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Open Thread 114.75

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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1,045 Responses to Open Thread 114.75

  1. The Pachyderminator says:

    I just realized that Google removed the exact phrase search feature. Oh, enclosing a search string in quotation marks still theoretically has some effect, but it now returns all phrases that it thinks have the same meaning as the search string, and it’s predictably bad at discerning this. And obviously, this is much less useful for finding poems, song lyrics, stray lines remembered from books or web pages, etc.

    I’m furious and baffled that Google, after assembling one of the greatest teams of programmers in the world and building amazing things, and is now intent on ruining all their products for the sake of ad revenue, trendiness, or paternalism (“Users may think they want an exact phrase search, but we know what they really need”). I mean, I’ve always distrusted their decisions on their secondary products, but for God’s sake, how can Google be fucking up search like this?

    • Protagoras says:

      Definitely annoying. One of the biggest things I want an exact phrase search for is in order to detect plagiarism; enter a suspicious sentence from a student paper, and see if the paper is cut and pasted from the internet.

    • The Nybbler says:

      If you click on “Tools”, then on “All Results” in the top bar, there’s an option for “verbatim”, which turns a lot of that stuff off. Or use Bing.

      “Users may think they want an exact phrase search, but we know what they really need”

      The sad thing is they’re often right. It’s actually quite useful for finding poems, song lyrics, and stray lines _misremembered_ from books.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Thank you!

        I didn’t know that you could do that, only that recently searching has been a lot more capricious than normal.

      • arlie says:

        *sigh* I’m quite capable of knowing when I want an approximate result, than you so much google.

        I wonder if this is part of how (and why) Amazon has trashed their search function. One day I asked for a specific author, giving both first and last name, correctly spelled. 50% of the answers were (at best) people in the same genre, and 50% of those were explicitly labelled ‘sponsored’. While I suspect an A/B test was involved, and I got the side that worked worst, perhaps part of it was Papa Bezos trying to help the poor illiterate customer who couldn’t possibly remember an author’s name accurately. Except without so much thinking this true, as copying the standard “modern” way that everyone in tech (now) does search – newer so therefore better ;-( Maybe I shouldn’t be quite so convinced this was an example of rapacious monopolistic behaviour, and reason to avoid any and all businesses owned by Bezos. (Not a boycott. Just self protection – I don’t choose to be cheated, and lying about which results were sponsored said to me that the company – and presumably anything else owned by the founder – is routinely dishonest.)

        At any rate, vendor beware – if I can’t find what I want to buy, I usually don’t buy anything at all. I’m not going to suddenly buy some not-what-I-was-looking-for product that happened to send an ad my way, along with the broken search results.

    • Salem says:

      Ruining all their products for the sake of revenue? What do you think is the purpose of their products?

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        You’re right, of course, economically and rationally. It’s just hard to let go of the idea that products used by me and paid for by advertisers should be designed for my benefit.

        • arlie says:

          I wonder how long it will be until the same products are available, tailored to and paid for by the people using them. I fear the answer may be ‘never’, as I watch advertising invading previously pristine spaces.

          IMO, there’s a place in the seventh cicle of hell for people who sell their customers a product (for real $$$) and then also use that product as a means of advertising – either to that customer, or to others. (Yes, I realize that was the newspaper and magazine business model, and once governments forbade ads-masquerading-as-news-stories, and made that stick, they weren’t too bad. But other than increasing the physical weight of the media, and causing the story to have lots of “continued on page m” making it harder to follow, those ads din’t cost the consumer very much – and in some cases (classified ads) were even the reason for buying the paper. Computerized ads are much much worse. and as for paying extra because a garment has some company’s logo on it – anyone who does that deserves the way they are being cheated.)

    • Doctor Mist says:

      I had the same feeling six years ago when they started tailoring results depending on who was asking. I mean, I see the motivation, but I really liked the days when you could send somebody a google query and expect it to be as deterministic as a URL.

  2. Faza (TCM) says:

    For some reason, every time me and the wife sit down to listen to music together, my YouTube recommendations end up looking something like this:

    1. Obituary – Insane [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

    2. Boney M – Daddy Cool 1976 HQ

  3. Plumber says:

    It’s been decades since I took an anthropology class and my last history class (both as a teenager at a “community college”), and I have had nor formal “humanities” education after that, so I’m hoping for some knowledge from you guys.

    In a previous post I wrote:

    ‘….while the “craft” unions certainly modeled themselves after the guilds (apprentice and journeyman status), in reading the later book it’s clear to me that corporations are the descendants of the guilds, more than trade unions.

    As much as it rankles some (okay me) given the material incentives, the development of capitalism does seem inevitable, which is sort of the old Marxist line, except they maintained that socialism and then anarchistic communism would follow afterwards, but feudalism or capitalism sure look more likely to me as what different material conditions will bring us to by default, other ideals and ways of societal organization (Jeffersonian agrarian “yeoman” republics, social democracy, “actually existing socialism”, plantocracies) just don’t seem to last’

    and maybe it’s my ignorance, but other than some “gathering” societies (which often keep their numbers low via infanticide) which are sometimes portrayed as “egalitarian”, I can’t think of any actually existing post agriculture societies that aren’t oligarchies. 

    I’ve seen utopian schemes of “anarchists” and “libertarian socialists” (those who describe Leninist regimes as “state capitalism”) but none of them seem credible to me as achievable, and while “distributism”, “guild socialism”, and “syndicalism” have an emotional pull on me I find it hard to shake the suspicion that trying to change into any of those kinds of societies will make things worse and, except maybe for short lived voluntary communities that are usually inspired by religion (when they don’t become Jonestown),.the 20th century style “welfare state” is pretty much as good as it can get for many for long. 

    Has there been anything better for most people?

    Can there be anything better for most?

    What? 

    How? 

    I invite your thoughts. 

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      Seems to me that none of the developments seems inevitable. Feudalism could have maintained itself if it felt no pressures, and it mostly felt internal pressures in only a few areas (from what one might have called proto-capitalism) but if it weren’t for those developments then we might have proceeded as serfs and lords as technology progressed (although IMO feudalism would have progressed more slowly, which is why everyone started converting to capitalism, because it was essential to not get passed by).

      And socialism/communism dont need to follow. I do see the appeal because greed is a human quality. Capitalism’s strength is it acknowledges greed and seeks to harness it to build prosperity. Feudalism also recognizes greed and utilizes force to quell it. Socialism/anarchic marxism don’t deal with greed all that much. Socialism somewhat does because it harnesses greed for political power (very similar to feudalism), but anarchic communism simply assumes away greed. It cannot work otherwise.

      I do think you’ve hit on an important part of why social welfare appears to work, at least in the short term. It balances the greed of the productive in making society more prosperous with the greed of the unproductive to maintain political power.

    • skef says:

      My take on this subject, which if nothing else has been fairly stable over the past 10-15 years:

      Almost all discussion of economic organization, at least in the U.S., is in terms of two extreme positions where one is treated as a pure ideal and the other as a contaminant. Actual economies have collective and individualistic aspects. “Capitalists” differ in how much of the evil of collective aspects in the economy they accept as necessary, but generally favor much less of it than we currently have. Socialists differ in the amount of value they see in market forces, but generally favor much less of that sort of thing than we currently have.

      Attempts to arrive at a principled position in neither camp haven’t gone very well. Many Democrats, especially those in the “New Democrat” lineage, are now basically pure technocrats. Their only goal is “good management”. As a result they are almost purely reactive. All they can do is point to specific problems and offer fixes; there is no real “direction”. (Admittedly many of these people are, internally, embarrassed socialists, who still have the ideal in mind while also considering it totally unworkable in practice.) There is a different set of groups that sometimes calls themselves “third way”. The first step in third-waying is to decry the extremity of both U.S. political parties. The second is to decry the budget deficit. The third is to propose entitlement cuts. If there is a fourth step, it’s not yet evident.

      Suppose that like technocrats and third-wayers you don’t see a particular problem with an economic system that mixes individualist and collective aspects, seeing both as serving valuable functions. The challenge, then, is arriving at some other guiding goal or principle that is not just reactive. When do you shift things to be more collective and when do you shift things to be more individualistic? How do you move past mere reaction?

      I have decided that the “macro” realm is the wrong place to look for such a principle. And I think that there is already a relevant “micro” principle that has been guiding a lot of social organization anyway, which can serve as an overt political principle. The micro principle is that it is socially valuable to reduce unnecessary suffering when practical. This probably sounds merely technocratic, but I don’t think it is.

      When I think of social problems now, my first and main method of evaluation is to think of myself in the same room as someone with the problem, and consider whether I would feel the need to arrange help if I could, possibly interfering (or at least being heavy-handed) in the process. I could be entirely naive, but I actually do think that there is a lot of similarity (although not to the extent of consensus, certainly) in attitudes toward such situations, at least within if not across cultures. We spend much more energy arguing about what is happening or may happen than arguing about who is and is not suffering.

      One conclusion that I’ve come to about all this is that I’m actually happy about how poor most people are about preparing for potential medical problems, retirement, and other issues can be filed broadly under “insurance”. I’m happy because that lowers the extent to which intervening in those areas distorts the market aspects of the economy. If people were generally much better about such things, you would have to step a lot more carefully. But most people are just terrible at it, leaving “the market” a crappy tool for dealing with all that. You really don’t lose much.

      Just as important, things one wouldn’t feel the pressure to help out with are probably better left alone. That would include a lot of stuff currently regulated that we don’t really need to. I’m OK with requiring food service, hair and nail workers, and so forth to attend brief, focused safety classes. Such classes, and whatever certification is involved, should be available to anyone who passes the class. But beyond that, individual decisions and independent rating systems seem fine.

      At this point, further discussion of capitalism and socialism mostly makes me want to tear my hair out. Most of our problematic micro-patterns are familiar and long-standing: greed, laziness, envy, hatred, tribalism, various cognitive deficits and irrationalities. We’ve added some new problems that are more challenging to differentiate and describe. The idea that either just socialism or just capitalism will ideally address the macro-patterns that result from the massive interplay of those micro-patterns seems silly to me. Things are messy.

      Yes, of course there is a level beyond which it is counterproductive to tax people. No, the U.S. is not already past that point when it comes to the wealthy, or probably even very near it. Those wealthy will argue that only a flat tax is fair until the day after it passes, and will then argue for a head tax. (Think about this last one.) It is very easy to over-regulate and waste government money. It’s hard to know the percentage, but some homeless people can probably be helped only slightly, because they can’t be convinced to act in ways that lead to better outcomes (in our eyes), and coercing them is at least dubious, expensive, and the outcomes aren’t much better anyway. There are real poverty traps, and it might be worth socially engineering the situation around low-income people, even in a very heavy-handed way, to smooth out the effort/resource ratio, so that contributing a bit more almost always gets you a bit more of what you want.

      We often already try to do what we can and should and not do what we can’t or needn’t. Why can’t we discuss our social organization directly in those terms, at least for a while?

      This is rambly but you probably get the gist.

      • albatross11 says:

        Think of the seven deadly sins: Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.

        My sort-of cynical guess is that societies do best when they can harness one or more of those toward pro-social ends. Capitalism does a really nice job of harnessing greed (which can be really destructive in all kinds of ways) toward pro-social ends. I want all the marbles, so I build a whole industry or invent the industrial research lab. The baker wants to get paid, so somehow this results in me being able to get bread.

        Any society where people care a lot about their reputation, and where your reputation is positively correlated with pro-social behavior, harnesses pride. My tendency toward pride makes me want to do pro-social things so I can have higher standing. I build monuments to myself in the form of libraries and museums and schools which people benefit from for centuries to come. (But they remember the name Carnegie.)

        Societies that channel young people into marriages harness lust toward pro-social ends–forming stable pair bonds and raising kids.

        And so on.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      By way of an answer, let me describe for you the worst outcome I can imagine.

      As the capitalist class accrues ever more wealth to itself, the world’s total wealth also rises. Eventually, there are enough resources for everyone to be as comfortable as they want; the human appetite for luxury being finite, let’s say that this involves having a medium-sized house with a robot butler and maid; it’s not impressive, but it’s nearly impossible to be uncomfortable in, and if that’s not your speed, there’s economically-equivalent housing available in the forest, or in cities. Anything beyond this level is, at the layer of abstraction on which we’re operating, a status game.

      What’s left?

      I see the answer in the specter of feudalism, in the prima noctis. I see it in outgroup politics and bullying. I see it in art, and the concept of ownership and belonging being applied to beauty and truth. I see power over other people – dominance and destruction and loyalty and love. And I see, hanging horrifying on the horizon, the prospect of a world whose economic engine is tuned to the delivery of these things to the people who hold economic power today. When the human appetite for material comforts is exhausted – and it surely can be, no matter what artificial scarcities we can invent to play with – the human appetite for power will remain. And it is easy for me to imagine a world in which the majority are needlessly starved by a system designed to deliver unto the oligarchs unconditional love.

      I am horrified by it. But I see it creeping closer, brought in by the tide of the service economy. A large portion of this country is employed in the business, not of making things to improve people’s lives, but in doing things to improve people’s lives. Why do we, as a society, pay wal-mart greeters? For the same reason we pay prostitutes, and why we pay them extra to kiss.

      How is this an answer?

      I do not know if this outcome can be avoided. But I do know that there are quite a lot of people who would rather die than see this state of affairs come to pass. I think I am one of them, and I think that the proportion of people who feel this way has been growing since the Enlightenment. I cannot actually determine whether the proportion of people who feel as I do has increased, but I see a trend of the symptoms of the paradigm growing much more slowly than the power to implement it, and the institution of norms that protect against it. How will we stop it, in the end? I don’t know. But I think that we will. And I think that, eventually, the choice will become unavoidable. And if we don’t thread the needle – well, there’s Oryx and Crake and Starfish to tell us what that world might look like. Eventually, such a system will crack, and hopefully we’ll leave something behind that can understand the fundamental importance of power. And if we don’t, I don’t think we’ll have deserved to.

      • I see the answer in the specter of feudalism, in the prima noctis.

        It sounds from this as though you assume that the jus primae noctis actually existed in European feudalism. It’s not at all clear that it did–for details, see the Wiki article.

        When the human appetite for material comforts is exhausted

        Would starting with the consumption level at which most people lived through most of history and then multiplying it thirty-fold accomplish that? That describes the current U.S. average level.

        I have faith that just as modern Americans, despite possessing enormous material wealth by historical standards, manage to find lots more things they would like to have, so will their descendants after another order of magnitude or two increase.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          How long do you think it will continue? More to the point, how long do you think that human labor will be a major part of the process of furnishing non-bespoke goods?

          My concern is that, as the cost of robot labor falls below the cost of keeping a person alive, people will take on service roles more and more; we already see this happening with outsourcing and highly-automated factories. As computer programs get better and more accessible, the need for human support labor – accountants, tech support, salespeople, uber drivers, and the like – also falls, and this seems to be where a lot of people have gone since manufacturing in the US began to fade.

          What’s left, it seems to me, are the areas where the purpose of the human is to provide people with the feeling of power. Waiters, butlers, chauffeurs (distinguished from uber drivers by the fact that they drive their employer’s car and usually only work for them), caretakers, personal trainers, dominatricies. People who are paid to give others attention and service. What I’m scared of isn’t a world where people don’t want anything and capriciously enslave others; what I’m scared of is a world in which the only desire that most people have the ability to fulfil for others is the desire for companionship, love, and servitude.

          • albatross11 says:

            You don’t seem to need to have such wealth that you can’t find anything else to spend it on before you turn to the desire for power over others or cruelty. You can find that in a street gang in the worst favela in Rio.

            OTOH, the wealthiest societies in the world now seem to have less of powerful people terrorizing the peasants than the poor societies. Mugabe and Mao and Idi Amin were not rulers of wealthy societies, but they certainly got plenty of opportunity for imposing their will on others and treating their enemies with cruelty and terror.

  4. I recently had a conversation with a prominent biochemist concerned about nutrition. One set of related points he made struck me as relevant to some questions that get discussed here as well as to our nutritional practices. They were:

    1. A majority of Americans suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include impulsiveness and depression.
    2. American blacks have dark skin because they, like a number of other dark skinned populations, are adapted to an environment with a lot of sunlight. One result is that, in environments that don’t have a lot of sunlight, they are vitamin D deficient unless supplemented.
    3. The standard form of supplementation is vitamin D fortified milk. This uses an inadequate concentration of vitamin D. Further, a lot of people with sub-saharan ancestry are lactose intolerant, because their ancestors evolved in societies that didn’t drink milk as adults.

    All of which suggests that some apparently innate black/white differences may actually be the result of blacks being vitamin D deficient and could be eliminated at a very low cost. Amazon has 5000 IU vitamin D pills available at three cents each. He thought 5000 was the appropriate supplementation level for people who either have dark skins or don’t get much exposure to sunlight.

    • Plumber says:

      @DavidFriedman

      . “…A majority of Americans suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include impulsiveness and depression….
      ……5000 was the appropriate supplementation level for people who either have dark skins or don’t get much exposure to sunlight”

      I read enough.

      I’m getting me some supplements.

    • PeterDonis says:

      I believe there is also research showing that the body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D decreases with age, so the older you are, the more you might want to get it checked. I started taking vitamin D supplements when I was about 50.

    • arlie says:

      Please be careful. IIRC, Vitamin D is fat soluble, which puts it in the category where it is possible to take too much. (Too much) more may not be better.

      That said, I supplement it myself, based on my doctor’s recommendation. I think some recent research has partially invalidated her specific reasons, but I’m still taking it.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Right, don’t take 100,000 IU every day.

      • PeterDonis says:

        5000 IU/day appears to be a reasonably safe dose, although going much above that might be risky, depending on which source you look at.

        Also, if you get blood work done at regular physicals and have them check your blood vitamin D level (which I do), it’s easy to adjust the dose based on what the blood work says. I aim for somewhere in the upper part of the normal range; 5000 IU/day seems to be putting me there.

    • fion says:

      I take vitamin D after having been chronically fatigued for two consecutive autumn-winter-spring periods and diagnosed with a deficiency. On doctors’ instructions I started taking 90μg (3600IU) for six weeks and then dropped down to 25μg (1000IU) for ever. During the winter months I take two of my 25μg tablets a day, but this is on my whim rather than my doctor’s instructions. I live in the UK and I am white.

      Based on my research into this, 125μg (5000IU) is a lot. I’ve heard advice from experts that white people in temperate zones shouldn’t need to take more than 10 or 25 micrograms (400 or 1000 international units) per day in the winter.

      Anybody reading this who decides to get supplements, I’d be very interested if you’d post about your experience with them in an open thread (even if you experience no change). For me it felt like a miracle cure. For months I’d been unable to take stairs two at a time, and had to pause for breath at the top, as well as just generally feeling terrible all the time. Within two weeks of taking supplements I was going out for runs again and feeling great.

      • PeterDonis says:

        Research also seems to show that your body’s ability to manufacture vitamin D decreases as you age. I didn’t need any supplementation until I was 50; that was when my blood work at a physical showed levels below normal and I started supplementing.

  5. skef says:

    Salvation soon came in the form of a garbage truck.

    You could have written “Salvation soon came in the form of sanitation”, and instead you did this.

  6. johan_larson says:

    If you’re into movies about war, you might enjoy the film “Hyena Road”, available now on Netflix. It’s about a Canadian sniper unit in Afghanistan trying to play a dangerous game with two warlords. It’s well acted, with high production values, and darker than I had expected. Recommended.

  7. baconbits9 says:

    I cleaned out our junk drawer today and I though it was a great example of Chesterton’s Fence, anything that I couldn’t remember what it was for I kept.

  8. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    So because I’m about twenty years behind on my science fiction television, I have a question about Babylon 5:

    I recently started watching the show but had already heard most of the big reveals just from geek cultural osmosis. I’m almost done with the first season now but something keeps coming up which has really confuses the hell out of me.

    The Minbari, a technologically advanced species of bald space elves, launch a genocidal war on humanity after a botched first contact. They push all the way to Earth and are ready to wipe out the human race, but their leadership discovers something which they (mis)interpret as proving spiritual kinship between humans and Minbari. They “surrender” at the eleventh hour, ending the war. But ever since then they continue to groan and moan about the one battle humanity won and their warrior caste is constantly trying to provoke a second war. Their idea of diplomacy is to appoint the woman who issued the order to exterminate the entire human race as their ambassador.

    Given this, it seems perfectly understandable for humans to hate and fear the Minbari and pragmatic for the Earth Alliance to prepare for the possibility of a second Earth-Minbari war. Yet the show stakes out the clear position that being wary of and arming yourself against people who have attempted genocide against you a decade ago and are currently spoiling for a fight is bigotry and warmongering.

    It’s not like the show is incapable of subtlety on this topic. The Narns have a similar grievance against the Centauri, and while they’re portrayed as misguided to seek vengeance it’s still a very sympathetic portrayal. Which makes it that much more baffling when that subtlety is thrown out the window when it comes to pro-human / anti-Minbari sentiment.

    So what gives? Is there something that I’m overlooking here or does the show just paper over Minbari dickishness because they’re Space Elves?

    (Please don’t use rot13. This show is two decades old now, there are no more spoilers.)

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      In the interstellar arms race, Earth is North Korea. EarthGov does not understand this. Sinclair (and Sheridan, later) do. If anything shatters the fragile peace between Earth and Minbar, every human will die screaming. For this reason, peace is essential.

      The alternative required to develop weapons that will be useful against the Minbari is, as you’ll see, potentially worse.

      E: and, of course, there is no “space China” to shield the humanity.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Edit: I misunderstood your point.

        I guess if the only alternative to the Minbari sword of Damocles is a Faustian bargain with the Shadows then that’s a more difficult position. I’ll reserve my judgement until the Shadows actually start doing things rather than just being spooky in the background.

        That said, Sinclair and company have no way of knowing that at this point in the show’s timeline. It still seems a bit suicidal on their part to object to the idea of developing better weapons. It’s not like you can’t have good diplomatic relations and arm yourself at the same time.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          What John Schilling said, basically. Also it’s useful to remember that the only people who truly comprehend how hopelessly outmatched Earth was in the war are soldiers like Sinclair. The official EarthGov stance of, “we fended them off at enormous cost” is a shabby lie that most believe for the sake of their pride, and the Babylon 5 crew’s vehement pacifism should also be understood as a reaction to that.

          Also, there’s a description later of the only maneuver that successfully destroyed a Minbari capital ship in the war; it involved hiding nukes in the asteroid belt and baiting them in. Earth’s greatest weapons are about as good, in comparison to the Minbari’s capabilities, as IEDs are against the American military today. The science required to fight the Minbari is, at the start of the series, centuries away for Humanity, and none of the younger races comes close to having their technology.

          • John Schilling says:

            Also, Sinclair knows Delenn, and I think he knows that the Earth Alliance fired the first shot in that war and what that shot did to the Minbari. The status quo isn’t the worst of all possible worlds, and the future looks better still, provided people don’t do anything stupid. So he’ll call out stupid when he sees it.

      • John Schilling says:

        Developing better weapons very nearly got North Korea on the losing side of a nuclear war last year. And then worked out pretty well for them, but in both cases because of the personal idiosyncrasies of a foreign leader about as mercurial as Satai Delenn. I don’t recall anything in the first season that suggests Sinclair would oppose private, inconspicuous military R&D programs for the Earth Alliance; it’s the public militarism and the extremely dubious alien entanglements he’s opposed to.

        • Simulated Knave says:

          Exactly this.

        • Vorkon says:

          Thank you, I think this may just be the first time anyone has ever compared Delenn to Donald Trump.

          (Speaking of which, it occurs to me that if later-in-the-series Delenn were trying to pass herself off as human, the first thing she would need to do is give herself a massive, ridiculous looking combover… >_> )

      • cassander says:

        Earthgov isn’t quite North Korea, it manages to be quite an influential player on the galactic stage. I’d say it was more like 1930s Japan. they grew a lot in a hurry in a hurry thanks largely to weak competition, and that’s left them thinking they’re a lot bigger than they actually are.

      • albatross11 says:

        Yeah, there’s a point later where some news person/propagandist is interviewing Sheridan (a famous war hero who ends up as regular cast) and says something about how Earth’s military is strong enough to defend Earth, and Sheridan corrects him and basically says “No, if we get into a war with any of these major powers (Minbari, Centauri, Vorlon, etc.), we’re screwed.”

        Though I think it might not be possible for Earth’s military to actually get into a war with the Vorlons. (You send ships into Vorlon territory. They’re never heard from again, and the Vorlons won’t discuss the matter with you.)

    • Deiseach says:

      Oh gosh it’s been years and the ol’ memory is fuzzy, but if I’m recollecting rightly, if the Minbari are pissed-off about the primitives on Earth kicking their asses (and the Warrior caste hasn’t been told by the Religious caste exactly why the war ended, just ‘stop right now’ and they’re all ‘but we can totally wipe them out, they’re beaten’ so the Warriors have been holding a grudge all this time), so are Earth-Gov. They’re not just being pragmatic about prepping for “what if the Minbari turn nasty again”, they’re spoiling for a fight thanks to hurt pride (and “fuck them, they nearly destroyed Earth, we’re not gonna give them a second chance to do that again”).

      Babylon 5 is a joke, they assign Sinclair there because his career is stalled at a dead-end and they’re suspicious about him anyway; the whole ideal of “let us have this space station as a symbol of peace and interstellar co-operation” is taken seriously by nobody and later, when Sheridan is appointed, it’s meant precisely to be a fist in the eye to the Minbari to appoint “Starkiller Sheridan” as the new Commander.

      Sinclair and the others, because they’ve been the grunts on the front line who know how nearly Earth came to being destroyed, are in tension with Earth-Gov because they know if the civilian leaders back home do manage to start another war out of misguided hurt pride, Earth can’t take it and will be pounded into oblivion. That’s why they’re so vehemently against anything that looks like “Dum-de-doo, nothing to see here, just us tooling up with better weapons and making alliances, my gosh no it’s not like we’re prepping for the second round in the war or anything” because they know if the Minbari think that’s what Earth is doing, they are just as likely to rain down hell before Earth can get started in the same way the last war started over a botched first contact.

    • cassander says:

      So there are two related problems here, I think.

      First, you have earth politics, which are just hollow. The Clark regime is a purposeless, empty “fascism” with no discernable goals, ideology, plan other than anti-alien sentiment. Their actions feel like they were decided by MJS reaching into a bag full of totalitarian tropes, pulling one out, writing an episode about it, then moving on to the next. It would have benefitted the show a lot of they’d settled on some sort of goal for the clark regime besides looking evil.

      Second, minbari politics makes zero sense. For 1000 years, the minbari warrior caste builds an entire culture around preparing for the day that the shadows return, and when they finally do, they don’t want to fight. Why? We never get a wastonian reason, and the doylist one is obvious, because there’s no conflict with delen if they do what makes sense, and fight the war they’ve spent their entire existence preparing for. What we should have seen is a warrior caste that’s eager to fight, so eager that it tries to sideline the other castes and take over minbari government in order to better prosecute the war. That would actually be consistent with how they behaved in the earth-minbari war

      These two problems combine to make earth’s position vis a vis the galaxy rather ill defined. Ultimately, I think, the big problem is that outside the magnificence that is Londo & G’kar’s arc, MJS’s portrayal of politics is pretty shallow, with lots of clear cut heros and villains rather than individuals with clashing ideals. The main characters escape this trap, but not the side characters that serve as their foils and adversaries.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Ultimately, I think, the big problem is that outside the magnificence that is Londo & G’kar’s arc, MJS’s portrayal of politics is pretty shallow, with lots of clear cut heros and villains rather than individuals with clashing ideals. The main characters escape this trap, but not the side characters that serve as their foils and adversaries.

        It definitely seems that way whenever the command staff has a disagreement with other humans, whether that’s Psi Corps, Home Guard, the rest of EarthForce outside of Babylon 5, or their superiors in EarthGov. They all come off as ridiculous straw men.

        But the aliens get to have more nuance. I just watched the episode with the Christian Scientist aliens and they had a surprising amount of depth despite that they literally killed their own kid over a made-up alien religion. The episode with the Dilgar war criminal also had more nuance than I expect from a Mengele allegory, although it was obnoxious that Deathwalker herself was such a one-dimensional character.

        It feels like JMS is just more comfortable having human villains. If the bad guys are aliens we usually get to see why they’re doing what they’re doing. When the bad guys are humans it’s like “yeah, sometimes people are just dicks for no reason.”

    • Simulated Knave says:

      The humans are wrong because the Minbari are not the Centauri. The Minbari surrendered and helped Earth rebuild. The Centauri launched a genocidal occupation. The humans are wrong because the Narn are (ultimately) wrong, and the humans don’t even have the excuse the Narn do. The Minbari warrior caste are wrong because the Centauri are ultimately wrong.

      The show tells you that xenophobia is wrong. Which it is. One must hate people because they are hateful, not simply because they are different. Trying to antagonize people who can easily kill you just because they’re different is dumb and self-destructive. The Centauri and Narn are exactly where xenophobia gets you, and EarthGov is wrong because it has that example right in front of it and still can’t be bothered to learn that hating aliens is bad.

      Also, remember that EarthGov xenophobia extends beyond just the Minbari.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I’m not sure that the Minbari have any claim to moral superiority over the Centauri.

        The Centauri conquered and oppressed the Narn the first time because they wanted to exploit their resources, and then conquered and oppressed them a second time after being egged on for years by the Narn Regime’s various acts of war. Those aren’t good acts or good motives, but even under the influence of the Shadows the goal was never annihilation. If they had wanted to wipe out the Narn it would have been as simple as continuing their mass driver bombardment; for them mass murder was the means to an end, not the end itself.

        In contrast the Minbari went into the Earth-Minbari war with mass murder as the end. Their plan, right up until they saw that Sinclair had Valen’s soul, had been genocide of the human race. They didn’t care about Earth’s resources, and they attacked the Earth Alliance at literally the first provocation. That seems more malicious if for no other reason than that they literally gain nothing from their actions besides maybe the satisfaction of killing.

        I’m also not sure how the Minbari helped Earth rebuild. They helped fund the construction of the Babylon stations but I hadn’t seen anything to indicate reparations to Earth.

        Also, remember that EarthGov xenophobia extends beyond just the Minbari.

        Yeah, this part never made any sense to me.

        Humanity is still considered heroes by the League of Non-Aligned Worlds for defeating the Dilgar Invasion. That’s a sizable chunk of the alien species we see which view humanity as saviors.

        Add in the Narn who sold Earth Alliance weapons during the war and it seems like pro-Earth groups like Home Guard should see the majority of the aliens in the show as natural allies. Their hatred and distrust of the Minbari and Vorlons makes sense but attacking random Centauri teenagers seems totally out of left field.

        You could say “that’s how xenophobia works, it’s irrational” but honestly that’s not how it works in real life. For example, I’m personally not a big fan of Islam or Muslim people generally due recent events in America and Germany. But that doesn’t mean that I have a grudge against Chinese people and Swedes. That sort of thinking only exists in caricatures.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Not to Godwin too hard, but… Yeah.

          Remember that none of the species that “liked” humanity lifted a finger to help them during the war (except the Narn). Humanity at this point thinks that they’re sort of fundamentally on their own, nobody understands them, and they can’t rely on anyone but themselves. That’s where the underlying anger and resentment come from. And it’s just sort of indiscriminately directed outwards, amplified by the fact that they can’t take it out on the Minbari, or they’ll die.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            That’s a plausible explanation. I wish that we got it in the show.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            In The Beginning talks about this a bit, but yeah, the setup is… incomplete, I guess. JMS set up the plot threads in season 1 to support a mystery story about Sinclair being spared, rather than to really flesh out the worldbuilding. I promise, things make more sense as time goes on (or at least, the things that don’t make sense now do).

        • Simulated Knave says:

          The Minbari apparently avoided civilian targets (per the B5 Wiki). Though the term “genocidal” got thrown around a lot, it doesn’t look like they actually targeted anything non-military. And I swear I have this memory of Sinclair talking about the Minbari surrender and mentioning they helped Earth rebuild. It’s also notable that the NON-warrior caste Minbari are perfectly happy the war is over.

          As to the Centauri versus the Minbari morally…no. The Minbari got hurt and overreacted massively, ultimately stopping. The Centauri, meanwhile, exploited the Narn for years, stopping only when forced to do so and resuming as soon as they could.

          The Centauri were bullies. The Minbari were angry. The first is worse than the second.

        • John Schilling says:

          You could say “that’s how xenophobia works, it’s irrational” but honestly that’s not how it works in real life. For example, I’m personally not a big fan of Islam or Muslim people generally due recent events in America and Germany. But that doesn’t mean that I have a grudge against Chinese people and Swedes. That sort of thinking only exists in caricatures.

          That’s because you are not a xenophobe. If your attempt to understand xenophobia amounts to “for example, [my beliefs]”, then you will fail to understand xenophobia because you are not a xenophobe.

          To a xenophobe, there are Bad Outsiders and there are Weakling Outsiders and there are Inscrutable Outsiders What Haven’t Proven Themselves Bad Yet, but there are no Good and Capable Outsiders. It takes overtly Good and Capable outsiders, and not ones who are dispensing unearned charity for Inscrutable motives, to disprove xenophobia.

          Where does the average EA citizen see any of those? Narn arms traders during the war would count, but I think their role was minimized in the propaganda. The Centauri would have counted in the first contact era, but their imperialistic deception I think scotched that. The setting is fairly well designed to make xenophobia a plausible response, with almost all aliens falling into the Bad, Weakling, or Inscrutable categories as superficially viewed from Earth.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            To a xenophobe, there are Bad Outsiders and there are Weakling Outsiders and there are Inscrutable Outsiders What Haven’t Proven Themselves Bad Yet, but there are no Good and Capable Outsiders.

            I disagree with that: as Scott pointed out in (I think) “I can tolerate anything but the outgroup”, the Nazis seem to have liked the Japanese and Chinese a fair bit, and if your definition of “xenophobe” would exclude the literal Nazis, I think you’re defining the term too restrictively.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            That’s because you are not a xenophobe.

            Maybe not. I’ve been called it enough that I’m at the point of Eminem’s “if I wasn’t, then why would you say that I am?”

            To a xenophobe, there are Bad Outsiders and there are Weakling Outsiders and there are Inscrutable Outsiders What Haven’t Proven Themselves Bad Yet, but there are no Good and Capable Outsiders.

            To be honest that sounds less like the thought process of any real person and more like a caricature.

            Again, maybe I’ve managed to miss all of the real xenophobes but pretty much everyone I’ve ever seen accused of xenophobia was willing to admit that there were other good and capable peoples. Usually not as good or as capable but definitely outside of your trichotomy.

          • Machine Interface says:

            The original Mr. X > The Nazis saw the Japanese as circumstial allies against the British, but also as ultimately future enemies that would have to be destroyed at some point (same deal as with the Soviets, really, just on a longer timescale). According to the anecdote, Nazi officials who visited Japanese held prisonner camps in Manchuria were appaled by what they saw and went home with the certitude that they were far morally superior to these yellow barbarians.

          • Deiseach says:

            The Centauri would have counted in the first contact era, but their imperialistic deception I think scotched that.

            The Centauri are fairly honest about the main reason they backed Earth was because they saw Humans as allies against the Minbari, aren’t they? As I said, going on fuzzy memories here. However much the ordinary citizen in the street knows, I imagine the diplomats and government are aware the Centauri are our friends exactly as long as they see any advantage for themselves in it and will throw us over the minute a better bet comes along, so that certainly would contribute to xenophobia about aliens and alien motives and how Earth can only trust itself and needs to build up enough strength to be able to go it alone.

        • Deiseach says:

          I was always miffed about how the League of Non-Aligned Worlds were treated; when we had Sheridan and Delenn in cahoots and were in full La Résistance mode, they got pushed around by the ostensible “good guys” into “Agree with what we’ve already decided to do and are going to do anyway or else we’ll economically and maybe even physically attack you – see those Minbari warships we’ve got on call?”

          I honestly wouldn’t have blamed the League if they went “if these are the Good Guys who are supposed to be sticking up for us little guys, we’re throwing in with the Shadows”.

          As for Earth-Gov, wasn’t there Shadow influence at work there? Yeah, the seeds were falling on willing ground, but the Shadows’ whole rationale was “competition breeds progress and the ultimate competition is war”, so encouraging and inflating paranoia and xenophobia and an appetite for war in the leaders was the thing you’d expect them to do.

          My impression was that Earth was pretty messed-up, even before the war, and that all the problems with places like Mars Colony had only been papered-over by the war effort. Post-war these problems were still there and didn’t help contribute to any sense of stability.

  9. fr8train_ssc says:

    Continuing a discussion here from The Economic Perspective On Moral Standards because it was starting to become a Sphinx argument on Scott’s usage of the phrase “There is no ethical consumption under late capitalism” and also starting to devolve in “Culture-War” adjacent discussion of Socialism etc. and not addressing Scott’s original topic. Hence the reason for moving it here.

    Summary up to this point: Marxbro objects to Scott’s usage of the phrase “There is no ethical consumption under late capitalism” as “missing the point”. Later in the thread I finally get some clarification from Marxbro that the main missing points of the critique are Scott’s omission of Marx’s “Law of Value” or the concept that Capitalism can only function based on surplus extracted from labor. This surplus belongs to labor and thus the system is inherently exploitative of labor. Marxbro also suggests Point #5 from my post is also associated with the phrase, implying Scott’s original post is essentially meaningless.

    As far as I can tell, most working-class people understand the quote perfectly well. It is middle class “educated” types who use the phrase “motte-and-baily” who have difficulty understanding the logic of it.

    So, if you’re reading this Marxbro, here’s the open question or dialectic I wish to continue: If one believes that “ethics” or the considerations Scott put forward in “The Economic Perspective On Moral Standards” is Bourgeoisie moralizing, then what non-Bourgeoisie justification or epistemology supports the notion that “extraction of surplus labor vis-a-vis Capitalism is exploitation of the working class?” Here’s a more detailed explanation of why this leads to a Motte-and-Bailey:

    At best, this point becomes superfluous: Read Stirner and “The Ego and its Own.” If a group of people becomes aware that they are being exploited, and recognize themselves as caught in a system where they aren’t thriving or achieving self-actualization, then that is sufficient justification for themselves to organize, so long as they acknowledge themselves as 1)individuals that share an interest in coordinating together as part of their circumstances and to better themselves, and 2)dissolve their association once they’ve either achieved their goals or other are failing to satisfy them. No reference to theories about value or exploitation or Socialism are necessary! If this was true, then you wouldn’t even need the phrase “There is no ethical consumption under late Capitalism!” You could just say, “There is no such thing as ethical consumption!”

    At worst, there is no actual notion to defend the idea that all surplus value belongs to the labor that created it, in which case there is equal moral (or lack thereof) justification for the Capitalist class to organize and liquidate any movement that attempts to appropriate their property. Helicopter rides and all.

    On the other hand, if Stirner is wrong, then that means that there is some fundamental kernel of ethics or values that justifies #1. But if that’s the case, then Scott is right to at least explore the space of what constitutes “Good” using that phrase. That’s because what constitutes “Goodness” is still valid by the fundamental kernel, even thought the system as a whole has not been optimized. Even if a classless stateless utopia has not happened yet, there is still room for individuals to make tiny marginal improvements in their own life as they navigate trying to make the revolution happen.

    • marxbro says:

      No reference to theories about value or exploitation or Socialism are necessary!

      Well, yes, it is necessary. Theories of surplus value and exploitation are necessary because they accurately describe reality. A slogan like “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism” is necessarily a simplistic summation, which is why I see it get used by social democrat types, anarchists and so on. Look at all the Marxist, Marxist-Leninist, Marxist-Leninist-Maoist, etc parties which have large followings and have actually taken over governments. By comparison followers of Stirner seem to be fairly historically impotent.

      At worst, there is no actual notion to defend the idea that all surplus value belongs to the labor that created it, in which case there is equal moral (or lack thereof) justification for the Capitalist class to organize and liquidate any movement that attempts to appropriate their property. Helicopter rides and all.

      Yes, that’s called class struggle. Marxists don’t expect capitalists to have the same ethics as the working class.

      • PeterDonis says:

        Theories of surplus value and exploitation are necessary because they accurately describe reality.

        Really? How so? It seems to me that this claim relies on the claim that any surplus value must have been produced by labor. But, first, labor does not produce all of the value that goes into a product; and second, there is no reason why the value of a product–what it can be sold for–must be equal to the sum of the values put into it–the costs of the labor and capital that were used. In fact, the “surplus value” you speak of–the profit–just is the additional value of the product, over and above the values of the labor and capital that were used to produce it.

        In short, socialism, at least as you appear to be describing it, completely ignores wealth creation, and assumes that the sum total of wealth–value–in the world is constant, and the only thing that matters is how it is divided. That belief does not even come within light-years of “accurately describing reality”.

        • marxbro says:

          But, first, labor does not produce all of the value that goes into a product

          If you’re talking about the difference between variable capital and constant capital then Marxists already have this covered.

          and second, there is no reason why the value of a product–what it can be sold for–must be equal to the sum of the values put into it–the costs of the labor and capital that were used.

          On an individual basis this is correct, but system-wide commodities exchange at their value. Otherwise they would be overpriced and it would be easy for a competitor to sweep in and sell their commodities for cheaper, thereby dominating the market and putting everyone else out of business. Or if they were consistently underpriced then there’s overproduction occurring in that industry, this could lead to certain companies going out of business and production eventually going back down to a sustainable level. That’s how the free market works.

          In fact, the “surplus value” you speak of–the profit–just is the additional value of the product, over and above the values of the labor and capital that were used to produce it.

          You’re close, but this doesn’t explain anything, it doesn’t explain the source of this extra value. Surplus value is the difference between the value of labor power and the value of the commodities produced by said labor.

          In short, socialism, at least as you appear to be describing it, completely ignores wealth creation, and assumes that the sum total of wealth–value–in the world is constant, and the only thing that matters is how it is divided.

          No, that’s not what socialists assume. In fact, the opposite is true, given Marx’s famous M-C-M’ formulation. Your interpretation of what I’ve been saying makes me suspect that you’re not familiar with the basics of Marxism.

          • PeterDonis says:

            That’s how the free market works.

            You’re conflating “value” with “aggregate dollars exchanged” (or whatever unit of exchange you want to use). Yes, at the level of an entire closed economy, everything that is bought must be sold, and the price the buyer pays is the same as the price the seller receives, so there must be a balance equation that is satisfied. But this does not mean there is no wealth being created.

            it doesn’t explain the source of this extra value

            The source of the extra value is that both parties are better off after a free market trade than they were before. Otherwise, in a free market, the trade would not occur.

            that’s not what socialists assume. In fact, the opposite is true, given Marx’s famous M-C-M’ formulation.

            I assume you mean what is discussed here?

            https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch04.htm

            If so, I don’t see how it relates to what I was saying. An investment banker, for example, for whom the “C” in M-C-M’ is shares of stocks or bonds can realize Marx’s model without creating any wealth whatsoever; his M’ is larger than his M because he is taking advantage of asymmetric information to convince counterparties to take the wrong end of zero-sum trades.

          • marxbro says:

            But this does not mean there is no wealth being created.

            I think we’re getting confused here due to conflation of Marx’s categories of use-value and exchange-value. Typically I refer to exchange-value as just “value” because that’s the value that really matters in the market. Exchange-value is created in the production process and merely realized in the market.

            The source of the extra value is that both parties are better off after a free market trade than they were before. Otherwise, in a free market, the trade would not occur.

            This is use-value. But exchange-value has not been created – the total amount of exchange-value in the system has not changed after we exchange goods.

            If so, I don’t see how it relates to what I was saying. An investment banker, for example, for whom the “C” in M-C-M’ is shares of stocks or bonds can realize Marx’s model without creating any wealth whatsoever; his M’ is larger than his M because he is taking advantage of asymmetric information to convince counterparties to take the wrong end of zero-sum trades.

            As I understand it, in Marx’s interpretation someone who simply moves stocks around isn’t creating new exchange-value. This gets into Marx’s notions of “fictitious value” and stuff like that which I’m less acquainted with.

            But M-C-M’ refers to the creation of new value and the money expression (M’) is legitimate in this case – new wealth is created.

          • PeterDonis says:

            I think we’re getting confused here due to conflation of Marx’s categories of use-value and exchange-value.

            I don’t find Marx’s definitions of value useful (see below for one reason why), so we’re probably not going to make much progress in discussion if we try to use them. I would rather taboo “value” terms and try to talk about what is going on without using them. The point is that in a free market, every trade makes both parties better off, because if it didn’t, the trade wouldn’t take place (at least one of the parties would not choose to make it). That does not require any assumptions at all about why either party wants to make the trade, i.e., why they assign the particular values they do to the items being traded.

            One fundamental objection to Mark’s definitions of “value” is that he assumes that a given object has the same value (either use value or exchange value, it doesn’t matter here) to everyone. But if this were really true, no trades would ever take place, because no trade could ever leave both parties better off. The only reason why it’s even possible for a trade to leave both parties better off is that at least one of the items traded has a different value to each of the parties. For example, if you sell me a coat, the coat must have more value to me than the money I pay you, but less value to you. Otherwise at least one of us would refuse to make the trade.

          • PeterDonis says:

            @me:
            I don’t find Marx’s definitions of value useful

            Another reason why is that Marx says value is basically the amount of labor required to produce something. But this “labor theory of value” seems obviously false. If I hire you to paint my house, the job does not get a lot more valuable if you tell me you’re going to do it with a toothbrush.

            Marx appears to try to finesse this by talking about “the amount of labor that is socially necessary”, as if only that amount of labor “counted” towards the value of something produced. (In the painting case, this would presumably be the amount of labor necessary to paint the house using industry standard paint, paintbrushes, etc.) But first, it’s not clear how the “socially necessary” amount of labor gets determined; and second, it still assumes a necessary connection between the labor it took to produce something, and what someone will be willing to trade for it or use it for, that does not exist.

          • marxbro says:

            One fundamental objection to Mark’s definitions of “value” is that he assumes that a given object has the same value (either use value or exchange value, it doesn’t matter here) to everyone.

            Except that he very explicitly doesn’t do that. Use-values are subjective and change from person to person. Exchange-value is not.

            But first, it’s not clear how the “socially necessary” amount of labor gets determined

            It’s determined by the average amount of labor needed to produce a commodity. If a painter shows up with a toothbrush to paint your house you’re not going to pay them twice as much, because you have this little thing called “common sense”. This stuff is literally in the first 10 or 20 pages of Das Kapital which makes me suspect you haven’t really engaged with it.

          • PeterDonis says:

            Use-values are subjective and change from person to person.

            Where does Marx say that? He says that use-values differ for different uses: the use value of a screwdriver for driving screws is going to be different from its use value for hammering nails, for example (though of course Marx himself doesn’t give this example). But I don’t see where he says the use value of a given item for a given use differs from person to person.

            Exchange-value is not.

            Which, since the key arguments you’re making seem to involve exchange value, means my objection still stands regardless of what Marx says about use value.

            It’s determined by the average amount of labor needed to produce a commodity.

            This doesn’t help because it depends on who you average over. Do you average over everybody who ever performs a given piece of work? That would include the painter who uses a toothbrush. Do you average over the top 10 performers? Only the ones who do it professionally? For more than six months? Saying we can resolve these issues by “common sense” doesn’t really help because people’s common senses of these things are not all the same.

            Also, this does nothing to address my other objection.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I think that Marx misses the idea that the maker’s labor being halved means that the exchange value actually ought to reflect the value of the maker’s now-undisplaced free time as well as the value of the labor. The truth of this is self-evident unless you believe that the per-capita exchange value (less the per-capita total capital value) in the global human system has remained constant since prehistory.

          • marxbro says:

            Where does Marx say that? He says that use-values differ for different uses: the use value of a screwdriver for driving screws is going to be different from its use value for hammering nails, for example (though of course Marx himself doesn’t give this example). But I don’t see where he says the use value of a given item for a given use differs from person to person.

            “Every owner of a commodity wishes to part with it in exchange only for those commodities whose use-value satisfies some want of his.”

            From the start of chapter 2 of volume 1 of Das Kapital. Methinks you aren’t too familiar with this stuff!

            Which, since the key arguments you’re making seem to involve exchange value, means my objection still stands regardless of what Marx says about use value.

            What objection is that?

            Only the ones who do it professionally?

            Why, having called for a professional painter, would you pay for the amount of time it would take an amateur? Again, this is common sense. C’mon now.

          • PeterDonis says:

            “Every owner of a commodity wishes to part with it in exchange only for those commodities whose use-value satisfies some want of his.”

            That just means that if I need a coat and you don’t, I’ll be willing to exchange for one and you won’t. It doesn’t mean that the exact same coat would be more or less useful to you, if you needed a coat, than it would to me.

            But in any case, as I said, the key arguments under discussion appear to be based on exchange, not use, so whether use value varies from person to person is really irrelevant here.

            What objection is that?

            The second objection in the last paragraph of my post on November 17, 2018 at 9:33 pm.

            Why, having called for a professional painter, would you pay for the amount of time it would take an amateur? Again, this is common sense. C’mon now.

            I’ve already said why I have an issue with using “common sense” to resolve the issue of how the “socially necessary” amount of labor is determined. If you really think that concept is well-defined enough to bear the weight Marx puts on it, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

        • marxbro says:

          @hoopyfreud

          I think that Marx misses the idea that the operator’s labor being halved means that the exchange value actually ought to reflect the value of the maker’s now-undisplaced free time as well as the value of the labor. The truth of this is self-evident unless you believe that the per-capita exchange value in the global human system has remained constant since prehistory.

          I’m unsure what you mean here, could you explain further?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I contend that the value of a power-loom-woven scarf should be discounted relative to the value of a hand-loom-woven scarf in a way that reflects the differentials in the capital expended in order to create the scarf (assumed to be minimal), the labor of the maker (assumed to be halved), and the potential free time of the maker (assumed to be increased by the same amount). Basically, I am arguing that the value should be reckoned to include the free time that the maker is being “paid”.

          • marxbro says:

            So industries that give their workers more time off will have more expensive commodities? I’m still not sure that I’m getting your meaning here.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I’d guess that it does mean within a product that yes, companies with more time off will have more expensive offerings.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The point is that the value of the labor is the value of capital + labor + process improvement, insofar as that process improvement hypothetically decreases the need for labor. Under capitalism, the value of the process improvement is captured at least in part by the owner, not the worker, and I see no reason why this process is exploitative.

      • Mary says:

        “Theories of surplus value and exploitation are necessary because they accurately describe reality.”

        Jokes do not help your case.

        “Yes, that’s called class struggle. Marxists don’t expect capitalists to have the same ethics as the working class.”

        Then there are no such thing as ethics and absolutely no reason to be a Marxist. Unless exploitation is wrong, who cares about it?

        • marxbro says:

          Jokes do not help your case.

          I’m not joking and it doesn’t help your case to assume that I am. Replying to every decent point I make with a “Haha! You must be joking!” is a rather obnoxious defence tactic when you have no argument. No wonder Scott has very few leftist commenters on this blog.

          Then there are no such thing as ethics and absolutely no reason to be a Marxist. Unless exploitation is wrong, who cares about it?

          Your ethical sense is shaped by you class position. If you are a capitalist, then no, you have no real reason to find exploitation morally wrong. However, your workers do. Hence class struggle.

          • Mary says:

            I didn’t say you were joking, I said it was a joke. Which it is.

            As is your ludicrous claim about exploitation. You imagine a belief in both sides that has no contact with reality — when in reality, they have a much more reasonable view of exploitation.

          • fr8train_ssc says:

            I’m not joking and it doesn’t help your case to assume that I am. Replying to every decent point I make with a “Haha! You must be joking!” is a rather obnoxious defence tactic when you have no argument. No wonder Scott has very few leftist commenters on this blog.

            What’s funny is the irony that you accuse Scott of misappropriating a quote for an interesting blog post, when Marx literally did the same thing with his “Law of Value” drawing on Adam Smith’s Labor Theory of Value, or at least expanding its application beyond the original scope Smith observed it was valid (e.g. primitive pre-Capitalist societies)

            It’s even odder to use a socialist slogan and then write something totally unrelated to socialist thought. Shouldn’t Scott be steelmanning the socialist theory behind this slogan and doing his best to engage with socialist texts?

            Scott may not have engaged in such texts explicitly, but he has had posts before at least implicitly addressing such topics, such as Social Conflict Theory.

            What’s funny again, is that it took this many posts to confirm what you believed was the original intent and point of that phrase. Nothing stopped you from writing a 250-word post on the quote referring to how surplus labor is exploited in Marx’s analysis and explaining why those norms are better suited than Scott’s analysis. Instead you linked to an RSA Animates of a Slavoj “Eating from the trashcan of ideology” Žižek lecture.

            Well, yes, it is necessary. Theories of surplus value and exploitation are necessary because they accurately describe reality. A slogan like “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism” is necessarily a simplistic summation, which is why I see it get used by social democrat types, anarchists and so on. Look at all the Marxist, Marxist-Leninist, Marxist-Leninist-Maoist, etc parties which have large followings and have actually taken over governments. By comparison followers of Stirner seem to be fairly historically impotent.

            My quoting of Stirner wasn’t to suggest that a “Union of Egoists” would be more effective at appropriating a government apparatus. Instead Stirner accurately predicted that any Communistic society would become far more authoritarian than any Church, Monarchy, or Nationalist movement. “…To each according to their need” means your “needs” are ultimately determined by someone else. Striner addresses the fact that the “Unconscious Individualists” would take advantage of other ideologues in a group to secure their own power at the expense of the group’s mission. He was the OG Conflict Theorist. It’s ironic again you listed Marxist-Leninist, and Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties. Martov’s prize for helping Lenin come into power was to die bedridden in exile; Gao Gang was pressured to kill himself after participating in Mao’s games of intrigue. Socialist Revolutions are very good at liquidating Socialist Revolutionaries.

            Yes, that’s called class struggle. Marxists don’t expect capitalists to have the same ethics as the working class.

            And what are the ethics of Marxists when it comes to the working class interacting with itself? Other than to call attempts at holding leaders accountable “Bourgeoisie Reactionary Movements”…

          • marxbro says:

            @fr8train

            A Marxist revolution will necessarily appear “authoritarian” to the class it is overthrowing. That’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing.

          • marxbro says:

            @Mary

            How is it a joke? I’m a very serious person, so maybe I’m not understanding what you find so funny.

          • fr8train_ssc says:

            A Marxist revolution will necessarily appear “authoritarian” to the class it is overthrowing. That’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing.

            And when you’re done killing Kulaks and expropriating their land but still fail to hit your grain quotas, I’m sure your fellow commrades will understand

    • arlie says:

      Interesting. I am not marxbro, but I also felt that Scott’s use of the phrase had very little to do with the phrase’s actual intended meaning. I didn’t say much more than that, because I don’t speak “modern marxist theory” very well, and don’t aspire to. But I do pay attention to marxist critiques of orthodox (American) economic and eco-political theory, because sometimgs I need help finding the sometimes-gigantic holes. I’m also somewhat of a light red diaper baby. My father was a dyed-in-the-wool union supporter, and I learnt language of ‘class conflict’ etc. etc. from both my parents – along with a habit of looking for economic reasons for political actions.

      The theory I’d invoke here is the idea that capitalism can only function well when it’s constrained by some outside force. When unconstrained, it collectively extracts too much “surplus value,” and either loses its legitimacy with those not of the owning class, or impoverishes them to the point where they are useless as consumers, or both. So the workers are demotivated at best, and rioting/electing demagogues/going postal at worst, even while not buying enough to keep business growing. Reactions to this lead to vicious circles, and the wheels eventually come off (theoretically, anyway); meanwhile everyone, including the owning class, are less prosperous than they could be. At the same time – and in the same way – externalities are imposing farther costs on everyone – each one successfully dodged by the specific owners creating that externality – only to find that all are paying a lot more than they could be, anyway.

      That is, in a nutshell, the normal behaviour of ‘late capitalism’, to the extent that I understand this ‘term of art’. The only way not to facilitate the various abuses (as defined by the essentially powerless folks who want this constrained), would be not to participate at all, but there’s no way to be totally outside the system, except perhaps if you live in an uncontacted or rarely contacted band of foragers (hunter gatherers) – and even then, you are still affected by some of the externalities, not to mention having some owning class person eyeing your local area as a place where money could potentially be made.

      [Note by the way – I use ‘owning class person’ where ‘capitalist’ would normally be used, because capitalist can also mean ‘person who favours capitalist theory/organization.’ I’m talking about the people who provide – and control – the capital.]

      • cryptoshill says:

        I would argue that un-constrained capitalism does *better* than constrained capitalism irt things like removing poverty. When the outsourcing boom started in the 1970s, the owning-class got absolutely pummeled by cheap Chinese imports – and couldn’t get their class-struggling union workers to stay competitive. Eventually, the owning-class moved their factories to China too, leaving Detroit a smoked out ruin. All those Union workers are now in destitute poverty and Detroit will never recover. This is making everyone poor except the owning class.

        Except huh, will you look at that? I will note that China has a *much, much* larger population than the United States, so to see wage growth like that is truly staggering.

        As it turns out – the class that was being struggled against there wasn’t the “rich owning class” , it was the class of even poorer people in other countries. When capitalism stopped being constrained by things like national borders – *more* people become *less* impoverished *faster*.

      • albatross11 says:

        So, if your theory is true, it seems like we should see ever-greater poverty and hardship among the people living in capitalist societies, the longer they remain capitalist. And greater hardship, the freer the markets.

        Is this actually what we see?

  10. skef says:

    At some point I googled for a good burger in Portland, found the recommendation that is the subject of this article, and went there to have one. I didn’t think it was that great.

    I do love the bacon cheese burger at Tasty n Sons. Get it with cheddar and (when it’s not included) the side of fries. Be warned, though: it’s the place with the kitchen tip line on the receipt.

    • dick says:

      Interesting article. I’ve been going there for years and love (loved) the Special*. My wife held my surprise 40th birthday there. I wish that article hadn’t happened and it were still open. But I think the problem was not just being on a Best Of list, it was being on the sort of Best Of list foodies plan their vacation around. Stanich’s might well have been the best greasy spoon in the country but it’s still a greasy spoon, there’s no gruyere in there.

      * Double cheeseburger with bacon, lettuce, onion, mayo, ketchup, pickles, a slice of ham, and a fried egg

    • CatCube says:

      Relevant to debate elsewhere here, one of the articles in the Oregonian linked to a tweet:

      Scares me that this guy understands the internet is bad, actually stays off of it, and it came for him anyway.

      • skef says:

        To be fair to the internet, Stanich’s was also closed the first time I tried to go a) for an unusually long period (like a week, maybe?) at b) a weird time of year. And the article doesn’t exactly rule out coincidental eccentricity as an explanation. You can hire extra waitstaff in Portland without much difficulty.

        • dick says:

          Eccentricity was definitely involved but it’s not realistic to expect a neighborhood dive to cope with nationwide popularity by hiring a couple extra waitresses. The grill’s only so big, and it was already busy enough to have an hour wait on the weekends before all this.

          • Brad says:

            I mean how does any restaurant cope with “nationwide popularity”? There are such places of every size, so it’s not a matter of number of tables. There are also such places that do reservations, walk up lines, and–my personal favorite–tickets, so it’s not a matter of a particular table filling model. Are they just run by better restaurateurs?

          • baconbits9 says:

            But none of this implies that the restaurant must or should close.

          • skef says:

            The grill’s only so big

            But on the other hand, knowing in advance what most customers are going to order is a huge advantage for a restaurant. In my sordid past I actually worked a grill (not very efficiently, mind you) and I doubt that would wind up as the bottleneck.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The issue as far as I can see it is that sudden popularity means that you either have to reduce your quality or turn customers away. Often when a restaurant was popular for their novel food 20 years ago they are mostly serving variations on their old theme so they can produce hundreds of solid, but not spectacular, meals a night while some guy down the road is experimenting with Ugandan inspired burritos.

            It sounds like this guy couldn’t make up his mind which to sacrifice which is tough for a small restaurant. The people you turn away will be friends who have eaten there for years a lot of the time, and bad reviews are very painful for a business that probably made itself essentially based on good reviews.

    • BBA says:

      This is what Yogi Berra meant by “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

      Whenever there’s a “Top N Restaurants” list in a city I’m visiting, I’ll pick something towards the middle or bottom of the list, because the #1 place is likely to be too crowded/expensive for my tastes, but just getting listed means it’s high quality. This story suggests that just getting on one of these lists may be too much. I wonder if these holes-in-the-wall will start sabotaging their own yelp reviews to keep the filthy tourists away.

      It’s not just restaurants. A few months ago, when faced with a wait a few hours long to get into an old palace in Europe, I realized things can only get worse for travelers. The population with the resources to travel internationally is growing rapidly but the number of places to see is staying fixed. We can either build new tourist traps attractions from scratch (cough, Times Square, cough) or raise prices so only the upper crust can get in or be stuck with overcrowding and long waits. If you’re a perfectly rational profit maximizer that’s fine. But many of us aren’t.

      • Machine Interface says:

        A third solution, which iirc some European cities have started to experimenting with, is effectively to impose quotas on tourism, so that certain places can only be visited by a fixed maximum number of people per day/week/month/etc. Though this means some places we ended up booked months in advance, making impromptu tourism even more difficult.

      • One advantage to solving the problem by raising the price is that it makes it in the interest of other people to create other attractions for all the people who didn’t make it in and are willing to pay a somewhat lower price for an almost as good substitute. There is an awful lot of history scattered over Europe and not nearly all of it is being pushed at tourists.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          There are quite a lot of things for which an almost-as-good-in-the-same-way doesn’t exist, at least locally. Mostly these are products of unique political circumstances that can’t economically be replicated. The Statue of Liberty, the Sagrada Familia, the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids (mesoamerican and Egyptian) or the Colosseum are good examples.

          My point isn’t that prices shouldn’t be raised (they probably should), but that there’s no use pretending that by doing so people don’t lose access to things that can’t be replaced, and that they would have had access to if they lived in another time, in the same social class, in the same place.

          The above isn’t really a problem per se, but there is a certain bitter irony in monuments dedicated to a polity becoming inaccessible to that polity’s descendants. Rich international tourists have more access to the Statue of Liberty than poor first-generation immigrants living in New York, and this is aethetically unpleasant to me for reasons that should, I think, be obvious.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Sorry, should refer to successors rather than descendants, and it’s too late to edit.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Rich international tourists have more access to the Statue of Liberty than poor first-generation immigrants living in New York

            You can see the Statue of Liberty for free from Battery Park; it’s $5.50 to get there and back from much of the city. (I can see it from my office, there’s probably a few poor first generation immigrants working in the building but that’s not a general solution). You can get to the island for another $18.50. If you want to go to the crown (if it’s open), you need a reservation and another $3, not to mention a high tolerance for stairs. The National Park Service isn’t Disney, they do not allow you to pay to jump the line. So I don’t see the advantage to the rich international tourist, unless the poor first generation immigrant is _extremely_ poor, in which case it seems unlikely any reasonable solution will work.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @The Nybbler

            For some reason I remember it being significantly more expensive – in the range of $20 for the boat and $30 for the statue. That’s good to know! Thanks!

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      This looks like job for Eliezer Yudkowsky’s alter ego, the Market Economics Fairy:

      Hi! This is the Market Economics Fairy! If people are buying your product faster than you can make it, it means your prices are currently set too low! There’s no point in keeping the price low to stimulate demand when you can’t yet increase your supply! Temporarily raise the price until you can gear up manufacturing! That way the people who need your product the most can get it right away! And you can invest more in manufacturing to satisfy more future customers! This will lead to a lovely Pareto optimal outcome with everyone living happily ever after!

      Related:

      Hi! This is the Market Economics Fairy! I noticed that lots of people are complaining about not being able to get Burning Man tickets! I have an important message for the organizers of Burning Man!
      STOP TRYING TO SELL TICKETS BELOW A PRICE THAT WOULD MAKE DEMAND FOR TICKETS ROUGHLY EQUAL TO YOUR SUPPLY OF TICKETS
      JUST STOP
      YOU TRY THIS EVERY YEAR AND IT NEVER WORKS
      IT’S NEVER GOING TO WORK
      EVER
      WHAT YOU’RE TRYING TO DO IS THE FINANCIAL EQUIVALENT OF PERPETUAL MOTION
      ALL YOU’RE DOING IS CREATING A HUGE INCENTIVE FOR SCALPERS TO BUY TICKETS
      AND WASTING AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF EVERYONE’S TIME
      AND DESTROYING PERFECTLY GOOD CAMPS
      I KNOW THERE’S THINGS ABOUT MARKET ECONOMIES THAT YOU DON’T LIKE
      I DON’T LIKE THEM ALL EITHER
      BUT WHAT YOU’RE TRYING TO DO IS MAKE THE PRICE OF A TWENTY-DOLLAR BILL BE FIVE DOLLARS
      IT LITERALLY CAN’T BE DONE
      IF YOU TRIED SELLING TWENTY-DOLLAR BILLS OUT OF A CART FOR FIVE DOLLARS EACH
      THERE’D BE AN ENORMOUS LINE IN FRONT OF THE CART
      CONSISTING OF RESELLERS BURNING FIFTEEN DOLLARS WORTH OF THEIR TIME TO BE IN THE LINE
      AND THE TRUE PRICE OF A TWENTY-DOLLAR-BILL WOULDN’T CHANGE AT ALL
      WHICH IS WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU EVERY SINGLE YEAR
      WHEN YOU TRY TO SELL BURNING MAN TICKETS
      THERE’S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING ANTI-CAPITALIST
      AND BEING ANTI-MATH
      I MEAN
      YOU CAN GIVE OUT CHEAPER TICKETS TO PEOPLE WHO MADE GREAT CAMPS LAST YEAR
      AND RESERVE CHEAPER TICKETS FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE LONG-TIME BURNING MAN VETERANS
      AND YOU CAN MAKE THOSE TICKETS NON-TRANSFERABLE
      BUT YOU CAN’T LET ANYONE WHO WANTS
      WAIT IN LINE
      FOR TRANSFERABLE TICKETS
      THAT YOU ARE SELLING FOR WAY LESS THAN THE SUPPLY-DEMAND EQUALIZING PRICE
      AND HAVE NORMAL PEOPLE BE ABLE TO BUY TICKETS THAT WAY
      IT LITERALLY CAN’T BE DONE
      ALL YOU’RE DOING IS MAKING A BUNCH OF SCALPERS RICH
      WHILE A LOT OF INNOCENT PEOPLE GET VERY WORRIED AND FRUSTRATED
      JUST LIKE LAST YEAR
      AND THE YEAR BEFORE THAT
      FOR GOD’S SAKE JUST GIVE UP ALREADY AND RUN A NORMAL AUCTION
      thank you
      the end

      And in response to this article, at Hacker News:

      Burning Man underprices, 1/3 of buyers get tickets, Market Economics Fairy cries

      And at LessWrong:

      Vaniver: From the blog post: “No event organizer or ticket seller has solved scalping completely.” It seems pretty easy to solve: auction off all the tickets.

      Eliezer_Yudkowsky: The Market Economics Fairy is pleased with you! She blesses you with sparkles from her wand!

      • skef says:

        I think he’s either wrong about the second point or doesn’t understand the motivations behind the ticket system.

        Of course if you have tickets with some mechanism of transfer you’re going to get some scalping, and more the more desirable the event is. But having what amounts to a lottery doesn’t automatically lead to every ticket sold being scalped.

        In the past Burning Man has clearly tried to foster a balance between new participants and veterans. And they don’t want that to amount in reality to people paying $10,000 and veterans. Naturally, the new/veteran balance is a source of ongoing contention and frustration, and his message is just dripping with veteran entitlement. Is it that hard to have all the tickets be nontransferable? If you’re worried about not using all of the available capacity, don’t you face that problem with veterans as well? Don’t camps generally need to have some new people, and if you give them that open won’t they be just as tempted to sell their tickets at market value?

        • Lambert says:

          Why use what amounts to a lottery when you can use a lottery instead?
          It’s how the Olympics allocates much of its capacity.

      • dick says:

        Textbook economics assumes ideal knowledge; it can’t model consumers who’ve been misled about the good’s worth by a viral marketing campaign. All your magical fairy is going to accomplish is to change some of the “left because the line was so goddamn long” yelp reviews in to “can you believe these jokers wanted $22 for a cheeseburger?” ones.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          Every person who doesn’t believe America’s best burger is worth spending $22 on is one less person cluttering up the line at the restaurant. That way the people who want the burgers the most (as demonstrated by their willingness to pay high prices for them) get them, and the restaurant makes a ton of money while not being overwhelmed by hordes of costumers. It could then use the money to expand operations and lower prices (Stanich seems to be groping towards this with the idea of franchising, but there was nor reason to shut down the restaurant for nine months to do so), thus allowing more people to enjoy the burgers.

          If expanding operations is impossible or undesirable, they can continue operating in their new high-price, high-quality equilibrium, and lower prices back the way things were if and when the fad ends. The biggest problem with this second option is that Stanich is ideologically committed to continue providing his burgers to the local regulars who helped build the business up in the first place. Is it legal to check IDs at the door and charge the higher prices to people whose registered addresses are outside the city the restaurant is located in? That could separate the tourists attracted by the article from the locals. Actually, if Stanich knows the regulars personally, he can just give them a discount and sell them the burgers at the old price. Though you would need to worry about burger re-sellers (analogous to scalpers in the Burning Man scenario above). No to-go orders at local prices, then (to-go orders being the equivalent of transferable tickets); otherwise you are going to get some local ordering a dozen to-go hamburgers at local prices and re-selling them to tourists at somewhere between the local price and the tourist price.

          • Brad says:

            Is it legal to check IDs at the door and charge the higher prices to people whose registered addresses are outside the city the restaurant is located in?

            Absent some oddball local law, yes.

  11. Uribe says:

    For materialists like me who don’t believe we have souls, don’t we believe we are a different person from moment to moment, never to be the same again, an ad hoc identity held together by an untrustworthy and capricious memory?

    if we were rational, we wouldn’t fear death any more than we fear the next moment. We do fear death because we are animal. Except that animals don’t fear death, only humans, who have a concept of death.

    Why do humans fear non-existence when the non-existence of our identity happens in the next moment anyway?

    Surely human fear of non-existence has evolved just like our animal fear of danger, but these are different things. There must have been a period in human evolution in which instinctive fear of existential danger existed but not yet fear of non-existence.

    We must have been braver. No?

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      From Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality:

      “Tell me, Harry,” said the Headmaster (and now his voice sounded simply puzzled, though there was still a hint of pain in his eyes), “why do Dark Wizards fear death so greatly?”

      “Er,” said Harry, “sorry, I’ve got to back the Dark Wizards on that one.”

      Whoosh, hiss, chime; glorp, pop, bubble –

      What? ” said Dumbledore.

      “Death is bad,” said Harry, discarding wisdom for the sake of clear communication. “Very bad. Extremely bad. Being scared of death is like being scared of a great big monster with poisonous fangs. It actually makes a great deal of sense, and does not, in fact, indicate that you have a psychological problem.”

      • Deiseach says:

        Yes we’re scared of death, because the organism wants to continue. But if Harry Three-Names is with the Dark Wizards on that, then is he also with them when they will do anything – anything, murder, betrayal, worse things – to avoid it? “Slowly cut this living creature apart and torture it to death or I’ll kill you?” Is there anything he would not do, to avoid death, to live longer? Any treachery or outrage or genocide in order to keep existing?

        Because it’s all very well wanting to beat the inevitable and having fantasies about being able to kick-start the universe when it finally comes to its end just so you can keep on existing, but in reality Death comes as the end and we can’t dodge it forever. So what in the end does it gain the Dark Wizards to do such things? “Oh it gained me an extra ten minutes of life I would not have otherwise had”.

        And you know, I understand that, I completely get the instinctive impulse to do anything at all to stave off that moment of ending, to grab at even a minute more of life. But it’s not worth some of the things you might do to cling on to that last minute, and I don’t trust Harry when he says things like this, and I think he does not understand what Dumbledore is saying.

        He’s clever, but he isn’t wise, and he hasn’t put aside wisdom for the sake of clarity, he’s never had wisdom in the beginning.

        • beleester says:

          Deiseach, can you put aside your hatred of HPMOR for like, two seconds and not assume that it’s arguing for the most terrible things you can think of? Principle of charity.

          All Harry says is “being afraid of death is a good thing, because dying is bad for you.” He never says “You, personally, dying, is the worst thing ever and literally anything you do to extend your life is justified.” The rest of the book makes it pretty clear that Harry values other peoples’ lives.

          From the exact same chapter, a few pages later:

          “Well obviously I’m not going to popularize a method of immortality that requires killing people! That would defeat the entire point! ”

          There was a startled pause.

          Slowly the old wizard’s face relaxed out of its anger, though the worry was still there. “You would use no ritual requiring human sacrifice.”

          “I don’t know what you take me for, Headmaster,” Harry said coldly, his own anger rising, “but let’s not forget that I’m the one who wants people to live! The one who wants to save everyone! You’re the one who thinks death is awesome and everyone ought to die!”

          • Deiseach says:

            “I don’t know what you take me for, Headmaster,” Harry said coldly

            Well lessee: I take you for a kid who so far has shown he values nobody’s opinion but his own, has complete faith in his Ultimate Genius, thinks he knows magic better than the magicians, has shown worrying signs of being influenced by Voldemort and has just flat-out said he’s with the Dark Wizards on fighting death. If Harry doesn’t know about the kinds of things the Dark Wizards do and have done to fight death, maybe he shouldn’t shoot his mouth off so fast?

            At first I was going to say “Nah, I don’t hate HPMOR”, but on consideration yeah, I do 🙂 If you don’t understand the effect on me, then imagine your reaction to someone who liked to shoehorn in at every chance “Hey, you should really read the Communist Manifesto/Mein Kampf, there’s some cool notions in there!” And Harry Potter isn’t even one of my real true I’ll bite your hand off for this fandoms!

            I’m very sensitive about canon-compliance; I don’t mind AU fanfiction but I really dislike when authors take the original and go “what if we made it completely different including the characters?” That also applies to comics, TV and movie reboots, e.g. Elementary: transplant Holmes to New York? Sigh, Americans, okay they need to make everything about themselves so if this gets a new Holmes show made then fine. Make Watson a woman? Okay, it’s Current Year, why not? Make her Asian-American? Well, alright I suppose. Make Watson the main detective character and Holmes’ main function is to learn The Power of Friendship from a motley crew who are all just as smart as him Mr English Detective? Now come on! (Look, Without A Clue did it first and with humour and affection, not in all seriousness).

          • Machine Interface says:

            “All Harry says is “being afraid of death is a good thing, because dying is bad for you.””

            But that’s a meaningless answer to the question “why are we afraid of death”. There are bad things we are not afraid of, and things we are afraid of that are not bad. It doesn’t even demonstrate that death is bad and that therefore it is rational to at least desire not-death — it just asserts that it is.

            But in fact you could equally argue that death serves us far more than it harms us. It’s a primary mechanism of evolution, that allowed us to exist in the first place. It’s a primary mechanism of our feeding; we are heterotrophic organisms and as such cannot live without killing thousands of other things throughout our life for sustainance. It’s a final liberation from a life of pain and hardship (which is what life is for most animals, for most of life’s history).

            If we’re even going to concede that there’s room for such suspicious notions as “good” and “bad” (other than instrumentally) in a rationalist worldview, it is absolutely not clear that death is bad. And even if it was, it doesn’t follow rationally from this that it is normal and good to fear death.

          • beleester says:

            @Machine Interface:

            It doesn’t even demonstrate that death is bad and that therefore it is rational to at least desire not-death — it just asserts that it is.

            Are you really asking me to explain why it’s not rational to commit suicide? I mean, I suppose that if you’re starting from a complete tabula rasa that’s something you need to justify, but I’m guessing that both of us already agree that we don’t think it’s rational to commit suicide, or we wouldn’t be here.

            (Or as Harry put it, “If you want to die, there’s this Muggle invention called a ‘suicide prevention hotline’…”)

            This is the crux of HPMOR’s argument – if you don’t want to live forever, you must want to stop living one day. There must be some point where you say “Sure, I’ve been alive for a hundred and twenty years, but a hundred and twenty years and one day would be just too much.” Do you actually have such a day in mind, where you’d choose to stop living even if nothing was wrong with your health?

            If we’re even going to concede that there’s room for such suspicious notions as “good” and “bad” (other than instrumentally) in a rationalist worldview, it is absolutely not clear that death is bad.

            Even if living is an instrumental goal rather than a terminal one (debatable, but terminal goals are by definition an axiom so we can agree to disagree), it’s instrumental to nearly every goal it’s possible to have. Regardless of how you define your utility function, “not dying” is going to unlock a heck of a lot of utility.

            (Yes, people sometimes sacrifice themselves for a cause. But the sacrifice is also instrumental – if they could find a way to achieve the goal without sacrificing themselves, they would do that instead.)

            But in fact you could equally argue that death serves us far more than it harms us.

            It served us, past tense. But that’s not an argument that we should keep dying for those purposes, if we have the choice. I would argue that not dying is generally more utility than advancing evolution’s blind march to wherever. And if those purposes truly are necessary to our happiness, I suspect that we can find ways to do them that involve fewer people dying.

            And really, “People need to die so that the human race will keep evolving?” If you said this in any other context, they’d say you were making a bad strawman of a eugenics argument.

          • Machine Interface says:

            @ beleester:

            Sure, wanting to die is not rational, but neither is wanting to live. Desires are not rational, as witnessed by the fact that billions of creature that lack reason still want to live. We can come up with rational reasons for why we want to live (or die) at any given moment, but those reasons won’t mean anything when you’re getting railroad by, say, severe depression (or by survival instinct, in the case of someone who rational thinks they would be better of dead but can’t bring themselves to pull the trigger).

            Even further than that: trillions of lifeforms that don’t even have a nervous system and thus cannot even want things still have a very strong mechanical drive to live. That’s because living is conductive to reproduction, and reproduction is conductive to gene replication. There’s nothing inherently good or rational about us being alive — we don’t exist for our own benefit, but for that of our genes, who are ready to betray us at the first opportunity (from retrotransposons to trisommy to cancer); we are but glorified capsids.

            Yes, I want to stop living at some point, because life is pain, and I can only take so much — taking away decay and disease from the equation changes nothing, because psychological pain and isolation are also there. Do you want to spend eternity with 10 billion KKK members? I don’t.

            My argument wasn’t trying to seriously prove that death serves us more than life and that we still need death in the future in an eugenistic fashion — rather that the claim that “life is obviously good” is, rather than a rational argument, an unexamined, rationalized manifestation of an instinct that doesn’t actually exist for our interest at the individual or species level, and that it’s actually fairly easy to come up with positive aspects of death.

    • 10240 says:

      don’t we believe we are a different person from moment to moment

      No. And my memory is not that untrustworthy.

      • Uribe says:

        But our brains change from moment to moment. How are we not different people when our brains change?

        • 10240 says:

          Because the fact that your brain is in a slightly different state than in the last moment doesn’t make you a different person (under whatever definition of a person we typically use). Most of your memories (including memories of your internal thoughts that couldn’t be reconstructed from other information if you died) are the same.

        • John Schilling says:

          Everything changes from moment to moment. And even if it somehow doesn’t change, you can’t know that it hasn’t changed. So either the word “same” refers to nothing in the universe and the word “different” refers to every possible relationship in the universe, or “same” encompasses some level of change. And it seems particularly relevant to gradual change with continuity of identity, of the sort humans experience between birth and death.

        • LesHapablap says:

          10240,

          Let’s say you step into a cancer-curing machine which copies your brain atom-for-atom into a clone, such that the continuity of your conscious thought is maintained, then instantly kills your current, cancer-riddled brain and body.

          Does using the machine count as dying? Would you be afraid to enter it? Is there a difference between using the machine and being rendered unconscious for a night?

          • 10240 says:

            Does using the machine count as dying? Would you be afraid to enter it?

            No.
            Brain uploading would make these definitions more complicated, though. There would be intermediates between dying and not dying. If I was restarted from a saved state right after my birth, forgetting my entire life since then, that would be very close to dying. Erasing the last few hours would definitely not like dying, while erasing my memories since I was (say) 12 would be somewhere in-between.
            Also, our consciousness through time could be represented by a tree rather than a line if copies are made. If two copies were made of someone, say, in early childhood, those would arguably end up different persons.

          • LesHapablap says:

            10240,

            Now what if the machine malfunctions so that it doesn’t kill you instantly, and a very apologetic technician spends a minute fixing it and then politely asks you to get back in to be terminated. The new version of you walks out and awkwardly mentions that he’s thankful to wake up as the copy that gets to live.

            Would it now count as dying since it is no longer a perfect copy being killed?

            I’m attempting to show here that a night’s sleep is similar enough to death that we shouldn’t be afraid of death, and that fear of death is just a very strong instinct. I’m skeptical about it because everything about death feels wrong, and the moral consequences of not caring about death are terrible.

          • 10240 says:

            Would it now count as dying since it is no longer a perfect copy being killed?

            No, it would be more like taking a drug that makes me forget the last minute. The copy still holds the same personality, memories etc. as the original, except for the last minute. That’s very different from dying without a copy.

          • baconbits9 says:

            What if the copy watches you die?

          • 10240 says:

            What if the copy watches you die?

            How does that matter?

          • baconbits9 says:

            The copy is having an experience that you cannot have, which makes him different from you, with death being impactfull enough for it to be a fundamental difference.

            Or to put it a different way, if you cloned yourself perfectly and then murdered the clone, is that a net of nothing to you?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I shot a clone in Reno just to watch me die.

          • 10240 says:

            The copy is having an experience that you cannot have, which makes him different from you, with death being impactfull enough for it to be a fundamental difference.

            The copy has much of the same memories (of all forms, episodic, semantic, procedural etc., my way of thinking, plans etc.). The memory of one particular event doesn’t change that and make it a different person.

          • LesHapablap says:

            After even a slightly different experience for a few seconds, you and your clone will be thinking different things for the rest of your lives. So if you had to kill yourself in that moment, you would feel the same survival instinct that makes it very difficult.

            For another tangential example which I’m plagiarizing but always found clever:

            Imagine that your brain has been perfectly cloned and put in a box, hooked up to sensory feeds coming live from your own head. The box-brain has the exact same thoughts as you do because it has the same memories and the exact same experiences. It feels completely independent and in control of your body, even though it has no real control.

            Killing the box brain has no moral weight, because it is a perfect copy of your own brain.

            But then one day after many years of the box-brain thinking he’s not in a simulation, there is a split second glitch in the feed to his senses. Because of the glitch, the thought pattern of the box-brain is ever so slightly altered, delayed momentarily by a tenth of a second. The next movement made by you is picking up a pencil, but because of the glitch, the box-brain suddenly feels something is wrong with his arm and feels a slight delay. This causes him to pause for a second. “Am I getting the flu? Feeling a bit dizzy? WHOA, I just started writing without even thinking about it!”

            Now the thought train of the box-brain is completely different from your own. He quickly realizes that he has absolutely no control over his body, and will be stuck watching someone else live in his body for the rest of his life.

            Now the box-brain has his own consciousness, and it would be immoral to kill him, unless out of mercy.

          • 10240 says:

            After even a slightly different experience for a few seconds, you and your clone will be thinking different things for the rest of your lives. So if you had to kill yourself in that moment, you would feel the same survival instinct that makes it very difficult.

            The second sentence doesn’t follow from the first one.
            Every moment, my brain could be given multiple different inputs. Depending on them, my thoughts would (perhaps) be different for the rest of my life. Out of these, only one line is played out. I don’t regard it as similar to death that most of these possible lines are not played out.
            Or, again, take the example of an amnesia drug that makes you forget the last few minutes. Depending on whether I take the drug, my thoughts would be (perhaps) different for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t have a particular problem with taking the drug, even though it would mean that I don’t get to experience the version of my life where I don’t take the drug, and thus the thoughts I have in those minutes are continued. (If I had some really interesting thought, I’d make a note for myself.)

            Now the box-brain has his own consciousness, and it would be immoral to kill him, unless out of mercy.

            No. Again, I’d consider it equivalent to giving someone an amnesia drug that makes them forget whatever amount of time the box was running for. (Well, giving people amnesia drugs without their consent is immoral too.) It would only be anywhere near comparable to death if the simulation was running for a very long time.

          • LesHapablap says:

            10240,

            You are making a logical argument that death/suicide is not bad thing, which I agree with. There shouldn’t be much to fear from death because we all experience it every time we fall asleep. The line of consciousness is broken, and your new consciousness the next morning only has the illusion of being the same person.

            The counter argument is that it feels wrong, and I contend that if you had to actually commit suicide just because you were cloned that it would still feel scary and wrong, because that is the way we are wired.

            The other counter argument is that if it was true then it opens the door for depraved, counterproductive nihilism.

          • 10240 says:

            You are making a logical argument that death/suicide is not bad thing, which I agree with.

            Absolutely not. In a world with brain uploading, multiple copies etc., it’s not obvious what the proper analogue of our concept of death would be. I’m arguing that the proper definition/analogue of death would be a situation where no copy of me survives, while a situation where the only surviving copies have been forked from my own line of consciousness a long time ago would be an intermediate between death and non-death. A situation where there is a surviving copy whose memory only slightly differs from mine (where the difference is a short time’s worth of memories give or take) would definitely not be death.

          • LesHapablap says:

            10240,

            I don’t understand your distinction between a copy and an original. To illustrate that point, two scenarios:

            A) the cancer-curing machine works as intended: it clones you, copies your brain perfectly and then kills you (the original).

            B) the cancer-curing machine malfunctions and doesn’t actually copy your brain into the new clone, but still kills you (the original).

            You seem to be arguing that B) counts as death but A) is does not. But the experience of the original is exactly the same in both scenarios. Whether the copy procedure works or not doesn’t change his feelings or his experience in the slightest.

          • 10240 says:

            IMO the physical person doesn’t matter, the logical layer, the mind does. It’s an artificial restriction to only consider what the original physical person experiences, up to the point of the mind-uploading. It’s you who is distinguishing the copy and the original.

          • acymetric says:

            This seems simple, I’m really confused by some of the answers here. We have you the original, and the copy (call it you’). As soon as the copy is made, they are two separate consciousnesses. You dies, but you’ does not. As soon as they became separate entities they became separate consciousnesses capable of separate death.

            I’m also not sure why a person would care about a separate copy of themselves any more than they would about another person who they share history or worldview with. As soon as they separate they are different people with different experiences (and I mean literally as soon as, because presumably they are not occupying the exact same physical space when the copy is made).

        • The Nybbler says:

          @LesHapablap:

          Now there’s a new twist on Theseus’s old boat. I don’t speak for 10240, but I say that’s making a copy and destroying (killing) the original. I’d go into the machine anyway, though; better that a healthy copy of me exists with all-but-philosophical continuity than I die of cancer with no such copy being made.

  12. fion says:

    Warning: CW

    I am reminded occasionally of the joke about the Jewish man reading a Nazi newspaper. The most recent such occasion was when going over the old free speech arguments with a friend. Steve Bannon is speaking at the Oxford Union. How upsetting, I thought, that such an awful figure is being lent the legitimacy of such a prestigious institution. They should not have invited him. My friend countered that the best way to discredit awful opinions is to air them to expose them for what they are. We continued down the standard lines. I’m not interested in retracing the argument here, but there was one thing that I found interesting: we both made slippery slope arguments.

    I was afraid about more and more extreme and horrible people coming more and more into the Overton window, gradually being accepted, elected, invited in from the cold. Trump was elected, Bolsonaro was elected, the UK Conservative Party has stolen UKIP’s policies while UKIP has cosied up to the likes of the EDL, neo-nazi groups are gaining popularity across Europe etc.

    My friend was afraid of the assault on free speech. What if we end up in a world where all the opinions being aired are the “approved of” ones? Maybe it’s Steve Bannon getting no-platformed today, but tomorrow? It’ll be Sam Harris, or Stephen Fry… Before you know it nobody to the right of Jeremy Corbyn will be allowed to speak in public. Or maybe, even worse, it’ll flip on its head, and we’ll have high levels of censorship but the un-approved-of views will be the liberal ones, and the only opinions we’re allowed to hear are the very same pseudo-fascist stuff I’m afraid of.

    I noticed that we had accidentally done this, invoked slippery slopes and feared sliding in the opposite direction and I tried to argue that mine was the one we need to worry about. More extreme people genuinely are becoming more accepted at the moment. We’re not in danger of a one-opinion state, but we are in danger of far-right demagogues getting elected [citation: it’s happening already].

    But then I thought that maybe I’m not reading the other side’s newspapers. Maybe some people genuinely think we are going “up” the slippery slope. And, indeed, maybe we are.

    So I thought I’d come here. You guys are not as left or liberal as me and my friend. Some of you are sympathetic to Trump, and many of you believe in free speech above most else. Do you think we’re slipping? Which direction are we slipping in?

    (Of course, one answer, and I suspect it’s the correct one, is that both slippery slope arguments are problematic, but that’s not the point of my post. My point is to hear your perspective. All my left and liberal friends fear that the world is falling to the far right. But do right-wing people fear the opposite? Should we read each other’s newspapers?)

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m of the opinion that we’re still steadily slipping towards greater societal disorder. It’s been a steady slide since at least the 1790’s and hasn’t shown any sign of slowing or reversing lately.

      I was pretty thrilled when Trump won the 2016 election because I didn’t think that it was still possible for a candidate to win with the entire political-media establishment united against him. And because he exceeded my expectations in that way, I was more open to the idea that he would exceed expectations again by fulfilling some of his campaign promises. Specifically “draining the swamp,” deporting the illegal immigrant population, and dialing back America’s foreign entanglements and outsourcing of heavy industry.

      But so far he’s been a standard Republican president. He’s rolled over whenever the courts rule against his executive orders, despite his portrait of Jackson. There hasn’t been any progress on the wall. The government and deficit have continued to expand. America is still propping up NATO and making disadvantagous trade deals. Even the midterm elections have been disappointing and winning elections is literally the one thing he’s been good at so far.

      That is to say, what you see as “going backwards” is just going forward more slowly than you’d like. America is more disordered than ever and the trend is towards further disorder. We’re not roaring down the slope like we would be under Clinton but we’re still sliding down it.

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      Both slopes are real, and since they are not directly opposing, they can both slide downward at the same time. Speech can be banned, leading to scenarios where more speech is banned, by making it easier to ban speech. Right wing leaders can sometimes win, even when they can’t speak openly, because democracy is fickle, and people react to negative situations whether they are allowed to talk about it or not (see right-wing increases in places that accepted large numbers of Syrian refugees, like Germany).

      Consider a world in which far right views are a distinct minority, and that they are consistently silenced as Not Worthy To Be Spoken. Now imagine a typical teenager growing up in a such a world. They hear, quietly, Banned Speech, and think – “I’ve never heard an argument that counters this!” and they really haven’t. So, if they are interested in having a rational and complete worldview (can’t just ignore it) they have two options, defend the status quo by inventing arguments against the Banned Speech, or accepting the corrections to their understanding that come from Banned Speech. The Banned Speech spreaders must lay very low and be careful about their approach, so they are clever about what they share and careful to direct what they say to reach the target audience. The Normal Speech is often spoken by the less intelligent and less thoughtful, since that’s most people and most people have accepted the Normal Speech. Being alone in this endeavor (because you can’t discuss Banned Speech), they come up with relatively poor arguments to counter it. They find that they don’t understand their own moral positions, but that the other side clearly does (at least as far as has been described). Now they’re mad at the majority of society for banning clearly correct speech, and angry because they’re not allowed to talk about it.

      (Very simplistic retelling of a more complex historical scenario, for brevity sake):
      In the 1950s, far left speech was “banned” in the US. The 1960s saw a great increase in far left thought. Because of that backlash, far left speech was no longer banned. By the 1980s, far left speech was on the decline again, not because it was banned again, but because it wasn’t. By airing their views where it could be compared, it was determined that far left speech was deficient in ways that were obvious only by comparison. Rightward economic views became dominant – but even now we’re seeing more pushback against that, since people can see the excesses in place and discuss them!

      That’s why the “marketplace of ideas” is so important. Yes, by allowing rightward speech you may see increases in rightward politicians elected in the near future. Banning it may not change that at all, though, it just makes it uglier in the swings back and forth. When the right wins again, and they will, the left will be the ones banned for a while and frustrated.

    • lvlln says:

      I definitely see the danger of slipping left as far more salient than that of slipping right right now. I find Trump despicable and his populist rhetoric to be vapid, but I never predicted his implemented policies to be all that far off from that of a standard Republican, and that seems to be correct so far. However bad as he might be, he has been effectively constrained by our democratic system, and I really have no fears that he will implement any sort of fascist policies or that he will be a stepping stone toward fascism. The resistance to him is too sensitive and too motivated and too fast-acting to make that a real possibility, even assuming the worst intentions on his part. However much the right has power, any attempts to step off to the far right is being effectively resisted.

      On the other hand, I see the push toward the far left as facing little resistance and more well situated. Much of academia has been growing further left, as documented by Jonathan Haidt, and there seems to be very little resistance to it – in fact, I see more rhetoric of the type that “23-to-1 leftist-to-rightist ratio in social sciences isn’t nearly enough. We should keep pushing until it’s 1-to-0!” The critical theory “grievance studies” have plenty of critics, but there’s no indication that those studies are looking into reforming their faith-based epistemology. And contrary to many people’s predictions, students are successfully carrying this into their professional environments, with visible effects in majorly influential companies like Google or NYTimes.

      And unlike criticism of Trump which gets hailed as correct and brave, criticism of this ideology gets rounded off to crazy right-wing conspiracy theory fear-mongering, even when coming from people on the left like Sam Harris or Steven Pinker (or myself, in my personal experience).

      I just don’t see effective pushback constraining the slip to the left, unlike the slip to the right. Socialism – of the type where personal property is banished and a government central planner controls the economy, not of the type seen in the Scandinavian countries – is in vogue in my circles, and any appeals that empirical evidence might indicate that this is a bad idea gets rounded off to being either a bad-faith argument designed to manipulate or the result of brainwashing, which results in the discourse just continuing to ratchet further left. And though these people don’t have national-level power, many of them do have little fiefdoms as administrators where they’ve gotten to implement their will – and the stats indicate that positions of major influence like those tend to be dominated by people who think like them.

      That’s why even as a leftist, I’m far more worried about the slipping to the left than the slipping to the right. Being a leftist doesn’t mean being blind to the dangers of slipping too far left – in fact, I believe it should mean being hypersensitive to it, even moreso than to the dangers of slipping too far right. Yet I see a continual insistence among my peers on the left that a good leftist isn’t allowed to be against anything that’s further left, and I don’t see effective mechanisms of constraining that. I’m not privy to the conversations in the right, but I don’t see rightists of equal extremity as my peers but on the opposite direction – i.e. literal Nazis or White Supremacists – as having anywhere near the numbers or influence as those on the left. I’m pretty confident in the current Republican administration’s ability to stay on one side of the line away from Nazis, but I’ve already seen national-level Democratic politicians buy into and implement critical theory-based policies.

      • Brad says:

        And unlike criticism of Trump which gets hailed as correct and brave, criticism of this ideology gets rounded off to crazy right-wing conspiracy theory fear-mongering, even when coming from people on the left like Sam Harris or Steven Pinker (or myself, in my personal experience).

        I’m certain there are places where the opposite is true. It seems to me you, and those similarly situated, want to have your cake and eat it too.

        Perhaps there’s a link here to the people that want to make a living off all the drumming going on in Drumidia, and so insist on leaving near it, but also insist on a drum free bubble around their own houses.

        • Deiseach says:

          Brad, I think the danger is that the left (however we want to define such a term, spanning from liberals to progressives to that troll over on the sub-reddit defending Mao and Stalin) are in real danger of forgetting, ignoring, or not being aware of the slippery slope that censorship represents. They think that because they are the good guys (and I don’t mean mockery by this, it’s a genuinely held belief because they do think the principles and values they hold are on the whole correct, good and better for human flourishing; the trouble is that easily tilts over into “I’m right, therefore you’re wrong, therefore you’re bad”) then they will never abuse this power and it will never be used except against bad people and bad things.

          And that’s not how it works. I’m on the right, I have the examples from history of how the right abused such powers, I know how this can go wrong so easily because you’re convinced you’re doing the right thing. So you know, burned by experience, which is why I’m on the free speech side. And the left should know this too, because they were the ones protesting censorship. But they’re blinded by their own virtue, so what they are doing isn’t censorship (that’s something only the right does), it’s preventing hate speech or the like.

          Remember “there is no right not to be offended”? Remember all the people on the left(ish) side proclaiming this, from Salman Rushdie to Philip Pullman to Dawkins to Fry to Ricky Gervais on down? Generally this was trumpeted when it was religious/conservatives being offended, and they were defending the right to dunk crucifixes in urine or make fun of believers, but the principle was there: just because you go “wah, my hurt feelings!”, too bad – that is not enough to impinge on their right of free speech.

          And now I’m seeing things like the report of the Cathy Newman/Jordan Peterson interview where she asked “Why should your freedom of speech trump a trans person’s right not to be offended?” (I don’t think Peterson’s answer as reported was quite such a slam dunk as it’s being presented, but that’s a different matter).

          And all I could think was “Hold on, what right not to be offended? For decades I’ve been lectured as a religious conservative (both religiously and politically) that I have no right to object to anything on the grounds that it offends me, and now all of a sudden there’s a right to be offended?”

          What that means, or what it sounds like it means, is that there is a right to take offence – so long as you belong to the protected groups. Outside of that, too bad. And that’s not a neutral or universal principle, and that attitude will let the left slide painlessly down the slippery slope, unless they examine it. And it’s going to be hard to examine it, because it will question the idea of the virtue and rightness and goodness of the left’s views, and that is going to hurt like hellfire because it’s digging right down into the psychological roots.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Deiseach: Exactly. Cathy Newman was implying that noble groups like males in dresses have a right to not be offended, while offending peasants is either neutral or virtuous.
            And so I worry that the explosion in males identifying as women without a concurrent increase in female gender dysphoria comes from adult males seeing a chance to game the Blue system.

          • BBA says:

            A while back I saw some trans folk chewing out Jill Soloway (AFAB, creator of “Transparent” which a few years ago was the wokest show on TV but is now problematic as fuck) for claiming to be non-binary but still implicitly identifying as a woman in their memoir… but, y’know, explicit self-ID is everything so it’s still offensive to call them “her” and not “them.” From what I’ve read of Soloway, their particular case seems more like some kind of internalized cisphobia than anything else.

            Anyway: there has been an explosion in people identifying as non-binary and most of them were assigned female at birth. I don’t know what the statistics are and I don’t know how many are sincere versus just doing it for wokeness points or because it’s a social trend, but I do know I’m a bigot for even asking these questions and if you’ll excuse me I’m going to take a shower now.

          • Deiseach says:

            Eh, Le Maistre Chat, I’m not particularly upset about men in dresses – I think transvestites are a group that have been bundled into transgender and/or brushed discreetly under the carpet, but if you’ve got the legs for a skirt like Eddie Izzard, sure go ahead! Transvestites generally seem not to be “I am really a woman” but more “I am expressing my feminine side” so that’s their business as long as they don’t try to get women to wax their bits on the grounds that they’ve got a lady penis not a man penis so objections are bigotry.

            What I do object to is “guy who doesn’t even make the effort to put on a dress but demands to be treated as a woman” but that’s a whole other mess to be sorted out: some I think are probably not trans but have some mental problem, some may or may not be trans, and some are probably opportunists sniffing out a chance to try and make money or gin up publicity (it seems to be popular to post some heart-rending tale on social media of oppression’n’transphobia, then appeal for crowdfunding or donations to help with the trauma and all).

          • Plumber says:

            @Deiseach

            “….I’m on the right…”

            You’re on the right Deiseach?

            My “tribe-o-meter” must be way off, as other than describing yourself as being religious (which for some reason correlates with “right”) none of the posts I’ve read of yours gave me that impression. 

            What “right-wing” policies do you advocate?

            Another SSC’er described themselves as on the “‘left”, which I didn’t get the impression of at all (seemed mostly pro technocracy to me) and when I asked said something along the lines of “because I don’t accept excuses for voting for Trump”, but otherwise the policies advocated seemed right-ish to me, just as yours seem left-ish to me.

            Usually I think:

             “Right” = tax cuts for the wealthy, and more power for employers

             “Left” = spending for the poor, and more power for employees

            and everything else is window dressing. 

            What am I getting wrong?

          • Brad says:

            Plumber
            > What am I getting wrong?

            Different people put different weights on different issues.

            LMS
            > Cathy Newman was implying that noble groups like males in dresses have a right to not be offended, while offending peasants is either neutral or virtuous.

            A model of this blog’s emphasis on charity and steelmanning, as always.

            Deiseach

            It seems to me that you, and everyone on your side of this debate—including Scott—is pushing a norm that is both novel and ill defined.

            Absolutely anyone can say absolutely anything with absolutely no consequences clearly doesn’t work and no one really advocates for it. On the legal side that have been millions of words written in the last hundred years (which is how young modern first amendment law is) delineating exactly what freedom of speech means. Even so there are still some quite thorny area left. But on the, it must be emphasized again quite novel and radical, free speech norm side there isn’t even a beginning of such an effort.

            Instead on the one hand we get extremely vague but soaring rhetoric like your post above about how censorship is bad, with the strong implication being that the norm being pushed is ancient rather than entirely novel, and on the other hand very specific cases that people decide to champion (Remember the Damore) and others that for some not very well elucidated reason don’t count (Kappernick).

            How exactly freedom of association is supposed to fit in conceptual with this version of free speech is never exactly spelled out. But it seems to cash out in a quite asymmetric way.

            For me it is very easy to oppose this new version of free speech because it’s supporters haven’t even fleshed it out to the point where it’s a serious ideologically neutral proposition. Right now it’s inextricably tied to resentment at the way right wingers are being treated by people that don’t like what they have to say. Show me a Skokie moment and maybe I’ll take another look.

          • Usually I think:

            “Right” = tax cuts for the wealthy, and more power for employers

            “Left” = spending for the poor, and more power for employees

            and everything else is window dressing.

            What am I getting wrong?

            Left and right mean different things to different people and different things in different times and places.

            To me, in economic terms, right means more choices controlled by individuals, left means more choices controlled by government. In social terms, in America at present, right means more enforcement of traditional morality, left means less enforcement of traditional morality, more enforcement of leftish morality. I’m mostly opposed to the enforcement of either category of morality, assuming that moral rules against killing people and stealing stuff don’t fit under either.

            Trump represents himself as right wing but is actually a populist with no clear left/right position. One result of his prominence is that people now think of immigration restrictions as right wing, when by my definitions they should be left wing–Bernie Sanders had that one right, from his point of view. Trade restrictions are an even clearer case–although that one has switched between Republicans and Democrats before.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Plumber

            Usually I think:

            “Right” = tax cuts for the wealthy, and more power for employers

            “Left” = spending for the poor, and more power for employees

            I think you are getting both wrong at once.

            You have the correct position for the right’s “donor class” and the correct position for the left’s traditional “voting class” (although both coalition’s voters are shifting while IMO the donors are staying the same-ish). The right’s voters have always been less interested in the market than the donors and more interested in preserving culture. The Left’s donors, on the other hand, are less interested in the economy (and to the extent they are they don’t typically have very serious ideas) and are more interested with cultural transformation.

            This is how, for instance, African Americans and South American Hispanics vote majority Democrat. This has been a constant cause of confusion to the Bushes and other similar politicians who said, “but they believe in religion just light us conservatives!” The failure is that these people vote almost 100% on fiscal issues like healthcare and wealth redistribution. They are a cultural fit for a position they dont care about.

            It also shows how Scott Walker (a guy I know you don’t like and reference a lot) managed to bust public sector unions in Wisconsin. He always had the fiscal donor class and suburban right wingers on his side by arguing these unions made schools more expensive. However, he united that position with the proposition that they weren’t just expensive, but they were corrupt and immoral. They advocated things like sodomy, ,wanted to teach Howard Zinn’s books, stole wages from people who didn’t want to be in the union, used union funds to campaign for immoral politicians, etc, etc. And the Wisconsin public sector unions were vulnerable on these points because, frankly, it was true (also why the Supreme Court recently ruled against unions IMO, it was because they didn’t even try to hide their corruption anymore, they were advocating that it was their right to be corrupt). I live in IL and we know Wisconsin politics well. Walker won his first 3 elections because Wisconsin needed to be “saved” from Illinois machine politics. He at least delayed it a bit.

          • Plumber says:

            @DavidFriedman

            “…To me, in economic terms, right means more choices controlled by individuals, left means more choices controlled by government. In social terms, in America at present, right means more enforcement of traditional morality, left means less enforcement of traditional morality, more enforcement of leftish morality. I’m mostly opposed to the enforcement of either category of morality, assuming that moral rules against killing people and stealing stuff don’t fit under either.

            Trump represents himself as right wing but is actually a populist with no clear left/right position. One result of his prominence is that people now think of immigration restrictions as right wing, when by my definitions they should be left wing–Bernie Sanders had that one right, from his point of view. Trade restrictions are an even clearer case–although that one has switched between Republicans and Democrats before”

            Up to the limits of my understanding I agree with everything in your post. 

            Obviously I vote different than you, but I suspect that’s because I want individuals constrained by majority rule more than you.

            Yes I acknowledge that “the tyranny of the mob” is a real thing, I’m just even less truthful of completely free individuals (and I don’t want people parking in front of my driveway, especially if they have a loud stereo).

            @idontknow131647093

            “…You have the correct position for the right’s “donor class” and the correct position for the left’s traditional “voting class” (although both coalition’s voters are shifting while IMO the donors are staying the same-ish). The right’s voters have always been less interested in the market than the donors and more interested in preserving culture. The Left’s donors, on the other hand, are less interested in the economy (and to the extent they are they don’t typically have very serious ideas) and are more interested with cultural transformation…”

            If I understand you correctly your division between the “donor” and “voter” classes of both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party seems essentially correct to me, and I’ll add that in my lifetime the donors seem to get what they want more often than the voters (Republicans have passed lots of tax cuts, but Roe v.Wade is still the law of the land, and Obergefell v. Hodges is now the law of the land, but the number of private sector union jobs is still a shadow of what they once were).

            And I’m a little odd in while I don’t feel as strongly about it as I do what does determine my vote, if a local community wants to ban abortions in their county, and votes that way, I think the majority should rule there, and I don’t think anyone should be forced to bake a cake.

            I suppose to be consistent if a county votes to force people to bake cakes, I should say that’s okay as well,.but that’s a harder pill for me to swallow. 

            The difference? 

            Forcing a woman to bear a child sounds like slavery to me, but the principal that human life is sacred is pretty compelling to me, so on that issue I throw my hands up and say “Let the people decide” (other people I mean, I’d have a hard time casting a vote on that).

            On the “bake the cake” argument, I default to “majority rules” for most things but I don’t think people should be compelled to labor (yes someone’s going to say “taxes are forced labor”, I don’t agree with that, and I’ll save that argument for another thread).

            On economic issues; basically I want February 1973. 

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Plumber, I agree with most the assessments you posed there.

            I wasn’t alive in 1973, but I will advise you that in order to replicate those economic conditions you need to be willing to nuke a few major cities, instigate a Eurasian landwar that kills or maims most males 20-30 (without harming US males much) and then allow for a near total exclusion of 50% of the world from the economy.

          • Deiseach says:

            with the strong implication being that the norm being pushed is ancient rather than entirely novel

            Because it isn’t novel, it’s not different this time round – the impulse to say to enemies/inferiors/the conquered “shut up, you can’t say this, you can’t think that” is as old as our species.

            The left thinking that this time it’s different and if they’re doing it means it’s not censorship is precisely the trap I’m afraid of them falling into, and it looks like you’ve fallen in already, Brad. You have only the best intentions and act out of measured reason and not impulse? And do you not think the Inquisition (something often invoked in such examples) didn’t feel exactly the same way? I’m Catholic, I have to sit through lectures about the evil of the Inquisition often enough, do you think I don’t recognise the new progressive secular form coming into being when I see it?

          • Brad says:

            Deiseach

            Because it isn’t novel, it’s not different this time round

            There was no previous round. There’s never been a non-trivial sized society in human history that the norm you are trying to push has prevailed.

            Further, you are assuming the conclusion–that “censorship” is some unified, indivisible concept that applies to every actor everywhere that takes some action or thinks differently about a person on the basis of what that other person said is doing the same thing as the government putting someone in prison because it doesn’t like what he’s said.

            That’s frankly baloney. You yourself admit elsewhere in this thread that you endorse a church firing a preacher because it doesn’t agree with what he says. Is that censorship?

            If you want me to go along with your proposed social norm at least

            1) Admit that it’s a radical new social norm. Don’t try to tell me you are only standing up for a principle that’s heretofore been universally honored for centuries and only when those darn kids with their pink hair came along did anyone even question that it might not be honored forever.

            I wasn’t born yesterday and neither were you.

            2) Outline _in detail_ what it is you think the norm should actually be. Where exactly do you think freedom of association ends and “censorship” begins? Why Damore and not Kaepernick? Why universities and not churches? Why can a baker decide not to bake a gay wedding cake but I can’t organize my friends not to shop there?

            Going ahead and actually make your case, don’t just darkly threaten me with vague dire future consequences if I don’t go along with whatever you arbitrarily choose to label “free speech”.

          • but I will advise you that in order to replicate those economic conditions you need to be willing to nuke a few major cities, instigate a Eurasian landwar that kills or maims most males 20-30 (without harming US males much) and then allow for a near total exclusion of 50% of the world from the economy.

            This looks like the result of confusing relative with actual success. The fact that much of the world was in poor shape due to WWII meant that Americans were relatively better off. It didn’t make them absolutely better off.

            Presumably you have some theory in which trade is sort of like warfare–the poorer the people you trade with the more likely you are to win. That isn’t how it works. If you look at current U.S. exports, our biggest trading partner is Canada. India is number fifteen. No African country is in the top 25.

            For imports from countries, China is number one, Canada number two, India nine. No African country in the top ten, which is as far as the page I’m looking at lists them.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            David, I am not confusing them, I am stating that the “feelings” associated with the postwar period of “generalized prosperity” and “national unity” etc required the state wherein US workers were much better off relative to the world and they could not be outsourced or competed with (yet) by EU/JPN/CN industry.

            I don’t think people will be overall better off, but they might feel better in the US, because people will be more equal in the US (every US worker will be in high demand) and we also get to feel like the best. That is what postwar nostalgia is about, not prosperity in any meaningful sense.

          • I don’t think people will be overall better off, but they might feel better in the US, because people will be more equal in the US (every US worker will be in high demand) and we also get to feel like the best.

            1. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t Plumber’s point about things being better then.

            2. It’s not clear to me that the destruction in the rest of the world made people in the US more equal. Surely the fraction of world labor destroyed, although large, was lower than the fraction of world capital, so one would expect on a very simple analysis that the return to capital would go up and to labor down. I can imagine more elaborate models in which the later development of capital abroad, especially human capital, made foreign workers a closer substitute for American workers and so had the opposite effect for the U.S.

          • A1987dM says:

            @David Friedman:

            One result of his prominence is that people now think of immigration restrictions as right wing

            I’m pretty sure that was the case even before Trump (at least in Europe).

            While technically immigration can be considered an economic issue, culturally ISTM that support/opposition to it correlates much more strongly with leftish morality/traditional morality than with other economic issues e.g. taxation.

          • A1987dM says:

            @Plumber:

            I don’t think people should be compelled to labor

            So you’re against conscription, jury duty, etc. as well?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Surely the fraction of world labor destroyed, although large, was lower than the fraction of world capital, so one would expect on a very simple analysis that the return to capital would go up and to labor down.

            @ David Friedman

            This sounds incorrect to me unless you are choosing a starting point prior to the war and measuring the return on labor and the return capital through the war. If labor is scarce relative to capital you should get higher returns from labor, not the other way around.

          • unless you are choosing a starting point prior to the war and measuring the return on labor and the return capital through the war.

            I am comparing the situation after the war to the situation before the war. But the argument also works to compare the situation immediately after the war to the situation much later, since a lot of the destroyed capital got replaced.

            If labor is scarce relative to capital you should get higher returns from labor, not the other way around.

            Correct.

            And the effect of the war was the opposite. Some labor was destroyed and a lot of capital, making capital scarcer relative to labor than it had been before, which would reduce the returns from labor, not increase them.

          • sentientbeings says:

            @baconbits

            The key word in the quoted comment is destroyed.

          • Plumber says:

            @idontknow131647093

            I wasn’t alive in 1973, but I will advise you that in order to replicate those economic conditions you need to be willing to nuke a few major cities, instigate a Eurasian landwar that kills or maims most males 20-30 (without harming US males much) and then allow for a near total exclusion of 50% of the world from the economy”

             You may well be right that the U.S.A. in1973 was a historical anomaly that can’t be achieved again, but the Germans, the Scandinavians, and (to a lesser extent) the Canadians seem to have living standards closer to then.

            I’ve posted some of this stuff before in other threads, but why 1973?

            Highest adjusted for inflation median hourly wages for non-supervisor workers yet. 

            A lower gap between rich and poor.

            A lower gap between college educated and non-college educated incomes.

            The draft had ended. 

            The civil rights act and the voting rights act had been passed ending legal Jim Crow. 

            The test score gaps between black and white students was closing (and would continue to close until the 1980’s).

            While not the market share of the 1950’s, private sector unions were still relatively strong.

            Public sector unions were growing, including for garbage collectors (this is important to me because garbage collectors are the government employees most likely to die on the job in peace time, yes more than the fire fighters and police officers who get all the press), remember M.L.K. Junior was shot when he was supporting a garbage collectors strike in Memphis.

            The E.P.A.and OSHA acts has passed, a cleaner environment (back in 1970 when those acts were passed the San Francisco bay was pretty much an open sewer, and of course there was more lead in the air) and more workplace safety would result. 

            I was in Kindergarten in 1973 so I have only a child’s eye view of what life was actually like, but I lived in a mostly black neighborhood, and I remember that my neighbors as homeowners, with relatively new cars who earned middle class wages, but within 15 years that ended, their kids didn’t find those jobs, crime soared, in the mid 80’s it was a rare month that I didn’t hear gunfire and sirens, then by the ’90’s the neighborhood became middle-class again, but college educated whites instead. 

            @A1987dM

            “So you’re against conscription, jury duty, etc. as well?”

            In my experience Jury duty is so easy to get out of it’s effectively volunteer and I don’t have a problem with it, conscription is a more interesting question, I do think some majority rule compulsion for a society to survive is excusable, but I think the lottery system that we had in the U.S.A. for a long while did put too much of a burden on an unlucky few, I’d prefer something more broadbased like the Swiss system (of course it helps that their military has only been a deterrent for over a hundred years).

            And when it comes to military matters that something I’ve wondered for a while, the Swiss kept their independence while the Nazi’s were turning Europe into a slaughterhouse, but it was the far from pure British Empire, United States, and the Soviet Union that defeated the greater evil of Nazi Germany (and Stalin’s regime wasn’t that much lesser of an evil, but it bore the brunt of the fighting).

            How much lesser evil is acceptable to keep (the practice of preparing for and diverting resources towards the man-made Hell of war) in order to defeat greater evils when they arise? We had conscription for decades during the cold war.

          • Brad says:

            I’ve posted some of this stuff before in other threads, but why 1973?

            And apparently ignored the responses since you continue to spout a meaningless statistic after it’s been pointed out multiple times that it is meaningless.

          • Plumber says:

            @Brad

            “And apparently ignored the responses since you continue to spout a meaningless statistic after it’s been pointed out multiple times that it is meaningless”

            The wages were real not “meaningless”, I was there! My father only did sporatic work (concrete, hauling, and roofing) out of a 1950’s pick-up truck, and while my mother would get on the roof and work with him from time to time, it still wasn’t many hours of labor that let them buy a house in Berkeley in the early 1970’s compared to what it would it would take today, and my Dad was only in his 30’s and my Mom in her 20’s!
            Re-read our host’s “Considerations On Cost Disease” post and try to tell me those statistics are “meaningless”.
            The decline of unions correlates with a real decline in living standards for the working class, and far more of my peers than not have been less prosperous than their parents were at the same age.

            I believe my eyes.

          • baconbits9 says:

            OH man, I’m definitely blaming that misread on having a 12 day old at home. I read it three times and though “He can’t really mean that can he”, my subconscious knew what my eyes wouldn’t see.

          • Brad says:

            Cash wages are a meaningless statistic. Compensation is the meaningful one.

            If you think otherwise, I’ll gladly trade you $1 every two weeks for your benefits.

          • Plumber says:

            @Brad

            “Cash wages are a meaningless statistic. Compensation is the meaningful one….”

            What is meaningful is what an hour of labor earns you, that more money is earmarked for “medical benefits” doesn’t freaking matter because it’s less time with the physician anyway!

            Housing matters, especially how unaffordable, and being able to buy more impressive pocket computers is not a freaking equivalent! 

            Less pensions, less housing, less time with the Doctor when you can see one, is somehow more compensation?

            Each year the housing one can buy his your wages is less than, the year before, each years new hires earn less of a pension than those hired before, co-pays to visit the hospital go ever up, this is “compensation”?

            Pull the other one why don’t you.

          • Brad says:

            What is meaningful is what an hour of labor earns you

            Which is compensation. It’s not a complicated argument. You need to look at compensation, not wages. You may well be able to tell the same story you want to tell, but you’ll be using the correct statistic.

          • marxbro says:

            (however we want to define such a term, spanning from liberals to progressives to that troll over on the sub-reddit defending Mao and Stalin)

            Are you referring to me? I am not a troll, please don’t call me one. It is neither kind nor true.

      • fion says:

        Thanks for your comment. Your perspective isn’t one I’ve heard much of before. But I do wonder if you and I understand different things by “left”. Sam Harris looks pretty centrist to me, and would be significantly right of centre in my country. I don’t know much about Steven Pinker, but his wikipedia page doesn’t seem to mention political views. This makes me take your “I’m a leftist but worried about the excesses of the left” with a pinch of salt.

        Perhaps this is wrong, but I put it to you that perhaps you do “see rightists of equal extremity as [your] peers but on the opposite direction”, but you’re wrong to say that “equal extremity” corresponds to literal Nazis. Maybe it corresponds to “mainstream Trump voter”, in which case there is a lot of them on the right. (And there’s a few people even more extreme than *them*!)

        (Also, what’s far-left about critical theory? I went to a lecture course on critical theory and only one of the several lecturers was a socialist.)

        • lvlln says:

          Thanks for your comment. Your perspective isn’t one I’ve heard much of before. But I do wonder if you and I understand different things by “left”. Sam Harris looks pretty centrist to me, and would be significantly right of centre in my country. I don’t know much about Steven Pinker, but his wikipedia page doesn’t seem to mention political views. This makes me take your “I’m a leftist but worried about the excesses of the left” with a pinch of salt.

          Pinker doesn’t involve himself much in politics, but whatever leanings he’s stated tend to be fairly left-wing. As for Harris, I’m puzzled as to how he could be construed as at all right-wing – maybe centrist, but I can’t think of a single belief he espouses that would place him on the right. His whole deal is combating traditional structures – mainly in the form of religion – and seeking to tear them down for the purposes of reducing unnecessary suffering. His opinions on immigration probably come closest to right-wing, but even there, he pretty obviously arrives to it from a left-wing perspective rather than a right-wing ethnonationalist one. Which leads to the unusual belief he holds that USA should limit immigration but should also have effectively open borders for Muslims who come in fleeing from religious persecution.

          Perhaps this is wrong, but I put it to you that perhaps you do “see rightists of equal extremity as [your] peers but on the opposite direction”, but you’re wrong to say that “equal extremity” corresponds to literal Nazis. Maybe it corresponds to “mainstream Trump voter”, in which case there is a lot of them on the right. (And there’s a few people even more extreme than *them*!)

          (Also, what’s far-left about critical theory? I went to a lecture course on critical theory and only one of the several lecturers was a socialist.)

          The connection between critical theory and far-left politics is a mysterious one that probably won’t be fully figured out for a while. I’ve heard some people posit that it has to do with the empirical evidence of the results of far-left politics being so clearly and undeniably disastrous in the 20th century that its proponents turned to postmodernism as a way of routing around empirical evidence, but that explanation seems too convenient and just-so. In any case, right now it seems that the faith-based belief structure of critical theory has taken a good chunk of power in the far left.

          Given that, I maintain that the equal-and-opposite of the ascendant SJW left that make up my peers is the literal Nazi or at least White Supremacist. These people profess a deep belief in group-based guilt and punishment and regularly advocate for literal re-education camps. They might have convinced themselves that this will lead to actual utopia rather than absolute hell that’s at least as bad as the holocaust, but that makes their policy prescriptions no less extreme than those of literal Nazis who want to fire up the gas chambers. The fact that they’ve done a better job in convincing themselves to ignore the empirical evidence (again, critical theory makes that easy to do) makes them even more extreme, if anything.

          No, these people don’t have national-level power and don’t make up a majority or even a sizable minority of the Democratic party or the left. But the mainstream left is doing a terrible job of resisting their influence whereas I see the mainstream right as having done a fairly good job at resisting literal Nazis. This is why I’m far more worried about the dangers of the creep of extreme left than the creep of extreme right.

          • fion says:

            Re: Harris: Fair enough. I see that he supports tax raises for the wealthy, but in the US that’s not saying very much. He supported Clinton over Sanders, which makes me think he’s more right wing. I guess for America he’s a centrist or perhaps even a bit left of centre.

            I don’t really think it’s fair to accuse critical theory of a “faith-based belief structure”. My impression from the short introductory course I did was that it was fairly rigourous, and had a long tradition of critical theorists explaining why other critical theorists got it wrong.

            But if your SJW friends do have a faith-based belief structure, and an inability to consider empirical evidence, then perhaps they are the reflection of the Fox News-watching public, or the people who believe complete factual nonsense just because Trump said it.

            I do actually agree with your last point. I think for the most part the right does a very good job of resisting literal Nazis, whereas the furthest left extremists are at best ignored and at worst listened to. Having said that, as somebody who believes the “correct” position is somewhere in the mid- to far-left, the furthest left extremists don’t actually seem that far from the correct position.

            Which actually leads me to a question I’d be interested in your answer to: Do you judge somebody’s extremism by how far they are from the centre or how far they are from you?

          • lvlln says:

            I don’t really think it’s fair to accuse critical theory of a “faith-based belief structure”. My impression from the short introductory course I did was that it was fairly rigourous, and had a long tradition of critical theorists explaining why other critical theorists got it wrong.

            Rigor doesn’t imply that it’s not faith-based, though. Biblical scholars tend to be quite rigorous too, as far as I can tell, but all that rigor stands atop a structure of faith.

            But if your SJW friends do have a faith-based belief structure, and an inability to consider empirical evidence, then perhaps they are the reflection of the Fox News-watching public, or the people who believe complete factual nonsense just because Trump said it.

            Perhaps at an epistemic level, sure. But that’s not so much that we’re reflecting their politics on the right, but rather just an example of the fact that almost everyone is gullible and blind to their own faith, no matter where they are on the political spectrum. To get a true reflection that of the politics – that is, a right-wing reflection of the totalizing ideology and the extreme policy prescriptions of SJWs (at least the ones in my peers – even among SJWs there’s a range in extremism) – you’d have to get all the way to the folks who are just as faith-based and also genocidally murderous on the right.

            Which actually leads me to a question I’d be interested in your answer to: Do you judge somebody’s extremism by how far they are from the centre or how far they are from you?

            I judge extremism more by how far they are from the center – hence why I consider people who are very close to me on the far left as being extreme and identify as someone on the extreme left on many issues (e.g. as an open-borders advocate, I consider myself someone with an extreme view on that issue (of course, some also consider that to be an extreme right/libertarian position, but let’s not get too deep in the weeds of that)).

            I think a big part of the reason why I judge it this way is that even though I believe I’m correct in my political beliefs, I acknowledge the fact that because everyone believes that they’re correct in their beliefs, my believing my political beliefs are correct is very very weak evidence that my political beliefs are correct. As such, no matter how strongly I believe that my political beliefs are correct, I try to have enough epistemic humility and skepticism to seriously consider the argument if most people seem to be telling me that my beliefs are wrong and/or extreme. In fact, I’ve noticed in practice that the more certain someone is that their views are the correct ones, the more wrong they tend to be in those views.

            So I wouldn’t consider my views to be the “correct” or “central” one from which the “extremity” of other views should be judged off of.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      The idea of Trump being “far right” is only able to be entertained because the left has gone so far left. Trump’s positions are that of an 80s-90s centrist Republican or Democrat. He’s basically 1992 Bill Clinton but friendlier to gays and less enamored with free trade. The only way to conclude this is “far right” is if anything to the right of Stalin is “far right.”

      Even then I’m not really sure if “left” and “right” are the right way to think about it. I’m more concerned, like Nabil, that we’re heading to dysfunction rather than any coherent political direction. Something more like an anarcho-tyranny. The enemies of those in power are tightly controlled while those useful to the powerful are free to run wild. I think of the Trump rally in San Jose during the primaries. Regular, working and middle class American citizens go to listen to one of the leading candidates for the nomination of one of the two major US political parties, and they’re assaulted, attacked, run down, and pelted with eggs by literal illegal foreigners waving foreign flags on what’s ostensibly US soil, the police do nothing and the media condemns the citizens and runs interference for the foreign rioters. This doesn’t fit in with “left/right” but…just some kind of insanity.

      Trump may have political power, but the moneyed power elite, the multinational corporations, the media empires they own, the entrenched bureaucracies have an awful lot of power, and no problem wielding it against Trump’s supporters.

      Left and right is kind of an afterthought compared to all that. The Golden Rule still applies.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I think it fits the original meaning of left and right.

        The people who sat on the left side of the French national assembly largely went on to support the French Revolution and afterwards the Terror. That’s pretty insane.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I guess, but they didn’t really “win.” They did not get liberté, égalité, fraternité but murder and then Napoleon.

        • Plumber says:

          @Nabil ad Dajjal

          “…..The people who sat on the left side of the French national assembly largely went on to support the French Revolution and afterwards the Terror…”

          Really?

          It’s been a long time since I read “Citizens” but I thought that “Like Saturn, the Revolution devours its children” and the “Left” of the original National Assembly were mostly displaced by and themselves victims of Robespierre and the Terror when they didn’t put themselves in exile, just as few “Old Bolsheviks” survived Stalin’s purges.

          The usual story (as I understand it) is that the original revolutionists set in motion events that they couldn’t control, and were pushed aside by those even more radical.

          I’m reminded of the “far left” of the ’70’s who killed liberals like Marcus Foster for being “insufficiently revolutionary”.

      • Nornagest says:

        Trump’s positions are that of an 80s-90s centrist Republican or Democrat. He’s basically 1992 Bill Clinton but friendlier to gays and less enamored with free trade.

        On policy, yes. But I’ve been saying for years that he’s being pattern-matched to the far right for aesthetic, not substantive, reasons. Part of this is just cultural cringe — he’s crasser than anybody else on the national stage in recent memory, and being right-wing is crass to the center-left establishment, so he must be extra-super-K-right-wing++. But part of it has to do with rhetoric, and that’s a bit more respectable. It does require that you not take the rhetoric as serious policy proposals, which is something the establishment isn’t used to (I’ve been saying it since day one, but I’m pretty cynical about this sort of thing); but, on the other hand, the job of a head of state involves setting the tone for national discourse, and if that tone’s more reactionary than any other recent administration’s, then in a real sense Trump is being a more right-wing President.

        Just not a policy sense.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        The idea of Trump being “far right” is only able to be entertained because the left has gone so far left.

        Also because some positions are popular on the left precisely as a reaction to Trump espousing their opposite. E.g., free trade used to be seen as a right-wing policy and protectionism as a left-wing one, but when Trump started talking about putting up tariffs, a lot of left-wing publications started running articles in support of free trade.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          That was weird to me as well. Hillary got pressured from the left to go against the TPP, and the Republicans were almost unanimously for it – and then Trump went against it and suddenly it’s good to be globalist free-traders?

          At least the establishment right is also complaining about Trump on that, so somebody comes out not looking the hypocrite.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            /r/politics did a 180 on the TPP so fast it made my head spin.

          • albatross11 says:

            Most people do not have principles so much as they have a side.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Agreed on both points. It really doesn’t increase my confidence that we’re going to be passing good laws based on careful thought of the pros and cons, from either party.

        • fion says:

          Over here free trade is still seen as right-wing. Protectionism is more neutral, but probably still right-wing.

          Obviously I agree that anybody switching opinions to signal their allegiance to a side is doing wrong, though, and I’m sorry to hear it’s happened to American centrists and liberals.

          • How can both free trade and protectionism, which are opposite policies, both be right wing? Do you mean that they are both supported by (different) right wing factions? Are one or both of them also left wing?

          • fion says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Neither addresses the issue of control of the means of production, neither addresses redistribution, neither addresses poverty.

            The great victory of the right since the eighties is to occupy both sides of the debate. Would you like to be killed by fire or water? They’re basically opposites so they can’t both be murderism. If you control the questions you control all possible answers.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think protectionism addresses distribution and poverty by managing trade in a pro-labor way. Or at least a balanced way.

            The Democratic party used to be pro-tariff and anti-immigration (legal, not just illegal) because free trade and mass immigration were obviously bad for labor. They’ve abandoned this for money from the capital class and political power from the new arrivals.

          • fion says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Ok, yeah, I see how protectionism can be arrived at from a left-wing starting point, if you use it to help the working class in your country. But if it harms the working class in other countries that might not be very attractive for left-wingers.

          • @Honcho:
            I don’t think protectionism actually helps the domestic working class, although it isn’t logically impossible, but it is certainly sold as doing so.

            @Fion:

            Free trade, and even more free immigration, addresses the issue of world poverty to a degree no other policy I can think of does. Protectionism is an (expensive) form of redistribution, not from the rich to the poor or the poor to the rich but to producers in the protected industry from their consumers (and from producers in export industries).

            Protectionism is a very limited case of government control of the means of production, since it is shifting production from domestic export producers to domestic import competing producers, deciding that we will produce cars by building them in Detroit instead of producing cars by growing corn in Iowa, exporting it, and getting foreign made autos in exchange.

            Putting that aside, your answer might explain why people on either the left or the right might be in favor of either protectionism or free trade. But it doesn’t explain how the same people can be in favor of both. Is your point that some groups on the right support one, some the other?

          • fion says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Thanks for the explanation.

            Is your point that some groups on the right support one, some the other?

            That is a thing I believe to be true. I wouldn’t say it was my point, but perhaps I’m being pedantic now.

      • Plumber says:

        @Conrad Honcho

        “The idea of Trump being “far right” is only able to be entertained because the left has gone so far left. Trump’s positions are that of an 80s-90s centrist Republican or Democrat. He’s basically 1992 Bill Clinton but friendlier to gays and less enamored with free trade….”

        Clinton was right-wing.
        It’s not for nothing that Richard Nixon (considered an arch-conservative at the time) is referred to as “The last Liberal President”.
        One generation’s “moderate” is the next generations “radical” and vice versa.

      • fion says:

        I’d be interested in whether you have an opinion on Jair Bolsonaro, Conrad. Would you characterise him as far-right? Do you have an opinion on whether he’ll prove to be a good or bad thing for Brazil or the world more generally?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          To be honest, I don’t know enough about Brazilian politics or Balsonaro himself to have an informed opinion. My uninformed opinion is slightly positive: Brazil has massive corruption, Bolsonaro does not appear to be corrupt and may be welcome force in purging corruption, and he seems to want to act in the interests of Brazilians. So long as the rhetoric I’ve heard attributed to him is just edgelording and not serious.

          I’m generally in favor of nationalism, because the least bad thing governments can do is act in the interests of their citizens, rather than inflict bad things on them in service of some “greater good.” Whatever that “greater good” is, it’s probably just the financial interests of those in power, sold to people under false pretenses. To the extent Bolsonaro is in fact a Brazilian nationalist, Brazil will probably be better off with him. Time will tell.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think someone here commented in an earlier discussion that a major reason for Bolsonaro’s success was likely the example of Venezuela’s meltdown under Maduro.

          • 10240 says:

            “National interest” can be easily used as a false pretense to sell bad policies to the citizens. In a middle-income country where there are typically a lot of Western corporations operating, a typical example is to help the companies owned by the government’s corrupt cronies replace the relatively un-corrupt and efficient foreign companies under the pretense that this is good for the country because they are not foreign. Or asking people to put aside their own interests for the benefit of the country and national unity; it may turn out that no one (except perhaps the leadership) benefits.

            That’s actually a lot easier IMO than using some “greater good” as a pretense; putting some greater good ahead of the interests of the citizens of the country is not popular with that many people.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That’s why I said “interest of citizens” instead of “national interest.” Our current overlords think mass immigration for cheap labor is in the “national interest” and a moral good, but an awful lot of the citizens who have to compete with them in the labor market and have the character of their neighborhoods drastically change disagree.

          • but an awful lot of the citizens who have to compete with them in the labor market and have the character of their neighborhoods drastically change disagree.

            I’m curious. The same things could be said of the massive immigration early in the 20th century. Do you think that was a bad thing? If not, what has changed? The actual rate of immigration relative to population is smaller now than it was then.

    • Protagoras says:

      I’m afraid I have to go with the correct answer, that both slippery slopes are problematic. The increasing strength of the far right is a big problem, but I’m with your friend in thinking censorship is a terrible response. I’m particularly unhappy with recent efforts to cut off undesirables from financial services; prosecuting money laundering is one thing (though since I think some things shouldn’t be crimes I think some cases that currently constitute money laundering shouldn’t, such as the Backpage nonsense), but pressuring banks and online payment services not to do business with people when there is no prosecutable crime goes too far. And I mostly think the same about pressuring social media not to do business with undesirables, though that one is a little more complicated depending on the nature of the service, and my opinions run similarly for the invited speakers at universities and so forth. I tend to describe myself as left with libertarian leanings; I vote for Democrats, though there are some Libertarians I might vote for if any of them bothered to run in my neck of the woods.

    • dodrian says:

      So I thought I’d come here. You guys are not as left or liberal as me and my friend. Some of you are sympathetic to Trump, and many of you believe in free speech above most else. Do you think we’re slipping? Which direction are we slipping in?

      I’m one of those free-speech-above-all-else type people, so naturally I’m more concerned about that norm slipping. But more than that, I’m concerned that because of recent mainstream societal movements leftward there is a concerted effort to exclude those on the right from the Overton window, much more than there is a danger of it moving rightwards.

      As an example the legislation in the UK that established same-sex civil partnerships passed in 2004. I wasn’t hugely into news media at the time, but I recall discussion over whether that was a good thing or not, and debates taking place, etc. In 2013 legislation was passed to provide for same-sex marriage in addition to civil partnerships, but the discussion had shifted to much more on whether it would be possible to do so without religious organizations (and the CofE) being at risk of lawsuits for not performing those marriages. Perhaps the opinion of the country had changed that much in those 10 years, but a question for you – do you think the Oxford (or Cambridge, or Hull) Union would host a debate along the lines of “this House believes same-sex marriage is beneficial for society” without facing strong backlash for inviting a speaker who disagrees?

      I’m also concerned about the casual bandying about of terms such as ‘alt-right’. OK, Steve Brannon identifies as that, so it’s fair to apply it to him, but it seems to me the term is more often used to attempt to silence those with right-wing views by smearing them with a phrase with nebulous meaning but distasteful connotations. I wouldn’t agree with your observation that the Conservatives moving rightward either, though I’m concerned that there are attempts to conflate any criticism of Europe with anti-immigration sentiments and consequently racism. UKIP may have gone rightwards, I’ve been out of the country for three years now and don’t get nearly as much exposure to UK politics, but haven’t they been pretty much irrelevant since the referendum?

      So, my perspective has been that traditional conservative viewpoints that were at least up for discussion 10 years ago are often taboo now, and that, in the UK and US at least (I know nothing about mainland Europe), the Overton window is moving leftwards. I appreciated your post though, and I am hoping you will pushback against mine some and let me know how you perceive these things differently!

      • The original Mr. X says:

        As an example the legislation in the UK that established same-sex civil partnerships passed in 2004. I wasn’t hugely into news media at the time, but I recall discussion over whether that was a good thing or not, and debates taking place, etc. In 2013 legislation was passed to provide for same-sex marriage in addition to civil partnerships, but the discussion had shifted to much more on whether it would be possible to do so without religious organizations (and the CofE) being at risk of lawsuits for not performing those marriages.

        The run-up to the 2013 legislation was, from what I can remember, the first incidence in Britain of the “Everybody must follow the zeitgeist exactly, and anybody who still holds the same beliefs I myself claimed to hold this time last month is an irredeemable bigot who must be ostracised from polite society” attitude.

      • Brad says:

        Alt-right may not (probably isn’t) the best term to take off, but it is fair to want a new term to describe a new thing. Christian conservatives that oppose same sex marriage, sure that’s not a new thing, but the refugee crises across Europe have brought to the fore a new mass movement and that does deserve its own name.

        Similarly the post-9/11 period brought back a military interventionist side of the right wing that had been missing from politics for at least a decade at that point. Neo-conservative might not have been the best name for that, since it had preexisting baggage, but it was a phenomenon that rightly needed a name.

      • The Nybbler says:

        OK, Steve Brannon identifies as that

        Steve Bannon does not identify as alt-right. He once declared that Breitbart was “the platform of the alt-right”, but for one, that’s not the same thing, and for another, that’s when the operative definition of alt-right was the broad one which included everyone who was neither on the left nor mainline GOP.

      • fion says:

        My perspective on same-sex marriage is that the debate was won very quickly on account of the anti- side having no good arguments. I’m afraid I haven’t spent very long looking this up, in fact this is just the first non-Wikipedia link when I googled it. (It’s US rather than UK, but I’m nut sure the picture is that different over here.) It looks like there was indeed a very rapid change in public opinion over the past ten years or so.

        So yes, I agree with you that there are some ways in which the Overton window is moving leftwards. Gay marriage is probably the fastest such example. But other things, such as immigration, attitude towards Muslims, have gone the other way. I suppose I haven’t really seen any left-wing views recently leaving the Overton window, but I have seen many right-wing ones entering it, mostly along a nationalist axis.

        But also an economic one. A lot of hard-right Euroskeptics are using Brexit as an excuse to reduce workers’ rights, marketise the NHS and make taxation less progressive. The people that advocate for these sorts of things used to be the right-wing fringe of the Tory party, but now they’re gaining popularity because they’re the most Brexity Brexiters. They also tend to have conservative views on education and the environment.

        I suppose it’s hard to talk about the British Overton window at the moment, because the Labour party is more left wing than usual and the Conservative party is (in my view) more right wing than usual. We’re probably seeing a case of polarisation rather than a simple left or right shift.

        • John Schilling says:

          My perspective on same-sex marriage is that the debate was won very quickly on account of the anti- side having no good arguments.

          Marriage being a tool to promote healthy child-raising and, however imperfect for that purpose, being weakened by its application to an obviously infertile population, is a good argument countered by mere whataboutism. Marriage being explicitly restricted to heterosexual couples by the rules of the religion most of the population in question shares, is a good argument if you’re putting it to a vote. And Chesterton’s fence is always a good argument.

          The arguments for gay marriage may be better than the ones against it, but there were actual good arguments in favor of it.

          • fion says:

            Marriage being a tool to promote healthy child-raising and, however imperfect for that purpose, being weakened by its application to an obviously infertile population

            Infertile people can also raise healthy children. Heterosexual marriage is not weakened by the existence of homosexual marriage. (I don’t think either one of these counters is “whataboutism”… I do, however, consider them good enough counters to render your example argument “not a good one”, and I think either is able to do that without the other.)

            Marriage being explicitly restricted to heterosexual couples by the rules of the religion most of the population in question shares

            Except that most of the population does not follow the rules of the religion they claim to follow. To justify banning same-sex marriage on the grounds that it disobeys God’s word is an isolated demand for rigour.

            Chesterton’s fence is always a good argument.

            I disagree here, too, but to discus my disagreement in detail would thoroughly derail the conversation.

            So I think I stand by my claim of the anti- side having no good arguments. Perhaps I should soften it a little, though. “The argument was won because the anti- side had very very few good arguments and the pro- side had a great many very strong arguments.”

          • Randy M says:

            Infertile people can also raise healthy children. Heterosexual marriage is not weakened by the existence of homosexual marriage

            It’s not that the marriage is weakened, necessarily, it’s the the conception that marriage is designed/evolved in order to promote child raising, that it’s purpose is to constrain people who are inclined to do child-making things, is weakened by introducing another, separate definition of the term.

            The argument would then be that as people go on to see marriage, not as a way of supporting and coercing the union of child-makers, but as a way of publicly proclaiming affectionate and errotic feelings for an indeterminate period of time, then married people–even heterosexuals–may see marriage as less permanent and children as less of a natural product of the union.
            It’s a difficult proposition to test, though, since it’s hardly the only social change to occur in that time period and those making the assertion (myself, here, included) are rather hazy about what metrics to chart.

          • fion says:

            @Randy M

            Fair enough. I stand corrected that there was a good argument there.

            I will endeavour to remain in the motte to which I retreated in my last comment.

          • Nick says:

            The argument would then be that as people go on to see marriage, not as a way of supporting and coercing the union of child-makers, but as a way of publicly proclaiming affectionate and errotic feelings for an indeterminate period of time, then married people–even heterosexuals–may see marriage as less permanent and children as less of a natural product of the union.

            I saw this “marriage is an expression/celebration of two people’s love for one another” definition literally used during the same sex marriage debates before Obergefell. Not in those exact terms, maybe, but it was there. And not just among committed supporters of same sex marriage, even!

            One of the points sometimes lost in the debate was that, for Christians, the damage to marriage had mostly already been done. Two guys getting married is an awfully visible departure from the norm, but is it so fundamental a difference? For Christians, what looms larger is liberalization of divorce laws and decreasing stigma towards divorce and serial remarriage—and for that matter, a rise in cohabitation, even among those with kids. With those conditions, it becomes harder and harder to see marriage as having anything in particular to do with having and raising a family, but rather than as an occasion for two people to show society their love for one another.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m a Catholic, but also enough of a consequentialist to feel like divorce, serial remarriage, and cohabitation among childless adults is a pretty small problem, whereas divorce, serial remarriage, and cohabitation where kids get dragged along for the ride is a large problem. And single motherhood is hard on the mom, the kid, and the surrounding society.

          • Randy M says:

            Not in those exact terms, maybe, but it was there.

            I expect not, I was not exactly trying to pass the ideological turning test with my word choice there.

            One of the points sometimes lost in the debate was that, for Christians, the damage to marriage had mostly already been done.

            Fully agrred.

            For Christians, what looms larger is liberalization of divorce laws

            Well, for some intellectually consistent portion of Christians who are willing to offend their close friends and relatives, anyway. :/

          • John Schilling says:

            One of the points sometimes lost in the debate was that, for Christians, the damage to marriage had mostly already been done.

            Minor nit: It’s not just Christians on the one side here. But nobody on the defense-of-marriage side is going to disagree with the claim that enormous damage was done to that institution by e.g. liberalization of laws and more importantly social attitudes regarding divorce. But there’s room for disagreement with whether that damage was sufficient to destroy marriage as anything more than a feel-good endorsement of Twue Wuv, or whether there is a more substantial institution that could still be saved. In the latter case, “be extra careful about causing any more damage, or putting any more load on the already-shaky foundation, while we set about repairing the damage already done” is a fair argument.

          • Nick says:

            albatross11,

            I’m a Catholic, but also enough of a consequentialist to feel like divorce, serial remarriage, and cohabitation among childless adults is a pretty small problem, whereas divorce, serial remarriage, and cohabitation where kids get dragged along for the ride is a large problem. And single motherhood is hard on the mom, the kid, and the surrounding society.

            I agree on the point about kids.

            With the single motherhood* thing, I don’t want to make it any harder on them than it already is. I mention stigma because I’m concerned about incentives. If single motherhood is bad for all involved, then do we want to discourage single motherhood or don’t we?

            That’s not a slam dunk answer, of course. Kind of the opposite. To name a few of numerous problems, how much of what I’m calling “discouraging” is requires being a massive dick to the already disadvantaged? And how much of it is going to have any positive impact? And most importantly, how palatable do we find solutions to single parenthood? Abortion looms largest here, but there are a host of other ‘solutions’, like widespread contraception, or pushing the unprepared into marriages, or the state taking the child away.

            All the same, it’s something that weighs on me. I can’t imagine the high marriage rate of past generations was a bad thing. Divorce rates have decreased since the 80s: is that mostly independent demographic shifts, or has society learned a lesson?

            *And hey now, single parenthood. I was raised by an unmarried father.

            Randy,

            Well, for some intellectually consistent portion of Christians who are willing to offend their close friends and relatives, anyway. :/

            Yeah. =/

            ETA: John, yeah, I didn’t mean to leave you out there, I just don’t trust myself to speak for non-Christians on this.

    • albatross11 says:

      I agree that both slippery slopes matter, and that they’re not mutually inconsistent. We could end up with continued growth of far right movements, along with increasing policing of speech and no-platforming by the establishment left. Those two may even feed on one another–establishment sources shutting out some views, which still become widespread, serving to undermine the legitimacy of some of those sources at the same time.

      It’s probably worthwhile to ask: Is there any reason you can think of that listening to an interview or speech with Bannon might be of interest? It sure seems like his role in the rise of Trump and the right-populist/alt-right movement that put him into office would make him pretty interesting to listen to. Also, he’s apparently a fairly smart guy who’s spent a lot of time talking with other far-right thinkers, so he’s probably got a fairly good grasp of their worldview and ideas. That sounds pretty interesting to hear, to me. What are the actual critiques raised by the far-right movements in the US and Europe? What are their policy goals? How do they see the world?

      As I understand it, your concern is that by allowing him to speak in a prominent place like Oxford, his views and movement are being legitimized. (Look, the establishment is taking this fellow seriously–maybe he’s not so nutty after all.) I can see the point of that. But it sure seems like making the decision about who’s allowed to speak at Oxford into a question about which political sides should gain or lose in status/influence just amounts to making that decision into a straight political one–we let people on our side speak, and exclude people from the other side. At that point, you probably lose some legitimacy, because people from the other side will see that you are explicitly excluding their side, regardless of merit. (Can Charles Murray give a talk at Oxford? How about Boris Johnson?)

      It seems to me that the rather vigorous attempts to no-platform various people on the right that we see in the US (especially in the academic and journalism worlds) makes a case that the slippery slope that people will try to no-platform worthwhile speakers for ideological/political reasons isn’t unreasonable to worry about. I don’t really understand how the hate speech laws in the UK and the rest of Europe work, but the bits of them that get reported here in the US look like another argument for the view that this slope is indeed lined with banana peels.

      • lvlln says:

        It’s probably worthwhile to ask: Is there any reason you can think of that listening to an interview or speech with Bannon might be of interest? It sure seems like his role in the rise of Trump and the right-populist/alt-right movement that put him into office would make him pretty interesting to listen to. Also, he’s apparently a fairly smart guy who’s spent a lot of time talking with other far-right thinkers, so he’s probably got a fairly good grasp of their worldview and ideas. That sounds pretty interesting to hear, to me. What are the actual critiques raised by the far-right movements in the US and Europe? What are their policy goals? How do they see the world?

        I recently watched a Munk debate between Steve Bannon and David Frum in the hopes that Bannon would indeed be interesting to hear thanks to the influence he’s had.

        Unfortunately, I found it pretty disappointing, since he actually didn’t come out sounding all that smart (though he was surprisingly charming and charismatic, which I respect). It pushed me more toward thinking that there’s really no there there when it comes to populism – lots of rhetoric, no real substance.

        Which in itself was a valuable thing to take away from it! I’m glad I got to see and hear Bannon speak directly about the things he supports. I hope to see him given more public platforms to present and debate his views – either he will continue to spout empty rhetoric and show more people the man behind the curtain, or he will start talking of stuff with more substance and conceivably change my mind.

        As an aside, the only Munk debates I’ve seen are this one and another one about political correctness that had Jordan Peterson and Stephen Fry on the “against” side, and I haven’t been impressed by any of the debaters in any of them – even the debaters who were on the side that I support. I’d vaguely heard of these debates as being pretty good, so I’ve felt pretty disappointed, since both political correctness and populism are major issues I’d love to see intelligent debate about.

      • fion says:

        “no-platforming by the establishment left”

        I don’t understand what this means. Are you saying the left is the establishment? That the Establishment is left-wing? These seem very far from the truth to me, but even if we grant it (you probably have different definitions of left to me), the people doing no-platforming aren’t the same as the people in power by any stretch I can imagine. The no-platformers are just students who shout and wave placards. They don’t own the means of production, they’re not in government and they don’t have armed bodies of men at their disposal.

        Actually yes, I would be interested to hear Bannon, but there’s many ways for me to do that on the internet. The world is not starved of information about what Steve Bannon says.

        Regarding your last two paragraphs… I find that very interesting and perhaps this is a genuine difference between the US and the UK rather than just a perspective difference. It seems to me that even if we ignore right/left-ness, and just consider… radical-ness(?), the speakers getting invited to give debates and whatnot are further from The Acceptable Opinion than they used to be. We’re getting less likely to no-platform Boris Johnson and less likely to no-platform Steve Bannon, not the other way around. Sure, there’s always protests, but they seem to be getting smaller, and reserved for more extreme people than they used to be.

        • lvlln says:

          I don’t understand what this means. Are you saying the left is the establishment? That the Establishment is left-wing? These seem very far from the truth to me, but even if we grant it (you probably have different definitions of left to me), the people doing no-platforming aren’t the same as the people in power by any stretch I can imagine. The no-platformers are just students who shout and wave placards. They don’t own the means of production, they’re not in government and they don’t have armed bodies of men at their disposal.

          This doesn’t make any sense. People with no power literally can’t no-platform anyone. To no-platform someone requires having armed bodies of men at one’s disposal. To be no-platformed means being prevented from speaking in a certain setting due to armed bodies of men not offering you that opportunity.

          You might say that the people driving the no-platforming are just students who shout and wave placards. But they clearly have enough influence over the people who control armed bodies of men to successfully deny platform to certain people they disagree with.

          Bottom line is, if you have no power, then you can’t no-platform anyone, because to no-platform someone is an exercise of power, in the men-with-guns sort of way.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            All my upboats.

            It’s very disconcerting to hear people with power say they honestly believe they’re powerless, while exerting their power. That lack of self-awareness is dangerous.

            If you’re talking about a university setting, these are not exactly bastions of right-wing institutional power. The “powerless” students and the powerful faculty who control the armed bodies are on the same side. If the students had no power, the armed bodies would be removing them for being disruptive. If a popular left-wing (or “mainstream”) speaker came and angry right-wingers showed up to shout them down and intimidate them into silence I’m pretty sure those right-wingers would be removed as a “threat to free speech.”

          • fion says:

            I mean, sure, they have enough power to no-platform somebody, but that doesn’t make them “the establishment”, which was what I was originally pushing back on. Besides, there’s not much else they can do with their no-platforming power. Which of these people have power: Jeff Bezos, Donald Trump or Falcon the Pink-Haired Gender Studies Student?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            On campus, Falcon is more powerful than DJT or Jeff Bezos.

            ETA: I can’t remember which one it was, but Scott wrote an article on this exact subject of different types of power in different settings, using Trump as an example years before his presidential run.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            ETA: I can’t remember which one it was, but Scott wrote an article on this exact subject of different types of power in different settings, using Trump as an example years before his presidential run.

            “An analysis of the formalist account of power relations in democratic societies”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Wow, you’re good.

          • Brad says:

            because to no-platform someone is an exercise of power, in the men-with-guns sort of way.

            That implies then, that things like PayPal dropping a group is not no-platforming since it has nothing to do with men-with-guns.

          • John Schilling says:

            That implies then, that things like PayPal dropping a group is not no-platforming since it has nothing to do with men-with-guns.

            Well, if you try to walk into Paypal’s server rooms and reprogram the hardware so that it continues to support your group, it will be men with guns who stop you. OK, a locked door, and men with guns if you try to break down the door.

            But I think it would be more productive to reframe this in terms of private property rights rather than men-with-guns, and the role of monopolistic or oligopolistic control over the types of property that facilitate large-scale speech.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Steve Bannon is speaking at the Oxford Union. How upsetting, I thought, that such an awful figure is being lent the legitimacy of such a prestigious institution. They should not have invited him.

      I suspect you’re overestimating the degree to which the wider public cares about the Oxford Union. It doesn’t really get reported on in the national media (unless you get a big protest against a speaker, perhaps), and the popular stereotype of Oxford students is “Rich toffs who think they’re better than everyone else”, not “Prestigious people whose views should be listened to with respect”.

      My friend countered that the best way to discredit awful opinions is to air them to expose them for what they are.

      A possible data-point in favour: Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time in 2009 was widely held responsible for the British National Party’s lacklustre performance in the next election and subsequent slide into irrelevance, although I’m not sure if this is an accurate assessment.

      • fion says:

        I suspect you’re overestimating the degree to which the wider public cares about the Oxford Union.

        Haha, that’s probably true.

        Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time in 2009 was widely held responsible for the British National Party’s lacklustre performance in the next election and subsequent slide into irrelevance

        This, though I’m much more skeptical of. First, I hadn’t even heard that opinion until just now. Second, one appearance on television causing a party to slide into irrelevance? That trips my “probably not true” sensors. I think the rise of a more respectable version of the BNP probably had much more to do with it.

    • 10240 says:

      I agree with many of the things others said. One thing to add: If we slide all the way to the bottom of the suppressing opinions, that’s a really bad outcome. If we come to the point where anything can be said without repercussions, we still have another avenue to keep the nazis or whomever from getting power (besides silencing them): convincing people that they are wrong (well, most people already think so).

      Also, if we are going about suppressing opinions, how do you know that your left-wing opinion about some particular issue is in fact correct? Maybe you’re wrong, but those who could convince you about that shut up to avoid repercussions, or just aren’t allowed in the venues you follow.

      • fion says:

        I’m not arguing in favour of suppressing opinions, more saying that I don’t think we’re in much danger of accidentally sliding to the point where we do suppress opinions.

        And I am quite good (at least, much better than average) at asking “what if I’m wrong” and challenging my opinions. But at any one point I’m still going to argue for the opinions I hold, and if I see the “enemy” employing some particular propaganda, I will be sad if I see that propaganda gaining a large audience.

        • I’m not arguing in favour of suppressing opinions, more saying that I don’t think we’re in much danger of accidentally sliding to the point where we do suppress opinions.

          Let me offer a scrap of evidence on the other side. I put up a comment yesterday about an opinion I had gotten from a prominent biochemist having to do, in part, with the relationship between vitamin D and black/white differences.

          The reason I didn’t name him was that I had asked him if he would object to my posting about what he had said, and his response was that he didn’t want to be accused of being a racist. If his opinion is correct, having it well known, especially by blacks, is of enormous importance, since the problem can be corrected at a cost of about three cents/day. He is willing to explain his view in conversation, reluctant to publicize it.

          • fion says:

            Hmm… good point. Now that you mention it I know of several examples of that type.

            However, it seems to me that the basic mechanism here is:
            There exist racist people (in the strong sense of the word, where it’s a really bad thing)
            There are sufficiently many such people, or they hold sufficient power that they pose a threat to civilised society.
            Thus there is a justified feeling that we need to be vigilant about racism.
            Thus I am afraid the mob will pattern-match me to a racist for the true and useful science I wish to publicise.

            It wasn’t an issue when everybody in power was racist because the backlash was too weak and it won’t be an issue when nobody in power is racist because there will be no need for the backlash. It’s only in the present time of part-way victory against racism that it’s an issue. Perhaps the fact that the part-way victory seems to be retreating rather than advancing makes people more hyper-vigilant.

            Perhaps I’m being a little naive and optimistic, but I do think that the silencing of your biochemist acquaintance and the (attempted and failed) silencing of Steve Bannon are different mechanisms rather than two aspects of the same thing.

          • Perhaps I’m being a little naive and optimistic, but I do think that the silencing of your biochemist acquaintance and the (attempted and failed) silencing of Steve Bannon are different mechanisms rather than two aspects of the same thing.

            How do you feel about the silencing of James Watson?

            The message that sends is that on some issues one has no basis to believe the current orthodoxy because anyone who publicly questions it, however prominent, will be punished for doing so.

          • 10240 says:

            My view is that, by now, society has enough immunity to serious racism that it’s not a major threat, definitely not a bigger threat than various other bad ideas we subject to the same sort of ostracism. Indeed, racism, sexism, homophobia are among the few ideas whose expression is likely to cause ostracism, career damage etc. to people in non-political positions, and perhaps the only ones where even a vague suspicion causes such damage. This is itself evidence that the anti-racist side now firmly holds the public opinion, and racists (especially unambiguous, dangerous ones) are a small minority. Yet the anti-racist left still seems to believe that they are in the 50s, and they are a small minority fighting an uphill battle against a much bigger mass of racists. So they use tools and tactics (such as ostracism that relies on having the majority on their side) that only became available to them when they were not needed anymore.

            it won’t be an issue when nobody in power is racist because there will be no need for the backlash.

            I doubt that there will ever be a point where the left gets convinced that racism is not a problem anymore, even if racism does become marginal enough to have no influence whatsoever. My impression is that as there are fewer and fewer racists, there are more and more anti-racists, and the ever smaller incidents of racism get taken ever more seriously.

            Indeed, asserting that racism is not a problem anymore itself gets taken as evidence of racism. (Cf. kafkatrap. I myself used to assume that in a debate about whether something is racist or not, the person who said it wasn’t was usually wrong and probably racist — until I encountered much more extreme anti-racist views when I started following Western politics.) A charitable interpretation would be that racism is still obviously prevalent, so someone asserting the opposite is doing so in bad faith. But, given how smaller and smaller things (including said assertion itself) get taken as evidence of racism, I doubt people will ever decide that racism is not obviously prevalent anymore. Under these circumstances, it will be impossible to convince anti-racists that racism is not a problem anymore, since claiming that is both taken as evidence of racism, and gets your opinion dismissed because you are a racist bigot. Even worse, they can’t allow themselves to get convinced because that would make them racist according to their own current views.

          • 10240 says:

            Btw that last part is really similar to the way some religions sustain themselves, by declaring it a sin to stop believing them.

          • fion says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I feel that silencing is a strong word for what happened to Watson. I think that some of his comments stepped beyond scientific curiosity and betrayed his political opinions. I think his political opinions are bad. I don’t think he deserved to be sacked for them. Perhaps he did deserve to be sacked for insisting that they were not political but in fact scientific? I’m not confident either way on that one.

            @10240

            If we were having this discussion five or ten years ago I’d agree with you, but it is a fact that in the US, UK, Europe and many other parts of the world, racists are growing in profile and racist parties are gaining popularity. They’re still probably less numerous than anti-racists, but the gap is narrowing, not widening as you suggest.

            And then one of the most significant questions is how the centre behaves. Ten years ago I feel as though the centre was allied with the anti-racists against the racists, but now it seems an increasing number of centrists are getting so sick of anti-racists that they spend more energy criticising them than the actual racists.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            @ fion

            A theory that I’ve seen passed around and have been mulling over myself, is that the definition of “racist” has been greatly expanded in the last 10-20 years, such that many more people are being called racist for activities that would not have earned the title before.

            I am not suggesting that this is the rise (or at least sole rise) in the racism you are describing.

            Instead, this theory goes on to say that because so many more people are being called racists, for such an expanded base of opinions, that the strong wall between KKK-style racists and the more general right is being weakened. With that weakened, mediocre racists who would not have thought about discriminating against a racial minority no longer have the clear boundaries against doing so, because they’ll get called a racist either way. If the bar from being called a racist is met just by voting Republican or having any Conservative views, then something of value is lost.

            I took that to be included in the idea of “Against Murderism.”

          • albatross11 says:

            fion:

            Watson is famously a huge prick who likes to say things to piss people off[1], so it’s possible he was trolling the reporter and it blew up in his face. OTOH, the factual claims in his reported statements seem to me to be entirely consistent with available observations. Suppressing the expression of opinions that are defensible and consistent with observable reality because you dislike the political implications seems like a good way of blinding yourself.

            [1] Every public defense of him I saw started with some preface along the lines of “Watson is a huge asshole, but….”

          • I feel that silencing is a strong word for what happened to Watson. I think that some of his comments stepped beyond scientific curiosity and betrayed his political opinions.

            I didn’t follow the controversy in much detail, but I thought the essential comment was the opinion that the problems of Africa were in part due to a genetic difference–lower average IQ.

            Am I correct that that was the issue? If so, why isn’t it a scientific opinion?

            Are you certain the opinion if false? If it is true, isn’t it important, implying that suppression of it is likely to have bad consequences? If it is false, isn’t the appropriate response to rebut it rather than to punish someone who expresses it–in part because the latter may result in reasonable people concluding that it is being suppressed because of the lack of persuasive rebuttals, hence probably true?

            And whether the opinion is scientific or political, why wouldn’t you describe what happened as punishment to silence it? From the Wikipedia article on Watson:

            Because of the public controversy, on October 18, 2007, the Board of Trustees at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory suspended Watson’s administrative responsibilities On October 19, Watson issued an apology; on October 25, he resigned from his position as chancellor. …
            In 2014, Watson decided to auction off his Nobel prize medal in view of his diminished income after the 2007 incident

          • 10240 says:

            not a bigger threat than various other bad ideas we don’t subject to the same sort of ostracism.

            I left that out. Big difference.

            racists are growing in profile and racist parties are gaining popularity.

            I don’t see racists gaining popularity in the Western world. Anti-immigration politics are gaining popularity, but that’s not racism. Whether I agree with particular a immigration restriction or not, I don’t see immigration restrictions as a danger (in the way many racist policies would be bad enough to call the possibility of them getting enacted a danger).

          • skef says:

            The Watson quote I remember being the biggest issue:

            “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”. He said there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”.

            It’s the “deal with”. Fair or not, that’s what he didn’t manage to walk back.

            Added: Wrote too quickly. it’s, of course, the “have to deal with”.

          • albatross11 says:

            Incentives matter. If scientists know that doing research in some areas (say, biological causes of the black/white gaps in IQ or life expectancy or crime rate) is a good way to become an unemployable pariah, then hardly any scientists will do research in those areas, and then any benefits we might have gotten from that research will just not happen. Who needs the heartache?

            Similarly, if people who discuss and advocate for political policies know that mentioning some facts gets you fired/no-platformed/ruined, then those facts won’t be brought up much. And if we needed to know those facts to make good decisions, we’re just out of luck, because once again, who needs the heartache.

            This is a way of making ourselves, as a society, dumber.

    • I don’t really see this as a free speech issue. It’s not like Steve Bannon has the right to speak at a given place. It’s not really much different than if you were a communist during the Cold War, especially in the 50’s. No one gave them a platform but it doesn’t automatically mean they were denied their free speech rights. It’s just that they were incredibly unpopular.

      I think the bigger problem is that the left wants to treat all right of center conservatives like we used to treat communists and other “degenerates”. It’s one thing when these groups make up a small percentage of the population. But people who have Trumps views number in the millions. Trying to silence all of them is just a recipe for disaster.

      • SamChevre says:

        It seems to me that there are (at least) five sorts of speech restrictions:
        1) Nobody finds it worth engaging with. For example, the ice cream vendor who sold at the same markets where I sold sausage. He had this amazing omni-conspiracy theory that somehow depended on the Apostle Peter being the prime minister, but the Apostle John being Jesus’ son and the true heir. It got weirder and more confusing from there. No one agrees, or thinks arguing is vaguely useful. This doesn’t push my free speech buttons.
        2) The government flatly forbids it. This is the core of the First Amendment, and the allowable limits in the US are very tight. I’d actually like to see the limits of what the government can punish directly expanded. (I’d like lack of malice not to be a defense to libel, and for illegally acquired information to be illegal to publish even if you didn’t directly do the illegal acquistiion.)
        3) The government directly makes it dangerous or expensive. This is where the core of the debate today is. “Hostile environment” harassment, “disparate impact”, and so on–these often mean that the speaker can’t be punished, but anyone who tolerates him can be. These seem to me to be extremely problematic, and very common.
        4) The government indirectly, but intentionally, makes it dangerous. This includes things like ignoring violence against disfavored speakers, breaking up a peaceful demonstration and forcing the protestors into a hostile crowd, and other typical tactics. This is growingly common–Silent Sam and Charlottesville both featured it. This seems to me to be also dangerous, and to be growing rapidly–it’s the basic raison d’etre of Antifa.
        5) Civil society strongly disapproves, but the government is indifferent. This seems to be potentially but not actually today a problem. This might be advocating for homosexual rights in 1955, or for theocracy (not as an insult, but as a real thing–Rushdoony for example) today. The government won’t do anything, but a lot of people will just say “no way, you’re nuts”.

        TL:DR There’s a big difference between “no one cares” and the government won’t punish you, but will punish your employer.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Right. If you will be fired because your political speech constitutes a “hostile workplace environment”, but political speech made in the same time, place, and manner on the same subject but with the opposite viewpoint does not result in firing, that’s your number 3. Not, as so many people claim and that xkcd comic implies, number 5. It’s the government engaging in viewpoint discrimination through proxies.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            The xkcd comic is written by someone who doesn’t understand the issue and cited by those who do not. It is, at best, a superficial treatment of a complex issue. At worst it fundamentally misunderstands the issue entirely because a lot of the time it is cited when government is an active ingredient.

          • Garrett says:

            AKA The reason I needed to leave my supposed dream workplace, Google.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Garrett

            Exactly that reason, yes.

            Also keep in mind there’s a longer-term effect. It’s easy to argue that in the absence of those “hostile workplace environment” rules, the people with power over policy at Google and other woke workplaces would behave in the exact same way. But those rules have been around, and enforced one-directionally, for a long time. The people now in HR and employment policymaking positions have been _selected_ for their adherence to those rules and policies; most of those who don’t support that sort of thing either didn’t enter a profession where they’d have to enforce it, or left that profession.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s almost exactly parallel to having a rule against inappropriate public displays of affection, which somehow turns out to only apply when the gay couples hold hands or kiss in public.

        • John Schilling says:

          I think you need a level in there for the case where powerful non-governmental institutions are restricting speech. If you’re trying to fit that into case 3 or 4 and assuming that if e.g. universities expel students for wrongspeech it must be because the government is influencing them, that may be wrong and is of dubious relevance if true – the fact that students are being expelled is more important than the reason. And if you’re trying to fit it into case 5 by saying universities are “civil society”, then you’re glossing over the huge distinction between concentrated and diffuse power.

          People may disagree about how problematic it is for powerful non-governmental institutions to suppress speech, but it is a thing that happens often enough and with sufficient consequence to need a place in the taxonomy.

          • SamChevre says:

            I was including that in case 5, but I agree that there is a major difference between “most people” and “a few very powerful institutions.”

            As a side note, it seems to me that the “a particular institution” cases can be powerful, but unless there’s some sort of government backing it is rare for it to be a stable and coherent majority of similar institutions. Think of the difference between the pervasiveness and stability of anti-anti-Christian universities (Liberty, Wyoming Catholic, etc) and anti-racist universities (almost all of them). Somewhere in that dynamic, the fact that government makes not being anti-racist high-risk seems important–even though I’m fairly certain that Oberlin would be anti-racist with no government encouragement.

            Can you think of a good example of a powerful institution that keeps a topic largely out of certain conversations, and it’s clearly not backed by the government? I agree it should exist, but don’t have a punchy example.

          • John Schilling says:

            Can you think of a good example of a powerful institution that keeps a topic largely out of certain conversations, and it’s clearly not backed by the government?

            Academia has done a quite thorough job of keeping muggle realism out of basically all the conversations it should be discussed in, and they’ve done so in spite of the fact that this is one of the areas where the government is fairly scrupulous about not intervening.

            As a result, we get ill-informed versions of the subject cropping up in other discussions, ones which should be waiting for academia to provide them with the hard data before they take it up.

      • Brad says:

        I don’t really see this as a free speech issue.

        The new free speech isn’t overly concerned about state restrictions on speech. Instead it’s laser focused on negative reactions by private actors to speech they happen not to like. Well, at least certain negative reactions by certain private actors. If the members of a religious community want to fire a church employee because he advocates for gay marriage, that’s of course fair game and has nothing to do with free speech.

        • Deiseach says:

          If the members of a religious community want to fire a church employee because he advocates for gay marriage, that’s of course fair game and has nothing to do with free speech

          Yes Brad, just exactly the same if a hospital nurse told every parent she encountered in the course of her work “Don’t get your kids vaccinated, it’ll make them autistic!” and the brutal repressive medical establishment told her on the whole maybe she’d be happier working elsewhere.

          • Brad says:

            Also exactly the same thing as when a charitable organization decided they didn’t want a bigot running it.

          • Randy M says:

            Which, legality or philosophical principle aside, seems a silly position when you are prone to defining bigotry so broad as to include everyone supportive of a proposition that ended up passing.

          • Brad says:

            I mean I could easily have pointed out what was silly about what the aforementioned religious communities are doing. I didn’t because it would have been irrelevant and rude.

          • Randy M says:

            Strikes me that I might be wrong about the particular instance you are referring to; I suspect that it’s still the case that the bigotry is not so clear cut as to make the word less than rude, however.
            Irrelevant… you’re probably right, and I try not to be the tone police.

            Comment withdrawn.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad:

            Suppose tomorrow, Wal-Mart announces a new policy–if any employee of theirs shows up at a pro-choice or pro-gun-control rally, they will be summarily fired.

            There’s clearly no first amendment issue. And really, Wal-Mart is just deciding they don’t want to be represented by baby-killers and gun-grabbers. So no problem, right? Or might there be some kind of an issue with having this sort of thing become widespread?

          • Brad says:

            albatross11:

            Why is it never “that guy has the right not to bake the cake, but he is morally obligated to do so” but always “Mozilla was morally obligated not to fire Eich” and not even mentioning the rights part?

            Can you at least acknowledge that my impression that it’s all about whose ox is being gored is a reasonable reading of the advocacy being done here and in related spaces?

          • @Brad:

            Speaking for myself, Mozilla had the right to fire Eich but shouldn’t have. That guy had the right not to bake the cake and no moral obligation to bake it.

            I wouldn’t even say that Mozilla had a moral obligation not to fire Eich, but perhaps I use “moral obligation” in a stronger sense than you do. I would have said there were lots of things one should do but are not morally obliged to do.

          • Brad says:

            Okay, but I notice that in introducing the intermediate standard you don’t say one way or the other whether the baker *should* have baked the cake while you do note that you think Mozilla should not have fired Eich. This is the same difference in treatment I complained about in very the post you responded to!

          • I don’t think he should have baked the cake. Or shouldn’t have. I don’t think refusing to play a minor role in a ceremony representing ideas you disagree with is wrong.

            To put it differently, given his beliefs he probably shouldn’t have baked the cake. As it happens I disagree with those beliefs. If he didn’t have those beliefs there would be no reason not to bake the cake but no particular “should” unless the couple were people he liked or the cause was one he approved of.

            Suppose, however, that he had agreed to bake the cake and the timing was such that the couple could not easily find a replacement. He changes his mind at the last minute and decides he doesn’t want to bake the cake because he disapproves of mm marriages. He should bake the cake, even if he didn’t have any contractual agreement and wasn’t legally obliged to.

            That seems to me more nearly analogous to the Eich case, where there was a longstanding relationship and implied mutual trust.

            To make the Eich case more nearly analogous to the actual cake case, assume Eich is a computer repair guy who I would normally take my computer to. I find out he contributed to a ballot initiative I strongly disapprove of and decide to look for someone else.

            I don’t think I should take it to him, or shouldn’t.

    • BBA says:

      My instinct has always been that the answer to speech is more speech. Lately I’ve been questioning my instincts more and more. If the modern far-right exists because the ACLU defended the Illinois Nazis’ right to march, maybe they should’ve just treated them like the Blues Brothers instead.

      But then Pegida/AfD/FPO/etc. have thrived in an environment with more restrictive speech norms, so maybe not.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Or maybe, even worse, it’ll flip on its head, and we’ll have high levels of censorship but the un-approved-of views will be the liberal ones, and the only opinions we’re allowed to hear are the very same pseudo-fascist stuff I’m afraid of.

      Historically, in the US and Canada at least, serious restrictions on free speech, attacks against academic freedom, etc, have been more commonly right-against-left than the other way around, wielded especially against socialists, pacifists, civil rights advocates, etc. I’m especially baffled when I see someone on the left tossing around the “fire in a crowded movie theatre” line – it comes from a court opinion that in a case that decided opposition to the WWI draft was not covered by the 1st amendment. It was part of a more general attack on free speech during the US involvement in WWI that included such things as the “American Protective League” going around beating up IWW members. If the 1st amendment was simply erased tomorrow, I imagine that a lot of red-state type places would bring in laws against criticizing the police, filming the police, etc. Anti-police and anti-military sentiment would be categorized as “hate speech.” Sure, right-wingers would be run off of a lot of campuses, but the right outnumbers both actual leftists (socialists, anarchists, etc) and the hairdye crowd put together.

      (Not the far right, but the threat of fascism historically was based on the mainstream right deciding that the fascists could be brought into government and kept under control, as happened in Italy and Germany, or alternatively, as part of a more general degree of social disorder that is more likely to lead to a right-wing authoritarian government than actual fascism).

      • WarOnReasons says:

        If the 1st amendment was simply erased tomorrow, I imagine that a lot of red-state type places would bring in laws against criticizing the police

        Do you mind explaining what makes you think that? Have you personally met right-wingers who advocated such a policy? Are there polls that show prevalence of such attitudes among Republicans?

  13. HeelBearCub says:

    So, I’m not going to drop this on the actual post, but this struck me as “Against Murderism for thee but not for me”:

    This sounds silly, but I think it might have been going on over the past few hundred years in areas like racism and sexism. The anti-racism crusaders of yesteryear were, by our own standards, horrendously racist. But they were the good guys, fighting people even more racist than they were, and they won. Iterate that process over ten or so generations, and you reach the point where you’ve got to run your Halloween costume past your Chief Diversity Officer.

    If you are going to say no one should use the word, because it has no meaning, or the meaning isn’t clear enough, or something then you should stop using it and substitute in whatever the hell you think is a clear description of the behavior in question. Rather than acknowledging that racism does, in fact, exist and steadfastly refusing to acknowledge the human behaviors that comprise it, treating it as an abstract concept that happened sometime in the past, a distant memory.

    • Skivverus says:

      It seems perfectly fine in context to me: it reads to me as thinking out loud about a particular example of a moral concept whose standards change over time (or over space, if you compare, e.g., US standards to PRC standards), in a post specifically about figuring out optimal levels/targets for moral standards. The meaning of “racism” doesn’t have to be clear here; what has to be clear is merely that it is (a) not a constant, which the endpoints amply demonstrate, and (b) that the version being referred to is not the probably-no-one-lives-up-to-it ideal of “no one ever treats people differently due to their skin color/[other racial marker]” alluded to in part I.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        The meaning of “racism” doesn’t have to be clear here;

        I would say it does, as he is offering at as a “clear” example of something that is bad. In a post where he is trying to explore the idea of what is bad and what is good.

        In other words, he implicitly accepts that there is a thing, racism, that is, in fact, bad, but he still hasn’t come any closer to defining what racism actually is.

        And remember, the whole point of “against murderism” is that we dare not use the word today because it is an under specified evil that will cause civil war if it is invoked. Well, if he really believes that, then he should not deploy it exactly that same under specified way. Most especially because he wishes to enjoin anyone else from using the word.

        • Skivverus says:

          I would say it does, as he is offering at as a “clear” example of something that is bad. In a post where he is trying to explore the idea of what is bad and what is good.

          In other words, he implicitly accepts that there is a thing, racism, that is, in fact, bad, but he still hasn’t come any closer to defining what racism actually is.

          Still disagree; it’s meta-level, not object-level.
          More specifically, it reads to me as a clear example of something that is viewed as bad by enough people not to require an extra paragraph or four explaining one’s terms*, which has the additional necessary property of “obviously different standards over time” (a property “murder” lacks).

          That said, do you have an alternative example in mind that does not have the problem you’re describing?

          *That we’re arguing over this now suggests this was an incorrect assumption, but such is hindsight.

          • Brad says:

            How can it both be something so obvious and clear it requires no explanation and something so messy and ambiguous that no one should ever use it?

          • Skivverus says:

            The obvious (and relevant-to-the-post) part isn’t “it’s wrong”, it’s “different people have had different standards for how wrong this is”.

            Different people probably have had different standards for how wrong murder is, but that’s distinctly less obvious.

    • cassander says:

      I’d put in the same camp as a neo-liberal. Neo-liberalism is an actual thing that exists in the world. It’s also a lazy insult that certain set people on the left use to tar people to their right that they can’t quite bring themselves to call fascist. No one wants to stop people from saying “I am a neo-liberal” or to seriously discuss neo-liberal policy proposals, but you do want to stop the lazy sneering use of the word. So I adopt a policy of not using the word as an insult, and looking down on those that do. Other candidates for this category would be SJW, socialist, and fascist, off the top of my head.

  14. Faza (TCM) says:

    Should’ve been a reply to johan_larson’s post. Must’ve pressed the wrong button.

    I feel I should be surprised by the legacy admissions number more than I am. It has been my long-time impression that the Ivy League’s purpose is to perpetuate a specific class of American elite – the education being a happy bonus (I have similar thoughts about Oxbridge).

    Racial admissions are, frankly, also something of an open secret. Turns out: institutional racial discrimination is a-ok, provided the right kind of people are benefiting. Nothing to see here, move along.

    A thought occurs: presumably the children of today’s students shall at some point be eligible for legacy admission criteria; how will the racial component figure into that, I wonder? It seems to me that affirmative admission policies are targeted at a different black demographic than “people who’s parents are Harvard graduates” and that the presence of privileged black students admitted via legacy will not necessarily be seen as offsetting the difficulties faced by underprivileged black students who are trying to get a good education – and therefore not a reason to reduce the weight of the racial component when evaluating applications. Combined, the two could increase the black Harvard student population considerably.

    One wonders whether that will be the time Harvard is no longer a school of choice for the old elites…

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      presumably the children of today’s students shall at some point be eligible for legacy admission criteria; how will the racial component figure into that, I wonder?

      There’s a reason why Institutions publish diversity stats component-wise rather than as a matrix, despite their public enthusiasm for intersectionality. I don’t think this outcome presents a problem for them at all.

  15. johan_larson says:

    I’ve been thinking about the information that has been coming out about Harvard’s admissions practices due to the current lawsuit, and on balance what has been revealed has made the institution look worse in my eyes.

    First, legacy admissions are a much bigger factor than I had realized. Legacy students are five times as likely to be admitted as other applicants, and a third of Harvard students are legacies. I would have guessed 10%. I try not to indulge in hopeless naivete; who your parents are is always going to matter in life. But doing this formally, institutionally, just seems bonkers. It is the sort of insiders-only right-families white-shoe not-our-sort rubbish that should have been left on the other side of the Atlantic.

    Second, Harvard discriminates by race much more than I had realized. If they admitted by academics only, blacks would be less than 1% of the student. Applying various non-academic but non-racial criteria boosts their admissions to just over two percent. But blacks are 10% of the student body. So Harvard is into racial discrimination in a big way. This is one of those issues where I am somewhat sympathetic. Some people really did get shit on hard by history, and it isn’t over yet. But if racial discrimination is poison, it should really only be applied in medicinal quantities, and Harvard is handing this stuff out by the cupful.

    So, the present lawsuit has shown that legacy status and race are bigger factors than I had expected in admissions. What should matter only a little or ideally not at all matters a lot. In admissions, Harvard is more unfair than I had realized.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      The legacy thing makes sense when you consider it’s an informal way of selecting for those individuals most likely to donate to the school’s endowment. If you’re from a family of people who donate to / associate with Harvard, you’ll most likely do the same.

      It makes even more sense when you consider that Harvard is less an advanced technical school and more of a port of entry for the elite. Academic performance is secondary.

      Third, universities [not just Harvard] can’t *not* employ affirmative action. Going by merit alone [using the colloquial definition] would skew the student body of the schools to an embarrassing degree. If they’re told they can’t discriminate one way, unless told specifically how they are permitted to admit students they’ll find some work-around. An absence of affirmative action is more of a scandal then not, the only scandal here seems to be the public learning how the sausages are made, so to speak.

      • 10240 says:

        Scandal and embarrassment are in the eyes of the beholder, of course.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Caltech manages just fine. I’m sure there are repeated calls to burn it to the ground by someones, but not enough that I ever see them.

          Also, there is a big difference between “absolutely no consideration to race” and “make sure races match the general population.” Just pulling numbers from a hat, if 8% of the population plays the cello, and your class is only 1% cello-players, you miss out on the perspectives of cello-players. You don’t need to get to 8% cello-players to achieve this, though. As a wild-ass guess, if your class is 4% cello-players you can still get their perspective represented so students aren’t agog when they meet a cellist after graduation.

      • SamChevre says:

        I’ve commented on legacy preferences before: I think the key benefit of legacy admissions is strengthening the school network, not donations.

    • Brad says:

      Has any breakdown come out between black and African-American (i.e. with ancestry in the US during the antebellum period)?

    • johan_larson says:

      I went looking for universities that do NOT use legacy preference, and came across this lovely paragraph in Wikipedia:

      A 1992 survey found that of the top seventy-five universities in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, only one (the California Institute of Technology) had no legacy preferences at all; however, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also indicates that it does not consider an applicant’s legacy status. Legacy preferences were also ubiquitous among the one hundred top-ranked liberal arts colleges. The only liberal arts college in the top one hundred that explicitly said it did not use legacy preferences was Berea. In recent decades,[when?] the use of legacy preferences has expanded well beyond undergraduate studies and now include admissions to graduate schools and professional fields of study, including law schools.[5]

      The top 75 includes some state schools. Government institutions are allowed to use legacy preference? Astonishing.

      • Deiseach says:

        The top 75 includes some state schools. Government institutions are allowed to use legacy preference? Astonishing.

        I wonder if that has to do with funding? If State U can guarantee that X% of its new incoming first years will be kids of its graduates, it can budget accordingly. And playing on the loyalty of alumni to hit them up for donations – don’t you want the place where your kids will attend to have the best of things for them?

        • johan_larson says:

          Yeah, the two reasons commonly advanced for legacy preferences are cultural continuity and alumni donations. Someone call me a cynic, but my bet is on the money.

          And if it is all about the money, I’d rather be explicit about it. Toss out need-blind applications, and admit that paying full fare is an advantage.

          • Chalid says:

            Is it known if parental donations are *explicitly* part of legacy admissions, e.g. does a legacy whose parents donate $10K/year have an advantage over a legacy whose parents donate nothing?

            (Obviously in the limit of large donations it matters – if you buy a building or similar – but I’m wondering about more normal-scale donations.)

          • johan_larson says:

            Is it known if parental donations are *explicitly* part of legacy admissions…?

            The colleges swear they aren’t, but as I understand it many parents don’t believe them, and faithfully donate to their alma maters until their kids get turned down, and then stop dead.

          • Brad says:

            My understanding is “development” is a different bucket than “legacy” and within the legacy bucket donations don’t help.

          • 10240 says:

            @johan_larson Indeed, let’s say that a third of the alumni donate $x (but only if their future children get legacy preference), while others donate nothing. If, instead, Harvard said that they would give preference to the children of those who donate $x, it’s likely that the same people who currently donate would still do so, as they would continue to have any motives they have now. So Harvard would get the same donations, and it would have to hand out only one third of the “unfair” preferences it does today.

            It would even get more donations in fact, since people would have more motive to donate, and because even non-alumni would have an incentive to donate. Of course, different models could be used, such as one where a (larger) donation is expected only if the child actually gets admitted. And of course I haven’t discussed the negative PR value of a $$$ preference that may be viewed more negatively than legacy preference for whatever reason.

      • Has anyone looked at data to see if legacy preferences work as a proxy for unobserved quality variables? The professors giving out grades are unlikely to know if a student does or doesn’t have family connections with the school. So if students with family connections are on average better than their other characteristics signal, that should show up in their grades–they should, on average, outperform their SAT etc. peers. If not, that weakens part of the argument for legacy admissions.

    • albatross11 says:

      I believe a large fraction of the blacks admitted to Harvard et al are either foreign kids or the children of fairly recent immigrants from Africa or the Caribbean. That can’t really be justified by the genuinely shitty treatment American blacks endured for most of our country’s history.

      I think Razib Khan has the right view here: Part of preserving Harvard’s place in the world requires making sure they educate a large chunk of the future ruling class–the federal judges, CEOs, prosecutors, senators, lawyers at top law firms, name journalists, presidents, etc. That drives the legacy scheme, and probably a lot of other recruiting logic. It also drives the racial discrimination in their recruiting–they figure Asians get good grades and test well, but won’t be an outsized part of the future ruling class, whereas blacks will make up a lot of the future ruling class, even if they don’t get as good test scores or grades.

      The problem with letting people see how the sausage is made is that what Harvard is doing to keep the racial numbers right is just racial discrimination, and there are laws against that. It’s what Harvard wants to do, it’s part of the consensus view of the ruling class that *this kind* of racial discrimination is good and right and proper, but it’s against the actual laws as they’re written, and as they would probably be enforced on some lesser institution.

      The way this has been handled in the past is that the supreme court would find some kind of justification for how the right kind of racial discrimination could maybe be done with the right formula. And I expect that’s what will happen again–it will turn out that there’s a way for Harvard to discriminate on the basis of race in admissions that’s legal, but probably wouldn’t be legal for Ohio State and certainly wouldn’t be legal for the plastic factory in Bumfuck, Iowa. And I’m sure there will be a great many think pieces published by the Voxes of the world, explaining how this is totally not just giving powerful institutions a pass, or selectively enforcing laws based on what the powerful people in our society like and dislike.

      Another potential outcome would be that Harvard stop discriminating against Asians, but then those seats have to come from somewhere. For ideological reasons, decreasing the number of blacks and hispanics admitted via affirmative action is probably not acceptable. The only other place for those seats to come from is probably either legacy admissions (mostly white) or just white students. I’m cynical enough to suspect that legacy admissions are too important to future donations and maintaining Harvard’s place to mess with, so probably that means they’ll just admit a lot fewer middle-class / poor whites with no special connections. That’s the answer that’s the least likely to violate current elite opinion. This probably won’t do much to diminish the sense among lots of middle-class whites, and especially white men, that the elites actively want to screw them over.

    • cassander says:

      First, legacy admissions are a much bigger factor than I had realized. Legacy students are five times as likely to be admitted as other applicants, and a third of Harvard students are legacies.

      I’d say the relevant number isn’t how many people who get into Harvard had parents go there, but how many are admitted whose parents went who’s relevent stats (test scores, GPA, sports, what have you) are considerably lower than the non-legacy class. Or, perhaps, the stats differential between legacy and non-legacy.

  16. Le Maistre Chat says:

    RPG discussion: monsters & terrain.
    One of the pitfalls of a “Challenge Rating” system is that it can’t systematize the force multiplier effect of fighting in different terrain. Those with more manly interests than me (i.e. military history) could write reams about its effects on conflict between humans, but what about non-human enemies?
    Some thoughts:

    Vampires. Having players open a door inside a building to find one of these seems like asking for player (un)death. Now if he’s walking around outdoors, in daylight, and you have ranged weapons? Way less of a challenge.

    Dragons. This one’s kind of the reverse: a dungeon dragon is much more vulnerable than one that encounters adventurers while flying around. Breathe fire until they’re dead, or you run out of that resource (if that’s a thing in the game you’re running).

    Further thoughts?

    • Said Achmiz says:

      Systematizing the effect of fighting in different terrain (and otherwise in different conditions) is what the Encounter Level system is for. This is precisely the reason for having two separate concepts of Challenge Rating and Encounter Level: to make clear this distinction of “how innately powerful/challenging is this monster, all else being equal, on average, across a variety of the sort of encounters in which the PCs will fight it” vs. “how difficult is this specific encounter, taking into account terrain and other particulars”.

      Re: vampires: they can’t walk around in daylight, so that scenario cannot happen.

      Re: dragons: I think that their challengingness is often exaggerated. (Rant / details incoming.)

      Ok, so you encounter a dragon. Outside. “Breathe fire until they’re dead”, right? Now how would a halfway-competent party handle this?

      1. Ranged attacks. Dragons have high AC and good saves! But the archer should have a very good attack bonus, and the party buffers will be buffing him; the magical attackers should have ranged attacks that allow no saving throws (and often, even ignore spell resistance—though a dragon’s SR is bad for its level).

      2. Flight. The wizard casts fly on the fighter, and now the fighter flies up to the dragon and attacks it. (The dragon can grapple? The cleric uses his wand of freedom of movement; etc.) Dragons are fast flyers but have poor maneuverability, so it’s not hard to catch up to them if they’re actually trying to engage you (if a dragon turns tail and runs, it can likely outrange you, but then you’ve won the encounter anyway).

      3. Debuffs. Too many to list.

      4. Breath attacks have cooldowns (or recharges), and are not usable ever round. Also, any non-brain-dead party knows to spread out, and this is easy to do outside.

      Dragons are not pushovers, but they’re not that dangerous if encountered outside, in the open. (It’s a well-known fact by now that the true dragons were, in D&D 3e [and derived systems], given CRs artificially lower—by something like 25-30%—than what their stats would suggest. This is because the designers wanted dragons to be challenging—and they would not be very challenging otherwise. Even as it stands, I would not call a dragon, encountered outside and in the open, an unusually difficult “single boss monster” encounter.)

      No, the true danger of a dragon is encountering one in its lair—where it’s had centuries to prepare the most devious traps, shape the terrain to its precise specifications, have allies, have resources, have environments favorable to it but deadly to PCs, etc.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Re: vampires: they can’t walk around in daylight, so that scenario cannot happen.

        Re: dragons: I think that their challengingness is often exaggerated. (Rant / details incoming.)

        Dracula would disagree that he can’t walk in daylight. He just couldn’t use his powers.

        Re: dragons, a lot of what you said seems very game-specific. in 1st Edition and BECMI D&D, you couldn’t buy, probably not even craft, any such thing as “a wand of Freedom of Movement” and dragons could breath attack for 3 consecutive rounds,after which that resource was done for the day.

        • beleester says:

          Bram Stoker must have been house-ruling things, then. A D&D 3.5 vampire in direct sunlight is completely screwed – they get one partial action to get themselves to safety, and then they’re dusted.

    • Nick says:

      Re dungeon dragons: how well ventilated are underground caves? Could a dragon suffocate itself or the players by breathing too much fire, or would it just become harder and harder to breathe fire well before then?

      • Protagoras says:

        It is not clear that dragon fire consumes fuel, and so equally unclear that it would consume oxygen. On the other hand, any secondary fires that the dragon fire happened to ignite could generate the concerns you mention.

        • Lambert says:

          Is there an official temperature for dragonfire? If it’s hot enough, it might make all kind of nasty nitrogen oxides, even if it’s not consuming any oxygen.
          And in any case, a cave fire would probably kill you from CO poisoning before O2 depletion.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Interestingly, fifth edition’s CR system should be able to systematize terrain effects but doesn’t.

      The Advantage / Disadvantage system, rolling two twenty sided dice and taking the higher or lower result respectively, has done a great job of replacing fiddly bonuses, penalties and conditions associated with terrain. As a DM I feel comfortable saying that e.g. a human PC fighting an angry merman underwater has disadvantage on attacks.

      Since Advantage and Disadvantage are mathematically straightforward, it should be possible to list the modified CR of a creature with constant advantage or disadvantage alongside its regular entry.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Some tactical elements are impossible to figure out for CR beforehand, unless something is set in stone: unless you are going to mandate that the enemies surprise the PCs no matter what, or vice versa, it’s impossible to add some kind of XP adjustment to reflect the difficulty in either case, until after the fact – so something that’s meant to be a hard encounter will be pushed into the “don’t throw this at them” zone if the enemies get the drop on the PCs.

      Similar, terrain: if one side manages to get to the high ground first, they have an advantage in any tactically transparent system. Unless you mandate one side has it by default, you would have to add any adjustment for that after the fact. Etc.

      I think CR systems might create an incentive towards designing systems (not tactically transparent) where the statblocks of the participants matter more than the terrain, the situation, etc. Either you can add a clunky system to add XP for the enemy taking the high ground (and recognize that a bunch of baddies who took the high ground might be “too hard” to fight according to the CR system), or you can just ignore all that stuff (when it’s important), or you can make it unimportant.

      • Randy M says:

        Some tactical elements are impossible to figure out for CR beforehand

        I wonder if you used a modifier for total damage taken to increase the XP award how soon players would catch on and throw themselves into danger.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          That rewards sloppy play in general, too. A bad player who barely survives encounters will level up faster than an intelligent player that plans their approaches and uses their abilities better.

          Edit: That said, I like the idea of rewarding results instead of just inputs. Most of the ideas I have about it on first blush feel overly cumbersome or to value the wrong things out of simplicity.

          • Nick says:

            But that rewards narratively weaker victories! A bad player who barely survives encounters is more interesting to follow provided she isn’t surviving by sheer luck or dei ex machina.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            That’s a good point!

            Maybe the really good players would just take on harder fights instead of trying to be sloppy about it, and each player gets rewarded for where they are skill-wise?

            Of course, if the mechanic is as basic as “more HP lost = more XP” then the players gaming the system would be pretty harsh. Standing around a neutered enemy without the theoretical ability to kill a player and taking a few more rounds of damage seems a bad thing to encourage.

  17. sunnydestroy says:

    Last week I decided to not eat for 5 days.

    I was testing out a prolonged modified water fast protocol for purported autophagy and stem cell regeneration benefits.

    Incidentally, I had mountains of motivation, good mood, mental energy, and creativity. I would even say that was my most productive week of the entire year.

    It definitely wasn’t comfortable to do though and requires a degree of willpower to not eat for that long, but I also don’t feel like it was that difficult. Just sharing in case anyone’s curious about this sort of thing.

    • dick says:

      No juice or anything, just water? Boy that is pretty daunting. Planning on doing it again?

      • sunnydestroy says:

        I say modified in that I allowed some supplements and noncalorie unsweetened teas.

        I supplemented electrolytes (sodium/potassium) in my water and I continued taking omega 3, vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin K. I also continued working out every day so I definitely needed it for what I was losing in my sweat.

        Supposedly I only have to fast every few months to maintain the benefits, but I’ll probably try a fasting mimetic diet next time, which is a 5 day highly calorie restricted eating plan of specific macronutrient composition that mimics the fasting state.

    • SamChevre says:

      That’s very different from my experience: I wonder what the difference is. Fasting for several days generally leaves me shaky, slow-witted, and unmotivated. (Last Easter I was reading at vigil, and ended up eating an apple beforehand for fear I’d either stumble, or read poorly, did I not.)

      • sunnydestroy says:

        Hmm, what kind of diet did you have before fasting? Maybe body type has an influence? Perhaps the weather also has an influence? Age could also be a factor?

        I have a generally good diet, mostly vegetables and food from raw ingredients I cook myself. I also take a variety of supplements to cover common nutritional deficiencies and probiotics. Before I started my fast, I took a multivitamin just to be extra sure I was covering my nutritional bases.

        I also supplemented electrolytes during my fast, ensuring I always had water on hand to stay hydrated.

        I have a lean, slim, but athletic body type. 30 years old, good health with no conditions. It was nice that it was sunny during my fast too.

      • Deiseach says:

        An apple for Easter is theologically very fitting. O felix culpa! 🙂

      • Garrett says:

        From what little I know, this is going to depend upon the types of activities you are engaged in, your body’s energy stores, and how quickly your body can ramp up the production of glucagon. In my personal experience, a drastic reduction in caloric intake needs about a week to get back to feeling normal. But that first week is a doozy.

    • Anon. says:

      Doesn’t this lead to muscle loss? AFAIK fat can only give you ~60kcal/kilo/day, so if you’re 80kg at 25%bf that’s barely going to cover half your daily expenditure.

  18. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://siderea.dreamwidth.org/1468824.html?nc=14#comments

    A suggestion that questions on medical forms should be priced at $1 each as a rough but adequate way of acknowledging that filling out forms takes people’s time.

    There is discussion of how much the forms get filled out and then ignored.

    • Randy M says:

      Drove my wife crazy when she would fill out a form, then the nurse would ask all the same questions, then the doctor would ask all the same questions a well.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Drove my wife crazy when she would fill out a form, then the nurse would ask all the same questions, then the doctor would ask all the same questions a well.

        And none of them actually listen, as my wife found out when, after going through that, she had to stop the nurse giving her something she’d explicitly listed as an allergy.

      • Garrett says:

        As a counterpoint: I volunteer in EMS. In practice, this means I pick up “sick” people from where ever they are and take them to the closest appropriate hospital. As a part of this process and facilitating future care, I will ask all relevant questions I can think of, filter out the useless crap and relay the synopsis to the receiving nurse.

        The number of cases where I’ve had different answers given to me (which I’ve relayed to nursing staff), vs. given to the nursing staff while I’m standing right there is astounding. It’s one of those “get over it” moments when you think you look like a complete idiot for relaying something that the patient contradicts. Nurses get the same thing.

        Ultimately, it boils down to a lot of things:
        * Asking a question early-on might trigger a memory being resurfaced for a more comprehensive answer later.
        * Patients seem to think that they know how the medical system works (or should work) and get this idea that only questions to/from the doctor matter. And so they omit useful information. (Seriously, as I guy, I wouldn’t be asking about your menstrual cycle unless I thought it might be clinically relevant).
        * As a result of fear of medical lawsuits, etc., everybody needs to ask everything themselves. If the patient lies and is harmed, it’s their fault. If a medical provider relies on notes from another provider, they have to worry about being on the stand and being asked questions like “did you ask the patient?”
        * Different focus on the answers from the same question, possibly leading to different follow-up questions. That is, the kind of thing that I care about in the pre-hospital environment is focused around getting the immediate care I can provide, and selecting the right destination hospital. Which is separate from the nurse/doctor selecting the set of labs they want to run to rule out specific conditions.

  19. sandoratthezoo says:

    Question for medical folks:

    Does anyone have halfway-reliable numbers for the incidence of tethered spinal cords in the general population of infants, and the incidence contingent on the existence of hemangiomas on the spine?

  20. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Thoughts on Amazon? I’m pretty happy how everyone — left, right, and center — seems to be pissed with their deal.

    I hate tax incentives. Either lower taxes for everyone or don’t. Special people shouldn’t be able to escape them. There are a bunch of things that Amazon could have asked for, or gotten, that wouldn’t have been this bad. If infrastructure (roads or subways) were built-out especially for their headquarters, for example, it would still be infrastructure that other people could theoretically use, and would continue to exist if Amazon somehow fails and another business wants to move in.

    • Statismagician says:

      Basically agree in principle. Preventing this sort of thing is one of the few good sources (to my mind) of arguments against increased local legislative authority. On the other hand, it’s useful for governments to be able to take non-extreme positions on things – less positive than making them mandatory, or less negative than banning them – and to have some mechanism for affecting entities not subject to their laws (out-of-town corporations, say). I haven’t considered this issue fully; these thoughts are still in tension.

    • Guy in TN says:

      I have issues with Amazon, as do many people, but bargaining for tax incentives is rather par-for-the-course when it comes to major corporate moves into a city. Its difficult for me to get particularly angry about it, especially considering the city might view it as a good deal, even strictly in terms of tax-revenue.

      Here’s something to consider: If the people of NYC/DC decide they dislike the tax incentives, then they can vote for politicians who will take them away. AFAIK the members of a legislature are never contractually bound to vote a certain way. And since tax law is easier to change than moving a company’s headquarters, the tax incentives might end up being just “bait” that lured the company in.

      I’m just glad they picked cities where:
      1. They would have the least influence over the character of that city, and the least power to influence regulation (as opposed to a smaller more desperate city).
      2. Ecological biodiversity and species endemism isn’t huge in the Mid-Atlanic coast, so the ecological impacts of an expanding city are reduced (opposed to the nightmare scenario of choosing someplace like Florida or coastal Texas).

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Here’s something to consider: If the people of NYC/DC decide they dislike the tax incentives, then they can vote for politicians who will take them away.

        This is America, so not really. You get 2 choices and approximately nobody (dozens!) ranks the issue strongly enough to flip on their tribe over it. This doesn’t mean people don’t for realsies care about the tax breaks, it’s that there also exist larger issues that are more important. And both parties (demonstrably, despite philosophical denials) love this sort of pork so even if you get one maverick on your legislative body they’re gonna be drowned out by the Machines’ people.

        And since tax law is easier to change than moving a company’s headquarters, the tax incentives might end up being just “bait” that lured the company in.

        Amazon would sue the city. NYC is one of the cities large enough to actually put up a fight to such a large corporation, but if it actually went to court I’d expect Amazon to win. My money is on using the lawsuit as leverage for another round of shady backroom dealings, though.

        • Guy in TN says:

          Amazon would sue the city.

          Has anyone ever successfully sued a government for damages in response to raising taxes? IANAL, but it seem to me that the only grounds you can overturn a legislative decision in court is if the law violated the constitution in some way, otherwise the legislature’s decisions are law.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        And since tax law is easier to change than moving a company’s headquarters, the tax incentives might end up being just “bait” that lured the company in.

        You aren’t supposed to say that out loud.

        It’s of course possible to slowly turn up the heat on the company because “ha, they aren’t going to leave over 1% more in tax,” until you hit the point where the companies do leave, and then you need tax incentives to lure businesses back in. Governor Cuomo says “New York has to offer incentives because of its comparatively high taxes. … It’s not a level playing field to begin with. … All things being equal, if we do nothing, they’re going to Texas.”

        • Randy M says:

          That’s how you get complicated tax codes. Increase the rates, add loop-holes, change loop-holes, increase rates, add more loop-holes, decrease rates, add exceptions… on the wheel turns.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            And with every turn, the gap between the incentivized and the proles grows.

          • BBA says:

            Who are the proles here? Everyone is taking advantage of some incentive or loophole, the number of companies paying the top-line corporate rate is close to nil. Now you and I aren’t companies but we work for them. My employer got some substantial tax breaks for locating my office where it did, and most likely so did yours.

            I find these practices wasteful and unpleasant, but this isn’t stealing from the public to enrich cronies, it’s shuffling boxes around for temporary advantage in a zero-sum game.

          • albatross11 says:

            IMO, the worst thing about complicated tax codes with lots of gaming the rules to decrease taxes is that it is a massive zero-sum game–it takes smart, productive people and assigns some to the IRS and some to tax accounting firms, and then has them spend lots of resources (making the total pie smaller) negotiating over who gets the bigger slice of the pie.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @BBA

            My employer didn’t, because it was an independent engineering firm close to where the owner lived when it was established, before I was born. My father’s employer didn’t, because his job is tied to a local organization which set up shop where it did to take advantage of plummeting property values, again before I was born.

            I’m not a winner here. My employer isn’t a winner here. The local grocery store isn’t a winner here, and neither are independent auto shops, laundromats, restaurants, or bookstores. Those are the proles.

          • Randy M says:

            @albatross11
            And then once you have an industry of smart, productive people invested into it, they are going to fight to maintain that job security, unless exceptionally altruistic.

          • BBA says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            There are plenty of incentives for small businesses, in fact there’s a whole cabinet-level federal agency devoted to them.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Yes. But there’s a very large difference between, “promising Amazon favorable tax treatment for moving its headquarters here” and “small business tax deduction.” In particular, there’s a no-man’s-land between them that seems to me to be designed so that large companies can slurp up small companies who want to cross it.

        • Guy in TN says:

          Yes, NYC/DC has to make sure they don’t dip over to the right side of the Laffer curve. When Amazon is first getting their headquarters established, they will have to keep taxes low. But once Amazon has made significant irreversible investments in the city, they can turn up the heat.

    • They could have chosen anywhere in the country and it would have been incredibly profitable for them. Amazon is big enough that people go to them, not the other way around. All of these amenities they were looking for would have naturally arisen anywhere they went. In the end, they decided to go with two places that are already doing well economically and have housing shortages after putting out this whole reality show for a year. Jeff Bezos had the power to do a lot of good but he chose the ability to lobby instead. It’s disgraceful.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Were there any prediction markets on the topic? How did they do? How did they handle hq3 vs just hq2?

      I’m interested in the claim that it was obvious that they were going to DC, b/c WaPo+lobbying+defense. I didn’t hear this until the last minute, but markets might have recorded it.

  21. Hoopyfreud says:

    @Conrad

    I owe you a response from last thread on Peterson.

    I think the argument that “you should do [useful and constructive things] because they feel meaningful” is dangerous because it circumvents the whole modernist project of finding meaning. I believe that there is a difference between meaning and meaningfulness, and that too much meaningfulness and not enough meaning can lead to despondency and nihilism when the going gets rough. Look at the Peterson fanboys who remain losers for a glimpse at this – the type who rant about evolutionary psychology for most of their lonely waking hours and try to convince everyone that they’d be happier if they lived according to that person’s philosophy. It’s an absurd, poorly-thought-out position, and while I’m not willing to blame Peterson for it – he’s certainly not the type to say things like “women don’t belong in the workplace and blacks don’t belong in school” – I do blame him for making people vulnerable to this kind of rhetoric.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      try to convince everyone that they’d be happier if they lived according to that person’s philosophy.

      That sounds to me like people who didn’t get Peterson’s message. The whole “clean your room” thing started as an admonishment to politically active Millenials who ranted about changing the world and “how things ought to be” when they couldn’t take care of themselves. Whoever it is you’re talking about should stop ranting about evolutionary psychology and clean their damn rooms.

      “People shouldn’t say X even though X is fine because listeners might fail to understand X and do something worse than X” sounds like a fully general argument against all X.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        My argument is more that “people shouldn’t believe X without some idea of the philosophical underpinning of or justification for X.” I don’t object to Peterson because people can do stupid things with what he says, but because he treats belief as instrumental while pretending it’s fundamental.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          he treats belief as instrumental while pretending it’s fundamental.

          Can you explain what you mean by that? I think he treats it as instrumental and explicitly says it’s instrumental. Like when asked about whether or not he believes in God he says he acts as though God is real, because that’s the best way to act. That’s instrumental all the way around.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I have objections to this, but not vociferous ones. My problem is that he makes this distinction clear only when pressed; until he is, he acts like all his beliefs are fundamental, and I think, based on what I’ve read, that he has no objection to people adopting the things he says as fundamental rather than instumenal beliefs. I object to that very much. Terminal values are determined by fundamental beliefs, and we call people who instill unexamined fundamental beliefs in others “cult leaders.” I don’t think Peterson is really a cult leader, but I do think that he has cultists, and that he’s done nothing to prevent that from happening.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          @Hoopyfreud

          How do you square this argument with the fact that most people don’t really know why they believe what they believe? That goes well beyond philosophy and heavily implicates all of politics.

          If you are frustratedly forced to accept it as reality in those other contexts, why harp on Peterson specifically? Isolated demand for rigor and all that.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I have nothing but contempt for demagoguery in general, but I reserve a special place in my heart for those who subvert the search for meaning with it. And yes, I despise people who cannot articulate why they care about things. I don’t mind running into terminal values (in either ethics or aesthetics), but I do mind when people don’t care what those terminal values are.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Fair enough, thanks for the response.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Have you examined why you have terminal value examination as a terminal value?

            I suspect most (perhaps all) people’s terminal values – if they truly have such things at all in any useful or consistent way – are so convoluted and weird as to be for all practical purposes inexpressible. If I’m right, this is a serious problem for AI goal alignment, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Caveat: I’m not familiar with Peterson’s message and don’t care to be. This is a response to what you’re saying, not a defense of whatever he’s saying.

      “Finding meaning” isn’t something that ordinary people can or should do. It’s possible to find meaning, and the exceptional people who can find meaning deserve respect for their achievement, but turning that into an obligation is cruel and insane.

      My perspective here is cribbed from Nietzsche: if you want to find meaning, you need to suffer in the wilderness alone first. Whether that’s literal hermitage like the Desert Fathers or more of an intellectual isolation depends on the person. But it’s not something that you can do on the weekends while working a 9-to-5 job. It’s an extreme spiritual experience and demands serious sacrifices.

      Common people like myself and most of the people here are much better off walking well-trodden paths than wandering in the wilderness. The same way that you can’t have a society entirely consisting of entrepreneurs, you can’t have a society entirely consisting of mystics. Traditional societies respect the search for meaning and that’s good, but if modernism demands everyone to search for meaning then that shows that it’s gone completely off the rails.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        My perspective here is cribbed from Nietzsche

        Mine too. But in contrast to you, I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone must. I hold that the real insanity is to try to take a deer path through a city, and that modernity is out of the bag. We may not be ready for it, but we have to sink or swim, and we can’t keep clinging to the rock we started out on.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Modernity in the sense of industrial capitalism is somewhere between two hundred and fifty to seven hundred years old depending on how strictly you want to define things. We’ve had ten to twenty four generations grow up under similar circumstances to those we’re dealing with today.

          That’s not long in evolutionary time but in terms of history and tradition it’s a respectable period. I would rather trust that multi-generational wisdom than spend my life reinventing the wheel.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The point of modernity, as I see it, is that new structures are continually arising and falling. 50 years ago people were looking to indian gurus for their meaning; now they’re looking to identity groups. None of it has lasted, except perhaps for the churches, but even they bend to follow the waves of public sentiment. Following the waves will get you nowhere in the long run; you have to get off and make your life about something eventually, or drown.

            I don’t think of it as reinventing the wheel – more as building a home. Fill yourself with idiosyncrasies and treasured insights. Build minarets and facades out of your life. Become a culture. The world outside has much to offer, but little that you won’t tire of eventually unless you take it indoors.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I mean that’s absolutely true. Fashion essentially didn’t exist for most of history; the idea of constantly shifting trends in clothing, music, food, etc. emerged in early modern Europe. It is a pretty important feature of modernity.

            That said, we’ve had centuries of modern fashion at this point. Maybe this is my molecular genetics background talking but I’m more interested in the conserved structures. The most important institutions in society will be the most permanent, because breaking them is that much more dangerous.

            I don’t think of it as reinventing the wheel – more as building a home.

            Building a home from scratch is expensive and I rather liked my family home. And even though that particular home is gone, there are a vast number of virtually identical homes sitting unoccupied. Any of them much better than a rickety shack I could throw together in my spare time.

            Again, I have nothing but respect for people who blaze their own path in life. But it’s something that most people don’t have any need to do and aren’t particularly able to do.

          • albatross11 says:

            Was there really no fashion among wealthy Romans or Greeks or Egyptians? That seems really surprising, if true.

          • albatross11 says:

            Hoopyfreud:

            It seems to me that most people have and will try to follow existing paths to meaning, and do their deep thinking (if they do any) around the edges–thinking hard about some specific questions while following some basic path that seems to lead to a meaningful life. I have the impression that Peterson is more-or-less in the business of trying to help a lot of people find what he thinks is a socially and personally useful path to a meaningful life. I’m not convinced it’s a bad thing for him to do this without deep-diving on all the questions you find worthwhile, anymore than I’m convinced it’s a bad thing for people to write pop science books rather than demanding everyone work their way through the math of relativity / population genetics / climate modeling.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Albatross

            I don’t think it’s worthwhile to question everything, but I think it’s quite important to know where your fundamental beliefs come from. Do you have faith? Then embrace faith. Be comfortable attributing your beliefs to faith. If you don’t, you’re lying to yourself. Are you a nihilist? Then be upfront about your nihilism. Tell me that nothing matters and you just do what the imp of the perverse tells you, and I’ll be disgusted but not disappointed. Tell me that you’re an empiricist and you’ll observe me walking away spinning my finger around my temple with a smile on my face. But tell me that you believe things because they’re useful and I’ll cry. Thought and questions threaten this framework. From my perspective it’s actively hostile to consciousness – the thought-terminating cliche to end all thought-terminating cliches. It’s a life-support ideology. And Peterson isn’t upfront about it. He doesn’t advertise it as, “believe and don’t think,” but if you exert the slightest pressure on him, that’s the position he retreats to. Personally, I’d love to know why he thinks that’s such a reasonable way to live, but nobody seems to ask.

          • albatross11 says:

            hoopyfreud:

            Okay, fair enough. I think I didn’t understand your objection before, and now I do.

          • attir says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            And Peterson isn’t upfront about it. He doesn’t advertise it as, “believe and don’t think,” but if you exert the slightest pressure on him, that’s the position he retreats to. Personally, I’d love to know why he thinks that’s such a reasonable way to live, but nobody seems to ask.

            I don’t know Peterson. But I think I feel this way about a lot of things. My mother played some Raw Food videos for me, form a particular doctor whose videos, work, she respected. And I got the thoughts you articulate in this post from watching it. In particular, it was a person who made the statement, sometimes, that particular foods were good because of their shapes. He never said why the shape was effective at making the fruit good, but I don’t remember him specifying that he never said that. And the shape itself seemed to have been taking by my mother, and I imagined other listeners, as a supporting evidence itself.
            This is the man, but I don’t know which videos I watched. I was very annoyed – angry, basically – when I was listening to it – but I waited some time to make sure that this error at least was correct, that I was picking up.
            link text

          • aho bata says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            I haven’t watched enough Peterson to know if the “belief for its own sake” description is accurate, but it’s important to consider who that message is aimed at. If you’re a nihilist then it’s oughts you’re in short supply of, not is’s. You can’t fault Peterson for pointing out that if you want your life to be meaningful you need deeply held values for that meaning to materialize against. Better to believe in things because they are useful, maybe to rationalize them later and repress the memory of ever not having had a rationale, than not to believe in things at all.

            Do you have any linked examples of Peterson suggesting we should believe in things because it’s useful?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Aho

            Sorry for taking so long; Peterson does mostly video content or books, so it’s hard to find convenient things to link. See the quotes in this blogpost: link

  22. achenx says:

    The Atlantic on “the sex recession”: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/12/the-sex-recession/573949/

    I’m a bit younger than the author of the article, but close enough that my dating experience, such as it was, was much more like hers (or at least, took place in that environment) than what is described as the current experience. To SSC readers who are still dating (or whatever), does the article ring true?

    Is this becoming a society problem?

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      There’s already a thread about this article on the subreddit. Some good discussion there.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I was glad to see that the article mentioned the likely reason why sex is down, even if it was off-handed.

      Contrary to stereotype, couples and especially married couples have much more frequent and better sex than single men and women. If we were ill-advisedly* trying to maximize how much sex people were having, then the obvious solution would be to encourage young men and women to form stable marriages.

      This aligns with my own experience. When I was single I could have sex with more women, meeting a new friend with benefits roughly once a month and typically seeing two to three women at a time. But those relationships were very short-lived and I typically only saw each woman once or twice a week. I’m having as much sex now with my girlfriend as I did back then and it’s significantly better. For a guy a few inches shorter than me the contrast would be even starker.

      *Not saying that my proposed solution is a bad idea, just that it’s a very stupid reason to implement it.

    • BBA says:

      Um… sorry about that. I knew I was bringing the numbers down, but I didn’t realize I tipped the scales into recession territory.

      • acymetric says:

        Don’t worry, my highly erratic data points over the last 10-20 years are helping make all the information worthless anyway.

  23. Rachael says:

    In this post from the subreddit about the benefits of weightlifting, someone asked whether Scott lifts weights, and someone else said that he doesn’t because “getting physically stronger may push him more towards the dark side and thus compromise his ability for dispassionate analysis”, because “There’s some studies that claim higher upper body strength predicts right-wing views or something like that.”

    I think this is really interesting if true (the general correlation, rather than Scott’s personal life choices based on it; although those are interesting too).

    Personally I would expect the causality to be the other way around, or both caused by a third factor. I can imagine right-wing values making people (or men in particular) more likely to lift weights: valuing strength in a broad sense, looking down on weakness in a broad sense, being willing to suffer short-term pain for long-term gain, perhaps self-reliance (contrasting weightlifting with team sports), valuing traditional masculinity, and wanting to look intimidating to scare rivals and protect dependants.

    Then again, maybe strength training increases testosterone and testosterone contributes to right-wing views?

    Either way, I think it’s interesting enough to merit at least a discussion here, if not a top-level SSC post.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      This seems like a relatively testable thing. I’d hope the research on lifting had gone beyond observational studies.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Are you sure this person wasn’t poking fun at him?
      I’ve heard the general correlation asserted, and that comes off like a joke that assumes it’s common knowledge to the audience.

      • Rachael says:

        Not completely sure, but the whole comment was “He has an interesting justification, as he doesn’t deny the benefits, along the lines of that getting physically stronger may push him more towards the dark side and thus compromise his ability for dispassionate analysis..” so I took that to mean it was a paraphrase of something Scott had actually said.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The way it was explained to me, upper body strength correlates with political positions which benefit the man. So higher a strong man with higher income / SES will be more right wing, and a strong man with lower income / SES will be more left wing.

      There are two problems. Firstly, it’s unclear to me whether this correlation is real given how many similar findings fail to replicate. Secondly, if it is real then we still don’t know the mechanism: it could just as easily be that a third factor influences both strength and political views, or even that political views influence strength.

      It’s an amusing joke but I wouldn’t make decisions about my exercise regimen on that basis and don’t recommend that other people do either. Weight lifting has clear health benefits and everyone who is physically able should consider it as an option regardless of their political views.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I thought we had a discussion here about whether weight-lifting correlated with being conservative (made people more conservative?) and the conclusion was that there was no solid evidence.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Anecdotally: getting in the gym, dieting, all that stuff, caused me to realize that something was within my control that I had thought was more or less outside of my control. If we model one axis of right-left difference as “you are the master of your own fate/you are thrown around by social factors” then I suppose that this would make someone more right-wing. However, my voting patterns are exactly the same as they were before, so having more of an appreciation for my ability to control my own life didn’t turn me into a Tory bootstrapper.

    • Basil Elton says:

      Let the doctors here correct me if I’m wrong, but I remember hearing that physical exercises and/or gaining muscle mass increase testosterone level. Brief googling seems to support this. So if true this might provide a mechanism for a correlation in the originally suggested direction.

      • dick says:

        That’s possible but it sure seems like it would be clobbered by obvious stuff that correlates to both weight-lifting and ideology without being causative, like interest in sports.

    • The claim that “higher upper body strength predicts right-wing views” was debunked in the Put A Number On It blog post “Strong men are socialist, reports study that previously reported the opposite”. The blog post points out that the claim came from selective reporting of multiple tested hypotheses, and shows that the same data could support the opposite conclusion.

      This only shows that the study analyzed by the post is not strong enough to reach any conclusions from. There could theoretically be another better-done study that still concludes the same link between strength and socialism, but it’s more likely that the comment you quoted only saw the original news and not the debunking of it.

  24. Plumber says:

    The thread a ways back on Does The Education System Adequately Serve Advanced Students? has inspired some thoughts of mine, but not about the “advanced students”, instead about the rest of us (including non-advanced me).

    I have little doubt that most children could learn academics earlier (and probably better) under the right conditions, but the right conditions require a great deal of one on one instruction from a good teacher for most of a child’s waking hours, instead of one adult with 25 to 40 kids for a few hours, a portion of the year.

    Besides being avalible, and a good teacher, there’s a limit due to the shortage of adults who know the subjects in the first place to overcome.

    If, however, the goal is to teach how to duck, dodge, run, what it feels like to be punched into unconsciousness, plus how trapped we are by the social class we’re born into, then the schools I attended did a fine job.

    In 1982/1983 despIte my begging to go to Maybeck (a private high school) for 9th grade I attended the Berkeley High School West Campus, and the legend that had been passed around in elementary and junior high school was that West Campus was a war zone filled with violence, what I found instead was toilets with no paper or doors, mostly broken water fountains, and everything clearly sized for elementary school kids and too small for high school students (it was closed the next year), but far less violence than elementary and junior high school (no games of “smear the queer” or weekly fist-fights), and unlike “main campus” in subsequent years I was never punched into unconsciousness and then told “That’s what you get for walking alone” by the teacher when I afterwards came to class bleeding.

    For English in 1982 I was first assigned to the “Intermediate” track rather than the “Advanced” track (the majority of students were “Advanced”, there was no level lower than “Intermediate”), and IIRC I was the only white boy in class, and I don’t remember any white girls, and most of my classmates every day in that class were black girls, and the teacher was a black man.

    No reading was assigned, just the occasional essay (which a couple of the girls in class would ask my advice about), and mostly I did homework that was assigned in my other classes or read the Larry Niven novel “A Gift From Earth” which I found left on one of the mostly empty seats one day.

    The only time that I really felt uncomfortable was when the teacher would play speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. and ask us to write our reactions, and I worried that I wasn’t writing a “proper” reaction (no I don’t remember much about it beyond my worry at that time).

    When my mother found that I had been assigned the non “Advanced” track she had a fit and insisted that I be moved in the middle of the semester to the “Advanced” English track, which actually had assigned reading (“Julius Caesar and “Great Expectations”), and mostly white students. 

    Every seat was taken, and I had to sit on the floor whenever a classmate wasn’t out sick, and after being yelled at enough times to “Get out of my seat”, I learned to wait for every other student to take their seats first, and wait to see if I had alternate sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall, or if I’d get a desk and chair that day.

    Both my teacher and my classmates were clear that my presence was not welcome in the “Advanced” class and despite loving to read I hated that class, and I grew to hate my fellow white students (I missed the black girls) and one day I vomited in class.

    I’d have rather have gotten the books to read from the mostly white class and had stayed with the welcoming black students (the girls), and the indifferent black students (the boys), and had a chair and desk, rather than have endured the cruelty of the “Advanced” track.

    The other memorable class in ’82 was Algebra were Mr. Henri on the first day of class announced “Half of you will fail this class”, which filled me with so much anger that it lingers in me still decades later, why is this done?

    Why can’t all of us be taught?

    Why just half?

    I’ve read of how passing or failing 9th grade Algebra is usually what divides the college bound from the majority in California, but at Berkeley High School there were no suggested paths other than college (and no real suggestions other than “get a teaching credential”).

    Why?

    Can’t we have schools teach goals besides being the lucky among the “cognitive elite”?

    In my sophomore year at high school I took an elective class and found that I was the only student in that class from “the flats” and not the Berkeley hills, and some of my classmates quizzed me about the location of some damn ski shop in Berkeley (which I had no clue of) and loudly proclaimed that “Your not really from Berkeley” despite my living with my mother in Berkeley since I was four years old (I still find I have to fight myself not to show my bitterness towards “UMC” people and their children to this day).

    I really don’t know if the fists of some of my classmates who also came from “the flats” or the disdain towards me I felt from some of the “hills kids” was more disruptive of my “education”.

    I learned more with a library card, sneaking into the University libraries and reading there, and from the math my union apprenticeship taught me than from Berkeley High School.

    A big part of me wants all my fellows who grew up in the flats to get to skip the indignity of high school and just go into trade apprenticeships, and I’ve read some about the educational systems in some European countries and how in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, 55 to 70 percent of all young people enter apprenticeships while only a fraction do here, and those countries have lower youth unemployment rates.

    When I took the California High School Proficiency Exam so I could go to community college instead, I found it absurdly easy, I could have passed it years earlier. 

    High School was a punishing waste.

    Already in the 1980’s I encountered street beggers most days to remind me of the price of “not making it”, and now I see dozens of the tents of the homeless every day I drive to and from work to show me how many don’t “make it”, and the only guy from the class of ’86 besides me that is still in town pushes a shopping cart full of cans to be recycled. 

    A statistic that really hit home with me is that almost half of kids in the California foster care system become homeless after they turn 18, which tells me how useless the schools are in imparting the skills needed to earn a wages to keep a roof over your head.

    My wife went to college (she came to my town to go to Boalt) and she’s pretty smart, but the main difference I see between her and most of those who didn’t get a college diploma is that her parents paid for a private high school education and most of her living expenses while she got her college education. 

    My brother got a college diploma as well. He did it by marrying a nice girl with generous parents, who paid for his living expenses along with my family (including me).

    So if you’re in the half that passes algebra and if you can somehow get your living expenses paid then you go to college, and the rest?

    “Just over a third of American adults have a four-year college degree, the highest level ever measured by the U.S. Census Bureau. In a report released Monday, the Census Bureau said 33.4 percent of Americans 25 or older said they had completed a bachelor’s degree or higher”

    which is the “highest ever”

    According to the census (as of 2015) about 42.3% of Americans 25 years old and older have an “Assiociates” (two years) degree “and higher”, but now (unlike my youth) most (58.9%) adults 25 years old and older do have “some college”.

    I have had “some college” myself, Laney “community college” in Oakland, where I managed to squeeze in a “Cultural Anthropology” and an “European History” class, which were wonderful, before I was told “You’re 18 now and you’re not living here to go to that ghetto school” and I had to leave school and find work.

    When I returned to Laney years later besides a blueprint reading class to supplement my union apprenticeship classes I was in the welding booth  practicing welding.

    One day of one class is “some college”, and even now which has the “highest ever” percentage of Americans having spent time in college most Americans don’t get even a two year college diploma.

     

    When I saw the “Justice” televised broadcast of college  lectures on PBS, at first I was grateful, but then came the student responses, and as I watched the banter of the students at Harvard I grew angry, there were no special insights they had to justify there being able to sit in a comfortable classroom discussing interesting things inside of laboring like so many, and in a State like California were we vote on “initiatives”, every single citizen should have an education that befits a legislator.

    ALL OF US!

    And not just watching the screen (if I’m going to have utopian dreams why stop at the possible?), I’d like it so every student has actual texts to read and a teacher who answers questions, and a chair to sit in.

    A while back Presidential candidate Marco Rubio said “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers“, and in some sense I agree with him, welding is a good way to make a living and I’d like getting that knowledge to be easier.

    But I think most can and should be taught both. 

    First, give kids the 9th grade high school history book at age nine not fourteen! 

    I’m far from being one of the “cognitive elite” and of average intelligence at best and there’s nothing in that book that couldn’t be understood by me earlier.

    Next reduce class sizes.

    Schools are dangerously unsupervised (after a classmate tried to stab him with that, and my memories of what high school was like, we decided to homeschool our son), and you can barely get any questions in!

    (to be continued)

    • Plumber says:

      (Continued from above)

      The high school model of a half dozen classes of different subjects, each less than an hour long doesn’t work as well as the community college/apprenticeship classes model of classes at least two hours long devoted to each subject, so have fewer but longer classes (maybe high schools as they exist now work well for the “cognitive elite”, I really couldn’t care less, I want the majority better educated, you guys already have your share).

      Move the 10th grade history class from age 15 to age 10 or 11, it’s completely understandable at that age, and my goal is educated voters not warehousing teenagers while preparing a minority of them for college. 

      Next teach a basic understanding of statistics, some political philosophy and rhetoric all to be completed before the age of 16.

      At age 16 start apprenticeships.

      Trigonometry was taught to me far better by an old plumber in my union than at my high school (and by better I mean taught at all), when their parents kick them out all the 18 year-old new voters to have started on a path to earning a living that will hopefully let them have a family. 

      Right now the State pays a small amount to both union and non-union apprenticeship programs (but the non-union one turn out very few Journeyman compared to the unions despite having a bigger market share). Increase that subsidy dramatically. In my old union local the contractors couldn’t just hire cheaper apprentices to use as human forklifts without also hiring journeyman to (in theory) give them training, and the contractors were also obliged to accept apprentices to be trained. 

      Expand that system to the rest of the economy and force employers who bellyache about “Not enough skilled workers” to train those skills!  “But they’ll go to my competition” the owners will whine, too bad so sad! Their competition will be forced to do the same if they want to do business in the State of California.

      Start with government work, most municipalities have long job qualifications that must be met to be hired, have the cities and counties train their own damn employees from the teens who live there, yes including training the physicians at General Hospital, and if they have to pay the Catholic schools (where most City and County of San Francisco employees went) to do it then do that, for every job a kid should already be being trained not floundering with the fear of not being able to get a job come adulthood. 

      Where to get the teachers and the money? 

      First off police and firemen have generous pensions that let them retire much younger than most, and they have generous disability payments (unlike garbage collectors who are more like to be killed on the job than police and fire) so require them to be teachers to earn those payments! They can work till 65 like the rest of us!

      Next, in most States the highest paid public employees are University basketball and football coaches, so stop paying them, and have those be volunteer positions, if the alumni have so much ‘team spirit” one of them can do it their damn self unpaid! 

      Next, when we bought our house in 2011 our real estate agent immediately told us “I have a new professor who is looking for a place to rent”, he showed his salary offer from the University and he was paid well above the median income, after renting with us he bought a million dollar house (that’s why prices are so damn high!) stop paying him so much!

      Still not enough money and teachers? 

      Close the U.C.’s and the C.S.U.’s, and move the faculty to High Schools and community cilleges, distribute their books to public libraries and stop “public” selective schools that wouldn’t teach all Californians! 

      Make the professors into true public employees and have them teach all at real public schools not just a selected privileged elite.

      Still not enough money? 

      Steal Peter Thiel’s and Mark Zuckerberg’s, and go ahead and raise my taxes as well, I want more education for most Californians not just a privileged few, better jobs, and less tents.

      I may as well ask for a pony because none of that will happen, there’s a better chance of turning into Eloi and Morlocks.

      Can we at least copy the books? 

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        You know it’s funny, Plumber. You make a lot of statements I agree with until suddenly you stop.

        I could make a lot of arguments on individual points, but I think it really comes down to three things.

        1 – I think that it requires a particular temperament to teach, and that Mr. Henri is more common than any of us would like. Even more of us are disgusting little shits as children – and this is coming from someone who also did most of my learning in libraries.

        2 – Institutions of higher learning serve a legitimate purpose. I could, hypothetically, have started my career at the age of 16 as a draftsman, and learned far more about geometric design and tolerancing. I would have learned dramatically less, and almost entirely about things that don’t have much to do with my job. An apprenticeship would have worked… poorly. Nobody but a professional teacher is capable of holding that much technical knowledge in different domains, leveraging different skills, at once. And while these skills are somewhat neat in isolation, they’re useful only to people who are committed to a career in which one needs to understand how heat-treating a rod changes the kind of loading you can put on it before it stops being able to bounce back to its original shape.

        3 – Money talks, but money also walks. There’s only so much that the government can do to solve the problems with the conversations that children aren’t having, the social connections that aren’t being made, the shortsighted greed that’s destroying the journeyman workforce, and the nepotism that so often pervades all of these. Because if they do too much, the Berkeley Hills money will disappear, and that’ll be left are the people of the flats. And the transient effects of such a shift can ruin families, generations, and communities – just look at Detroit. The government really only has economic power – it can make things more or less expensive and redistribute wealth. Only incidentally can it effect real culture-level change.

        • Plumber says:

          @Hoopyfreud

          “….The government really only has economic power – it can make things more or less expensive and redistribute wealth. Only incidentally can it effect real culture-level change”

          I fear you’re right, history shows that radical changes (and much of what I proposed is radical) is more likely to make things worse than better, and the better usually comes too late for the generation that got the worse.

          Anyway, thanks for your thoughts.

      • Aging Loser says:

        You’re obviously part of the “cognitive elite,” Plumber — you write well-formed sentences with subordinate clauses. You’re just bad at math, or were.

        Your description of your childhood suggests to me that you were very different and alienated from all of the kids around you — and yet somehow you see those kids as having been unjustly deprived of the Truth and Beauty that YOU were capable of longing for.

        (I went to big urban public schools, graduating from High School in 1984. In Junior High the middle-class kids were persistently persecuted by psychopathic Morlocks. Not even the middle-class kids gave a crap about Truth and Beauty — I’m probably the only one in a Junior High of 1,500 kids and High School of 3,000 kids who ever redd anything or looked at pictures of Great Art. The fact is that the vast majority of kids should be working full-time as apprentices by the age of 12 and any attempt to teach them more than basic arithmetic and the ability to decode labels on food-packages is not only a waste of time and energy, it’s an insult to the Holy Spirit.)

        • attir says:

          I don’t think Plumber is part of the congnitive elite. There is so much further to go, than knowing how to put together well-formed sentences, with or without subordinate clauses. That’s limiting yourself, if you consider elite to be so low a bar to cross. It is a limit in the sense that elite is what you aspire to be, which I think is the case with Plumber. It definitely is the case with me. It’s also inaccurate, if you consider it a misuse of the word elite, to describe something… either common, or easily achievable by most people. Well-formed sentences is what you do at an early age, the latest, and then there’s so much more!
          Disclosure: I may or may not be part of the cognitive elite.

          • Randy M says:

            No matter how mediocre one may be, there’s somebody who can make you look elite.
            And vice versa, of course.

      • Deiseach says:

        I may as well ask for a pony because none of that will happen, there’s a better chance of turning into Eloi and Morlocks.

        Throwing my pebble on the pile… I read recently a comment somewhere (I could have sworn it was over on the sub-reddit but I can’t find it now) in the middle of a thread about living “your best/happiest/most productive life” or something of that kind, where someone mentioned the “85IQ bus driver who is happily married” etc. as “you don’t need to be smart to have a happy life!”

        And this has me frothing at the mouth because of the attitude on display, an attitude I’m sure the person who made the comment has no idea they have. Joe is a bus driver? Well goodness me, he must be a drooling mouth-breathing moron of only 85 IQ! If he were anyway smart, he wouldn’t be in a manual labour/working class job!

        How about letting Joe be Average IQ, you know, the Average 100 IQ of the Average taken as the god-damn Average of all the average people tested? Why assume he must be sub-normal if he’s not in a high-pay job?

        This is not the first time I’ve seen this kind of example being used when talking about ordinary people, and I don’t know if the person in question is one of the 130+ IQ types, but as an average idiot it really does annoy me to see when people who are intelligent (by IQ test scores at least) strain to imagine “lower IQ people”, they put 2 (works in working class/lower middle class job) and 2 (higher IQ means better jobs, manual labour/working with your hands is not A Good Job) together and get 9 quazillion (therefore working-class/manual workers are all below 100 average IQ, proven!)

        It’s entirely possible to be a bus driver, secretary, hairdresser, bricklayer (or even plumber) and be at least 100 IQ. Maybe even more, incredible as this may seem! Any super-smart high IQ scoring working as a software engineer or in STEM person, I’m asking you this much: next time you try to assume the intelligence of your natural inferiors (that is, people who are not working at the desk beside you), at least try to assume we’re not within the category of the “next to intellectual disability”, okay?

        And don’t quote me “ackshually, normal distribution of IQ scores means most people fall between 85 and 115, so the bus driver is more likely to indeed be 85 IQ”. That is precisely the attitude I’m complaining about!

        (This rant has been brought to you by the product of generations of non-college attending peasants who worked as manual or other lower status labour, thank you).

        • Plumber says:

          @Deiseach

          “…This rant has been brought to you by…”

          I like your style, and I’ll add that I really don’t buy the “intelligence is set in stone by genetics” narrative, and even if that were true most are going to be near average in “intelligence”, and by definition half are going to be ‘below average”, and talent is not virtue.

          IIRC @Deiseach you live in Ireland (I think two of my great-grandparents were born on that island!), and I don’t know the situation there, but in the U.S.A. we seemed to be heading to a more equitable society from the 1940’s until the mid ’70’s; but since then wages for the non collegiate majority have been dropping, both absolutely (adjusted for inflation) and relative to the collegiate minority (though it looks like their wages are starting to stagnate as well for all but the very top), and while there’s all sorts of economic arguments that the income centrifuge is needed for growth I really am opposed to so many having living standards worse then their parents and grandparents, which is now showing up in how long Americans live, and now Americans are starting to die younger.

          I find this a lousy situation

      • ana53294 says:

        At age 16 start apprenticeships.

        In Spain, secondary school ends at 16. Primary school is 6 years, secondary school is 4 years. Then you have the non-compulsory pre-University education, required to go to College or if you want to do get a high-level professional education (ranges from plane maintenance technician to glass product development).

        If kids are not academically inclined, they can leave school with a diploma, and go on to get a professional education mid-level degree (machining, hairdressers, electricians, plumbers, etc.). So, by the time they are 18, kids can get a useful job.

        I think this saves a lot of needless suffering for kids who shouldn’t be in school, and saves money to the government. I just think that for those that are not academically inclined, those last two years don’t give anything.

        To my knowledge, quite a few other countries also have compulsory education that finishes at age 16. In the UK, they have GCSEs. Germany also seems to have a system where kids can finish secondary school at 16 and go to a vocational school.

        • Plumber says:

          @ana53294

          “In Spain, secondary school ends at 16. Primary school is 6 years, secondary school is 4 years. Then you have the non-compulsory pre-University education, required to go to College or if you want to do get a high-level professional education (ranges from plane maintenance technician to glass product development).
          If kids are not academically inclined, they can leave school with a diploma, and go on to get a professional education mid-level degree (machining, hairdressers, electricians, plumbers, etc.). So, by the time they are 18, kids can get a useful job”

          That sounds like a good system!

          How accessible is the academic and the vocational training, and how effective is the vocational training towards getting employment in the field studied?

          • ana53294 says:

            There are two parts to the accessibility of vocational traning; how many people are able to afford it and how many people are qualified for it.

            The monetary cost in a public school is 3 euros (insurance) plus depending on the type of school they may ask you to buy some things (security boots, lab coats, that kind of thing). In any case, it will be less than a 100 $.

            The second issue is a much bigger problem. When compared to other rich countries, Spain has a higher than average population with a finished tertiary education (36 %), and a higher than average population of people who have no secondary education (41 %). That is, 41 % of people are not qualified enough to go to these vocational schools. Although there is a higher completion rate among younger people, with 80% finishing compulsory secondary education, that still means 20% of people are not qualified to start this type of vocational training.

            As for how effective it is, this depends on two things; location and willingness to move, and specialization chosen.

            Spain has regions with very varying levels of unemployment; a simple rule of thumb is that everythin that is not on the coasts, except for Madrid (right in the exact middle), has fewer chances of employment.

            Spain is a country with very high levels of structural unemployment, for various reasons. But anyway, 64.6% of those with middle vocational training are employed, vs the average for the population of 49.8%.

            Statistics say that 13% of those with middle vocational training are unemployed, and only 8% of those with a higher level vocational training. Spain’s unemployment is 17%. I wasn’t able to dig up statistics that are more refined by specialization, but my anecdotal experience tells me this is too high for those that have industrial-specialized vocational training, and are willing to move.

            In my hometown, located in the Basque Country, the industrial region of Spain, 100% of those who studied machining found a job, and those who studied Literature in University are unemployed. Statistics say that the % of employment is higher than among those who have vocational training.

            So you have to be willing to move, whatever you study; either to more industrial regions of Spain, or to Germany.

            I think the best model is in Germany, where people can work while they study and have an income. This doesn’t happen in Spain; vocational training doesn’t pay.

    • but the right conditions require a great deal of one on one instruction from a good teacher for most of a child’s waking hours, instead of one adult with 25 to 40 kids for a few hours, a portion of the year.

      I disagree. Once you know how to read you can learn most things, assuming you want to learn them, from books. It helps to have humans to interact with and ask questions of, but another kid who happens to be good at math should be able to answer your math questions. A friend interested in politics and arguing is probably at least as useful as a social studies teacher.

      I think the standard model of K-12 is broken in at least two ways. The first is the assumption that, out of all of human knowledge, there is a subset about the right size to fill K-12 that everyone should at least pretend to learn. There is much less than that that everyone will find useful, much more than that that some people will.

      The second is the assumption that the way to learn something is to sit in a room having a teacher tell you whatever you are all scheduled to learn that day.

      Both of which are reasons why I favor unschooling. It probably doesn’t work for everyone, but it seems to work for a pretty wide range of people.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        I will, again, disagree here on technical grounds.

        A great deal of the trouble in technical schooling is learning how to grapple with difficult concepts like limits or justifications for cancelling Navier Stokes terms or Gibbs free energy or what a proper thesis statement looks like. While you can reason your way through this, students in each other’s company are often much worse at determining the bounds of reasonableness than people with substantially more experience. Teachers (at their best) mediate the jargon of books and the directed inquiry of the naive. And this doesn’t even begin to touch on incestuous branches of social science, where it’s quite easy to be trapped by a particular school if not guided to an effective counterpoint.

        • Plumber says:

          @Hoopyfreud

          “….Teachers (at their best) mediate the jargon of books and the directed inquiry of the naive…”

          I really didn’t find that K to 11 (I tested out so there was no 12 for me), but my brief time at “the high school with ashtrays” (community college) and especially at my apprenticeship night classes approached that.

          I think the difference is the community college teachers, and especially the old plumbers in my union looked on their students as potential equals rather than burdens.

          Among the reasons we’re “homeschooling” our 13 year-old son is so he can get a head start on algebra, and our son is going to a Spanish class at Berkeley City College , as I think he’ll get better teaching at BCC than at the “Middle School”  (I actually was one of five in 8th grade to be given the algebra book at my school, the teacher had is sit in a corner of thr room while he taught the rest of the class pre-algebra, and we five mostly played cards that year after an attempt to teach ourselves from the book, and I tried to learn Latin in 10th grade as my foreign language requirement, which I failed, and tried again to learn a foreign language with German the next year, still a failure but I at least remember how to ask where Alois lives) Our son says he wants to go to U.C. and study computers, I know the chance of that is remote, but I think the odds would be even less if he went to the same kinds of schools I did.

          • Walter says:

            I was homeschooled, through middle school, definitely recommend it. Entered high school well above the rest of the class in most subjects.

          • Our kids were unschooled–at home by about high school age, in a small and unconventional private school before that. They both ended up going to good colleges.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      You’re reminding me of a radical educator, maybe Gatto, who claimed that the purpose of the educational system is to exclude people.

      • johan_larson says:

        That sounds like an overstatement, but we unquestionably use the education system for social sorting of a kind. The path to most positions of great responsibility goes through rather a lot of schooling, and typically demanding schooling at that. It seems fair to say that excluding people is one of the purposes of the education system.

      • Walter says:

        It has always seemed apparent to me that the purpose of the educational system is to take care of kids for most of the day (or, with after school activities substantially the whole day).

    • dndnrsn says:

      The people who run the teacher’s colleges and such, and thus teach the teachers, and thus control a decent chunk of the zeitgeist when it comes to how teaching is approached, seem to think that 1. everyone is capable of going to university if school is run properly and 2. this is a good thing. Neither is true. There are some people who don’t have the right aptitudes for university, and there are some people who do but wouldn’t benefit from it (there’s a lot of people going to university to get C+ BA’s in whatever so they can get a secretarial job that however many years ago you didn’t need a degree for).

      Imagine if baseball was the highest good of the economy, and the baseball-teaching theorists thought that everyone has the potential to play in the big leagues: if someone isn’t reaching that potential, something is wrong. What happens to the kids with crap hand-eye coordination who can’t run?

      Part of the problem is that the people who come up with the theories of how teaching should work are people who have been through half a dozen plus years of postsecondary education, and so they think postsecondary education is the highest good. It’s not, and it makes many people miserable; I was miserable in university until I happened upon a subject I enjoyed, and I was well suited for university.

      Part of the problem is that theories of aptitude that include intelligence have been grossly misused in the past, and so there’s a negative reaction there. However, that’s not gonna change that in all qualities people vary and people are, on average, average.

      I’m a pinko so my ideal society is one where anyone who respects the rights of others and does their bit to the extent of their ability (someone who can’t work because of reasons beyond their control shouldn’t be left on an ice floe) is more or less guaranteed, one way or another, a decent standard of living and a place in society with a bit of dignity. People should be protected from the things they can’t control, and in large part this includes their own aptitudes. Our current system is clearly not doing this. The educational system that seems dominant in the US and Canada seems to do a great job of making a lot of kids feel stupid.

      • acymetric says:

        This is obviously just one case, and not representative of teachers generally, but my (honors) English teacher had explicit discussions with the class centered around the fact that not all of us should or would go to college even if we had the ability to get admitted, and that it was a perfectly fine thing not to go if there were other good options available.

      • Plumber says:

        @dndnrsn

        “… my ideal society is one where anyone who respects the rights of others and does their bit to the extent of their ability (someone who can’t work because of reasons beyond their control shouldn’t be left on an ice floe) is more or less guaranteed, one way or another, a decent standard of living and a place in society with a bit of dignity. People should be protected from the things they can’t control, and in large part this includes their own aptitudes…”

        I very much like the sound of your “ideal society”, I must be a “public” as well.

      • Randy M says:

        I’m a pinko so my ideal society is one where anyone who respects the rights of others and does their bit to the extent of their ability (someone who can’t work because of reasons beyond their control shouldn’t be left on an ice floe) is more or less guaranteed, one way or another, a decent standard of living and a place in society with a bit of dignity. People should be protected from the things they can’t control, and in large part this includes their own aptitudes.

        I’ll forgive you using the word guaranteed (especially since you modified it) and agree with you that I’m fond of a conception of society where everyone who makes an effort to be a half-way decent person can find a place of pleasant mediocrity with good friends and few worries. We had a discussion that touched on this about the WWC back when every other thread was about the WWC last year sometime, I think.
        I’m torn between blaming modernity, capitalism, and all that, blaming the natural maladies–famine, disease, etc–that modernity, capitalism and all that are trying to cure, and blaming human nature.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I’m not really on board with “more education,” so I don’t really agree with changing the model of high school in order to teach kids more about the humanities. They don’t care, even the smart kids I went to school with barely cared. My JD sister-in-law said she was thinking about the color “red” when someone mentioned the Civil War, becuase of all those redcoats. I didn’t say anything, but there you go: she’s one of the smart ones!

      I’m on board with changing classroom time into OJT time, even for relatively smart kids: I don’t think there’s a whole lot of classroom learning that benefits me in my position, but actual work experience on actual budgets and actual accounts and actual-whatever would have launched me a lot further than I currently am. You can see this at a low-level with people who had internships in university, who are doing a whole lot better than I am at the moment.

      Where I disagree is in the general classroom management and the general lack of safety in your school. There’s really not a reason to not be able to give the marginal student SOMEWHERE to sit, unless the classroom itself is undersized. Go to costco and get a chair. Even if your concern is not putting an extra chair in the room because of fire codes…welll, having an extra body on the floor isn’t helping you all that much.

      Similarly, trying to monitor kids so they do not stab each other seems like a solvable problem that most schools do not really struggle with. Our school mostly “solved” this problem with low-paid, uncredentialed local parents, who roamed the hallways and generally looked out for any security concerns. If you don’t have money for this, you should take money out of the textbook budget, especially the history textbook budget, because kids aren’t reading that crap anyways. Most schools do not have issues with routine stabbings, to the best of my knowledge.

      Where I also diverge is the difference between college kids and non-college kids. College kids make a lot of crappy choices, but on average they have made a lot of less crappy choices than the non-college kids in my life. There are obvious exceptions to these rules, but these diligent non-college kids are mostly doing okay for themselves, and I am not surprised. I just finalized our budget, and we’re paying out $50k/year plus benefits to non-union employees that can barely speak English and struggle with signing their own names. The only real struggle is showing up on time, not getting into fights, listening to basic instructions, and not bringing cocaine to work.

      On the other hand, you have my cousins, one of which thinks Mountain Dew is a great nutritious drink for 1-year olds because it is green, and one of which is doing somewhat okay for herself but can never finish anything she starts.

  25. Atlas says:

    Does anyone have any insight on the city of Basra, Iraqi history generally, the Iran-Iraq War, the current US role in Iraq, the current Iranian role in Iraq, etc. that they’d care to share?

    • Salem says:

      Iraqi history in the 1930s and early 1940s is fascinating. The King (Ghazi) was upset at the liberal, pro-British policies of his ministers, but didn’t have the political nous to form a new government, so he set up his own radio station and started broadcasting anti-government propaganda. This was massively destabilising, and encouraged the military to plot coups – the King was the C-in-C of the army, so they were hardly likely to be punished if caught.

      At the same time, social structures were mutating rapidly. Lacking a power base in the country, the previous King (Faisal) had given a lot of power and wealth to the Iraqi officers in the Ottoman army who had deserted to support him in the Arab Revolt. These fairly Westernized young men now dominated business and politics (and would do so until 1958, by which time they wouldn’t be so young!) but were very unrepresentative of the rest of society.

      Meanwhile, in Ottoman times land ownership had been very hazy, so the British, and the nascent Iraqi state, had instituted major land reform, giving individuals secure, registered title to the land they owned. Unfortunately, in the countryside, this process had been captured by tribal leaders, who had registered tribal lands entirely in their own names (James C Scott fans will recognise this dynamic). However, this entirely changed their positions – instead of being consensual tribal leaders with power and influence based on community ties, they were now just landlords. These former tribal leaders migrated to Baghdad, both to enjoy their newfound wealth, and to be close to the centres of legal and administrative power which now supported them. The result was that the rural populations were leaderless, and the government did not have mediating institutions with which to negotiate, so there were constant low-level revolts and violence, particularly in the North.

      This came to a head in 1936, when Bakr Sidqi launched a coup d’etat against the government, and Ghazi persuaded the Cabinet to step down and accept it. From then until mid-1941, Iraqi politics was dominated by the army, as the other institutional bodies lacked the legitimacy or popular connection to resist the army. The violence continued, and Bakr Sidqi was assassinated the following year, but army dominance continued, under a group of pro-German officers nicknamed the “Golden Square.” Germany had a lot of popularity in Iraq at the time, partly because they represented an opportunity to get out from under British suzerainty, and because to a young, rapidly modernizing and scientifically-minded country, they represented the future. In retrospect, the late 1930s represent the end of major German scientific and engineering contributions, but people did not know that at the time – scientific journals were frequently published in German, German companies were keen to invest in Iraq, and the Berlin-Baghdad railway was finally completed at this time.

      However, in April 1939, Ghazi died in a drunken car crash, leaving as heir a 3-year-old child, Faisal II. Prince Abdul Ilah, Ghazi’s cousin and brother-in-law, emerged as regent in obscure circumstances. There were other candidates, most notably Prince Zeid, and there were allegations that Abdul Ilah’s appointment was a palace conspiracy by Nuri al-Said. Abdul Ilah was pro-British, and a close ally of Nuri al-Said. What’s fascinating about this is the lack of any intervening institutions in the matter – political parties, tribal leaders, etc. This is because all the relevant people were creatures of the Iraqi state, deriving their power and influence from the state, rather than able to mobilise other resources (e.g. popular movements) to exercise influence over the state. The denuding and obsolescence of the traditional institutions, and the failure to grow new ones besides the army, ensured that.

      Abdul Ilah now pursued a pro-British policy in defiance of the army, which lead to a coup in 1941 in favour of Iraqi neutrality in WW2. However, this should be seen as the weakness of the Golden Square, not their strength. Previously, they had been able to change the government without launching a coup – they should have been worried that they had to resort to violence. The regent appealed for help, and the British were only to happy too oblige, crushing coup in less than 2 months and returning Iraq to a pro-British alignment. The Golden Square were captured or fled, and that ended army dissent for the next 15 years – again showing how dependent these events were on a handful of personalities with access to key levers of state power. This was all a major surprise to ordinary Iraqis, who were fed a diet of propaganda that Iraq was defeating the British, right up until the moment Baghdad fell. Again without mechanisms for channelling their dissatisfaction into political expression, the inchoate rage of the Iraqi commoners was mostly taken out on the Jewish population, in a disturbing pogrom called the Farhud.

      This was of course not the end of popular or military unrest in Iraq, but from then on it would be channelled in more “normal” ways, through the Communist and Ba’ath parties.

      • bean says:

        Very interesting. Thanks for writing that up.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

      • Atlas says:

        Yeah cool, thanks for sharing.

      • Salem says:

        I would also be happy to write up something about the Iran-Iraq war (from the Iraqi perspective) if people would find that interesting. Could also write about the events of 1958.

      • John Schilling says:

        Prince Abdul Ilah, Ghazi’s cousin and brother-in-law, emerged as regent in obscure circumstances.

        Fast-forwarding via Wikipedia, I find that Abdul Ilah did faithfully hand power back to the young king when he achieved majority in 1953. That I think puts him ahead of most regents in non-fantastic history. Too bad they were both killed in yet another coup in 1958; possibly he forgot the part where you’re supposed to maintain the kingdom in good running order for the new King’s eventual rule.

        +1 on this being fascinating, and more of the same would be most welcome.

        • Salem says:

          Well, remember that (1) Prince Abdul Ilah never had children. His nearest male heir was… King Faisal. What would be the point? (2) Abdul Ilah wasn’t running the country during Faisal’s regency, Nuri al-Said was. (3) Abdul Ilah’s sister, the dowager Queen, lived until 1950. (4) There is a selection bias in that faithless, dastardly regents (Gloucester! Horthy! Cixi!) are more famous than boring, loyal ones (Bedford, Orleans, Coimbra).

          • John Schilling says:

            Prince Abdul Ilah never had children. His nearest male heir was… King Faisal. What would be the point?

            Power for Prince Abdul Ilah, for as long as it lasts. And the egotistical but perhaps true notion that the country is on the brink of ruin and the snot-nosed kid can’t fix it, only the experienced veteran politician Prince Abdul Ilah can do that. And if not having children of your own is really an issue, then it’s one that can usually be solved by devoting the power and prestige of even a mere Regent to the task.

            Abdul Ilah wasn’t running the country during Faisal’s regency, Nuri al-Said was.

            That just shifts the focus of the question. And I find that Nuri al-Said had two sons.

          • Salem says:

            Ah, I see what you’re saying. But Prince Abdul-Ilah wasn’t an experienced veteran politician, he was the Queen’s dopey kid brother. The (unproven) allegation that he was elevated by a palace conspiracy was given credence precisely because he was nice but ineffectual – supposedly Nuri al-Said had chosen him because he’d be a pliant tool.

            As for Nuri al-Said, he was definitely a wily veteran politician. But he had the even more egotistical notion that kings come and kings go, but they would all need his brilliance to actually run the country. Why bother trying to overthrow the Hashemites, when you can have them sitting on the throne – Lineal descendants of the Prophet! Liberators of the Arab world! – lending prestige to the government that you control? And you know what, he was right – Abdul Ilah handed over to Faisal II, and Nuri al-Said stayed firmly in control.

    • Salem says:

      My attempt to explain the Iran-Iraq war. Note: I will inevitably refer to them at some points, but I don’t know anything about military equipment, tactics, etc. This is not that kind of post. Also, I won’t even try to give an Iranian perspective.

      In the late 1970s, Iraq was a rich country, at least by Middle Eastern standards, and not just because of oil. The monarchy had invested massively in infrastructure, and in sending educated Iraqis (including many women) to the West for postgraduate study, and this was now paying huge dividends – these people had returned and had staffed high quality universities training a whole new generation of doctors, engineers, etc. These were now helping Iraq flourish. The Ba’ath regime was not investing the oil wealth, they were just spending it, but the lack of investment in the future wasn’t being felt yet. Iraq was also a pretty Westernized country, and many people from other Arab countries, particularly Egypt and Palestine, went on work visas to work in construction, drive taxis, etc. To this day, the older generation of Egyptians love Saddam Hussein – because he gave them jobs!

      What does the dictator of a wealthy country want? Prestige! If only we could have bid to host the World Cup like Qatar or something, but in those days, Arab nationalism was still a potent force, so Saddam wanted to be seen as the “leader” of the Arab world. Lebanon had descended into civil war. Egypt had disgraced itself at Camp David. There was an opening, and this was Iraq’s opportunity to raise its profile to match its economy. The material war aims were not very important – yes, Iran had reneged on a water rights treaty, and yes, they were mistreating the Arab population in the South-West of the country (the suggestively named Arabistan) but these in no way needed to lead to war. But by aggressively pressing these claims, Saddam wanted to be seen as championing the Arab cause, not just enlarging Iraqi territory.

      And he thought he could win quite easily. Iran had recently had the Islamic Revolution, and was diplomatically isolated, whereas Iraq considered both the Russians and Americans as allies. The Iraqi assumption was that Iran would also be riven by infighting, that pro-Shah forces would take the chance to rebel, that domestic Arabs would join their cause, the Islamic government would be overthrown, and that the whole thing would be over in a flash.

      There was also the matter of the Iranian regime, which was now officially Twelver. This was a big deal because Iraq is the theological and spiritual homeland of Shi’ism, containing most of the key shrines and seminaries. In fact, pretty much all of the new Iranian leadership had studied in Iraq, lived in exile in Iraq, and the modern doctrine of Wilayat al-Faqih had been developed in Iraq. They were now keen to re-export their ideology back to Iraq, as the first stage of taking over the entire Islamic world, and so were constantly calling for Iraqi Shi’i to rise up and overthrow their un-Islamic, secular rulers. This didn’t cause rebellions in Iraq, but it did (understandably) enrage the government and alarm the population. I don’t think this was the key reason that Iraq invaded, because there was almost a war in 1974-5 when the Shah was still in power. Nevertheless, it surely contributed.

      So in 1980 Iraq invaded Iran, even though Iran was far larger in geography and population, and had better and more modern equipment. But who cares, because the Iranians won’t fight! The government tried to keep the country on a peacetime footing, paying for the war largely by borrowing, and minimally disrupting ordinary life – after all, this was a quick war for glory and popularity. With initiative and surprise on their side, the army managed to make some quick gains, but in a few months they had exhausted themselves and were on the defensive for the next 7 years. Partly this was because they had underestimated the Iranians, partly because the Iraqi armed forces fought very poorly.

      Contrary to expectations, the Iranian people rallied around their government – they (correctly) saw it as a foreign invasion rather than liberation from an unpopular government. The domestic Arabs mostly did not support the Iraqi cause. The Iranians fought back hard, with big waves of civilian conscripts, and the much smaller Iraqi army had no answer. In fact it was Iraq which had problems with domestic loyalty, as Kurdish separatists opportunistically sided with the Iranians. However, despite Iranian hopes, the vast majority of the Shi’a population stayed loyal, but a tiny number of treasonous scum called SCIRI sided with the Iranians against their own country. Naturally, after 2003 the Americans decided to help the SCIRI traitors take over the Iraqi army and police force and use them to murder their enemies, because Americans are lunatics. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

      The other problem was the poor performance of the military. It had previously had a reputation as a very good fighting force (at least by Arab standards) though this had never been seriously tested. Between 1958 and 1968 they had launched so many coups that governments were understandably terrified of it. Saddam had spent the last 10 years making it so thoroughly coup-proof that he destroyed its capacity to function effectively. They had also spent a lot of money on Soviet equipment, which did not work nearly as well as the American equipment the Iranians had bought, whether because of inherent limitations, or poor training. The Iraqi air force in particular was a disaster – they outnumbered the Iranians for essentially the entire war, often by huge numbers, but were never able to achieve proper air superiority.

      By 1982 the Iranians were properly on the offensive, and invaded Iraq. Syria cut off Iraq’s oil exports, and even though Iraq now went on a total war footing, it looked like the war would be lost, possibly even with the destruction of the country. On the ground, Iraq was simply overwhelmed by a far more numerous foe, and at sea technical superiority allowed them to essentially eliminate the Iraqi navy. Things were not as clear cut in the air, but it wasn’t turning the tide. Fortunately, the other Arab countries (except Syria) rallied around Iraq, lending billions of dollars and helping with oil exports. Because of this support, and in incredibly desperate fighting, they just about managed to cling on.

      At this point, the Iranians decided to bleed Iraq dry, and it basically worked. The demands of the war essentially destroyed the Iraqi economy, and Iraq’s infrastructure was shattered. Pretty much everyone who could serve was conscripted, and huge numbers died. In absolute numbers, casualties were worse on the Iranian side, both because of their human wave tactics and because they were the aggressors, but as a percentage of the population it was far worse for Iraq. The narrative switched from quick, glorious war to desperate battle for national survival, and the pressures of war also meant further clamping down on society. Iraq in the 1970s wasn’t a free country, not by any means, but it was “as good a place as any to stay indoors and thank your lucky stars you hadn’t been arrested.” By the mid-80s this was no longer true.

      Up until 1987, this pattern persisted – Iraq using ever more desperate measures to cling on (chemical weapons, targetting civilians – including Iraqi Kurds, increasing reliance on US help in the Gulf) but Iran was basically slowly strangling Iraq, cutting off effective access to the Gulf and nearly capturing Basra. Eventually the Iraqi generals rebelled and told Saddam Hussein that they could no longer tolerate political interference in the military. This was basically a threat to overthrow him because the war was going so badly. He backed down, giving the generals full control, and the military performance quickly improved, although the air force remained rubbish. I believe the Iranian people started turning against the war at this point too, but I’m not sure how much that mattered.

      So in 1988, with the US (and to a lesser extent, Britain and France) giving Iraq a lot of backing because they didn’t want to see the country destroyed, the newly refitted, newly effective Iraqi military suddenly turned the tide and started smashing the Iranians! In probably the only sane thing he ever did, Saddam didn’t press the advantage, but agreed to a status quo ante peace deal. Obviously the Western powers didn’t want to see Iraq conquer Iran either, and would have stepped down their support, so this was the right decision, especially considering Iraq had been begging for peace since 1982. Still, it’s surprising that Saddam agreed to it. The Iraqi military then spent a few more months crushing the Kurdish rebels before the country returned to peace.

      The aftermath of the war was complete devastation. What remained of civil society had been completely destroyed, with the Ba’ath party now in almost totalitarian control. Trying to pay for the war had squeezed every drop out of the orange, and the economy was completely wrecked. The currency was massively devalued, and (dollar-denominated!) external debt was sky-high. The war had also accelerated the re-tribalisation of society, with tribal peoples moving into the cities, although this might have happened anyway. On a more subjective point of view, the war was fought in hellish conditions, with chemical weapons and trench warfare the norm – God knows what that did to people’s psyches.

      But from the regime’s point of view, the biggest danger was the army, newly effective and at odds with the government. In every way that mattered, we had lost the war, and the government might well have fallen at this point, but the brief flurry of success at the end let Saddam cling on and gave him some breathing space. He needed a way to placate the army, gain more revenues, and regain his domestic position. The heavy support he had received from the West in the latter stages of the war made him think he had actual allies, rather than conditional supporters. In retrospect, the next step was inevitable, but I was still shocked at the time.

      • bean says:

        Very interesting. That’s a war I don’t know much about on the technical side.

        Question. When did you/your family leave Iraq (I assume you aren’t still there)?

        Also, I can vouch that the US occupation of Iraq in 2003 was run by lunatics. What I’ve read of the immediate postwar days is frankly shameful.

        • Salem says:

          My father left in the 1970s. Some of my family are still there. My uncle served in the war – I have never heard him speak one word about it.

      • Fossegrimen says:

        Do you also have the Iraqi perspective on the next chapter? My knowledge of that conflict is extremely one-sided.

        • Salem says:

          I don’t have anything remotely interesting to say about Kuwait or the sanctions era. The most interesting thing that happened in the period was retribalisation, which I do not properly understand.

          I was not trying to give “the Iraqi perspective,” just my idiosyncratic understanding of what was going on and more importantly why. But part of the explanation has to involve answering questions like “was the MiG just a terrible plane?” that I have no idea about.

          • bean says:

            But part of the explanation has to involve answering questions like “was the MiG just a terrible plane?” that I have no idea about.

            Yes and no. The basic design wasn’t bad, but the monkey models the Soviets sold to non-Warsaw Pact clients were seriously downgraded. And the Iraqi military had serious problems, too.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        The war had also accelerated the re-tribalisation of society, with tribal peoples moving into the cities

        What is tribalism? People not trusting people outside their tribe? Not interacting?
        How could you tell that tribalisation occurred at that time? What did people start or stop doing that showed that tribalisation had occurred?
        The people in the cities knew the identity of their tribes, right, they just didn’t act tribal?

        • Salem says:

          Look, I have already said that I don’t fully understand. There is a large academic and popular literature out there if you are interested.

          But in broad strokes, retribalisation in Iraq meant the formation of tribal institutions to fill the gap of the breakdown of civil society and the state. You “could tell” that retribalisation was happening because, for instance, tribal sheikhs were dispensing justice. No, the people in the cities did not necessarily know the identity of their tribes. People of no tribe became associated with tribes.

  26. Cardboard Vulcan says:

    The LessWrong Washington DC group will meet this Sunday, November 18 at 3:30pm.

    The topic will be Intuition: What is it? When is it useful? When is it misleading? Does it conflict with rationality? How can we develop or use it?

    Location: The National Portrait Gallery, F St NW between 7th and 9th St. Near the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro stop. We usually meet in the main courtyard. Look for a table of folks with a LessWrong sign. If there is an event in the main courtyard we meet upstairs in the Luce Center.

    Upcoming meetups:
    Dec 30th: Predictive Power of Science Fiction

  27. Randy M says:

    Congratulations! Having done so well with Chad, you’ve been appointed to the selection board for the first interstellar colony ship. 50 people will be chosen to board the first colony ship, which is mostly automated, will have a destination planet with suitable atmosphere, and will not have a follow up ship or communication with earth for the foreseeable future, and will not be able to take off again once reaching the destination.

    What criteria do you use? What is negotiable and what is definite? You have the whole population of earth to select from, press-gang if you like but no promise they won’t resent you for it.

    • Protagoras says:

      Didn’t a previous discussion of colonization conclude that while the minimum population needed to avoid inbreeding problems was surprisingly small, it was still somewhat over 100?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m going to assume we’ve got hibernation or something similar (or this venture is a waste of time) and the ship will provide enough equipment to build a self-sustaining colony on a fertile planet.

      None of my Outgroup, certainly, because I don’t want the galaxy populated by people like them. That’s non-negotiable. And all volunteers, also non-negotiable. Past that, though… 50 people? I don’t think that will provide enough genetic diversity to thrive, but I’ll do my best and pick young, fit, and healthy couples from varied populations, screened against genetic diseases and a family history of other major disorders. They will have to speak a common language (unless we’ve got sleep-learning too). All will be at least above-average intelligence, and many should have some sort of mechanical skill. At least a few with familiarity with whatever type of farming is closest to the kind the ship will enable. And, alas, several “leader” types. Can’t stand them but you do need them.

      • albatross11 says:

        Recruit colonists two generations back. That is, in order to be selected as a colonist, not only do you have to be extremely impressive, so do both your parents, all your siblings, and all four of your grandparents. We do this mainly to blunt the impact of regression to the mean–the colonists’ kids will regress toward the mean of their grandparents, rather than the general population.

        Screen everyone for deleterious recessives. Eliminate as many of them as possible. Look at family history–you don’t want near blood relatives with major problems that are at all heritable (for stuff where we don’t know the genetic cause).

        Everyone speaks English, everyone is fully trained on a couple of primary specialties and several fallback skills. (Like, you might be formally trained as an electrical engineer and be a skilled computer programmer, and also be cross-trained as an EMT and a shuttle pilot.)

        Bring a huge durable library, because a population of 50 geniuses can’t carry an industrial civilization in their heads. Bring mechanical samples and detailed documentation for technology the colony will need in its first couple centuries. Plan the transition from high tech to lower tech as the high-tech equipment fails, so maybe four generations after landing, you’ve got a reasonable approximation of 1800s level industrial/agricultural technology going, with a few high-tech bits and a library to guide advances up to that of Earth at the time the ship departed.

        • Incurian says:

          Bring a huge durable library, because a population of 50 geniuses can’t carry an industrial civilization in their heads.

          What’s the minimum number of geniuses?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Forget the geniuses or lack thereof. What’s the minimum number of people needed to support an industrial civilization? I think it will be many, many generations before we have enough workers for geniuses to matter at all.

            Everybody in the first wave should be primarily good at agriculture, and maybe metallurgy. Everything more advanced goes in books for your great-great grandkids.

        • Randy M says:

          I think you and Nybbler hit a lot of the essential points.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      On a completely different note from most others…

      At least two people, and ideally three, who are well-educated in each of the following areas.

      Modern agriculture
      Auto repair
      Electronics repair/assembly
      Mining
      Metallurgy
      Machining
      Software development
      Mechanical design
      Building design
      Plumbing
      Electrical wiring
      Welding
      Medicine
      Pharmacology
      Leadership
      Storytelling

      Depending on the number of robots they can bring, this composition can change slightly, but these are the things I’m familiar with that are much, much easier to learn from someone than from a book.

    • Randy M says:

      (I didn’t explain all my parameters because I didn’t want to limit discussion too much)
      Hello, my name is SSC, and I am recruiting for a singularly unique opportunity. There is a ship built that we feel confident can reach a habitable moon on Tau Ceti III. We have acquired and stored the knowledge and tools to rebuild civilization, and have frozen embryos from every race and tribe so that we can preserve all of humanity’s uniqueness. Now I seek volunteers to travel and live on this ship, knowing you will personally not set foot on your future home but must be the ones to raise the generations that will. To give our best odds of success, we are selecting willing volunteers who meet the following criteria, in order of importance:
      Between the ages of 15 and 30
      No family history or genetic indications of infertility or obligate homosexuality
      No personal or family history or genetic indications of debilitating mental illness, such as schizophrenia, claustrophobia, depression, anxiety, based on severity.
      No personal or family history or genetic indications of other hereditary conditions, based on severity.
      Multiple independent character references demonstrating the following: altruism, courage, reliability, problem solving, conscientiousness, empathy, patience
      Will increase genetic variation based on other crew members selected
      High intelligence
      Pass psychological testing
      No criminal record
      Literate in English
      Excellent physical health
      Competency in relevant technological skill
      No dependents
      No ideological ties

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Depends. Are there gonna be any mind worms?

      • sentientbeings says:

        I can’t decide if I’m disappointed that I came to the thread too late to make this comment, or pleased that someone else did.

        Better get to work on Centauri Empathy.

    • b_jonas says:

      I’d ask Hari Seldon to direct choosing the 50 people. He did something like that once already (in the future) and succeeded. If he’s not available, then I’d ask Lazarus Long instead, because he has some experience in colonizing new planets with humans.

  28. johan_larson says:

    Say hello to Chad. Chad, a landlocked country in northern Africa, is one of the most troubled places in the world. GDP per capita is $2,300; life expectancy is 50.6 years; only 22.6% of the country is literate. You have been appointed proconsul to Chad under the new American[1] policy of Guided Economic Uplift[2] and are therefore tasked with improving the economic and general well-being of the country[3]. How will you do so during your ten year term?

    [1] Or EU or Chinese. Your choice.
    [2] We don’t call it neo-colonialism. Our enemies call it neo-colonialism. You aren’t one of our enemies, are you?
    [3] This is not an act of charity. This new policy is backed by sharp-eyed multinationals that have observed that illiterate peasants don’t talk on $1000 smartphones, drive $20,000 automobiles or fly in $30 million aircraft. Ever hungry for new markets, these industrialists are eager for you to create some. And that requires a decent prosperity.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Say hello to Chad.

      Hi Chad, how’s it hanging?
      Our first order of business is to decide on a policy for pregnant Chadians to maximize future prosperity.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Chad doesn’t seem to have a single obvious reason to be a basket case, though it is.

      One problem: There’s not even a single common language. Apparently the French couldn’t give them a lingua franca, and as American proconsul I’m sure not promoting French. So we’re teaching English as the primary language, and the only language in later primary grades and all secondary schools (if anyone gets that far). This will require massive investment in school-building and teachers, but the multinationals should understand the benefits of an English-speaking consumer population.

      Infrastructure is generally terrible. Gotta start somewhere, and that’ll be roads. Not railroads, they’re too fragile just yet, but paved roads connecting the major population centers.

      Chad has oil. I assume everyone involved in this is corrupt, so we’ll just sh…err, jail them and get some people who are no more corrupt than the average Chicago politician to run the government oil department, and accept bids for the multinationals to actually run the business. If they get too corrupt we’ll replace them with Miami or Philadelphia politicians. Might make sense to rotate anyway. The multinationals have to keep the local refinery running too. We will relax price controls so black market sales of refined product intended for local use are no longer profitable. (we may be able to eliminate them entirely but that’s in the far future, when there’s more than one refinery).

    • Atlas says:

      (I tried to post this earlier, but the spam filter seems to have eaten it up. I’m going to repost with links and certain controversial words redacted.)

      My suggestions:

      1) [redacted]. (The good, positive, voluntary, carrots-not-sticks, kind of [redacted].) Specifically with the aim of raising the mean IQ, because that’s really perhaps the most important [1] single reason why nations differ so greatly in wealth. Also, less ambitiously/controversially, increase iodine supplementation [2] to raise mean IQ. (I don’t know about Chad specifically, but iodine deficiency is often an issue in LDCs.)

      2) Mass, open-borders labor migration to some sort of foreign-administered polity. (Like e.g. Puerto Ricans to NYC, but it could be a new charter city without pre-existing residents who would feel displaced.) [3] Ironically, some sort of controlled open borders—and I think at least hypothetically this could be done in a way that would satisfy even extreme ethnic nationalists—would probably be the most realistic way to blunt the massive African population growth that [redacted] are so concerned about. (Note that I’m not saying that you need to be a [redacted] to worry about African population growth, or that it’s wrong to be worried about African population growth.)

      I’m curious to hear what other people have to say, but to me these seem like the only two really plausible ways that serious economic development could occur in a short-medium time frame. It seems like the various prescriptions of mainstream development economists have generally had underwhelming results—witness for instance the outcomes so far of Jeff Sachs’ Millennium Villages Project detailed in the book The Idealist. I think the conventional/traditional paradigms used to look at development—whether of free markets vs. state control or Acemoglu and Robinson’s idea of inclusive vs. exclusive institutions—are not as valuable in explaining and predicting differences in the wealth of nations as a Lynn/Jones/Rindermann [redacted]/IQ paradigm would be.

      [1] See Cognitive Capitalism (Rindermann), IQ and the Wealth of Nations and Hive Mind.
      [2] Look up Gwern’s summary of the evidence on this topic.
      [3] See Michael Clemens’ and Lant Pritchett’s research and writings on this issue.

      (By the way, am I the only one who thought that this post was going somewhere completely different when I was skimming the OT and saw “Say hello to Chad”?)

      • albatross11 says:

        From a quick Google search, Chad has big problems with mosquito-borne illnesses (malaria and yellow fever). So my first plan is to spend whatever resources are needed eradicating malaria in the country, probably by trying to drive the mosquitos that spread it and yellow fever into local extinction, ignoring any protests about environmental damage like the evil colonial overlord that I am. That seems like the most straightforward way to get a quick boost to the well-being and productivity of Chadians. Give everybody all their shots and ignore any complaints, again like the evil colonial overlord I am.

        Second, Chad apparently has a lot of malnutrition. That’s solvable by just supplying food (and guards who will shoot anyone who tries to keep the food getting where it’s supposed to go), though long-term, the goal has to be to get to population able to feed themselves. If there are missing micronutrients (iodine, say), then furnish them as widely as possible.

        Third, half the population is illiterate. That’s solvable in principle by schools, though I’m sure actually trying to get everyone to school would involve massive difficulties. But still, if I’m the colonial governor, I’ll shoot for getting everyone an education. Pay families a little (Chad’s poor–a little money goes a long way) for their kids going to school and succeeding at it. Pay more for girls, if necessary, until almost everyone spends some time in the inside of a school building and learns to read and write. Once the next generation of girls gets a decent education (meaning literacy and basic health information), that will probably push the population growth rate down to something the country can handle.

        All three of those seem like they could show results in a generation or so. The next generation will be smarter and taller and healthier, because their growth wasn’t stunted by malnutrition and malaria, and they went to school and learned how to read and write.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Not only is Chad landlocked, it keeps bad company. Neighbours include Libya, Niger, the C.A.R., and the Darfur region of Sudan. The bright points of the region are Nigeria and Cameroon. Getting the Chadian GDP per capita to the level of Cameroon–a 40% increase–would be an incredible accomplishment (Libya and Sudan are higher, but less politically stable so not good models to aim for). Reaching the lofty heights of Nigeria–2.5x–is realistically a multi-generation project. First order of business is therefore to improve transportation links to Cameroon and Nigeria.
      The second order of business is cowboys. Animal herding is a common way of life in Chad. Developing a beef export sector would provide a route out of subsistence-level while using the skills people already have. This will require some modern packing plants and railheads with appropriate infrastructure where herders can deliver their animals.
      Subsidize an in-country factory to make very cheap and reliable bicycles.
      I’m assuming various aid agencies are already working on WASH and electrification projects. I’ll find out which ones are most effective and boost their funding.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Assuming, on the basis of footnote 3, that our measure of ‘economic and general well-being’ is mostly defined in terms of eventual ability to buy expensive products… and that we can power through political objections…

      Recruit a police force and government from first-world countries. Pay them well. I buy Dalrymple’s theory on third-world corruption: people with large desperately poor extended families will never have enough money to prioritize the integrity of their job.

      Use them to implement laissez-faire capitalism. Become an easy place to do business, for foreign companies and native entrepreneurs alike.

      There’s probably also room for some public investments. I’m mostly cribbing these from other answers: malaria control, nutrition programs, maybe some roads. But I’d also suggest investments in information infrastructure, probably via subsidizing phones, plans, and maybe cell towers. These will probably encourage literacy more than schools; facilitate a financial infrastructure; and help disseminate information throughout the potential workforce.

      It’s not going to produce a first-world country in ten years, but it should result in substantial progress, with most of the harm occurring in forms not relevant to our objective.

  29. DragonMilk says:

    Punishments

    For children vs. for adults, which misbehavior/crimes would you increase the punishment for, and which would you decrease?

    For me, the list may reflect a wish to enforce more existing laws:

    Harsher is Better:
    1. Lying / Fraud: I’d be much more angry at a child cheating than failing, and want to reinforce the notion that it is better to confess to mistakes and be forgiven than to try to get away with things. On a societal level, I would permit the direct garnishment of wages to repay the actual damages from fraud, and allow a provision for 3x actual damages as a punitive measure, not dischargeable through BK
    2. Stealing / Embezzlement: Again, I’d be really upset if my child stole, and emphasize how upset they would be if something of theirs was taken away. Like the fraud clause, I’d require the actual + punitive damages again, not dischargable through BK.
    3. Littering – I have no issues at all with corporal punishment that leaves no long-term physical injuries. Along with respect for individuals, I’d try to instill respect for community/environment by requiring offenders to be pressed into service cleaning bathrooms, taking out trash, etc. of public facilities. In addition to smacks on the behind.
    4. Driving under the influence – Cars weigh a lot. Heavy objects at high speeds are potentially lethal. Piloting vehicles while impaired should not just be punished when the lethalities happen. I would have no issues with instantly impounding the vehicle and making the individual stay overnight in a cell on first offense, and face license suspension on further offenses.
    5. Drug usage in public: Ok, maybe I’m biased because second hand smoke gives me a headache, but no one should have the right to walk around creating a plume of disutility to those around them. Overnight jail stay + fine for first offense, Direct garnishment of wages for fine payment for further offenses

    Give ’em a break
    1. Possession of drugs that required a search: In contrast to the last point, if anyone has a small amount of illicit drugs that is not actively being used (e.g., pulled over, and a small baggie is filled with white stuff in glove compartment), a fine is fine. Jailing reserved only for dealers and distributors. Personally, I’d tax drugs and so instead of fine, it would be proof of purchase always to be carried.
    2. Child endangerment not involving direct risks to physical safety: I shook my head when I heard about the single mother jailed and had CPS unleashed for giving her daughter a cellphone and letting her play in a playground across the street from the McDonald’s the mother was working at. A “good samaritan” apparently found the child and escalated the issue. Kidnapping is insanely overblown by the media, and there’s a far greater chance of harm from foster home or CPS system abuse. There is no reason in my mind that leaving a child in a public place should be a government issue. If kids aren’t allowed independence, they simply grow up slower and are stunted in all sorts of ways. That being said, I probably wouldn’t leave my own kid in a playground, but absolutely let 6-year olds play unsupervised in the backyard.
    3. Immigration status: Yeah, so I’m all for just charging money to get in and distributing fines for violators. If the harm from non-criminal immigration is allegedly harm to native workers….well you can say they paid to be here, and are paying for violating the terms of being here, so unless you’re implying something beyond economics, such as racism, there’s no reason families require separation or detention. They can work off fines just fine.
    4. Vicarious liability: You are UPS. There is a truck driver shortage, particularly for the holiday season. You stretch the limit and hire more drivers. One driver decides to get wasted while driving and runs into a J-walker. J-walker’s family sues UPS. I would limit any suits to the individual, and to any policies or practices of the company that may have contributed to a driver drinking on the job, or not preventing him from doing so. There’s a difference between a supervisor overlooking a long-time driver who knowingly drinks on the job all the time, and a new worker barreling into a pedestrian j-walking because he’s too hazy to expect a j-walker in the moment.

    • The Nybbler says:

      For children, I’d punish them

      1) Admitting they did wrong. It’s a common trope to punish a child less for this, but in the real world an admission of wrongdoing is an excuse to throw the book at you. Best to teach them the virtues of silence early on.

      2) Telling an unpleasant truth. People often think it’s cute when kids notice that an adult is fat or smelly or funny-looking, but again, this is behavior that must be nipped in the bud before the kid learns the wrong thing.

      3) Getting caught when they could have escaped. As with #1, kids need to learn that any injuries they suffer in the course of getting away are far less than the consequences of being caught doing wrong.

      4) Falling for a scam. Nobody likes a sucker, and the time to learn this is in childhood when the stakes are low.

      5) Sneaking in at night and setting fire to the faux-silk curtains on the second floor sitting room of the house of the neighbor across the street. (Yes, this is very specific. What of it?)

      (He is too modest and would have me deny it, but assistance provided by one Mr. Screwtape, who is quite a kindly and generous being when you get to know him)

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I am very serious about punishing lying. I think an awful lot of evil starts with lies. And if you’re conditioned against lying that stops you from an awful lot of behavior you’d have to lie about.

        I’ve seen the result of failure to punish lying in action. My wife’s best friend’s family vacationed with my family, and her 7 year old was a sneak thief and a conman plus other behavioral problems. I could see exactly how this happened. He only got yelled at or punished when he was physical with his little brother or made him cry. But if he got busted lying he just got a smile and a fake finger-wagging like it’s a game. So he worked his will with fraud or deception instead.

        He went to take a piece of candy, his mom asked him if he’d already had one and he lied “yes” when we could see the wrapper from the piece he already took and she just smirked at him and said “nooooo you already had one teehee!” All that’s teaching him is to get better at lying. The kid kept trying to con my kid out of candy with word games, and when we were packing up to leave I saw him sneaking my son’s Transformers out of our toy box and stashing them with his stuff so he could pretend “oh I guess they left these here…” later.

        Just amazed me she was totally fine with her kid lying to her face.

        • Nick says:

          Oh man, thank you. Lying is bad. Lying is really bad.

        • Deiseach says:

          That is the kind of behaviour that if not nipped in the bud right now is going to have really bad consequences downstream. The little slyboots is already at the stage of stealing other kids’ property (that is what “taking the toys out of the toybox and putting them with his stuff” is, it’s stealing), if he doesn’t get a short sharp shock now he’s going to continue doing it.

          Right up until he’s older and is caught stealing stuff out of some other kid’s locker at school and either gets expelled or suspended, and if that doesn’t stop him he’s going to go on to shoplifting and other petty crime and one day he’ll take the stuff belonging to someone who isn’t going to merely wag a finger or even call the cops, they’re going to break his legs, stab him, or worse.

          And then mommy will be “how could this happen, he was such a good kid, just misunderstood and people were mean to him!” Well, this is how it begins, missus.

    • but no one should have the right to walk around creating a plume of disutility to those around them.

      That’s tricky, because what makes second hand smoke disutility to you is mostly your tastes–as best I can tell, the evidence for actual harm from the levels encountered walking outdoors is weak to nonexistent. But once you take the position that nobody should have the right to walk around doing things that give you disutility that applies to a wide range of things you probably don’t want to ban, such as a gay couple walking around holding hands, which creates disutility for people who find observing gay people upsetting. Being ugly–if someone has the sort of badly scarred face that many people want to look away from, does he have to wear a mask in public? You can probably think of lots of other examples.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Let me clarify the smoking point. Smoking tobacco is annoying but not illegal. But there are restrictions. Smoking marijuana definitely still is in public. In NYC, people blow pot smoke in the face of police officers, yet nothing is done.

        I am not proposing a change to the laws. I’m proposing enforcement and modified penalties. On smoking tobacco, there are signs that say “no smoking within 15/30 ft of this zone” with smokers in that zone (typically the entrance to an office building). And those are zones I’d like to wait for my food on windy or rainy days. I would fine those people for violating the no smoking zone statute.

        On marijuana, it should simply not be smoked in public given awkward explanations to children of how something is illegal but accepted. And blowing the smoke into an officer’s face should be automatic overnight jailing. Illicit drug use consumption should not be publicly flaunted. Either change the law or stay out of the public eye. Otherwise, face stiff penalties.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        I mean, I think there are cases where it seems fairly safe to say that something like this would be a problem — for instance, someone walking around town blasting an airhorn (or, say, excessively loud music). I agree smoking outdoors doesn’t rise to that level, but neither is this something to be dismissed entirely. I guess there are three questions I’d ask here, which are “How objective is this?”, “How avoidable is this?”, and, if the answers to the first two are “pretty objective and not very avoidable”, then there’s the question of, “Is this actually bad enough to be worth the cost of doing anything about it?”. Seems to me that smoking in public mostly just fails #3.

      • b_jonas says:

        Nah, the disutility is not mainly to my tastes. The disutility is to my grandmother actually. She keeps complaining that I’m not visiting her often. Part of the reason is that visiting her is boring, and I don’t benefit from it, only she does. But the other part of the reason is that her partner smokes, and so her apartment smells so terrible that after I visit, I have to immediately put all my clothes into the laundry and take a shower and wash my hair. This never happens at any occasion other than visiting my grandmother’s apartment.

        Though for smokers other than my grandmother’s partner, what bothers me the most is the littering. Why does everyone drop the cigarette butt on the street even when there’s a suitable trashcan two steps away? I admit that in that case, the disutility might be mostly to my tastes, although having to sweep the cigarette butts from the streets and underground passages so often does waste the taxpayer money.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      no one should have the right to walk around creating a plume of disutility to those around them

      In addition to what David Friedman said, I would also add that while (much as I don’t like second hand cigarette smoke myself) I am uncomfortable with punishing people for smoking out in the open where any smoke will soon dissipate and you can easily walk around it, my vague discomfort immediately ramps up to frothing-mouthed vehement opposition if you propose to do the same with vaping. Given what we know (and have good reason to expect to learn with more data) about the relative risks of smoking and vaping, any policy that fails to incentivise vaping over smoking is likely to cost far more lives than would justify the benefits claims.

      Also, re jaywalking… here in the my corner of the world we may not have the First Amendment, but the right to make your own informed decision about when it is safe to cross the road has always seemed to be a traditional British liberty, and I am kind of appalled that in the Land of the Free you are not free to do so, and find that normal*. However, my intuitions may be miscalibrated here, and I would like to see controlled trials of jaywalking laws, if it were possible to arrange, to see what, if any, effect they have on road safety.

      *The freedom to own and carry firearms, of course, cuts in precisely the opposite direction. While I have an aesthetic dislike of firearms, I am willing to be guided by the statistics…

      • DragonMilk says:

        On jaywalking, that’s completely fine. The example was meant to show that the jaywalker got killed doing so, yet family is able to sue not just the driver, but the company of the driver for damages.

        I’m all for jaywalking. I do it all the time here in NYC. Just realize you risk your own life.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        I am uncomfortable with punishing people for smoking out in the open where any smoke will soon dissipate and you can easily walk around it

        Can we at least fine the assholes who smoke on the move (especially immediately after getting off the train) and force everyone behind them to smell their miniature garbage fire until you manage to overtake them?

        • bean says:

          Yes! The worst was the tunnel between my dorm and the rest of campus in college. Being behind a smoker was normally annoying, but there, it was terrible because there wasn’t a crosswind to blow it clear of your path.

      • gbdub says:

        Vaping is still really annoying in public, especially since more vapers seem to have “see how huge of a fucking obnoxious cloud I can blow” as a terminal goal. Also, these days most smokers seem to have internalized “I should be polite and not smoke around packed crowds” while vapers are more likely to ignore such niceties and get all aggro “piss off, it’s just vape” if you complain about being stuck downwind of them.

        • benjdenny says:

          I would argue your “most vapers are…” arguments are probably inaccurate, since you are much more likely to know a person is a vaper if they are the “misbehaving” type as opposed to the(in my experience majority) type who vapes as a utility as opposed to potentially annoying hobby.

          It’s sort of the same problem as me yelling “all other drivers are idiots” in the car – I only take special notice of the 95% who are fine don’t make a dent in my memory besides what’s necessary for me to not hit them with my car.

          • gbdub says:

            I said “more vapers” not “most vapers”, as in, “compared to smokers, more vapers behave impolitely with their secondhand fumes”. And “blow a huge fucking cloud on purpose” appears to be a part of “vape culture” more than “cigarette culture”.

            I recognize that these annoying vapers probably aren’t the majority, but I’m not talking about banning vaping, just getting the same written and unwritten rules about secondhand smoke applied to vaping. The polite vapers are already following these rules.

        • LesHapablap says:

          If we are considering about banning annoying activities, let’s start with people talking loudly on cell phones on public transport. When I am dictator that lot will be the first against the wall.

          Vapers get a pass from me: quitting cigarettes is a very tough thing to do.

          • acymetric says:

            Public transport is dubious but I’ll let it slide (you can’t exactly get off the train to take a call mid-route), but everyone who answers a phone inside a restaurant should be banned from restaurants. I’m not even exaggerating. No “Hey, give me a second to get outside” and then talk on you way out. Let that crap go to voicemail and if it’s important run outside and call them back.

          • albatross11 says:

            Loudly playing videos on their cellphone in a coffeeshop. (While ignoring the fat guy working on his laptop giving them the stinkeye.)

          • gbdub says:

            Mostly I’m just pushing back against the idea that vape fumes are harmless and not annoying.

            I (and several people I know with asthma or allergies) find vaping almost as noxious as cigarettes.

            Talking loudly on a phone where you shouldn’t is also annoying. But most people already agree that the guy who does that is an asshole. Hell, he probably agrees, but doesn’t care, because he’s an asshole.

            Meanwhile I’ve encountered too many vapers who act utterly baffled that anyone could find the secondhand impact if their hobby irritating. I just want the world to recognize that these people are at least “talk loudly on your cell phone in quiet public place” level assholes.

            I’m sympathetic to those using vaping to quit cigarettes. But what percentage of vapers fit that category? My social group had basically zero smokers, but now has several vapers. Probably not a representative sample, but still – lots of people are taking up vaping who never smoked, or are going from smoking rarely to vaping frequently.

            Anyway that’s all orthogonal to the question of whether vapers should strive to be polite with their vape clouds.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Are you going to find out why they performed these actions first? (1)

      One driver decides to get wasted while driving and runs into a J-walker. J-walker’s family sues UPS. I would limit any suits to the individual, and to any policies or practices of the company that may have contributed to a driver drinking on the job, or not preventing him from doing so.

      And doesn’t that just take the onus off the company to ensure that the driver knows how to properly operate the vehicle in all kinds of conditions. “But they said they knew how to drive, and showed me a driver’s license!” As someone who has driven box trucks and a flatbed, I will guarantee you that it’s quite possible to know how to drive a car or a truck, and still get into situations you don’t know how to handle with a box truck or flatbed.

      And as to harsher penalties for fraud: https://www.reddit.com/r/legaladvice/comments/9xroct/insurance_fraud/

      1 – The one and only time I littered (on purpose) is when a friend and I went into a store after school and a guy followed us around watching us (and even out of the store). I don’t remember specifically why (I think he said things to us or in our hearing), but I was under the impression he thought we were potential shoplifters. I bought a fountain soda, and after leaving the store I was so angry at being wrongfully accused that I ‘acted out’ by taking the plastic lid off the soda and dropping it on the ground, at which time this same man called me out on it for littering. I picked it up and threw it away, even more angry at this guy. Later my friend stole from me, so perhaps this guy had reason to be leery of him (and me by proxy), but all I knew at the time is that I was unjustly being accused as a potential thief. I’m white and grew up in a relatively good neighborhood, but this event made me very sympathetic to those youngsters of different backgrounds who act out.

      They f**king accuse you wrongfully, they deserve to be shat upon. I’m not saying anymore that this is a right attitude. I’m an adult and understand the grays of the world, and the need to pursue due diligence. I can give it and take it with nothing more than a role of the eyes. But as an adolescent then, raised the way I had been raised, and with a self-image as a ‘goody two-shoes’… yeah, I understand acting out.

      • I was so angry at being wrongfully accused

        By your account he didn’t accuse you—except for littering, which you did.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I don’t remember specifically why (I think he said things to us or in our hearing), but I was under the impression he thought we were potential shoplifters.

          When I say “under the impression”, I mean a strong, strong impression. I cannot, now, remember specifically why, but I do remember believing this was his motive at the time.

          At every which rate, being followed around by a glaring person is an accusation. Body language speaks.

          • PeterDonis says:

            being followed around by a glaring person is an accusation.

            No, being followed around by a glaring person is a strong suspicion on that person’s part. And the inability to distinguish this from an actual accusation–you yourself say that the only time this person actually accused you of anything or interfered with what you were doing was when you littered; you were never actually accused of shoplifting or interfered with on that basis–is what gets so many people in trouble that they could easily have avoided by exercising better judgment.

  30. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Inspired by an old OT comment chain about My Little Pony having swerved to the Left in its latest season:

    Is there anything good for traditional parents to show little kids, or is it necessary to just (wo)man up and read them the classics?

    • WashedOut says:

      The films Up and Inside Out are fantastic. In general I would stick to the classics.

      MLP swerving left might be the least-surprising of all, given their fanbase. I recently had the misfortune of sitting around with friends and watching Netflix’s remake of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which a lot of my female friends grew up watching. Spolier: the producers went full social justice in the most trite and cringeworthy ways possible, hollowed out the raw entertainment value, draped a veneer of darkness/melancholia over it and called it a day.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Full SJ with a veneer of melancholy darkness? Uh, wow.
        I don’t know why corporations remake old shows like this. Why remind people that there’s a “problematic” old version for comparison?

      • gbdub says:

        Sabrina is much more of “full melancholy darkness with an SJ veneer”.

        The new Charmed on the other hand, is full SJ, and not in a smart or entertaining way, more like in the whatever you call the drama version of “clapter” way. Lots of earnest sloganeering.

        • woah77 says:

          Yeah, I’d agree with that description of Sabrina. Sure there was an SJ veneer, but it was almost comically childish. The dark and melancholy are far more prevalent themes.

          • gbdub says:

            Which boggled me. Sabrina the Teenage Witch was a teen comedy. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is just another dark gritty mediocre supernatural soapy drama for the teen set.

            The cat is supposed to wisecrack, dammit! Instead we get a Salem that doesn’t even talk, literal human blood sacrifice, and bar bs gur znva pnfg univat gb Byq Lryyre gurve fbhy-qrnq mbzovr fvoyvat.

            Also, I find the lead actress really off-putting. Something about the combo of her voice/inflection and the particular way the script makes her dialogue challenge the human and witch status quo, really comes off as the worst sort of snotty “well, actually…”. Witchsplaining, if you will *ducks*

            EDIT: if you found the SJ in Sabrina comically childish, definitely don’t watch the new Charmed. The SJ is a much stronger theme, while still being comically superficial/childish – worse, actually, they really beat you over the head with it and make everything SO on the nose. Which, especially given your target audience probably is already on board with all that, SHOW DON’T TELL.

        • Deiseach says:

          The new Charmed on the other hand, is full SJ

          (1) Wait, what? There’s a new Charmed?
          (2) It’s even more SJ than the original? I thought that had gone pretty full-in on the 90s niceness’n’equality’n’unjustly maligned minorities (witches are not evil crones making deals with the devil, they’re helpful candles and flowers Wiccans casting pretty spells to fight badness!) and you’re telling me they ramp this up even more?

          I have to wonder if the new Sabrina, having gone the “dark and gritty yes witches are evil crones making deals with the devil actually” path is trying to copy the American Horror Story look and feel?

          Honestly, all the revampings and re-imaginings of witches and witchcraft are making me more sympathetic to the Salem judges!

    • dick says:

      My Little Pony having swerved to the Left

      What does this mean? It sounds like Poe’s Law bait.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Quoting my earlier comment from the thread in question:

        My Little Pony has been veering left lately. S08E06 “Surf and/or Turf” is a thinly veiled allegory for divorce, while S08E10 “The Break Up Break Down” has both gay and lesbian couples in the background. And have you read the leaks? When G4 ends next season and G5 starts, Applejack is going to be re-imagined as “a more hardscrabble, urban” character from the “wrong side of the tracks” because “she 100% should not be associated with anything country/farmy/western/hick-ish/etc” (those are all direct quotes from the e-mail).

        • Baeraad says:

          The first two things I give not a single solitary crap about. Good for them, I say. Divorce is a thing that exists, and what’s more it’s something that a lot of children watching the show might experience. Gay and lesbian couples exist too, and you may as well get used to it.

          But Applejack not being country anymore? Okay, that’s just wrong.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Isn’t there a suppressed premise here? These couples exist [and are good], so you’d better get used to it?
            Grown men pumping boys who have just had their first ejaculation and dumping them when facial hair starts to come in exist too, but that brute fact doesn’t tell us how to treat them.

          • Baeraad says:

            I don’t know about good in the sense that you should bounce up and down with glee because they exist, but they are certainly not bad either. They’re just a thing.

            But yes, you can put that caveat into my poo-pooing of your concerns if it makes you feel better.

          • Nick says:

            Well, is the message “divorce is a thing that exists,” or is the message “divorce is a thing that exists, and that’s bad,” or is the message “divorce is a thing that exists, and that’s good, and you kids should just learn to be more understanding about when mom and dad just can’t get along”?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Must…resist…culture war…gay…politics…complaining….

            And I fail. My problem with exposing little boys to the “gay is normal and natural” message is when they’re 14 and Kevin Spacey tries to rape them they’re at risk of thinking it’s normal and natural to have sex with Kevin Spacey. All else being equal I’d rather not do that, so no, I don’t want the “gay is normal and natural” message in my children’s propaganda.

            You can if you want. By all means, I’m not telling you what to tell your kids about homosexuality. But I’m not interested in sending that message to my kids. I’d rather imprint on them that boys and girls go together like mommy and daddy, and when they’re old enough we’ll explain that some people are different.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            The equivalence of homosexuality with rape here is… ungenerous and worrying.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            When a grown man (Kevin Spacey) has sex with a 14 year old boy, that is rape, correct? Same thing if a grown man has sex with a 14 year old girl, correct? Or a grown woman has sex with a 14 year old?

            ETA: this cognitive dissonance or intellectual dishonesty over pederasty is one of the other things that I strongly dislike about gay culture. Everyone says of course it’s wrong for an adult to have sex with an underage person. But then Milo Yiannopolous says it’s common in the gay culture for older men to “guide” young boys into the gay lifestyle and it was perfectly all right when that happened to him, and George Takei says it was just fine when his 19 year old camp counselor had sex with George when he was 13 because the counselor was “hot.” And the vast majority of the “pedo” problems in the Catholic Church are adult gay priests and seminarians having “consensual” sex with post-pubescent teenage boys.

          • acymetric says:

            @Conrad

            I think this is pretty much the same problem as high-fiving the 14-15 year old kid who sleeps with his hot (female) high school teacher. It isn’t a gay problem, it’s a cultural attitude problem: the assumption that men like to get laid by their gender of preference under any and all circumstances and this is totally fine and should be accepted or even encouraged.

            In other words, this problem has a lot to do with cultural attitudes towards men and men’s sexuality and very little to do with homosexuality. I certainly support gay rights, but I do not support 19 year olds sleeping with 13 year olds regardless of the genders involved. Unless you can convince me that this is uniquely a gay problem (I am fairly certain it isn’t) I’m not sure there is much weight to your concerns. By all means teach boys (and girls) what kind of touching isn’t acceptable, and boundaries, and so on (seriously, please do this). But the boys and girls should be taught not to allow that kind of touching by adults (or kids I suppose) of either gender so again, I just don’t see how this is a gay issue as opposed to a general child molestation issue (at which point the depiction in MLP doesn’t seem relevant to the discussion anymore).

            Additionally, at least based on the recap, it doesn’t even sound like homosexuality was actually discussed in the episode, it just showed some same-sex couples in the background which is pretty benign (kids will also see same-sex couples in the background during their daily lives).

          • Civilis says:

            It may be the anime fan in me over-riding my conservative values, but a same-sex background couple isn’t where I’d draw the line in a story with a substantial children’s audience. The issue is not that a male-male couple exists, but that we’ve gotten to the point where children are associating a pair in an ambiguous relationship (like two unnamed characters in the background of a scene) with sexual activity. A child, even one that’s had the birds & bees talk, shouldn’t be associating a couple in one of these stories with sexual activity, hetero or otherwise.

            I conceptually understand why foreigners consider us Americans to be strange for having stronger taboos about depictions of things in the ‘sex’ category than things in the ‘violence’ category, but this is a good illustration as to why that fence existed. That sex is assumed to be normal in relationships aids predatory behavior; if everyone else is doing it, it’s easy to shrug off warning signs.

            If you see a pair of male characters in the background and know they’re gay and not just close bromantic friends, there’s a problem. However, this also applies to straight couples. Yes, once kids learn the basics of reproduction, there will be the knowledge in there that ultimately a child character had to come from somewhere, but it’s almost always unimportant to the story being told and shouldn’t be something they think about. It’s why most of the older stories ended at the wedding, and if resumed, picked back up again with their children well after that phase of the relationship.

            The underlying problem, to me, as a conservative, is that the default assumption has become anyone in fiction in a relationship is having sex. Leaving relationships in fiction ambiguous helps everyone, contrary to the representation arguments of some of the more vocal intersectional progressives. This isn’t helped by the number of shippers in fandom, going back to Kirk/Spock, but keeping the shippers, whether straight or gay, away from the younger fans is something we should all agree is good.

          • acymetric says:

            @Civilis:

            All good points, but I think this is a bit of a case of adults projecting. How many kids are thinking about sexual relationships during that scene? Romance and sexual relationships seem more or less synonymous to adults, but I don’t think that is necessarily true to younger children (or at least I certainly agree that it shouldn’t be) although the age where this changes varies from child to child based on what they are exposed to in their personal lives, education, and in the media. Of course, again, this is a general culture issue that relates to straight and gay couples in media equally, so not a homosexual issue.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            Throwing my voice in on the side of, “this is more a problem with some men universalizing their predatory views abiut sex than about homosexual men being sex predators.” There are problems – big ones – in the gay scene, but they aren’t implied by homosexuality.

            @Civilis

            It’s difficult to talk about love without romance, and even harder to talk about romance without sex. I’m not advocating proactive “gorey details” sex education, but I would note that a culture in which children don’t know that sex exists is… aberrant, and possibly only achieved by small groups of Mormons. Ever. Attempts to keep romance out of media are, in my opinion, doomed. And as long as romance is there, the specter of sex will follow alongside it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I do not support 19 year olds sleeping with 13 year olds regardless of the genders involved. Unless you can convince me that this is uniquely a gay problem (I am fairly certain it isn’t) I’m not sure there is much weight to your concerns.

            No, I think it’s a uniquely gay problem because of the male libido and gay culture.

            Adult male, teenage female: While males tend to prefer young sex partners, we have strong cultural norms (and laws) against this, and generally teenage females are not desperate for a man, any man, to have sex with them. I would also oppose cultural messages that it’s perfectly normal and natural for a 14 year old girl to have sex with a 30 year old man.

            Adult female, teenage female: I’m not aware of any general predilection amongst adult lesbians for teenage lesbians. Women in general tend to be attracted to things in addition to youth and beauty.

            Adult female, teenage male: South Park “niiiiiice” jokes aside, most women are not interested in sex with teenage boys. Straight teenage boys might want to have sex with any woman who’ll let them, but the opportunity isn’t really there. The 22 year old teacher who has sex with her 14 year old male student is “man bites dog” news.

            Adult male, teenage male: This is where interests align. Men regardless of orientation have a predilection for young partners. Boys, regardless of orientation are very interested in someone, anyone of their preferred group to have sex with them. In the gay culture, a teenage boy having sex with an attractive older man is “Niiiiiiice” but it’s not a joke.

            It’s a uniquely male homosexual issue because it’s only in the male-male relationship that the interests of both parties align.

            ETA: Oh, and the gay culture either promotes these sorts of relationships, or disavows them with a big wink in public and then in the next breath says how great their relationships like that were. And the straights pretend they don’t see the winking because they cannot say there’s anything different between straight mating habits and gay mating habits. And this doesn’t happen with straights. You don’t have an awful lot of women who talk about how great it was when a 30 year old man had sex with them when they were 14.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            The recent season of Voltron on Netflix features one of the main characters in a gay relationship, but not in a way that most kids would even see a hint about. The only clue for adults was that the type of conversation happening (one character was leaving on a dangerous mission the other objected to) wouldn’t make much sense otherwise. That didn’t tip the scale for me into a problem, because there was nothing at all sexual in it. The fact that they had some sort of close relationship was obvious, but without the sexual aspect, it worked just as well for close friends as for lovers. I would have an objection to an obviously sexual straight couple, if depicted in a children’s show as well.

          • gbdub says:

            The hell is up with the assumption that gay man = pedophile? What percentage of gay men do you think actually participate in sex with underage boys?

            There are male and female straight pedophiles, and certainly lots of older men attracted to very young women. NAMBLA is a thing, but “barely legal teens” is a mainstream adult video category, so…

            EDIT: and what the hell does ANY of that have to do with whether or not two same-age same-sex cartoon ponies are interested in each other?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            We’re not talking about pedophilia (pre-pubescent boys/girls) but post-pubescent teenagers. As you said, “barely legal teens” is a common porn category, gay or straight.

            Men in general have a predilection for youth and beauty in a way women do not. There was study showing what age of people of the opposite sex people found attractive by age. Women frequently liked men about the same age as them or slightly older up until they capped out around the mid-50s. But men regardless of age were pretty much honed in on 22-year-old women. I can look for the study if this does not seem obvious to you.

          • gbdub says:

            This all started with you making the contention that MLP having two gay characters would make 14 year old boys more likely to think it’s okay when Kevin Spacey wants to bang them.

            Don’t move the goalposts back to “well, all I’m saying is both gay and straight men like sexually mature partners that look youthful”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            14 year olds are post-pubescent (or at the end of puberty). But they’re not pre-pubescent which is what pedophilia is.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            I think you’re making some questionable SJW-style assumptions about men here, but leaving that aside…

            By your argument, straight men want to have sex with young girls (and contrary to what you say, young girls are famously available to their older idols), but showing “normal” age-appropriate relationships is OK because it normalizes the latter, not the former. But showing age-appropriate gay relationships is not ok because it normalizes the latter.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s difficult to talk about love without romance

            Perhaps this is due to a deficiency on the part of the English language. Other languages have more words for different kinds of love.
            I talk to my children about love without romance, though; in our relationship there is lots of former without the latter. This is true for most of the relationships they can observe (with each other, parents and children, grandparents and children, parents and uncles/aunts, etc.).

          • 10240 says:

            My problem with exposing little boys to the “gay is normal and natural” message is when they’re 14 and Kevin Spacey tries to rape them they’re at risk of thinking it’s normal and natural to have sex with Kevin Spacey.

            That’s not a good argument. By that logic, cartoons shouldn’t show heterosexual couples either, because when an adult man tries to have sex with a little girl, the little girl will think it’s normal.

            I think this is pretty much the same problem as high-fiving the 14-15 year old kid who sleeps with his hot (female) high school teacher.

            It’s very likely that he enjoys it, much more likely than in the case of a male teacher and a girl. IMO laws should treat the situations equally, but there is no use pretending that it’s actually symmetric.

            (kids will also see same-sex couples in the background during their daily lives).

            In liberal countries/places, I suppose. I’ve never seen one in Hungary or Italy (and I don’t really want to either).

            It’s a uniquely male homosexual issue because it’s only in the male-male relationship that the interests of both parties align.

            It looks like you are talking about consensual situations. If the boy (or girl) is old enough to actually want to have sex, and there is no pressure, are you sure that any significant harm comes from it (and that Milo and others are wrong when they don’t think so)? Boys can’t even get pregnant. Age of consent is 14 in many European countries, and I’m not aware that it causes any major problems.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Straight culture is full of memes warning young girls to not have sex at all and adult men not to have sex with underage girls.

            Gay culture does not have such memes.

            You understand there is a difference between gay and straight mating cultures, correct? This is the entire reason we acknowledge such a thing as “gay culture” exists. What’s the difference between gay culture and straight culture?

            And then there’s biology. Men, regardless of orientation, are more promiscuous than women.

            ETA:

            It looks like you are talking about consensual situations. If the boy (or girl) is old enough to actually want to have sex, and there is no pressure, are you sure that any significant harm comes from it (and that Milo and others are wrong when they don’t think so)?

            In the US we have “age of consent” laws because (ostensibly) we do not believe young teenagers are emotionally or mentally mature enough to meaningfully consent. So, no, a 14-year-old can not “consent” to have sex with a 30-year-old.

          • Civilis says:

            All good points, but I think this is a bit of a case of adults projecting. How many kids are thinking about sexual relationships during that scene? Romance and sexual relationships seem more or less synonymous to adults, but I don’t think that is necessarily true to younger children (or at least I certainly agree that it shouldn’t be) although the age where this changes varies from child to child based on what they are exposed to in their personal lives, education, and in the media. Of course, again, this is a general culture issue that relates to straight and gay couples in media equally, so not a homosexual issue.

            I agree with everything in this paragraph. And while the spread of social media means that its easier than ever to find the people obsessed with projecting relationships onto the characters, I still don’t think it’s that much of a problem, with one exception: we’re now seeing the showrunners themselves projecting relationships onto the story, not to advance the story but either to stick it to the man or to appease exceptionally vocal factions of their fanbase.

            It’s difficult to talk about love without romance, and even harder to talk about romance without sex. I’m not advocating proactive “gorey details” sex education, but I would note that a culture in which children don’t know that sex exists is… aberrant, and possibly only achieved by small groups of Mormons. Ever. Attempts to keep romance out of media are, in my opinion, doomed. And as long as romance is there, the specter of sex will follow alongside it.

            Most shows, especially kids shows, aren’t about love, or at least about Eros. You might have a point if we were talking about Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid, but even those don’t get beyond romance. MLP is specifically about friendship; it’s right there in the title. Adding love into it damages its ability to stick to the primary theme of the series.

            It’s possible to project love / romance / sex onto anything (that’s the reason rule 34 (and a dozen other rules) exist) but actual stories about love and romance are pretty easy to distinguish. There’s a difference between knowing about sex and being accustomed to looking for it, and there’s a difference between looking for it and seeing it everywhere.

          • dick says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Isn’t there a suppressed premise here? These couples exist [and are good], so you’d better get used to it?
            Grown men pumping boys who have just had their first ejaculation and dumping them when facial hair starts to come in exist too, but that brute fact doesn’t tell us how to treat them.

            This comment single-handedly turned a slightly-CW discussion about ideological content in cartoons into a super-duper-CW discussion about the alleged prevalence of predatory pedophilia in the gay community. It seems like Exhibit A for the case that comments of the form “I’d like to point out that your position would be wrong if exaggerated to an absurd degree” are bad. On top of that, choosing to graphically describe the pedophilia was absolutely unjustifiable.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            So to be clear, are people objecting to the factual claim that adult men having sex with young men / teenage boys is part of gay culture? Or are people objecting to the implicit condemnation of gay culture.

            It’s pretty easy to find population data and candid personal accounts which support Conrad’s factual claim. The moral significance is debatable but ultimately a separate question.

          • gbdub says:

            We’re objecting to the contention that “sex with underage boys” is such an intrinsic part of gay culture that any positive portrayal of gay relationships (even ones that involve age peers) in children’s shows puts boys at a significantly increased risk of being raped by older men.

            Plus this all hinges on the idea that gay kids won’t be gay if they don’t see positive gay relationships on TV, which is already offensive and almost certainly incorrect.

          • John Schilling says:

            So to be clear, are people objecting to the factual claim that adult men having sex with young men / teenage boys is part of gay culture?

            I am skeptical of the claim that it is presently a central part of gay culture, and if all you’ve got is that it sometimes happens, so what? Straight adult men sometimes sleep with 14yo girls, shall we stop normalizing straight romance?

            Once upon a time, yes, pederasty was central to gay culture. When Jeremy Bentham penned his famous defense of homosexuality, he literally could not conceive of any homosexual relationship that wasn’t pederasty. But, increasing social tolerance for homosexuality has resulted in a disproportionate increase in the number of healthy, adult homosexual relationships. And, the AIDS crisis was transformative, in that it killed off or scared off a significant fraction of the male homosexual community, and it was not a uniform cull.

            So I don’t think we should be applying the old stereotypes, however valid they might once have been, without more thought than I am seeing here.

            Also, if your problem is with gay adult men preying on 14yo boys, why are you complaining about e.g. TV shows showing healthy romances between adult gay men? Isn’t that what you should be supporting as an alternative? The gay adult men aren’t going away, and if they are going to be treated as degenerate perverts no matter who they are caught having sex with, then many of them are going to have sex with the more physically attractive and psychologially malleable adolescents. And the homosexually-inclined teenagers aren’t going away either; if the only people who will recognize them for who they are and treat them as anything but degenerate perverts are the predatory adult male homosexuals, then they are going to be easy prey.

          • Dan L says:

            It’s pretty easy to find population data and candid personal accounts which support Conrad’s factual claim.

            I’ve found it easy to find personal accounts attesting to the existence of non-predatory gay male relationship, so let’s talk about that population data. To Conrad Honcho and those who back the same argument: what do you think is the critical level of ephebophilia at which it is no longer acceptable to display even a healthy, functional example of a given culture? Genuine question, I’m eager to hear how this metric can be deployed in a consistent way.

          • gbdub says:

            +1 to John’s last paragraph (and whole post really) which does a better job of saying what I was trying to.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @dick: the point of explicitly describing ancient Greek homosexuality was to give a reductio of the sort of sexual behavior we could approve of. “They exist so better get used to it,” is empirically false. For any non-reproductive sexual behavior, society can celebrate or punish it in pretty much any way whatsoever. And this example arguably wasn’t pedophilia (since it started the day the boy hit puberty, rather than going after really little boys), which is why I was explicit rather than saying “pedophiles.”

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @John Schilling,

            I can’t answer some of your questions because I personally don’t see it as a particularly large risk. I’d be much more worried about a hypothetical daughter being groomed by straight men then a hypothetical son being groomed by gay men just on the weight of numbers. Even if ad arguendo gay men are more likely to be predators, they’re still only 3-5% of the male population. It would have to be an order of magnitude difference in rate of child molestation.

            What I wanted to push back against was what seems to me like an extreme disgust-based overreaction to Conrad’s more risk-averse position. Even if you disagree about whether the degree of risk is enough to justify shielding his children from gay culture, that’s fundamentally his decision to make and not yours.

            Parents try to protect their kids from all sorts of unlikely fates. Being groomed by your parish priest or drama teacher is at least as likely as a stranger luring children into their van with candy. If you think worrying about either is laughable that’s one thing but the response goes well beyond that into moral outrage.

          • rlms says:

            “Right-wingers in the SSC comments section are mostly just libertarians who think SJWs have gone too far, there aren’t really any traditional social conservatives”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Parents try to protect their kids from all sorts of unlikely fates. Being groomed by your parish priest or drama teacher is at least as likely as a stranger luring children into their van with candy.

            Exactly. I see the forced insertion of gay characters into kids’ shows and say “why are you doing this? Who is this for? Couldn’t you just…not?” Yes, you could have a cartoon that shows the kids being offered candy and puppies by a strange man in a van and they get in the van and enjoy the candy and puppies from the kindly man and then go on their merry way, but all else being equal I’d prefer you didn’t.

            It’s like memetic grooming. And no, it’s not the same with same-age straight romance on TV because of all the reasons I listed previously about the differences in sexual interests for different gender combinations and the memes warning girls off sex and men off sex with underage girls (“creepy old man,” “jailbait,” “she told me she was 18!”). When gays start shunning pederasts instead of waxing poetically about the time they were statutory raped we can talk. Until then….eh no.

            ETA: rlms, no one says that.

            ETA2:

            @Dan L

            To Conrad Honcho and those who back the same argument: what do you think is the critical level of ephebophilia at which it is no longer acceptable to display even a healthy, functional example of a given culture? Genuine question, I’m eager to hear how this metric can be deployed in a consistent way.

            I’m not really sure. I think porn is bad, so if you’re talking about “barely legal” genre porn that’s already out. Besides that I can’t think of examples, certainly not that are “healthy and functional.” In media a relationship between an older man and a teenage girl is almost always portrayed as either predatory on his part or exploitative on her part (“gold digger”).

            Oh and Neelix and Tom getting busy with Kes was always creepy. She was like 4.

          • Nick says:

            “Right-wingers in the SSC comments section are mostly just libertarians who think SJWs have gone too far, there aren’t really any traditional social conservatives”

            Whom are you quoting?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Just for clarity, my objection to Conrad’s position is that he seems to be arguing that homosexuals (who has has not here stated he has a fundamental moral objection against) ought to be kept out of sight, since their visible existence is a meme that may prime his children to be victimized by pedophiles.

            The risk aversion is not the part of this that disturbs me, but the logic behind it; Conrad is almost certainly not taking similar steps to protect his children from dangers that I regard as equivalent, so I am left with two possible conclusions. One, that he considers visible homosexuality much, much more dangerous than I do, or two, that he has other objections to homosexuals. I’m doing my best not to presume (2) because it would be in bad faith, but (1) seems so deeply contrary to my worldview that I cannot help but let some of (2) sneak in. For that, I apologize.

            Also, as mentioned above, my SJW bullshit meter goes off when people start talking about needing to avoid men because they’re just so damned rapey. It makes it a bit difficult to be objective.

          • 10240 says:

            In the US we have “age of consent” laws because (ostensibly) we do not believe young teenagers are emotionally or mentally mature enough to meaningfully consent. So, no, a 14-year-old can not “consent” to have sex with a 30-year-old.

            Just because your country has laws because people generally think X doesn’t imply that X is true. Just because you live in a jurisdicton where age of consent is 18 is hardly a reason to be more concerned about your 14-year-old child having sex than if you lived in a country where age of consent is 14. Having sex at 14 may or may not harm someone, but it doesn’t depend on age of consent laws. I suspect that it doesn’t as long as the teenager is old enough to know what sex is and want it, there is no pressure involved, no one gets pregnant, and the risk of STD transmission is not excessive (the last one depends more on being informed than on age). (You should be concerned about your 19-year-old child having sex with a 14-year-old because you don’t want him to go to jail.)

            Higher age-of-consent laws may be justified by the possibility of pressure on an unwilling teenager to have sex that they may be unable to handle properly. But the fact that mid-teenage girls are less likely to want to have sex than boys is irrelevant in that case.

            By the way, I find it weird, and detrimental to discussion, that legal language related to rape and consent has been picked up by colloquial language. (C.f. we don’t consider corporations person in everyday discussion, even if they are in some legal sense). Obviously a teenager can consent in the everyday sense of the world, even if their decisions may be slightly less sound than those of adults, and even if the law shoehorned the prohibition of sex with children into that of rape, and created a legal fiction around consent for that purpose. The focus on using redefinitions on consent to create prohibitions around sex (as opposed to creating separate crimes when we want to ban something) has shifted the discussion from “is it wrong/harmful?” (which should be the real question) to “is there consent?”, which is in turn hard to discuss because the legal definition has departed from the original meaning, and we don’t really have an everyday concept to match the legal definition to.

          • Nornagest says:

            There’s an strong argument (one I associate with social conservatives, actually) that one of the functions of having a cultural canon is to model prosocial behavior, especially when you’re dealing with people’s baser instincts. That people and especially vulnerable people, if they don’t have strong prosocial templates to follow in their situation, will tend to default to whatever feels good in the short term, which more often than not ends up causing a lot of problems.

            The cultures that e.g. incubated the AIDS epidemic of the Eighties and Nineties don’t look very prosocial to me in retrospect, but I think that reinforces the first point if anything — their participants didn’t have much in the way of cultural templates to follow, once privacy and geographical mobility had gotten to the point where those cultures could exist at all. The media culture at the time was busy pretending they didn’t exist, and where did that get them? And we could do a lot worse than apparently stable, monogamous, adult pairs, if we wanted to create such a template. It’s not like My Little Pony is showing pederastic couples or drug-fueled orgies in the background, unless it got a lot edgier when I wasn’t looking.

          • dick says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            I know exactly what purpose is served by inserting graphic descriptions of man-on-boy rape in to discussions about societal acceptance of homosexuality, thanks.

          • rlms says:

            It’s quite a common sentiment, here’s one example. And in fact I think it is correct, there are more libertarians here than social conservatives! It’s just that sometimes members of the latter group make such obnoxiously terrible comments they appear more prevalent than they really are.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Conrad is almost certainly not taking similar steps to protect his children from dangers that I regard as equivalent

            Like what? Keep in mind, the extent of my “anti-homomeme” activity is…not putting homosexual stuff in front of my kids. I’m not asking for anti-homosexual memes in kids show. I’m not teaching them that gays are bad, or that being gay is bad. I’m not mentioning homosexuality at all. For them, for now, it doesn’t exist, but I’m sure in a few short years some kid at school will call some other kid at school a “fag” and they’ll ask me “daddy what does that mean” and we’ll go from there.

            Exposing them to that stuff now can’t help them. It can really only confuse them. Similarly, I would not show them videos about how awesome it is to take get in the vans of men who offer them free candy. Just not really a good idea. But I don’t have to worry about that because there doesn’t seem to be some bizarre industry-wide push to cram pro-get-in-the-candy-van memes into kids’ shows.

          • Dan L says:

            Let’s try that again. What do you think is the critical level of ephebophilia within a given culture at which it is no longer acceptable to display even a healthy, functional example of that culture?

            If you’re calling out gay men as being part of a memeplex so inherently vile that they should not be recognizable where children can see, what metrics are you using? Because if we’re throwing people back into the closet on something more than anecdote, I have a few recommendations. Name your target.

          • Nick says:

            rlms, there’s a big difference between “there are more libertarians than social conservatives” and “there aren’t really any social conservatives.” I think the former is probably right, while I think the latter is obviously wrong and, I take it, hyperbole on your part?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I’m kind of bewildered by Conrad’s objection to gay couples on kid’s shows, but the objection does not make one anti-libertarian. It’s when he calls for banning the depiction of gay couples on television that there is a problem.
            Arguments about norms that do not revert to government force seem like a good alternative to government censorship.

            I don’t think we have much (if any) of the group of people calling for the FCC to censor everything crowd, and they definitely exist.

            In terms of conservative in culture wars, there are probably more than a few, but those people can still be libertarian in their relevant political outlooks.

          • ilikekittycat says:

            Holy shit this whole thread is terrible, and very close to plain old bigotry

            I can’t speak to all gay culture everywhere but not once in any of my interactions starting in around the year 2000 have I encountered queer or adjacent identity group people saying gross old men who want to have sex with teenagers is anything but gross old men wanting to have sex with teenagers (including in public high school gay-straight alliance, which is exactly the place where the hypothetical youths are getting their first information about being part of a gay or queer community)

            I know this community has a lot of Asperger cases who don’t necessarily interact with a wide a range people, but this whole deciding through pure logic and reason that “because gay men want sex with young partners, boys want sex with anyone etc. etc. therefore they must think X and Y” has no more merit than the 19th century race science people who have rarely interacted with black people in their lives going “black people obviously have jungle rhythms inside them, so we can’t expect them to hold some of the more focused, delicate jobs in white society.” You can’t presume to describe the actually existing community just through your understanding of the premises of the community and the major news headlines you’ve seen through the years

            Everyone here needs to stop turning their blind-spots into boogeymen

          • Nornagest says:

            I know this community has a lot of Asperger cases…

            If you want to convince this community to stop stereotyping people, this isn’t the way to do it.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @conrad

            My most generous estimate of the level of memetic danger you’d be exposing them to is “about on the same level as allowing them to be aware of the existence of priests, thieves, or guns, and slightly more than making them aware of the concept of a ghost.”

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            So here’s a great example of what I’m talking about:

            Holy shit this whole thread is terrible, and very close to plain old bigotry

            Conrad’s argument is logically sound and, if you assume a very low risk tolerance, seems to be empirically valid.

            It’s easy to disagree with his argument. I know because I disagree with it myself: that degree of risk aversion is very costly. It’s traditional conservative helicopter parenting and not any better on that account than liberal helicopter parenting.

            But the people arguing against him here aren’t engaging with that argument even to refute it. They’re outraged that anyone would even make the argument, or even that people would engage with it themselves.

            That’s absolutely toxic to debate and the exact opposite of the culture Scott is trying to cultivate here.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Conrad Honcho:

            “I see the forced insertion of gay characters into kids’ shows and say “why are you doing this? Who is this for? Couldn’t you just…not?”

            Who is it for?

            I don’t know if you’ve read anything about what life was like for gay people in the fifties, but their existence was pretty much culturally invisible, and it wasn’t good for them.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What do you think is the critical level of ephebophilia within a given culture at which it is no longer acceptable to display even a healthy, functional example of that culture?

            I guess…any? The only reason I gave Roy Moore a pass was because it was in a different time and place when girls got married right out of college instead of right out of high school and he was (according to his words and the accounts in his favor) a gentleman looking for a wife and not casual sex. Still furrows the brow and warrants a squinty-eyed side glance.

            But I can’t think of anything in our culture that approves of older men having sex with 14 – 16 year old girls. In media adult men going after 18 year old girls for sex are depicted as sleazy, immature, or unserious, and certainly not healthy. Below that is right out.

            What exactly are you thinking of and what’s your point with this?

            It’s when he calls for banning the depiction of gay couples on television that there is a problem.
            Arguments about norms that do not revert to government force seem like a good alternative to government censorship.

            I didn’t call for any kind of ban. I wish they wouldn’t put those things in, and I’m not showing those things to my kids, but I have no interest in government censorship.

            ilikekittycat:

            I apologize for being a moral monster because I am unwilling to propagandize homosexuality to my six year old.

            But as to the factual claim it is not difficult to find positive personal anecdotes from gay men about their teenage affairs with older men. See Milo Yiannopolous, George Takei.

            ETA:

            “about on the same level as allowing them to be aware of the existence of priests, thieves, or guns, and slightly more than making them aware of the concept of a ghost.”

            Well, let’s remove “priests” from that for obvious “different values” reasons, but when I make them aware of thieves and guns I do so with explicit warnings that these are bad or dangerous or situationally dangerous things they shouldn’t go near. So is it okay if I tell my kids about gays, but also include explicit warnings to stay away from gays?

            And ghosts are not real, so, eh?

          • ilikekittycat says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            The “actual rebuttal” would be something like “The types of boys who got tricked and raped by Kevin Spacey were a result of too little information about the existence of the gay culture and its standards early in life, not too much.” When you have gone until 16, 17 with no information but “it’s sinful, avoid” until you had to move out of HootNHoller Alabama and move to Los Angeles its a lot easier for an older predator (esp. one you get starstruck by) to convince you that “this is how gays do it, you just haven’t learned yet” instead of the actual behavior of the community and its messages (i.e., not entering into relationships where you are taken advantage of by power imbalances, etc.) If you are taught gay relationships are normal, boring things from a young age, and the standards of being a decent human being don’t differ significantly, you internalize it before you potentially fall victim to a manipulative or abusive partner.

            @Nornagest

            I can’t help but notice your entire discourse with me on this site has consisted of saying I’m mean, and need to correct my behavior. If that is going to continue to characterize your posts to me in the future, I would request that you conserve your effort, I will just assume you don’t approve of how I am posting in perpetuity.

            @Conrad Honcho

            Goalpost moving. The controversy in question isn’t the existence of gay pedophiles, which everyone knows to be true (indeed, adult predators who pray on child or teenage victims are a part of presumably every sexuality.)

            The idea that you can conceive of “propagandizing” homosexuality shows how ridiculous your position is. Do you have to “propagandize” children to drink water when thirsty, or like warm things when it’s cold out?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            I’m really truly doing my best to not make this about what you think of the gays here; I appreciate that you’re being attacked, but… please help?

            I’m going to regret writing this but… assuming that gays are pedophiles at a similar rate to which black men are criminals, and you consider exposing children to gays “memetic priming,” do you avoid letting your children watch shows with black characters so that they won’t be memetically inclined to fall in with black criminals?

            I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “kiddo that there is a creepy gay man, stay away from him.” It might be overprotective and insensitive, but I don’t see it as absurd. Similarly, “kiddo that’s a gun, they’re dangerous.” But if you let kids watch shows with guns in them and keep the homosexuals out, it seems to me that you think that exposing kids to homosexuals puts them at a higher risk of being molested more than exposing kids to guns puts them at a higher risk of gun crime, or exposing kids to depictions of thievery primes them to commit theft. I don’t understand why.

          • The fact that they had some sort of close relationship was obvious, but without the sexual aspect, it worked just as well for close friends as for lovers.

            I’ve just been rereading Lord of the Rings for the first time in several decades. The relationship between Sam and Frodo is very close and I can imagine a modern reader trying to see it as homosexual, but it quite obviously isn’t.

            Just for clarity, my objection to Conrad’s position is that he seems to be arguing that homosexuals (who has has not here stated he has a fundamental moral objection against) ought to be kept out of sight

            He isn’t arguing that they ought to be kept out of sight. He is arguing that fictional homosexual couples ought not to be gratuitously inserted into works targeted at children, and that he will therefor avoid showing his children works where they are.

            Keeping homosexual couples out of sight imposes a pretty substantial cost on them. Not showing his children works portraying such couples doesn’t.

            Having sex at 14 may or may not harm someone, but it doesn’t depend on age of consent laws.

            I strongly agree. Every culture is crazy about something, and this is one of things ours is crazy about. I also agree that using “rape” and “consent” in non-legal contexts with their legal definitions is a mistake. There may be good reasons to prohibit sex with 14 year olds, but whether it is anything like rape in its ordinary sense depends on the particular people and context.

            H.L. Mencken comments somewhere that he lost his virginity at fourteen with a girl of the same age who, he adds, is now a very respectable grandmother.

          • gbdub says:

            “I apologize for being a moral monster because I am unwilling to propagandize homosexuality to my six year old. ”

            This is where you go off the rails. You conflate any not-negative depiction of gay relationships with “propagandizing” homosexuality. Presumably you would not consider a depiction of a heterosexual couple “propagandizing” anything at all. It’s just a depiction of a thing that exists. Presumably you do not want to shield your child from any depiction of romance at all (it’s not like we talking hardcore vids here). And I note here you didn’t specify “propagandizing ephebephila”, but homosexuality period.

            This is only “logically sound” if you consider homosexuality ipso facto bad, even among consenting adults. And “fine for you, bad for my kid” is still “bad”.

            It’s only “logically sound” if you consider your child being targeted for sex by an older gay man a much higher risk than from an older heterosexual. And higher than other forms of sexual violence (empirically, this is wrong – most sexual violence is heterosexual and between legal adults).

            It’s only “logically sound” if you think shielding kids from depictions of gay relationships in media will prevent them from being gay, and consider that a positive thing. (Of course empirically this is wrong – lots of factors in homosexuality but “it’s not a choice” seems to hold true)

            Basically, you’re holding homosexuality to a different standard, trying to keep it out of sight and out of mind, because you think it’s bad if kids turn out to be gay. Which… hopefully you (and Nabil) can see why calling that “bigoted” rather than “rational” is not exactly crazy?

            EDIT: @David Friedman – “fictional homosexual couples ought not to be gratuitously inserted into works targeted at children”

            The trouble is he apparently considers any depiction at all to be “gratuitous, not okay for kids”, an objection he does not make for heterosexual romance.

            I agree about your annoyance over modern “clearly Sam and Frodo are gay”. They are close male friends who love each other in an asexual fraternal sort of way, we shouldn’t make the assumption that any friendship must be sexual.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @ilikekittycat,

            Thank you for posting your counterargument.

            I don’t know how well my tone is coming across here but I mean that sincerely. This thread has been depressingly light on real arguments and your point is something that people can actually build on.

            Edit:

            @gbdub,

            “You’re bigoted” isn’t an argument, it’s an epithet.

            Anyway, Conrad’s argument as I understand it isn’t hard to understand and isn’t what you’re saying it is.

            1. “Positive or neutral portrayals of homosexuality normalize gay culture.” Presumably you agree with this.
            2. “Adult gay men having sex with young men / teenage boys is a part of gay culture.” This is the most likely source of disagreement but also luckily the easiest to empirically validate.
            3. “Therefore, normalizing gay culture increases the risk of my son falling victim to an older gay man.” This follows logically from 1. and 2., given a very low risk tolerance.

            That’s not unsound given his stated preferences. It may be invalid, although you haven’t made much of an argument here. It’s also possible to disagree with his preferences. But throwing around epithets is neither.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @David

            That was unclear of me; I should have said, “he should do his best the keep homosexuals out of sight of his children.” Conrad is, clearly, not in favor of incurring any costs to the gays, but only to himself. I didn’t mean to imply the contrary.

            And while it might be petty of me, I’ll note that we both gave Conrad a much more generous interpretation of the word “forced.”

          • albatross11 says:

            ilikekittycat:

            This is sort of a sideways query here, not central to your point, but is there any data that tells us whether more or less openness about sex is likelier to lead a minor to end up having sex with an adult? I really have no idea where I’d start looking for such information, but it seems kind of interesting to know. (If I had to guess, I’d guess that more sheltered kids would be more vulnerable to exploitation simply because they wouldn’t have heard of such things, whereas more sexually aware kids might be easier to talk into a tryst with an adult looking to scratch his kink for underaged partners. But I really have nothing to base this on.)

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s a kind of interesting set of shifts in modes of reasoning here:

            a. A factual set of questions about whether gay male culture includes a lot of older men sleeping with teenage boys, what the actual risks are, etc.

            b. A moral reaction to some answers to these factual questions.

            As best I can tell, every time someone starts with a factual question and ends up with a moral reaction, they’re sabotaging their brain. Perhaps gay men are proportionally more likely to sleep with teenagers than straight men, perhaps not, but answering that question can’t be done in the moral mode of thinking–we’ll never learn a correct answer by considering the moral status of people who ask the question, or the moral status of the possible answers.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @albatross11: Right, apparently I’m getting called out here for defining ancient male homosexuality, with the unfortunate explicit terms involved. I said nothing about the % of contemporary male homosexuals who go after boys before their 18th birthdays, which I just don’t know. It could be that the gay subculture has changed such that >99% of them only go after males old enough for no power imbalance to exist: this seems to be the possibility @Nornagest was gesturing at with “modeling prosocial behavior, unlike the past.” The “gay marriage” campaign could be a huge propaganda program made by members of that subculture to change male behavior. Again, I don’t know.

          • RobJ says:

            1. “Positive or neutral portrayals of homosexuality normalize gay culture.” Presumably you agree with this.
            2. “Adult gay men having sex with young men / teenage boys is a part of gay culture.” This is the most likely source of disagreement but also luckily the easiest to empirically validate.
            3. “Therefore, normalizing gay culture increases the risk of my son falling victim to an older gay man.” This follows logically from 1. and 2., given a very low risk tolerance.

            Obviously I’m not who you are responding to here, but I’m not sure I’d agree with any of these steps.
            1. It may normalize the existence of gay couples, but I don’t think it necessarily follows that it normalizes gay culture. Homosexuality and gay culture are not the same thing.
            2. It certainly has been a stereotype of it and may have some truth to it (or had at some point). It certainly is not central or accepted in the mainstream part of that culture.
            3. Again, normalizing homosexuality is not normalizing “gay culture”, especially if the form of the portrayal (same age couple) is at odds with the part of the culture you are concerned with.

          • Nornagest says:

            I can’t help but notice your entire discourse with me on this site has consisted of saying I’m mean, and need to correct my behavior. If that is going to continue to characterize your posts to me in the future, I would request that you conserve your effort, I will just assume you don’t approve of how I am posting in perpetuity

            No thanks. Out of sight, out of mind.

            Plus, I haven’t been singling out out for criticism, and I’m certainly not going to single you out to avoid criticism. Go ahead and assume whatever you want of me, although I’d of course encourage taking my posts to heart.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Conrad Honcho, what do you think you’d do if you turn out to have a gay kid?

          • Dan L says:

            @ Conrad Honcho:

            I guess…any?

            A zero-tolerance threshold is tripped by every culture known to man. Try again.

            What exactly are you thinking of and what’s your point with this?

            I am sharpening a wedge.

            Nabil has provided a sketch of how your position might arise from protectiveness, conditional on a belief that gay culture disproportionately results in negative outcomes. If that’s your true objection, then even accepting the claim that this image constitutes homosexual propaganda you can presumably elaborate on how the threshold of acceptability lies between the experiences of gay men and the general population. We can extrapolate from there to see what other groups might prove unwholesome.

            Because if you can’t substantiate your position, while finding it easy to come up with convenient explanations for why the same logic doesn’t apply to any of your in-groups… well, your argument isn’t a particularly novel one. The reaction that it must be the product of bigotry instead of calculation is uncharitable to be sure, but it’s also a safe bet. This is your opportunity to prove you’re better than that.

            So, I invite you to do so.

            @ Nabil ad Dajjal:

            It’s pretty easy to find population data and candid personal accounts which support Conrad’s factual claim.

            Do it. Stop saying you can, and do it. Until then you’re still part of the problem.

          • Nick says:

            Nancy, that was the focus of the conversation when Conrad’s view on this first came up a few months back. His response was that he would encourage his son to go the “two gay dads, white picket fence, 2.5 adopted kids” route.

            I should note my disagreement with this. Since Conrad is Catholic, he ought to, in those circumstances, be encouraging his son to live a chaste life, which means no sex. (Being in a romantic relationship without being in a sexual relationship is not impossible, of course, but attempting it isn’t a good idea for most people either, first because proximal occasions of sin, second because scandal.) My obvious advice to Conrad here would be to stop trying to screen out homosexuality, especially since his risk calculations don’t actually add up, and instead screen for Christian treatments of homosexuality, which ideally would teach children alternative vocations to married life and the importance of close friends. I haven’t suggested this, though, because it’s a fool’s errand; as far as I know, nothing anywhere fits the bill. So, unfortunately, I don’t have any advice for what Conrad should be doing instead.

          • 10240 says:

            Of course empirically this is wrong – lots of factors in homosexuality but “it’s not a choice” seems to hold true

            «It’s not a choice» is not exactly the same as «it’s not influenced by childhood exposure». E.g. taste in food is not really a choice, yet my impression is that it’s significantly influenced by what you get used to in childhood. I’ve no idea where the current research stands on causes/influences of sexual orientation.

            this image

            Excuse me but I find kind of hard to determine a pony’s sex. Are MLP-watching kids perhaps better?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The idea that you can conceive of “propagandizing” homosexuality shows how ridiculous your position is. Do you have to “propagandize” children to drink water when thirsty, or like warm things when it’s cold out?

            I think this statement shows you think you know things that you don’t, which is the cause of homosexuality or homosexual behavior. If you’ve got this one figured out, please publish your paper and collect your Nobel Prize.

            I’ve been over this with others on SSC before and it seems like an excellent candidate for an adversarial collaboration. My contention is that homosexuality is non-insignificantly a result of cultural and personal conditioning. There is no “gay gene,” there may be some uteran hormone influence, but there certainly exist cultures (ancient Greeks, many modern Arab tribes, Afghanistan) where pederasty is very common. Are they more “biogay” than neighboring, closely related peoples? If so, how? If not, what causes the difference in behavior? If it has something to do with culture, or personal conditioning/grooming then, well, that’s my whole point. Condition kids that “gay is okay” and pederasty follows.

            Now it’s not that incredibly likely that I’m going to lose sleep over it, but I also let my kid walk around the block without being terribly concerned about men in vans offering him candy. But I did instruct him to run screaming from somebody he doesn’t know trying to get him to get into his car, and I certainly wouldn’t show him videos that depict children getting into strange men’s cars as normal or good.

            I’m going to regret writing this but… assuming that gays are pedophiles at a similar rate to which black men are criminals, and you consider exposing children to gays “memetic priming,” do you avoid letting your children watch shows with black characters so that they won’t be memetically inclined to fall in with black criminals?

            This is pretty loaded. While yes pedos are disproportionately gay (caveats about reporting, which crimes are prosecuted, etc), my concern is not so much gay pedos molesting my 10 year old but “normal” adult gays seducing my 14-17 year old.

            Let’s save the “what would you do about black people” question for a different thread. Or just drop that whole thing all together as this thread is hairy enough as it is.

            But if you let kids watch shows with guns in them and keep the homosexuals out, it seems to me that you think that exposing kids to homosexuals puts them at a higher risk of being molested more than exposing kids to guns puts them at a higher risk of gun crime, or exposing kids to depictions of thievery primes them to commit theft. I don’t understand why.

            Because when I show him stuff with guns, we have also talked about how guns are dangerous, he should not handle guns at his age, and when he’s older I’ll teach him how to safely handle a weapon. The exposure to guns comes with lots of cautionary instruction. As horrible a person as I am for dodging exposing him to homosexuality, how much worse would you all think of me for telling him about homosexuality, but then warning him strongly against it because of the much greater chance of disease, drug and alcohol abuse, depression and suicide homosexuals experience compared to heterosexuals? Isn’t this the least bad I can do?

            You conflate any not-negative depiction of gay relationships with “propagandizing” homosexuality. Presumably you would not consider a depiction of a heterosexual couple “propagandizing” anything at all.

            No, both are propaganda. While sexual orientation is certainly biologically influenced, large swaths of sexual behavior appear to be social constructs. This is where I suggest the adversarial collaboration thing, because I think other posters are the nutty ones who don’t have much problem with attributing gender role behavior to social constructs but sexual orientation and behavior? Written in the stars, my friend! No. There are definitely cultural influences here.

            This is only “logically sound” if you consider homosexuality ipso facto bad, even among consenting adults.

            Yes, straight privilege is a thing. While straight people are no better or worse than gay people, and all are equally loved and valued in the eyes of God, being straight is objectively better than being gay. You can change my mind by showing me empirical evidence that homosexuals are not at a much greater risk of disease, drug and alcohol abuse, childlessness, depression and suicide than heterosexuals. All else being equal, knowing that, if you don’t hope your kid is straight rather than gay, then, well, I don’t think I’m the moral monster here.

            It’s only “logically sound” if you consider your child being targeted for sex by an older gay man a much higher risk than from an older heterosexual.

            I don’t think it’s very likely that my teenage son will be targeted for sexual violence by an older straight woman, no. But that’s a risk we’ll have to take given the preferred outcome that he be heterosexual. There’s no reason to take the homosexual risk, when that is not the preferred outcome for the obvious, objective reasons of statistically better health and happiness for straights.

            It’s only “logically sound” if you think shielding kids from depictions of gay relationships in media will prevent them from being gay, and consider that a positive thing. (Of course empirically this is wrong – lots of factors in homosexuality but “it’s not a choice” seems to hold true)

            I don’t think it’s a choice, but my review of the literature points to cultural or personal social conditioning as a definite factor. Again, this can be cleared up with an adversarial collaboration if anyone is interested in putting me in my infernal place.

            Basically, you’re holding homosexuality to a different standard, trying to keep it out of sight and out of mind, because you think it’s bad if kids turn out to be gay. Which… hopefully you (and Nabil) can see why calling that “bigoted” rather than “rational” is not exactly crazy?

            Given the empirically better outcomes for straights rather than gays, how is this not rational? If the outcomes were the same and I preferred one or the other, yes, that would definitely be bigoted. But when the outcomes are clearly different, preferring the better outcome to the worse outcome is rational, and pretending they’re equivalent is either intellectual dishonesty or moral cowardice.

            Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Conrad Honcho, what do you think you’d do if you turn out to have a gay kid?

            Sigh and develop an interest in show tunes.

            And Dan, can you drive your wedge in already? I have no idea what your point is. Outcomes are better for straights than gays. Sexuality has components that are socially constructed rather than purely biological or fated. The rational thing to do is to encourage the things that have the best outcomes, minimize the things that have the worst outcomes, and deal with them if they arise anyway.

            I’m not the irrational one here. The ones pretending two obviously, empirically proven different things are equivalent are the irrational ones. Now if you want to come out and say that yes, treating two different things as the same is your moral choice regardless of the irrationality, great, do so, but don’t pretend it’s rational or optimal.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Dan L,

            This is the first study I found once I got back from lab. It’s very recent but from what I understand it’s hardly the first or the only such study:

            A comparison of sexual behavior patterns among men who have sex with men and heterosexual men and women
            (Glick et al., 2017)
            doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e318247925e

            Working from the values in Table I, 16.7% of homosexual Finnish men had their “youngest actual partner in the last five years” under eighteen years old as compared to 6.7% of heterosexual men.

            The tabulated numbers are a bit ambiguous, because the 5-year window allows for licit teenager-teenager relationships. The graph in Figure 2 paints a starker picture, with a typical under 18 homosexual man having an “oldest actual partner in the last five years” being a 25 year old man.

            Both homosexual and heterosexual men in the study expressed similar preferences for younger partners but in the words of the authors “[h]omosexual male participants reported a closer match between behavior and preferences than heterosexual male participants.”

            Anyway I’m tapping out of the discussion now. If you don’t like the study’s methodology or disagree with my interpretation of the results that’s entirely acceptable.

          • Nornagest says:

            There is no “gay gene,” there may be some uteran hormone influence, but there certainly exist cultures (ancient Greeks, many modern Arab tribes, Afghanistan) where pederasty is very common. Are they more “biogay” than neighboring, closely related peoples? If so, how? If not, what causes the difference in behavior?

            I’m not sure if the evidence shows that proportions of gay vs. straight people are consistent across time and culture, but I don’t think Ancient Greece or modern Afghanistan disprove it. As best we can tell, few of the men engaging in Greek pederasty (I know less about Afghanistan) were gay as we think of it: most had wives, and many had female as well as male lovers. The easiest way to render that into our understanding of sexuality would be to round it off to “bisexual”, but that doesn’t quite satisfy me: the qualities the Greeks found attractive in boys are all distinctly feminine, which doesn’t sound to me like an equal attraction to both sexes. There’s nothing like “bears” in Classical literature, at least that I’ve read.

            Still, those Greek dudes don’t just seem to have been settling; many of the same-sex Classical couples we see in history and literature were high-status people who’d have had plenty of choice. So maybe it’s possible to bend your preferences a bit if culture points that way, but that doesn’t show that cultural messaging’s responsible for that fraction of the population that’s exclusively gay, nor that it has any meaningful impact on your kid’s chances of ending up in a subculture centered around e.g. anonymous meetings in truck stop bathrooms. I know a few people who’ve tried to condition themselves to be bisexual (look up “bi-hacking” on the old Less Wrong site), and most of them have had some success but retained a strong preference that couldn’t be erased. And our culture certainly doesn’t lionize pederasty like Classical Greece sometimes did: it’s a major mainstream taboo, people like Milo Yianawhatsit notwithstanding.

            At most it might account for some of the guys calling themselves gay in our culture (male bisexuality’s got substantial stigma attached to it in LGBT culture), but I doubt they make up the hard core of any particular gay subculture, and in terms of actual attraction they’d be perfectly capable of participating in the het dating script. Which has its own problems, but that’s neither here nor there.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the meta-issue here (not being discussed, but still hanging in the air) is the idea that the reason gays have worse life outcomes is stigma and non-acceptance.

            Now, I don’t know whether that’s true in general or not. It’s possible that gays will end up with overall worse lives even with full acceptance; it’s also possible that in a fully tolerant society, gays will end up with about the same quality of life as straights. We’re kind of running the experiment now–if we see a big improvement in life outcomes for gays over the next few decades, that will be pretty strong evidence that at least a lot of that difference was due to hostility/nonacceptance.

            Right now, in the current world, I’d rather my kids be straight than gay. I doubt I have much influence over that, but again, that’s an empirical question I don’t actually have an answer to. And again, we’re running an experiment here as a society. If societal acceptance and visibility of homosexuality leads more people to become gay, then we should see evidence of that over the next few decades.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think the meta-issue here (not being discussed, but still hanging in the air) is the idea that the reason gays have worse life outcomes is stigma and non-acceptance.

            I think everyone would agree that the stigma against gays has decreased by orders of magnitude over the last few decades. But from my understanding of the literature (again, totally willing to do an adversarial literature review with someone who wants to put me in my place), the numbers on outcomes have barely budged.

            My contention is simple:

            1) Being straight has empirically proven better life outcomes than being gay.

            2) Sexual orientation has significant non-biological influences, including cultural and personal/social conditioning.

            3) Therefore, it’s better on average to not expose a child to things that promote/normalize homosexuality. However, one should not stigmatize gays out of general kindness and an interest in hedging one’s bets against the possibility of heavy homosexual biological influence.

            And you can prove me wrong with data!

            Prove that (1) is false by showing that gays have the same or better life outcomes than straights!

            Prove that (2) is false by showing that homosexuality is purely biological with no social construction.

            Show that (3) does not follow from (1) and (2).

            In the meantime, I think the idea that gay = straight and exposing children to narratives supporting that idea is a moral decision and not a rational decision. And it’s a morality that I don’t understand, and don’t know where it comes from, preferencing hypothetical gays over your own actual children. Do what you will.

          • dick says:

            “I’m concerned that seeing two male cartoon horses holding hands might, in some subtle way as yet unknown to science, increase the chance of my child someday leading a lifestyle that some believe is statistically associated with elevated rates of negative life outcomes,” he said while playing a gun-themed game with his child in the country where the second most common cause of death for children is guns.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            “I’m concerned that seeing two male cartoon horses holding hands explicitly promoting homosexuality in multiple venues without caveats might, in some subtle way as yet unknown to science, in a completely obvious way evidenced by the unquestioned existence of cultures significantly more than gay than neighboring cultures increase the chance of my child someday leading a lifestyle that some believe is statistically associated with elevated rates of negative life outcomes,” he said while playing a gun-themed game with his child in the country where the second most common cause of death for children is guns while explicitly instructing his child on the dangers of guns and while his guns are all safely locked away lost in a tragic boating accident.

            Come on, dick, you can make a better strawman than that. I have faith in you.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Nabil ad Dajjal:

            Genuinely, thank you.

            (Glick et al., 2017)
            doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e318247925e

            I mean, my main quibble is that that DOI goes to Glick et al, 2012 with no sign of a more recent paper by that name in her bibliography… but it still has some relevant data? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It’s Seattle + other US cities in the 90s and 00s, but it’ll do for a first glance.

            There’s a fair amount to dig through there, but my first impressions:

            1) The average age delta between partners is within bounds that might be explicable purely through a restricted dating pool.

            2) The age at sexual debut data contradicts that though, with MSM being substantially lower. But the heterosexual results also show men starting substantially earlier than women… there’re some interesting dynamics here.

            3) More data is definitely needed, but a comparison across the decade hints at a very encouraging trend for anyone who wants gay men to match mainstream mores.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            I don’t blame you for not wanting to touch that argument – I don’t really either, on an object level. But I think it’s useful to consider, insofar as it involves justifying making strangers out of the people who live around you.

            I also continue to think that the odds of a gay pederast getting into your children’s pants and taking advantage of them are really not that high, and I don’t think that any Twitter anecdotes are going to convince me otherwise. I don’t really want to make a personal attack here, but based on conversations we’ve had I feel that you have a tendency to give weight to anecdotes that’s… at least a little unwarranted. Consider that nobody is ever going to share the story of how they weren’t seduced at the age of 14, and instead just sat in a classroom imagining running their fingers through another boy’s hair.

            I guess my point fundamentally is that, while it’s at least somewhat understandable that you don’t want your kids to wind up gay, I have to think that there are many, many things that carry just as much risk that you aren’t protecting them from any better. This is a marginal protection on a marginal risk, and although the real cost to your kids is small-to-nil, I do find it sad that, in your eyes, that vanishingly thin margin overcomes the value of all the art and all the stories and all the lives that gay men have produced or been a part of. It seems rather like tearing down a library because the books are so flammable*.

            *: Not that this is literally the case.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I do find it sad that, in your eyes, that vanishingly thin margin overcomes the value of all the art and all the stories and all the lives that gay men have produced or been a part of. It seems rather like tearing down a library because the books are so flammable*.

            So far, here are the actions I have taken in my “don’t intentionally expose my kid to gay stuff” project:

            1) Once my wife was watching Modern Family and I asked her to save that for when the kids are in bed.

            2) There’s a scene in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey where a pansexual dude propositions your character to have sex with him and a goat and I told my kid to leave the room for a few minutes.

            The horror. The absolute horror. How will Conrad Jr. ever recover?

            ETA: I declined the invitation to goat sex, fyi.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Conrad Honcho:

            And Dan, can you drive your wedge in already?

            Wedges are for separating formerly like things. If you continue to decline to be distinguished from your more odious comrades-in-argument, we can go from there.

            I have no idea what your point is.

            I have consistently challenged you to show not that it’s better to be straight than gay, but to instead show that you are rationally deciding that this is a battle worth fighting. That being gay (and male?) specifically falls below a previously-determined threshold of acceptability and that this is not a standard you’re pulling out of your ass for this express purpose. You continue to deflect, without even the grace of data.

            I’m not the irrational one here. The ones pretending two obviously, empirically proven different things are equivalent are the irrational ones.

            This is not the argument you are facing here. The specific argument that has provoked your umbrage is the notion that children be allowed to see that gay relationships exist. Not some sinister gay agenda, not a roving gang of leather-clad bears, but two barely-anthropomorphized characters sitting in a cafe on Valentine’s Day. I linked the image from the relevant MLP episode – if you want to pre-screen children’s entertainment further I can find you a link to the full episode and you can issue us a report on why it’s deplorable.

            And it’s a morality that I don’t understand, and don’t know where it comes from, preferencing hypothetical gays over your own actual children.

            In my experience, the easiest way for a Red Triber to get a firm grasp on the