don’t lead us to the results we’d like to get, given said prejudices, but it doesn’t allow us to select the single correct action from all alternatives available to us.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        You’re arguing for morality as a complete decision-making algorithm here, which I think is hardly fair. Like I said in an earlier thread, objecting to utilitarianism on the grounds that it can’t tell me what flavor of pie to eat is silly. Objecting to utilitarianism on the grounds that it treats human experience as fungible is not.

        There’s also the underlying assumption that people follow their articulated moral systems. I think people often don’t, but that they don’t like it when this is pointed out. You can agree that it would be good if you killed yourself so that your organs could be used to save lives and still not do it.

        I have my own beefs with consequentialism, but I think that this is kind of a weak argument.

        • Salem says:

          [O]bjecting to utilitarianism on the grounds that it can’t tell me what flavor of pie to eat is silly

          Well, what about objecting to utilitarianism because it purports to tell me what flavour of pie to eat, but can’t? This is sometimes called the “demandingness” objection, but it’s actually more general than that. Utilitarianism, as normally articulated, has no way of identifying a particular domain of applicability – “which pie should I eat?” and “should I push a fat man in front of a trolley?” look equally much like moral questions.

          So if you want to say “Of course we shouldn’t use utilitarianism to choose which pie to eat,” then I agree, but you need some non-utilitarian theory to explain why not, so it strikes me as a fair objection to utilitarianism.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I would argue that if multiple courses of action look indistinguishable to your moral axioms, then the decision is outside of the domain of your moral system, and becomes an aesthetic jusgment.

            By “look indistinguishable” I mean that no moral axiom is met better by any particular alternative(s).

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          You’re talking about applying moral reasoning to morally ambivalent problems – and if that’s not your intent, you need a better example.

          I’m talking about the fact that you can’t use consequentialism to make any kind of moral decision – including solving the trolley problem – without surreptitiously introducing non-consequentialist reasoning.

          The typical consequentialist solution to the trolley problem is that one should kill one man to save five, because five lives are worth more than one. This axiom – many > one – is doing all the work, but cannot be arrived at by consequentialist reasoning.

          We only get the consequentialist solution to the trolley problem – kill one to save many – by answering the underlying moral question: “is it better that one be killed to save many” outside of a consequentialist framework.

          The second, more fundamental objection, is even if we allow for non-consequentialist axioms to be introduced, it is still possible that many equivalent paths lead to the same consequence. Given that we can only choose one of them, the justification for our choice will have to come outside of consequentialism, see Repugnant Conclusion.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Your first point I agree with completely, and it’s why I dislike consequentialist frameworks so much. I see it as a much more fundamental problem than 2. As far as I’m concerned, if a consequentialist does the heavy lifting required to think through their axioms, there’s no reason why two courses of action cannot be equally desirable. At that point, it seems to me that it’s largely a question of aesthetics, not ethics, and consequentialism doesn’t preclude the existence or practice of aesthetics.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        @Faza.

        Sorry I don’t understand your abstract reasoning. The point of consequentialism is to look at results to determine the best course of action. I don’t see how your infinite courses of action inform me at all on this subject. Maybe it would be clearer if I have some examples:

        1) Your child has robbed the house next door. How should you react? Should you tell the cops, tell the robbed neighbors, just discuss it with the child to try to reform him, or just keep silent? I think the best choice is based on what will yield the best result, not based on one’s strong belief in loyalty, law/order, or community spirit.

        2) Your co-worker told a very nasty racist joke, and everyone laughed. How should one react?

        3) Your neighborhood store’s owner gave money to a political group you find obnoxious. How should you react?

        4) Should you tell your children family secrets?

        5) Should you be honest about Jews in the basement to the Nazis?

        6) Should you shove the fat man in front of the trolley?

        All of these could be decided based on strongly held principles, without regard to consequences, or could be thought about based on what will happen as a result. I think the results should how you decide.

        I don’t see an infinite number of solutions to these questions. I really have no idea what you are talking about.

        • baconbits9 says:

          1) Your child has robbed the house next door. How should you react? Should you tell the cops, tell the robbed neighbors, just discuss it with the child to try to reform him, or just keep silent? I think the best choice is based on what will yield the best result, not based on one’s strong belief in loyalty, law/order, or community spirit.

          The best result for who?

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            The best result for who?

            Obviously, for whoever is doing the judging. Maybe you have some deeper thoughts, but so far your questions have obvious answers.

    • arlie says:

      Thank you. Consequentialism has been mentioned a lot on SSC, but I’d never bothered to find and RTFM, as it were. You post has given me at least grade 1 level understanding – roughly what does htis word mean.

    • baconbits9 says:

      But if the Nazis visit, basic honesty doesn’t mean telling them about the Jews in the basement, because in that case he DOES know the consequences.

      At what point in history did it become obvious what the consequences of doing so would be?

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Is this a trick question? Obviously ’30’s Germany. Not a hard question.

        • baconbits9 says:

          What evidence available to an average person in the 1930s in Germany would you have used to determine what would have happened to the Jews you were hiding in your basement?

        • baconbits9 says:

          Consequentialism requires precision in understanding outcomes to be able to make appropriate moral decisions. Looking back at the holocaust makes it pretty damn clear what would happen to the Jews in your basement if they are discovered, but at the time it would be much more vague. The range of outcomes would go from pretty bad to catastrophically bad, and for a consequentialist those generate huge differences.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Consequentialism requires precision in understanding outcomes to be able to make appropriate moral decisions.

            Not at all. A consequentialist makes the best decision he can based on the information he has. I’m not sure how this is different than any other part of life. As I said in my original post, it does make sense for consequentialists to follow basic principles in most cases, just like a deontologist, since it can be difficult to work out ultimate consequences in many cases. But it does make sense to go beyond these principles when the consequentialist has better information. This is just a restatement of what I said in my initial post, so I’m not sure what it is that you don’t understand.

  16. honhonhonhon says:

    What’s the most affordable country to live in, with access to good internet and modern medicine? I am asking because I know I can retire in EE on a third of the money I’d need in Germany, but I am only aware of the option because it is close by; there are probably better choices.

    • cassander says:

      I’ve lived in mexico, and it was very comfortable and cheap. You can live close to the US and slip across the border for medical care if you want.

    • Aapje says:

      @honhonhonhon

      You should probably also indicate what level of safety you want.

      • honhonhonhon says:

        Good idea. I think I have an above-average risk tolerance, but I suspect that access to modern medicine and internet puts an upper bound on how bad things can be.

    • add_lhr says:

      I believe South Africa or Thailand could be in the running. From experience, middle-class life in South Africa is *very* affordable and the private medical system is top-notch. Not to mention the climate is fantastic for retirement. They also offer a retirement visa for people with foreign pensions of a certain size and some not-prohibitive level of assets. Of course Aapje is right that you will need to consider personal security, but this is not insurmountable.

      And I haven’t lived in Thailand but have always found visiting surprisingly cheap without sacrificing at all on quality of life, and they are known for their medical tourism industry.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      just go down the big mac index until you reach your limit of safety/internet and other amenities, it is surprisingly accurate.

  17. dndnrsn says:

    RPG thread: how do you handle experience?

    This is twofold: how does your preferred game/do your preferred games handle characters getting better at the stuff they do? How do you apply discretion, house rules, etc to that?

    I’ve been running a D&D retroclone, and I’ve found myself giving the entire party monster XP for killing the monsters, running them off/securing their surrender, or dealing with them nonviolently if there’s a clear and present danger (if the PCs prevent something bad from happening that otherwise would have happened). This results in significantly higher XP gain than rules as written, but otherwise it’s extremely slow: gamers raised on modern stuff would, I think, react badly to “and the party killed the dragon. That’s 500xp each! You level in another 30,000 by the way.”I also give XP for treasure, 1 XP for 1 gp, secured when the treasure is liquidated, the PCs haul the gold to somewhere safe, etc. Money earned from mercantile ventures, investment, etc is adjusted by level, usually to the point of not getting any XP for that, in order to prevent the PCs from just turning mercantile activity into free XP.

    I like Call of Cthulhu‘s approach – you gain skills by using them (if you succeed at a skill, at the end of the session roll it, if you fail, you gain points) but it has the problem that it only works for games where skills are the only things you improve at, and it can feel really annoying to do the rolling at the end of the session and not get anything. Delta Green has you gain 1 point to everything you failed at at the end of a session, but this is very slow. Both have the problem that they encourage players to try to use as many skills as possible, which can get silly. I ended up just ruling that you got to spend points based on Intelligence at the end of each session on skills you had used, with a cap based on the skill’s rating: the idea was that past a certain point you don’t get more points just for using more skills, and skills that are high don’t get weirdly high boosts.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I don’t like character growth.

      Well, that’s not true; what I really don’t like are levels. Games in which you get marginally better at doing things avoid the tone change and balance problems of D&D fairly well IMO, and as such I much prefer them. Call of Cthulhu is great, and I like skill-based systems for a reason. Games that allow you to save “experience points” to buy individual abilities or boost stats work well too (as long as they avoid the number bloating of D20). As far as I’m concerned, the actual method by which these points are accrued or rewarded doesn’t really matter, though I have a preference for it being trackable by the players. One less thing on my plate, and makes them feel more in control of the game.

      Re: your point on Call of Cthulhu, I always tell players what skill they should roll. I allow them to make suggestions, but unless they can tell me what they’re trying to accomplish, I won’t let them try random shit.

    • J Mann says:

      I like milestones with occasional bonuses for exceptional solutions. I run prepared modules, but even if I didn’t, I think that gold and achieving their characters’ goals would keep my players motivated, and that leveling them every 2-4 sessions as called for by the narrative works better than having to adjust things to plan for their level

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        In my experience, any faster than every 4 sessions is too fast to be fun. Though there’s also an exception for D&D’s first two level-ups, which by Old School rules should only take 2 sessions each (2->3 is actually the fastest of all unless your players are so risk-averse they choose to just grind the same challenges as Level 1, since the XP to gain each of the first two is the same while the PCs become 1.5-2x tougher), and in 5E the XP thresholds are so low that you can go from 1-3 in the course of two combats.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Running a retroclone without dividing monster XP (which doesn’t necessitate killingt them) and giving out xp for treasure there’s probably an average of a level up every 3-4 sessions. Dividing the monster XP seems like it would cut that to more like 1 every 10-15.

          In 5th ed I think the idea is that for most classes the first couple levels are basically training wheels, and you choose an archetype at 3rd. The pure casters choose the equivalent at first, but I imagine the intent is that more experienced players will tend to take those. One of the things that’s great about the more retro versions of D&D is that you can just have the new guy (or the guy who doesn’t like rules) roll up a fighter, as opposed to the 3rd ed way of doing it, where telling a newbie player to be the guy who hits things with a different thing requires a veteran player to sit them down and explain what feats are good.

    • WashedOut says:

      Assuming you include videogames under your RPG definition…

      I like high-risk accumulation of a certain type of in-game asset to convert to XP later, so that what you actually accrue is more like “potential XP”. This is the mechanic used in the Dark Souls / Bloodborne games, which are among the best modern games ever made (in my humble but informed opinion).

      If you lose your stack of accrued souls due to death whilst exploring, you have one chance to get them back by returning to the location you died, ideally having learned something the 2nd time round. If you fail again they are gone forever. This encourages planning and forethought, and works well in these games because your ability to succeed is less level-dependent and more skill-dependent.

    • John Schilling says:

      RPG thread: how do you handle experience?

      Ideally, by using a GURPS or CoC-style skill development system and feeling smugly superior to anyone using such ridiculous antiquated concepts as “levels” and “XP”. Relatively slow development of discrete skills and maybe attributes, as they are actually exercised in the game. Awarded for overcoming challenges by degree of difficulty and without favoring any one type of solution over another – but if you fast-talk your way past a band of Orcs, you get to increase whatever passes for a fast-talk skill in that system rather than your combat aptitude.

      Practically, if I can get an RPG group together it’s probably going to be Pathfinder or 3.5e for the network effects discussed last open thread – I don’t think my gaming club has used any other RPG system in the past decade. In that case, I’m stuck with XP and levels, but I would prefer to house-rule that Monster and Trap XP are one-quarter book value. Along with a roughly similar amount from campaign objectives (including “per-episode” awards), for advancement at half the per-book rate.

      In either case, minor awards for role-playing as a way to encourage good role-playing are a reasonable idea, but they should never dominate. Skill development through down-time training should also be a minor thing – it is realistic that there should be some, and there are contexts (San Francisco to Shanghai by steamship in 1920s CoC, and just what are you doing for that month?) where you want a rule for it, but you don’t want the game to be dominated by the spreadsheet of what your characters do when they aren’t adventuring. Plus, most of the relevant skills you really do need to practice on the job.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I used to think D&D sucked, and that gaining levels was dumb, but it does let you go from zero to hero in a way that a lot of players like – it’s hard to have stuff like HP increase significantly without levels. The XP/level system also seems to make people excited about improving, rather than a slow grind. I wouldn’t use an XP/level system for something like CoC (that’s the major reason why the d20 CoC was less than satisfying) but it’s good if you want to go from fighting goblins who have stolen a farmer’s pig to punching demons in the face.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          it does let you go from zero to hero in a way that a lot of players like

          This is true, but IME it does it with a ruleset that makes most of the game’s content useless. I think that at each level bucket the challenges presented by the rules are completely different.

          At low levels, the challenges are surviving crits, hitting DCs, and managing resources. A character that can take 10 on a common check and succeed is great. A wand of Cure Light Wounds is insanely useful. Players are incentivized to focus-spend skill points and invest in equipment. Spells are few and far between.

          At mid levels, the challenges are meeting scaling bonuses in fair fights. A character that can hit or save on a 5 is great. A +3 sword is insanely useful. Players are incentivized to boost their strengths to a hyper-consistent level and cover up their deficiencies with magic items or spells. Spells are commonly used to hit challenging skill checks, and nobody without magic items for it will ever attempt to hit someone.

          At high levels, the challenge is winning the initiative roll. A character that fails a skill check on a 1 should not be using that skill. A stat or save not bolstered by a magic item is a weak point, and the GM is only likely to be able to challenge the players by exploiting this fact. Players have things they can almost always succeed at and things they almost never do.

          I blame D20 scaling for all of the above, and despise it. 5e’s bounded stats offer only a modest improvement.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Leveling up is great for taking characters from fighting kobolds to fighting demon lords. This is, after all, the reason you have a bestiary that includes every dangerous animal and supernatural creature the author could think of.
            However, you’re right that d20 implemented this in a way worthy of contempt.

          • dndnrsn says:

            d20 scaling worked pretty well for “heroic” characters being in the 5-9 range, but it ran into the problem that a lot of people think heroic is 10-15 or 15-20 or thereabouts. Previous editions had usually had some kind of “choke” on HP and saves and so on past a certain point, there hadn’t been skills (or they’d been linked directly to stats), etc.

            d20 introduced some really good things to D&D, but it also shoved some time bombs in there.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I like Call of Cthulhu‘s approach – you gain skills by using them (if you succeed at a skill, at the end of the session roll it, if you fail, you gain points) but it has the problem that it only works for games where skills are the only things you improve at,

      I’m not up on my hobby history; was Runequest the first RPG to take D&D’s percentile Thief skills and make % to succeed on skills the thing you improve at, eliminating hit dice and Vancian spell progression? It predated CoC by 3 years at the same publisher.

      • Plumber says:

        I haven’t played either since the 1980’s, but 1977 Traveller had a skill system, but it wasn’t percentile like 1978 RuneQuest, and I really don’t remember a method of improving skills after character creation in Traveller.

        RuneQuest was a lot like Call of Cthullu, the sort-of D&D based rules were very intuitive and felt more “realistic” than D&D.

        At the gaming Forums, I have often seen requests for what people (who usually know 3e/4e/5e D&D) want out of a game, and they usually seem to want 1981 Champions, or RuneQuest.

        Both RuneQuest and Traveller were great games (as was ’70’s rules D&D), and I miss them.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Traveller is alive and kicking, although Mongoose has fractured the community with its latest money-grubbing antics. Cephus Engine is the preferred version for people who don’t want to shill out for multiple rulebooks, and is free IIRC.

          RuneQuest is doing even better, with Chaosium publishing the latest edition and The Design Mechanism publishing Mythras, which arose out of RQ6.

          Honestly, it’s the best time to play either system that it’s been in the last decade or more.

          • Plumber says:

            Yeah, I did a (very) short review of the new RuneQuest rulebook and I’ve little doubt that right now is a golden age in terms of what’s available, but free-time and friends are in short supply so my game playing days are gone.

      • Protagoras says:

        Tunnels and Trolls did not have Vancian spells and was 1975, but it didn’t have skills that increased individually, and neither did Traveller as Plumber notes. I don’t really know what Empire of the Petal Throne was like, but my vague memory is that it was similar to D&D. Same for Chivalry and Sorcery, though I believe it did have the non-Vancian magic. I’m not sure Metamorphosis Alpha had character progression at all (again, some games of the time didn’t, as Plumber mentioned for Traveller). There were really only a tiny number of RPGs before 1978; consulting my memory, Peterson’s Playing at the World, and a bit of searching has not turned up any from that period that seem to have had improvement via progression of individual skills. So, yes, Runequest was probably first to do that.

    • johan_larson says:

      I’m not a fan of the D&D system of tying experience to each monster killed. In the parties I have seen, it leads to the players treating the sword as the only answer to everything.

      I think the best system I’ve seen is in an old system called Star Frontiers. After each stage of the adventure, each player got 1-3 experience points; 1 if they really screwed up, 2 for ordinary play, or 3 for doing something really clever or interesting.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        The funny thing – and I know it took me decades to understand this; starting with 2ed didn’t help – is that D&D wasn’t originally intended to have killing monsters be the chief mechanic for earning experience. The main source of experience was getting treasure.

        In the TSR days, at least, the experience earned for overcoming (not necessarily killing) monsters was a pittance compared to the amounts needed to level up (a 1HD monster might be worth 5-15xp, depending on edition/monster, whilst a character might need between 1200-4000xp to get from level 1 to 2). Levelling up just by killing monsters was pretty much a no-go.

        The sensible way to level up in old-school D&D is to get the maximum amount of loot out with the minimum amount of fuss. Rather than fight monsters, you want to evade them, talk to them, scare them off, whatever. For the DM, it might even make sense to award monster xp in these situations, because it won’t really swing matters too much in the players’ favour. It is, I find, one of the easiest ways to convince players that the sword isn’t the answer to everything (they still get xp if it stays sheathed).

    • bean says:

      I prefer to use GURPS. 3-5 points every few sessions means that you get useful character growth without the insanely fast progression of D&D.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Do (dis)advantages start at 5 points, or at 1? Because 3-5 sounds rather substantial for every session.

        • bean says:

          5 points is a small but notable advantage/disadvantage, and 4 is an extra rank in a skill you’re good at. 1 point is a perk/quirk, which has very minimal gameplay impact, or a level in a new skill. 5 points/session is slightly fast, but probably still slower than D&D.

    • Walter says:

      I don’t like tracking experience points. What people care about is when they level, so I just track that.

      In my usual D&D games I give levels after playing sessions equal to your current level. So you start at level 1, after one session you level to 2. After 2 more you become level 3, then it will be 3 more before you hit level 4.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Seconded. Granting exp often leads to perverse incentives and bad blood when the fools split the party and so wind up with varying amounts. Giving whole levels or skill points or whatever is better.

        (Tangent warning) It wouldn’t work for things like Adventurer’s League but IMHO AL already doesn’t work well and carrying characters across campaigns is generally a bad idea (the even worse case – directly bringing a character from one player group to another – is an abomination). I think of league play as D&D 5e’s http://www.sullla.com/Civ5/whatwentwrong.html – a well-meaning objective that bends and perverts the entire system around it. In both games the effect is to make it – development in particular – feel stunted, shallow, and sterile.

        • dndnrsn says:

          My experience has been that doing “per session” XP grants, points that can be spent, etc can mess up the incentives. If, hypothetically, players will get the same XP whether they go into a hole in the ground for the whole session or spend half of it haggling over the price of rope, a lot of players will take the safer route to XP.

          • Walter says:

            I’m kind of ok with that? Like, I’m not ‘defending’ the higher levels or something. I want the players to have them. They like leveling up, and I like it when they are happy.

            As far as haggling with rope merchants goes… I mean, the game is gonna challenge you, whatever goes on. You can’t really hide from the plot, you know?

          • Nornagest says:

            You get a level, but you have to spend it on a dip in “rope merchant”.

          • Randy M says:

            You can’t really hide from the plot, you know?

            dndrsn is twitching and hearing a train whistle bearing down in the distance…

            But, to back up dndrsn [on xp rewards], players will often play to win rather than play to have fun. So it is to everyone’s advantage if the rewards match up what you and they want to see happen.

            You might think this is less true in an RPG where everyone is less competitive, but if they are emotionally attached to a character, they may take the safe route even though they would get more satisfaction from being bold and heroic.

            It’s also a way of communicating your expectations for the tone of the game. You could give bonus experience for making you laugh–your’re going to have a zany, irreverent game night. Or you could only give XP to whoever deals the killing blow–your players will favor combat and compete with each other. Or only give experience when they are publicly commended for brave deeds. They will want to be active, and be braggarts–kind of like real knights seeking glory.

          • Walter says:

            Eh, again.

            Like, folks against ‘railroading’ are totes welcome to show me their perfect sandbox campaigns. Then they can watch the players deep dive on a rope merchant and ignore 98% of it and tell me how great simulationism is.

            I read dudes article. I also read about the games he ran. He railroads as much as anyone else.

            Every DM railroads. It is the fundamental skill of the trade. You are doing the work of a full sensorium with just some words. You are representing an entire universe worth of stuff with just a few campaign notes and an active imagination. You make up for this lack of anything substantial by gesturing at a lot of stuff that isn’t real.

            If they decide not to go to the Dungeon Of Doom, that’s fine. Don’t have uber NPCs show up and bully them around. Only a hack lets the pcs see the tracks. But the Other Dungeon is just the Dungeon Of DOom with the serial numbers filed off. If they abstain from dungeons entirely, then the corrupt watch’s station that they bust into may bear a striking resemblance to all those tombs they never crawled. I don’t do more work than I gotta.

            Like, conservation of narrative weight or whatever. Railroading is a dirty word, but the concept is absolutely critical to telling a story with a group of collaborators.

            Dunking on dude aside, like, in a good game with friends rope merchant haggling can be just as much fun as tossing dice. You gotta kind of feel the party’s mood, and push plot or step back as the situation requires. It is not something you can hard and fast about.

            Hrrngh, I was off topic there. My point is that tracking exp is like tracking encumbrance. You don’t get enough fun back to make up for the effort invested. I don’t bother with it. Players like advancing. I like them showing up and playing. The X session for X level formula is just my take on it, I imagine other DM’s have their own version.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m mostly playing devil’s advocate here. Last time we played, I gave out 5 XP per night and let them level up after 10 XP. Worked fine.
            I mentioned that “2 XP is for solving the mystery, 3 is for that fight at the end” and such, but the rate was consistent and it was fine.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Walter

            I assume you’re talking about Justin Alexander’s article? I haven’t read any of his descriptions of his games (I find reading about other people’s games to be profoundly boring except as illustrative examples); what makes you think he railroads, though?

            In a sandbox, I find the key is to toss a bunch of things the PCs might want to do out there, then ask them what they want to do, then prep that. While prepping that, I do my best to avoid thinking “this is the way it should go.” If going into the Dungeon of Doom is the point of the adventure, then the PCs should end up doing that one way or another – the King just told them “good knights, please deal with the Dungeon of Doom” and presumably the GM sold the players on the campaign concept of “you are servants of the king and he will send you on missions.”

            But: railroading isn’t so much “we’re doing the Dungeon of Doom you guys” as “the PCs will go to the Dungeon of Doom, and there they will discover that the dark wizard Mordrake is really just misunderstood, having been betrayed by his twin brother, who is in fact the King. They will side with Baron Mordrake in his war against the King, and…” Have you ever played in a really railroaded campaign? It’s not “a story with a group of collaborators” so much as it’s getting told a story. I played in a heavily railroaded campaign with an increasingly-less-newbie GM, and it became increasingly obvious that the only way we were collaborating was in stuff that had no actual bearing on the story he was telling us. The dice didn’t even get a say; the rules shifted to whatever would move the story along and he was clearly fudging dice. As the campaign went on, he was railroading more and more, as he got more and more attached to telling us a story; we got less and less collaborative input. By the end we pretty much automatically succeeded on things he wanted us to do; things he didn’t want us to do were flatly impossible. By the end of it, we were phoning it in: a good plan or a bad plan mattered far less than whether what the plan was for served the plot or not, so why bother coming up with a good plan? Now, this is an extreme example. I’ve run several published campaigns which required railroading (and I usually edited them to reduce the amount I’d have to do). It was still frustrating for both me and the players; it’s a lot easier to see the tracks than most people think.

            I’ve been running a sandbox game that’s followed completely unpredictable paths, because most of what’s happening is determined by some random tables and whatever the players are doing. It’s a lot easier for me to prep and run – both in terms of effort on my part and mental energy during the game – than more story-based stuff. There is no plot to find the players; the story only exists in retrospect. It’s not an approach I would use for everything, but the only story-based campaign I’d run again is Masks of Nyarlathotep, because it’s structured in such a way that very, very little railroading is required; a GM would have to want to railroad it to do so.

            My players like tracking XP; I think a lot of people do. Way more fun than tracking encumbrance: the numbers, ideally, only go up, and if they go down, that happens infrequently. If I was going to do another story-based game using D&D rules, I’d probably do something like what you propose, or give a level after every time some sort of climax is reached, but that would be within a story structure that everyone has signed off on. In a game where the PCs are driving themselves something has to motivate them to drive.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      In the BECMI game I’m currently running, I handle monster xp pretty much the same way: for overcoming adversity, not necessarily killing. The approach is possibly best illustrated by example:

      During the last session the party encountered three hobgoblins, killed two, one ran away. I chose to award xp for all three of them, given that the one that ran off is no longer an obstacle to the party’s goal – freeing the hobgoblins’ prisoners.

      Later on in the session, a scouting group encountered 10 kobolds who were in the middle of propping up the ceiling in the cave they were digging out. The scouts were spotted which led to the support slipping from the kobolds’ grasp and a possible collapse. The adventure anticipated the kobolds calling on the PCs for help – and attacking them when they were busy shoring up the ceiling – but in game the PCs decided to leg it before I got that far. The entrance to the cave collapsed behind them as a result. In this case, I’ll probably not award any experience for the encounter.

      This being BECMI, I award 1 xp per 1 gp – old D&D is all about the Benjamins – and I do so once the treasure is removed to an area of safety and properly valued (for gems and such), on an equal-share basis. Given that the party has so far chosen to keep the treasure in a common pool for spending purposes, I see no other sensible way of doing so.

      Aside from that, I’ve also at times awarded flat experience bonuses for role-playing and general contribution to an enjoyable game, roughly along the guidelines in the optional 2ed AD&D rules – typically 100xp per player. This is partly due to the fact that many sessions include a lot of party banter and role-play that’s great fun, but comes at a cost in terms of experience earned from normal game mechanics, per session.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I used to use milestone experience for the games I ran in undergrad, although back then there either wasn’t a name for it or I hadn’t encountered it by that name. I had found that the CR guidelines in 3.5 and Pathfinder were useless, and since the experience points were given out on that basis I chucked them both out at the same time.

      Right now, I’m running an open table game in 5e and giving experience more-or-less exactly according to the rules. The CR guidelines are actually pretty helpful if you treat them as guidelines or suggestions rather than rigid rules, so the experience points players get mostly make sense. The only big change I had to make was to increase the length of rests with the Gritty Realism variant. Outside of a dungeon, 3-8 potentially violent encounters a day stretches credulity to the breaking point.

      I’ve tried to run OSR games repeatedly but never got past two or three sessions. If I could, I’d love to try XP-for-GP and see how that changed the way players approach challenges.

      • dndnrsn says:

        So, gritty realism isn’t that punishing? How much does combat in 5th ed assume that you will take some hits? I’ve found running a retroclone that there is very little wiggle room between “PC gets hit” and “PC gets killed” because the frontline guys tend to do everything they can to boost their AC (and so the only stuff that hits them very often is stuff that hits hard) and the non-frontline guys are easy to hit and not especially durable. By the book, 5th ed PCs have high HP and a lot of “organic” healing with short rests; is the system assuming that they’re getting attrited a bit in every combat?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Gritty Realism is a very poorly named variant, because it’s only barely more realistic than default 5e and not even a little gritty. It just makes short rests take one day instead of one hour, and long rests take one week instead of one night.

          The game is balanced around an “adventuring day” where you face 3-8 encounters with space for 1-3 short rests. All of the classes are balanced around this progression, as are treasure rolls and the entire challenge rating system. If you keep that pace, tension naturally builds as the PCs’ steadily lose resources over the course of the “day” yet they’re typically not in danger of a full party wipe. The rate of attrition and recovery of resources, including hit points, is key to this.

          My problem isn’t with that pacing, I actually appreciate how well it works. My problem is that it’s hard to design adventures which make any sense when the PCs are effectively getting jumped a half dozen times a day just walking down the street. That pace just doesn’t work outside of a dungeon environment. By slowing rests, the “adventuring day” can be expanded to roughly ten days while keeping the same pace and rising tension.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Huh. I haven’t really paid much attention to the bits of the DMG talking about how to work the challenge rating stuff, because I trust my ability to eyeball an encounter and know what the party is capable of more than I trust some Platonic-ideal-of-a-4-person-adventuring-party calculation. Does 5th ed just not work for a style where getting hit is bad news? Will everything go haywire if I try to use 5th ed to play in the style I’ve been running a retroclone?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Yeah it won’t handle that play style very well at all.

            If you’re ignoring CR and trying to dissaude players from fighting whenever possible, putting them against more powerful enemies can make them fear getting hit. But those enemies were mostly designed to slug it out with PCs a few levels higher than yours, which means that your party will have a hard time chewing through their hit points. Even standard dirty tricks like the Sleep spell won’t necessarily cut it.

            Plus it means that you’re throwing class balance out the window. The Warlock for example relies on short rests to recharge his spells, but if nobody else has been hit the rest of the party will chafe at taking a hour nap two to three times a day. Long rest classes like the Wizard will be relatively much more powerful, although not to 3.X extremes.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s not that I’m trying to dissuade them from fighting, but I want them to pick their battles. One of my beefs with the CR system is that it leads to an attitude towards fights where the assumption is “if we weren’t theoretically able to beat this encounter, it wouldn’t exist.” Increasingly – I think this became the norm in 4th and was carried over to 5th – encounters and larger chunks of gameplay were built on a sort of budget – which disincentivizes the players avoiding fights (why miss that sweet XP, especially if the system has various failsafes in place to reduce PC mortality?) and incentivizes the GM building scenarios that are basically some encounters linked togehter.

          • Plumber says:

            @dndnrsn

            “….Does 5th ed just not work for a style where getting hit is bad news? Will everything go haywire if I try to use 5th ed to play in the style I’ve been running a retroclone?”

            I haven’t played 3e or 4e, and I barely played 2e (and didn’t even bother buying the books when I did, figuring that my 1e books were good enough, and that it was the DM’s job to know the rules anyway!) plus my 0e and 1e experience is decades old, so take this with a boulder of salt, but many have told me that 5e “feels more old-school than other WotC D&D’s”, my own experience is that even a DM who’s never played TSR D&D can provide an experience that feels like TD&D despite never playing by the old rules themselves, but most don’t. 

            A 1st level 5e WD&D PC is roughly on par with a 3rd level TD&D PC, and typically 5e feels more like a ‘cakewalk’ compared to TD&D, but it’s not hard to make 5e feel like D&D, but it’s not the default.

            The main thing is to slow new levels way the Hell down, keep the PC’s at a lower than suggested level, at approximately 50 to 75% feels right to me.

            Using the healing rates from the 1e AD&D DMG instead is another good option, or just give the monsters magic items. 

            Typically most 5e players don’t think in terms of ambushes and checking for traps, but they’re surprisingly inventive with spells.

            If you ignore Feats and spells, 5e is surprisingly easy to learn, but with all of the Feats and spells it gets quite complex, but players are very plentiful.

    • Dack says:

      I haven’t given out xp for over a decade. You level when I tell you to level.

      • dndnrsn says:

        What makes you decide that someone levels?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I don’t know about Dack, but when I have DMed, I level people to make the game interesting. Players like to level and get new powers. Also, I’m not going to DM for you if you are an asshat, so I level everyone mostly at the same time (although I might vary it a little to ensure that I acknowledge players making good decisions).

          To me DMing is more an excercise in cooperative story telling. I get to tell a cool story, you get to influence where it goes, build your own characters story, and do cool things with cool powers. I probably wouldn’t DM for people intent on breaking the system, or who were insistent on min maxing.

        • Dack says:

          If it’s a plot-focused game, then you probably want to level by plot milestones.
          Especially if it’s a premade or published adventure. You don’t want to out level your material…or have the PCs be underleveled for that matter.

          If it’s a more sandboxy make-it-up-as-you-go type game, then you can do every x sessions, as long as you have some sort of caveat about actually getting stuff done.

          The last option is to just go by intuition. Do you feel they have earned a level? Will it hinder/help the campaign for them to level right now? Don’t do this with new groups, you might come off as capricious or arbitrary. This way is for a group that already trusts you.

    • ing says:

      I oscillate between:

      (1) goal-based leveling (“to level up, invade the orc fortress and kill the chieftain — or decide to pursue a different goal of comparable difficulty, and you can level up for that instead”)

      (2) session-based leveling (“level up once per three sessions so I don’t have to think about it”).

      I like (2) better except that occasionally I feel like it motivates players to drag their feet and not get much done in any given session.

      In both systems I eventually get a problem where I hand out too many levels and then the game becomes unwieldy.

      • dndnrsn says:

        By “the game becomes unwieldy” do you mean slowdown in combat (a major issue in 3rd and 4th), worldbuilding problems (mostly due to magic-using classes suddenly have powers going beyond “blow up some goblins” to “resurrect the dead” or “alter reality”), or both, or something else?

    • Nick says:

      With the exception of Le Maistre Chat’s campaign, I don’t have to track xp, and we level when the DM tells us to—generally when we’ve reached a good point in the story for it. I don’t like the idea of some characters leveling faster than others, so I’m not really a fan of tracking xp anyway, though there’s appeal in knowing how close I am to leveling, like being able to know how many mooks I need to kill to get there.

      As far as the Call of Cthulhu skill thing—it grates on me that I can become better at something I haven’t actually practiced (I’ve even had campaigns where we’ve leveled multiple times with no in-game downtime), so I’m very sympathetic to the idea, I just don’t see how it works. At the very least, it means regulating downtime, something the DMs I’ve played with have not been good at. I mean, if we’re in Call of Cthulhu (bear with me, I haven’t played it…) and I didn’t use my Lore: Gibbering Horrors the last few sessions and my character hasn’t gotten to a library lately, does that mean he’s just flat out unprepared when we face gibbering horrors? That’s realistic, to be sure, it’s just very frustrating. To give a more realistic example, if my DM never gives us any damn locks to pick, does that mean my thief is shit at lockpicking?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The thing about leveling up together when the GM tells you to is that it needs the GM to have a strong sense of how characters growing in power works in adventure stories. If you look at The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf grows in power once by dying, and Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli only grow at the very end. So if you want to tell a Tolkien-style story in a game, Gandalf was a GMPC and those players were only told to level up at the end of a thousand-page quest that took them from Rivendell to the Black Gate.
        Or if you want to tell Conan-style sword & sorcery stories, you have to look at your canon of short stories and ask “Where are the milestones where Conan grows in abilities?”

        If milestones aren’t placed to emulate stories, you end up with a disaster like the official Wizards of the Coast Adventurers’ League, where PCs gain a level for every 8 hours their player sits at the table. So you can be going through a dungeon playing Castles & Conversations (Dungeons & Diplomacy?), your DM forces one long combat encounter on you in each four-hour session because he’s getting bored, and you’re growing in power literally every other combat room.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Le Maistre Chat

          I’m spitballing here, but:

          D&D was originally basically “hey, what if we took this wargame, but you each had one dude – wouldn’t that be cool?” and the XP and levels might have been intended to model some wargame or other having experience rules: they’re your reward for using a unit without getting it wiped out. “Campaign” isn’t a term taken from either pulp swords and sorcery fiction, it’s military terminology, isn’t it? Maybe the “D&D was originally supposed to be playing Fafhrd and Conan” vs “D&D was influenced by LotR” debate is missing something: D&D is supposed to be a single-person-unit wargame cribbing its trappings from any of those things.

          (Plus, in real life, military campaigns are often only defined in retrospect, aren’t they? “Old school” games produce stories that only exist in retrospect…)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            (Plus, in real life, military campaigns are often only defined in retrospect, aren’t they? “Old school” games produce stories that only exist in retrospect…)

            Well, yes, and “level up together when the DM tells you” seems wholly inappropriate in that model.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Merry and Pippin also level up. Part of it is involuntary, and also a reward for decency, but later, they take on challenges and eventually become leaders.

          • John Schilling says:

            And would we even notice if e.g. Aragorn stepped up from 5th-level Ranger to 6th in Lothlorien, thanks to the XP from the Moria episode?

            Hmm. Gimli and Legolas were at least keeping literal count of the number of orcs killed per battle for a good chunk of the plot, so it might be possible to do a statistical analysis and see if either of them is likely to have leveled up mid-campaign. But only a 9th-level multiclassed Fantasy/Math Geek would have the Feats to do such an analysis…

          • dndnrsn says:

            You could model this in a system like CoC’s – some of the party are just badasses from the start and their skills are so high their skill gain is negligible. Others are the opposite of badasses, and so they gain skills. This could happen if you’re using CoC’s BRP ruleset – which, by default, hands out skill points based on stats, so rolling really well is doubly good. Legolas just rolled better so he can shoot orcs in the eye while backflipping or whatever, the most junior hobbits didn’t roll so great. I think most players would piss and moan about this if they rolled up a junior hobbit.

            (Twilight 2000 1st ed had an interesting approach to this: a PC’s Military Experience Bonus, which was used to roll for skill points and some other stuff, was inverse to the total of their stats, so a character with really good stats would generally have weaker skills, and vice versa. An interesting balancing method)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nancy: All the hobbits level up, having started at 1. Im Sam’s case, Tolkien draws particular attention to him becoming decent at killing in Moria (it would have freaked Ted Sandyman out).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Frodo levels up in wisdom rather than in fighting ability. Would this be feasible in a game?

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @Nancy

            Yes, depending on the game. That said, a lot of games that try to slavishly imitate particular works of fiction through their mechanics end up missing the point of the fiction, in my opinion.

            In general, if a player genuinely roleplays a learning process for something like wisdom, it will be more saying than increasing a wisdom stat.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          So there are stories in which the protagonists go from deeply inexperienced to badass. David Eddings’ Belgariad, to some extent the hobbits from LotR. Buffy and especially the Scoobies in BtVS face ever-greater threats. Harry Dresden from the Dresden Files.

          Many more. Many of them heavily influenced by RPGs.

          But perhaps more than that, what experience is for in RPGs is other stuff.

          First of all, it’s a low-pain editing mechanism. When the character that you made doesn’t quite work for you, you can take some XP and alter their focus. Buy different skills. Shore up weak stats. It is very common in games to make a character who ends up playing differently than you envisioned. Having some slack experience to customize your character is super useful.

          Second of all, it’s a campaign pacing mechanism. It’s a cheap and easy way to make a rising conflict, in which the conflicts get “bigger” and more dramatic, the stakes higher. It’s probably also not a wonderful way to do that, but it’s better than nothing for the vast majority of gamers.

          Third, it’s a learning ramp for new players. You give them relatively simple characters and as they master those, they get more options, more abilities, more interlocking choices.

          And fourth and finally, it’s another opportunity to show rules mastery. A strategic exercise. There are players who get heavily invested in the minigame of “How do I apply experience optimally,” where that is itself fun for them.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Would you let a player retcon their skills if they don’t like them? Some games, their ability to do that by applying character changes is pretty limited.

            I let them do it if it’s soon after they got the skills, or it’s something they never used, and it doesn’t seem abusive.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I certainly wouldn’t want to have a player playing a character who was deeply unsatisfying to them. The exact mechanism of remedy would depend on a lot of factors. But retconning skills is certainly on the table, if it’s not too disruptive.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @Nick

        CoC assumes some downtime. In 6th ed (no idea about 7th) it says (p53)

        No matter how many times a skill is used successfully in an adventure, only one check per skill is made until the keeper calls for experience rolls. Then only one roll can be made per check to see if the investigator improves. Typically these experience rolls are made in concluding a scenario or after several episodes.

        The exception is the Cthulhu Mythos skill (so, yeah, Lore: Gibbering Horror): you don’t gain it by using it, you gain it by reading books (which sap your Sanity). In practical terms, such a skill is often kind of useless, because GMs and scenario writers and so on often don’t bother to put in stuff where using it successfully tells you “this particular gibbering horror is immune to fire but not electricity” and so on.

        If your GM doesn’t put in locks to pick, it’s still possible to find a lockpicking teacher, but this is usually handled ad-hoc, as I recall. I think John Schilling gave the example above of the travel times in Masks of Nyarlathotep – there’s rules for learning skills on board (if you shoot skeet off the edge you gain shotgun or whatever) but they’re peculiar to the campaign rather than a general rule.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      This is twofold: how does your preferred game/do your preferred games handle characters getting better at the stuff they do? How do you apply discretion, house rules, etc to that?

      How I’m handling it: B/X D&D/Adventurer, Conqueror, King BtB. I don’t think it’s perfect, but we’re learning the system and I don’t want to change it before seeing it work organically.
      XP for overcoming monsters is divided among everyone in the party, with DM-controlled patron and hirelings getting a half-share, player choice whether the henchmen/dogs they control take an NPC or full PC share, and the party deciding how to divide the treasure that equals XP. I stock places where enemies live with treasure worth 3-3.5x the total XP reward for overcoming said creatures. I create a realistic “ecology” for the enemy settlement, so a Wandering Monster encounter is followed by me checking them off the total population.

      I have qualms with the sheer amount of money leveling-up involves. The treasure XP to take a Fighter from “Veteran” to “Warrior” is more than 8 pounds of gold (1 SP = 1 silver penny, 1 GP = same weight of gold, 1.7 grams). With the way XP requirements double up to Level 9, that means a king who’s Fighter 9 would have used 1,000 pounds of gold leveling up, minus the % from overcoming men & monsters. That is 24,000 cows unless I totally re-do the ACKS price list! =O
      We are playing on Bronze Age Earth, so the price of bronze plate armor, once invented, can be pegged to 9 oxen per Iliad 6. Such a king could equip an army of up to 2,400 (more realistically 1,800) foot guards BtB.

      EDIT: on reflection, that doesn’t seem like a bad thing. If a “priest king” (Cleric 9) has 150,000+ GP and a Fighter 9 king 180,000+, he can distribute his wealth to create a warrior class of at least 1,500 followers, which should be able to control a kingdom of at least 150,000 people for him. Unless of course they keep the rural population in abject slavery like the Spartans, in which case you’d need ~10% of the population to be a trained, armored elite rather than ~1%. Decency triumphs over evil?

  18. HeelBearCub says:

    So, about the idea conservatives don’t actually wish to ban abortion, that there is no appetite to do so…

    Alabama and West Virginia enacted state constitution changes with the latest election. Alabama passed a personhood amendment that defines fetuses as persons (and therefore would outlaw abortion completely). West Virginia specifically removes an state constitutional protection for abortion and already has a law on the books that mandates jail time for anyone who performs or receives an abortion.

    Basically national abortion rights depend on whether any of the 5 conservative SCOTUS judges will actually reaffirm Roe and Casey. There is plenty appetite to ban abortion, it will be brought to SCOTUS, and abortion rights depend entirely on what those 5 do.

    • cassander says:

      Must I bring up how many times the republican party voted to repeal the ACA when they didn’t have the power to make their vote effective, then point out how they didn’t do it once when they did have that power? Politicians love meaningless gestures, they shouldn’t be taken at face value. Such laws would not last 10 seconds if they came into effect in a meaningful way.

      • semioldguy says:

        Must I bring up how many times the republican party voted to repeal the ACA when they didn’t have the power to make their vote effective, then point out how they didn’t do it once when they did have that power?

        I think this is a lot to do with posturing and setting precedent. If one party overturns the other party’s legislation at first opportunity, it opens the door for it to happen the other way around regarding their own legislation. Acting when your party alone is unable to repeal, signals that you are against it and they may hope the opposing party will reconsider or see that what they have done was bad (thus having the opposing party’s blessing in repealing it in a way).

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Must I bring up how many times the republican party voted to repeal the ACA when they didn’t have the power to make their vote effective, then point out how they didn’t do it once when they did have that power?

        It

        is

        already

        done.

        The states in question have already passed the legislation, constitutional amendments, etc.

        If the SCOTUS rules that these aren’t disallowed, they are in effect.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Although I mostly agree with you, I also think that lawmakers are shortsighted enough to think that they’re not doing anything actually dangerous, and the people voting them in simply haven’t thought it through. To them, it’s all just rabble-rousing, with no danger of doing anything effective. Even though, objectively, that’s not true.

        • cassander says:

          >If the SCOTUS rules that these aren’t disallowed, they are in effect.

          Yep, and if not for the refusal of the senate to also pass the ACA repeals, they would have been laws too. Like I said, these are meaningless political gestures. they were passable as is only because they had no effect, just like the ACA repeals. In the unlikely event of a substantive reversal of roe, they’d be almost instantly re-written. Not re-written to “mandatory tax payer funded abortions for everyone”, but substantially re-written from where they are now.

          • albatross11 says:

            I am skeptical of that. I think there’s a status-quo bias–many legislators who wouldn’t have voted for those laws if they were going to take effect might very well be reluctant to vote *against* them now that they’re already there, if it looks like they might take effect in the future.

          • cassander says:

            @albatross11 says:

            At least at the federal level, there’s a turnover rate of about 15% per congress, and lots of states have term limits, so I suspect that they’d be even higher, on average so if the roe reversal happens in 6 years, almost half the legislature will be new. Status quo bias is certainly a thing, but that doesn’t the law will simply stand if it’s massively unpopular.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You can’t “instantly rewrite” a constitutional amendment. What kind of nonsense argument is this.

            Sure, many Republicans have been selling the rubes on the importance of abortion and how it’s murder, even though they don’t actually believe that. This speaks poorly of them. It also speaks poorly of you, since you seem to be endorsing this approach.

            But, just because the con men and grifters know they are selling snake oil, it doesn’t mean the marks don’t believe. And that is why it will be extremely hard to claw these things back.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub says:

            You can’t “instantly rewrite” a constitutional amendment. What kind of nonsense argument is this.

            It takes precisely as long to re-write as it took to write.

            Sure, many Republicans have been selling the rubes on the importance of abortion and how it’s murder, even though they don’t actually believe that. This speaks poorly of them. It also speaks poorly of you, since you seem to be endorsing this approach.

            I search in vain for any endorsement of what they’re doing. All I find is a refusal to treat it as the end of the world, or as more meaningful than it is.

            But, just because the con men and grifters know they are selling snake oil, it doesn’t mean the marks don’t believe. And that is why it will be extremely hard to claw these things back

            If the marks do want abortion seriously restricted, well, it is a democracy after all. I sincerely doubt that they do.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:

            You are really straying into strange territory here.

            They could put another amendment on the ballot. Maybe they would, although I am doubtful. Maybe it would pass, but again, I am doubtful. What they can’t do is simply remove the amendment on their own recognizance.

            So no, they can’t unwrite a consitutional amendment “as quickly as they passed it”. They didn’t pass it in the first place.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub says:

            They could put another amendment on the ballot. Maybe they would, although I am doubtful. Maybe it would pass, but again, I am doubtful. What they can’t do is simply remove the amendment on their own recognizance.

            I never claimed that they could What I claimed is that these rules will be rapidly revised, by whatever process was used to pass them in the first place.

        • John Schilling says:

          The states in question have already passed the legislation, constitutional amendments, etc.

          If the SCOTUS rules that these aren’t disallowed, they are in effect.

          But SCOTUS isn’t going to rule that, and the state lawmakers in question understand this even if you don’t.

          Many years ago, a supreme court justice (state, not federal) explained this to me, candidly admitting that a big part of his job was to play Bad Cop to the “Good Cop” of every legislator pandering to every stupid constituency that wants the government to do something stupid and will vote accordingly. Legislators craft law that appeases constituents but is guaranteed to be shot down by the courts, life-tenured judges shoot it down, legislator wins reelection by pointing out that he tried and that he’ll try harder next time.

          This is too massively useful to legislators for them to stop doing it simply because of the risk that the courts might not shoot down their blatantly unconstitutional legislation. And, really, the courts know their role in that game, and the legislators know their role in confirming judges who will continue to play that game.

          And nothing you are describing is in any way inconsistent with one more round of a game that I have been watching played for my entire adult life and understand to have been in play for a century or more before that. But it doesn’t look much like the very different strategies of legislators who are actually trying to accomplish something legally or constitutionally dubious.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Again, a fetal personhood amendment to the constitution was passed by the populace in Alabama. The West Virginia amendment was specifically about tying the hands of the West Virginia Supreme Court in asserting a state constitutional right to abortion. These amendments are designed to remove judicial impediment to making abortion illegal.

            I assume that you aren’t saying that abortion opponents are generally or broadly secretly in favor of abortion. It seems you are implying that it is just the legislators who are playing a game of false and deliberately deceptive signaling. While I am sure that this is true of some number of them, politics being coalitional, it hardly matters. To the extent that the genuine pro-life contingent is critical to the Republican coalition, they will vote as genuinely pro-life. In addition, we can see in this case that there is majority state population support for the positions. Or you saying the citizenry itself is playing this game?

            So the question simply comes down to whether you end up installing 5 SCOTUS justices who are either genuinely pro-life or genuinely federalist.

          • Walter says:

            I dunno man, it seems like you are gonna get Megamind syndrome here, where the cops and robbers games give way to someone who is sincere.

            Like, in a contest to signal how double serious we are to trying to ban abortion, it seems the women who genuinely believes it has an edge over the cunning fraud, or at least doesn’t lose every time.

            I think your buddy the judge is fooling himself about how grateful the legislators he is thwarting are to him.

          • John Schilling says:

            To the extent that the genuine pro-life contingent is critical to the Republican coalition, they will vote as genuinely pro-life.

            Absolutely. But they can’t vote for something that isn’t on the ballot, and effective abortion bans are never on the ballot. That’s not a coincidence.

            Every single time a Republican president has been able to nominate a new justice to the Supreme Court, and really every single time a Republican has run for a Presidential term in which he might nominate a justice, I’ve heard people indistinguishable from yourself explaining with passionate certainty that this time, if we don’t stop it, it will be the end. The end of legal abortion, followed shortly by the end of womens’ rights and ultimately of the United States as anything other than Gilead writ large. Because the Republican legislators are lined up and waiting, this is what they really really in the blackness of their hearts want to do, and only the shaky 5-4 pro-choice majority of the SCOTUS du jour is stopping them.

            Every single time, the prediction has proven false. And I’m not hearing anything from you, that I haven’t heard every other time that false prediction has been made. You’ve had your chance to bring something new to the discussion; now it’s pretty much time for you to go off and update your priors.

      • This is a weird hill to die on. There are two liberal Supreme Court justices in their 80’s. It’s very possible that one or both of them could die, giving the newly strengthened Republican Senate a chance to appoint very conservative justices who could easily overturn Roe vs Wade. In that case, do you think those state legislators would scramble to overturn their own anti-abortion laws? Why would they do that?

        • cassander says:

          This is a weird hill to die on. There are two liberal Supreme Court justices in their 80’s. It’s very possible that one or both of them could die, giving the newly strengthened Republican Senate a chance to appoint very conservative justices who could easily overturn Roe vs Wade.

          It’s not very possible, for the reasons John Schilling lays out above.

          In that case, do you think those state legislators would scramble to overturn their own anti-abortion laws? Why would they do that?

          Because their constituents will demand it when faced with the consequences of the bills they’ve written. Right now, they can pass laws that have no effect, and everyone can feel good about themselves. The legislators can preen, the voters can feel like they’ve done their part to fight baby murder, and no one actually has to deal with the effects of abortion not being illegal. If those laws actually came into effect they would, and they (apart from a few diehards) won’t like it.

          • theredsheep says:

            It might depend. I get the impression that Amy Coney Barrett would have cheerfully driven a stake through Roe’s heart. It’s possible that Roe’s life depends on pols consistently and selectively appointing only cynics. Or mostly cynics.

            Also, in some states abortion has been so brutally restricted as to be effectively illegal; there might be one or two clinics in the whole state. If Roe got overturned, I’m told it’s most likely that the issue would return to the states, so the situation might not change that much.

          • cassander says:

            It might depend. I get the impression that Amy Coney Barrett would have cheerfully driven a stake through Roe’s heart. It’s possible that Roe’s life depends on pols consistently and selectively appointing only cynics. Or mostly cynics.

            there are definitely true believers out there, no question. but they’re an extreme minority. Everyone else will cave once you get a sufficient number of sob stories pleading for a change in the law. The degree of caving will vary from place to place depending on the local political scene and geography, of course.

            Also, in some states abortion has been so brutally restricted as to be effectively illegal; there might be one or two clinics in the whole state.

            I am always amused to see people on the left, who dismiss such concerns in almost any other context, complaining about the harmful effects of government regulation on small businesses.

            I’m not in favor of them, but there is nothing “brutal” about these restrictions. The number of abortions per capita has fallen off dramatically in the last 20 years, it’s not suprising that the number of clinics is down. And it’s not at all clear to me that number of clinics is even a relevant figure when you can get abortions performed at a hospitals. I’m open to being convinced, but I’ve never seen any evidence that these restrictions have actually prevented anyone from getting an abortion. Having to drive a couple hours to get a procedure done that happens once or twice in someone’s life is not the sort of hardship that I get agitated about.

          • theredsheep says:

            Idunno, some states are pretty bloody big, and if you can get multiple such states in a row I imagine you’d start seeing a deterrent effect. But who knows? NB that I am pro-life, I just admit that we’ve done a great job hammering them there.

          • albatross11 says:

            Until recently, Ireland had no legal abortion plus open borders / travel with EU countries, most of which allow abortion. That might be a model for what we’d see in a post-Roe US.

          • acymetric says:

            @cassander

            I don’t mean to intrude, and obviously I’m not asking for specifics, but can you speak to where you grew up/live now (generalities, I’m not asking for a specific city or even state necessarily)? I suspect that has contributed to your take on this subject.

          • cassander says:

            @acymetric says:

            I don’t mean to intrude, and obviously I’m not asking for specifics, but can you speak to where you grew up/live now (generalities, I’m not asking for a specific city or even state necessarily)? I suspect that has contributed to your take on this subject.

            It doubtless has. I’ve spent most of my life in or near large coastal cities, usually in quite blue institutions. And, to be frank, fairly rarified ones. I don’t think I know a single adult who doesn’t have a bachelors degree, and most of my friends and family have a masters. I’m aware that the right wingers in my life are of better than average caliber, they almost have to be by definition.

            accounting for that, though I still think the fears of the left on this subject are vastly overrated, as it is on many other subjects. The left is unaware understand its own cultural power the way that fish are unaware of water, and they loves to think of themselves as victim. I’m not pro-life, but I am pro-state and local government, pro-lower taxes, pro lower regulation, and pro much of the rest of the republican agenda. Having seen republicans achieve so little on all those other fronts over the last 20 years, I find it hard to believe that abortion is the one football they’ll actually manage to kick, especially since they’ve whiffed on it a number of times before.

          • Because their constituents will demand it when faced with the consequences of the bills they’ve written.

            Why?
            As I think has already been pointed out, unless all nearby states have also made abortion illegal, the effect is only to make it a little more expensive and less convenient. That may be unfortunate, but how is it bad enough to make people committed to an anti-abortion position reverse themselves?

          • @cassander

            I don’t think you really get social conservatives. Pro life beliefs aren’t just some little quirk that they adopted to distinguish themselves from the left. They literally think it’s murder. And yes, not all Republicans think that way but Alabama for example is a very socially conservative state. You’re projecting your own beliefs on to them for why they “don’t really” want to ban abortion when it’s one of their most sacred values. Why don’t you think they’re serious about it? Because it seems ridiculous to you?

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species says:

            You’re projecting your own beliefs on to them for why they “don’t really” want to ban abortion when it’s one of their most sacred values. Why don’t you think they’re serious about it? Because it seems ridiculous to you?

            I see where you’re coming from, but this wasn’t what I was attempting to say. I don’t think that the pro-life crowd isn’t sincere. I am sure that they are.

            My argument is that there is a broad swathe of pro-life opinion that ranges from an absolutist position to something much more qualified. Right now, because there are no consequences for doing so, the absolutists dominate pro-life discourse, and everyone goes along with echoing their position because, as a simple formulation (abortion bad!) they agree. If those positions suddenly had real consequences, the more moderate pro-lifers would fall away, not becoming pro-choice, but endorsing less absolutist pro-life opinions, and you’d get some more moderate settlement. You’d see restrictions on later abortions, requiring counseling, things like that, not total bans. And even if you did, there’s always the state line not too far away.

          • theredsheep says:

            Depends. The southern states where abortion bans are most likely in the event of a RvW overturn tend to be pretty big. And they’re all clustered together. Even if only, say, Texas went pro-life, if you’re in San Antonio, it’s a five-hour drive minimum to cross the border of any other state, and that’s assuming there’s a clinic at some podunk town right on the border.

          • Deiseach says:

            You’d see restrictions on later abortions, requiring counseling, things like that, not total bans.

            And every time the pro-life side has tried getting those passed, the pro-choice side has screamed and screamed and screamed about “this is a sneak attack on our reproductive rights, they’re trying to get abortion banned by stages!” and refused any kind of compromise on the right to kill an unborn person whatsoever.

            So now the absolutists look like winning? Good.

          • Over half the population in Alabama wants abortion to be illegal in most/all circumstances, which is clearly not the moderate position. Why do you assume they will suddenly change their mind if they got what they said the want?

            @Deiseach

            That’s exactly what the pro life side is doing. They aren’t hiding it so I’m not sure what your point is.

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species says:

            Over half the population in Alabama wants abortion to be illegal in most/all circumstances, which is clearly not the moderate position. Why do you assume they will suddenly change their mind if they got what they said the want?

            One, there is a world of difference between most and all circumstances and it’s misleading to lump them together. Two, bear in mind the lizardman constant with public polling. What people say in polls and their actual positions rarely align on any question more complicated than who am I going to vote for next month. Three, I specifically dealt with theses apparent high levels of support for absolutist positions when I said:

            Right now, because there are no consequences for doing so, the absolutists dominate pro-life discourse, and everyone goes along with echoing their position because, as a simple formulation (abortion bad!) they agree. If those positions suddenly had real consequences, the more moderate pro-lifers would fall away, not becoming pro-choice, but endorsing less absolutist pro-life opinions, and you’d get some more moderate settlement.”

            I stand by that line of argument. Yes, you can get people to shout abortion is murder at rallies. that doesn’t necessarily translate to them being willing try knocked up teenagers and rape victims as murders. As evidence for this assertion, I offer every politician in the last 30 years that got elected promising to cut government spending.

          • Brad says:

            @cassander
            Given:

            It doubtless has. I’ve spent most of my life in or near large coastal cities, usually in quite blue institutions. And, to be frank, fairly rarified ones. I don’t think I know a single adult who doesn’t have a bachelors degree, and most of my friends and family have a masters. I’m aware that the right wingers in my life are of better than average caliber, they almost have to be by definition.

            I’m not sure why any of would give much weight to your speculations as to how pro-life people think. If Conrad Honcho were making this argument, I might want to think hard about why he was saying it and whether I trusted it, but at least it would be plausible to that he’d be bringing insight to the table that I simply don’t have access to.

            But the general phenomenon of some guy with a background nearly identical to mine but who ended up a Trump supporter for $reasons appointing himself explainer of and/or spokesman for middle America is quite dubious IMO.

          • @cassander

            Why should I think that your understanding of Alabamans is better than what they themselves say?

          • cassander says:

            @brad

            But the general phenomenon of some guy with a background nearly identical to mine but who ended up a Trump supporter for $reasons appointing himself explainer of and/or spokesman for middle America is quite dubious IMO.

            I’m not a trump supporter, nor have I appointed myself an explainer of anyone. I’m merely pointing out that (A) we’ve seen these calls made before and seen them come to nothing, and (B) we see very similar dynamics at work in other areas of policy and there is zero reason to assume that abortion is fundamentally different from other political issues. One can gain insight in ways other than background.

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species says:

            Why should I think that your understanding of Alabamans is better than what they themselves say?

            Because it’s quite well known that when it comes to polling on policy questions, what people say and what they actually think are often miles apart. I have no doubt that the alabamians are sincere in their beliefs. It’s easy to be sincere in beliefs that have never been meaningfully tested. I also have no doubt that many would prove less sincere once those beliefs were put up against photogenic victims in a serious way because they’re, you know, people.

          • Plumber says:

            @cassander

            “….I don’t think I know a single adult who doesn’t have a bachelors degree, and most of my friends and family have a masters….”

            Well like you I’ve spent most of my life in or near the coast in “blue” areas, but I don’t have a college diploma, and I’ve known far more men who seem closer to the description of our host’s “Red-Tribe” than the “Blue-Tribe”, but even more who seem a mixture to me.

            What do you want to know about those of us without college diplomas?

          • cassander says:

            @Plumber says:

            If I knew what to ask, I probably wouldn’t have to ask it! I just know that there’s 2/3s of the country that I have effectively zero meaningful social interaction with, and I know that can’t help but warp my perspective on things. the best I could do is turn the question around on you and ask what’s are the biggest things gaps in perception/attitudes/assumptions between the college going and not that you are aware of?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Plumber:
            He’s asserting that non-coastal Red tribe members who say they oppose abortion actually support abortion, but they just don’t know it.

            I’m not sure you can provide much insight here, as I don’t think you have indicated much of an interest in religion (which tends to be a driver of expressing these beliefs). But, I’m interested in you take on this.

          • cassander says:

            @healbearcub

            He’s asserting that non-coastal Red tribe members who say they oppose abortion actually support abortion, but they just don’t know it.

            No, I’m not, as I’ve explained repeatedly. Please don’t willfully misrepresent my words.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @casaander:

            Ummm, what about your stance is different from what I said? You think they genuinely oppose abortion now, but then won’t as soon as they would be able to actually ban it.

          • @cassander

            You can’t just dismiss every single poll that disagrees with you because sometimes they are inaccurate. For two of three of his points, Lizardmans constant and purposefully skewed polls, doesn’t apply. His other point was about mood signaling which is possible but then you would have to dismiss every single poll as mood affiliation. A poll says people want a higher minimum wage? Wrong. Democrats want single payer healthcare? Wrong. Republicans want lower illegal immigration? Wrong. If you say that every single poll is wrong, then all it’s doing is making it easier for you to use your own biases to make all your reasoning work in your favor. Polls aren’t perfect but they are better than that.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub says:

            Ummm, what about your stance is different from what I said? You think they genuinely oppose abortion now, but then won’t as soon as they would be able to actually ban it.

            To repeat what I said early, in response to this question, my argument is that there is a broad swathe of pro-life opinion that ranges from an absolutist position to something much more qualified. Right now, because there are no consequences for doing so, absolutist statements dominate pro-life discourse. Everyone goes along with echoing their position because, as a simple formulation (abortion bad!) they agree, even if they don’t buy in on the details. If those positions suddenly had real consequences, the more moderate pro-lifers would fall away, not becoming pro-choice, but endorsing less absolutist pro-life opinions, and you’d get some more moderate settlement. You’d see restrictions on later abortions, requiring counseling, things like that, not total bans. And even if you did, there’s always the state line not too far away.

            @Wrong Species says:

            You can’t just dismiss every single poll that disagrees with you because sometimes they are inaccurate. For two of three of his points, Lizardmans constant and purposefully skewed polls, doesn’t apply.

            I don’t. I dismiss virtually all polls on policy questions, regardless of whether or not I agree with the results, because it is easy to show that the public’s response to such polls is utterly schizophrenic and incoherent. One will get wildly different responses to seemingly neutral language changes (e.g. Do you oppose X legislation vs. do you support the repeal of legislation X) and you can see majority support for mutually incompatible policy positions. the best use for issue polling is to see how the level of support for a particular question varies over time, but that tells you much more about trendlines than absolute levels of support, and certainly doesn’t tell you anything about the degree of passion behind beliefs.

            If you say that every single poll is wrong, then all it’s doing is making it easier for you to use your own biases to make all your reasoning work in your favor. Polls aren’t perfect but they are better than that.

            I’m not claiming that they’re wrong, I’m claiming that they’re all right, and that’s the problem. And I don’t think people are being mendacious, it’s just that polling is a very blunt tool that doesn’t accurately capture people’s actual feelings. And it’s not just political polling that way, talk to any market research firm and they’ll tell you the same thing, that asking people what they want is a very imprecise tool for figuring out what they actually want.

          • Beck says:

            I’m from Alabama, and I’d say cassander’s about right. The range of opinion on abortion you find there is exactly what you find anywhere else: people at one extreme believing that it’s literal murder, people at the other extreme believing that there should be near to no restrictions on it, and the majority somewhere between.

            Anecdotally, most of the people I know are pretty uncomfortable (in some cases very uncomfortable) with it, but would stop short of an absolutist position.

          • Brad says:

            (B) we see very similar dynamics at work in other areas of policy and there is zero reason to assume that abortion is fundamentally different from other political issues.

            Like what exactly? Because here’s the other area of policy I’m thinking of, and what’s happened:

            For 40 years or so there’s been growing support for the notion that there’s a natural human right to own and carry a gun. This movement grew and grew and eventually it got enough supporters on the Supreme Court to enshrine their view into Constitutional law. When the Supreme Court did this, supporters in the states didn’t recoil from the consequences. On the contrary many supporters are pushing to have the laws be pruned back even further. The support for more and more gun rights is completely resilient in the face of photogenic victims–not wavering a tiny little bit even when an elementary school was shot up.

            Where was the “just kidding” moment your logic suggested should have happened after Heller and McDonald?

          • cassander says:

            @Brad says:

            Like what exactly? Because here’s the other area of policy I’m thinking of, and what’s happened:

            Government spending in general, regulation in general, and reduction of federal power vis a vis the states. All ideas that are core to republican’s self proclaimed identity, that are always part of their slogans, and which seem to get out votes in large numbers, and that which republican lawmakers basically never implement because supporters balk when faced with photogenic victims of such policies.

            Where was the “just kidding” moment your logic suggested should have happened after Heller and McDonald?

            Gun control is the one issue that has been broadly opposed by the left and which has seen significant rightward movement in recent decades. I’d suggest that it’s the outlier, not the other issues.

          • Brad says:

            You missed cutting taxes, which is far more effective at riling up voters than reducing federal power. So on the one hand we have emotional issues like taxes and guns where the Republicans have done what they said they would do when they get into office, and then on the other some technocratic issues most exciting to conservative/libertarian policy wonks — reducing regulation and respecting federalism where they haven’t. Which category are you claiming restricting abortion falls into?

          • cassander says:

            @brad

            You missed cutting taxes, which is far more effective at riling up voters than reducing federal power. So on the one hand we have emotional issues like taxes and guns where the Republicans have done what they said they would do when they get into office, and then on the other some technocratic issues most exciting to conservative/libertarian policy wonks — reducing regulation and respecting federalism where they haven’t. Which category are you claiming restricting abortion falls into?

            well, one, taxes aren’t over the last 40 years. federal taxes have consistently hovered at 17-18% of GDP since the korean war and neither party seriously tried to change that.

            Two, I don’t think there’s a neat distinction between policy and emotional issues like that. get the feds out of my business, alcohol, tobacco, and firearms should be a shopping list not a government agency, etc, these are emotional issues just as much abortion or taxes.
            Sure, there are technocratic and popular ways of looking at those issues, but that’s kind of my whole point, that there’s a gap between what slogans people shout and what policies they actually want, and that that gap is exacerbated in the case of abortion because of the unusual legal conditions around it.

            And it’s not just the right that’s that way. “healthcare is a right” and “no person is illegal” are sentiments that poll way better than than a trillion dollar tax increase to pay for medicare for all or an actual open borders immigration policy.

          • @cassander

            We know that Republicans don’t really care about deficits because they increase it when they get in to power. When has a social conservative got in to power and then made pro-choice policy choices? Because over the last two decades, conservative states have made more restrictive legislation that has very real consequences.

            Word order in polling only matters when people don’t really have strong feelings about a subject. If I made a poll asking if they would like their ethnic group to be genocided changing the phrasing isn’t going to suddenly make them suicidal. You have vocal groups of people saying they really really want to ban abortion and you have polling that backs it up. It’s not a coincidence that conservative states have more pro-lifers in their polling.

            If you honestly believed that polling was useless, then you should be completely agnostic about what the people of Alabama believe. But instead you indicate that they aren’t really pro life, despite their claims otherwise. As evidence you give one issue where people have inconsistent beliefs. Why should I believe you? Do you honestly think that’s convincing? Do you think that Republicans don’t really care about illegal immigration? Do you think Democrats don’t really care about gay marriage? I don’t even know how to falsify your claims.

          • cassander says:

            @cassander

            We know that Republicans don’t really care about deficits because they increase it when they get in to power.

            I never mentioned deficits, but ok.

            When has a social conservative got in to power and then made pro-choice policy choices? Because over the last two decades, conservative states have made more restrictive legislation that has very real consequences.

            No, they haven’t. they’ve made pious statements that have had very little effect on actual policy, particularly at the federal level.

            Word order in polling only matters when people don’t really have strong feelings about a subject.

            Most people don’t have firm opinions on most subjects, so what you’ve effectively said was “word order in polling almost always matters.”

            But instead you indicate that they aren’t really pro life, despite their claims otherwise.

            For at least the 4th time, no I haven’t. I’m not going to keep refuting the same point over and over again. If you want to keep the conversation going, please deal with the argument I’ve actually made several times now.

          • No one else thinks there’s a distinction between “people who say they are pro life but won’t support pro life policies if it was actually an option” and “they aren’t really pro life”. Not sure why you think that matters.

          • cassander says:

            @wrongspecies.

            No one else thinks there’s a distinction between “people who say they are pro life but won’t support pro life policies if it was actually an option” and “they aren’t really pro life”. Not sure why you think that matters.

            Still not even close to what I said. What I said is right there, you can go read it if you like, but please stop putting words in my mouth.

          • John Schilling says:

            Ummm, what about your stance is different from what I said? You think they genuinely oppose abortion now,

            Approximately 60% of Alabamans and other “non-coastal red tribe members” claim to oppose abortion in most cases, and probably the vast majority are sincere. Only about 24-36% of them oppose abortion in all cases, even for e.g. rape victims. Cassander is trying to distinguish between these two positions; you aren’t. That’s the difference.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Approximately 60% of Alabamans and other “non-coastal red tribe members” claim to oppose abortion in most cases, and probably the vast majority are sincere. Only about 24-36% of them oppose abortion in all cases, even for e.g. rape victims. Cassander is trying to distinguish between these two positions; you aren’t. That’s the difference.

            Yes, come on guys. Cassander isn’t being particularly clear about what he’s saying, but his adversaries here seem to be trying to not understand. Pro-life isn’t one position; it is a whole range of positions, just more on the side saving the fetus than pro-choice is. (And of course pro-choice isn’t one position either). But the polls mostly just ask if you want to outlaw abortion, and presumably the pro-lifers all answer yes even if they have varied beliefs as to the exceptions. Especially since abortion is the law of the land, nuance as to exceptions don’t much matter at this point as far as polls, or as far as laws passed in favor of pro-life. And I think one more thing cassander is saying is that even the responders to the polls probably haven’t even thought much about the nuances — they just know they don’t like the status quo. They will only think more about it when Roe goes away because then it matters.

            I don’t share cassander’s certainly that the more draconian laws will be almost immediately repealed as soon as Roe is over-turned. But that is the question, not whether a majority of Alabamians are in favor of treating abortion providers and recipients as equivalent to murderers, which I think is highly unlikely.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            Opposing abortion in most cases means opposing the abortions that are by far the most common, the ones that occur in the first trimester and are a choice to terminate an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy.

            Life and health of the mother, rape and incest exceptions matters in debate simply because it lays out why the arguments that “abortion is murder “ is weak, but even leaving those exceptions in to forego the most sympathetic who would be effected by an all out ban doesn’t matter much in terms of the number of people effected.

            If you are saying that you think that Alabama would eventually settle on a rule that banned abortions except in the cases of rape and incest or pregnancies that threatened the life of the mother, that might be the case. Yo have said elsewhere you think that a “life of the mother” exception would be a wink and a nod, and I think this is highly tendentious. The vast bulk of current abortions would simply be illegal. Sue, you would,have your “Kevorkians” who flouted the law on moral or ideological grounds, but most physicians wouldn’t risk their licenses.

            So the question I have is, do you think that those 60% genuinely oppose the vast bulk of abortions, which are mostly first trimester choices to end unwanted pregnancies?

          • John Schilling says:

            So the question I have is, do you think that those 60% genuinely oppose the vast bulk of abortions, which are mostly first trimester choices to end unwanted pregnancies?

            Asked and answered, with actual numbers based on the best polling data I can find. You can reframe that answer any way you want, without needing my help.

            But for the most part, I do not care what these people believe. I cannot find it in me to craft the stream of not-quite-obscene invective to describe how little I care what they think,or how little I think of people who care so much what other people believe. I care what they are likely to do.

            For reasons I and others have already explained, the actions of the people with the power to actually do anything in Alabama, are much more consistent with a plan to ride a tide of perpetual outrage to perpetual electoral victory, than to actually end the (to their constituents) outrageous circumstances that enable this strategy.

            They’re professional politicians. They sincerely support and oppose many things, but they support one thing above all things, and that’s got nothing to do with abortion.

          • Brad says:

            What are polls, not to mention duly enacted laws, in comparison to very vigorous assertions backed up by nothing but speculation? A plausible story does not evidence make.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            What the politicians will do greatly depends on how people will vote, which depends on the voters’ beliefs (among other things).

            I’m sympathetic to the idea that on the margin some voters will change their minds. But the core of voters in Republican primaries seem unlikely to change, and the “persuadable” general election voter seem unlikely to vote for Democrats on the single issue of abortion. On the margin it may make some difference, but the entire party is not going to turn on a dime on this issue.

          • Plumber says:

            @cassander

            “…..what’s are the biggest things gaps in perception/attitudes/assumptions between the college going and not that you are aware of?”

            @HeelBearCub

             “…I’m not sure you can provide much insight here, as I don’t think you have indicated much of an interest in religion (which tends to be a driver of expressing these beliefs). But, I’m interested in you take on this”

            Well, since other than my wife I don’t often have face-to-face conversations with college graduates I’ll have to mostly guess and go by what my wife says about her friends as far as college graduates go, and except for one extremely strong women I worked with who was fiercely anti-taxes, and a couple of ladies I precinct walked with I just haven’t talked much politics with any women other than my wife these past few decades, so my impressions are largely of the guys I’ve worked with as a union construction worker for just over a decade, and then as a city worker for just under a decade. 

            Most of the guys I’ve known who came from “Red States” who talked politics at all have been mostly Democrats and mostly black, but most of those who I’ve worked with who drove in from “Red” counties who’ve talked politics have indeed been Republicans (sometimes I play a game in which I ask some unrelated questions, and how many miles a new co-workers commute is, and then I guess how they vote, usually I’m told I’m right).

            The loudest guy on most jobsites is usually a Republican (and often the foreman), and the exception is one guy on the job who is so left that he regards the Democrats as right-wing, but that’s rare.

            Most of my co-workers are silent when it comes to politics, or they vote the way are union tells us (usually for Democrats), because “pro-union”.

            On initiatives there’s more push back, repealing gas taxes is popular. 

            When they are political arguments they tend to be age segregated, grey hairs don’t argue with youngsters, and vice versa. The loudest political “debate” I’ve seen at work was between a pro-gun Republican, and an anti-war Democrat (this was during the Bush administration), and both were grey hairs.

            Most guys I’ve known just say “I stay out of it” when it comes to politics, those who were Democrats, usually just cited “pro-union” and left it at that, but those who were anti-Democratic Party had a variety of reasons. 

            Those who were vocally anti-abortion were indeed religious and, judging by how many kids they had, they “walked the talk” (one guy memorable said “God’s law is God’s law”), and just letting individual States decide was not their goal, they were quite clear that they felt abortion was murder, but they are a minority of my co-workers. 

            More commonly anti-tax sentiments have been cited (often by cops!) even by guys who’s salaries are directly from taxes, or who are working on building libraries snd schools for contractors. 

            N.R.A. members are often vocal, as are those who are against “welfare”, often a story of an immigrant “with food stamps, driving an expensive car” has been cited.

            One memorable new apprentice young man (who seemed Hellbent on getting injured, judging by how much he insisted on lifting by himself) engaged me by telling some story which I’d never heard of, and when I asked him where he heard that told me “You wouldn’t hear that from reading your communist newspaper”, and when I asked him “What communist newspaper?”, revealed that he meant the San Francisco Chronicle, which he based on a “Lesbian artist” that the Hearst had hired for some party, a story he heard from talk radio!!!???

            I’d say on the bigger jobs I’ve been on (hundreds of men in other trades, with about 40 being plumbers or steamfitters), usulg most never discuss politics, a dozen out of the pipe trades will be mildly pro-Democrat, a couple to a half-dozen will be loudly right-wing (and those citing abortion will just be one or two guys, more will cite taxes and guns) and no more than two will be loudly left-wing.

            Among my wife’s acquaintances, while she is anti-Trump, she tells me that most are “Too PC” and “Environmental”, so it seems among college graduates leftists are the loudest voices, so there’s the difference.

            My wages come from taxes, and I give those wages to my wife and she pays the taxes, between us I’m to the left of her, and I’m white male without a college degree, she isn’t white, and does have a diploma, but before Trump she was more likely to vote Republican (yes we’re an odd couple, it was similar musical tastes that brought us together), so we both are the opposite of what the demographics predict, but our acquaintances seem to more closely match what demographics predict.

          • @cassander

            If those positions suddenly had real consequences, the more moderate pro-lifers would fall away, not becoming pro-choice, but endorsing less absolutist pro-life opinions, and you’d get some more moderate settlement. You’d see restrictions on later abortions, requiring counseling, things like that, not total bans.

            This is what you said. If you think that Alabamans would strike up a settlement where anyone could get an early term abortion as long as they did counseling, then they don’t really care about abortion in the same way that those who say they care about the national debt and then legislate spending increases don’t actually care about the debt. I don’t see a distinction between that and them not really being pro-life. And I still don’t see why you think it matters.

          • cassander says:

            @wrongspecies

            This is what you said. If you think that Alabamans would strike up a settlement where anyone could get an early term abortion as long as they did counseling, then they don’t really care about abortion in the same way that those who say they care about the national debt and then legislate spending increases don’t actually care about the debt. I don’t see a distinction between that and them not really being pro-life. And I still don’t see why you think it matters.

            For the last time, I am NOT saying that they don’t care about abortion, or about any of those other subjects (I also have never mentioned the debt). I am saying they care about all of those things, and many others, and that lots of those cares are mutually incompatible. They believe that abortion is murder, but they also believe that the victims of rapists shouldn’t have to bear the children of their rapists. These contradictions exist in most areas of policy most of the time, all over the political spectrum, and are not resolved until people are forced to choose between them. This is especially the case for abortion, because its unusual legal status permits a greater degree of symbolic politics than for most other issues.

            In the unlikely event that roe went away, that would cease to be the case. abortion politics would no longer be almost entirely symbolic. People would be confronted with choices that had significant consequences, and would be forced to resolve their mutually contradictory beliefs. that resolution result in settlements that are considerably more pro-life than the status quo, but which would rarely if ever result in total bans, because only a minority of people actually adhere to that extreme position, even if you take issue polling at face value, which you shouldn’t, on almost any subject.

            And again, this is not an exceptional claim. It happens on dozens of policy issues. People are for medicare for all, but not for the taxes needed to pay for it. They’re for “no person is illegal”, but not for open borders. They’re for lower federal spending, but not for cutting spending on health, education, the military, the elderly, or anything else besides foreign aid. And we should expect nothing different, given the staggering amount of ignorance the average person has about policy and the extreme haphazardness which with most political opinions are acquired.

            You need to stop assuming that your outgroup is a homogenous block, stop acting like I’m making unique or exceptional claims when I say things like “voters often have mutually contradictory policy preferences”, and stop imputing arguments to me that I’ve never made.

        • John Schilling says:

          In that case, do you think those state legislators would scramble to overturn their own anti-abortion laws? Why would they do that?

          Because they want to win elections, and they can’t do that by actually banning abortion outright when even in the deepest red states most people privately want early abortion to be available in case of rape, incest, or serious threat to maternal health.

          But actually overturning their own laws would mean admitting they miscalculated, which while true is also not an optimal election-winning strategy. Pragmatically, I expect they would keep the laws, but tell their attorneys general to never question any doctor’s claims that his mifepristone prescriptions are all for acute Cushing’s syndrome, and to publicly denounce but privately cheer Planned Parenthood and Uber when they set up a free ride-sharing service to abortion clinics in the nearest town of the next state.

          Mostly, they’re betting on SCOTUS not flat-out renouncing Roe, and crafting their laws such that nothing less than a flat-out renunciation of Roe would let them take effect.

          • most people privately want early abortion to be available in case of rape, incest, or serious threat to maternal health.

            These are non central examples of abortion. You may be right, but the subject is on the general idea of abortion idea being legal, not the edge cases.

            In a state like Alabama, 58% of the population wants abortion to be illegal in most or all circumstances compared to 37% saying the opposite.. So clearly, a majority does want it illegal and a cynical state official would do so. No one is under any illusions about what would happen if abortion became illegal so I´m not sure why you think their opinions would flip over night. On what basis do you assume that would happen?

            It happens all the time that people will limit their own freedom to do certain things for their own values. Alcohol prohibition probably seemed ridiculous in the early 20th century and yet it happened by a constitutional amendment across all the states. We’re just talking about a few states here.

          • John Schilling says:

            These are non central examples of abortion. You may be right, but the subject is on the general idea of abortion idea being legal, not the edge cases.

            If your goal is to discern whether someone is trying to take effective action to implement their beliefs or just trying to signal virtue and channel outrage with them, it’s the non-central examples that make the distinction. People who want to take effective action, try to steer clear of edge cases that would raise ugly controversies costing them support or crossing the bounds of SCOTUS’s tolerance. Like, say, human interest stories about telegenic rape victims shackled to the delivery-room bed and forced to give birth to their rapists’ sons. People who are just trying to signal, can’t waste bandwidth on nuance and know that the telegenic rape victim is never actually going to be shackled to the bed.

          • I’m agnostic on whether Alabamans would make exceptions for rape and women’s health. If you think that’s what matters, then whatever, I’ll concede the point for the sake of argument. But HeelbearCub was talking about the real consequences of Roe vs Wade appeal, and 95% of abortion cases are not that. Our point is that some states would easily ban the majority of abortions. That’s what I’m arguing for.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          It seems reasonable that there are a good many women who can’t afford extended travel and days off (especially if a second doctor’s visit is required). Why is it implausible that restrictions on the availability on abortion would lead to some women not being able to get abortions?

          • John Schilling says:

            Not having an abortion is almost certainly going to result in a whole lot more days off than having an abortion, very predictably and real soon.

            It is certainly plausible that, faced with that choice, some women will choose poorly. But there’s only so much you can do to fix people’s bad decisions for them, and I think you get most of the way there with education and support short of having Qwik-E-Abort clinics in every town in the union.

            As a technophile, I’d go with online one-click shopping for RU-486, same-day drone delivery, but that’s probably not practical quite yet.

          • albatross11 says:

            You could also imagine a kind of poverty trap thing happening, where you couldn’t come up with $X for an abortion now so you’d have to just accept the much higher costs of a baby later.

            But it’s important to remember that what we’re talking about in a post-Roe world is probably having abortions go from costing like a couple hundred dollars and taking a day to costing five hundred and taking three days.

            If you think abortion is a right that every woman should have, you’re not going to like that. But it’s not actually the same thing as “nobody in Alabama will be able to get an abortion.”

            If you think abortion is murder, you’re also not going to like that–you’d like it to be made impossible instead of a little more expensive and a little more of a hassle. But there’s no way to forbid Alabamans from traveling to other states, and (almost certainly) no way to prosecute them in Alabama for things they did legally in Illinois or Florida or wherever.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            John Schilling, how is it your business to decide whether a woman with extremely marginal resources should have a baby she doesn’t want?

          • John Schilling says:

            You were in your last post talking about “women not being able to get abortions”; that’s only relevant if we are talking about women who have already made the decision and are concerned with carrying it out. The women who decide they will keep their babies even if they could get abortions without cost or effort, have already opted out of this discussion.

          • albatross11 says:

            Nancy:

            How is it your business to decide whether a woman with extremely marginal resources should keep alive a baby she doesn’t want?

    • albatross11 says:

      I don’t know about anyone else, but I think:

      a. There are a substantial number of Republicans (mostly rank-and-file [edited]but some leaders) who want to either ban abortion entirely or restrict it substantially.

      b. There are a substantial number of Republicans (mostly leaders but also some rank-and-file) who don’t really care all that much about abortion, but find it a handy issue for getting out the vote/getting campaign volunteers.

      I also think that there are many states where the current political landscape rewards passive very restrictive anti-abortion laws, and where, in a post-Roe-v-Wade-repeal world, the landscape will change dramatically as those laws start actually affecting people who currently are ignoring the issue.

      On the other hand, I also think that returning the issue to the states will lead to de facto legal abortion everywhere, just with an extra $200 for a bus ticket and a night in the Motel 6 if you’re in a very red state.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Just like marijuana is currently legal in Alabama?

        • albatross11 says:

          Just like divorces being legal in Nevada turned out to mean that anyone could get a divorce if they had the money to travel.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            So, do you predict that divorce rates stay the same after a state makes divorces legal, or do they increase?

            Saying “oh, it’s no big deal. You can get an abortion somewhere. Whatever, who cares” is callous and ignores marginal effects.

            Outside of medical necessity, the people who most need to end an unplanned pregnancy are those who will be most impacted by barriers like “$200 in travel plus 2 nights out of town”.

          • albatross11 says:

            Just what I said–I think that banning abortions in Alabama will make abortions somewhat more rare because they’re harder to get, but that in practice, it will be possible to get an abortion via taking a bus to the nearest blue state.

            This may be callous, but it’s still true. That doesn’t mean it’s no big deal–it’s a big deal in both directions. Fewer women getting abortions is exactly what the pro-life side is trying to get to; women who want abortions finding them too hard to get is exactly what the pro-choice side is worried about.

            I suspect that the fact that abortion will be available to people willing / able to travel will decrease the pressure to un-ban it in a lot of states–the sort of people who organize politically are also the sort of people who can manage a few hundred bucks to handle a medical emergency, even if that involves traveling to another state. I also expect that some pro-choice groups will come up with ways to fund that travel if it’s necessary.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Fewer women getting abortions is exactly what the pro-life side is trying to get to

            Technically, but not really true, but that’s a different conversation. They don’t actually support the most effective means of reducing abortions.

            As to how much of a burden $200 is and how travel abortions will be available if people “need” them, I think this is far too glib. Some people will have access, but the people who end up not having access will absolutely exist. Magically assuming that private charity will fill the need is poor reasoning. Some charity will exist, but it can hardly be assume to cover all need.

          • albatross11 says:

            Can we maybe not do the debate again where we argue over whether pro-life people *really* oppose abortion when they’re not willing to do the policies you think they should favor to decrease abortions, while leaving them legal? The next person not already on your side who is convinced by that argument will be the first.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @albatross11:
            I wasn’t saying that that pro-lifers aren’t opposed to abortion. That’s my main thesis, that pro-lifers really are adamantly opposed to abortion and people saying they aren’t are fooling themselves. They don’t want to reduce abortion they want to eliminate it.

            But discussing the difference is a whole different conversation (as I said before) and I agree it may not be germane. Although, to the extent that legislators and citizens are genuinely pro-life, it may have bearing on the conversation.

        • cassander says:

          Last I checked, no one in alabama had much trouble getting weed if they wanted it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Last I checked, people still risk getting thrown in jail over it, too.

            It’s not “oh, it’s legal in CO, I’ll just go there”.

          • cassander says:

            people risk (a very small risk, tbs) getting thrown in jail for possession. Not for driving over the border and smoking over there. And since you can’t possess an abortion….

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            If someone kidnaps someone in Alabama, and then murders them in Colorado, Alabama will prosecute the kidnapping (as murder.) That kind of charge will get brought.

            Regardless, weed ain’t legal in Alabama, and neither will abortion be.

          • albatross11 says:

            HeelBearCub:

            I think most people who smoke weed do it a lot more often than they get abortions, so the comparison doesn’t seem all that apt.

            [ETA] Are you predicting that Alabama will try to bring murder charges against women who go out of state for abortions? I assume that wouldn’t survive a court challenge, but I don’t really know that for sure.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub says:

            If someone kidnaps someone in Alabama, and then murders them in Colorado, Alabama will prosecute the kidnapping (as murder.) That kind of charge will get brought.

            That sort of charge will be brought and dismissed. heath V alabama was about someone who did something illegal in two seperate states, not someone who did something legal in one state (leaving it with their baby) and then something legal in the other state (aborting the baby). Alabama has no power to prevent people from leaving alabama, and no power to prosecute people who committed crimes entirely in other states.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            They were prosecuted in Alabam, and received the death penalty, for a murder (under Alabama law) that occurred in another state. There is no direct correlary to a situation where murder is legal in another state.

            I’d say it’s untested.

          • theredsheep says:

            Possibly relevant: drug-induced abortions are pretty straightforward, and most of the drugs used have other, non-abortion uses. For example, misoprostol is used to keep patients on NSAIDs from getting ulcers, while methotrexate is used to treat autoimmune diseases and cancer. Mifepristone has another use too, can’t recall what. It probably wouldn’t be all that hard to sneak medical abortions even in-state, let alone through the mail.

    • Walter says:

      I feel like Scott wrote a ‘there isn’t a secret level where pro lifers are about anything other than stopping abortion’ post back in the day, right? Anyone who didn’t see this coming is just not paying any attention.

    • J Mann says:

      Alabama passed a personhood amendment that defines fetuses as persons (and therefore would outlaw abortion completely)

      HBC, just a quick technical correction. Alabama Issue 2 isn’t a fetal personhood amendment and wouldn’t outlaw abortion. It authorizes the legislature to outlaw abortion, though, so I don’t think it changes your overall point much. (But technically correct is the best kind of correct).

      The text of the Amendment states:

      Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended; to declare and otherwise affirm that it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful; and to provide that the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.

      Nothing in that statute states that fetuses are considered persons under existing law, and all the local coverage I’ve seen analyzes it as clearing the way for the legislature to enact fetal personhood if Roe v. Wade is repealed, not as enacting fetal personhood directly.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful

        I guess it’s up the Alabama Supreme Court to ultimately decide what this means. But given that they are further specifically constrained from ruling that there is a right to abortion, it seems hard to see how they can say that abortion does not impinge on the fetuses right to life.

        If you have some other legal opinion to link, I’ll happily read it.