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Open Thread 116.5

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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934 Responses to Open Thread 116.5

  1. Plumber says:

    I’d like the Forum’s help with something that puzzles and also worries me:

    I think my mental model of who’s “Left” and who’s “Right” among SSC commenters is broken. 

    I’ve mentioned this before in a couple of individual cases, but in reading this weeks posts it was really striking to me how often I’d read something along the lines of “…and that’s why I’m [left/right]-wing”, and my immediate thought is “Huh? But everything I’ve read of yours gave me the opposite impression!”

    At work (as became clear during the Kavaugh hearings which displaced the usually lunchtime topics of sports, hot meteorologists, buffets, and movies) I’m able to guess “Democrat or Republican” real well (“How long is your commute?” is usually all I need to know), but SSC commenters posts more often than not give me the opposite impression than of how they self-identify their political leanings.

    I’m going to try and spare you another long rant of mine where I list my beliefs and biography this post (but if you ask I’ll detail at length!), and just say that I consider myself moderate or indifferent on most “social issues”, and on the left-wing of the Democratic Party on “economic issues”, so more Left than Right, but one of my early SSC posts was linked to on reddit as an example of horrible right-wing wrongness, so I guess I gave one person an impression the opposite of my political self-indentity, just like the impressions others give me.

    Why is this happening? 

    • I don’t know about the particular cases that struck you, but one possibility may be that “right” describes two quite different positions, loosely speaking libertarian and traditionalist. The latter gets most of the public attention, the former is more common here. I’m an anarchist in favor of open borders and drug legalization—and if I have to choose a left/right label it would be right.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if there are similar patterns on the left.

      • johan_larson says:

        I’ve often thought the US pattern of having only two mainstream political parties leads to some very odd bedfellows politically speaking. The Germans have eight parties in the Bundestag, seven of which have substantial representation. That’s a lot more options. The first-past-the-post system has a lot to answer for.

        • cassander says:

          all legislatures have just two coalitions, a majority and a minority. First past the post and presidentialism encourage those coalitions to form before the election, other systems don’t. But I don’t think there’s a real difference in the resultant coalitions. If you switched the US to some sort of PR system, you’d see the republicans split into a libertarian party, a social con party, and business con party, the democrats split into the blue dogs, greens, and socialists. But when it came time to vote for speaker, you’d get pretty much the same alignments you do now.

          • johan_larson says:

            It’s worth considering how much coalition building there actually is in the US system (and the Canadian and British ones, for that matter.) My impression is that there is no significant group of politicians and party activists who swing between the Democratic and Republican parties. Some voters swing, but people in the political industry, for lack of a better word, don’t. That would mean any coalition building would have to happen within the parties themselves. Does it?

            My impression is that there is some intra-party battles to decide what faction should call the shots, typically focused on the party primaries. The fights between the Tea Party groups and establishment Republicans are an example of this. But I don’t know how much that is about coalition building and how much it is about political infighting.

          • Aapje says:

            @cassander

            I strongly disagree. The US has far more static coalitions in congress and a less static executive (which seems paradoxical, but isn’t).

            In my country, it is extremely common for a center party to trade in coalition partners, yet provide consistency by staying in power. For example, the current coalition is:

            Classic liberal + Christian democrat + libertarian + more conservative (but not superconservative) Christians

            The one before was classic liberal + social democrat.

            Before that was classic liberal + Christian democrat + Wilders (anti-Islam & anti-EU)

            Before that was classic liberal + social democrat + more conservative (but not superconservative) Christians

            This results in way more diversity in the coalitions than in the US, but also in more consistency between coalitions. So you don’t tend to get these ‘cleanse the government with fire’ sprees like in the US, where the new government replaces top bureaucrats, ambassadors, undoes/replaces many policies, etc. Instead, bureaucrats, ambassadors tend to feel fairly loyal to the new government regardless of their own politics and policy changes are more deliberately focused on what the new coalition really cares about.

            There is also more ad hoc cooperation in congress and in a more diverse way than in the US.

          • cassander says:

            @Aapje

            US political parties are famously weak. It is not uncommon for groups of them to break from the party line and vote with the other side. See, for example, how the speaker failed to make the changes he wanted in the latest farm bill, undone because a part of his party defected. In PR systems there might be more parties, but there is far less room to break from party. Sometimes that results in more negotiation, sometimes less, depending on the specific circumstances, but I think it’s hard to say that one has more overall than the other.

    • LadyJane says:

      Personally, I’m far-left on social/cultural issues, firmly centrist on economics (I lean center-right on some issues and center-left on others), and moderately libertarian on the authority/liberty axis of politics. That’s a rather uncommon combination, though probably not quite so uncommon as to be considered fringe; I know a considerable number of cosmopolitan libertarians and radical centrists and anti-establishment liberals with similar stances.

      I’d imagine that the nature of this site makes it home for a lot of people with atypical political views and/or atypical combinations of political views. It also has a lot of European posters, and as I mentioned in the discussion above, the lines are drawn a bit differently in Europe.

    • Guy in TN says:

      I’m guessing the weirdness is coming from some peculiarities in the SSC population. In the four-region political compass, SSC seems to draw unusually high numbers of people from the “economic right/social left” square, who could reasonably self-identify as either “right” or “left” depending on which issues they more strongly emphasize.

    • Brad says:

      Because you (apparently) refuse to believe that saliency matters and that your ranking of the importance of issues is not the same as other people’s list. So you look at the handful of narrow issues you care most about, see how people stand on them, and do your left/right sorting entirely based on that. That’s a highly flawed procedure to put in mildly.

    • fion says:

      I’m not sure if it’s the same thing as you, but I often find myself getting skewed impressions of the SSC political spectrum because it’s so different to the people I come into contact with IRL.

      All of my friends are super liberal on social issues which means that when I encounter someone who, say, thinks homosexual acts are immoral it immediately sets of my surprise circuits and I probably subconsciously categorise them as “very socially conservative”.

      In terms of economic issues, well, most of my friends don’t spend much time advocating for the dismantling of capitalism, but it’s generally assumed that capitalism is a mostly bad thing, but is just very hard to get rid of without making things worse. Over here, people don’t just begrudgingly accept capitalism – they sometimes praise it, and want more of it!

      I even think scientific issues come into play a little bit. In my IRL circles, everybody believes that humans are causing rapid global warming and that this is one of the greatest threats our species has ever faced. The difference between an environmentalist and not is just a matter of how motivated and dedicated one is. But over here, not only do you get people who can’t quite manage to give up their car, not only do you get people who think technology will probably save us and we don’t need to do anything, not only do you get people who think global warming isn’t caused by humans, but you even get people who think it might be good!

      (The reason I mention science is that in the UK, in my day-to-day life, if I encounter somebody who doesn’t agree that global warming is caused by humans and is a huge threat, then that person is almost always a very right-wing person with an agenda. That might not be the case on SSC, but it’s become a trained response in me that when I hear certain opinions I map them to political positions. Sometimes this mapping works 99% IRL but breaks down on SSC.)

      • Plumber says:

        @fion

        “I’m not sure if it’s the same thing as you, but I often find myself getting skewed impressions of the SSC political spectrum because it’s so different to the people I come into contact with IRL….”

        Yes exactly! 

        My usual Left/Right model is based on those I encounter face-to-face (mostly at work). 

        The Public Defenders (nice folks, invited we in building maintenance to their December holiday potluck last week) almost all fit the (American) “liberal” stereotype (pictures of Che Guevara, Malcolm X on their walls, removed the signs saying “Men” and “Women” from their restrooms) so mostly “Left” on both the economic and social axis.

        The cops are also nice to we in Building Repairs (they’ve been to our parties and vice versa) and their poliical views are typically the reverse of the Pulic Defenders, and so mostly “Right”.

        My fellow ‘blue-collar’ men are those who I speak to the most besides my wife and I wrote at length about my current and most recent co-workers up-thread: 

        “….FWLIW as a “data point” my crew at work in San Francisco is about half U.S. born and half immigrants (mostly The Philippines and the former Soviet Union with one guy each from Ethiopia, Iran, Mexico, Trinidad, and the United Kingdom), and about half non-white and about half white, around a third of the crew are ethnic Russians and, except for one guy who came to the U.S.A. in ’79 who talks to everyone, the ex-soviets don’t talk to me as much so I can’t guess their opinions, but from the rest I definitely get a sense of my co-workers political leanings. 

        Black, brown, white, atheist, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or Protestant (the presumably Russian Orthodox guys don’t talk as much with any of us besides the Jewish guy who’s also an ex-soviet, but has been in the U.S. longer than the rest of them and is the “bridge”) most agree and disagree with the Democratic and Republican parties on the same stuff, as most are basically “social right” “economic left” and which way they vote correlates with how far their commute to work is.

        Of the four most outspoken Democrats all live within 15 miles of the job in San Francisco

        1) Born in Trinidad, was in U.S. Navy, “black” skin, pro-union, pro-Obamacare (actually uses old 1930’s lingo like “I’m for the Masses!”), also extremely anti-gay, was very pro Prop 8.

        2) Born in Philippines, “brown”, worked in the shipyards before, pro-union, devout Catholic. 

        3) Born in San Francisco, light brown,  long-time air conditioning tech, one foreign parent, pro-union, goes to Catholic church twice a year.

        4) Born across the bridge in Oakland (this is me), “white”, worked construction before switching to repairs, pro-union, pro-Obamacare, atheist but finds other atheists usually less easy to get along with than the religious guys.

        Of the four most outspoken Republicans all live more than 30 miles from the job in San Francisco. 

        1) Born in the Philippines, “brown”, worked in the shipyards, also ex-cop, pro-union, very anti-abortion, very devout Catholic. 

        2) Born in the Soviet Union, “white”, anti-union (said after Janus decision he’ll stop paying dues), very libertarian, says “Trump is crook but I hate Democrats more”, Jewish. 

        3) Born in U.S.A. (Sonoma County), “white”, pro-union, gun collector, regular Catholic church goer but divorced, against Trump in the primaries but still Republican.

        4) Born in U.S.A. (out of State), “white”, gun collector and frequently goes to shooting range, ex-Marine, atheist, pro-Trump early on.

        We’re all “blue-collar” and the less politically outspoken on the crew are much the same just less loud, and only one of us could be called  remotely “fiscally conservative”, “socially liberal”.

        My point in all this: “minority” working-class men aren’t very different from “white” working class men and tend to also be “social conservative”, “economic liberal” as well, they just put more weight on the economic issues, you may want their support in promoting “social liberalism” but except that they’re not bigoted against themselves they also tend to be more religious than whites, and much like populist whites they want both union jobs and their faith….”

         With a few notable exceptions, overwhelming those I know well when they swing “Left” it’s because of economics, and when they swing “Right” because of “social” issues (usually abortion or guns in the past, lately immigration) and which is more important to them is correlated very strongly with if thet live in or near the city or if they don’t. 

        The two who I’ve spoken to at length who swing “Right” because of economics were both foreign born and largely indifferent to “social” issues and before SSC I regarded that as the reason, with the American born people that I have spoken to enough to learn their opinions on political issues there’s been a few full on Anarchist or Marxist “Leftists” who want an end to private property, a fair number of “Liberals” (support the welfare state and gay marriage, etc cetera) and vote Democratic (this would be the majority of my wife’s friends despite her being a Republican until recently), lots of mildly left on economics and mildly right on cultural/social matters who are the majority who tell me an opinion, some who while still pro-union are very culturally right-wing and vote Republican, some who just plain support the Republican Party down the line on both social and economic issues, a couple who are to the right on economics and indifferent to social issues, all of which are out-numbered by  “I don’t pay attention to that stuff”, and I don’t remember ever speaking to anyone who was both strongly “culturally progressive” and “libertarian” (which is probably the viewpoint that most throws my guesses off).

        Everyone has a bubble and SSC has exposed me to more diverse opinions than I had before and I’m trying to get an idea of how big or small my face-to-face bubble has been.

    • ana53294 says:

      I am socially liberal and economically right wing for most issues, and strongly pro-federalist and minority language (in Spain, this is a third, important axis).

      My issues when voting is that while I can easily find a socially liberal federalist party, it is really hard to find an economically right wing party that delivers in Spain.

      Socialists campaigned on the gay marriage and making abortion easier, and they delivered (the post-sex pill is now freely available to minors without parental consent, gay marriage is equal to heterosexual marriage). The economic right campaigned on reducing legislation for small businesses and lowering taxes, and they raised taxes and increased some of the legislation that socialists removed (for example, the laws on taxis).

      I get that delivering on gay rights is easier than increasing the productivity of the economy. But at least left-wing governments give me something I want. Right wing governments don’t engage in meaningful policies that would increase productivity (fix the energy markets for companies; fix the VAT payment system; remove ridiculous licensing such as tourist guides; increase labor market flexibility), and deliver on those issues they campaigned about that I activelly hate (pro-life, anti-gay).

    • Aapje says:

      @Plumber

      One reason is that there are certain beliefs that many reject so strongly that they refuse to consider anyone with those beliefs as a member of their political ingroup (taboos). Or alternatively, beliefs that they hold so strongly, that they reject anyone who doesn’t have those beliefs (dogma).

      However, in reality many people don’t neatly believe the dogma and reject the taboos of a specific group. Still, very many people are socially conforming and hide some of their beliefs for acceptance, status, etc.

      At SSC, we tend to not be very socially conforming (nor demand socially conformance from others).

    • Randy M says:

      Why is this happening?

      Having seen you raise this question before, it seems to me that it is because your model of conservative is Mr Moneybags from Monopoly and your model of left-winger is “Blue collar guys like myself who vote for the party of FDR.”
      The terms may not mean the same to everyone else.

      • Nick says:

        Endorsed.

      • Plumber says:

        I’ve known others including lots of blue collar Republicans, but yeah that’s how I decide to vote.

        I’m very pro 1973 and also Obamacare and I vote to prevent anymore losses.

        Most Republicans I know are pro 1972 (or even earlier) and they have different losses they’re trying to prevent.

        I never hear from anyone face-to-face who’s hopeful for gains instead of restoration, maybe the 30 year-old new hire who doesn’t remember before the ’80’s, I’ll have to ask him.

    • albatross11 says:

      My guess is that most people here have actively thought about a lot of our political positions.

      Political parties (Democrats vs Republicans) and coalitions (Liberals vs Conservatives, Left vs Right) come to their positions on a whole cluster of issues by a process of negotiation and building alliances and seeking out important voting blocs. That process doesn’t really have much to do with the way a human would think about a set of issues and come to their own views. And we have a lot of media where someone is chosen to represent (or misrepresent, depending) the conservative or liberal view. That often means starting from the positions on all these policy issues that their party or faction has arrived at by non-rational processes of negotiation and coalition-building and vote-seeking, and then making arguments for them. This is pretty natural human behavior, enough so that I suspect there’s some evolved-in tendency to determine the local party line and stick to it.

      So, while a mostly-liberal SSCer like HBC probably has a worldview that’s inclined in the right direction to agree with a lot of common liberal/Democratic views on policy issues, he also has probably thought about those issues a bit himself and sometimes has come to different conclusions. And while a mostly-conservative SSCer like Conrad probably has a worldview that leads him to align with standard conservative/Repubican policy ideas a lot of the time, he’s probably also got his own thoughts on a bunch of those issues. And then you have a bunch of people who have extremely right-wing-sounding issues in some areas, but not in others. This makes sense if you think in terms of people thinking through individual issues, but not if you think in terms of sweeping ideologies that determine every belief.

      Add to that the fact that there are really many different intellectual traditions/lines of thought (green, libertarian, communitarian, death-eater, muggle-realist, etc), which are more inclined to intellectual consistency than big-tent parties or coalitions, and you get a lot of mixes of positions/ideas that aren’t seen together in a mainstream political discussion. (Like someone who thinks all anti-discrimination laws applying to private decision-makers should go away, and also that police misconduct and impunity from consequences is a major issue that needs to be addressed.)

    • dick says:

      I think it has to do with the difference between what people think and what people talk about. My wife thinks I’m right-wing, because many of our political discussions are me complaining about something the left did. Here, I’m left-wing, because many of the discussions I join in on are me arguing with someone who complained about something the left did.

      I wish we could taboo the terms entirely (along with “socialist” and “conservative” and all the other horoscope labels that mean whatever people want them to mean) because they lead to so many semantic arguments, and arguing semantics on the internet is the Most Boring Thing in the World.

  2. johan_larson says:

    Some chocolate candies come in boxes, with cellophane (?) trays that provide a little cup for each candy. I’ve noticed when I have such a box of chocolates, I tend to eat the chocolates in patterns, sometimes even rearranging them to improve the symmetry.

    Anyone else do that?

    • Nick says:

      I pair up M&M colors when I eat them. But the damn bags seem to always have an odd number.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I do this with eggs, but not chocolates.

      • Well... says:

        I have a system for taking eggs from the carton, but it’s intended to minimize the carton sliding around as the fridge door is opened and closed. I always take eggs from the side of the carton most toward the door opening, thus keeping the carton’s center of mass as close to the door’s hinge as possible.

        It’s actually a vestigial habit from one or two fridges previous, which did not have a very good lip on the edge of the space on the door intended for egg cartons; in my current fridge the carton basically sits in a well — there’s really no way it could get out without being lifted. But I maintain the habit anyway, because I figure it’s still a good habit.

  3. Calvin says:

    I’m curious about an interaction I had a few weeks ago with someone in the rationality community, I was wondering if someone here can look at the conversation and evaluate what ‘went wrong’ so to speak.

    It began with some comments I made on a blog post, where I disagreed with the author that ‘metoo’ was good, but rather than discuss the entire point I wanted just to address some counterexamples to something the author said about metoo never having gone too far. The post is here: http://benjaminrosshoffman.com/metoo-is-good/

    After a bit of back and forth, it seemed like I should try take it to private chat before it turned into a demon thread. This was the ensuing conversation: https://pastebin.com/epQmxZK2

    To me, it seems to me like my points were understood, and likewise I didn’t quite get what the author was trying to make me understand.

    The author also seemed hostile and unwilling to engage, and how he disengaged from the conversation seemed like a personal attack that was unjustified. But I’m biased, so I was wondering if it was something about my comments or behavior or tone that I was missing that provoked that response, or if I misread the hostility at all.

    And any thoughts about why the author had that kind of a reaction? It was not what I expected since I thought most rational community members would welcome a honest discussion like the one I was trying to start.

    • Nornagest says:

      Seems a bit of a dick move to pick apart someone’s private chat, to be honest. If you got Ben’s permission to post that, then that’s one thing, but otherwise I’d rather not touch it.

    • nkurz says:

      OK, I read both and will try to offer feedback.

      On the object level, it looks like the two of you are just using different definitions of MeToo. You are using it broadly, and he is defining it more narrowly. Your definition actually makes more sense to me, but it’s his blog, so he gets to pick the definition. I mostly agreed with the points you made, but for whatever reason, he wasn’t particularly interested in your angle. On his terms, his closing argument made sense to me: if you think this is something that “took off in 2017”, it’s odd that your most prominent examples are from before then. He was blunt at the end, but I think he’s right that it wasn’t going to be that productive for him to continue. I thought your final “lol ok” response was cringeworthy, but probably you were taken aback by his bluntness.

      On a meta level, moving to private chat struck me as an awkward move. You were very polite about asking whether this was OK, but for whatever reason it made me uncomfortable on his behalf. For the blog owner, there’s rarely benefit of private discussions with strangers over public ones. On a meta-meta level, posting the private chat here seems like a major misstep, and indicates that you don’t have a good understanding of normal social protocol. I appreciate the earnestness of your approach, and applaud your urge to better understand the exchange, but combined with my misgivings about moving to a “private” conversation in the first place, it’s a serious enough “red flag” to make me worry about responding to you here.

      Anyway, I wouldn’t dwell on it too much. Until the “lol” line, you came across to me as honest and clear. For whatever reason, he wasn’t interested at that time in having the conversation that you were interested in having, and that’s OK. Other people in other situations probably will be, possibly even the same person at some later time. But I’d recommend not posting someone else’s side of a “private” conversation in a public place in the future even if it seems like an effective way of getting feedback — it’s a pretty big social no-no.

      Good luck, and I hope this is the sort of feedback you were looking for.

  4. Le Maistre Chat says:

    If you had a child who was entering the ninth grade, what would you guide them to do about college and beyond?

    Two sad anecdotes that are making me think about this:
    My best friend comes from an affluent, intact family with a soft science professor for a father and one grandmother who’s a retired STEM professor. She racked up AP credit in high school and got her Bachelor’s in psychology by the end of her third undergrad year. However, she didn’t apply to PhD programs before December 1st of her last undergrad year. She wanted to take a year off, grow up, and do some self-discovery. When she did apply, the programs she applied to all rejected her. 5 years after graduation, she’s discontent in a job unrelated to her degree and still spending money on non-degree classes in order to network with more professors and on applying to grad schools. I fear that she’ll come down with terminal Master’s because she didn’t do everything perfect the first time combined with the irrational cultural value placed on higher degrees.
    I have a guy friend who got his BS in CS and went directly to an internship in the PNW that led to consistent employment and that company and others in the area until shortly after his 30th birthday. He’s been unemployed for 13 months now and does not want to submit his resume to companies in San Francisco, to stay within driving distance of family and/or he’d like to actually afford at least a studio apartment on a software engineer’s income.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      It’s hard to get into a PhD program but it isn’t that hard. People take time off all of the time: I myself had a huge gap in my undergraduate education and I’m doing my PhD at an R1 ivy league institution. I feel like something is missing in that story.

      Anyway, my advice for college is pretty much the same as what I was told: if you’re thinking about hard science, the name-recognition of your undergrad means very little relative to your research experience. If you can go to a state university with a lot of research going on you’ll save a ton of money and not be any worse off when looking for PhD or masters programs. Do well on your SATs; get AP credits or 101 classes from a local community college to skip as many GenEd courses as possible; do some kind of minority outreach extracurricular; don’t get pregnant or addicted to anything if you can avoid it.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Really depends a lot on child is interested in and able to do, doesn’t it? And on the finances of the parent(s), of course.

      I have a guy friend who got his BS in CS and went directly to an internship in the PNW that led to consistent employment and that company and others in the area until shortly after his 30th birthday.

      Assuming he graduated at 21 or 22, that’s a pretty good run and you can hardly say school decisions were wrong based on that.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Yeah, you’re right. I just wanted to allude to how many of the CS jobs for Americans are concentrated in the one city where even software engineer’s pay struggles mightily to make rent.

        • acymetric says:

          I mean…there are lots of good CS jobs not in San Francisco. If he is near any mid-sized city there should be opportunities available. If he is willing to move, just not to San Francisco, this is even more true.

          I understand that there is a high concentration of CS jobs in San Francisco including many high profile companies, but you don’t need a bunch of CS jobs around you to be employed, just one CS job that you can get.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      Internships internships internships. Do them. Start now. Always be working. If you can get paid, do, but dont worry about it.

      Your CS friend is the outlier. If you are employed 2, 3 or so years in your field, you can always get another job if your particular company dies. Perhaps not at the same salary, but you can.

      • SamChevre says:

        If you are employed 2, 3 or so years in your field, you can always get another job if your particular company dies.

        This has not been my observation at all. Someone with extensive experience with enterprise software is very rarely able to compete with new grads and H1-B workers in the hiring process in my observation. (My employer outsourced its data center and much of the admin system maintenance a few years ago; I would guess that less than half the people I know who were affected have found another IT job.)

        • baconbits9 says:

          I find this type of back and forth very curios, my wife’s company has almost constantly had open IT positions (most typically python developers) and have several times held their nose and hired someone they would rather not have (and regretted it more than once) due to a lack of decent candidates.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve seen these discussions play out before, and it’s one side screaming, “We’re qualified! We have degrees, we have experience, we have open source projects to point to!” and the other side screaming, “Where are all the qualified people?! Every single person we bring in for an interview can’t even solve FizzBuzz!” The mismatch is unreal.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Like Nick says, the “mismatch” is real, because companies want people on entry level wages (which is why they furiously masturbate about H1B visas).

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Nick

            That particular issue is generally caused by trying to hire at well below the going rate (for people who know what they’re doing). That, or getting a reputation as a terrible place to work.

          • dick says:

            The mismatch is unreal.

            You know the effect where, when you first join a dating site, you see nothing but losers? And eventually you figure out it’s because the good catches tend to find someone and leave the site within a month of joining, but the losers just accumulate and never leave?

            I think what you’re describing is the same deal. Good employers who really need someone and are willing to pay well fill their jobs quickly, so the number of such jobs you should expect to find in your first day of job hunting is near zero. Good programmers with solid references who aren’t very picky find jobs quickly, so the number I expect to apply to a job the day it’s posted is also near zero. The people with unrealistic expectations and bad reputations, on both sides, accumulate and proliferate.

            Also, there’s a thing where lots of companies have a couple of reqs they leave open even when they’re fully staffed, just in case someone extraordinary happens to apply, and I’m sure that’s annoying to the not-extraordinary-but-okay people who apply for them. That probably accounts for most of the “I fit the requirements they listed, but they never even responded” anecdotes.

            I don’t think H1B visas are a big part of this. Sponsoring a visa is expensive and in most cases employers would rather hire a citizen if one were available. Your gloss on H1B visas should be more like “They’re over-paying in order to immediately fill an undesirable job,” than “They’re underpaying to avoid paying market rates.”

          • The Nybbler says:

            Your gloss on H1B visas should be more like “They’re over-paying in order to immediately fill an undesirable job,” than “They’re underpaying to avoid paying market rates.”

            Not in tech. Those H1-Bs do exist more or less though they’re paid only market rate, not overpaid. There’s another large group of H1-Bs who have mediocre or poor skills, are brought over in mass quantities, and are paid poorly.

          • dick says:

            Are you talking about cases where the company hiring the employee also acquired the visa? That’s the exception I referred to. I’m referring to the (much more common, I believe) case where the visa was acquired by some staffing firm whose only business is hoarding visas and gouging both sides.

          • The Nybbler says:

            A lot of the low-paid H-1Bs are working for staffing firms, but there are real firms that sponsor them themselves; Quest Diagnostics is one such.

          • Brad says:

            I’ve seen these discussions play out before, and it’s one side screaming, “We’re qualified! We have degrees, we have experience, we have open source projects to point to!” and the other side screaming, “Where are all the qualified people?! Every single person we bring in for an interview can’t even solve FizzBuzz!” The mismatch is unreal.

            To split the difference a bit–there’s a big variation in what people consider shitty pay.

            idontknow131647093 could for all I know be slagging on companies for looking for people at $150k a year. If he’s not, other are. It’s rather hard to take their whining about cheap companies and H1Bs seriously. If you think you’re worth FAANG money, go apply to FAANG.

            On the flip side of the coin there are companies, even in cities like say NYC or Denver, that think they can get an experienced software engineer for $70,000. It’s also hard to take their whining about crappy applicants seriously. If you pay bottom of the market you are going to get bottom of the market applicants. And most of these guys won’t even moneyball …

        • johan_larson says:

          Some of this might be because hiring systems are geared to new grads. They often ask questions of a type that recent grads are familiar with (data structures and algorithms questions) but which are not particularly reflective of the type of problems professional programmers deal with every day.

          A pro might spend his days trying to negotiate clear requirements with users or PMs and implementing those requirements in the context of a stonking piece of legacy software that no one understands well, hopefully without breaking anything. This does not particularly prepare him for a question about how to do some oddball manipulation on binary trees. But the new grad learned about binary trees in data structures class just a couple of years ago, so the knowledge is still fresh.

          • SamChevre says:

            This, exactly. Note @baconbits above is talking about Python? No serious system that I’m aware of that’s more than a decade old is written in Python.

          • cassander says:

            Not in CS specifically, but this is definitely my experience. Hiring people right out of grad school is relatively straight forward. Trying to recruit people with several years of experience is considerably harder, because you expect much more specific knowledge (or combinations of knowledge) and soft skills that are hard to test for. That leaves many fewer people capable of fitting in the niche you’re trying to fill. No amount of education really helps this problem.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            No amount of education really helps this problem.

            And from the outside, it looks like companies don’t put nearly enough energy into retaining the people they’ve already trained up. Everyone wants a skillset, nobody wants to give 10% raises wen people develop it. Except for competitors.

          • cassander says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            That’s definitely a problem sometimes, but the trouble with doing that is (A) the more you give them the more they can go looking for elsewhere and (B) If people get used to large increases, they get pissed when they get small ones during the inevitable bad years. I certainly try to ensure that my people are well rewarded for their hard work, but it’s not a straightforward problem.

          • dick says:

            I certainly try to ensure that my people are well rewarded for their hard work, but it’s not a straightforward problem.

            Well said. There’s also an effect where it’s hard for employers to adapt to changing salary requirements while also keeping a good balance between old and new hands. Suppose Alice and Bob are identical employees (same amount of experience, ability, etc) but Alice was hired 10 years ago and Bob was hired last week. In theory they should have the same salary, since they’re equal in ability, but in practice that would require either luck or prescience since Alice’s salary is a result of many choices made in the past by different people under different circumstances.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            in practice that would require either luck or prescience since Alice’s salary is a result of many choices made in the past by different people under different circumstances.

            If, as a manager, you notice that someone is being underpaid relative to the work they’re doing, and you judge them to be a flight risk (not hyperspecialized/useless outside their current exact job), I’d suggest that the appropriate mitigating response is to formally reassess their performance and, if warranted, increase their pay.

            The fact that no company I’m aware of does this doesn’t convince me it’s not a good idea. Mobility of labor is high; adapt or lose your people.

          • dick says:

            The fact that no company I’m aware of does this doesn’t convince me it’s not a good idea.

            Everyone does this. “If someone is underpaid you should give them a raise” is not exactly going to rock the world of management theory. It’s just hard to do well and easy to fall behind on, particularly for big companies and in the wake of acquisitions.

          • Brad says:

            The company I work for has a regular process of reviewing compensation levels within the company and vs the market. They also track flight risks and do exit interviews. I have no idea how well all this machinery works, but they certainly try.

          • Nornagest says:

            IME, it’s more common to give employees judged to be a flight risk an equity package (and often not a very generous one) than to substantially bump their pay. There might be accounting reasons for this, if equity’s drawn from a different budget pool.

          • johan_larson says:

            White-collar employees who are keen to make as much money as possible are very much at a disadvantage, since jobs are normally not posted with offered salaries, and companies keep salary ranges for various jobs and levels secret. Some even prohibit discussion of pay levels.

            The behaviors this rewards are a) negotiating assertively at hiring time, b) continually testing the waters outside your employer, checking whether you could get more, c) being forward enough with colleagues to get a sense of how much they are getting and d) avoiding the sort of extreme specialization that makes it difficult to move. It seems to me this pairs very poorly with traditional conciliating team-first feminine behavior, and may explain quite a bit of why women tend to get paid less than men do.

      • Nick says:

        Yeah, that CS friend case is very strange. My best guess is that his employment experience was with technology that not a lot of other companies are using. (Sticking to WebForms when everyone else is on MVC, that sort of thing, I mean.) Where is the problem? At the stage of getting a phone call, or at the stage of getting an interview, or at the stage of getting an offer? These indicate very different problems.

        Internships are also very important. Some CS programs are making a semester or summer internship mandatory.

      • AG says:

        Co-signed on “Internships internships internships.” And for STEM, always favor the paid ones. If possible, try to set up a research gig, because you can apply for research competitions and stuff for extra prestige.

        If possible, try to get into a dual-college/high school credit program, which usually covers 11th and 12th grade. This opens up undergraduate research opportunities (and undergraduate internships), which make the resume stand out even more than even the most studious high schooler. Plus, it gets kids into the college style of academics sooner, so they can get a head start on if they want to stay in academia or move on to jobs sooner (which they can, because the 2 years of undergrad credit means they’ll be able to complete their regular college undergrad at least 1 year faster).

        The NSF REU program is amazing. Paid travel, food, and board, most involve programmed social activities that might be pricey otherwise (like a canoe trip!), networking and travel opportunities, AND getting paid for the research done on top of all that! Plus, since it’s just the summer, it’s the opportunity to try research in a variety of different subjects, before you lock in on one for the long run. It doesn’t get much better than that.

        (So the bonus of doing the dual credit program is that you can do REUs while in high school, before picking a major and thus being pressured to choose REUs in your major.)

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Internships internships internships. Do them. Start now. Always be working. If you can get paid, do, but dont worry about it.

        Seconded, and thirded, and fourthed…

        It’s a lot easier to get the job you want if you already have experience in something. You also need to stretch while in your current job, which means taking on extra job responsibilities when the opportunity comes up to learn different kinds of skills, so you can move on to the next job that you really want.

        It honestly doesn’t even matter if you have that much experience, once you have at least 6 months in a job as “Staff Accountant,” you are a competitor for a “Staff Accountant” job near anywhere. However, if your only experience prior to that is “Accounting Associate,” people are going to be skeptical of you.

        I did not get do any internships while I was in school and kind of pissed away 4-5 years of my life in temp employment (that recession sure didn’t help). I’m on better footing now, but that mistake will cost me many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Do not be like ADBG, get your internships done while you are in school, and keep working.

        Also, you think you know how to communicate in the business world. You do not know how to communicate in the business world. Your teachers are not teaching you how to communicate in the business world. My advice, based on seeing how new employees act:
        1. Bottom Line Up Front. Or start off with your topic sentence, in high school terms.
        2. Be clear. Do not beat around the bush if you want something. Only beat around the bush if office politics demands you beat around the bush.
        3. Keep it simple.
        4. Leave out how the sausage is made.
        5. Do not come to your manager with problems, come with solutions. It’s annoying advice, but it means put in a bit of effort to troubleshoot, actually think about the problem and talk to the stakeholders or other people who can help you, come up with possible options…don’t just throw the problem in the manager’s lap and expect them to solve it for you.

        My other advice for 9th graders is to ignore passion jobs and focus on getting a job that you can tolerate for 40 hours a week, that will get you a decent salary.

        • SamChevre says:

          Second all the advice on business communications.

          I’ll add:
          1) Lead with what you want–topic and desired action: is this an update? Is it a request for approval? Is it a response to a question?
          2) Remember that your email (especially if it’s to an executive) will be read quickly, by someone who hasn’t thought about this since last month. Make it a short and as clear as possible.
          3) End with something you want noticed; the beginning and the end are the most likely to be read.
          4) Pictures: very rarely is a table of numbers the ideal vehicle for your information–a graph is almost always better.

  5. Deiseach says:

    I saw this article and thought it might make an interesting little footnote to the discussion of autonomous vehicles and could they be the future of trucking – whatever about driverless trucks, right now the American trucking industry needs drivers, can’t get native American citizens to do it, and the niche is being filled by immigrant Sikhs:

    The U.S. is home to half a million Sikhs, of which the Sikhs Political Action Committee estimates that around 150,000 of them work in the trucking industry – which makes the sector an overwhelming favorite amongst their populace. The statistics are interesting, to say the least. 90% of all the Sikhs in the trade are truckers, and Indians, in general, are ahead of other Asian nations, controlling nearly half of all Asian-owned trucking businesses in America. And as per the findings of the North American Punjabi Trucking Association (NAPTA), California is the ground zero of the Punjabi bulwark, with 40% of truckers in the region being Sikhs.

    CBS has done lots of reports on how the industry needs to hire 90,000 new truckers a year to fill the demand. The American trucker drives the American economy and last year, CBS came up with this story on why many Americans don’t want to do this job. There’s extended periods away from home; the pay isn’t great and you end up sleeping in the truck itself a lot of time, as seen at Iowa 80, the world’s largest truck stop near Davenport, Iowa.

    It was while they were doing the above story that they learned about the entry of Sikhs into this arena. …Sikhs, we learn, are the new face in trucking.

    • Nornagest says:

      It’s common for immigrant communities to carve out occupational niches, whether or not natives are willing to do it. See for example that old Times article on the Patel Motel Cartel. This doesn’t necessarily say anything dire about the state of the American labor market.

  6. Thegnskald says:

    My understanding of the Lorentz contraction is that it is a coordinate pressure wave; that is, as you approach C, a gravitational pressure wave forms around you, compounding gravity in your vicinity, and thus creating a compressed coordinate space in the direction of movement.

    Can anyone comment on whether my understanding is accurate in this regard?

    As a corollary, is this why you can’t exceed C? Because you are “creating” additional space in front of you to traverse in proportion to the proportion of C you are traveling (as the gravitic pressure wave itself moves at C)? ETA: Is this also the time component? You are “traversing” extra time-space?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Epistemic status: am not a physicist but had a physics minor in college.

      I was never under the impression the Lorentz contraction had a known mechanism. It’s just a feature of the universe. Basically watch Feynman be asked “Magnets: How do they work?” and then apply the same type of answer to the Lorentz contraction.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The Lorentz contraction and the speed-of-light limit are both part of special relativity, which doesn’t concern gravity at all. So I don’t think that’s right. The usual explanation of why you can’t exceed C is it takes an infinite amount of energy to do so.

    • smocc says:

      No, this is not a good way to think about it at all.

      The right way to think about Lorentz contraction and time dilation is to realize that there is no way to globally define time / length. The only way to really measure a time interval is to keep a clock next to you at all times, and the only way to really measure a length is to have the object right next to you. The reason length contraction and time dilation feel surprising is because you are imagining that it should be possible to extend your local time / distance measurements to every other object in the universe, but that’s just not how our universe works.

      Our universe does not care about having a consistent global measure of time / length. What it does care about is having a finite, universally agreed upon speed of information transfer. The universe simply does not care if you agree on length measurements with someone who is far away from you or moving relative to you. And in fact, if the universe does have a universally agreed upon speed then it logically has to give up on universal time / length.

      All this is to say that there doesn’t need to be a mechanism for Lorentz contraction. It’s simply a consequence of the fact that observers agree on the universal speed of information transfer and not much else. If anything there would have to be a mechanism for why all observers everywhere in the universe should be able to agree on lengths and times.

      As for your corollary, it doesn’t make any sense to ask “why you can’t exceed C.” You don’t have a speed. I don’t have a speed. You and I can both observe other objects moving relative to ourselves, but we each have zero speed with respect to ourselves. The correct question is “why do I never see objects moving faster than C, even when they accelerate forever?”

      The answer to this question is harder to answer without math. I might come back to it. But it has to do with the fact that observers don’t agree on lengths on times. This means they disagree on speeds in regular, calculable ways, and according to those rules no observer will ever see another observer moving faster than C. Again, the universe cares more on everyone agreeing on C than it does on letting things accelerate as much as they want relative to other things.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Our universe does not care about having a consistent global measure of time / length. What it does care about is having a finite, universally agreed upon speed of information transfer.

        The “information transfer”/”causality wavefront” interpretation of c really bugs me for some reason. I think it’s more accurate to say that relative speed mediates the amount of energy that it takes to breach another reference frame in some amount of relative time, with c setting the upper limit of infinite energy.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Okay, I am an observer watching a relativistic object pass by.

        The information about its position cannot itself exceed C, so from my perspective, there should be a gravitational compression wave. Since gravity is just distortion of space-time, there should be some sort of coordinate distortion happening from my perspective, right?

        If that isn’t the Lorentz contraction, what is it?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          If there were gravitational waves around anything traveling near c (from the observer’s point of view) wouldn’t we have been able to observe them in particle accelerators? We wouldn’t have needed LIGO observing merging black holes to detect them.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I mean, there should be gravitational waves whenever anything moves at all, since gravity doesn’t instantly update to reflect the changing position of a mass. I think the standard explanation is that they’re generally too weak to detect.

            LIGO, as I understand it, is taking advantage of the fact that particular wave shapes produced by particular kinds of events are uniquely detectable, because they induce a particular kind of tension (compression and expansion along a particular axis relative to the direction of propogation).

        • smocc says:

          “so… there should be a gravitational compression wave”

          No. Why do you think this? What theory are you using to predict this, and what assumptions does that theory make?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Relativity? I am confused what the issue is.

            Object A is at position Q1 at time T1. At time T2, it is at position Q2. Coordinate Q3, which lays in the line of motion, receives the updated information about the position of A after some delay. The faster A is moving, the further it has moved before the updated information arrives at Q3. The faster it is moving, the faster the total gravitation experienced by Q3 increases. Thus, the faster A is moving, the faster the gravitational gradient increases. A stronger gradient, given that gravity is itself a coordinate density gradient, implies greater gravitational force itself, in an analogue to blueshifting.

            Is there a reason we shouldn’t expect this?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Thegnskald

            Yes, and it’s the same reason why the moon doesn’t fly off into space; there’s an inertia term in gravity. See: here

          • Thegnskald says:

            Hoopy –

            That just implies that the gravitational waves have the same velocity-vector as the originating mass relative to the observer (which I think we’d expect, since from the originating mass’s reference frame, it isn’t moving, so it would be weird if its gravitational field had a velocity relative to itself).

            From the moving object’s reference plane, it’s local spacial topography remains flat. It is only the observer who would perceive the compression wave. (Indeed, I thinj the inertial term requires a compression wave, looking at it from that direction, because Lorentz compression would apply to the gravitational field as well, relative to the observer?)

          • Thegnskald says:

            Actually, that might be a more useful direction to explain why we should definitely expect a compression wave, from the perspective of an outside observer:

            Consider our moving mass, and the area of space one thousand meters around it. Given that gravity has an inertial term – which we’d expect, again, given that from the mass’s reference frame it isn’t moving, and gravity without an inertial term both produces a privileged reference frame and also would be moving relative to any mass that is itself moving relative to that reference frame – we can assume Lorentz Contraction, which exists with respect to speed relative to an observer and not mass, must also apply to the gravitational field itself. Meaning our one thousand meter area around the mass also experiences contraction – or at least the gravitational field must. Voila – gravitational compression wave.

            I think that has causality reversed, because I don’t think you need Lorentz Contraction as an independent event once you have a compression wave, but I think it should suggest a compression wave is necessary.

          • smocc says:

            Relativity? I am confused what the issue is.

            Relativity is the very reason your compression wave idea doesn’t make sense. Relativity is the principle that the laws of physics must work the same according to every inertial observer. In other words, the laws of physics can’t depend on how fast you’re moving, because “how fast you’re moving” isn’t a well-defined concept; it’s relative.

            This means that if there’s a law of physics that says that objects moving at constant radiate gravitational waves with measurable effects, then there must also be a law of physics that says that objects at rest radiate gravitational waves with measurable effects.

            So if I am sitting here at rest constantly radiating gravitational waves, where does the energy from those effects come from?

            The larger point I am trying to make is that you are trying to understand time dilation with general relativity, but that is backwards. General relativity has no explanation for time dilation, general relativity assumes time dilation / length contraction.

          • smocc says:

            Another point: even if you try to reframe the axioms of GR and then derive time dilation from it won’t work.

            If time dilation has something to do with the relative motion of the gravitational fields of two observers then shouldn’t the amount of time dilation should depend on the mass of the two observers? The more massive an object the stronger its gravitational field gradient, so the stronger the “compression wave” as it moves by.

            So if I do the classic time dilation experiment of putting identical clocks in a lab and on a jet on a round-trip does your theory predict that I will get more time dilation if I use heavier clocks? If not, why not?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Thegnskald

            we can assume Lorentz Contraction, which exists with respect to speed relative to an observer and not mass, must also apply to the gravitational field itself.

            Ok, I think I see the problem. Rest observer A sees ship B moving at a distance D_A.

            B sees A a distance D_A away as well.

            For both, the distance term in gravity (and EM radiation) is D_A. Spacetime doesn’t really “deform” around the ship; apparent distance is synonymous with distance. So there’s no compression wave – gavity propagates smoothly as long as the acceleration that got A and B to different speeds is an inertial process.

          • Thegnskald says:

            smocc –

            Time dilation being proportional to mass is already built into GR even without this, so it doesn’t change anything.

            To demonstrate this with another thought experiment, GR says time runs slower in a stronger gravity well. So, let’s imagine a clock on the moon, and a clock on earth. Earth clock runs slower than moon clock – let’s exaggerate and say time passes half as quickly on Earth.

            Okay, accelerate both moon and earth to relativistic speeds. We should expect the earth clock to continue to lose six months per year compared to the moon clock, provided they share a common reference frame (that is, we accelerate them to the same speed).

            If their shared reference frame experiences time dilation such that one year passes internally, and ten years passes from an observer’s reference frame, then relative to the observer (let’s suppose our observer sits on a mass the size of the moon), the moon is nine years behind, whereas the earth is nine years and six months behind. The Earth continues to experience half the subjective time as the moon relative to the observer, regardless of the relativistic time dilation. Meaning a more massive object does, indeed, experience greater time dilation, directly proportional to its relative velocity.

            ETA:

            Granted that from an observer on an Earth mass’s perspective, the loss would be different, but the relative ratios would be consistent. I chose figures here for simplicity.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Thegnskald

            That’s uh… not quite right. c still sets a limit on how much faster you can be; if you can imagine a blackhole accelerating to near-c, you can see that it can’t work like this.

            See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_dilation#Combined_effect_of_velocity_and_gravitational_time_dilation

          • Thegnskald says:

            hoopy –

            I am uncertain what you are contradicting in what I said?

            (Also, what do you imagine to happen if you have a relativistic singularity, and what is that supposed to illuminate? I don’t think we can even meaningfully talk about locality with respect to singularities, which kind of limits what kinds of reference frame we can consider for that case.)

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Thegnskald

            You’re not right about how the time dilation effects stack up. The fact that the two planets are 6 months out of sync with each other from each other’s perspective does NOT mean that they’re six months out of sync with each other in another reference frame. The black hole example is to show that a massive object traveling at near-lightspeed will, to an external observer, seem to have a similar time dilation to a less-massive object traveling alongside it, since the apparent dilation is still limited to a maximum.

          • smocc says:

            @Thegnskald

            You are correct that gravitational fields are one possible source of time dilation, but that is definitely not the same as saying that gravitational fields are the source of all time dilation, which is my point.

            Gravitational time dilation is a real thing, but so is non-gravitational time dilation, as evidenced by the jet experiment. How does your model account for the jet experiment not depending on the mass of the clocks?

          • Thegnskald says:

            smocc –

            I’m going to have to think on that when I’m less distracted. As I understand it, a lot of the solutions for figuring out time paths basically end up modeling acceleration as a relativistic gravity-analogue, and using that to solve simultaneity problems. That might be a useful direction to go to consider the question, but I got thoroughly distracted when I noticed that if I reverse the causality between relative velocity and the Lorentz coordinate compression wave, I get some really weird results that have sent me back into crackpot land. Notably, that conservation of momentum becomes a specific case of conservation of metric, and that potential energy is just bound metric.

            Which, while it resolves the question we’re discussing, is outside the realm of real physics, and I’m too distracted now to consider the real physics in question.

            The short version, and my apologies for dropping out of the discussion, is that it looks like the only part that may matter once you re-synchronize reference frames is the acceleration itself, which may or may not be gravity-like.

          • smocc says:

            Before you get too far remember that time dilation doesn’t need acceleration at all. We can watch time dilation happen just by putting a strobe light on a spaceship and watching how the flashes reach us at a slower interval. The spaceship doesn’t have to be accelerating for this to happen.

            (And it doesn’t matter that the spaceship accelerated in the past. It could be a primordial star passing by and the frequencies of its spectral emissions would be time-dilated just like the strobe light on the spaceship)

          • Thegnskald says:

            smocc –

            Figured out what is going on.

            The compression bubble explanation still works, and gravity is still important, but not the way my original explanation implied.

            Time dilation is caused by velocity. Time dilation divergence is caused by gravity, because gravity bends spacetime. Accelerating an object doesn’t accelerate the entire gravitational field instantly, causing abberation in the movement through spacetime.

    • fion says:

      smocc’s answer is good, and probably a clearer answer than the one I’m going to give, but mine is also true and may be helpful if your brain is weird in the same sort of way as mine. (Note, I use quotes on words like “speed” to show that I’m using a standard word in a non-standard way. Our vocabulary is too limited, which is why we normally use mathematics for this sort of thing.)

      Imagine a four-dimensional spacetime populated by clocks moving at various speeds. It is sufficient to consider only two dimensions; one space, one time, if that makes it easier to think visually. We take a God’s eye view of the situation and we can see the whole of spacetime. Time doesn’t pass for us, we see it all at once. All the clocks “move” through this spacetime at the same “speed” and that “speed” is c. But for some of them, the “direction” they move in is exactly along the time dimension and for others it’s more along the space dimension. From the point of view of a clock in the universe, this looks like some clocks are stationary and others are moving very rapidly.

      Time dilation can be understood like this (I think length contraction can too, but it takes more steps). The clocks that are moving fast from an in-universe view are “moving” with a large component of their fixed “speed” in the space dimension, so they’ve got less left over for the time dimension and so their time passes more slowly. The clocks that are stationary from an in-universe view are “moving” with all their fixed “speed” in the time dimension, so their time passes more quickly.

      So you can’t exceed c because that’s all the “speed” you’ve got. You can change its “direction” so that more of it is pointing in the space dimension, but you can’t change its absolute size.

      I also want to say that special relativity works in a universe that contains no gravity. As it happens our universe does contain gravity, which is what general relativity is for, but gravitational explanations are never, ever required (or even helpful) for special relativity.

      • Thegnskald says:

        That particular explanation is the one I used to favor, but it turns out to be misleading in specific and important ways, namely in terms of accidentally treating particular reference frames as important. (Namely, it assumes a static reference frame of zero motion.)

        The issue with that understanding arises in trying to understand the twin paradox. The simplest version of the twin paradox, removing all the misleading factors, looks like this: Imagine two spaceships, each of which contains a twin. One spaceship accelerates off into the distance, the other stays “still”.

        From the perspective of each ship, the other is the one that is moving, and thus the one experiencing slower time. So, if the spaceships meet again, which twin is younger?

        The answer is that it is the twin which experienced acceleration, and the actual difference is proportional to the amount of acceleration experienced. Velocity is meaningless, it is part of the reference frame. Acceleration, however, is apparently meaningful, and is at the core of such time dilation.

        (Note this gets complicated in the case of a gravity well, and velocity alone, relative to a gravity well, is sufficient to experience “true” time dilation, such that when reference frames are resynchronized they have experienced distinct subjective times. The key point is that the time dilation in that situation is relative to the escape velocity, which is to say, is relative to the mass of the gravity well and the distance from it. This is the substantial part of the time dilation experienced by satellites and astronauts.)

        My explanation, particularly as it pertains to time dilation, is missing something, but I haven’t identified what yet. I am reasonably certain that the “compression wave” is at least partly responsible for the speed of light limitation, since it necessarily implies subjective distances increase with relative velocity – as your gravity well, which is subjectively flat space, also gets Lorentz Contracted along with you, and your acceleration is in this Lorentz-Contracted space (as opposed to the stationary observer’s observed flat space). This is also important in my understanding of why the “two travelers heading towards each other at greater than .5c” situation isn’t a problem – subjective space is bent such that subjective speeds do not exceed c.

        The problem, from my perspective, is figuring out how time bends in this situation. If time dilation relative to an arbitrary proper time depends on acceleration, not velocity, time isn’t bent in exactly the same way space is, which contradicts my understanding. Need to do more thinking.

        ETA:

        Yes, I realize the reference frame implicit in the concept of “proper time”, but I do think there is something important in the different way gravity (and acceleration in general) based time dilation behaves, and the way velocity based time dilation behaves. We can of course just say that both twins experience time dilation that almost exactly cancels out, except for the difference created by acceleration, but that begs the question of why acceleration is special. I think it pertains to derivatives, and suspect it has to do specifically with the transfer of derivatives – the transfer of velocity – but I need a lot more thought to make sense of that, and it gets into crackpotty stuff about how the conservation of metric might explain things, if we treat velocity as an equally conserved derivative of metric, such that momentum IS the compression bubble, scraps of partial-space created by the reorganization of metric space in gravity wells. My crackpotty stuff is very close to saying that everything is metric, is space, and all conservation laws are specific cases of the conservation of metric. But that is, again, a tangent.

        Also, the compression bubble, if we don’t treat proper time as special, still works as an explanation, I think, but I’m too far off on this tangent to think carefully about that one.

        ETA again:

        Oh! Durr. Abberation. The compression bubble explanation works fine, acceleration just causes abberation – the gravitational field doesn’t accelerate instantly, so spacetime bends slightly.

  7. johan_larson says:

    So, a Canadian court has ordered Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Huawei, released on bail subject to various security measures during hearings for her extradition to the United States. I have to believe there is a substantial chance she is simply going to hightail it to China in short order. Odds, anyone?

    • Walter says:

      Grah, very difficult. I’d say 1 in 5 she does as you say, 4 in five she sticks around and fights it out. I think she is too tied into the system to forsake it, and her company/country value their relationship to the USA/Canada too much to let her. But like you say, it is an obvious out.

    • John Schilling says:

      That’s almost entirely up to the Chinese government, because if Meng skips bail when Xi would have preferred she stay in Canada, she’s going to wind up wishing she had stayed in a safe, comfortable Canadian jail.

      And the winningest possible outcome for China is the one where Meng stands her ground and either Canada or the US blinks. So the only way it is safe for Meng to flee, is if Beijing determines that the favored outcome is highly unlikely to happen and wants to cut their losses. But even then they are balancing three different types of loss: the loss of prestige from being visibly unable to protect one of their citizens abroad, the loss of a high-profile martyr and the ability to use her as a focus for anti-Americanism or anti-Canadianism when politically convenient, and the loss of Huawei’s remaining business opportunities in the US.

      On the balance, it’s not looking good for Meng being invited home to China without her first winning in court.

      • johan_larson says:

        Well, China is threatening Canada with unspecified consequences for this arrest. And they’re not expressing their concern and claiming Meng will win in court; they are insisting she is innocent and should be released immediately.

        I can’t tell whether that’s just supporting the home team and or something more.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        I think the Chinese government would think it worse to shelter a high-profile fugitive from justice than to let her go to trial, honestly. Depending on what beans she has to spill, that is. If it’s just about what she was arrested for, everyone knows that, so China can put out their boilerplate disavowal/denial and move on. If she has actual state secrets, that calculus obviously changes, but either way I think the direct reputational effects are worse if she flees than if she stays.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Does the US or Canada have extradition treaties with China? Putting aside what Pooh wants, would they have to give her up from mainland China anyway?

      • johan_larson says:

        According to the Globe & Mail, a major Canadian newspaper, China does not have an extradition treaty with the US or Canada.

    • Tenacious D says:

      This has become a very awkward situation for Canada. After the arrest, Canadian authorities could at least claim it was just a standard extradition case–no political interference, just the rule of law–but now Trump has indicated that Meng could be a bargaining chip in trade negotiations with China. Meanwhile in China, a former Canadian diplomat who now works for a think-tank in Hong Kong was arrested in what looks like a tit-for-tat. The incident is also making it hard to ignore the way some politicians and community groups in B.C. tow the CCP party line, which could cause problems if serious conflict with China ever arises.

  8. Le Maistre Chat says:

    If people wanted to practice the long jump indoors, how high would you have to make the ceiling for safety?

    • Nornagest says:

      From eyeballing long jump records on YouTube, twelve feet or so ought to do it. The guys in the Olympics only seem to get up to about half their height in altitude.

      The current high jump record is eight feet and change, but that’s accomplished by sort of flopping over the bar at its apex — the jumper’s head is nowhere near their height + 8 feet up, and their center of gravity can actually be below the bar.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        From eyeballing long jump records on YouTube, twelve feet or so ought to do it. The guys in the Olympics only seem to get up to about half their height in altitude.

        Your second sentence only adds up to nine feet + a bit.
        And yeah, high jumps are done with the Fosbury flop. The record male jumper’s center of gravity is never more than ~5 feet above its starting position. If you thrust your arm completely perpendicular to the bar, fingertips reach <10.5 feet.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m adding a generous margin, yes. But twelve-foot ceilings aren’t exactly hard to come by — just about any room large enough for the run-up would have one.

  9. dick says:

    Lengthy article in the Atlantic analyzing the causes of and results of a decade’s worth of budget cuts at the IRS.

    Summary for busy people: The IRS has had its budget cut substantially since about 2010. Audits are way down (42% fewer in 2017 than in 2010); the number of auditors is down as well. Investigations of nonfilers are down, from 2.4M in 2011 to 362k last year. Expired obligations (money the IRS thinks it is owed, but gives up on due to it being more than 10 years old) are way up, from $482M in 2011 to $8.3B last year, a 17x increase. Corporations and the wealthy are the main benefactors. A person who makes $25K/yr now has about the same odds of being audited as someone who makes $500K, largely due to GOP pressure to investigate EITC recipients. The result of all this is a large drop in audit revenue, from $23B in 2010 to $14B in 2017 (for reference, the IRS budget cuts over the same period were about $2B). Tax receipts are up over the same period, due to the economic recovery, but tax receipts as a % of GDP are as you would expect down, from 18% to 15%. No one knows how much tax avoidance has resulted from all of this, as the IRS lacks the funds to find out.

    • cassander says:

      >but tax receipts as a % of GDP are as you would expect down, from 18% to 15%.

      This is wildly inaccurate. Taxes as a share of GDP were 14.6% in 2010, and are 16.7% today. Getting something this basic wrong inclines me to distrust the entire article, even if it weren’t for the rather silly suggestion that a 10% decline in IRS personnel could could reduce tax collection by 1/6.

      As for taxes overall, the richest 1/5 made 45% of income in 1979 and paid about 55% of taxes. In 2013, the rich made 52% of income and paid 69% of taxes. Sadly the CBO has not updated that particular report more recently, but it’s quite clear that taxes on the rich aren’t going down. they’re going up, rather strongly.

      Whether or not the IRS is doing it’s job properly, and has enough funding to do it, is an important question. I wish the author of this piece had actually seriously addressed it rather than writing an ideological rant about how republicans are terrible. And I love how it mentions public distrust of the IRS, while somehow not mentioning the shenanigans they got up targeting conservative political groups from 2010-12. It cinches the case that this article is not to be trusted.

      • dick says:

        Taxes as a share of GDP were 14.6% in 2010, and are 16.7% today.

        My bad, that should’ve been from 1997 to 2018. The error was mine, not the article’s. It’s annoying that that graph used a different range than almost all of the statistics in the article, but to be fair the graph shows that it went up and down quite a bit, so you could present a very misleading picture by moving the start year a little earlier or a little later. Given that, showing a much larger time span that shows the overall downward trend seems much more honest.

        the rather silly suggestion that a 10% decline in IRS personnel could could reduce tax collection by 1/6

        Would be interested to see the citation.

        it’s quite clear that taxes on the rich aren’t going down

        No one said they were. I (paraphrasing the article) said the rich were the primary beneficiaries of reduced enforcement. Do you dispute this?

        writing an ideological rant about how republicans are terrible.

        This is not an ideological rant and it’s irresponsible to frame it as one. It says that the push for cutting IRS budgets is almost all from the GOP, which seems accurate, and it explains in some detail what their justification was, in an even-handed way that absolutely does not reduce to “they’re in bed with big business” or some other straw-man exaggeration. Please don’t use airy generalizations to insert needless partisanship in to an already-contentious issue; quote the passage you disagree with and explain why you disagree with it.

        • I (paraphrasing the article) said the rich were the primary beneficiaries of reduced enforcement. Do you dispute this?

          How do you know? It would depend on how the reduced resources were employed.

          And how do you square the figure you quoted of 15% in 2018 with the figure Cassander quoted of 16.7% today? Both of those appear to be claims about the same date.

          • dick says:

            How do you know? It would depend on how the reduced resources were employed.

            That was a near quote, not me inserting my own opinion: “Corporations and the wealthy are the biggest beneficiaries of the IRS’s decay. Most Americans’ interaction with the IRS is largely automated. But it takes specialized, well-trained personnel to audit a business or a billionaire or to unravel a tax scheme—and those employees are leaving in droves and taking their expertise with them. For the country’s largest corporations, the danger of being hit with a billion-dollar tax bill has greatly diminished. For the rich, who research shows evade taxes the most, the IRS has become less and less of a force to be feared.”

            Also worth noting, the article mentions that (due to a 1998 IRS-reform law) the IRS is required to grade auditors by how many audits they complete rather than how much money they bring in.

            And how do you square the figure you quoted of 15% in 2018 with the figure Cassander quoted of 16.7% today? Both of those appear to be claims about the same date.

            I don’t, the article only cited a source without numbers and Cassander didn’t cite anything. I don’t know which is more accurate and don’t know that it matters. I would hazard a guess that reason for the discrepancy is two different methods of estimation, since it deals with a year that hasn’t ended yet.

        • cassander says:

          My bad, that should’ve been from 1997 to 2018.

          the article is still getting the 2018 figure wrong, and 1997 was near the peak of the dot com boom, one of the 5 highest grossing tax years since world war two. that just slides them from “careless” to “either careless or actively trying to decieve”. taxes have averaged about17-18% of GDP since the korean war, right now we’re slightly below that average, but in 2015, long after the decline the article documents started, we were at 18.1%.

          Would be interested to see the citation.

          Forgive me if I misread you but I don’t see how “taxes as a % of GDP are as you would expect down, from 18% to 15%.” is anything other than a claim that the declines in IRS personal led to a 1/6 decline in revenue.

          No one said they were. I (paraphrasing the article) said the rich were the primary beneficiaries of reduced enforcement. Do you dispute this?

          When the title of the article is “the golden age of the rich not paying their taxes”, yes I do dispute this. the rich are paying more tax than ever. Now, it might also be true that the laws are being enforced against them less, but I don’t trust this author’s word on that subject when he’s so loose with facts that I can verify.

          It says that the push for cutting IRS budgets is almost all from the GOP, which seems accurate, .

          The decline in the budget occurs almost entirely in years when the white house and senate were controlled by democrats. If it’s true that republicans pushed to cut the IRS, then democrats didn’t bother pushing back, despite having had the power to do so.

          n an even-handed way that absolutely does not reduce to “they’re in bed with big business” or some other straw-man exaggeration.

          No, it’s not. And it absolutely does reduce the debate to good vs. bad. “The new majority’s main priority was tax cuts, and vilifying the IRS helped its case” is not a neutral statement. No motive is ever ascribed to republicans except love of wrecking.

          And this article lost any claim to even handedness when it completely left out out any mention of the biggest IRS scandal of the decade, its targeting of conservative groups, while mentioning many other, lesser scandals. that can’t be attributed to anything other than deliberate obfuscation.

          • dick says:

            And this article lost any claim to even handedness when it completely left out out any mention of the biggest IRS scandal of the decade, its targeting of conservative groups

            Ctrl-F “Lois Lerner”. I’m going to stop defending the article now, if you feel it’s leftist propaganda than so be it.

          • cassander says:

            @dick

            My apologies, I missed that sentence. But that they didn’t completely ignore that issue doesn’t make up for the many errors in the article, or the naked partisanship.

          • dick says:

            To someone that is sufficiently far to one side, everything looks biased towards the other side. Part of rationality is, or at least should be, understanding your own biases and accounting for them, so that you can distinguish the sort of bias that indicates lying or deception from the sort of bias which indicates a good-faith effort to convey accurate information from someone who doesn’t share your ideology.

          • cassander says:

            To someone that is sufficiently far to one side, everything looks biased towards the other side. Part of rationality is, or at least should be, understanding your own biases and accounting for them, so that you can distinguish the sort of bias that indicates lying or deception from the sort of bias which indicates a good-faith effort to convey accurate information from someone who doesn’t share your ideology.

            I might say pot, this is kettle, you’re black. If someone wants me to consider them reliable, I expect them to get basic figures correct, to use figures that aren’t cherry picked (or to know enough to pick numbers that don’t look like they were), and to represent the people who disagree with them as motivated by something other than malice. This article fails on all three fronts.

            The first two I’ve already addressed. As for the third, the story is driven almost entirely by comments from disaffected IRS employees who say precisely what you would of the rare government employees who actually saw their budgets cut. Despite the fact that the budget was cut while there was a democratic senate and a democratic president, the blame is placed entirely on republicans, to whom no motive is ascribed besides sheer love of wrecking. Despite their best efforts, the biggest figure they can come up with for actual lost revenues is 18 billion missing in 2017 as a result of this reduced staffing, which is about 1/2 of 1% of federal revenue that year, and despite this catastrophic consequences are ascribed, implicitly a 3% of GDP decline in revenues, which amounts to 600 billion dollars.

            Now, it might very well be that the IRS cuts have been problematic, but these authors have rendered themselves completely untrustworthy as carriers of that message through their mistakes, mis-representations, and refusal to countenance that the people who disagree with them might be something other than saboteurs.

          • dick says:

            the blame is placed entirely on republicans, to whom no motive is ascribed besides sheer love of wrecking.

            This is just bullshit. Here are some of the motives cited, with quotes:

            * Cutting taxes

            The new [1994 House Republican] majority’s main priority was tax cuts, and vilifying the IRS helped its case.

            * Alleged abuses and mismanagement

            In 1997 and 1998, the Republican-controlled Senate held a series of dramatic hearings on alleged abuses by the IRS… Congress followed the hearings with a sweeping overhaul of the agency, limiting the IRS’s collection powers and independence and giving taxpayers new protections. In the Senate, the reform bill passed 97–0 and President Bill Clinton signed it.

            * Defunding Obamacare

            The first bill introduced by House Republicans in 2011 was a budget that slashed funding across the government and took special aim at the IRS… the bill prohibited the IRS from using any of its funding to carry out key parts of the Affordable Care Act. It didn’t pass. Since then, Republicans have cited the ACA as a reason to withhold funding from the IRS.

            * Lack of support from either party

            The agency faces a structural political problem. On one side are anti-tax Republicans, while on the other are Democrats who fear publicly supporting the taxman. “This is an agency that doesn’t have any friends,” says James Dyer, a Republican who worked for years on the House Appropriations Committee staff. “There’s no advocacy on the Hill for them except what they do for themselves.”

            * Different alleged abuses and mismanagement

            In May [of 2013], an IRS inspector general reported that the agency had targeted right-leaning nonprofits for scrutiny, igniting what came to be known as the Lois Lerner scandal… Shortly thereafter, another report criticized the IRS for loose spending on its conferences. Republicans seized on both scandals, calling hearings and launching investigations…

            * To encourage fiscal discipline

            The cuts also forced discipline, Republicans argued. “We deliberately lowered the IRS funding to a level that would make the IRS think twice about what you are doing and why you are doing it,” [Florida Representative] Crenshaw told [IRS head] Koskinen in a hearing, “because you don’t have a single dime to spare on anything frivolous or foolhardy or even mediocre.”)

            Really going to try not to engage any further on this, for obvious reasons.

          • cassander says:

            * Cutting taxes

            Not cutting taxes, abandoning “a long shared and grudging consensus that the agency’s basic work of tax collection deserved protection.”

            * Alleged abuses and mismanagement

            Abuses that the article spends a great deal of time pointing out were fictitious.

            * Defunding Obamacare

            Yep, wrecking.

            * Lack of support from either party

            The agency faces a structural political problem. On one side are anti-tax Republicans, while on the other are Democrats who fear publicly supporting the taxman.”

            Democrats want to do the right thing, but those republicans have whipped up a mob!

            * Different alleged abuses and mismanagement

            Which, again, are cast as excuses not principles. “Nevertheless, the scandals provided the rationale for ongoing budget cuts.”

            * To encourage fiscal discipline

            This is the closest the article gets to actually allowing the other side an argument.

            Look, I don’t expect to convince you to join the dark side, I just want to point out that what looks balanced to you doesn’t look balanced to others. This sort of dignified but relentless castigation of the outgroup is the atlantic’s bread and butter.

  10. fion says:

    Does the following dilemma have a name?

    You’re a member of a group of people who can vote on an outcome. You want outcome A, but more than that, you want to be in the majority because votes are public and bad things might happen to the losing side. You believe that outcome B will be the majority decision. So you’re forced to vote for B.

    Perhaps it can be made better by saying that the ‘bad things’ that happen to the losing side are worse the bigger the majority is, so by voting for B you’re making things worse for any few A loyalists that remain. What if lots of people are in the same boat as you? The vote for B could go from being a very narrow majority to a very large majority due to everybody thinking along the same lines as you.

    It feels a bit ‘prisoners dilemma’-y, but it also feels different enough that it might have a distinct name. Any ideas?

    • Randy M says:

      It’s the state before a preference cascade. It’s also similar to what’s going on in the Emperor’s new clothes fable, where no one wants to be the person to honestly say what everyone is thinking.

      • Well... says:

        I was gonna say it kinda reminds me of the Abilene Paradox, which is similar: no one wants to be the person who says what everyone else is thinking.

        • AG says:

          Randy M and Well…’s examples are closer to drop-in-the-bucket fallacy (see also Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment), but fion’s situation isn’t “secret silent majority,” but that B genuinely is the majority, which will not change even if all secret believers of A vote truthfully.

        • albatross11 says:

          A keynesian beauty contest is a beauty contest where you win by betting with the majority–that’s pretty close to your scenario.

    • Eric Rall says:

      That sounds like a Keynesian Beauty Contest. The concept (and name) comes from a thought experiment Lord Keynes proposed to illustrate some of the dynamics involved in stock market prices: in the experiment, there’s a beauty contest which is judged by a mass audience of voters, and those whose votes most closely match the final outcome are eligible for a reward. So the voters (if rationally seeking the prize in Home Economicus fashion) aren’t really judging beauty so much as they’re trying to predict how other voters are likely to vote.

  11. Randy M says:

    Very random question: does anyone know how much Confucian thought influences present day China and how it is regarded by modern Chinese? What would be a good resource for this?

    • Nick says:

      I read Confucianism: A Very Short Introduction earlier this year, which has it that the Cultural Revolution targeted it and sharply curbed its influence, including destroying temples and burning books. China has loosened this more recently, using Confucian as a selling point of Chinese culture, like with the Confucius Institutes. But that was a very brief section of the book, the last ten or fifteen pages.

      • Randy M says:

        Cool, thanks. I was wondering how likely a future is where Chinese leadership pushes a return to a form of Confucianism as a more authentic way of being Chinese than either communism or capitalism (without necessarily changing any of the economic arrangements that have evolved over the last half century).
        Such wondering was somewhat inhibited by my lack of all knowledge concerning China and Confucianism, of course.

        • The Chinese have always been rather half-hearted in their support of a Confucian government because it’s not very realistic. The ideal Confucian state, from what I can tell, is this sort of a feudalistic society where the central government doesn’t do much and the virtue of the sovereign brings good fortune to the people. I can’t imagine the Communist Party deciding to do that.

          • The virtue of the sovereign convinces the people to be virtuous, so no punishment of bad behavior is needed.

            That has never been the practice of the Chinese empire, even though it is Confucian theory and every empire from the Han on has claimed to be Confucian.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Perhaps the Chinese have been unable to find sovereigns virtuous enough to implement the practice?

          • Statismagician says:

            You know, if we could just quantify human variability with respect to virtuousness, we could figure out how many people there would need to be before a sufficiently-virtuous sovereign might be statistically expected to appear and then give them supreme power. What could possibly go wrong?

          • acymetric says:

            @Statismagician

            Identifying which person is the virtuous sovereign? You’ve determined statistically that one should exist once past a certain population threshold, but that doesn’t address finding them.

          • Statismagician says:

            @acymetric

            Nonsense. We know that sufficient virtue has tangible positive effects on those associated with the virtuous person, and that humanity does not require coercion to acknowledge sufficient virtue or its inherent suitability for rulership (or else the Confucian state would need a much more active central government), so we just look for some unusually-virtuous group of people and see if their leader is as virtuous as predicted. Evidently no sufficiently-virtuous person has existed (at least recently), so we’re dealing with somebody way out on the virtuousness distribution; there shouldn’t be that many false positives.

            A potential failure of this approach would be if sufficient virtue only propagates downwards through existing hierarchies, but this can be addressed by setting up enough small organizations that everybody gets to be head of one, and then conducting large-scale virtue-epidemiology surveillance programs.

        • Argos says:

          Whatever Confucian values are, Xi Jinping is trying to use (some of) them to fill the cultural void left after the Cultural Revolution and rapid economical growth in the Chinese Dream campaign. A primer : http://time.com/4077693/chinese-dream-xi-jinping/

          The Chinese Dream, however, promotes xiao, the Confucian virtue of filial piety, as an essential element, and Xi stresses reverential study of Chinese classics.

          Mao and other early leaders of the CCP embraced Lu Xun’s critique of reverence for tradition, rallying around a robustly cosmopolitan magazine called New Youth, founded 100 years ago and in which “Diary of a Madman” ran. Once in power, they worked to purge China of the influence of Confucius. Only recently has Beijing diverged from that critical appraisal of the classical legacy, while unfortunately retaining mostly just one key element of an imported creed: the Leninist obsession on the need for a strong and disciplined party to call the shots.

  12. johan_larson says:

    Let’s talk about reasonable villains. What are some examples in fiction of people who opposed the protagonists yet wanted reasonable things and went about getting them in a sensible, logical way?

    Let’s start with Avon Barksdale, from The Wire. He wanted money, first to buy a good secure life for himself, which is what the drug business got him, and second to become someone of consequence, which is what the real estate purchases were all about. He was violent, certainly. But I never got the sense that he killed casually. If his gang killed someone, it was because the target threatened the business somehow. If Barksdale had been on the right side of the law, he would have been running a local chain of restaurants or something, and funneling the profits into real estate purchases in poor areas that seemed likely to get gentrified. And the operation was so carefully structured that it took an entire task force of the Baltimore PD, with some very talented players on it, to bring it down.

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      The bad guy from Watchmen was the only one fixing the really big world problem. The “good guys” were actively destructive and violent, and their plan would have resulted in world destruction.

      Magneto (X-Men) lived through the Holocaust and was watching the world turn against a visible minority again. His enemies were trying to imprison and kill this minority whether they were breaking the law or not.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Ozymandias did decide to “fix” the problem by faking an alien invasion, though. The question of whether that was reasonable is never quite resolved.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          I only saw the movie, in which the more reasonable protagonists (reluctantly) agreed that he was right and they kept quiet about what really happened. In the other version, did they have the same realization?

          • albatross11 says:

            Yep. Same ending for Rorschack, who wasn’t inclined to be reasonable in any universe. (And The Comedian, who discovered the plot, but couldn’t bring himself to either prevent it or to go along with it.)

          • Nick says:

            (And The Comedian, who discovered the plot, but couldn’t bring himself to either prevent it or to go along with it.)

            Was there any evidence the Comedian was going to blow the whistle? My impression is that Ozymandias was worried he was, and that’s why he killed him, but I can’t recall whether the Comedian had taken any steps to.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think that’s just it. He could presumably have let Ozy know he was on board with the biggest goddamn joke in history, and he’d have been a big asset. But he couldn’t. And he’s surely obligated (as some kind of US government agent) to report what he’s found to the feds, but again, he couldn’t.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Dr. Manhattan does indicate that he may not have found a permanent solution, though (in the book).

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            @Nick: The Comedian snapped, Ozy couldn’t predict what he was going to do, and Blake already got drunk and babbled to Moloch once, so Veidt decided to kill him just in case (plus, Ozy was still salty about that time the Comedian kicked his ass).

    • Walter says:

      The antagonists from sports movies are often completely reasonable. Like, they just want to win another championship for Kingside High or what have you, keep their title belt, etc.

      The most recent Star Wars is interestingly skeptical of its protagonists ‘deserving’ to prevail.

      – The contractor that the heroes hire accepts employment from their antagonist immediately after, responding to their complaints by pointing out that he sees no difference between the two sides.
      – The heroes visit a location which manufactures weaponry and uses the profits to maintain a lifestyle the movie codes as morally abhorrent. They discover that their own side is buying this weaponry alongside the antagonist.
      – The heroes send out a desperate plea for assistance to the broader universe, letting everyone know that not helping means their regime will be replaced by the enemy’s. Literally no one responds, suggesting that the galactic community is apathetic about which party takes power.

      The bad guys aren’t ‘reasonable’, per se, they remain a choke-ocracy, but the movie seems to think that the ‘good guys’ are just as culpable. It is an interesting look for a series that was historically less nuanced.

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        Its just poorly written. Don’t try to think about it.

      • bullseye says:

        That contractor in Star Wars who saw no difference between the two sides is lying or hasn’t been paying attention. In the previous movie one of those sides destroyed several inhabited planets.

        • acymetric says:

          A lot of people seemed to love his character…I’m not sure I saw the appeal. Fully prepared for him to do something cool in the last movie though.

    • albatross11 says:

      Della Lu in The Peace War was ideologically committed to The Peace Authority’s mission, for intelligent and internally-consistent reasons that make sense.

      Tywin Lannister is internally consistent in his values–he’s basically all about kin selection, considering the family and house the most important thing in the world, and individual happiness or desires as much less important.

      • I don’t think kin selection accurately captures Tywin’s motivations. He doesn’t care so much about his individual family members(look at how he treats Tyrion), so much as the prestige of the Lannister name. It’s not just that he cares less about any persons happiness, but also that he doesn’t really care about their lives, only to the extent they produce heirs. He’s harsh but competent to avoid the shame he believes that his own father brought to his name and does everything he can to avoid that fate.

        Cersei, with regard to herself and her own children, better exemplifies the idea of kin selection.

        • Dack says:

          Tywin never considered Tyrion his son. Thus he doesn’t care whether Tyrion succeeds, is happy, etc. The interactions focus on avoiding shame to his name and completely discount anything positive. This is not how he treats Jaime and Cersei.

          • cassander says:

            eh, he treats them all pretty similarly.

          • Nornagest says:

            You’d think that such a family-oriented guy would have thought twice before letting his eldest son sign up for a job that involves a vow of celibacy, if he was planning on disavowing his younger one.

            I mean, we see him try to get Jaime released from those vows, sure, but he can’t have known that that would be an option. Kingsguard oaths are a very big deal in this universe.

          • cassander says:

            @Nornagest

            IIRC, it’s strongly implied that Tywin didn’t have much of a choice, and that Aerys made Jamie KG as a backhanded swipe at his overmighty vassal.

          • Nornagest says:

            That would explain a lot. Still, it’s odd that he waited so long to try and do anything about it. It should have been easy enough to get Robert to fire Jaime after he took the throne, under the circumstances — Jaime’s killing of Aerys would be more than enough pretext, and Tywin would have every reason to want it. Jaime wouldn’t be happy, but Tywin’s never cared much about that, and he was a 15-year-old boy at the time — he’d get over it.

          • albatross11 says:

            Wouldn’t Jaime and Cersei both have wanted Jaime to stick around as as kingsguard member?

          • John Schilling says:

            Who cares what Jamie and Cersei want? Tywin is The Man, er, was The Man, and Tywin presumably wants grandchildren whose surname is “Lannister”. Where is he going to get them, if Jamie is officially celibate and Tyrion is a mutie freakish half-man of dubious legitimacy and genetic viability, and what happens to House Lannister if he doesn’t?

          • Dack says:

            IIRC, Jaime was done-deal KGed without Tywin’s knowledge or consent.

            I’m guessing Tywin’s preferred option was to get Jaime eventually released from service. He’s a kingslayer, he lost his sword hand, a third strike shouldn’t be hard to provoke or fabricate.

            I would guess the backup plan would be to get Tyrion to sire a legitimate heir (No prostitutes!) and then steal the child and quietly off Tyrion. It would be a Lannister in name and his wife’s child at least.

            If those schemes failed he’d probably settle for naming a nephew or grandchild as his heir.

          • Nick says:

            If those schemes failed he’d probably settle for naming a nephew or grandchild as his heir.

            Right, that was always an option. Someone points out in the series the Lannisters are a pretty fertile bunch—Tywin has his brother Kevan’s family, and I believe a few more distant family members are mentioned.

          • bullseye says:

            I don’t see how getting Jaime fired could have been his plan, at least in the books (I’m less familiar with the show). Until Joffrey fired Ser Barristan, the only way to leave the Kingsguard was to die or join the Night’s Watch. Joffrey firing Barristan happened because Cersei was regent and, unlike almost everyone else with power, she doesn’t care about tradition or precedent.

            While he refuses to name Tyrion as his heir, it’s never clear how he actually expects to stop him from inheriting. Maybe he does have a secret plan to kill Tyrion, but why wait so long? Jaime has been on the Kingsguard for 15 or 20 years when the first novel starts.

          • John Schilling says:

            If those schemes failed he’d probably settle for naming a nephew or grandchild as his heir.

            Nephew, maybe, but I’d expect whatever nephew is the heir presumptive in that scenario to play a much bigger part in the story. Whether he wants to or not, see e.g. Ivan Vorpatril.

            Grandchild, I’m not sure how that’s supposed to work. The whole problem is that Tywin has no source of legitimate Lannister grandchildren – Jamie is celibate by law and custom, Cersei is Baratheon by law and custom, and Tyrion is disinherited. If we biologically produce an infant with a set of chromosomes from any of the three, that person is Officially Not A Lannister Heir or Grandchild.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t see how getting Jaime fired could have been his plan, at least in the books (I’m less familiar with the show). Until Joffrey fired Ser Barristan, the only way to leave the Kingsguard was to die or join the Night’s Watch. Joffrey firing Barristan happened because Cersei was regent and, unlike almost everyone else with power, she doesn’t care about tradition or precedent.

            Joffrey’s dismissal of Barristan was unprecedented, but so was Jaime killing Aerys. And for that matter I don’t think we know if there’s any precedent for usurping kings keeping their predecessors’ Kingsguard. Robert’s ascent was a pretty chaotic time; precedents were being broken left and right. And we know Tywin’s okay with breaking traditional norms when it suits him: see the Red Wedding.

            If Tywin felt like he needed a fig leaf for some reason, he could even have arranged something like Jaime taking the black, then having Robert release him from his vows after a couple years. Stannis tries to do that at one point, and while we don’t know about any precedent Stannis is such an honor-bound guy that it probably exists.

          • bullseye says:

            I’ve been reading the new book (Fire and Blood). There have been usurpers before (though Robert was the first to come from the wrong family). A Kingsguard fighting on the wrong side is still a Kingsguard until you take his head or send him to the wall.

            Both Stannis and Robb want Jon out of the Night’s Watch, but in both cases it’s made clear that there is no precedent for that, it would be a clear breach of Jon’s vows, and it would turn the Night’s Watch against him. Robb is too young to realize it won’t work, and Stannis (despite his supposed honor) figures he has enough power to get away with it (in contrast to Cersei, who thinks she has enough power to get away with almost anything).

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Johnny Lawrence from the Karate Kid. He was the “antagonist” in the story but I thought he was almost entirely reasonable in his reactions to the deranged antics of Daniel-san.

      If you watch the movie critically, primarily ignoring the soundtrack cues that let you know who’s good and who’s bad, it’s readily apparent that Daniel is a sociopath on a quest for revenge and power, who will not be dissuaded by anyone, and the only thing that stops his inevitable Columbine-esque massacre is the wisdom Johnny obtains in his personal character growth through the course of the movie. Daniel is Captain Ahab plus puberty. I would love to see a take on The Karate Kid in the style of John Gardner’s Grendel.

      Johnny is no hero at the start. But, Johnny is not malicious, vindictive, or sadistic. At all times he uses the minimum amount of force or guile necessary to achieve his goals, which are defensibly honorable. He does not lie, steal, and only does anything “dishonorable” when goaded on by others. If we were playing Dungeons & Dragons, I would call him Lawful Neutral. His character flaw is that he is easily provoked or manipulated. That’s not an excuse for poor behavior, but it’s not a moral failure. It’s a judgement and maturity problem, and it is the flaw he corrects during the story of arc, eventually becoming a hero.

      Daniel attends the beach party where he meets Ali. They flirt and are attracted to each other.

      The Cobra Kai arrive on their dirt bikes. Aggressive rock music lets you know they are the bad guys. However, the very first thing Johnny does is refuse beer, eschewing drunk driving and/or underage drinking, even in the face of peer pressure, without any show of weakness. It’s a positive role model who can make that legitimately cool in 1984. He then explicitly states that he is an “ex-degenerate” who vows to turn his life around in the coming year. That in itself is a commendable achievement. He lost his girlfriend because he was constantly getting into fights. Johnny realized he was using his powers as a karate champion for evil instead of good. He looked at himself, realized he was a bad guy, and vowed to change. That is incredible introspection and maturity for a 17-year-old. So many adults are not that self-aware.

      However, Johnny is still very immature. He acts very poorly in the opening part of the next scene, and I do not condone his actions. But that is his flaw that he works on through the movie: learning to de-escalate situations and accept damage to his pride for the greater good. This is the necessary scene that shows him failing to do the thing he eventually learns to do. And even then, he does not do a miserable job of it.

      Johnny foolishly thinks he can rationally explain his changed attitude to Ali. In an aggressive manner, he tells her he wants to talk. She says no. He should leave. Instead they argue over turning the radio off so they can talk. This is when his flaw first manifests. He snatches the radio from her so he can insist they talk. She says she’ll talk if he gives back the radio. He tells her to promise. She says yes. He gives the radio back, thinking they’re going to talk, and she promptly turns the radio back on, smirking at him. She lied to and manipulated him. He loses his shit, grabs the radio, and throws it at the ground.

      It’s never justifiable to do that. It’s never okay to destroy somebody’s possessions out of anger. But she was absolutely goading him into it. She was not in any way trying to de-escalate the situation. She was goading him into it, and he stupidly took the bait.

      Please understand I am not defending Johnny, nor am I blaming Ali. I’m pointing out Johnny’s character flaw. He’s not a good guy at this point, and this is why. He loses his temper when he perceives provocation and cannot let his pride be damaged. However…he never so much as raises a hand to Ali. He is no threat to anyone’s safety.

      At this point Daniel comes over. He is not altruistic nor is he attempting to de-escalate the situation. He doesn’t try to separate them, or talk to them, or calm anyone down. He goes after the radio, to hand back to her all “gosh I got this for you…” style. Just FYI, if you’re ever trying to de-escalate a confrontation between two ex-lovers, engaging in courtship behavior with one of them in front of the other is not the best way to do it. Failing to control his temper yet again, Johnny says he’s done and is leaving, and shoves the radio at Daniel. But he does it a little too hard, knocking Daniel onto his butt on the sand.

      I think this is the start of Johnny’s character arc. This is the part Johnny will come to understand is when he realized might does not make right, and you need to be careful, because there are crazy motherfuckers out there. He pushed this wannabe White Knight twerp, and that twerp will never, ever, let it go until Johnny finds some way to satisfy this psychopath’s ego.

      So at this point, Daniel’s won. He’s got the radio. He’s shown he’d stand up for the girl. Johnny is leaving. Daniel could do nothing, and nothing bad would happen. No one would be hurt or punched. No one would be denied their property. A sane Daniel would do absolutely nothing.

      Instead he throws the radio on the ground (hope you didn’t break it) and throws a punch right at Johnny’s face. And that’s serious. Let that connect and you could have a broken nose or jaw or teeth, bruises, bleeding.

      This is when we first see Johnny’s true character. He’d already said he wanted to be a better person, but now he proves it. From this point on, he shows incredible restraint in dealing with the chaotic psychopath that is Danny LaRusso. He could absolutely destroy this kid. Johnny’s got it all. Karate champion. Rich. Popular. Awesome hair. He could beat this kid into a pulp for trying to punch him in the face because he, aww, boo-hoo, made him fall on sand. And what does Johnny do? Steps aside. Trips him into sand.

      Once again, Daniel could quit. Walk way. What does Daniel do? Charges him again. Again Johnny could obliterate him. But again he just trips him into soft sand. Stay down, kid.

      Nope, Daniel charges again. This time Johnny realizes Daniel has no sense. He kicks him in the stomach and knocks the wind out of him. This, in Johnny’s mind, ends the fight. He drops his guard, walks over to Daniel. He’s not going in for the kill. He just tells Daniel to get smart and stay the hell down. What does Daniel do? Sucker punches Johnny in the mouth, drawing blood.

      So at this point it’s obvious to Johnny that Daniel will not stop until he is incapacitated. He hits him three times to knock him the fuck out, and it’s over. Johnny de-escalates the situation by leaving. He does not kick Daniel when he’s down, he does not spit on him, he does not rob him. He had nothing against Daniel. He just wanted him to knock it off.

      What exactly was Daniel’s end game when he swung at Johnny? It wasn’t about the radio. He already had that. He wasn’t acting in self-defense. Johnny had no intention of hitting him, and went out of his way not to. He wasn’t protecting Ali or anyone else. Johnny was leaving. Daniel just wanted to make Johnny bleed because he disrespected him. If Johnny hadn’t defended himself, he would have wound up in the hospital. What would have stopped Daniel? He already had everything he wanted. Except blood.

      You would think that might be a lesson to Daniel. Not everyone is as bloodthirsty as you. Johnny could have destroyed you, and didn’t. But no, Daniel has no concept of mercy.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        The next day at soccer tryouts Johnny and his friends see Daniel, and recognize him for the bloodthirsty powder keg he is. So they give him the very simplest test. One of the boys tackles him. And while it’s completely intentional, it’s also something that happens all the time in soccer. The correct response is “grab your knee and roll around to draw a yellow card.” This wins the battle, and maybe wins the war! Instead, Daniel jumps on top of the guy and tries to ground pound him. Punching him full in the face. Brutal.

        This shows you the kind of people you’re dealing with. Try to punch Johnny in the face? He’ll trip you into sand. Play rough soccer with Daniel? He’ll try to cave your face in with his bare hands.

        Naturally, the coach kicks Daniel out. Is that not the reasonable course of action? Do you want that person on your team? Someone who tries to mercilessly beat someone for a rough tackle? That’s 1) crazy and 2) going to lose you games. The Cobra Kai boys were clever, and with very little effort made Daniel expose himself as one unable to control himself.

        At this point, you might think Daniel would develop some self awareness. If you think everyone you meet’s an asshole…there’s a pretty good chance you’re the asshole. He was justifiably beat down by an individual who showed restraint and mercy. He was told in no uncertain terms his attitude was unacceptable by an authority figure.

        But in Daniel’s mind? His only flaw is that he doesn’t have enough power. If only he’d been able to beat Johnny to a bloody pulp at the beach! If only he’d been able to cave that kid’s face in on the soccer pitch! Then everybody would see he’s right! And this sets Daniel on his quest for more power, and revenge.

        So he goes to the Cobra Kai dojo. To defend himself? From what? No one is attacking him. He wants power to hurt those who disrespect him. Johnny has learned to use his power responsibly. Daniel has shown he doesn’t even understand the concept of proportional response.

        The other boys see this, and smartly realize that you cannot let someone as unstable as Daniel acquire power. In response they tell him not to study karate, and drive him (on his bicycle) off the road. This is a pretty tame way to dissuade someone from following down a path that will absolutely only lead to more violence.

        Also, this is the introduction of John Kreese, the Cobra Kai sensei and other villain of the movie. In D&D terms, he’s clearly Lawful Evil, and is certainly a bad influence on Johnny. This makes Johnny’s character that much more admirable. This shit stain is his teacher, and Johnny’s beginning to recognize it.

        In the aftermath of the bike encounter we see Daniel’s penchant for violence, directing his anger towards an inanimate object. And not for the first time. In one of the opening scenes he kicks a door, injuring a young man. Daniel, desperate for validation, lies to him and says he can teach him karate. In the same way, he now begins to manipulate Mr. Miyagi, portraying himself as the victim of young thugs who wrecked his bike for no reason.

        Time passes. No one has bothered Daniel. It’s over. He’s not wrecking the soccer team, he’s not trying to learn how to hurt people, he’s got the girl. It’s done. But Daniel cannot leave well enough alone. His pride has been hurt. So he, completely without provocation, vindictively douses Johnny with water in the bathroom at the school dance. Again, what’s his end game? There is no goal here, except to make those who disrespected him suffer. And in whatever trivial way he can. It’s just pure malice.

        The Cobra Kai boys chase him down and now, finally, Johnny has had enough. Retribution didn’t work. An authority figure telling Daniel his attitude was wrong didn’t work. Deterrence didn’t work. Daniel cannot be rehabilitated. Maybe, maybe, he’ll respond to punishment. So they get ready to teach the little miscreant a lesson. Just then, Mr. Miyagi jumps in and beats the crap out of the 17-year-olds. They and their families show remarkable restraint in not prosecuting him.

        Daniel continues to manipulate Miyagi. The boys were beating him up because he wouldn’t stop fucking with them, but Daniel never tells Miyagi why they were beating him. He pretends to be an innocent victim instead of the instigator that he is.

        Bizarrely, he explicitly tells Miyagi he wants to learn karate for revenge. Miyagi tries to teach Daniel wisdom, reciting the koan about the man who should dig two graves before he sets out for revenge. Daniel completely misses the point, quipping “at least you’ll have company.”

        Even when Daniel is clearly the one inciting trouble, he still thinks he is the victim, and must have revenge! What will ever be enough for him?

        He and Miyagi negotiate the truce before the tournament. Does Daniel respect the spirit of the truce, de-escalating tensions between himself and the Cobra Kai? No, he explicitly taunts them to win affection from Ali, lying by omission to her, implying he is the one who beat up the other boys, neglecting to mention Miyagi at all. The Cobra Kai are honorable, however, and respect their vow to not beat the lying shit into the ground. Later they even offer he and Ali a lift to a party. That’s a pretty decent olive branch for high school students. Could have led to a heart-to-heart and a meeting of minds. Daniel turns them down. Must…not…show…weakness!

        Again and again Miyagi tries to instill in Daniel-san the importance of non-violence, self-defense, and self-awareness. Daniel is completely oblivious.

        At the tournament, finally, Daniel is put out of commission in a manner that avoids a final conflict. He will surely be defeated by Johnny, the dedicated karate student. It’s a cheap way to go, sure, but it saves face. No one can say you lost. You put forth your best effort.

        The doctor says he was tough and earned everyone’s respect. Not good enough for Daniel-san.

        His mother and girlfriend say they’re proud of him. Not good enough for Daniel-san.

        Miyagi says he could have won, but that winning doesn’t matter. He makes one last ditch effort to drop some knowledge on this poor stupid son of a bitch. Not good enough for Daniel-san.

        Daniel insists he must win this tournament or it will never end, for him anyway. Why? He’s got it all. He’s got power, respect, family, the girl, everything. The Cobra Kai are tired of his shit. But it’s not good enough for this demented sociopath. He must have absolute victory. It is not enough that he succeed. His perceived enemies must be subjugated. It is an insane mindset.

        So he goes back out. And this is when Johnny completes his character arc and becomes the true hero. He could absolute destroy this little pissant. But he knows if he does, this will never dissuade Daniel from seeking “revenge.” In his mind, no defeat is ever warranted. Daniel learns nothing through the entire film. To Daniel, his only flaw is that he does not have enough power. So where does it go from here? Lose now and Daniel will only seek more power.

        Daniel will get a gun. He’ll bring it to school. He’ll start shooting all the people who didn’t respect him. It’s the only thing that matters to him. Physical domination of those who disrespect him.

        So Johnny puts on a convincing show, but swallows his pride and throws the match. There’s no way that half-gimped little shit beat Johnny Lawrence. Then to make it double extra for reals, he runs up and gives the trophy to Daniel himself, smiling and telling him, “you’re all right!” Because he absolutely knows if that little shitbag doesn’t get a trophy to fill the empty hole inside of him, he’s going to start murdering people.

        Johnny Lawrence, you are a hero.

        If you read this far, I’m sorry. What’s wrong with you?

        • quanta413 says:

          If you read this far, I’m sorry. What’s wrong with you?

          What I want to know is what is wrong if you write this far?

        • Nick says:

          Hey, you watched the new Cobra Kai series? I feel like you’d like Johnny as protagonist.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No, but I guess since I cared (or was deranged enough) to dissect the original movie to this extent, I probably should.

            ETA: I wrote this about two years ago before that show came out.

          • Randy M says:

            Yes, you should. In case you missed our earlier discussion of the Youtube sequel, it takes a view of Johnny as nuanced as yours.

        • RDNinja says:

          Gary Gulman riffed on this in one of his comedy specials (In This Economy?). And I’ll just reiterate that you’d probably like what they did with the Cobra Kai series.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It seems a common enough idea. I think I got the idea from an AskReddit that was similar to this thread. “What bad guys were really good guys or misunderstood” and somebody commented that Johnny was rough around the edges but mostly reacting to stuff to Daniel did to instigate, and that Daniel’s responses were way out of line and that he was lying, manipulative and malicious. So I rewatched it and made notes scene by scene and the guy was more right than he knew. Especially when you see that Daniel never told Miyagi about the shit he instigated like the water spray in the bathroom scene. Miyagi, the whole movie, thinks Daniel’s innocent in all of this, because Daniel was actively lying to him.

            Anyway, Saturday afternoon well spent.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          For what it’s worth, I think you’re right about Danny for the first ~3/4 of the movie. I just think you’re not entirely right about the Kai – they certainly defer to Kreese’s ideology against their own better instincts, Johnny especially.

          Johnny is driven to excess, oppression, and corruption by the power offered to him by Kreese, the film’s true villain. Kreese’s influence gives Johnny a taste of power, but that power isn’t enough for him to adopt Kreese’s ideology wholesale – as you say, he’s trying to turn over a new leaf. However, he is also ultimately weak, unable to stay the course of his personal reformation – his antagonism towards Danny is a personal failing; it is the duty of the strong to help the weak. Also, because his power is dependent on Kreese, he is unable to make a stand when Kreese’s villainy cripples Danny, and so he can do nothing but fight on. There is no way out for Johnny but through, and on to his destruction.

          Danny, the petulant child with his heart in the right place, turns to Miyagi after being threatened by the Kreese-backed Kai. Miyagi offers him protection and training through a superior ideology of internal power, and gives him the tools he needs to develop discipline. Danny’s intrusive demands to learn Karate show that he regards this as unimportant and fundamentally indumental; he isn’t in it to be wise, but to gain power. His gradual acceptance of Miyagi’s wisdom hapoens organically, not sythetically, but that’s to be expected.

          At any rate, Danny’s self-sacrificing style at the end of the film is definitely heroic, and I disagree with you that Johnny is faking it; I think he’s legitimately caught off-guard, partly due to the fact that his better instincts are fighting against Kreese’s schemes; he recognizes that Kreese will do anything to knock Danny down and hurt Miyagi indirectly, but he recognizes Danny’s personal growth and inner strength, and does not wish to hurt him. Danny, for his part, is willing to take the risk in his final fight because he recognizes the dialectical inevitability of his own existence; if he loses, he loses nothing, but if he wins he will be able to lead his high school into a glorious new era of peace and freedom.

          Because you see, Karate Kid is an complex pro-Soviet allegory for the Vietnam War. Johnny personifies the conflicted figure of Diem in South Vietnam – a social reformer with the best interests of the country at heart, but with a deepky evil and uncaring master in Kreese, who is the USA’s standin. Miyagi, is, of course, the USSR. The film is particularly interesting because, unlike most pro-Soviet films of its era, it recognizes that Danny’s North Vietnam and Johnny’s South Vietnam are puppet states, and that their ideologies are less pure than their teachers’.

          It does suggest, however, that the implementation of Soviet discipline can itself be transformative. By training with Miyagi, Danny fills out the mold of the New Soviet Man. He certainly doesn’t parallel Ho Chi Minh at the beginning of the film, but he does stand in for the Viet Cong – violent, undisciplined, and in need of enlightened leadership. His early actions echo the Tet Offensive, as they are wasteful, self-injurious, and irrational, despire their righteous motivations. As it progresses, he evolves into the mold of the PAVN, gaining maturity and the ability to fight with discipline. He may well be a Minh standin by the end, though I’ll defer to someone with more background on that question. At any rate, the film makes the case that Communism can be taught. The contrast between this message and the contemporary geopolitics is rather surprising, but actually probably does a good amount to explain the film’s success; the failure of the USSR made this message ridiculous and the film palatable to the average consumer. If it had been released 20 years earlier I think it would have done quite badly.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Bravo. That’s a good one.

            But this paragraph is entirely off-base:

            Danny, the petulant child with his heart in the right place, turns to Miyagi after being threatened by the Kreese-backed Kai. Miyagi offers him protection and training through a superior ideology of internal power, and gives him the tools he needs to develop discipline. Danny’s intrusive demands to learn Karate show that he regards this as unimportant and fundamentally indumental; he isn’t in it to be wise, but to gain power. His gradual acceptance of Miyagi’s wisdom hapoens organically, not sythetically, but that’s to be expected.

            What does Danny ever do that indicates his “heart is in the right place?” He does nothing altruistically for anyone the entire movie, and is in fact shown to frequently lie to and manipulate others for his own selfish ends. The Cobra Kai boys are never shown abusing anyone else, so it’s not like Danny desires power to protect the weak. He just wants power for himself for the sake of having more power than the other boys. Cobra Kai are the ones protecting others from Danny.

            And he never accepts Miyagi’s wisdom. He specifically rejects it, when Miyagi is telling him in the locker room that winning is not important, he tells the old man off and that he must go win, instead, and then he goes and wins, thereby achieving his goals, repudiating Miyagi. He got his revenge, with only his enemy’s “grave” filled.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Well you could easily say the same of the Viet Cong. It’s very easy for those who have power to tell others that they do not need it, but at the beginning of the film Danny doesn’t even have power over himself. That’s why his heart is in the right place; even if he isn’t being actively harassed, he still exists within a system of oppression. Any attempt to relieve the strain of the capitalist yoke is praiseworthy in the film’s eyes.

            And Miyagi tells him not to win because Miyagi, standing in for the USSR, is afraid of provoking Kreese. For him, an independent Danny is enough, but Danny knows that he must win the tournament in order to relieve his high school from the influence of Kreese’s puppets. In this way, Karate Kid justifies the Northern takeover of South Vietnam. The final fight is just the Fall of Saigon.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So Miyagi telling him that winning is not important was not Miyagi’s wisdom, but a self-serving lie?

            Did the Soviet Union tell Ho Chi Minh that he didn’t need to defeat the South? (Honest question, I don’t remember anything like that from watching the Ken Burns series).

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I don’t think so, but hey, this is supposed to be plausible, not true.

        • ausmax says:

          I know this take is half joking, but I really think it’s false. For those of you who haven’t seen it, this is the scene where the Cobra Kai drives Daniel off the road:

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

          I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to call that at least borderline attempted murder. These are not good guys, and that is a completely disproportionate response to anything Daniel does throughout the movie. Daniel is hardly a good guy at the beginning of the movie, that’s true, and also the whole point of the movie, but Johnny is basically a psychopath until the last five minutes of the movie music cues or no.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Oh please, they didn’t even touch him.

          • ausmax says:

            yes, they don’t touch him. They drive him off the road. Is it your contention that this was not their intent? If so, why did these upstanding gentleman not try to help him after he drove his bike down a cliff?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m just sayin’, he shows up at the dojo to accomplish his terminal goal of gaining the physical power needed to brutalize those who disrespect him and the pro-social Cobra Kai boys give him a little chastisement is all. If they let him acquire that power he’d be beating people black and blue for looking at him funny.

          • ausmax says:

            If the chastisement the pro-social Cobra Kai boys gives is worse than anything Daniel does at any point in the movie, I think it’s difficult to make the case that they are the lesser threat.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think in the overall moral calculus, Johnny comes out slightly ahead. And he’s the one with an extreme negative influence, and who commits in his first scene to change for the better and does so over the course of the movie.

            First altercation: Johnny throws the radio on the ground in a fit of anger and pushes Daniel, but it’s not clear he was trying to knock Daniel down or if Daniel’s just clumsy when he falls on his butt in soft sand. Then, in a fit of anger Daniel throws the radio on the ground (so that’s a wash on the property destruction front) and then escalates the shove into a face punch. Johnny does not meet this escalation but deescalates with trips into sand, twice, and then Daniel escalates again into a sucker punch to the face. Johnny’s not good here, but Daniel’s clearly worse.

            Second altercation: Cobra Kai boy plays rough soccer with Daniel and Daniel attempts to cave the guy’s face again. Again, Cobra Kai’s not “good” but Daniel’s worse.

            Third altercation: Daniel’s attempting to gain power so he can beat down people who trip him into sand when he tries to punch him and can brutalize people who play rough sports with him. The Cobra Kai boys scare him off the road and he crashes his bike because he’s a klutz. I’ll give this one to Daniel, barely.

            Fourth altercation: Continuing a pattern of poor behavior, months later, Daniel tries to ruin Johnny’s time at the dance and humiliate him by soaking him with water. The boys finally chase this jerk down to teach him a lesson. I’ll call this one a wash. Play stupid games and win stupid prizes.

            The movie could have done a better job of showing Johnny was the bad guy, as nowhere else did he do anything wrong. He didn’t lie or steal or anything. He didn’t raise a hand to Ali, and that would have been pretty easy signal to put in the movie, since “abuses women” usually codes “bad guy.” It’s not like Kreese was using the boys as muscle in a protection racket. They never so much as shoved a nerd into a locker. They were cliquish, but didn’t seem to mess with anyone else and channeled their teenage aggression into soccer, competitive karate, and riding their dirt bikes, which is all pretty well okay. They only messed with Daniel because he kept messing with them.

            And Daniel never shows any understanding that his actions might not be that great, is only interested in acquiring more power and status, and lies to and manipulates everyone around him (mom, Miyagi, Ali) in pursuit of his entirely selfish goals.

            Johnny’s not an angel, but he is legitimately a better person than Daniel.

          • ausmax says:

            Here’s my take:

            First altercation:
            Johnny tries to start a fight with Daniel. Daniel retaliates and escalates, but violence definitely initiated by Johnny. Advantage Daniel.

            Second altercation:
            Daniel is again attacked on the soccer field. It was a dirty play and while Daniel’s response is disproportionate, he is again responding to violence rather than initiating it.

            Third altercation:
            This is the one where I think you’re off the rails. Daniel’s sin is to walk into a Karate dojo to possibly take lessons. That’s it. In response Cobra Kai ride his bike off a cliff, an action that would almost certainly result in much more serious injuries than those depicted in the movie. This is probably the only thing that either party does in the movie that could be considered a criminal act.

            Fourth altercation:
            the only time that Daniel is the initiator of the conflict. He sprays water on Johnny at the dance. In response, Johnny and two of his friends track him down and show every sign of wanting to administer a severe beating. (also are fighting him three on one, which I would think we could all acknowledge is not very sporting). I’m actually going to amend my earlier statement and say that the Cobra Kai guys are clearly guilty of assault here too.

            fifth altercation:
            I can understand why you’re eliding the “sweep the leg” scene, since it really doesn’t help your case. Granted Kreese is the instigator of that moment, but Johnny fights dirty, intentionally breaking the rules of the tournament in an attempt to hurt his opponent rather than defeat him in fair competition.

            I will grant you that Daniel has a positive influence in Miyagi, and Johnny has an extremely negative one in Kreese. I actually think the fundamental conflict of the movie is between them, and not their students, so to some extent this argument is a side issue. But I just don’t think your reading is plausible. Especially the “Kid walks into a karate dojo is an act of aggression” point.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Based on this conversation, I watched the first two episodes of Cobra Kai on YouTube last night. I gotta say it is a lot more nuanced in its approach than I thought. Similar to this discussion, it’s really hard to say for sure who might be the Good Guy and who the Bad Guy.

            For anyone in this discussion, I would definitely recommend it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            You should really watch the first scene again. Johnny was not trying to start a fight with Daniel, he was trying to leave. Daniel was the one who wanted to fight Johnny, and Johnny (correctly) didn’t think Daniel was worth the time.

            It wasn’t a cliff, it was a hill. I agree this is the worst thing the Cobra Kai boys did. And really just their means. Their ends were right, as Daniel has an awful temper and no self-control and should not be taught the means to hurt others. It’s worth noting that by this point in the movie Danny has already drawn blood twice.

            And as for the end fight, Johnny did not do the illegal move. Kreese ordered one of the other boys to do the illegal move during the semifinal, injuring Daniel. That boy was ejected from the tournament, forfeiting the match and setting up the final bout between Johnny and Daniel. Sweeping the injured leg isn’t illegal, just kind of mean, and Johnny didn’t want to do it anyway.

            Excluding the meta-conflict between Miyagi and Kreese, the movie is about the personal conflict between Daniel and Johnny and by extension his friends, in which everyone behaves poorly at different times. It’s not like the Evil Overlord is oppressing the peasants and then he raises the stakes, making it personal by kidnapping the hero’s girl. Besides Danny, the only people the Cobra Kai boys “hurt” are the other participants in the karate tournaments, who are trained fighters who consent to compete in a sanctioned event with medical personnel on site in front of their parents and coaches.

            Johnny doesn’t do anything else bad in the movie. He’s not a criminal, he’s not the school bully, he’s not an abuser of women, he’s not a liar or a thief. Daniel is, however, a liar and manipulator, and he never tries to smooth things over with Johnny or examine his behavior, whereas Johnny makes a kind gesture towards Daniel and Ali, offering them a ride to the party, which Daniel rejects. So you’re ignoring all the other ways in which Daniel is a person of low character and Johnny is not.

            As far as Daniel’s concerned, his only problem is that he doesn’t have the physical power to exert his will over others, but thanks to his intentional lies to Mr. Miyagi, at the end of the movie he’s got it, so now he can be the bully he’s always wanted to be. In the second movie, I don’t think they say why Daniel and Ali broke up, but my guess is that he started hitting her.

          • ausmax says:

            This is the scene that you are contending Daniel initiates the conflict with Johnny. Frankly I don’t think that reading is remotely justified:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBUxx5bnsg4

            I think the video speaks for itself. Everything Daniel does in the movie could plausibly be considered self defense. He escalates where he shouldn’t (although much less than the Johnny does in response to getting water poured on him) and clearly has anger issues (and is frankly kind of a douche), but he’s just not the pyschopath that you want him to be. It’s not justified at all by what we see on screen.

            This is what Johnny does to his injured opponent in the last 2 minutes of the movie:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=939kXCYK98U

            It’s a dirty move. Pretty unambiguously so. He’s a competitor in a karate tournament and is actively trying to hurt his opponent in violation of the rules.

            Keep in mind that your contention is that Johnny has grown significantly over the course of the movie, and this is the very end of said movie.

            I would like to second the recommendation of Cobra Kai. Although you might be disappointed to learn that it portrays Daniel as a flawed adult, but definitely not as a violent criminal. It definitely does a good job of continuing some of the themes we’re discussing, that Johnny isn’t irredeemable and that Daniel is still flawed. Our only real debate is in which of them is the better person, and I still think it’s pretty difficult to argue that it’s Johnny.

            For what it’s worth, I’m thoroughly enjoying this conversation. Karate Kid is one of my favorite movies (mainly due to the parts of the movie we’re not discussing…i.e. anything with Miyagi) and it’s fun to have a civil debate about it.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @ausmax:

            I would like to second the recommendation of Cobra Kai. Although you might be disappointed to learn that it portrays Daniel as a flawed adult, but definitely not as a violent criminal.

            Yyyeah, exactly. I’m blowing off Conrad’s argument as indefensible, because I’ve watched Cobra Kai. The closest we come in canon to a psychopath LaRusso is cousin Louis, who’s employed at Daniel’s car dealership (Daniel’s adult career path was set by Mr. Miyagi’s influence in high school, which speaks against a genetic fate). Louis befriends a couple of bikers and eggs them into committing felony property damage and assault on Johnny with him. Daniel holds his cousin in contempt and is scolded by his mother (the original actress, natch) for it because taking care of family is a terminal value.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, this is fun. And yes I’m exaggerating Daniel’s psychopathy. But I don’t see how you can call the opening scene “self-defense.” He stuck his nose in someone else’s lovers’ quarrel that had nothing to do with him. He’s not defending himself, and he’s not defending Ali. Look at Johnny and Ali’s interaction right after he lays Daniel out. She’s shoving him and hitting him and he’s just taking it and leaving. Even amped up after the fight he’s not threatening her in any way, so he wasn’t defending her, either.

            And the soccer scene. He gets on top of the kid and punches him in the face for a slide tackle. You know that’s a bloody nose or a busted lip. By the time they get to the dojo scene the Cobra Kai boys have had two interactions with this kid, and both times he responded to minor slights by going for blood. No wonder they want to dissuade him from getting more power!

            Oh, and when I clicked on your link, this was the top related video where someone else has laid out the same basic case I have but with clips, and it’s pretty funny. You should check it out. ETA: Best thing the guy noticed that I didn’t was the multi-car pile-up as Danny was fleeing the Halloween party. The Cobra Kai boys really needed to stop Danny that night before he could hurt anyone else.

            I’ll watch Cobra Kai tonight and let you know what I think.

            ETA: And you’re still ignoring the fact Daniel lied to Miyagi about why the boys were after him. Their whole relationship was based on Daniel’s lies.

            ETA2: Re: the elbow to the knee in the final fight. Remember, Johnny’s gotta make it look convincing when he throws the fight to prevent Daniel’s otherwise inevitable school shooting rampage.

          • ausmax says:

            I’d actually seen that youtube video, which is heavily edited to make a comedic point. I enjoy that video, but I doubt the person who made it even thinks this is a reasonable interpretation of the film.

            You’re right about the soccer scene; this is the only interaction where I think the Cobra Kai boys comes out looking better than Daniel. It is worth mentioning that it is clear that the slide tackle was premeditated to teach Daniel a lesson.

            I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on the first conflict. My take is that Daniel sees Johnny harrassing Ali, a girl he has developed a connection with. He goes to see if he can help. Tries to de-escelate the situation by saying “hey man what’s going on?” Johnny then shoves Daniel down with the radio. This is totally unprovoked. Daniel gets up prepared to continue the fight that Johnny has started and that he makes clear he was intending to start by pulling up his sleeves. I don’t think we disagree about the sucker punch other than in so far as I think it is significantly less violent than the two most violent acts the cobra kai commits and you seem to not feel that way.

            Re: Daniel lying to Miyagi: I can’t seem to find this scene on youtube, so I’ll have to defer discussion of this point. I don’t really remember exactly what he tells Miyagi.

            Re: The elbow to the knee. I think you’re assuming your conclusion. In any event, if he’s throwing the match to give Daniel the victory, it’s not clear to me why fighting dirty needs to be a part of trying hard. I obviously don’t see Daniel’s school shooting as inevitable.

            also this:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1DmdgOdHgw

            I mean come on.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            also this:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1DmdgOdHgw

            I mean come on.

            Well, sure that’s LaRusso’s extremely deceptively edited propaganda reel. What they don’t show is their cancer-stricken classmate Jerry, struggling through chemo but who managed to make it to the dance to be with his friends. Who do you think Johnny was rolling his last joint for the in bathroom? With that ruined, overcome by pain and nausea, he had to leave. Sadly, oncology in 1984 wasn’t what it is today. Jerry never saw his friends again.

            What they don’t show you is Johnny sending one of his Cobra Kai to tend to the wounded in the multi-car pile-up Daniel callously left behind. It might not have looked that bad, but Betty Johnson was in one of those cars, 80 years old, and her heart isn’t what it used to be. Coulnd’t take the shock. At least she died in the arms of her husband of 58 years.

            What they don’t you show is Johnny’s guilt and remorse after the brawl, because he let Daniel’s malevolence goad him into violence again. That’s the end-of-the-second-act low point for our hero, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. These are the events that ultimately make him realize he cannot stop Daniel’s reign of terror simply by beating him into proper behavior. He’ll have to get inside of his head and try to guide him away from his hatred and rage by making him think he’s “earned” the respect he thinks he deserves but is emotionally and physically incapable of really earning or ever being worthy of.

          • ana53294 says:

            Does anybody know what the tournament rules for karate were/are in the US?

            I participated in several kids’ karate competitions in Spain, and the rules were pretty clear: no hits could land below the waist or above the neck. You can punch the face, but you have to make sure you don’t actually hit the person. So if your punch goes through defences, you get points, as long as you don’t hit the person in the face (or knee). Hitting a person on the face gets you disqualified.

            Was Daniel’s tournament winning kick in the face legal? Was the kick on the knee he got legal?

          • Nornagest says:

            I participated in a few open tournaments — not karate specific — back in the ’90s, and kicks to the face were legal at the time (in fact, kicks to the head scored double any other strike). But we also wore pads, which Daniel-san didn’t.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Sensei Kreese orders one of his students to give Daniel-san a disqualifying strike with excessive contact, so the injury will soften him up for Johnny, the most talented Cobra Kai.
            When I’ve participated, strikes to the head were totally legal, but proper sports(wo)manship is to hit as lightly as possible.
            As Nornagest said they weren’t wearing any padding in the movie (this is just training kids to accept the kind of debilitating brain injuries boxers and American footballers sustain), and Daniel-san maybe should not have scored a point because the crane kick looks like excessive force.
            They argue about whether that kick should have been a penalty rather than a point in Cobra Kai.

        • jgr314 says:

          If you read this far, I’m sorry. What’s wrong with you?

          Thanks for writing that. Ranks as one of the things I’ve most enjoyed reading on SSC.

          • Plumber says:

            Seconded!

            Karate Kid, Dungeons & Dragons Alignments and the Fall of Saigon? 

            Bravo gentlemen. 

            Bravo! 

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I’ve known Mr. LaRusso since I was eight years old. He’s a nice guy. (/Aisha from Cobra Kai)

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Tangent for people who have watched Cobra Kai: were you bothered by how law enforcement seems to stop existing part way in?
        In the first episode, Johnny saves Miguel from the popular Asian bully and his cronies, and the police break up the fight by pepper spraying the adult. By Ep 8, Louie LaRusso and a couple of bikers destroy Johnny’s Pontiac Firebird and set the apartment complex’s parking lot on fire, and the existence of police is never mentioned.

        • Nornagest says:

          You’re right, logically the police should have gotten involved there. It might have been left out as plot-irrelevant, though; the only people likely to have a strong case land on them would be the bikers, and they never appear again. And we wouldn’t have seen the police arrive, because Johnny was riding up to Daniel’s place on a stolen bike at the time.

          There should have been some fallout for Johnny after he made bail for the incident in the parking lot, too, and we never see that — but he could probably have gotten the case thrown out with Miguel’s testimony, so again maybe it’s just not important.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            You’re right, logically the police should have gotten involved there. You could make a case that it isn’t plot-relevant, though … And we wouldn’t have seen the police arrive, because Johnny was riding up to Daniel’s place on a stolen bike at the time.

            Yeah, it’s true that the police activity would be off-screen in context. But the way they resolve it with Daniel’s wife telling him to give Johnny a pre-owned car from their business without mentioning the existence of police and courts still weirds me out.

            As far as Johnny going to trial, I did assume the charge got thrown out with Miguel’s testimony. If Johnny had a criminal record, Daniel would have thrown that in his face at the All-Valley Under 18 Karate boring bureaucratic meeting.
            Of course Ed Asner having to pay for his stepson’s attorney would have been hilariously plot relevant, but eh, these are good writers and their choice was defensible.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So we binged 5-6 episodes last night while wrapping presents. I’m up to the part where Lip becomes Hawk (only time I’ve ever seen someone with a blue mohawk and said “that’s a really good idea!”). Very fun series, thanks for the recommendation everyone.

            Miguel would have absolutely been expelled or at least suspended after beating up 4 other kids in the school lunch room. “But they started it!” does not fly as an excuse these days.

            Other point corroborating my Grendel-esque narrative: Daniel’s response to the insulting modification to his billboard is to drive Johnny into financial ruin, along with all the innocent people around him. He still cannot handle any insult to his pride, does not fathom proportional response, and does not care who gets hurt on his quest for revenge on and dominance over those he perceives as disrespecting him. Psycho….

    • The Nybbler says:

      What are some examples in fiction of people who opposed the protagonists yet wanted reasonable things and went about getting them in a sensible, logical way?

      I could cheat and pick Hank from _Breaking Bad_. But in that case the protagonist was the villain (and not a particularly reasonable one). Mike was probably a better example from that series.

      Several of the villains from _Homeland_ would qualify, particularly including Majid Javadi, the Iranian deputy head of intelligence. All he wanted was a secure and powerful position; he betrayed everyone to get it, but to him that’s just how it was done, and it worked.

      • Breaking Bad wanted Walter White to be Tony Montana but he never was that bad and mostly had understandable reasons for his actions, even the pretty bad ones.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          (Spoiler, but the show’s been over for years, so come on)

          Like letting the girl choke to death on her own vomit? There was no justification for that besides his own selfishness.

          • It wasn’t justified but it also wasn’t just pure evil. The girl was bringing down Jesse in to her own drug fueled mess. I haven’t watched the series in a while so I might be wrong on some of the details but that’s how I remember it. I’m not saying that Walter White was a good guy, I just don’t think he was ever a wholly bad person.

          • Randy M says:

            It was a pretty good example of a utilitarian thought experiment. These two people, Jesse and his girlfriend, were encouraging each other to commit slow motion suicide. Is it moral to let one die so the other might live?

            And like most utilitarian thought experiments, in the real world there are probably other options that would give better odds of success for both of them. In this case, Walter wasn’t being entirely selfish; he cared for Jesse like a son and was hurt by his self-destructive behavior. But Walter was very callous towards the girl, not to mention the many people using his product that he was inflicting similar problems upon but Walter carefully avoided thinking about.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            I think it’s somewhat important to note that WW didn’t actually do anything to cause or make that situation worse. He wasn’t supposed to be at their apartment in the first place, and if he had listened to their request that he not come there, then the situation would have played out exactly the same.

            The problem is what it means for his moral character (which then plays out over the course of the series), and not how he affected the two of them.

    • arlie says:

      Most of the military enemies in Weber’s Harrington series, and some of the political enemies. I think this author tries to start with black and white situations (evil aggressive failing state attacks innocent neighbours; slavers trying to take over the galaxy), and winds up portraying individual people, rather than sterotypes, which in itself forces a nuanced view. Plus his heroes wind up facing opposition from their own side, at whatever level the story is focussed on – so the ‘good’ guys have incompetent time servers, amoral politicians, mega-self-centered plutocrats with carefully crafted false public images, etc. etc. And then if any of the bad characters stay around long enough, Weber can’t seem to resist redeeming them. They either get their just deserts (and are thus offstage, dead or jailed), or start acting visibly from the good side of their characters.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      How are you defining “want[ing] reasonable things” here?

      If a drug dealer’s greed counts as wanting a reasonable thing, then nearly any antagonist will qualify as long as their scheme isn’t totally self-defeating. It would be more interesting to look at antagonists whose motivations aren’t reprehensible but who still manage to effectively oppose the protagonists.

      One good source of unintentionally reasonable villains along those lines was the show Leverage. The villains were written as two-dimensional evil caricatures, and usually their plans made little to no sense. But occasionally the writers were more careless than usual and forgot to actually make a villain villainous.

      My favorite example is the Walmart big box store lady from the Low Low Price Job. Her evil plan is to open a Walmart big box store in some random town in Washington. Her motivation for this heinous act is that she wants to climb the corporate ladder and takes satisfaction from completing difficult tasks. She demonstrates competence in the face of the protagonists’ illegal anti-competitive tactics, lives frugally (from what I understand very true to life for Walmart upper management), and clearly has a lot of loyalty to her company. In a different show she could have been an interesting protagonist.

      • AG says:

        The writers were aware that Low Low Price Job lady was slightly different from their usual, if you listen to the episode commentary. They acknowledge that the team was being disproportionately cruel to her.
        (And I highly recommend listening to all of the Leverage commentaries. Educational and entertaining!)

        As for “plans made little to no sense,” most of the Leverage villains were basically doing things ripped from the headlines. Sometimes the “makes no sense” aspect was due to their toning down the evil-ness from the real thing they based it on, as the original would be dismissed as too ridiculously evil by the audience.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Huh, I’ll have to check out the commentary then. I binge-watched the series last year with my girlfriend so we pretty much just watched the show itself.

          The part about not making sense wasn’t that the plans were too evil but that a lot of them seemed self-defeating or just poorly thought out. It doesn’t surprise me that they were “ripped from the headlines” because the Law and Order spin-offs fell into the same trap several times. It’s a game of telephone where TV writers who don’t understand the subject but need a compelling narrative are relying on journalists who themselves don’t understand the subject and need a compelling narrative.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      I’d think it probably helped Avon’s characterization that the character is at least loosely based on Melvin Williams, a real life drug dealer in Baltimore. Williams became close enough with Simon, during a series of articles Simon write his life, that Williams played the Deacon in seasons 3 through 5.

    • Well... says:

      Most courtroom dramas (and even many courtroom comedies) probably fit this description.

    • AG says:

      At least in the first season of Psycho Pass, the Sibyl System is a success. Most people benefit from it. The show simply focuses on the small minority of people who don’t quite fit in, but that’s inevitable of any system, and becomes a part of the tradeoff between effort and payoff (to know if they can be allowed to just walk away).
      I don’t know if the revelations in later seasons change this.

      There’s also the argument that the Kyubey in Madoka weren’t strictly wrong. (Although the Rebellion movie makes them more overtly villainous.)

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I mean Kyubey was definitely BSing with the negentropy plan.

        In an alternate timeline he talks about exceeding his quota for Earth, which makes no sense if the incubators were trying to reverse entropy. No finite amount of energy would possibly be enough, and the Madoka of that timeline was still only strong enough to create a planet-destroying witch and not a universe-destroying one like in the primary timeline. Even if we’re being very charitable and the quotas are set so that each Earth-like planet gives enough energy to hold off entropy until another Earth-like planet evolves teenage angst it’s still a very reckless way to run things.

        Besides that, they have the ability to time travel. They don’t need pubescent girls to violate thermodynamics, they should be able to do that themselves easily enough.

        • beleester says:

          The Incubators can’t time-travel, unless that’s in one of the mangas or something. Homura can, but that means they’re once again relying on the aid of a pubescent girl to do it.

          Two theories I’ve seen for why they’re okay with a finite amount of energy:
          1. The Incubators are trying to gather enough magic to bootstrap a magical generator of some sort – in the fic I saw, it was a ritual to freeze a star’s lifecycle so it would never burn out. They need some large but finite amount of energy to get it going, then they can quit.
          2. The thing that they’re trying to gather comes from witches, not magical girls. Magical girls have a clearly limited energy supply, but witches seem to just go on cursing the world forever. This also explains why the Incubators collect grief seeds when they’re full. In that case, a planet-sized witch is a pretty good payoff.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            On reflection, I agree that the incubators probably can’t time travel on their own even though they can grant wishes that involve time travel.

            The ending with Madoka’s wish only makes sense if the wishes can do things that the incubators couldn’t do. It’s not Clark’s Sufficiently Advanced Technology but literally magic.

            Besides, Kyubey took way too long to put it together that Homura was a time traveler for them to have any prior experience with it.

      • Protagoras says:

        I thought it was pretty clear that Kyubey was a psychopath, including the almost reflexive willingness to lie, so while he may occasionally have hinted at some scheme where what the Incubators was doing was of benefit to somebody other than the Incubators, I never believed him when he did so.

    • mdet says:

      Skipping the easy ones like sports movies, monster movies, heist movies where the protagonists are criminals, etc.

      Cypher from The Matrix has a reasonable desire to go back to a comfortable, if virtual, life. His plan to sell out his team to the machines is also reasonable. Cruel, but reasonable. The machines were the only ones who could re-pod him, and the lives of his team was the only thing he had that they wanted. He’s arguably not the primary antagonist though, if that makes a difference.

      Syd from Toy Story is also reasonable. Sure, he likes blowing up toys, but how was he supposed to know they were alive? Similar with the humans in Finding Nemo.

      Barbossa and his men from Pirates of the Caribbean murder and pillage (and would probably rape if it weren’t a Disney movie), but so do the heroes, and their actual plan is “We accidentally turned ourselves into unfeeling walking corpses and need to return the gold along with a few drops of a Turner’s blood to go back to being normal human beings”. Reasonable to me.

      “The villains are people too” is the ending to Blade Runner.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Does Parry from For Love of Evil qualify? He’s the protagonist. However, he does become Satan partway through the story, and spends the rest of it doing Satan-y things, for pretty rational reasons IIRC (I read it over twenty years ago).

    • There is a Poul Anderson story, “No Truce With Kings,” in which it isn’t clear until near the end which side is correct. On the face of it the antagonists are the good guys, trying to put the country back together (starting with the west coast) after a collapse.

    • lvlln says:

      I’m actually rewatching The Wire S3 right now, and I’m not so sure that’s a reasonable characterization of Avon. The real estate purchases were mostly Stringer, who was more into the business side of things, while Avon was more about the gangster and turf-protection aspect. A major plot point in that season is that Avon wants to go to war with Marlo over controlling some street corners, while Stringer wants to hold him back and try to make peace, since blood is expensive and also brings in more police scrutiny.

      I think Stringer is the more obviously villainous character for his hits on sympathetic figures like Wallace or D’Angelo, but Avon isn’t a clean figure either. The callous disregard for human life he displays is pretty villainous, even if they’re for the purposes of protecting his business, and he’s stuck to the notion of being a gangster and fighting it out on the streets even to the detriment to his business.

      • Walter says:

        I think OP is trolling. It seems mad obvious that Stringer/Avon make their bones on the backs of slaughtered children.

      • gbdub says:

        I don’t get why you think Stringer codes as the evil one. The cold and calculating one, certainly. But Avon is basically a standard issue drug dealer from central casting – not particularly bright, emotional and violent, too enamored with “thug life”, and prone to do stupid self-defeating things to protect his rep. About the only good things that can be said for him are that he’s loyal and smart enough to let Stringer be the brains of the outfit. Later, Marlo is just a sadistic Avon with none of the redeeming qualities and no Stringer to keep him in line.

        They go out of their way to make Stringer sympathetic by the end. He takes economics classes. He’s trying to go legit (and frustrated when he finds that “legit” may be even more corrupt than the drug trade). The New Day Co-Op was his idea, an explicit effort to reduce violence, resolve conflict through Robert’s Rules of Order, and keep the cops off their backs. Stringer doesn’t live extravagantly, he reads Adam Smith. His flaw is that he is merciless, even to the point of killing kids and family (of the organization, not himself), but I think he genuinely believes in engaging in the least amount of violence to achieve success for the group. He’s a utilitarian gangster.

        Generally, you get the impression that Stringer, had he been adopted by some middle class family in the ‘burbs, would have gone to college and ended up a successful business executive somewhere. Instead he grew up in the projects and drug dealing was more or less the only available route to advancement.

        Stringer and Colvin are basically similar minds on opposite sides of the law, trying to “make sense of the game”. You start to think if those two had been allowed to run things to their content, it would have turned out better.

    • sty_silver says:

      I’m not sure how controversial this is, but I think Light from Death Note qualifies here. You could argue that he also had a god complex, but by and large, he did have a reasonable goal and, for the most part, acted logically towards achieving it.

  13. Hoopyfreud says:

    A thought experiment:

    What if LLCs had never become commonplace, and ownership of a corporation were a Big Deal, with most companies financing their existence via debt?

    Does this put a natural cap on company size?

    Does real wealth increase like it did historically?

    Are negative externalities more disincentivized?

    It’s hard for me to imagine what this system would look like. I find it intuitively appealing, but I know I’m incapable of imagining the consequences. Also, why isn’t this a more mainstream position among academic Libertarians?

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      There are many anti-corporation libertarians. I don’t think it caps company size at all, nor would it effect externalities. It might affect the growth rate, although I’ve heard arguments from both sides (ranging from “the limited liability corporation is the greatest invention of the last 1000 years” to “llcs negatively affect growth by raising interest rates”).

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I assume it would favor fewer, larger, more monopolistic companies.

      So, ownership funding makes backing new ventures more appealing, because it creates the possibility of large rewards for risky investments. Debt funding has a lower cap on rewards, meaning it’s more important to limit risk, meaning that you are less likely to fund some crazy upstarts who have big dreams and no pedigree.

      Funders would be just as insulated from loss as ever. The worst that could happen to them is default.

      Why anyone thinks this would be a desirable state of affairs is baffling to me.

      But actually actually, what would probably really happen would be that people would slowly develop “loan” products that approximated ownership. Write in interest ratchets that occur based on profit or revenue milestones. It’s not like people have a hard time making debt and investment meet in the middle.

    • dick says:

      I don’t get why making it harder to form companies would lead to a ceiling on company size – seems like it would be the opposite. And in general, I think making it harder to start new companies would lead to a less efficient economy, since corporations would tend to vertically integrate more due to a lack of healthy competition in the markets for the products they buy.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        yes. I also don’t understand why Hoopy makes out like LLCs are such a big deal. They’ve only existed for a few decades now, and company structures haven’t changed a lot since then. We already had S Corporations and partnerships (of many kinds) before LLCs. LLCs just made company structures a bit easier to manage. I think anything making structures easier is a good thing — enterprises can then focus more on business matters.

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          LLC in this is a stand in for the idea of limited liability whether in an C, S, LLC, or LLP style (otherwise the question doesn’t make sense).

          In other words, would shareholder personal liability be a preferable system?

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          This isn’t out of nowhere. There’s a whole strain of thought on the left that limited liability is somehow the source of all evil. For example, Iain Banks goes on about it in Transition. I think maybe Stross or MacLeod has a screed about it as well.

          I’d like someone to take a shot at explaining the causal chain they think would lead to a better world without limited liability, because I Just Don’t Get It.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            There’s a whole strain of thought on the left that limited liability is somehow the source of all evil.

            Well sure. But we’ve had limited liability in the US at least since the 19th Century with the rise of corporations. LLCs gave business enterprises some additional options, but wasn’t a wholesale change of business environment.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            As the other user told you, the thing being railed against is limited liability, not particularly the specific corporate form of LLCs. So, yes, those people, and I assume Hoopyfreud as well, think that we screwed up in the 1800s.

          • I don’t think that eliminating limited liability would have all that much effect, good or bad. Even without limited liability corporations, we still have individual limited liability in the form of bankruptcy law.

            So instead of setting up a joint stock company in the present form, you set up a company with a single owner and a set of contracts to its creditors, under which the amount owed to them depends on the company’s profits.

            The limited liability form only really matters for tort damages, since for contractual obligations you can always write limited liability into the contract. If the company incurs tort damages larger than its value the owner goes bankrupt, the creditors lose the money they have invested, and the tort claimants don’t get paid in full–the same result as with a limited liability corporation except for the loss to the owner.

            The only other difference I can see is that the investors don’t get a vote. I’m not sure if there is some way of giving them one by contract or not.

            Am I missing something?

    • Tenacious D says:

      If liability passes through to individual shareholders without a cap, I imagine there would be very few small shareholders. It becomes sort of like short-selling to own any shares, since the potential downside has no hard limit. With fewer participants, I think there would be less market liquidity and more inequality (since only people who can afford to be large shareholders will have access to stock markets).

  14. caryatis says:

    Unsolicited advice for anyone who uses benzodiazepines: if you mix the benzos with another substance (which you shouldn’t), use the other substance first. That way, you may not need the benzo, and you’ll avoid the phenomenon whereby the memory- and judgment-impairing effect of the benzo causes you to use more than is wise of the other substance.

  15. Le Maistre Chat says:

    What’s the deal with the Left’s vestigial Marxism? The continued references to being “under late capitalism”, etc?
    What, is “early socialism” the inevitable next stage of history, to be brought about by a working class revolution? … wouldn’t that actually be terrible for them? These are the people who can afford to spend 4+ years racking up $10,000+ debt/annum, so why do they think they’d be beneficiaries of an angry working class violently seizing power?
    Corporations are far more beholden to Social Justice ideology than to the working class (this being why HR departments exist), so why would they want to see them nationalized by the dictatorship of an angry proletariat trying to serve its own interests?

    I suppose the long game is Immanuel Wallerstein’s World Systems Theory, where you hope for a simultaneous global revolution by the proletariat of the Periphery (aided by unlimited immigration), completely bypassing any power to the proletariat of developed countries?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      What, is “early socialism” the inevitable next stage of history, to be brought about by a working class revolution?

      No. Most of them don’t even dialectics. It’s a shift in the socialist paradigm away from the narrative of an oppressed working class; now the socialists believe that the surplus value arises from technology, but that it’s disproportionately captured, rather than believing that it arises from direct exploitation. That’s the narrative of late capitalism – that the ability of the capitalist class to uh… capitalize will outstrip both its own ability to consume (because they’re only human) and also the lower classes’ (working and middle) ability to consume.

      When productivity capacity growth outstrips consumption capacity/appetites, capitalism fails unless cash transfers start happening, and if cash transfers are happening, the only capitalist strategy is to replace lower classes’ income-backed consumption with debt- and transfer-backed consumption. The first enables bankruptcies and the second is means-tested, subject to capture, and draws from the middle class as well as the wealthy and so makes capital holdings less accessible to the middle class. So these schemes provide the capitalists with revenue flows above what simple neglect would provide, but they’re also unsustainable. Eventually, they say, the lower classes will be totally unable to gain real wealth, and then everything will explode because they’ll have no better strategy than riots and theft, this being “terminal capitalism.” Or, alternatively, the institution of socialism now and the “fair” distribution of productivity gains throughout society by the enlightened college-educated class.

      I don’t believe all of this, or even most of it, by the way.

      These are the people who can afford to spend 4+ years racking up $10,000+ debt/annum, so why do they think they’d be beneficiaries of an angry working class violently seizing power?

      No, they’re not, at least not comfortably, and they see their own perceived lack of consumption in the face of their debt as proof of the above.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        When productivity capacity growth outstrips consumption capacity/appetites, capitalism fails unless cash transfers start happening, and if cash transfers are already happening, you’re not under capitalism.

        You mean cash transfers to the entire domestic proletariat, like a UBI? Otherwise it becomes unclear what the minimum amount of cash welfare is that means you’re no longer under capitalism.

      • mdet says:

        If this is their way of saying “Automation is gonna bring us mass technological unemployment pretty soon, and everyone will get free robot-produced goods”, then I’m down, if true.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Yeah, it’s basically this. But rationalizing it is a fun exercise.

        • mdet says:

          Assuming that (my interpretation of) Hoopyfreud’s interpretation of “late capitalism” is common, I don’t understand why so many people treat capitalism as intrinsically evil. If capitalist growth is going to inevitably lead to Fully-Automated Post-Scarcity Land, then we should be cheering it on, right? Is pushing for a minimum wage hike worth delaying utopia?

          (I’m vaguely aware of a Marxist idea of “heightening the contradictions”, ie promote capitalism in order to break it, but based on that logic I’d expect to see a whole bunch of Marxist cheerleaders of free market capitalism, and I don’t)

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Because there’s an unpleasant bit before it does. That much is held onto from Marx.

          • Plumber says:

            @mdet

            “”….based on that logic I’d expect to see a whole bunch of Marxist cheerleaders of free market capitalism, and I don’t…”

            Well sure you do if you stretch the word “free”.

             If I recall correctly, by employing crony-capitalism/fascism the Chinese Communist Party is “creating the material conditions for socialism” (which was due in 2000 A.D. in Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel Looking Backwards), which will someday be replaced by communism when “the state will wither away” (which was due by 2090 after a socialist revolution “Battle of Trafalgar Square” in Britain in 1952 in the 1890 novel News From Nowhere by William Morris).

        • arlie says:

          It’s not clear to me that the “evil capitalists” who own all the robots will choose to give out free goods. Or at least not until after massive problems happen (lots of people dying because they can’t afford necessities, because there’s no work for them and austerity precludes handouts). And that’s even though with none but fellow capitalists able to buy anything (or surviving at all), growth won’t happen, and the “owning class” therefore won’t be able to continue their ongoing status competition

          I haven’t actually seen any predictions of what will happen once the above situation occurs – i.e. how society makes it to post-scarcity, from a place where owners monopolize the products of the robots – reducing output to increase price, etc. rather than giving anything away.

          But I’m not following this line of thought; I just occassionally read things coming from people within the world view.

          • Orpheus says:

            It’s not clear to me that the “evil capitalists” who own all the robots will choose to give out free goods.

            TLP wrote about it, this is basically already happening, albeit in an extremely unproductive manner: Want your living wage? pretend to have some mental illness and go on SSI/SSRI. Or go to prison, same difference.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            @ arlie

            And that’s even though with none but fellow capitalists able to buy anything (or surviving at all), growth won’t happen, and the “owning class” therefore won’t be able to continue their ongoing status competition

            This implies a natural equilibrium where Capitalists can no longer accumulate above a certain level, and attempts to do so are counter-productive (i.e. they fail and capital is even lost). If the Capitalists try really hard to do so anyway, you get conditions like the 1920s and 30s where violent Socialist uprisings seem likely enough that the US creates the New Deal. We seem to have learned better, and instead create a better safety net (Nordic model) or push for large-scale growth with a moderate safety net (US, China, India model).

            I don’t see a realistic scenario where Capitalists just continually accumulate until they break everything.

          • arlie says:

            @ everyone – I was trying to decribe the theory, not to describe my own beliefs.

          • AG says:

            @Mr. Doolittle

            The common areas where “late stage capitalism” is commonly spit out are housing and healthcare distributions, the perception that chasing profit has become exploiting peoples’ basic needs (rent seeking instead of creation of new goods). Glybera, Shkreli, controversy over people buying up houses to run them through AirBnB full time, etc.

            Now, much of these situations are due to regulatory capture, but it’s also a case where the exploitation is a recent phenomenon, that people were previously operating in free market good faith, so that the regulations worked as intended. The grumble is that late stage capitalists are why we can’t have nice things, that these regulations didn’t have to distort the market. So it’s the emergence of people who are, indeed, content to accumulate until they break everything. See also the financial crisis, or Wells Fargo.

            So, really, “late stage capitalism” is really a complaint that capitalism has gone off the rails and become Crony Capitalism, but the reason leftists might insist that on indicting Capitalism on the whole for it is the same as why Marxism is indicted on the whole for the failures of execution. The bad actors of the current state are public champions for capitalism even as they pervert it, and none of the internal opponents are making a dent in preventing the corruption.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Except what we have right now is record low unemployment and the BLS report that just came out said there’s seven million open jobs. It seems like there’s still plenty of work to be done, so much so we can’t get enough able bodies to do it. We don’t seem to be anywhere near mass technological unemployment. Quite the opposite.

      • baconbits9 says:

        When productivity capacity growth outstrips consumption capacity/appetites, capitalism fails unless cash transfers start happening

        Why is this?

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          The idea, I think, is that investment is predicated on growth; if demand is flat, investment can only pay dividends by driving price downwards and capturing more market share, and that has a natural limit at the minimum price. Once you hit a situation like that investment and debt both start looking like terrible deals and the whole system falls apart.

          Or something. This is the part of this thinking I’m fuzziest on, honestly. The core idea seems to be that technological improvements make capitalism cannibalize itself; this is my interpretation of the mechanism.

    • dick says:

      As is usual for this site, I don’t recognize the Left you’re describing. Are you interpreting any criticism of capitalism as a call for marxism?

      • Orpheus says:

        I think this is a fairly apt description of the progressive movement (your Nathan Robinsons and co.).

        • Guy in TN says:

          Nathan Robinson is a socialist, not a Marxist. (source)

          I have noticed these two concepts are regularly conflated around these parts, and I find it confuses a lot of the discussion.

        • dick says:

          I think this is a fairly apt description of the progressive movement (your Nathan Robinsons and co.).

          …where was the description again?

          ETA: I just read the rest of this thread, and fuck is it weird. It seems like OP is sayig they’re perplexed as to why the American Left should be so in favor of marxist-style armed revolution by the proletariat, and all the responses are either “Yes, I also find that perplexing” or “That’s not perplexing, it’s because XYZ” and none of them are “I don’t think the American Left actually favors that at all”. (Except Nornagest, kind of) Is this fair? Am I missing something?

          • Nornagest says:

            Critical-theory types aren’t into armed revolution by the proletariat — at least, they don’t talk about it, and they’re the furthest thing from the proletariat themselves — so no, I don’t think the American Left actually favors that.

            Not the mainstream, anyway. You occasionally see anarchists or black nationalists or etc. that are, even a few lonely old-school Marxists, but they’re all pretty marginal, if pretty loud in the right social circles. And a lot of their revolutions conflict with each other.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yeah, bear in mind that I’ve agreed with Nornagest when he says the post-Foucault left isn’t into armed revolution by the proletariat.
            Whatever they expect to replace “late capitalism”, it must not be socialism as Marx meant it. It’s likely not anything coherent whatsoever.

          • dick says:

            I’ve agreed with Nornagest when he says the post-Foucault left isn’t into armed revolution by the proletariat.

            Then why did you ask, “What’s the deal with the Left’s vestigial Marxism? … is “early socialism” the inevitable next stage of history, to be brought about by a working class revolution?” And why did everyone respond as if that was totally a thing that the left thinks?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @dick: Well you’ll notice that my reply agreeing with him postdates my OP…

          • dick says:

            Okay. I still find most of this thread mystifying but I will file it under “people with very different media diets and ideologies have a very different idea of what ‘the left’ means”.

          • Orpheus says:

            @dick
            In Chats original comment?

            …the Left’s vestigial Marxism? The continued references to being “under late capitalism”, etc?
            …These are the people who can afford to spend 4+ years racking up $10,000+ debt/annum…

            If this is not a description of Robinson and everyone posting on his blog, I don’t know what is.

            @Guy In TN
            I never said he was, but his prose is positively littered with the same boo words and applause lights Marxists use (Neoliberalism, Patriarchy, working class, capitalism etc…). Are there any concrete issues on which he might disagree with, say, Douglas Lane? If not, then I don’t see that it matters how he chooses to define his tribal affiliation.

    • Nornagest says:

      They’re not Marxists. Well, mostly — there are academic Marxists but that’s about the only place where Marxism as such still thrives, and even that isn’t really orthodox communism so much as a weird little academic subculture that happens to analyze things through a Marx-derived lens.

      They’re critical theorists. Critical theory uses a lot of the language of Marxism (because it grew out of academic Marxism back in the mid-20th century) and a certain amount of its worldview, but doesn’t really share its agenda besides a general hostility to capitalism and old-school hierarchical systems. It doesn’t even have an agenda, really; that would imply positive advocacy, which is something that it fundamentally isn’t equipped for. Though it’s common both for individual critical theorists to bolt other ideological parts onto the side and exclude them from its analysis for more or less principled reasons, and for people who actually do have a core ideology to aim borrowed critical-theory arguments at whatever they want to tear down. (It’s very very good at tearing things down.)

      The core message of critical theory is “look closely enough and everything you believe in is lying, self-serving bullshit that’s full of contradictions”. Which isn’t to say it’s anarchist — anarchism actually has a better idea of what it wants its next steps to be than critical theory does, even if they’re totally unworkable.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        They’re critical theorists. Critical theory uses a lot of the language of Marxism (because it grew out of academic Marxism back in the mid-20th century) and a certain amount of its worldview, but doesn’t really share its agenda besides a general hostility to capitalism and old-school hierarchical systems.

        So they’re Foucaultists? As a tenured professor, Foucault almost exclusively employed Marxists and other ultra-left activists even as he changed the leftist tribe.

      • baconbits9 says:

        They just saw that Marxism was failing and decided that the only route to salvaging their ideology was to call everything bullshit, and say that everything was a failure/hypocritical/inconsequential/inconsistent and then go around attacking everyone else’s beliefs rather than having to defend their own. Its a defense mechanism, which is why it arose out of a failed ideology by the French.

    • Plumber says:

      @Le Maistre Chat

      “….Corporations are far more beholden to Social Justice ideology than to the working class (this being why HR departments exist), so why would they want to see them nationalized by the dictatorship of an angry proletariat trying to serve its own interests?…..”

      Um… the worker class having more power is true to the 19th and 20th century use of the term “Social Justice, but as far as I can tell what you must mean by those with a “Social Justice ideology” are the same sorts that George Orwell complained about in The Road to Wigan Pier as

      “One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England….”

      “….as I have suggested already, it is not 
      strictly fair to judge a movement by its adherents; but the point is that 
      people invariably do so, and that the popular conception of Socialism is 
      coloured by the conception of a Socialist as a dull or disagreeable person. 
      ‘Socialism’ is pictured as a state of affairs in which our more vocal Socialists would feel thoroughly at home. This does great harm to the cause. The ordinary man may not flinch from a dictatorship of the proletariat, if you offer it tactfully; offer him a dictatorship of the prigs, and he gets ready to fight….”

      mostly though as described in this blog and in many of it’s comments the “Social Justice”/”anti-Social Justice” struggle seems a manners argument between mostly collegiate class women and mostly collegiate class men (“U.M.C”, yeah right tell me another one you guys are the upper class).

      As to why those sorts use Marxist term?

      Probably to seem badass, similar to guys who put stickers of pictures of skulls on their pick-up trucks.

      Of little consequence, in time the “SJ” and “anti-SJ” will marry each other and complain together about workers not being fast enough.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Um… the worker class having more power is true to the 19th and 20th century use of the term “Social Justice, but as far as I can tell what you must mean by those with a “Social Justice ideology” are the same sorts that George Orwell complained about in The Road to Wigan Pier

        Yes, exactly! I’m not talking about older uses of the term like Catholic social justice, or even orthodox Marxism. I mean the vegan, LGBT, polyamory, Quaker, pacifist (except for punching “Nazis”), feminist Left.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think for most of them it’s just fashion (and signalling sympathy for the poor); they don’t really get that they’d be up against the wall when the revolution comes.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Yeah, that’s what I keep thinking… does this just never cross their minds? Do they never even imagine the possibility of Mark Zuckerberg, the board of Google, and George Soros swinging from lamp posts during a proletarian revolution?

        • baconbits9 says:

          No, the same way that communists never imagined that they would have their throats slit in the night by other, more ambitious, communists.

        • Guy in TN says:

          I think that surely, a millionaire who advocates for Marxism is aware enough of their ideology to know that they will no longer be a millionaire if their political ideas actually come into fruition. “The rich will no longer be rich” is like, half of the entire point.

          I also suspect that the “Marxist millionaire” is a far rarer creature than you are giving credit.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t know of any millionaires who advocate for actual Marxism, as opposed to something in the general vicinity of Scandinavian-style democratic socialism. The latter definitely has room for millionaires to live happily ever after. And it doesn’t seem all that unreasonable for them to play on the same team as the Marxists now, in the expectation that when their courses eventually diverge, the Marxists will be going on alone and with inadequate support to actually implement Marxism.

            Unlike 1918, the Left of 2018 is largely focused on issues other than economic class struggle, and democratic socialism would be well positioned to peel off the feminists, anti-fascists, LGBT activists, and whatnot from the Marxists.

    • LadyJane says:

      @Le Maistre Chat: This is exactly the point I’ve been trying to make for years. Globalized cosmopolitan capitalism, the system of the urban elites and the suburban upper middle class, is a more natural fit for Social Justice than socialism. Conversely, socialism is actually a much better fit for the socially conservative working classes; a true uprising of the proletariat would look a lot more like a Trump rally than a college protest.

      As I’ve said before, the modern American right claims to love capitalism, but hates its inevitable results (mass immigration driving down wages, outsourcing and automation replacing local jobs, the erosion of national identity and traditional values, the rise of a commercialized and homogenized mass media culture), while the American left claims to hate capitalism, but loves its inevitable results (secularism, racial and ethnic equality, gender equality, the relaxation of traditional gender roles and sexual norms – all pushed forward by the capitalist drive to gain consumers from all demographic groups). As a social justice capitalist, I feel largely alone; libertarians are supposed to be “fiscally conservative and socially liberal,” but in practice a lot of them seem to care more about defending the rights of bigots than taking a stand against discrimination. Occasionally I’ll see a thinkpiece by someone who basically shares my views, like this one, but for the most part it’s just me, Adam Bates, and Elizabeth Nolan Brown in this category.

      Part of the issue is political factionalization: Since racial minorities, immigrants, women, and LGBT people tend to be poorer than straight white men on average, they tend to be more likely to support policies that help the poor, which drives even the minorities who aren’t poor towards the political party/movement that’s further to the economic left, while simultaneously driving even the straight white men who are poor towards the political party/movement that’s further to the economic right. Political inertia may be sufficient to continue this trend for years or decades, even if the economic gap between majority and minority groups completely disappeared tomorrow. Moral foundations may also play a role; people who prioritize empathy may be more inclined to support both minority groups and the poor, while people who prioritize tradition may be more inclined to support both majority groups and the rich. “Intersectionalism” on the left and “Fusionism” on the right have also hopelessly muddled the issues here, with leftists still nonsensically claiming that you can’t support minority rights and capitalism at the same time, and conservatives still nonsensically claiming that capitalism can only work in a society with strong traditional values (and more recently, white nationalists claiming that capitalism can only work in a society that’s predominantly comprised of Western Europeans).

      That said, things do seem to be slowly changing, as Trump-style populists and alt-right/alt-lite types are increasingly starting to reject capitalist orthodox in favor of protectionism and social welfare for the right kinds of people (e.g. working-class white Americans), while socially moderate “Bernie Bros” and Orthodox Marxist class warriors are slowly gaining traction on the left despite being lukewarm or outright antagonistic towards leftist identity politics.

      • Nicholas Weininger says:

        There’s a Dani Rodrik paper on the roots of democracy, liberalism, and various sorts of rights-protection:

        file:///home/chronos/u-7e4f65ae9fec515289d93450177d0f320b296cee/Downloads/RWP15_052_Rodrik.pdf

        which models societies as composed of masses, elites, and minorities. Modern leftism is roughly but often insightfully modelable as an attempt to unite the masses and minorities against the elites; modern rightism, as an attempt to unite the masses and elites against the minorities. Those of us who subscribe to “leftish” libertarianism of the BHL/Friedersdorf/Niskanen type are, on this view, always going to feel alone because our political project is in some sense an attempt to unite the elites and minorities against the masses. Further back in history I would interpret Mencken, for example, as having exactly this project; he despised the “booboisie” for both their bigotry and their leveling egalitarianism.

        • LadyJane says:

          Those of us who subscribe to “leftish” libertarianism of the BHL/Friedersdorf/Niskanen type are, on this view, always going to feel alone because our political project is in some sense an attempt to unite the elites and minorities against the masses.

          Yes, exactly. That is very much what I want. Which is not to say that I want the masses to suffer in poverty, squalor, and disgrace: I genuinely believe that the globalist and capitalist policies supported by the elites will raise everyone’s objective standard of living in the long run, and on the flip side, I believe that the nationalist and protectionist policies that the masses prefer will only end up making life worse for them down the line. But I really don’t give a damn about their identity, their cultural heritage, their traditions, their values, and their way of life, especially not when those things get in the way of minority rights on the one hand and economic growth/technological progress on the other. I could care less how they personally choose to live their lives, but when they start making life harder for racial minorities and foreigners and women and queer people, or making life harder for everyone by supporting disastrous economic policies, I’m going to fight tooth and nail to keep them from getting their way.

          Also, going by the same paradigm, you could say that the establishment conservatism supported by traditional Republicans like Bush and Romney was solely a movement for the elites, basically a vehicle for them to enforce their will upon the masses and the minorities alike. It made an attempt to appeal to the masses, but it was a shallow and transparent one. That would help to explain why it failed so spectacularly, giving way to the populism of the Tea Party and the Trump crowd.

          • Baeraad says:

            our political project is in some sense an attempt to unite the elites and minorities against the masses.

            Yes, exactly. That is very much what I want.

            Wow. It’s… actually kind of refreshing to hear someone admit it.

            I think I’ll save a link to this thread for the next time someone asks me why I am not weeping blood over the plight of the pretty, sparkly minorities.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What Baeraad said. It’s so nice to hear someone just say it already.

            But yes, this is why Trump and Trump rallies happened. The working/middle class people are just trying to live their lives, raise their families, observe their religions and traditions, and have no interest in suffering for your pie-in-the-sky ideologies, despite your earnest belief that things will get better for them in the long run.

            Given your open disdain for these people, I think they can be forgiven for not believing your well-wishes are sincere. Should your ideology inexplicably fail to bring about techno-utopia, after the traditions, cultures, and families of middle and working class Americans have been ground into dust, would you even care? You’ve already convinced yourself they’re bad people. Who cares when bad people are miserable?

          • quanta413 says:

            Exactly what you like is precisely why I get off the train of liberaltarianism. For one thing, this sort of program gives elites strong incentives to keep minorities in a subservient position and play them against the middle. This is destructive to having a functioning body politic. We already have this in the U.S. and it sucks. In the long run, I think it leads to a crappy political culture. It’s pretty much bread and circuses.

            Also elites don’t actually support free market policies since free market policies are often bad for them. They selectively support free market policies when beneficial to themselves and otherwise don’t. They’re globalist sure but not free market.

          • Dan L says:

            @Baeraad:

            “I don’t give a damn about your culture, just don’t mess with my rights and don’t fuck up the economy” is a pretty popular stance; that is what it looks like coming from the Left.

            For added fun, reread this thread as an antebellum Abolitionist.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What exactly is it about the white working class / flyover state dwellers that’s as evil as slavery, making them worthy of destruction?

          • LadyJane says:

            @Baeraad: Worst case scenario if the nationalists and social conservatives take power, we get a culture of extreme repression where minority groups are persecuted and systematically oppressed. Worst case scenario if the far-leftists take power, we get a socialist dictatorship that makes life worse for everyone by implementing authoritarian policies and crashing the economy. Worst case scenario if the globalist liberal capitalists stay in power, the old ways of life are slowly but surely outcompeted by Universal Culture and forgotten. Which of those sounds worst to you? If the choice is between making material conditions worse for everyone, violating the fundamental rights of a small group of people, or making a large group of people feel [i]uncomfortable[/i] because they no longer have a sense of purpose or belonging, then the latter option seems the best from a humanitarian perspective. People won’t be driftless forever, new cultures and traditions will form to give people a new sense of identity and community; the old ones simply can’t be maintained indefinitely in the face of economic, technological, political, and social change, and while that’s unfortunate for people whose fundamental sense of self is tied to those values, that doesn’t justify trying to keep them in place indefinitely even if it means letting the whole system break.

            @Conrad Honcho: Socialism is a pie-in-the-sky utopian ideology. Globalist capitalism is a system that’s been proven to improve standards of living across the board, a look at infant mortality statistics alone is enough to prove that. Its biggest apparent flaw is that it doesn’t distribute those benefits evenly, but even in developing countries where the majority of people are extremely poor, quality of life is still [i]rising[/i]. It’s not about building a perfect world at some indeterminate point in the future – I agree the failure modes of that approach are well-documented – it’s about building a better world now.

            But since you and Baeraad appreciate my honesty so much, I have a question for you, and I hope you’ll give equally honest answers. If you knew for a fact that certain conservative/populist policies (for instance, protectionism and reduced immigration) would make economic conditions worse for most people, including the majority of people who supported those policies, would you support them anyway for the sake of preserving the country’s cultural integrity? Do you think most conservatives would? I’m sure at least some of them would be willing to bite that particular bullet, but since I don’t actually think that they’re “bad people” for the most part, I’d prefer to believe that the majority of them wouldn’t.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            If you knew for a fact that certain conservative/populist policies (for instance, protectionism and reduced immigration) would make economic conditions worse for most people, including the majority of people who supported those policies, would you support them anyway for the sake of preserving the country’s cultural integrity?

            That “for instance” is a trick question, because there are different kinds of immigration. Reducing the flow of immigrant workers may or may not make economic conditions worse even for the native workers who have to compete with them, but welfare immigrants from cultures that condone violence against the outgroup… well, it’s hard to fathom that being beneficial for anyone except the immigrants receiving those handouts.

          • SamChevre says:

            @LadyJane

            If you knew for a fact that certain conservative/populist policies (for instance, protectionism and reduced immigration) would make economic conditions worse for most people, including the majority of people who supported those policies, would you support them anyway for the sake of preserving the country’s cultural integrity?

            For me, absolutely, without even thinking twice, given the respective effect sizes I expect.

            I’ll put it in personal terms: if I and everyone I know can earn 10% less, and pay 10% more for clothes and food, we’ll still have better food to eat and be better clothed than I was as a child (ETA: my family had a below-poverty-line income and lived in one of the poorest counties in Tennessee). If the trade-off is that a 2-parent, 1-income family with a median education can buy a house, and send their children to a school where most children come from stable families, and the parks are safe places to play, and the police are part of the community rather than an occupying army–this seems like an incredibly good trade-off.

            ETA:
            I know “Dick and Jane World” didn’t actually exist, and wasn’t evenly distributed to the extent it did. But I’d trade significant income to get closer to it,and expect that most conservatives and many leftists would make similar choices.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            If you knew for a fact that certain conservative/populist policies (for instance, protectionism and reduced immigration) would make economic conditions worse for most people, including the majority of people who supported those policies, would you support them anyway for the sake of preserving the country’s cultural integrity?

            If you knew for a fact that open borders would make things worse for most people, including most immigrants, would you support them anyway for the sake of…well, for the sake of whatever people who advocate open borders think it’s for the sake of?

            (If you suspect that it wouldn’t, I recommend Reihan Salam’s Melting Pot or Civil War?)

          • LadyJane says:

            @Le Maistre Chat: I meant working immigrants and their families; the vast majority of people who come to this country, legally or otherwise, come here to work. Immigrants aren’t even eligible for most forms of welfare, so I find it doubtful that there are enough “welfare immigrants” to have any significant effect on the economy.

            @SamChevre: Thank you for your honesty.

            @Doctor Mist: I wouldn’t take a hardline anti-immigration stance, but I would stop being enthusiastically pro-immigration and take a more mainstream neoconservative/neoliberal stance.

          • LadyJane says:

            The site deleted my original response to Baeraad and Conrad Honcho, so I’ve written it out again:

            @Baeraad: What are the alternatives? Nationalism and social conservatism lead to repression and to the persecution of minorities. And as both as a cosmopolitan urbanite and an openly queer person, there’s no room for me in their world anyway. Far-leftism is an intellectual and ideological dead end, and on the off chance that an actual socialist system was implemented, it would make things worse for everyone by suppressing people’s rights and crashing the economy. On the other hand, the worst that will happen with globalism is that some people will be slightly worse off economically in the short-term, and the old ways of life will slowly but surely fade away as they’re outcompeted by Universal Culture and forgotten. Which of those seems like the worse outcome to you?

            Given the options of making economic conditions worse for everyone, completely ostracizing a small group of people from society and denying their basic rights, or making a large group of people feel uncomfortable because they no longer have a sense of purpose or belonging, the latter definitely seems like the best option from a utilitarian perspective. People won’t feel aimless forever, new cultures and traditions will develop over time to give people a new sense of identity and community, but you can’t expect the old ones to remain intact forever in the face of drastic technological, economic, political, and social changes. That’s unfortunate for the people whose fundamental sense of self is tied to those old norms and values, but that doesn’t justify trying to cling to the past even if it brings the whole system crashing down.

            @Conrad Honcho: Socialism is a pie-in-the-sky utopian ideology. Even conservatism is idealistic in a way, at least if one isn’t willing to abandon the material benefits of modernity; it’s naive to think that culture can remain the same while everything else changes. But globalism and economic liberalism have consistently improved standards of living across the board, just a glance at infant mortality rates alone should be proof enough of that. Even in developing countries where the majority of people live in extreme poverty, their quality of life is still improving, just slowly. I’m not arguing for a perfect world at some indeterminate point of the future – the failure modes of that approach are well known – I’m fighting for a better world now.

            And I don’t think the majority of the rural working class are “bad people,” or even stupid, I just think they’re wrong.

          • mdet says:

            Note for Baeraad & Conrad: I also thought LadyJane sounded callous with the “I don’t care if I destroy the masses’ way of life”, but her response below to the LGBT-disapproving baker issue was to allow people freedom of conscience to refuse particular orders but NOT particular customers (a position which I think might put her closer to the mainstream Right than the mainstream Left), so I’m actually going to give her the benefit of the doubt that she’d be more fair-minded and accommodating than she came off with that comment.

          • cassander says:

            @SamChevre

            I’ll put it in personal terms: if I and everyone I know can earn 10% less, and pay 10% more for clothes and food, we’ll still have better food to eat and be better clothed than I was as a child (ETA: my family had a below-poverty-line income and lived in one of the poorest counties in Tennessee). If the trade-off is that a 2-parent, 1-income family with a median education can buy a house, and send their children to a school where most children come from stable families, and the parks are safe places to play, and the police are part of the community rather than an occupying army–this seems like an incredibly good trade-off.

            You can have that life now. You just have to be willing to live at a lower standard of living than is now common, with levels of durable goods ownership, housing size, etc. at levels that prevailed a few decades ago. Most people don’t like that choice, and so choose not to live it.

            @LadyJane says:

            I think you massively exaggerate the globalist elite’s commitment to capitalism, but it is wonderfully refreshing to see someone identify as “a cosmopolitan urbanite and an openly queer capitalist.” I don’t get to meet a lot of those. It’s why I come here.

          • LadyJane says:

            @mdet: It’s a firmly centrist position, I doubt religious conservatives would be willing to accept such a compromise any more than the die-hard SJWs would. At any rate, I don’t think there’s any need to force anyone to comply with Universal Culture, it’s going to naturally outcompete all of its rivals within the next few decades anyway.

            That’s why the paleo-libertarian mindset has always seemed so strange to me. They genuinely seem to believe that multiculturalism, gender equality, and LGBT rights are the result of some kind of top-down plot to destroy traditional Western civilization, and that if the government just left everyone alone, things would go back to the way they used to be. I see it the opposite way: Multiculturalism, gender equality, and LGBT rights are the inevitable results of our culture’s economic and technological development, and the only way to preserve things like cultural homogeneity and traditional gender norms (at least without abandoning capitalism and modern technology altogether) would be to implement top-down policies to prevent social change.

            That’s also why I’ve always been skeptical of Scott’s Archipelago idea. Some ways of life just work better than others, and people would be inclined to leave unsuccessful communities in favor of more successful ones. Given a choice between a society where women have full legal and social equality, and one where women are expected to adhere to rigidly traditional gender norms, most women are going to choose the former. Some women might prefer to be stay-at-home housewives, but they’d still have that choice in the first society, they’d just also have more options in case things didn’t work out. So the majority of women are going to leave Conservatopia and move to Egalitaria, and Conservatopia is going to fall apart as a result.

          • Nicholas Weininger says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            “What exactly is it about the white working class / flyover state dwellers that’s as evil as slavery, making them worthy of destruction?”

            Forced childbirth, for one. Roe v Wade was correctly decided but on the wrong grounds: abortion restrictions should have been struck down as a Thirteenth Amendment violation.

            @SamChevre, on the question of affording a decent middle class existence on one income, Scott has a review from a couple of years back of “The Two Income Trap” that addresses half the picture: the reason this has gotten so hard is the rising cost of houses in good school districts. The other half is provided by books like Rothstein’s “The Color of Law”: the reason those houses are so expensive is because snob zoning keeps out poor people as a proxy for keeping out black people. Basically the American white suburban middle class decided they would rather die than desegregate, so they did.

          • SamChevre says:

            @LadyJane

            How many people–left or right-would trade some amount of national income for a better world as they define better? I think this is the normal choice, not the weird one: whether it’s people concerned about climate change, or people concerned about domestic jobs, having less stuff and money in a better world seems to be commonly thought better.

            @cassander
            I can have the pieces of my goal-less income and more family–that affect only me myself; I largely have made those choices. I can’t see any way to choose individually that housing prices in family-friendly neighborhoods will be low relative to incomes, or that 2-parent, 1-income families will be normative; that takes social organization, not individual choice.

          • SamChevre says:

            @Nicholas Weininger
            the reason those houses are so expensive is because snob zoning keeps out poor people as a proxy for keeping out black people.

            I disagree: I think the target is 1-parent families, not black people. This has the extremely problematic feature of treating 2-parent, 1-income families like single parents.

          • cassander says:

            @SamChevre

            I can have the pieces of my goal-less income and more family–that affect only me myself; I largely have made those choices. I can’t see any way to choose individually that housing prices in family-friendly neighborhoods will be low relative to incomes, or that 2-parent, 1-income families will be normative; that takes social organization, not individual choice.

            I suppose that depends a great deal on your definition of “family friendly neighborhood” but you can start by buying a house half the size of the average house today, that’s older and doesn’t have a dishwasher, microwave, air conditioning, dryer, or color TV. And if you do that, you’ll have about the median house in 1975.

            that, or buy a bigger house and rent out part of it.

          • LadyJane says:

            @SamChevre: See, that’s exactly what I mean when I say that socially liberal norms will outcompete traditional ways of life. All other things being equal, families where both spouses work are naturally going to bring in more money than families where only the husband works. The only way to make the “two parent, single income” lifestyle economically viable again would be to have the majority of people adopt it, but they’re not going to do that unless legal and/or social pressures are put into place to disincentivize “two parent, double income” lifestyles, which would be unfair to the multitudes of married women out there who don’t want to be stay-at-home housewives and would prefer to have their own careers rather than be dependent on their husband. And I don’t consider that a worthwhile trade-off at all.

          • SamChevre says:

            @LadyJane

            All other things being equal, families where both spouses work are naturally going to bring in more money than families where only the husband works.

            True. I don’t object to that. What I object to is allowing 2-income families to buy out of dysfunction, but not allowing the 2-parent, 1-income families to organize out of dysfunction. Until the 1960’s, 2-parent families could exclude single parents, and having a wife who worked was low-status. The current state of affairs was a change, with a huge amount of government resources still being devoted to making it happen. Changing to “only 2-income families can exclude single parents” was a dramatic dis-improvement.

            @cassander
            “Family-friendly neighborhood” defined: most adults in the neighborhood have or had children, and almost all children live with the same two parents throughout their childhood

          • Plumber says:

            @LadyJane,

            FWLIW as a “data point” my crew at work in San Francisco is about half U.S. born and half immigrants (mostly The Philippines and the former Soviet Union with one guy each from Ethiopia, Iran, Mexico, Trinidad, and the United Kingdom), and about half non-white and about half white, around a third of the crew are ethnic Russians and, except for one guy who came to the U.S.A. in ’79 who talks to everyone, the ex-soviets don’t talk to me as much so I can’t guess their opinions, but from the rest I definitely get a sense of my co-workers political leanings. 

            Black, brown, white, atheist, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or Protestant (the presumably Russian Orthodox guys don’t talk as much with any of us besides the Jewish guy who’s also an ex-soviet, but has been in the U.S. longer than the rest of them and is the “bridge”) most agree and disagree with the Democratic and Republican parties on the same stuff, as most are basically “social right” “economic left” and which way they vote correlates with how far their commute to work is.

            Of the four most outspoken Democrats all live within 15 miles of the job in San Francisco

            1) Born in Trinidad, was in U.S. Navy, “black” skin, pro-union, pro-Obamacare (actually uses old 1930’s lingo like “I’m for the Masses!”), also extremely anti-gay, was very pro Prop 8.

            2) Born in Philippines, “brown”, worked in the shipyards before, pro-union, devout Catholic. 

            3) Born in San Francisco, light brown,  long-time air conditioning tech, one foreign parent, pro-union, goes to Catholoc church twice a year.

            4) Born across the bridge in Oakland (this is me), “white”, worked construction before switching to repairs, pro-union, pro-Obamacare, atheist but finds other atheists usually less easy to get along with than the religious guys.

            Of the four most outspoken Republicans all live more than 30 miles from the job in San Francisco. 

            1) Born in the Philippines, “brown”, worked in the shipyards, also ex-cop, pro-union, very anti-abortion, very devout Catholic. 

            2) Born in the Soviet Union, “white”, anti-union (said after Janus decision he’ll stop paying dues), very libertarian, says “Trump is crook but I hate Democrats more”, Jewish. 

            3) Born in U.S.A. (Sonoma County), “white”, pro-union, gun collector, regular Catholic church goer but divorced, against Trump in the primaries but still Republican.

            4) Born in U.S.A. (out of State), “white”, gun collector and frequently goes to shooting range, ex-Marine, atheist, pro-Trump early on.

            We’re all “blue-collar” and the less politically outspoken on the crew are much the same just less loud, and only one of us could be called  remotely “fiscally conservative”, “socially liberal”.

            My point in all this: “minority” working-class men aren’t very different from “white” working class men and tend to also be “social conservative”, “economic liberal” as well, they just put more weight on the economic issues, you may want their support in promoting “social liberalism” but except that they’re not bigoted against themselves they also tend to be more religious than whites, and much like populist whites they want both union jobs and their faith.

            Don’t take them for granted for your social agenda.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Plumber: I’m well aware of the fact that racial minorities and immigrants tend to be more socially conservative; in fact, I made that exact point earlier today in my response to “Guy in TN” below. But their children will probably be socially liberal, and their children’s children almost certainly will be.

            That’s why I have to laugh whenever nationalist conservatives start talking about how immigrants are going to outnumber native-born Americans and take over the country, or how people in developing nations are going to outnumber Westerners and take over the world. Conservatives always make a big deal of the fact that Western birth rates are declining as a result of contraception, women’s equality, the LGBT agenda, and so forth, while socially conservative foreigners are still having large families. What they don’t seem to realize is that the same trends that affected the West will eventually affect other cultures too, their birth rates will plummet too, and the demographics will even out again.

          • abortion restrictions should have been struck down as a Thirteenth Amendment violation.

            Would you say the same thing about alcohol and drug prohibition? Your argument seems to equate restricting what someone can do with her own body to slavery, which should apply to those as well.

            on the question of affording a decent middle class existence on one income, Scott has a review from a couple of years back of “The Two Income Trap” that addresses half the picture: the reason this has gotten so hard is the rising cost of houses in good school districts.

            If the wife is a stay at home housewife, that opens up the possibility of home schooling, so the family is no longer dependent on the quality of the school district.

            And that becomes more and more practical as the range of online educational options increases.

          • Plumber says:

            @SamChevre

            “@LadyJane

            If you knew for a fact that certain conservative/populist policies (for instance, protectionism and reduced immigration) would make economic conditions worse for most people, including the majority of people who supported those policies, would you support them anyway for the sake of preserving the country’s cultural integrity?

            For me, absolutely, without even thinking twice, given the respective effect sizes I expect.

            I’ll put it in personal terms: if I and everyone I know can earn 10% less, and pay 10% more for clothes and food, we’ll still have better food to eat and be better clothed than I was as a child (ETA: my family had a below-poverty-line income and lived in one of the poorest counties in Tennessee). If the trade-off is that a 2-parent, 1-income family with a median education can buy a house, and send their children to a school where most children come from stable families, and the parks are safe places to play, and the police are part of the community rather than an occupying army–this seems like an incredibly good trade-off.

            ETA:
            I know “Dick and Jane World” didn’t actually exist, and wasn’t evenly distributed to the extent it did. But I’d trade significant income to get closer to it,and expect that most conservatives and many leftists would make similar choices.”

             SamChevre,

            I’m amazed that someone who calls himself a “conservative” feels that way, you sound like a normal lunch box Democrat or one of the black “church-ladies” on the street I grew up in (though someone who looked up ‘conservative’ in the dictionary and said “that’s me” I could imagine having that viewpoint because that’s way different) 

            Sorry if I’m insulting, but my prejudices about most who call themselves “conservatives” are more: “Destroy Detroit! Destroy Appalachia! It must be cheaper, faster, NOW! If they’re too stupid to market themselves well that’s there own damn fault! Efficiency! The invisible hand of the market decides all that’s worthy! Families, communities, nations are nothing! ALL FOR MAMMON! No marketable skills? SELL YOUR KIDNEYS! GROWTH IS ALL! NO SUCH THING AS SOCIETY!!! WEED OUT THE WEAK AND STUPID!”

            Instead you don’t sound like a “conservative” at all, you sound more like a 1930’s to 1980’s American “liberal”.

            Not a 19th century “classical liberal”, or a “progressive”, but a good-old-fashioned decent “bleeding heart liberal” like Hubert Humphrey or Walter Mondale, who believed that how we treat that less well off matters, that other Americans children matter. 

            That our Republic is a commonwealth and in Patriotism not Nationalism.

            I only saw the tail end of the pre “conservative revolution” ‘New Deal/Great Society but I remember in the 1970’s both black and white men with intact families, often Korean war veterans who worked in the shipyards and factories together, and though they went to separate churches they still met in the same union halls.

            By 2000 that was destroyed.

            In between came the bullets, especially in 1985 where not a single damn month would go by without my hearing gunfire. 

            The white kids moved out of town, often to college, and the black kids had different fates depending on if they were men or women.

            The women fared a little better, often with city and school district jobs, but most of the men never found the kinds of jobs their fathers had, and the beggers that were mostly white “hippies” in the 1970’s became mostly black men in the 1990’s, and now my old neighborhood is mostly white, even the beggers are now mostly white, and the whole town is far less black and far more Asian and Hispanic. 

            Where did they go?

            I’m told Antioch, which used to be rural, but Antioch isn’t big enough to fit all that left Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco. 

            So where?

            I can’t shake the feeling that black Americans are “canaries in the coal mine” and their fate is a preview of white Americans not in the “cognive elite” fates.

            Antioch isn’t big enough. 

            I guess it’ll be Stockton

             @LadyJane 

            “…I’m well aware of the fact that racial minorities and immigrants tend to be more socially conservative; in fact, I made that exact point earlier today in my response to “Guy in TN” below. But their children will probably be socially liberal, and their children’s children almost certainly will be.

            That’s why I have to laugh whenever nationalist conservatives start talking about how immigrants are going to outnumber native-born Americans and take over the country, or how people in developing nations are going to outnumber Westerners and take over the world. Conservatives always make a big deal of the fact that Western birth rates are declining as a result of contraception, women’s equality, the LGBT agenda, and so forth, while socially conservative foreigners are still having large families. What they don’t seem to realize is that the same trends that affected the West will eventually affect other cultures too, their birth rates will plummet too, and the demographics will even out again.”

             LadyJane, 

            If you mean the “melting pot” is still working your quite right, one generation is usually enough. 

            I just wish for more “affirmative action” for those American families who didn’t make it into the middle class.

            Also up-thread there’s lots of talk about “You can afford a house if you only have 20th century expectations”

            What the heck are yoh guys talking about?

            My parents were able to buy a bigger 60 years old house when my Dad was 35 and my mom was 27, but when (thanks to the crash of 2009) me and my wife could get finally a house we were in our late 40’s and the house was smaller than the ones both our parents got in the 1970’s and it was built in 1927 (so over 80 years old), the roof was leaking and the water heater from 1991 (it lasted us another two years).

            There was no air-conditioning or any of the “bells and whistles” listed up-thread, it was a 20th century house in every way except older and costing way more hours of labor to buy than our parents homes.

          • Plumber says:

            “…ALL FOR MAMMON…”

            I hope I catch this before someone posts under my last post (tried to late to Edit I guess) but I feel that I should note that some (especially in these comments) really do think that unrestricted free markets are best for the greatest good for the greatest number, and long-term worldwide you guys may be right, but I can’t shake feeling a greater sense of solidarity with Americans (especially with those also from the “flats”) than I do with others around the world, and the the mid 20th century welfare state with collective bargaining was so good for so many Americans that restoring it seems an obvious goal and it’s hard for me to get other points of view. 

            Sorry. 

          • LadyJane says:

            @Plumber: I’m amenable to Nordic-style welfare capitalism, especially if it’s paired with a corresponding decrease in market regulations to match the Nordic countries; for all that Americans call them “socialist,” they have freer markets than ours in a lot of ways. It’s the nationalism and social conservatism of far right populism, as well as the economic centralization and radical redistributionism of far left populism, that I have a problem with. Authoritarian and socially conservative leftist movements (Stalinism, Maoism, Castroism, Chavismo, Ba’athism, National Bolshevism, some forms of National Socialism) are pretty much the definition of pure evil to me, as they combine what I consider to be the worst qualities of the far right and far left.

          • Aapje says:

            @LadyJane

            I see it the opposite way: Multiculturalism, gender equality, and LGBT rights are the inevitable results of our culture’s economic and technological development, and the only way to preserve things like cultural homogeneity and traditional gender norms (at least without abandoning capitalism and modern technology altogether) would be to implement top-down policies to prevent social change.

            You are ignoring that there is a lot of social engineering and policy-based incentives driving these changes.

            Even then, we see that multiculturalism is being heavily resisted, as people are very prone to self-segregate. Similarly, gender equality is heavily resisted as men and women still make far different choices, in some ways even more than in less feminist countries.

            You seem to believe in some sort of neutral state that we are proceeding to where people purely make decisions based on economic and technological incentives vs a past state where people where heavily incentivized by oppressive policies. This is both a caricature of the past (where many traditional choices were probably made because of the economic and technological incentives at the time, like poor birth control); as well as of the present, where culture and policy also drive our choices.

            Nationalism and social conservatism lead to repression and to the persecution of minorities.

            Nationalism can also take the form of defending minorities that are part of the ingroup. For example, I just found a (Dutch) article about ‘gay nationalist voters,’ defined as those who oppose migration, but who strongly support gay rights. They found that this is up to 12% of voters in certain countries (like France).

          • Erusian says:

            Authoritarian and socially conservative leftist movements (Stalinism, Maoism, Castroism, Chavismo, Ba’athism, National Bolshevism, some forms of National Socialism)…

            Considering everything except National Socialism (presuming you mean Nazism) was explicitly feminist, endorsed by feminism at the time, as well as explicitly pro-minority, and endorsed by minority activists at the time… what is your definition of ‘socially conservative leftist’? What does socially liberal leftism look like?

            Like, one of Stalin’s preoccupations was extending daycare facilities into the countryside so it would be easier for women to work. He barely tolerated the Orthodox Church. Mao basically decreed by fiat that women’s sports would receive equal funding to men’s and this policy was so strongly imprinted that female Chinese athletes bring home more medals than the men. I could go on, both for women and minorities.

            What does ‘socially conservative’ mean to you?

          • albatross11 says:

            Plumber:

            As a datapoint, I have a pretty successful career and a good job, and my wife stays home with our kids. We live in a smaller, less-nice house than either of us grew up in and this is pretty-much a direct consequence of her staying home with the kids plus rising housing prices for several decades. So this isn’t just working class families that face a lower standard of living than their parents.

          • albatross11 says:

            So, suppose my local small town[1] wants to implement something like SamChevre’s ideal of encouraging functional two-parent familes and discouraging/pushing away single-parent families, criminals, beggars, etc. It looks to me like we would end up in court/legal trouble over a lot of the stuff we would want to do.

            Have the cops run off the beggars, arrest them for vagrancy, and reassert control over public spaces? Impose serious behavior standards in the public schools and transfer the kids who don’t meet them to a reform school somewhere? Track by ability in school? Do some kind of discrimination on who can buy houses in neighborhoods to require intact families, or maybe give the neighbors a veto over likely-disruptive neighbors? Have a community that’s majority Christian and has a lot of Christanity incorporated into civic activities and rituals? Sex-segregated education and social events/clubs? All that stuff would likely end up with the town being dragged into court and forced to change things, or investigated by the Justice Dept, or some such thing. Most or all those things were broadly in place in a lot of small towns 50 years ago–we as a society decided to change them both from the top down (court rulings) and the bottom up (people voting with their feet).

            The structure of various kinds of government aid programs also do some of this. If your welfare programs create an incentive for single parenthood, and practically discourage working or saving money, that’s a top-down erosion of a lot of traditional values.

            These policies may be good or bad–even though I’m pretty socially conservative in my own life, I like a more diverse community than the one I’m describing. But it’s important to realize that a lot of the push to get rid of that stuff did come from the top down. People not going to church so much anymore is bottom-up; not being allowed to open public meetings with a Christian prayer is top-down.

            [1] Hypothetical–I live in a big sprawling suburb in a big sprawling metro area, and none of this stuff would be remotely practical or popular here.

          • Nick says:

            @albatross11, Benedict Option folks are trying to build communities like that, but I don’t think even the biggest is going to be anything the size of a small town. More like a neighborhood where a critical mass have moved, or a bunch of families around a certain parish or parish school. I think you’ve said you live in the DC area? There is Hyattsville, but that’s some families in a town of 17,000. Still better than the mean, of course. Cf. Rod, NPR.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s why I have to laugh whenever nationalist conservatives start talking about how immigrants are going to outnumber native-born Americans and take over the country, or how people in developing nations are going to outnumber Westerners and take over the world

            There’s one globalist culture (not quite by definition, but the elites have seem to come to a consensus on the broad points of the vision) but there are a lot of different local cultures which will be dissolved away to homogeny by completely open borders.

            As a datapoint, I have a pretty successful career and a good job, and my wife stays home with our kids. We live in a smaller, less-nice house than either of us grew up in and this is pretty-much a direct consequence of her staying home with the kids plus rising housing prices for several decades.

            I have a … steady career that we stretch to cover a household of five. It’s not easy, but if it is doable in California, it’s not impossible. We’re a very close family, by which I mean our apartment is pretty dang small but the neighborhood is okay and even the school district is alright though we homeschool.
            While it often feels like the culture is hostile if not disdainful of our lifestyle, I’m not sure there’s any agency to it, or if it is just increasing population and the uniqueness of the post-war period in America that brought the temporary ability to own a home on one income.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            This conversation has moved pretty far since I last looked at it, so apologies for just throwing out a couple of things.

            RE: immigrants receiving benefits. 55% of immigrant households in California are on public assistance. PolitiFact, hardly a right-wing rag, rates this as “half true” because the guy said “immigrants” instead of “immigrant households” and even then I think it should be “mostly true” because the point stands: lots of the people coming here cannot support their families. When they’re sending their people, they’re not sending their best. The immigrants themselves may not be eligible for benefits, but thanks to our ridiculous (and probably wrong) birthright citizenship policy their kids are citizens on Medicaid. They throw in “school lunches” to minimize that, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same people on both programs, as I find it hard to believe you’ve got people who can afford healthcare but not lunch. It’s not a net benefit to me when my new neighbors require my assistance to support their kids. That’s a net loss. Whatever reason you’re supporting our current immigration situation, it’s not because it’s economically good for me or you.

            RE: Infant mortality. How is this a product of…liberalism or globalism or whatever and not improved technology?

            Edit: removed abortion discussion. More heat than light and will probably derail the thread. Suffice to say I disagree with Nicholas.

          • mdet says:

            I think she’s saying that *economic* liberalism — free markets, free trade, that kind of stuff — has drastically improved standards of living across the globe. This was a rebuttal to your comment that people like LadyJane were pushing some utopian ideals that will never work out in practice. Economic liberalism has already worked in practice, and according to LadyJane (and also me, I agree with almost everything she’s said) economic liberalism inevitably brings social liberalism with it. I have sympathy for traditionalists, but I’m not about to say No to technological & productivity growth.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Aapje:

            You seem to believe in some sort of neutral state that we are proceeding to where people purely make decisions based on economic and technological incentives vs a past state where people where heavily incentivized by oppressive policies. This is both a caricature of the past (where many traditional choices were probably made because of the economic and technological incentives at the time, like poor birth control); as well as of the present, where culture and policy also drive our choices.

            That’s not quite my viewpoint. I’m aware that a lot of cultural traditions developed precisely because they were efficient in the past, given the economic and technological conditions of the time. I’m also aware that those same cultural traditions continue to influence people’s behavior; I just see that as a problem. My view is not “we used to be stupid and cruel troglodyte barbarians, but now we’re moving towards becoming homo economicus.” My view is that we used to have norms that were adapted to the economic and technological circumstances of that time period, and now we’re moving towards having norms that are adapted to the economic and technological circumstances of this time period. The issue is that those old norms are still persisting due to social and cultural inertia, even though they’ve now become maladaptive.

            I see radical traditionalism as a zombie ideology, it’s undead. It was once alive and healthy and vibrant (i.e. the natural way for people to behave given their circumstances), but now it’s a rotting corpse kept animate only through dark magic (i.e. coercive social, cultural, political, and in some cases legal pressure).

            Nationalism can also take the form of defending minorities that are part of the ingroup. For example, I just found a (Dutch) article about ‘gay nationalist voters,’ defined as those who oppose migration, but who strongly support gay rights. They found that this is up to 12% of voters in certain countries (like France).

            There are people who are like this in the U.S. too, or at least claim to be. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell if they’re genuine or not, largely due to the two party system: Since most of them usually end up voting for the party that continually promotes anti-LGBT policies, simply because that also happens to be the nationalist/anti-immigrant party, it’s easy for liberals and leftists to assume they’re just bad faith actors who don’t really care about queer people and just want another excuse to bash immigrants.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Conrad Honcho: What mdet said. I’m not saying that the decline in infant mortality is a result of social liberalism and globalization; you’re absolutely right that it’s a result of technology. My point was that the same technological advances responsible for that decline in infant mortality are also responsible for social liberalism and globalization – and furthermore, that social liberalism and globalization are inevitable results of that technology, provided that there’s not a constant flow of social, cultural, and political energy being expended to actively and continuously hold them back.

            Universal culture is not some idealistic fantasy of the elites being forced upon the world from the top down. Universal culture is the natural equilibrium state of an industrialized capitalist society, and all industrialized capitalist societies will eventually adopt its norms, provided they’re not actively prevented from doing so.

            As for immigration, I don’t want to get into a lengthy debate about the exact amount of immigrants receiving welfare benefits. Suffice to say, I believe that bringing in more immigrant workers is definitely beneficial for the country as a whole, economically speaking. I also think it’s economically beneficial for you and I as consumers, and I think the negative effects it has on American workers tend to be exaggerated.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Erusian: Most of your claims are just plain false. Feminists supported Ba’athism, Castroism, and Chavismo? Maybe you can find a handful of intersectionalist anti-colonial kooks who did, but that’s hardly representative of the feminist movement as a whole. Rest assured, none of those ideologies had great track records when it came to women’s rights or LGBT rights. In fact, they were far more socially repressive than the capitalist democracies of the time. None of the ideologies I listed were pro-minority either. The USSR and Communist China and the various Ba’athist regimes in the Middle East were all extremely nationalistic, and racial/ethnic minorities were treated horrendously under their rule.

            Also, Stalin’s push to bring women into the workforce came during WWII, for the same reasons that the U.S. and Britain started pushing women into the workforce during that time: all the able-bodied men were needed on the front lines to fight off the Nazis. During the years preceding and following the war, the Stalinist regime strongly pushed for a return to traditional gender roles and family values (Soviet propaganda at the time encouraged married couples to have children as part of their duty to the state) and implemented policies toward that end (criminalizing homosexuality and abortion, making divorce significantly harder to attain than it had been previously).

            Really, while not all authoritarian regimes are especially conservative on social issues, it’s hard to think of many that are actually liberal on social issues, even among the authoritarian left. Peronism (perhaps the only actual example in history of anything resembling “social justice fascism”) is the only one that readily comes to mind, and that was a corporatist dictatorship rather than a socialist one (authoritarian center rather than authoritarian left). I suppose one could also make an argument for the USSR under Lenin, before Stalin came to power, but that was more of a mixed bag due to the decentralized political system; some areas were very liberal, while others were extremely conservative.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            LadyJane,

            While I respect your idea about universal culture, I think its just as likely, if not more likely to be wrong compared to “undead traditionalism”. Universal culture, as best I see it represented nowadays is just as associated with past declines (Rome) as is the less open “closed China” type of culture that has also led to declines. Libertine sexual cultures are, for instance, is often a contributor to decline. Ascendant cultures are much more “traditional” in that they are self confident, and generally quite strict. Now, usually they don’t even have to use the state all that much to enforce their strictness. Using the state to do it is a sign of decline, the populace self-policing because it is a movement that is gaining steam and has achieved its following through triumphant victories.

          • EchoChaos says:

            All I hear in this discussion from LadyJane is “As a Gray/Blue tribe member, I am happy to sacrifice your priorities for mine”.

            Both blue and red tribe have priorities that pure libertarianism/capitalism WILL destroy.

            For example, minorities who are on average less able than the majority will be crushed by capitalism because they will be repeatedly out competed by the majority (Blacks, Native Americans, etc). Blue Tribe people are absolutely fine with “making life better for queers/racial minorities” at the expense of pure capitalism.

            Homosexuality and feminism have strong legal protection in America, and nobody on the left wants to get rid of that legal protection because they suspect that “all white/Asian guy company” will grind them under the wheels of capitalism the instant that protection disappears.

            Similarly, small, homogeneous towns where everybody knows your name, goes to the same church and picnics at the same park will get absolutely killed by globalist capitalism. It’s happened all across America and the West.

            But LadyJane only cares about her tribal priorities, which is normal, but she should not pretend that anything besides that is happening on the other side.

          • cassander says:

            @EchoChaos says:

            For example, minorities who are on average less able than the majority will be crushed by capitalism because they will be repeatedly out competed by the majority (Blacks, Native Americans, etc). Blue Tribe people are absolutely fine with “making life better for queers/racial minorities” at the expense of pure capitalism.

            they won’t be crushed, they’ll just be less prosperous, on average, in a society where the level of prosperity is rapidly increasing.

            Homosexuality and feminism have strong legal protection in America, and nobody on the left wants to get rid of that legal protection because they suspect that “all white/Asian guy company” will grind them under the wheels of capitalism the instant that protection disappears.

            Putting aside that private companies recognized homosexuality long before the state did, again, capitalism doesn’t grind people into powder, it just just rewards some slightly less than others. if companies started hiring only white/asian men, others would be able to scoop everyone else up for a song.

          • LadyJane says:

            @EchoChaos: That just sounds like a much more cynical and mean-spirited version of the argument that Aapje made below, about how an equal playing field wouldn’t necessarily guarantee equal outcomes. But while he viewed that as a possibility, you seem to view it as a certainty, and where he seemed to believe that outcome differences between groups would be fairly small for the most part, you seem to think they’d be enormous, to the point where everyone other than straight white/Asian men would be doomed to complete and total failure. I find this to be an extremely unlikely scenario, to say the least.

            I’m especially baffled by your choice to bring sexual orientation into it. Is there anyone who seriously thinks that homosexuals are just naturally less capable than heterosexuals in any meaningful way, let alone to a degree where they’d be expected to have less successful life outcomes even in the absence of discrimination?

          • EchoChaos says:

            It is cynical, but not mean-spirited. I am genuinely not antagonistic towards minorities. I go to a rural church and am close friends with many. But the performance difference in reality is fairly stark and without government support the current situation would break down fairly quickly.

            Doomed to complete failure is strong, but the Moloch effects of capitalism are strong and the differences in ability between races are strong as well.

            The blue tribe view that racial differences are small and unremarkable doesn’t make sense to me, although I am not doubting your belief in it is genuine.

            It’s interesting to me how you took my view, because I want to emphasize that I am not antagonistic to Blue Tribe views. I think that affirmative action is actively a good idea for social peace despite the economic damage, although I would do it by strict quotas rather than the irrational nonsense the EEOC comes up with.

            My point is rather that you are eager to say “capitalism doesn’t work in the situation where bigots won’t hire blacks and the government should stop it”, but you aren’t willing to make an alliance with people like me who would be willing to accept a few such rules if you were also willing to say “people who want their communities to be preserved from immigration/minorities/bad social mores/etc can have a place to do that too”.

          • Erusian says:

            @LadyJane
            Most of your claims are patently false. Do you have any sources? I’m going to go through and rebut every factoid you put with a cited source from a mainstream historian or primary document. I’d appreciate you doing the same.
            -“Feminists supported Ba’athism, Castroism, and Chavismo?”

            Oh, yes. See Teresa Meade, Margaret Randall, Feminism under Chavismo, Sarsour’s comments on Aflaq, NOW’s gender equity indices…

            The USSR and Communist China and the various Ba’athist regimes in the Middle East were all extremely nationalistic, and racial/ethnic minorities were treated horrendously under their rule.
            Nope, absolutely false. Did you seriously just claim that a state run by a minority leadership was extremely race-nationalistic? Assad and Stalin were both from historically disadvantaged minority groups! (Georgia and the Alawites.) It was always USSR policy that ethnic Russian provinces went last when it came to receiving resources and there was affirmative action in several other ways. See Assad of Syria, The Ethnic State in Socialist Society, and The Political Thought of Mao.

            Also, Stalin’s push to bring women into the workforce came during WWII, for the same reasons that the U.S. and Britain started pushing women into the workforce during that time: all the able-bodied men were needed on the front lines to fight off the Nazis.
            False. In fact, one of the reasons Stalin was considered a good candidate for the Soviet leadership was his willingness to (among other horible things) force women from caring for their children and into the workforce. Stalin also repeatedly insisted on minority rights. In a few cases, he insisted on giving people ethnic minority status even when they didn’t ask for it, as in Macedonia and Belarus. Stephen Kotkin’s work on Stalin goes into detail on this. You can also look up the Zhenotdel and particularly the circumstances of its dissolution as well as its member’s continued role. It was not dissolved because the regime was hostile.

            During the years preceding and following the war, the Stalinist regime strongly pushed for a return to traditional gender roles and family values (Soviet propaganda at the time encouraged married couples to have children as part of their duty to the state) and implemented policies toward that end (criminalizing homosexuality and abortion, making divorce significantly harder to attain than it had been previously).

            Is natalism anti-feminist? Because the Soviet ideal was not a housewife. It was a woman who bore children while having a career with significant state care to relieve them from the burdens of home life and child rearing. If you see the Soviet push for births as anti-feminist, then you’re right. But then you also will consider people advocating subsidized daycare in the US as anti-feminist. Divorce also remained easier than it was in the west even after it was made harder. Homosexuality was recriminalized but it had never been explicitly legal (and was not anywhere in the world at the time). Again, Kotkin, or Women’s Role in the Soviet Union.

            Peronism (perhaps the only actual example in history of anything resembling “social justice fascism”) is the only one that readily comes to mind, and that was a corporatist dictatorship rather than a socialist one (authoritarian center rather than authoritarian left)

            Peronism was a right wing, fascist movement. In fact, it almost went into coalition with the right wing government it eventually overthrew. It was the right wing government that refused to take them on as members, not the Peronists boldly walking away. Corporatism was a doctrine made by Mussolini and Peron and many of his officers trained in Fascist Italy. Peron even wrote a book on how Fascist Italy was an inspiration to him. The coup was made to keep Argentina out of the war against the Fascist powers and Peron denounced the Nuremburg trials. He also cribbed part of Mussolini’s doctrines word for word. See Joseph Page or Peron’s own works.

            But perhaps I am not as well read as I thought. Do you have any sources you can cite?

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ LadyJane

            See, that’s exactly what I mean when I say that socially liberal norms will outcompete traditional ways of life. All other things being equal, families where both spouses work are naturally going to bring in more money than families where only the husband works.

            This doesn’t seem obvious to me at all.

            1. It’s unclear to me that 2-earner families will (often) earn more than 1-earner (traditional) families. The 1-earner family seems optimized for a number of long-hours/disruption-intolerant professions that have very high pay, such as big law, medicine, and finance.

            2. Even if 2-earner families do (often) earn more, it doesn’t follow that they will “outcompete” 1-earner families, which is what your second sentence seems to imply given the context.

            To give an example to play with:

            Family A: husband is junior lawyer at a big law firm, wife stays at home.

            Family B: both husband and wife work in academia/education.

            Family C: husband works a fairly standard government job, wife stays at home.

            In my social circle, I’ve observed:

            Family A has higher income than Family B, and Family B has higher income than Family C.

            Families A and C each have between 3-6 children, whereas Family B has at most 2 children.

            The second data point interests me because I think, more than money in these cases, the number of offspring is a good measure of competitiveness.

            Family-B instances seem to stop at 1 or 2 children for a couple of reasons:

            Both husband and wife in Family B are ambitious about their careers. They are content with the current trade-off between work and family life, and don’t want more children.

            Or, Family B would like more children, but there’s a problem. Their jobs, particularly the academic position, are disruption-tolerant*, but more than 2 children represents a time burden that is too high**.

            Unfortunately, Family B’s setup cannot accommodate the high-income position that Family A’s setup provides, so hiring a nanny is out of reach. Family C makes much less than Family B, but going from 2 children to 3 children is not prohibitive in terms of cost and certainly not in terms of time.

            Anyway, for many permutations of the above, if the number of offspring is important, it’s not clear to me that traditional families will be outcompeted.

            * Maybe a parent is on the tenure track and needs to work >70 hours a week, but the timing of the work is flexible. Not like big law where, when a deal has to be done, you likely can’t leave to drive 1 hour through traffic to pick up your kid from daycare because the toilets are backed up from a recent storm (or pick whatever scenario you like from hundreds of emergencies parents face) and come back the next day.

            ** In my experience, the gap is going from 2 to 3 children. I have guesses as to why.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ LadyJane (my first attempt at replying went missing; apologies if this ends up being a duplicate)

            See, that’s exactly what I mean when I say that socially liberal norms will outcompete traditional ways of life. All other things being equal, families where both spouses work are naturally going to bring in more money than families where only the husband works.

            This doesn’t seem obvious to me at all.

            1. It’s unclear to me that 2-earner families will (often) earn more than 1-earner (traditional) families. The 1-earner family seems optimized for a number of long-hours/disruption-intolerant professions that have very high pay, such as big law, medicine, and finance.

            2. Even if 2-earner families do (often) earn more, it doesn’t follow that they will “outcompete” 1-earner families, which is what your second sentence seems to imply given the context.

            To give an example to play with:

            Family A: husband is junior lawyer at a big law firm, wife stays at home.
            Family B: both husband and wife work in academia/education.
            Family C: husband works a fairly standard government job, wife stays at home.

            In my social circle, I’ve observed:

            Family A has higher income than Family B, and Family B has higher income than Family C.

            Families A and C each have between 3-6 children, whereas Family B has at most 2 children.

            The second data point interests me because I think, more than money in these cases, the number of offspring is a good measure of competitiveness.

            Family-B instances seem to stop at 1 or 2 children for a couple of reasons:

            Both husband and wife in Family B are ambitious about their careers. They are content with the current trade-off between work and family life, and don’t want more children.

            Or, Family B would like more children, but there’s a problem. Their jobs, particularly the academic position, are disruption-tolerant*, but more than 2 children represents a time burden that is too high.**

            Unfortunately, Family B’s setup cannot accommodate the high-income position that Family A’s setup provides, so hiring a nanny is out of reach. Family C makes much less than Family B, but with a stay-at-home parent, going from 2 children to 3 children is not prohibitive in terms of cost and certainly not in terms of time (although, I would not want to be that parent).

            Anyway, for many permutations of the above, if the number of offspring is important, it’s not clear to me that traditional families will be outcompeted.

            * Maybe a parent is on the tenure track and needs to work >70 hours a week, but the timing of the work is flexible. Not like big law where, when a deal has to be done, you likely can’t leave to drive 1 hour through traffic to pick up your kid from daycare because the toilets are backed up from a recent storm (or pick whatever scenario you like from hundreds of emergencies parents face) and come back the next day.

            ** In my experience, the gap is going from 2 to 3 children. I have guesses as to why.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Erusian: After doing some research, I’ll concede that you’re right about the Soviet treatment of women being more nuanced than I thought. Stalinist gender politics were reactionary in some ways and progressive in others, and the standards of the time need to be taken into account when assessing them.

            I still find your other claims doubtful though. Regarding feminist support for Castro, Chavez, and the Ba’athists, your examples were exactly the sort of anti-colonialist/anti-imperialist fringe types I mentioned. Linda Sarsour had 15 minutes of fame in the mainstream media before her fellow progressive Democrats started criticizing her for unabashedly supporting Islamist or Arabist dictatorships, while the others were people or organizations who’ve always been on the fringes.

            The fact that Stalin and Assad are minorities doesn’t mean that they couldn’t or didn’t oppress other minority groups in their respective countries. In fact, the USSR had a well-documented history of deporting entire nationalities en masse, allowing or deliberately engineering famines that targeted specific ethnic groups, and in some cases engaging in outright ethnic cleansing against ‘troublesome’ minorities. (Just look up NKVD Orders 00447 and 00485, the former of which was largely applied against ethnic minorities and the latter of which was explicitly directed at a specific ethnic group.) The war in Syria is a result of ethnic tensions as much as religious and political/ideological conflicts, and the current treatment of the Uighur people in China is a particularly salient example of racial oppression under Communist Party rule.

            As far as sources go, here are some papers that look at the Soviet Union’s borderline genocidal actions toward certain ethnic minorities:
            http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/soviet/famine/ellman1933.pdf
            https://www.unive.it/media/allegato/dep/n7/Ricerche/Vardy.pdf
            https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3229636/Martin%201998.pdf?sequence=2
            https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/713677598?journalCode=cjgr20&amp;
            https://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~hpcws/egorov.htm#REF31

            I’d also recommend Robert Conquest’s The Harvest of Sorrow, though I have a sinking feeling that you’ve 1.) already heard of it, and 2.) dismiss it as historical revisionism and capitalist propaganda. The Specter of Genocide, a compilation book, also goes into extensively detail on the acts of ethnic oppression committed by the USSR.

          • Erusian says:

            I still find your other claims doubtful though. Regarding feminist support for Castro, Chavez, and the Ba’athists, your examples were exactly the sort of anti-colonialist/anti-imperialist fringe types I mentioned. Linda Sarsour had 15 minutes of fame in the mainstream media before her fellow progressive Democrats started criticizing her for unabashedly supporting Islamist or Arabist dictatorships, while the others were people or organizations who’ve always been on the fringes.

            The largest organizations, by money and members, that claim the feminist title are on the fringes? Including, among other things, the current Prime Minister of Canada?

            Okay.

            The fact that Stalin and Assad are minorities doesn’t mean that they couldn’t or didn’t oppress other minority groups in their respective countries. In fact, the USSR had a well-documented history of deporting entire nationalities en masse, allowing or deliberately engineering famines that targeted specific ethnic groups, and in some cases engaging in outright ethnic cleansing against ‘troublesome’ minorities. (Just look up NKVD Orders 00447 and 00485, the former of which was largely applied against ethnic minorities and the latter of which was explicitly directed at a specific ethnic group.) The war in Syria is a result of ethnic tensions as much as religious and political/ideological conflicts, and the current treatment of the Uighur people in China is a particularly salient example of racial oppression under Communist Party rule.

            It does complicate a pure ethnostate narrative though, especially when you consider ethnic Russian provinces were often last in line for resources compared to the ethnic republics. Even the policy of ethnic republics itself points to this. Tsarist Russia denied that Ukrainians even existed. (The Tsar signed a decree declaring the Ukrainian language didn’t exist while on vacation in Germany and caused a riot back home.) The Soviet Union created a sub-state for them.

            Order 00447 and 00485 were class based. Kulaks and the like. (Though I’d argue the term ‘kulak’ itself was something of a Soviet delusion.) And while they were applied most vigorously in minority areas, that’s because the farming centers of the Soviet Union were in areas like Ukraine and Belarus. (Belarus still dominates the Eastern European milk market despite being small, Ukraine produces half as much wheat as Russia with less than a third of the population.) They did not spare ethnic Russians in those areas or Russians in provinces further east. It’s still wrong and I’d argue that killing on those lines should be classified as genocide. Unfortunately, the Soviet Union had a seat at the post-WW2 table and defined genocide as not applying to killing classes.

            I agree the actions against the Uighurs are fairly standard issue genocide. My only real caveat is that the PRC is doing it to several other groups as well. Of course, that would be the result of Xi Jing Ping Thought, not Maoism. But my point is not that no totalitarian regime is ever racially genocidal. They obviously are. And I think Xi Jing Ping is a great study in how the second world has morphed into something that’s more economically free but actually less politically free. This often has included excessive race-nationalism to the point that I think parallels (though not exact 1:1 correlation) with fascism are fair. My point is just that regimes can also be progressive and use their terribly coercive methods for those reasons.

            As far as sources go, here are some papers that look at the Soviet Union’s borderline genocidal actions toward certain ethnic minorities:
            http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/soviet/famine/ellman1933.pdf
            https://www.unive.it/media/allegato/dep/n7/Ricerche/Vardy.pdf
            https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3229636/Martin%201998.pdf?sequence=2
            https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/713677598?journalCode=cjgr20&amp;
            https://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~hpcws/egorov.htm#REF31

            I’d also recommend Robert Conquest’s The Harvest of Sorrow, though I have a sinking feeling that you’ve 1.) already heard of it, and 2.) dismiss it as historical revisionism and capitalist propaganda. The Specter of Genocide, a compilation book, also goes into extensively detail on the acts of ethnic oppression committed by the USSR.

            I am. Note your second source is about mass murder. The Soviet Union made sure the definition of genocide didn’t apply to what it did. They did this by demanding genocide be racially or ethnically motivated because they could credibly say that wasn’t their case. The Holodomor was not meant to suppress Ukrainian identity. The claim is absurd, since the Soviet Union were the ones who devolved power to a local government. It was meant to break the resistance of the Ukrainian farmers to collectivization and Soviet policy. The Soviets were very, very willing to kill people en masse. But they did so for Communist reasons, usually, not racial ones.

            Again, I’ll emphasize this does not make it any less terrible or inhumane. I do not think these are good regimes. But I do think they are regimes that used their coercive power to pursue goals that modern progressive share. They can be accurately described as socially progressive despite being murderous and totalitarian. But I have no interest in defending any of these regimes as good. I actually find it quite disturbing that people consider defending the Soviet Union acceptable. I regard Communists who defend people like Stalin as akin to Neo-Nazis.

          • LadyJane says:

            The largest organizations, by money and members, that claim the feminist title are on the fringes? Including, among other things, the current Prime Minister of Canada?

            You originally cited “Teresa Meade, Margaret Randall, Feminism under Chavismo, Sarsour’s comments on Aflaq, NOW’s gender equity indices.” Meade is a Latin American historian of no particular import and Randall was an far-left activist and communist sympathizer who renounced her U.S. citizenship to live in Cuba, I wouldn’t consider either of them particularly representative of the American feminist movement as a whole. I don’t know what you mean by “Feminism under Chavismo” (Is that a book/article title? A group? Are you just referencing the phenomenon of feminism in modern Venezuela?), I already talked about Sarsour, and I can’t find these NOW gender equity indices you mentioned. If you’re trying to assign Teresa Meade’s statements to Canadian PM Theresa May, that’s the most hilariously ridiculous example of the conflation fallacy that I’ve ever seen. Rest assured, May (the Prime Minister, not the historian) has unequivocaly condemned the socialist regime in Venezuela.

            Again, I’ll emphasize this does not make it any less terrible or inhumane. I do not think these are good regimes. But I do think they are regimes that used their coercive power to pursue goals that modern progressive share. They can be accurately described as socially progressive despite being murderous and totalitarian. But I have no interest in defending any of these regimes as good. I actually find it quite disturbing that people consider defending the Soviet Union acceptable. I regard Communists who defend people like Stalin as akin to Neo-Nazis.

            Well, that’s a relief, I was afraid you were another Stalin apologeticist. A few months ago, there was a poster on here trotting out the old “Kulaks deserved it” line, claiming that the USSR at least offered them the chance to “die a dignified death.”

            Nonetheless, I’m still skeptical that any of the regimes in question could be described as “socially progressive” by any definition of the term that’s not so broad as to be almost meaningless. And claiming that modern progressives share their goals is just flat-out wrong. There are some far-left socialists and anarchist crackpots out there who still support the ideas of class warfare and violent revolution, you can find them lurking in the fringes of social media sites making edgy jokes about sending Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk to the guillotine, but they’re rare and they don’t really identify as progressive; they’re the types who use terms like “progressive” and “liberal” as epithets. If you’re talking about Clinton-style neoliberals or even Bernie-style social democrats, it’s ridiculous to say they have the same goals as Stalin or Mao or Castro or Chavez. And if you’re talking about SJW types, it’s even more ridiculous, because they don’t even share the traditional leftists’ sense of class identity (even if they ignorantly and hypocritically claim to be anti-capitalist).

            Also, while Order 00447 was class based and merely had a disparate impact on racial minorities, Order 00485 explicitly targeted Poles as a race.

          • Aapje says:

            @EchoChaos

            Gays and lesbians seem to prosper under (liberal) capitalism. The only things they are significantly worse at are the things that reduce investment in a career (having kids).

            @Erusian

            While you make some very good points, you are a bit sloppy in your argumentation here and there. For example, you suddenly claim that the Prime Minister of Canada supports or supported one of these regimes, with no evidence. You present it in a way as if you proved that earlier, which makes LadyJane’s apparent confusion quite understandable. I suggest fleshing out these claims to more clearly show who said what and provide clearer evidence for the level of prominence.

            @LadyJane

            Theresa May is the PM of Britain.

            As for the Stalinist policies, I’d say they are fairly complicated. The issue with any policy that treats ethnic groups differently is that favor can turn into disfavor. Especially when another principle is held as more important than the well-being of the group or their rights. It seems to me that Stalin by default supported ethnic minority groups, but that he did expect strong support from them. Once angered, his wrath knew few bounds.

            For example, he genuinely seemed to start out favoring Jews, until he grew disillusioned by their tendency to support Israel, rather than focus primarily or solely on the USSR. This angered Stalin. Note that his main accusation (rootless cosmopolitan) was a lack of patriotism.

          • Aapje says:

            @LadyJane

            My view is that we used to have norms that were adapted to the economic and technological circumstances of that time period, and now we’re moving towards having norms that are adapted to the economic and technological circumstances of this time period.

            The norms don’t merely change naturally though. There are actual ideologies that invent and spread new norms (including by enticement and coercion). So this makes the new norms susceptible to ‘unintelligent design’ (sorry, wanted to make that pun). So changed or changing norms can be maladaptive as well. For example, both social democracy and communism were adaptations to deal with the problems of the fairly raw capitalism at the time. One worked out quite well, the other resulted in many deaths.

            I believe that Social Justice specifically is a very poor ideology, because both its analysis of the past and of the present seem quite different from the truth. Of course, that doesn’t prevent it from doing the right thing sometimes by virtue of various forces ‘allowing’ relatively good adaptations to take hold more easily (but this works less well as more coercive methods are used to change norms).

            There is also the issue that what is adaptive to the circumstances may not be adaptive to human psychology.

            There are people who are like this in the U.S. too, or at least claim to be. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell if they’re genuine or not, largely due to the two party system

            The American system causes politicians to very poorly represent the voters, since very strong compromises already happen in the voting booth. So this precludes other compromises from being made when the circumstances dictate and/or compromises/coalitions based on tabling points where people clash.

            For example, in my country progressive Christians can vote for the Christian Union. They favor migration, just like the globalist humanists of another party, D66. However, the latter fairly strongly want to eradicate Christianity from society, to the point of denying Churches things that are allowed for secular organizations. Also, they favor abortion and euthanasia, which Christians tend to oppose these. So if you’d force the Dutch parties into two big ones, D66 would end up on the progressive side, while the Christian Union might very well end up on the other side, not wanting to vote for people who bully Christians, favor abortion and euthanasia, etc. However, when they are separate parties, the Christian Union can vote with D66 when it comes to migration, but resist on certain other topics.

            In such a system, it pays more to not burn bridges.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            My view is that we used to have norms that were adapted to the economic and technological circumstances of that time period, and now we’re moving towards having norms that are adapted to the economic and technological circumstances of this time period.

            I think we used to have norms that were adapted to human flourishing and are now moving towards norms that are not.

            By all metrics, children do better on average when raised by their two married, biological parents. But Dan Quayle got pilloried for saying Murphy Brown set a bad example while Bernie Sanders gets big applause for calling single mothers “heroes.” Sanders even recognizes how much harder it is for these mothers to raise their kids well, but his answer is raise the minimum wage to shovel more money at some of them, not to find ways to avoid becoming a single mother (widows are a minority of single mothers). Meanwhile, the liberalization of the sexual market has resulted in record low marriage rates and below-replacement birth rates. Is there anything one can say to encourage young people to get married and have children that won’t get you tarred and feathered in the media for “trying to turn back the clock to the 1950s!” As if the 1950s were bad for family life…

            The disintegration of the family is not “adaptive,” the nuclear family was not “maladaptive.” Things that result in your people literally dying out the opposite of adaptive.

            So, support your social ideology for whatever reason you support your social ideology, but I don’t see how you can call it “adaptive.” The result of the new social ideology will be death, not flourishing.

          • acymetric says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Calling single parents “heroes” does not mean someone wants there to be single parents. It simply means that given there will be single parents (and there were, even when the social norms you advocate were more prominent), the ones who are working hard to provide for their children should be recognized for that.

            Believing we should support single parents and believing that 2 parent households are generally better for the kids are not mutually exclusive.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The rate of single parenthood is not a given at all. The real heroes select mates who will stay and take care of their offspring and foster institutions to encourage that. Mothers should work smarter, not harder.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            (Let’s just assume when we’re talking about “single mothers” we’re talking about people who become single mothers through their own decisions and behavior, and not widows.)

            You’re ignoring the part about Dan Quayle being pilloried for saying Murphy Brown set a bad example by choosing single motherhood. But Dan Quayle was right.

            I agree with you, we should encourage people to get married before having kids, and be sympathetic to people who wind up single mothers anyway.

            But that’s not what we’re doing. We’re heaping praise without judgement on single mothers and crapping on those who encourage people to form traditional families.

            “Hope for the best, plan for the worst” is a good strategy. What the media/society does is “scorn the best, praise the worst.” This is maladaptive.

            ETA: Also, we throw Pride parades for homosexuals, while “heteronormative” is a snarl-word. But one of these practices results in future generations (adaptive) and the other does not (maladaptive). And again, support your chosen social ideology for whatever reason you support your chosen ideology, but you can’t call it “adaptive” when it’s not. Colloquially, “don’t piss on me and tell me it’s raining.”

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad:

            There’s a confounder in observing the difference between kids of single moms and married moms–different kinds of people in different kinds of situations become single vs married moms.

            IIRC, kids of divorced parents raised by their mom end up worse off than kids of widows, which suggests that some of the causality is not:

            single motherhood -> bad outcomes for kids

            but rather

            messed up person –> single motherhood

            AND

            messed up person –> messed up kids

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I know that in the nature vs. nurture debate people have been giving “nature” short shrift for a while, but when we’re talking about recent trends and cultural shifts I think it’s fair to still give “nurture” its due. In 1960 5% of births were out of wedlock, but that’s grown to about 40% over the last decade.

            What happened to make parents, on average, 8 times genetically crappier over the past 50-60 years?

          • Randy M says:

            The real question is, are the bad outcomes that were previously associated with single parenting still so after the increase in divorce?

            There are surely multiple causes to divorce/single parenting. Some of these may be the true underlying causes of the bad life outcomes that we associate with single parenting. For example, say a hereditary poor impulse control or quick, violent temper leads to both divorce and to difficulty holding down jobs. Hence, we see children of divorce have lower lifetime earners, etc.

            But then, due to technological changes, or different norms or social policy, it becomes significantly easier to support children on one income. Now at the margins divorce or single parenthood become easier and increase. But divorce/single parenthood for this reason is not going to be associated (as strongly) with negative life outcomes because it isn’t caused by hereditary traits. Unless (as I think is the case, to be honest) single parenthood is itself the cause. Then, regardless of the cause of single parenthood, we should continue to see problems associated with it.

            Now, I think having two biological parents of different sex in the home is going to be helpful to children in a variety of ways that don’t necessarily impact life outcomes social scientists are interested in. Divorce or growing up without a mother/father just sucks for the child, even apart from financial difficulties which often accompany it for obvious reasons. And it deprives them of role models, perpetuating the sub-optimal situation. But I don’t think that’s a convincing argument to someone concerned with maximizing personal freedom and economic growth.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But I don’t think that’s a convincing argument to someone concerned with maximizing personal freedom and economic growth.

            But I’m not overly concerned with maximizing personal freedom and economic growth. If I were I wouldn’t be married with children myself.

            My point is that maximizing personal freedom is likely maladaptive, and pursuing it while calling it usefully adaptive is disingenuous or delusional.

            This is related to the overall claim that we can smash the culture, or traditions or way of life of the majority in pursuit of these other things (mainly the interests of various types of minorities), and that the majority will somehow be better off in the long run. No they won’t.

          • Jaskologist says:

            IIRC, kids of divorced parents raised by their mom end up worse off than kids of widows, which suggests that some of the causality is not:

            Your memory of the data matches mine, but I want to point out that this does not demonstrate that children of divorce do worse because their parents/gene were already messed upis entirely possible that it is simply worse for children for their parents to divorce than for one to die.

            I actually think that’s the more likely explanation. If my father dies, I learn that the world is unfair and sometimes bad things happen to good people for no reason, which at least has the benefit of being true. If my parents divorce, I learn that their promises of love and commitment (probably including to me) are not to be trusted, which is only true because they chose to make it true. Better not wait for that second marshmallow.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Aapje:

            Theresa May is the PM of Britain.

            Yeah, I’m aware, I feel really silly for that mistake, but that’s what I get for arguing on SSC at 3 am. I was confused because Erusian brought up the Prime Minister of Canada out of nowhere while acting as if he’d mentioned her before, and my sleepy mind thought “maybe he’s conflating Teresa Meade and Theresa May?” Thinking about it clearly, it looks like he just completely made up his claims about the Canadian PM.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Conrad Honcho: First of all, I don’t think people should be discouraged from having traditional families, I just don’t feel like they should be pressured into doing so either. I think the reason people criticize folks like Dan Quayle is because there’s been so much social pressure to push people into having traditional families (historically and, to a lesser extent, in the present day), so Quayle’s statement seemed less like “it’s okay to be traditional” and more like a subtle “it’s not okay to not be traditional.” Maybe that’s assuming bad faith, maybe it’s spot-on, but in any case, I can see why people would be critical of it.

            At any rate, the question you should be asking yourself is why so many people are deciding not to have traditional families. I don’t think it’s because they’re being pressured out of it. I think it’s because in a modern society, better options are available. Women have more agency now, and most women would prefer to retain that agency, which means having their own careers and their own money rather than relying on someone else to take care of them. Even for married couples, career demands on both spouses will incline them to have children later in life, if at all. And on top of all that, the prevalence of contraception makes it a lot easier for people to avoid having children. On an individual level, choosing to delay marriage and procreation (or to opt out of having children altogether) is simply the better option for most people, at least in terms of maximizing agency, personal freedom, and economic success, which is why people are going to choose it more often than not. That’s what I mean when I say it’s adaptive.

            I also think you’re ignoring the fact that traditional families were themselves adapted to the economic and technological conditions of the time: when most people were living as peasant farmers, having more children was an economic asset, since children could be expected to contribute to farm work from a fairly young age. The fact that a lot of children died in infancy or early childhood was another reason that people were inclined to have a lot of them. Nowadays, each individual child is expected to survive, and to receive much better treatment; they need to go to school rather than work, and it’s generally expected that parents will save up money to send them to college too. This makes having children an economic burden rather than an economic asset. Furthermore, it makes people less willing to have children if they don’t have the money to give those children a good life, which makes them even more inclined to wait until later in life. I think this is a very good thing, since it means that individual children will have better life outcomes in general (in fact, I’d be curious to see if there are any statistics about how well children raised by young parents fare, compared to children born to older parents). To me, that alone makes it worth the decline in birth rates.

            Humanity isn’t going to die out because we all collectively decided to stop reproducing. Declining lines on a chart don’t have to keep plummeting down at the same rate indefinitely, they can level off. In all likelihood, the population will decrease somewhat, which is probably a good thing from an economic and environmental perspective, but we’re not going to stop having children altogether. We’re just moving towards a lifestyle based around devoting more resources to a smaller number of offspring, which seems much better adapted for a culture that prioritizes individualism and an economy that prioritizes specialization.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Aapje:

            There is also the issue that what is adaptive to the circumstances may not be adaptive to human psychology.

            I worry about this sometimes, especially when I hear about how people in traditional families report being more satisfied with their lives, or people are ‘happier’ in less developed nations, or how people in developed nations have much higher rates of anxiety and depression, or how having more choices tends to just make people feel more stressed out. At the same time, things like happiness and satisfaction are very subjective, so I’m not sure how reliable those studies are, or even how much to value the particular types of happiness and satisfaction that they’re talking about. I’m also aware that my preferences for personal agency and individual freedom and increased standards of living are all subjective too (although “vastly decreased infant mortality rate” seems about as close as you can get to an objective measure of success for a society, in humanitarian terms).

            Lately I’ve been reading Lou Keep’s blog, which addresses a lot of these concerns. I don’t have any good answers there, other than to bite the bullet and say that a society where a third of people have moderate anxiety is still preferable to a society where a third of people die in infancy. If we get to a point where the worst of the world’s problems is simply that a lot of people feel dissatisfied in some vague and hard-to-define way, that’s still a huge improvement from a world where most people have to worry about being murdered or being enslaved or starving to death or dying from a plague. But I’m also optimistic that the trade-off isn’t quite as harsh as it seems. We’re still in a transitionary phase, and I think that a lot of the dissatisfaction with modernity comes from the ongoing tension between modernity and tradition, rather than from modernity itself. I’m hopeful that things will be better once we get to the other side of this paradigm shift.

          • Plumber says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            “But I’m not overly concerned with maximizing personal freedom and economic growth. If I were I wouldn’t be married with children myself.

            My point is that maximizing personal freedom is likely maladaptive, and pursuing it while calling it usefully adaptive is disingenuous or delusional.

            This is related to the overall claim that we can smash the culture, or traditions or way of life of the majority in pursuit of these other things (mainly the interests of various types of minorities), and that the majority will somehow be better off in the long run. No they won’t.”

            I’m not sure what you mean by “interests of various types of minorities”, but if I assume you mean what I’ll call “free spirits” I think I agree with your posts. 

            I’ve posted before that I believe the increased social acceptance of divorce was devastating for a generation of kids, and I also believe that most kids are better off with two parents together in their lives and that having a parent not at work but with them is best, two is even better, I think in general the presence of the mother is more important when the kids are younger, but the presence of the father gains in importance as the children get older.

            In many ways the older model of artisans and merchants in home shops and farners on”family farms” where the kids leaned how to be an adult was a better model than a large bunch of kids sent to be monitored by adults who aren’t as invested in them, though of course the older model only taught them to be one type of adult (though parents used to pay to have their kids effectively adopted by other adults as teenagers to learn specific trades).

            Increasingly the U.S.A. is divided by two different types of motherhood the Rio Grande City model and the San Francisco model, in the Rio Grande City model the mothers are usually unwed and a decade younger on average than the San Francisco mothers when they have their first child who is likely to grow up in poverty, while the San Francisco mothers usually get their educations and get established in a career first, and then they need to pay for expensive fertility treatments in order to have a child at all, which to pay for and to be able to have housing they have to keep working limiting how much time they may spend with their children, or the get housing far away jobs, try to live on one income, and because of the commute and mandatory overtime, or a second job, one parent (usually the farher) never gets to see their families much.

            This is sick.

            I’d like to see more two parent families who feel that they may afford to have kids while their still in their 20’s, with the kuds having a parent who isn’t at work or commuting but instead may be with their kids when their kids are awake (father’s as well), and the kids grow up in homes that don’t give them asthma and/or lead poisoning, and the kuds don’t grow up hearing gunshots and sirens, and I’d also like to see help for kids who do just have one parent in their lives (because they have it rough).

            How can that be made to happen? 

            The vindictive part of me also wants to see parents with kids who seperate get punished but I don’t see anyway to do that without also hurting the kids.

          • Aapje says:

            @LadyJane

            At the same time, things like happiness and satisfaction are very subjective, so I’m not sure how reliable those studies are, or even how much to value the particular types of happiness and satisfaction that they’re talking about.

            A lot of studies that claim to study happiness actually measure how successful people are by the standards of modern society (like income, education, etc), so they assume that success in modern society equates to well-being. We know that people are highly sensitive to status, so it is always going to be true that the successful in a society are happier, but that doesn’t mean that success in our society creates more happiness than success in another kind of society. As a result, these studies cannot answer the question whether modern society is better at making people happy than more traditional societies or other orderings, because they take it as given that it is.

            I think that the reason why many researchers don’t ask people to rate well-being is because the answers seem heavily culturally determined, where people tend to answer what they should feel according to their culture at least as much as what they really feel. We see some weird results, like Dutch kids rating themselves as being very happy on average, while being diagnosed with mental issues including depression at record numbers. Of course, one explanation is that they were simply under-diagnosed in the past, but another explanation of these results is that we are increasingly demanding that people fit in a very tight mold, where feeling optimistic and happy is part of what we demand of people (as part of individualism). So in this model, a Dutch person with a fairly shitty life will still often answer that they are happy. I don’t know how to figure out to what extent this is true or the happiness is real (perhaps a bit of both).

            I don’t have any good answers there, other than to bite the bullet and say that a society where a third of people have moderate anxiety is still preferable to a society where a third of people die in infancy.

            Is this even meaningful? It feels like you are setting up a mutually exclusive choice that may not actually exist. Do we actually have to make that trade-off? No one is proposing we go back to living in caves and giving up modern medicine.

            although “vastly decreased infant mortality rate” seems about as close as you can get to an objective measure of success for a society, in humanitarian terms).

            Highly anxious people who truly minimize their risks don’t seem particularly happy, so it seems doubtful that minimizing negative experiences in all ways maximizes happiness, especially as this often results in reduced positive experiences. It does seem like a decent balance between positive and negative experiences is optimal. Maximizing negative experiences is obviously bad, but maximizing positive experiences seems to devalue them so much that people feel deadened.

            Now, infant mortality seems heavily determined by technological progress and decent access to healthcare (which requires a non-extreme amount of wealth). You can very easily have different societal norms, including but not limited to (very) traditionalist ones, while still having low infant mortality. So I don’t think that you are being very persuasive by pointing to this example.

            If we get to a point where the worst of the world’s problems is simply that a lot of people feel dissatisfied in some vague and hard-to-define way, that’s still a huge improvement from a world where most people have to worry about being murdered or being enslaved or starving to death or dying from a plague.

            In the west, we had very low levels of murder, slavery, starvation and plague in the 50’s, so you really have to do better to argue for much more progressive norms than that.

            I’m hopeful that things will be better once we get to the other side of this paradigm shift.

            Ultimately, we can only know after the fact. The question is also to what extent we are actually moving to modernity or regressing. I see quite a bit of change sold as ‘progress’ that to me appears to be anything but. For example, claims that certain groups are to a (white) man controlling society to their benefit and causing vicious harm to other groups doesn’t seem meaningfully different from the mechanisms behind anti-semitism and such. The desire by a subset of the left to segregate society by ethnicity, where some ethnicities should get to occupy the high ground, seems very similar to apartheid. Just because the claim is progress, doesn’t make it so.

          • JonathanD says:

            @Jaskologist, re: children of divorce vs children of widowhood.

            There was a meme that came through my feed a few days ago. “Headline: Women who own horses live longer. Implied correlation: horses make you live longer. Reality: if you own a horse, you can probably afford health insurance.”

            I suspect a similar mechanic. Divorce is impoverishing. But most parents have life insurance. The death of a parent, while tragic, is probably a dramatic improvement in material circumstances.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Plumber:

            I’m not sure what you mean by “interests of various types of minorities”, but if I assume you mean what I’ll call “free spirits” I think I agree with your posts.

            Sort of. Every social change that winds up undercutting the culture that works just fine for the vast majority of people is sold based on the impact to a small minority population. The damage to the majority is downplayed, ignored, or outright denied.

            “We’ve got to destigmatize divorce because here’s a sob story about a woman trapped in a horrible marriage.” Okay, but what about all the kids whose parents had a middling marriage they could have worked through but they took the now socially acceptable easy out? They’re harmed by this change, right?

            “We’ve got to have abortion because rape.” But the number of unplanned pregnancies that are because of rape is vanishingly small.

            “We’ve got to have a liberal attitude towards casual sex because here’s some people who are happy and get along just fine with it.” Okay but what about the vast majority of people left adrift in an incomprehensible romantic market? People seem to have no idea how to find spouses these days.

            Any one of these things (and all the other stigma -> tolerance -> acceptance -> celebration “cultural movements” you can think of) may not be so bad, but put it all together and it’s societal death by a thousand cuts. These things are in the interests of the relevant minority, but they’re ultimately bad for the majority. Argue for the minority all you want, but you can’t pretend the damage to the majority doesn’t exist, and isn’t consequential. And given the volumes involved, may be net-negative. That is, maladaptive.

          • Plumber says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            “….Argue for the minority all you want, but you can’t pretend the damage to the majority doesn’t exist, and isn’t consequential. And given the volumes involved, may be net-negative. That is, maladaptive”

            That whole post was very well put, and I can flit it to be “Left”:
            “That some Americans (Jeff Bezo’s) can flourish and reach heights of wealth never before achieved isn’t worth they loss of a broad-based prosperous mass middle-class”.
            And can we imagine a time more “culturally conservative” and “economically left” (strong private sector unions, very high top marginal income tax rates)?

            Sure, the U S.A. in 1955.

            Consistently, when polled, a slight majority of Americans agree more with the Democratic Party on economics and more with the Republican Party on social issues, and somehow it wasn’t until the Trump candidacy that the press paid much attention to this, and figured out that many people don’t fit the division into “liberal” or “conservative” (as they’ve come to be called, though in many ways those labels are far from apt if you read the dictionary meanings) and this “new” category has been dubbed the “populists”.

            There’s also a fourth category: “libertarian”, the “fiscal conservative” “social liberal” that the press has dubbed “moderates”, but they are vastly outnumbered.

            It is populists that are swing voters in significant numbers, and what do they want?

            If they’re white they want the 1950’s, if their black they want the 1970’s (after Jim Crow but before de-industrialization) plus the gains of the last fifty years where a family that lived in the White House could be black.

            Both want to be insulated from competition from immigrants, both want their faiths to thrive (I keep stressing this, but I’m tired of the Democrats are largely college educated atheists story, no white atheists are, black Democrats are more religious, and atheist blacks are less likely to be Democrats, I keep harping on this because almost all the Christians I knew until I was well into my 20’s were black), both want middle-class incomes for those who didn’t have the privilege of a college education, both have seen an explosion in drug abuse, homelessness, un-wed pregnancies, and parents separating (just in different decades).

            I really can’t be sure if the causes are cultural or economic, but a large segment of the American population isn’t doing that well as we march to a “brave new world do-your-own-thing techno-paradise”.

            I’m going to say a heresy:

            The Luddites were right.

            No, not “long term” but for themselves, their children, and often their grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren who mostly had worse living standards from being forced off the land and from the small artisan shops and into the slums and factories. 

            Yes, the Luddites were right.

            Over a century later de-industrialization ended the factory jobs for so many and what resulted? 

            “Oh don’t worry, they’ll be jobs in the service economy, just get educated on how to pour coffee in an ‘innovation hub’ city where you and your children can squeeze together in the shoebox sized studio apartment a two plus hour commute from the job that you can get if your still young looking”

            But hey progress and innovation!, and “You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs” which sounds familiar somehow…

            …something about “New [something] Man”, and I remember a lot about talk of progress too, and your children will live under….

            ….what was it again?

            Whatever it was, it probably turned out alright. 

            In the long-term.

            Just “eggs” after all.

            Anyway, something noticeable is that the non-college educated still declare themselves religious more often then the college educated, but they’re now less likely to egularly go to church (especially the whites).

            I have my ideas why, mostly involving intact and unintact communities, but I invite your thoughts.

          • No, not “long term” but for themselves, their children, and often their grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren who mostly had worse living standards from being forced off the land and from the small artisan shops and into the slums and factories.

            I don’t think the historical evidence supports that claim. It isn’t my field, but my understanding is that the evidence on standard of living shows conditions in England improving from about 1840 on.

        • SamChevre says:

          mislocated: moved

        • albatross11 says:

          One aside: in policy terms, making life easier on single mothers can be expected to increase the number of single mothers. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make sure single mothers and their kids get enough to eat, but it does mean we need to think about the incentives we create when we come up with some policy to try to help out.

          I also wonder about social contagion of destructive and virtuous behavior. When everyone around you is an unwed mother and fathers never seem to stick around, then it probably feels a lot more sensible to get knocked up/knock your girlfriend up and then disappear. Humans are intense social-learners and imitators, and media is a really effective mechanism for spreading the social learning around–here are some likable socially high-status people modeling certain behaviors and beliefs–I guess I should adopt them.

          I’ve heard the claim that schools sometimes have an “epidemic” of girls getting pregnant, or eating disorders, or kids cutting on themselves[1], or whatever else–basically, a lot of pretty normal kids tend to absorb and adopt the behavior they see modeled, even when all the adults and official sources of information are telling them “don’t do this, it’s a bad idea.”

          We have a pretty corrosive and destructive media culture–the behavior that is modeled for us onscreen is often pretty awful–violence and casual sex and cruelty and such. I worry about how that media culture interacts with our tendency for social learning and imitation, and our ability to have “social contagion” of behaviors and ideas that are often pretty destructive.

          [1] People have even talked about “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” where a rash of kids in a school/community decide they’re the wrong gender all at once. It’s hard to imagine this isn’t some kind of social contagion.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Probably the one and only thing I can say I think the media does right is to ignore teen suicide, because that’s another one of those social contagions.

            And yes, I’m curious how common the “rapid onset gender dysphoria” thing is. I see comments on news articles and things with anecdotes, like “I’m a teacher and 10 kids at my school all suddenly think they’re trans” but I don’t know if anyone is doing actual research on this, or how much one could trust research done on this given politics.

            One should never be mean to transgendered people. They’re struggling with a serious problem. From whatever angle you want to look at it…either they’ve got a mental problem where they erroneously but sincerely believe they’re the wrong gender, or they have a physical problem in which they have extra/missing genitals. They need love, understanding, and either medical or psychological care. But maybe not parades?

            To my understanding, about 0.3% of people are transgendered. If you have a school of 1,000 kids, there are 3 trans students. But way more than 0.3% of people are impressionable, confused, and would very much like parades and to be hailed as “stunning and brave.” So if the anecdotes from teachers are true, and the aftermath of the “trans acceptance-turned-celebration” movement is 3 trans students who feel slightly better about themselves and 10 otherwise healthy kids suddenly believe they’re trans and need hormones or surgery, maybe we’re going about this in a net-negative way, and should find a way to support people who need support without encouraging people who are simply confused or impressionable.

          • Randy M says:

            Conrad, did you see this Quillette piece?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Wow, that’s heartbreaking. In my life I’ve known two(?) trans individuals, one a mtf who I only knew as a female, had transitioned many years before I met her, passed and was as far as I know, doing fine. The other was the daughter of a friend of the family who started dating a girl in high school, came out as trans, started testosterone, lived as a boy for a year, and when the relationship was revealed as abusive and ended detransitioned back to a girl. There really needs to be more research on how common this is, but I fear that may not be possible because politics.

          • LadyJane says:

            For a long time, the medical establishment had ridiculously strict gatekeeping policies that filtered out anyone who didn’t perfectly fit the Platonic ideal of trans-ness. Under the old standards, I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to transition: I didn’t start feeling dysphoria until my late teens and I didn’t start expressing those feelings until my mid-20s, in contrast with the traditional narrative of trans people knowing and expressing their gender identity in their childhood. The fact that I’m exclusively attracted to women also would’ve counted against me. Even today, a lot of European countries have strict requirements like needing to live as your preferred gender for over a year before starting hormones; I couldn’t imagine presenting as a woman full-time before starting estrogen, so I’d imagine that rule alone disqualifies a lot of people who should be receiving treatment. So maybe the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, but the loose gatekeeping policies in the U.S. today are a direct reaction to the overly narrow gatekeeping policies that we used to have and that many other countries still do.

            Of course, hormone replacement therapy shouldn’t be taken lightly, and that goes double for actual surgeries. And while I feel really awful for saying this, standards for FtMs should probably be stricter than they are for MtFs, since estrogen doesn’t have many health risks and its effects are almost entirely reversible within the first few months of use, whereas testoterone has much stronger, faster, and more permanent effects and can cause a lot of additional health complications. But I do think it’s important to find a reasonable balance between “anyone can get HRT and surgery on a whim” and “only a narrow subset of trans people should actually be allowed to get HRT and surgery.”

            As for “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” are these people really feeling dysphoria for the first time, or are they just finally comfortable expressing it for the first time? From an outside perspective, it probably looked like I just suddenly developed gender dysphoria out of the blue, when I’d actually just been keeping my dysphoric feelings to myself (initially because I didn’t understand them and didn’t have the language to describe them, and then later just because I was worried about what other people would think). So I can see how finding out that being trans is a thing, that other trans people exist, and that it’s okay to be trans would all go a long way toward helping someone understand their own condition better. Of course, it’s statistically unlikely that all of the people with ROGD are actually dysphoric, I just wouldn’t be surprised if at least some of them are. Ideally, gender therapists would be able to tell the difference between the people who were actually trans and the people who were just confused; that is their job, after all, at least in theory.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            As for “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” are these people really feeling dysphoria for the first time, or are they just finally comfortable expressing it for the first time? From an outside perspective, it probably looked like I just suddenly developed gender dysphoria out of the blue, when I’d actually just been keeping my dysphoric feelings to myself

            Did four of your friends all come out a few months before you, and maybe one or two of their younger siblings? That’s the sort of thing I hear from these anecdotes that make it sound like a social contagion.

            And I don’t think it has anything to do with transgenderism per se. It’s not a stretch to say 5% of people are narcissistic, confused, attention seeking. Such people far outnumber transgendered people. Three years ago these people would have said they’ve suddenly discovered they’re intolerant to gluten. Three years from now it’ll be…I dunno…kids converting to Islam to freak out their parents. So yes, people like you should be able to get the help they need, but it would be nice if there were a way to prevent the kids who are just confused from permanently altering their bodies while they work through a fad.

          • LadyJane says:

            Did four of your friends all come out a few months before you, and maybe one or two of their younger siblings? That’s the sort of thing I hear from these anecdotes that make it sound like a social contagion.

            Interestingly, three of my close friends from college ended up transitioning too, years after we’d stopped going to school together and fallen out of touch (the others were all female-to-male). I didn’t know about the others transitioning until after I’d already started, so it’s not like we influenced each other. Our social group just happened to have a disproportionate amount of trans people (~30%, which is something like 100x higher than the average population) who didn’t realize they were trans yet. And if any of us had realized it back then, it probably would’ve inspired the rest of us to follow suit. So there may be something to the idea that trans people tend to be drawn toward each other, even before any of them realize that they’re trans. (I also saw one study claiming that people with similar kinks and fetishes tend to be drawn toward each other, even if they don’t talk about their sex/kink life and don’t know that the others have similar tastes. I’m mildly skeptical, but then again, humans have a lot of unconscious selection biases that could be affected by nonverbal cues, subtle differences in appearance, pheromones, or any number of other things that could be associated with gender identity and sexual preference.)

            But broadly speaking, I do agree that most of these teens are probably just confused, and gender therapists should probably be doing a more thorough job of confirming that they’re actually dysphoric (as well as mature enough and informed enough to understand the risks and consequences of HRT and surgery) before prescribing them hormones or recommending them for surgical procedures.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Social Justice and Western Capitalism are incompatible, as capitalism is based to a large extent on the sovereignty of the individual and social justice relies on identifying people based on some group level indicators. Libertarians who start from a bent of “the individual” aren’t going to be easily swayed by the plight of the trans community vs straight white men because you are functionally asking them to agree to a proposition that they don’t agree with as a foundational tenant.

        libertarians are supposed to be “fiscally conservative and socially liberal,” but in practice a lot of them seem to care more about defending the rights of bigots than taking a stand against discrimination

        In general libertarians view collective action as the major evil in a country like the US, in that sense defending the rights of a handful of bigots is far more important than taking a stand against individual discrimination.

        • LadyJane says:

          Your argument only works if you view minority groups as wanting special rights, as conservatives often claim. If your argument is simply for extending individual rights to specific sets of individuals who don’t have them already (either in law or in practice), then libertarianism is perfectly compatible with support for minority groups. The problem is that a lot of conservatives and paleo-libertarians don’t acknowledge that minority groups are being denied any rights in the first place.

          Although there is a vague abstract deontological sense in which I do think the rights of bigots should be defended, I just can’t personally bring myself to care or see that as a hill worth dying on. I respect the ACLU for defending the KKK’s right to march and agree with their decision, there’s just another sense in which I don’t think the KKK should be marching and would prefer that they ceased existing as an organization altogether. A lot of paleo-libertarians seem a little too eager to jump to the “bigots should be allowed to do this” part of the argument, while downplaying or ignoring the “bigots shouldn’t do this” part.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Uhhhh…given that you personally don’t see why the First Amendment is a hill worth dying on, it’s probably true that you cannot really grok libertarians. For libertarians, it IS a hill worth dying on, and it’s one of the only hills worth dying on. What people “shouldn’t do” is NOT a hill worth dying on, and is very much a bad hill to find yourself on when the statists decide to use legislation to enforce what they think people “should” do.

            In other words, if certain people are denied rights that are enshrined by norm and not law, and you pass a law to enforce the norm, libertarians are not going to like you. This is going to be a major point of division between libertarians and the left, unless libertarians just start going soft on their extreme NAP. For example, I can maybe see some left-libertarians getting on board with the Civil Rights Act, but that’s really going to be iffy with the libertarian purists.

            Also, even if you ARE a libertarian and will support the Civil Rights Act or even some augmented legislation, you will still likely have an issue with someone being forced to bake a gay wedding cake, and might reasonably think that there should be a RFRA to protect such behavior. Given that the left is openly hostile to such acts, I’d say libertarians would really have to keep one eye open if they plan on sleeping with the left.

          • For example, I can maybe see some left-libertarians getting on board with the Civil Rights Act, but that’s really going to be iffy with the libertarian purists.

            I believe Richard Epstein’s position is that the Civil Rights Act was necessary to prevent covert enforcement of segregation by local governments.

            Also, even if you ARE a libertarian and will support the Civil Rights Act or even some augmented legislation, you will still likely have an issue with someone being forced to bake a gay wedding cake, and might reasonably think that there should be a RFRA to protect such behavior.

            Libertarians are unlikely to think that a RFRA is the right way to protect that behavior, since that only protects it if the motive is religious. The libertarian position would be that the norm of voluntary association trumps the norm of “you can only decide who to interact with if you have a reason we approve of.”

          • baconbits9 says:

            Your argument only works if you view minority groups as wanting special rights, as conservatives often claim. If your argument is simply for extending individual rights to specific sets of individuals who don’t have them already (either in law or in practice), then libertarianism is perfectly compatible with support for minority groups.

            I am not sure what rights you specifically mean, but I will take one example of what you might mean and is fairly well known.

            Gay marriage. In one sense you can argue that government recognized marriage is a right that ought to be extended to homosexuals for some good reasons. On the other hand the typical libertarian perspective (that I have run into and hold myself) is more along the lines of “why the eff is the government in the marriage defining business at all”. This puts support for gay marriage in an awkward spot, it might make the rights situation more equal but it also confirms or supports (or better word X) the fact that the government does and should have the power to intervene in these situations. It is fairly straightforward to see why libertarians would have a tepid response to this type of action when they have a strong belief (government should be less intrusive) in conflict with equalizing “rights”. Which leads us to

            A lot of paleo-libertarians seem a little too eager to jump to the “bigots should be allowed to do this” part of the argument, while downplaying or ignoring the “bigots shouldn’t do this” part.

            Libertarians are an odd sort, but they believe generically that individuals should act and government should get out of the way. The biggest thing that a libertarian should do to support X’s rights is to act properly toward them, not proclaim how everyone else should act toward them.

          • LadyJane says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy: Not all libertarians are staunch anarcho-capitalists or minarchists who follow the NAP to a tee. I do think it’s wrong for the government to suppress anyone’s freedom of speech, and rest assured, I would strongly oppose any attempt to make hate speech illegal, as it is in some European countries. If the KKK’s right to march isn’t a hill I’m willing to die on, it’s mostly just because I don’t have the time or energy to actively fight against everything I find objectionable in the world, and the KKK is going to fall very low on my list of priorities. But I support the people who are willing to die on that hill, as long as they’re doing so for the right reasons (like the ACLU) and don’t have sinister ulterior motives (like the closet racists). I also can’t bring myself to care about private institutions like social media platforms and universities violating the “spirit of free speech” by banning Alex Jones or no-platforming Milo Yiannopolous; freedom of speech is not freedom from the consequences of that speech.

            Regarding the gay wedding cake issue, I think a fair compromise would be to say that publicly-registered businesses can’t refuse customers based on sexual orientation, but can refuse specific requests that they find objectionable. So a baker couldn’t refuse to sell a pre-made cake to a lesbian couple, but could refuse to bake a cake that references their lesbian wedding. This is the position endorsed by actual Libertarian Party candidates like Gary Johnson and Larry Sharpe, so while it might not be good enough for the purists, I don’t think it’s fair to say that I don’t get libertarianism if I support it.

            Also, even from the perspective of a strictly individualist libertarian purist, a law prohibiting racial discrimination wouldn’t be morally equivalent to a law mandating racial discrimination; they would both be bad, but not equally bad, the latter would be seen as far worse. Likewise, racial discrimination itself wouldn’t be seen as perfectly valid choice; it would still be seen as unethical behavior since it’s judging people based on collectivist notions of race, rather than on an individualist basis. It would just be seen as a form of unethical behavior that people have an unalienable right to take part in. The idea that even purist libertarians have to be total moral relativists on everything but state oppression and criminal aggression, to the point where they can’t even have any ethical preferences on anything else, is ridiculous.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Also, even from the perspective of a strictly individualist libertarian purist, a law prohibiting racial discrimination wouldn’t be morally equivalent to a law mandating racial discrimination; they would both be bad, but not equally bad, the latter would be seen as far worse.

            I would disagree with this characterization, these two situations are functionally as bad as each other in many ways. The strict position would be that the government should not have the power to mandate these actions and one of the primary reasons for that is that the government should not be the arbiter of what is and what is not discrimination.

            Now in practice in the modern world it is probably true that the type of government that would pass a mandatory discrimination law would be a far worse government than one that would pass a no discrimination law but that is a function of circumstance, not libertarian ideals.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Libertarians are unlikely to think that a RFRA is the right way to protect that behavior, since that only protects it if the motive is religious. The libertarian position would be that the norm of voluntary association trumps the norm of “you can only decide who to interact with if you have a reason we approve of.”

            We’re not really talking about norms, though, we’re encoding stuff into laws at this point. If you support a civil rights bill that prohibits discrimination on sexual orientation, you can’t then just claim that it permits discrimination on sexual orientation unless you spell out some of the limits in actual legislation. The RFRAs do that, even if the nature is just religious.
            Basically I am just assuming our hypothetical libertarian is already agreeing that the norm “you shouldn’t discriminate against X for Y reason” should be law.

            Lady,
            Maybe you personally think that RFRAs should be used. I wouldn’t be surprised, because they are a relatively moderate, narrow solution. However, this is clearly not the median position of the Democratic Party, and especially not the Progressive Base. After the Wedding Cake brouhaha, which included your standard Social Media storm from the various players, top Senate Democrats introduced a law that would specifically prohibit the federal RFRA from ever be interpreted to ever include anything like this. Actually, that was just earlier this year, and it includes likely Presidential candidates like Warren, Harris, Gillibrand, and Sanders, and party elders like Durbin, Leahy, and Wyden. Out in the wild, RFRAs largely have legislative support in conservative states, not liberal states.

            All I am saying is that, even if you are a libertarian that’s willing to compromise, and RFRAs are definitely a compromise, the political consensus of the center-left is not really libertarian. Maybe the center left is somewhat better on criminal justice reform, legal marijuana, and state surveillance?

            As an aside, the IRL libertarians I know do not really care what people “should” do or not do, and they do NOT get worked up about it. If you ask them whether it’s wrong if Google fires all minorities, they will say “well, yeah, that’s wrong,” but they don’t get worked up about it. There are no libertarians on my Facebook constantly posting about various social justice or discrimination causes: they don’t care.
            They DO get really worked up about government waste and government oppression, because these are terminal values for them.

          • Likewise, racial discrimination itself wouldn’t be seen as perfectly valid choice; it would still be seen as unethical behavior since it’s judging people based on collectivist notions of race, rather than on an individualist basis.

            It isn’t unethical to make foolish judgements, just irrational.

            I agree, of course, that libertarians can, and usually do, have moral beliefs beyond those implied by libertarianism.

          • LadyJane says:

            @David Friedman: I’d imagine the majority of non-paleo libertarians would agree that bigotry is irrational; some would also consider it unethical. Ayn Rand condemned racial discrimination from both a rational and an ethical standpoint (although admittedly, she often conflated rationality and ethics to a large extent, so draw what conclusions you will).

          • Aapje says:

            @LadyJane

            I’d imagine the majority of non-paleo libertarians would agree that bigotry is irrational

            Bigotry is one of these words where disapproval is baked into the term, so your statement is a de facto tautology. People tend to only consider themselves justifiably intolerant, so they don’t call themselves bigots.

            So in practice, it is merely a pejorative. The other is a bigot, I’m just intolerant of intolerance, crime, government waste, loud music, harassment, etc.

        • mdet says:

          “Social Justice and Western Capitalism are incompatible”

          Can you give examples? Because I think a lot of social justice goals have expanded along with capitalism.

          Capitalism gave us the contraception that helped women advance in the workplace. Capitalism gave us the smartphones that have helped poor black communities document police brutality. Capitalism brings immigrants from poorer countries to fill jobs in the US, creating the diverse, cosmopolitan environment that Blue Tribers love. Capitalism recognizes that minority communities of various kinds are often underserved by mainstream products, and comes up with products that better suit them (see also: Black Panther at the box office). As I said in the previous thread, Capitalism is why stores say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.

          Do you mean to argue that Not Capitalism would serve minority interests better than capitalism does? Or (I think more likely) are you using “social justice” to refer to the rhetoric of a specific group of activists? Because I think the specific examples that LadyJane gives in the second paragraph of her post above suggest that she means something more along the lines of “Capitalism has provided more opportunities for minorities of all kinds and made society more egalitarian along the lines of race, national origin, religion, gender, and sexuality”.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Can you give examples? Because I think a lot of social justice goals have expanded along with capitalism.

            I don’t think we are working from similar definitions of capitalism and social justice here, so I will lay out my response below, but keep in mind I might be starting from a very different point of definition than you.

            Social Justice is not about minorities being better served or better off, it is about redistribution of something. Group X has had, or is having a rougher time and so allowances must be made for them even if it comes at the expense of another group. The pill or cell phones didn’t have the latter attachment, in fact some would argue that because capitalism gives technological spoils to the rich first that something like cell phones creates a larger gap and is oppressive to those groups on the economic margins.

            The pill could maybe be argued as it specifically effected women in a way that it couldn’t effect men, but it was also overcoming a biological difficulty not a social one and it did not come at the expense of men. A new prosthetic leg that allowed a person missing one to walk and run normally wouldn’t be a social justice victory, but taxing people with two functioning legs to pay for artificial ones would be.

            Do you mean to argue that Not Capitalism would serve minority interests better than capitalism does?

            No, I specifically think that capitalism is the best tool for serving minority interests, but it does so at the individual level and so produces uneven results within those minority groups. This leaves an awkward dilemma for SJ leaners, is 20% of a minority group rises in some way and 80% doesn’t then the 80% are more disaffected than ever through the SJ lens.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            “Social Justice and Western Capitalism are incompatible”

            Can you give examples? Because I think a lot of social justice goals have expanded along with capitalism.

            I think the point of the quote is to discuss means not ends. It is quite likely that the free market has helped Blacks and gays and women more than social justice programs like affirmative action, welfare, and 20,000 newspaper editorials. But they are in opposition to each other. I can’t say I agree they are incompatible, because they both exist at the same time, but they do pull in opposite directions.

          • mdet says:

            My point was that your comment was not working from the same definition of capitalism and social justice that LadyJane’s comment was. I was using the same definition of social justice that I think LadyJane was using when she said “secularism, racial and ethnic equality, gender equality, relaxation of traditional gender roles and sexual norms”. She also identified with a Friedersdorf article from the Atlantic where he argued that a free market serves minority interests better than an economy where “private decisions that have massive public implications are subjected to popular control”.

            I think I’m probably less anti-collectivist than you are*, but I agree that the kind of social justice you’re describing does over-generalize about people and might** be less compatible with the free market

            *I don’t object to the framework of “trans community vs straight people” because I think that trans people have enough common interests that it is worth describing them as a community, although I would acknowledge #NotAllStraights

            **SJ people generally want to redistribute status, not cash, which sounds orthogonal to economic policy. But I guess that kind of thinking can slippery-slope.

          • Aapje says:

            One Utopian ideal of SJ is a socialist one, where the effects of privilege are eliminated. A difficulty is that this can only truly be achieved by creating a horrible society, that no one wants. So the people who say that they want this, pretty much always actually favor policies that are inconsistent with their ideal.

            I would argue that this Utopian ideal is entirely incompatible with capitalism, as the latter is built around ‘trading’ privilege. Bono has the privilege of being gifted with the ability to make music that many enjoy, so other people then are willing to share the fruits of their own privilege with the musician. Of course, to facilitate this, we use money, so we can get very complicated trades.

            So a baker who likes U2 won’t send Bono a cake, but will give him money (then Bono will get something he desires from a person, who gets something from a person, etc, who then gets a cake from the baker*). As many people do this, Bono then becomes rich. Meanwhile, many other people who lack those talents play music as a hobby, their participation as a musician in capitalism being limited to being consumers, not producers. So they have to produce something else that people want or depend on non-capitalist wealth transfers.

            In this SJ Utopia, a talentless paraplegic would have just as much buying power (and other things that define quality of life) as Bono. This is not possible with capitalism.

            * If we think away taxation, forced spending, loans, etc, etc

            There is another possible SJ Utopia, which is classically liberal, being designed around meritocracy. In this model, it is justified for Bono to be rich, as long as black lesbian trans Bono would be just as rich. It is also justified for a talent-less person to be poor, as long as their race, gender, etc don’t impact their poverty.

            This Utopia is extremely compatible with capitalism, as long as racism, homophobia, sexism, etc are fully encultured and not (partially) inherently human desires. Let’s just say that you can argue against this, based on certain scientific findings. So it might be argued that it is mostly compatible with pure capitalism, not fully.

            A third SJ Utopia is one where the ingroup and/or favored groups get their desires met more than equally gifted people of the outgroup. So black lesbian trans Bono would then be richer than actual Bono.

            The compatibility of this with capitalism is between the other two, I would say.

            I would argue that none of these Utopias are the SJ Utopia. I see each being explicitly or implicitly being aimed for, where sometimes even the same person targets multiple Utopias, where they seek one Utopia for one topic and another for another topic.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I was using the same definition of social justice that I think LadyJane was using when she said “secularism, racial and ethnic equality, gender equality, relaxation of traditional gender roles and sexual norms”.

            The trouble is that this isn’t a definition, its a slogan. Equality before who? Before the law? Across all societies and in all measures (ie equality of outcome)? Which system is subordinate when they come into conflict?

            Under capitalism some group is going to do relatively worse than the average group even if that group does relatively better than they would under less capitalistic systems, this is true because there is variation and a large sample (there are a large number of currently identified groups and a practically unlimited number of potential groups). A social justice position requires that you take an a priori stand on that eventually inequality, either there are some inherent differences between individuals or there aren’t. If you take the latter position then your conclusion will eventually be “we don’t have actual inequality yet, need some non-capitalist intervention to solve it”.

          • baconbits9 says:

            . In this model, it is justified for Bono to be rich, as long as black lesbian trans Bono would be just as rich. It is also justified for a talent-less person to be poor, as long as their race, gender, etc don’t impact their poverty.

            This Utopia is extremely compatible with capitalism, as long as racism, homophobia, sexism, etc are fully encultured and not (partially) inherently human desires.

            This does not follow, you have to also assume that being black, trans, homosexuals etc would cause zero issues if it wasn’t for culture, and further that you can get to that type of culture without transgressing against the hetero-normative individuals to shove culture to that desired point.

          • albatross11 says:

            I want the utopia where everyone’s allowed to get rich or be famous or have other kinds of success, and their race/religion/sex/ethnicity/sexual orientation/gender identity basically doesn’t factor into this. Add in a safety net that’s as non-intrusive as possible so the people with few talents aren’t utterly screwed over. That’s the world I want to work toward.

          • Aapje says:

            @baconbits9

            That is generally taken as axiomatic by SJ advocates, probably in part because it greatly simplifies and strengthens their arguments (to those who accept the axiom). If groups are equally capable in all ways, then any disparity of outcome on the group-level is evidence of discrimination.

            On the one hand, it is understandable because many have made claims of strong differences that were later disproved. On the other hand, a complete denial of biological differences is extremely illogical, if you know how genes work. You can even see that clear differences exist between men and women or black and white people, so the argument then has to be: people are only different in inconsequential ways. However, is the ability to gestate a fetus really inconsequential? Are hormones inconsequential?

            In general, SJ advocates seem to apply ‘God of the gaps’ arguments a lot, where absence of other explanations is taken as evidence for their favored explanation. This heavily biases them to see what they expect to see.

            Then with their belief that shaming can improve behavior in a way that improves society, they are quite prone to condemn those who point out that the emperor is not wearing any clothes.

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            The hard question is then:

            If (let’s say) men and women differ in a way that impacts ability, for example, greater mutational load in men, which more often makes them exceptionally capable or incapable than women; then do you accept inequality of outcome on the group level that matches these differences?

            If you answer ‘yes,’ you are meritocratic. If you answer ‘partially,’ you are social democratic. If you answer ‘no,’ you are very dangerous.

            And if you start arguing vehemently that no differences in ability could exist, then you are very dangerous in another way.

            🙂

          • albatross11 says:

            I think how we should respond to group differences as a policy matter depends on a bunch of details, and the best thing to do is to surface the tradeoff and make it something people get to explicitly decide on.

            For example, a truly meritocratic Harvard will end up like 50% Asian and 45% white and like 2-3% black. A Harvard that reflects US population racial statistics will be like 6% Asian and 13% black.

            Which way should Harvard end up? That’s a values/policy question, and I can’t honestly claim to know the right answer. But I’d like the question to be handled up-front and honestly in public, not hidden away so the clueless nobodies don’t get the wrong ideas.

          • johan_larson says:

            For example, a truly meritocratic Harvard will end up like 50% Asian and 45% white and like 2-3% black. A Harvard that reflects US population racial statistics will be like 6% Asian and 13% black.

            I think you’re mostly right, but details matter. It’s not entirely obvious what merit is in this case. Academic ability in a paper-and-pencil sort of way is part of it, sure, but there are other aspects of excellence that matter. So I think there is some legitimate room for debate about what sort of merit these institutions should be looking for. And the expected composition of the student bodies would change somewhat based on what type of merit the institutions pursue.

          • LadyJane says:

            @albatross11:

            I want the utopia where everyone’s allowed to get rich or be famous or have other kinds of success, and their race/religion/sex/ethnicity/sexual orientation/gender identity basically doesn’t factor into this. Add in a safety net that’s as non-intrusive as possible so the people with few talents aren’t utterly screwed over. That’s the world I want to work toward.

            This. A world without implicit or explicit hierarchies is impossible, which is why I don’t think actual communism could ever work. I want a world where those hierarchies are as fair as possible, which is to say, entirely rooted in people’s innate capabilities and their choices, not in arbitrary factors that they have no control over.

            @Aapje:

            If (let’s say) men and women differ in a way that impacts ability, for example, greater mutational load in men, which more often makes them exceptionally capable or incapable than women; then do you accept inequality of outcome on the group level that matches these differences?

            If you answer ‘yes,’ you are meritocratic. If you answer ‘partially,’ you are social democratic. If you answer ‘no,’ you are very dangerous.

            And if you start arguing vehemently that no differences in ability could exist, then you are very dangerous in another way.

            I would say that these inequalities of outcome should be accepted but not focused on. If Race X has 20% fewer people with college degrees than Race Y, purely due to genetic differences, that’s okay. If that leads to the development of a stereotype that all or most X’s are dumb, which makes colleges less willing to accept X’s and employers less willing to hire X’s simply on the basis of this stereotype, that’s absolutely not okay.

            And I’ll admit, I feel like my answer is a cop out to some extent, because I’m not sure what could be done to prevent stereotypes from forming based on noticeable differences in outcome, but that’s my moral intuition on the issue. Having sociocultural norms that very strongly emphasized individualism and very strongly condemned group-based prejudice would probably go a long way towards helping. Although this gets even harder with sex/gender, because the differences are even more pronounced: If 95% of miners are men because only 5% of women have the physical strength necessary to do the job, then it’s hard to blame the mine owner for having a strong bias towards hiring men; at that point, the best we could reasonably hope for is that he’s willing to give a female miner a chance to prove that she has what it takes.

            At the same time, I simply don’t believe that inherent racial differences in intelligence and capability (if they exist at all) are that severe. I am 100% sure that in a world without racial discrimination, racial differences in life outcomes would be significantly lower than they are now, even if the gap didn’t close completely. I’d imagine racial IQ gaps would shrink too, just like the IQ gap between the British and the Irish shrank to virtually nothing as the Irish stopped being disenfranchised. As for sex/gender, I’d imagine that as technology advances, the amount of jobs that rely on physical strength will continue to decrease, and I haven’t seen any good evidence of significant differences between the sexes in other categories. (Even the arguments for why women are so under-represented in tech fields tend to be about their supposed lack of interest, rather than any lack of capability.)

          • Aapje says:

            @johan_larson

            AFAIK, there is actually no objective measurement made by Harvard where Asians do worse. What they are doing seems to be purely judging people by race, not favoring one ability over the other.

            For the other ways in which they favor groups, you can make that argument. For example, when favoring athletes, they favor ‘can play sports very well’ over ‘is smart.’ When favoring the children of alumni, they favor ‘is connected to our old elite’ over ‘is smart.’

            The thing is that none of these things seem to be very respectable in today’s society, so it’s logical that they lie about it.

            @LadyJane

            The evidence actually pretty strongly suggests that some differences are quite severe. Some countries give male and female Olympic athletes pretty much the same support and yet we see enormous performance differences. One aspect, hormones, is known to have a substantial effect where this effect can be measured after administrating them. It’s quite plausible that long tail/mutational load effects add on to this for a double whammy in favor of a small percentage of men and against a small percentage of women. In any case, I doubt that this difference in capability will ever disappear, although it already has become far less important in non-sport jobs.

            As for differences in interest, studies suggest a fairly large difference in interest in people vs systems, which some studies suggest may be already be present in babies & apes. Furthermore, completely contrary to what one would expect if these are due to traditional gender norms, we see more gendered job choices in the West than in far more traditional countries. Of course, one can make a reasonable argument that feminism is not very good at creating gender equality ( 😛 ), although its hard to argue that countries like Iran are doing better on this front. So it is quite suggestive of a possible biological difference.

            In many other ways like intelligence between ethnic groups the differences may very well be negligible, but that is not proven and the current evidence seems weakly point at possible gaps, but with the caveat that other explanations could very, very plausibly be true (but we have no truly solid evidence for this at the moment).

            Anyway, the interesting thing about stereotypes is that studies strongly suggest that people’s stereotypes tend to pretty strongly match their experiences and/or other evidence they get. So in itself people don’t seem particularly bigoted and their beliefs tend to merely reflect the evidence. Furthermore, studies also suggest that people tend to take the stereotype as the default, but replace this relatively quickly with a personalized assessment once they get information about the specific person. So as long as people get the chance to prove their worth before being judged too strongly, it may not hold people back too much in their careers and such (although it obviously can be unpleasant to have to dispel a stereotype whenever one meets someone new).

            The thing is that stereotypes are basically a combination of abstract thinking and quick adaptive learning, which was probably highly beneficial to our ancestors (you don’t necessarily want to give a random lion a chance to prove that not all lions are dicks, after one ate your tribe member) and probably still has large benefits. It’s very likely that it’s innate to humans to think this way. So any desire to make them go away seems practically equivalent to hoping that humans will no longer be human. I tend to dislike ideologies that ideally want to replace humans with angels of a better nature, because in practice this tends to end in oppression.

          • On the question of genetic differences, one particularly striking case:

            Kenyan Wilson Kipsang won this year’s Berlin Marathon in 2 hours, 3 minutes and 23 seconds — an average of 4:42 per mile. It was easily the fastest marathon time ever recorded, an incredible feat for another powerful Kenyan runner.

            But perhaps equally remarkable was that his fellow Kenyans also came in second, third, fourth and fifth place in this major international race. On the women’s side, Kenyans placed first, second and fourth.

            Two weeks later in Chicago, Kenyan runner Dennis Kimetto broke the course record there — after only having run for four years. Next in line behind him? Three more Kenyans.

            … all these runners are actually from the same tribe of Kenyans known as the Kalenjin. They number around 5 million, making them a small minority, even in Kenya, yet they dominate most of the world’s long-distance races.

          • albatross11 says:

            LadyJane:

            The best was I can see for things to work is to treat people as individuals as much as possible. If you’re walking down a dark alley at night, you may need to use stereotypes/statistics to make quick judgments about whether the group of teenage black boys is safer to walk past than the group of elderly Asian women. But in most other situations, you can judge a person based on their actions and abilities.

            Racial preferences that go against actual differences in ability have this weird property: in some ways, they diminish stereotypes, but in others, they strengthen them. For example, racial preferences in university admissions mean that on most campuses in the US, the average black student is a lot less capable than the average white student. That’s a consequence of having lower admissions standards for blacks than for whites. On the other side of things, Asians tend to have higher admissions requirements than whites. So students and teachers at those universities will notice that the black students are usually not as bright, and the Asian students usually are extra-bright. Similarly, blacks will end up majoring in easier things than whites, who end up majoring in easier things than Asians.

            Worse, consider the incentives for a truly race-neutral employer in a world where blacks get some credential more easily than whites.

    • LadyJane says:

      It’s also important to keep in mind, the phenomenon you’re describing is a distinctly American phenomenon that’s far from universal. In Western Europe, both the cultural right and the cultural left tend to support centrist or leftist economic policies. In Eastern Europe, as well as some far-left Latin American countries like Cuba and Venezuela, the U.S. trend is basically reversed, with socialist governments that are repressively conservative on cultural issues, and opponents attacking them from both the economic right and the cultural left. And of course, the USSR was nationalistic and xenophobic to an extreme that would make Donald Trump blush, and notoriously conservative on issues like women’s rights and LGBT rights, promoting traditional gender roles as a duty to the state and denouncing promiscuity and homosexuality as bourgeois indulgences. China and other East Asian communist countries take similar stances, conflating social liberalism with Western colonialism; the various Ba’athist regimes in the Middle East share that view. So the lines don’t have to be drawn along conservative-capitalist/liberal-socialist lines, that’s just how they happen to be drawn right now in North America.

    • marxbro says:

      Vestigial Marxism? Nothing vestigial about it, there are plenty of oldschool Marxists like myself still chipping away.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Don’t you feel vastly outnumbered by the Critical Theory left?

        • marxbro says:

          I don’t know what the “Critical Theory” left is, so I don’t feel outnumbered by them, no. More and more people see the strength and usefulness of Marxism.

    • Guy in TN says:

      These are the people who can afford to spend 4+ years racking up $10,000+ debt/annum, so why do they think they’d be beneficiaries of an angry working class violently seizing power?

      This is basically the flip side of the “What’s the matter with Kansas” phenomenon. The answer, for both, is that values actually matter to people, and that people can develop values that are opposed to their financial interest.

    • fion says:

      I think you’re (a) overestimating the wealth of the average left-winger and (b) underestimating their capacity to care about other people.

      With regards to (a), there are probably a great many of the Left who will be better off after the revolution, especially outside the US, where most left-wingers are working class.

      With regards to (b), maybe they don’t expect or want to be the “beneficiaries” of the revolution, but they still think it’s worth it. I, for example, donate to the Against Malaria Foundation, but *I* don’t expect to be the “beneficiary” of any mosquito nets.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        With regards to (a), there are probably a great many of the Left who will be better off after the revolution, especially outside the US, where most left-wingers are working class.

        With regards to (b), maybe they don’t expect or want to be the “beneficiaries” of the revolution, but they still think it’s worth it.

        I can’t speak much to (a), but why would they still think it’s worth it if the revolution looks like an armed Trump rally rather than a college protest? I still can’t fathom the degree-holding Left looking with approval at the proletariat using guns to nationalize corporations and abolish their HR departments. Not to mention blacklisting all the writers and directors who hate them from the nationalized media corporations.

        • Guy in TN says:

          why would they still think it’s worth it if the revolution looks like an armed Trump rally rather than a college protest?

          There’s a third option, of course, and that is that a revolution of the working class would be simply left-wing. The narrative of “the working class prefers Trump” is a myth that doesn’t hold up in polling data.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I don’t buy it: why would working class people without a bachelor’s degree be simply left-wing? They haven’t had 4+ years of indoctrination about all ethics consisting of caring more about the IdPol of minorities than their own self-interest (Marxism was all about the historical inevitability of the majority violently serving their own interests).

          • Guy in TN says:

            If the evidence doesn’t fit your hypothesis, maybe you should first reconsider your hypothesis.

            The question you should be asking, is why does the data seem to show that the working class cares about minorities?

            Many answers to this. My favorite one is that “self interest” is an ideology, not the default state, and the poor haven’t been through the systems that indoctrinate people to not care about others.

            (The other less interesting answer, is that the “working class” and “minorities” are not dichotomous, because the working class largely are black and Hispanic minorities.)

          • John Schilling says:

            The narrative of “the working class prefers Trump” is a myth that doesn’t hold up in polling data.

            I’m not sure how you’re getting that from your polling data. There are only eight questions that even mention Trump, and all of them simply focus on Republican vs Democratic support for the man and his policies, nothing about trying to break that down along class or other lines.

            There are some other questions that I can see as indicating that the working class is not strongly pro-Republican, but anyone who was paying the least attention in 2015-2016 will have noticed that the Republican party had to be dragged kicking and screaming to their acceptance of Trump. So the data you cite is entirely consistent with the narrative that the (white) working class really likes Donald Trump but is ambivalent about the Republican Party.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            Dignity of labor, and also “No undercutting”. Working class men are in favor of equal pay because they know that not having it means they would end up competing against women who get paid less, which is obviously not good for them both directly, and also because, well, those women will usually be their spouses, and their pay sucking is money out of the household budget.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I’d postulate people have confused views because they don’t understand “working class” is not nearly the same as “white working class”. Most those people are minorities in urban settings, not white dudes swinging a hammer or working at Ford. Indeed, the jobs of that type that still exist are fairly well paying. While they might be culturally “working class” they are solidly middle or upper middle.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I’m not sure how you’re getting that from your polling data. There are only eight questions that even mention Trump, and all of them simply focus on Republican vs Democratic support for the man and his policies, nothing about trying to break that down along class or other lines.

            What he said. The January 2016 Republican Party had nothing to offer the American working class. IMO, all it did to attract voters outside the donor class was lie to social conservatives about overturning Roe v. Wade if they won and warn them that if Democrats won, they’d take your guns away and force Christian-owned small businesses to celebrate homosexual weddings. I think most voters cynically/correctly saw that all GOP elected representatives really cared about was cutting taxes so they could spend what was going to taxes on their private jets buying caviar and hiring hookers to eat it off the thighs off while said private jets were in flight.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @John Shilling

            Here is the 2016 exit polling data, specifically relating to Trump vs. Clinton. If we define “working class” to mean those making less than US median income ($59,000), the data shows that this population does not prefer Trump.

          • acymetric says:

            We probably need to agree on what “working class” means here. Some people seem to use it as a cultural marker, and others as an economic marker that essentially would seem to include some portion of working poor and lower-middle class.

            Is a person starting out in sales (or some other white collar job) making 45k per year working class? What about a welder working in a fab shop making 70-80k per year? What about someone who owns their own business where they are the sole employee, making 100k+ per year doing blue collar work like equipment installation/small-scale construction (there are examples of this where the person actually does the work, I’m not talking about someone who subcontracts it all out)?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Guy in TN: Income is a bad metric, because lots of people with BA degrees are white-collar proles earning less than $59k a year, and black people monolithically support whoever the Democrat is.
            When the MSM talks about the working class, they mean “blue collar”, “redneck”, “no college degree”, etc. There are also a lot of white collar proles, who are more likely to be leftists because they’re more likely to have gotten a four-year degree, and universities are indoctrination centers where the Left has iron-fisted hegemony.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            When the MSM talks about the working class, they mean “blue collar”, “redneck”, “no college degree”, etc.

            Right, but when Marxists talk about the working class they have something more specific in mind than cultural signifies.

            If we use the cultural definitions you provided, your OP now reads:

            “What, is “early socialism” the inevitable next stage of history, to be brought about by a [culturally redneck, ect] revolution? … wouldn’t that actually be terrible for them?

            Which doesn’t make sense, because no one is advocating for a revolution of those who espouse whatever artificial “working class” cultural signifies the US has.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Guy in TN: Of course not. When imagining a proletarian revolution, one must imagine white collar proles rebelling against the university ideology (IdPol for minorities only) and the expensive credentialism scam they represent in favor of cooperating with blue collar proles.
            This may be extremely improbable, but it’s basic Marxism, and does not favor the sort of pro-Islam, pro-LGBT, polyamory, vegan etc. types who say things like “… under late capitalism.”

          • baconbits9 says:

            There is little female undercutting of males in working class occupations, many of them end up as heavily male or heavily female. Jordan Peterson posted a graphic of the 20 most dangerous jobs (fatalities per 100,000 employees and they were between 76% and 99.9% male, and most are working class positions.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Right, but when Marxists talk about the working class they have something more specific in mind than cultural signifies.

            Yes and no, they would be talking about the working lower economic classes, people whose production is being exploited which cuts out a huge segment of the lower economic class in the US today.

          • John Schilling says:

            Right, but when Marxists talk about the working class they have something more specific in mind than cultural signifies

            If you’re going to claim that “it is a myth that the working class supports Trump”, then you have to use the definition of “working class” that the proponents of that alleged myth are using, not the idiosyncratic usage of a tiny political faction.

            “Working class”, as used by pretty much everyone else, is going to include a whole lot of people with incomes above $50K/year (e.g. most anyone with seniority in a union) and exclude a fair number of people earning less than $30K/year (e.g. most grad students). To simplify it for statistical purposes, you might want to try the intersection of “employed” and “no college degree”. If you can’t get that level of detail, “no college degree” is probably the best single variable.

          • Guy in TN says:

            This may be extremely improbable, but it’s basic Marxism, and does not favor the sort of pro-Islam, pro-LGBT, polyamory, vegan etc. types who say things like “… under late capitalism.”

            Its important to consider the relative importance of issues among voters. This recent survey didn’t include bother to include Islam, polyamory, or veganism presumably because they are such fringe issues. It did include LGBT policy, but it was ranked last in importance by the average voter out of 16 issues (and 9th place among Democrats).

            Which leads me to think that the percentage of people who place “pro-Islam, pro-LGBT, polyamory, veganism” at the top of their political priorities must be extremely low, and certainly not representative of any substantial demographic one should draw inferences from.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @John Shilling

            If you’re going to claim that “it is a myth that the working class supports Trump”, then you have to use the definition of “working class” that the proponents of that alleged myth are using, not the idiosyncratic usage of a tiny political faction.

            I will concede that the “working class” as the mainstream media typically defines it (white, rural) support Trump. But this definition can’t be used to peg Marxists for hypocrisy, for the same definition-deferring reasons. This isn’t who Marxists are talking about when they use the term.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I think you are only half right GUY in TN.

            IMO the “below median” definition for working class is both too broad and too narrow.

            As John noted, there is no reasonable definition of working class that excludes a senior union member that has worked up to making 80k a year. On the other hand, I would argue it also wouldn’t include grad students and those only lightly employed.

            A harder to poll, but more accurate definition of working class would be something like: Non-College educated person who has worked, as an employee, full time, continuously, for [some time longer than a year, I’d probably put 2 years].

            This segment is going to be much more Republican friendly, but that is also going to be simply because it is going to kick out a lot of blacks and hispanics.

          • Brad says:

            Non college educated still doesn’t get at what you want. Police officers in many places are now required to have degrees. There’s no way to get at what people mean by “working class” except by looking at what people mean by working class.

          • John Schilling says:

            Non college educated still doesn’t get at what you want.

            Keep in mind that what we want, in this context, is not a complete list of the working class. An accurate statistical sampling will suffice. So the question is, does excluding college-educated working class specialties skew the statistics significantly?

            Possibly it does, but it may still be good enough for our purposes, or as good as we can realistically get. It certainly avoids the problem of “expelling” everyone from the working class as soon as they’ve got 10-20 years of seniority, because lots of things skew with age, and it avoids the problem of including the unemployable underclass and a bunch of aspiring white-collar professionals(*) still rounding out their education.

            * Unless we’re using the old Marxist definition where white-collar professionals are all working-class.

          • Brad says:

            That’s a fair point. It probably is good enough.

            I will say that here in NYC we have some Union trades guys making not $80k/year but easily north of $200k/year and it does stick in my craw a little to have them described as working class. Yes, the dominant usage is as a social class but there’s some definite intentional conflation with the older definition when working class wealthy was an oxymoron—especially when it comes time for contract negotiations.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            Why would class membership have to perfectly correlate with income?

            Traditionally, class membership has always had a very strong cultural component. Nouveau riche describes a person who gained (partial) access to upper class environments due to his wealth, without the matching culture. The aristocracy are not merely upper class, but have a specific noblesse oblige culture (conveniently this then allows the nobility to defend the justness of their privilege by pointing to their self-chosen burdens).

            I would argue that many people tend to have a strong desire to segregate by income & that people tend to regress to the mean. So the rich working class person will tend to either see himself and/or his descendants move up, or they will tend to lose their wealth again. Similarly, the poor upper class person will tend to either see himself and/or his descendants move down, or they will tend to gain wealth again.

            However, in some cases people don’t regress to the mean and you have people with incomes that don’t neatly match their culture.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that we need to keep in mind that black Americans are lagging in some ways because of the after-effects of slavery, Jim Crow, etc. So where the white working class has already experienced a large brain drain, has experienced substantial buying power growth and then a decline, etc; the black working class has a different experience.

            I think that less educated black Americans are being screwed in the same way that less educated white Americans are, but that this is overshadowed for the former group by:

            1. This group still catching up. Imagine that the standard amount of pocket money for kids is $10. I pay the standard amount to my imaginary son Bob. Due to reasons, the standard amount of pocket money for the kid class goes down to $8 and I reduce my payments to Bob to $8. He notices his buying power getting worse and gets angry.

            There is another street where people collectively pay their kids less than the standard amount of pocket money. However, this street is catching up to my street. Jack, a kid who lives there, got $6 last year, $7 this year and will get $8 next year. It will stop here, because the standard amount of pocket money for the kid class is now $8. If it had stayed at $10, Jack would have seen his pocket money increase to $10, but now it will only increase to $8.

            So both Bob and Jack are screwed by the standard amount of pocket money for the kid class going down, but only Bob noticed an actual decline. Jack will not see an increase that he otherwise had, which is less obvious and will impacts Jack later.

            2. Another narrative (racism) being falsely blamed.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think it’s really unclear how much of current blacks’ situation can be attributed to slavery or Jim Crow, both of which are pretty far in the past at this point.

            If Jews in the US were persistently worse off in most ways than Gentiles, I imagine we’d be constantly hearing about how this was the legacy of centuries of anti-Semitism, right up to the Jewish Quota in the Ivy League and restrictive covenants/country clubs excluding Jews in living memory. But Jews in the US are actually better off than Gentiles in most ways (income, wealth, education, life expectancy, etc. ), so nobody brings those things up as explanations.

            Similarly for Asians–there was some pretty nasty anti-Asian discrimination over the years, including the extremely nasty relocation of Japanese-Americans in WW2. That probably explains why Japanese-Americans are poorer and do worse in school than whites to this day, right? Oh, wait, they’re richer and do better in school than whites? Hmmm…..

          • Aapje says:

            Well, regardless, statistics do show black Americans (slowly) catching up to whites. What the exact reason is for why they had to catch up and/or why this catching up is relatively slow compared to other groups is really rather irrelevant for my argument.

        • LadyJane says:

          @Guy in TN: You’re right that Marx had a purely economic definition of “working class” in mind, but that definition certainly wasn’t anything remotely like “people making less than $60k per year.” Technically, his definition of working class just meant anyone who worked for a wage or salary, rather than making money through profit (like the petit bourgeois, i.e. small independent business owners) or through investments (like the bourgeois, i.e. capitalists). Both blue collar and white collar workers would be considered part of the proletariat, but Marx definitely put much more of an emphasis on blue collar workers and saw them as being the ones to lead the revolution.

          Ironically, a lot of the poorest people wouldn’t be part of the proletariat, but rather part of the lumpenproletariat: criminals and beggars. People who don’t work at all and get all their money from welfare checks would fall into that category too. Marx did not hold them in particularly high regard, treating them with a mixture of derision and condescending pity.

          And yes, the proletariat would include a lot of inner city blacks and Latinos in addition to the rural/exurban white working class. Inner city racial minorities also tend to be quite conservative on social and cultural issues (though this is changing quicker than it is for the white working class) and more likely to be opposed to immigration than urban/suburban white liberals. So while you’re right that they would also be part of the vanguard of the proletariat, I’m skeptical of the idea that they’d be a force for social liberalism within it.

        • fion says:

          As others have said, I don’t think the revolution will look either like an armed Trump rally or a college protest, and I don’t think other people on the left think so either. (I actually suspect it won’t happen, and rather there will be a gradual reformation, but that’s beside the point.)

          Besides the fact that Trump isn’t really the spokesperson of the working class, and doesn’t have the working class popularity that is often claimed, he is an unusual and American phenomenon. In the rest of the world there exist left wing political parties, and the working class tend to support these rather than rightist demagogues. The US doesn’t have a left wing political party, so it’s got this weird vacuum where the working class doesn’t know who represents them and occasionally some of them make odd choices like vote for Trump.

          • Aapje says:

            In my country we have real left wing political parties, yet very many in the working class stopped believing that those represent them as well.

            In general, their support for ‘populism’ seems primarily negatively motivated, rather than positive (in other words, they are mainly discontent with the existing elite, rather than being really convinced that the populists have the answers).

    • Well... says:

      I thought this was a very unfair statement, to the point of being quite wrong:

      Corporations are far more beholden to Social Justice ideology than to the working class (this being why HR departments exist)

      Paying lip service to certain parts of social justice ideology is something a lot of HR departments do, not always for social justice-y reasons, but it is NOT why HR departments exist.

      • Nornagest says:

        Yeah, that’s a good point. You’re probably more likely to find SJ true believers in HR departments than in, say, network ops, but HR’s actual job is to handle personnel-related problems, both routine (wrangling benefits) and exceptional (figuring out who to fire when the Senior Research Fellow gets into a fistfight with the Principal Component Architect at the company Christmas party). That isn’t a glamorous job, but it is a real one.

        You could make a case for Departments of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (or e.g.) being inherently beholden to SJ ideology, but where those exist, they still take up much less of the average corporate budget than HR does.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          HR’s actual job is to handle personnel-related problems, both routine (wrangling benefits) and exceptional (figuring out who to fire when the Senior Research Fellow gets into a fistfight with the Principal Component Architect at the company Christmas party). That isn’t a glamorous job, but it is a real one.

          Fair point; even if a revolutionary proletariat strung the boards of Google and Facebook up from lamp posts, the white collar proles who took over would have to assign individuals to the real work that HR does. Though “wrangling benefits” implies adversarial relations with management.

          • John Schilling says:

            Though “wrangling benefits” implies adversarial relations with management.

            No; even if labor and management enthusiastically agree that ~20% of total compensation is going to be in the form of the best health insurance that much money can buy because duh, we can read the tax code and we’re not idiots, there’s still a whole lot of dull, ugly wrangling involved in making that actually happen.

    • BBA says:

      Most people don’t really think shit through.

      I take references to “late capitalism” as meaning the system is running on fumes and about to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. I think this rings true but it’s also been made crushingly obvious that There Is No Alternative. We’re stuck at the end of history, painted into a corner, wondering, now what?

      Of course I speak only for myself.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        I take references to “late capitalism” as meaning the system is running on fumes and about to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. I think this rings true but it’s also been made crushingly obvious that There Is No Alternative. We’re stuck at the end of history, painted into a corner, wondering, now what?

        I think we’re not painted into a corner. Sure, obviously, society is going to end up going somewhere, and this isn’t what you meant. But backing up a bit: I think what a lot of people are referring to as “late capitalism” is really just a spate of people being lazy in their implementation of capitalism. (As you also say: most people don’t really think shit through.)

        Specifically, one the failure modes I often see is that some people use the system to lay claim to more power, and other people consent and give it up. I see that as scoring an own-goal. That consent is often lazy / uninformed; they aren’t distinguishing well enough between grifters, incompetents, and benevolent experts.

        So to me, the answer to “now what?” is that some number of people will try to get smarter about who they yield power too, while some will try harder to look like benevolent experts so that they can grift. It’s an intellectual effort race.

    • Yakimi says:

      Corporations are far more beholden to Social Justice ideology than to the working class (this being why HR departments exist), so why would they want to see them nationalized by the dictatorship of an angry proletariat trying to serve its own interests?

      This question cuts both ways. If corporations are fully allied with the social justice agenda, why don’t the enemies of social justice feel even slightly betrayed about how their defense of private enterprise has created these massive concentrations of private power that are now assaulting all things beautiful and sacred? Why do they care more about the climate of college campuses and less about the efforts of the world’s most prominent corporations to enforce worker discipline and brand loyalty by demanding demonstrations of moral conformity from employees and equating consumption with the promotion of social justice? Why is Infowars going on about how unreconstructed Bolsheviks like Bernie Sanders will surely bring the Venezuelan experience to America while the entirety of corporate America wages a war to banish them from the digital commons?

      Rightists live in such constant fear of the memory of the Cold War that they are afraid to embrace their natural constituency. Leftists too, except their fear is of fascism.

      • Randy M says:

        If corporations are fully allied with the social justice agenda, why don’t the enemies of social justice feel even slightly betrayed about how their defense of private enterprise has created these massive concentrations of private power that are now assaulting all things beautiful and sacred?

        As a partial support and partial argument against this critique, see conservative blogger Ace of Spades who has been asking the same question–“Why are we conservatives supporting big businesses who are not only hostile to our social positions and ability to express them, but often to capitalism itself?” (paraphrase)
        The link there isn’t the best example of that but a recent one.

        The answer is partly that some of what are considered conservative (by some metrics or merely label) are more rightly considered libertarians or even neo-liberals, and partly that conservative really like thinking of themselves as principled (which is to say neither that progressives don’t or even that it’s true in most cases).

      • John Schilling says:

        This question cuts both ways. If corporations are fully allied with the social justice agenda, why don’t the enemies of social justice feel even slightly betrayed about how their defense of private enterprise has created these massive concentrations of private power that are now assaulting all things beautiful and sacred?

        Why didn’t Britain and the United States feel betrayed when France was “fully aligned” with the Nazi agenda in 1940-1942, with French factories building weapons for the Wehrmacht and French military personnel firing on their British and American counterparts pursuant to Nazi goals?

        Nobody thinks that e.g. the median corporate HR department enforces SJ-compliant policies re sexual harassment, workforce diversity, etc, because of the Board of Directors’ deep and abiding commitment to the principles of intersectional social justice. For the most part, corporations are “fully allied with the social justice agenda” because they were forced to kowtow to that agenda under threat of great harm if they didn’t. Which makes them natural allies or at least sympathetic co-victims of anyone else who thinks they are being threatened with harm if they don’t kowtow to the social justice agenda.

        As with France 1940, there may be a degree of contempt for a weak ally that surrendered too easily to the enemy. But that’s not the same as their actually being the enemy.

      • The Nybbler says:

        This question cuts both ways. If corporations are fully allied with the social justice agenda, why don’t the enemies of social justice feel even slightly betrayed about how their defense of private enterprise has created these massive concentrations of private power that are now assaulting all things beautiful and sacred?

        It’s not private enterprise which resulted in this. It’s the government, specifically the EEOC. The main lever Social Justice used to get into these positions is “hostile workplace environment”. While the law is titularly race and gender neutral, in practice anything a woman or minority finds offensive or “uncomfortable” can be easily used to create liability or cost for a company, whereas male non-minorities are expected to take whatever is dished out to them as usual. This creates a strong incentive to for companies to give in to any demand to eliminate something “uncomfortable” for women or minorities and to ignore any effect this has on their male non-minority employees provided it doesn’t cut too badly into their ability to make profits.

  16. dndnrsn says:

    Hello, and welcome to the sixteenth installment of my Biblical scholarship effortpost series. Last time, we looked at the historical books in the Ketuvim. This time, we’re going to consider three books of poetry: Psalms, Lamentations, and the Song of Songs. Other books do contain poetry, but these ones are primarily works of poetry.

    First, the caveats: This is about secular scholarship. I’m not a full-on expert, but I did study this in school. I am aiming for a 100/200 level coverage, but if anyone has any further questions, I’ll see what I can do. Summary will be fairly minimal, for reasons of brevity.

    Psalms is a collection of collections of prayers, in poetic form. It’s organized into five books, but this is thought to be a later organization, and other divisions can also be seen: for example, 42-83 (from the beginning of book two through about half of book three) are sometimes called the “Elohist Psalter” because Elohim is used over YHWH a bit more than four times as often, whereas the norm in Psalms is YHWH over Elohim by about two to one. The poems appear to have been set to music, likely sung – “psalms” is from the greek “psalmos” which is a translation of the Hebrew “mizmor” – the last two both meaning something along the lines of “songs recited to a stringed instrument.”

    There are three major varieties of poem that show up most frequently, plus a few others. One major form is hymns of praise to God. Consider psalm 8 for an example: it celebrates God as majestic creator. All ancient Near Eastern societies had hymns of praise to their deities. Some scholars have raised the idea that originally psalms talking about God’s kingship contained the notion that God had claimed authority at some primeval point in the past, said authority needing to be renewed by observance – a notion found in other ancient Near East religions. The descriptions of God which use natural imagery are supposedly evidence of this edited-out tendency – similar imagery being used with other gods, such as Baal. Examples of this supposed tendency would be psalm 47 (where God “ascends”, and where God is described using language evocative of human coronation rituals; notably, “God is king” could be read “God has become king”, the language being similar to the language used when a human king is enthroned) and psalm 93 (which identifies God as more majestic than the sea – supposedly, the sea representing powers of primeval chaos). This is interesting, but highly speculative.

    Two major forms which are closely linked are pleas for help (consider, say, psalm 22) and prayers of thanksgiving (for example, psalm 118). They are often formulaic, and are more likely to be individual than plural in form. The pleas often feature hyperbolic language. Both the pleas and the prayers of thanksgiving tend to follow clear formulas, and seem to be meant as expressions of individual experience that could be used by others in similar situations. The two are often mixed – consider psalm 3, which juxtaposes the speaker’s many foes with protection from and confidence in God.

    There’s also wisdom poetry and royal poetry. The former is in the “wisdom” tradition; we’ll talk about this next time, but typical is psalm 73: God is just and punishes wickedness sooner or later, so it is important not to stray from righteousness, despite temptation. What’s interesting about it is that, in comparison to the other canonical wisdom material, it has a focus on the Torah as a source of wisdom, something that scholars associate with the second century. The royal poems have to do with the king – his nature and the expectations laid upon him, with some eschatological aspects (eg, psalm 2’s promise that the king will rule over the nations and the world).

    These divisions, it should be noted, are largely those of scholars, who argue over what should be considered as this and what as that. As a thought experiment, how would you categorize psalm 23?

    One interesting thing about Psalms is that the concept of an afterlife may show up here and there – although only in a minority of psalms (for example, 16 or 73) and it should be noted that there are some translation and context issues here. It’s fairly vague in what exactly it entails, but there are expressions of confidence in God in this regard. We do know that belief in the afterlife appears to have entered Judaism in the Hellenistic period (so, in the late fourth century).

    Psalms was the first book in the Ketuvim to be canonized, and it appears to have been used liturgically prior to that point, but it is hard to date. There’s very little contextual evidence, and poetry often has intentionally archaic language, which makes dating using linguistic evidence hard. Traditionally, the psalms are linked to David, but scholars disagree with this traditional ascription, and don’t think any of the psalms in their current form date back to the tenth century – although there is likely an older core. Some are clearly postexilic, based on their language. Others appear to be preexilic, either from Judah, or some from the northern kingdom – so, eighth century. Psalms as we currently have it probably took shape over five or so centuries. The last two books were finalized later – of the Dead Sea Scrolls Psalms we have, the differences between those and the final Hebrew text come mostly in the fourth and fifth books. The oldest psalm is probably 29, which probably was drawn from an earlier Canaanite original.

    Lamentations is a collection of five poems mourning the destruction of Jerusalem. It doesn’t have a narrative structure. Its poetry is quite advanced: it features rare words and unusual grammatical structures, and the first four chapters take the form of an alphabetic acrostic. Lamentations entirely accepts the conventional narrative – the destruction is God’s punishment. There are analogous ancient Near East poems lamenting the destruction of cities – however, they end with a happy restoration; Lamentations does not.

    Lamentations has traditionally been ascribed to Jeremiah, but this is probably not the case. This association isn’t found in the Hebrew Bible itself, and it seems to have arisen in Jewish interpretation by the time of the Septuagint (which has Jeremiah and Lamentations next to each other, which would thus become the norm in the Christian canon). The poems were likely written in 586 or shortly afterwards, probably by separate authors, and likely compiled by the end of the exile or shortly thereafter.

    Song of Songs is a collection of love poetry. It features the voices of two lovers, sometimes in dialogue, sometimes addressing each other or others. The poetic language includes many similes, often of a natural character. It’s rather unusual compared to the rest of the canon: far less overtly religious, it celebrates romantic, erotic love in a way that might seem out of place compared to some other books.

    There are a few different theories as to the exact nature of the poems. One is that it is a drama about a love affair – but this runs into the lack of a narrative. Another is that it is an adaptation of Mesopotamian “sacred marriage” liturgy involving the marriage of a god and a goddess – however, while it is true that there are parallels to late third and early second millennium Mesopotamian sacred marriage poems, the stronger parallels are to thirteenth and twelfth century Egyptian love poems.

    The most common theory, then, is that it is a collection of love poems, perhaps originally used in wedding ceremonies. The lovers, however, do not appear to be married (whether to each other or anyone else). The only context of a wedding is one mention of a wedding procession. So, the document as a whole is most likely a collection of poems concerning young, unmarried lovers.

    The Song of Songs would eventually be read as being not merely about human love but also, perhaps even primarily, about the relationship between God and Israel. It is unclear when this reading developed. It is possible that the poems were important – used, perhaps, in wedding ceremonies – and were included in the canon for this reason, with the development in its understanding coming about as a result of being made canonical.

    The collection in its current form likely dates to the fourth or third century, but with earlier roots, based on the language. Scholars argue over the number of the individual poetic units, their coherence, whether it was the work of one author relying on earlier sources or the product of redaction editing multiple sources together, and so on.

    In conclusion, Psalms is a collection of prayers accumulated over a long period, and accordingly is quite complicated, to the point that scholars disagree over how to categorize individual psalms. Lamentations is a book of poems about the destruction of Jerusalem, composed soon after that event and compiled a bit later. Song of Songs is a collection of love poems, more recent than the other books. In all three cases, while there is a traditional account of authorship, scholars have tended to disagree.

    If I’ve made any errors please let me know, ideally within 55 minutes or thereabouts so I can edit.

    • Nick says:

      Did not notice any typos.

      ETA: Did you mean to say “Psalms is a collection of collections of prayers”?

      Just curious: when you say Lamentations is analogous to other poems about cities being lost, and that Song of Songs parallels Egyptian poems, is the claim here just “these are similar” or is the claim “the one influenced the other”?

      • dndnrsn says:

        I did; it’s one collection made up of smaller individual collections, seems to be the consensus.

        With regard to the parallels, I think in this case no particular claims of direct textual influence being made (in the sense of “psalm x is clearly based on the Thanksgiving Prayer of Emperor So-and-So”) but indirect cultural influence is a different matter.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      adaptation of Mesopotamian “sacred marriage” liturgy involving the marriage of a god and a goddess – however, while it is true that there are parallels to late third and early second millennium Mesopotamian sacred marriage poems, the stronger parallels are to thirteenth and twelfth century Egyptian love poems.

      Color me skeptical that poems whose strongest parallels are to thirteenth and twelfth century BC Egyptian poems, with the next-closest being to Mesopotamian sacred marriage liturgy of ~2000 BC, can’t be attributed by smart, university-educated, right-thinking people to an Iron Age I Hebrew king. The traditional attribution to Solomon is already somewhat late to fit that data!

      • dndnrsn says:

        It’s always plausible that some elements of a composition go back a ways. I think that the general tendency to attribute stuff to historical figures results in a slightly higher degree of skepticism than is merited.

        Speaking of Egypt, it’s frustrating how the “institutional” history as written has big problems, but there’s all these bits and pieces that don’t make sense unless there was contact with Egypt. It’s clear something happened, but we don’t really have the evidence to say what.

      • Aron Wall says:

        Similarly, I’d like to push back on this supposed view of “scholars” that none of the 75 or so Psalms attributed to David actually go back to him. To me, this seems ridiculous.

        Let’s assume we grant, as I think all but extreme biblical minimalists do, the existence of a historical David. One of the clearest, most repeated traditions we have about this man is that he was a singer. There is nothing historically implausible about that, either. But somehow biblical critics act as if it were hugely unlikely that we would have the words of his actual songs (modulo some editing).

        Given that an extremely famous national hero founded a dynasty (in a literate culture), and wrote music to be used in the Temple, it seems actually more likely than not that at least some of his music would have survived.

        Sure, if there were an anonymous psalm that people thought was really cool, I can see the motivation for attributing the anonymous work to David, the famous musician. But that motivation only makes sense if there already exist songs attributed to David. By far the most plausible reason for someone to be famous as a musical composer is if there are known songs actually written by the person. In other words, the explanation fails to explain how or why the first psalms became attributed to David, before he had a reputation as a composer of music.

        It’s like saying that people only attributed the Illiad and Odyssey to Homer because he was a famous poet. No, that’s why he’s a famous poet!

        There is another reason I have for believing in Davidic authorship, which is harder to convincingly express in a few words, which is that I feel that many of the psalms attributed to him express an extremely strong individual personality, similar to the one seen in 1-2 Samuel. There is a sort of brutal emotional honesty about the man, a sort of manic-depressive interior piety coupled with a disregard for religious conventionality, that I find extremely distinctive. As a Christian I don’t really know what it was like to be Solomon or Hezekiah, but I know vividly what it felt like to be David, because he bleeds it out onto the page.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Personally, I think that the chance that a few of the Psalms go back in their entirety or majority to David, is probably better than scholarly consensus would have it. I’d agree with the statement that if the guy was famous as a musician it’s because he was a musician – it seems a relatively neutral character judgment, so not likely to be inserted to make the guy look good. The question becomes one of transmission, which rests on a bunch of stuff I don’t know.

          I think a relatively high level of Hebrew proficiency (more than I have, by far) and knowledge of context would be needed to talk about the personality one sees in the text. Translation can really change things a great deal.

          EDIT: As I noted elsewhere, my personal opinion is that the tendency to ascribe anything of a genre to David or Solomon or whoever has made it harder for scholars to say that it’s maybe more likely than they think that we have stuff dating back to David or Solomon or whoever.

    • S_J says:

      Alright, what kind of Psalm is Psalm 23?

      As for what it is, or is not:
      1. Not a classic hymn of praise. Lots of praise, but it’s all small-scale and personal.
      2. Not a plea for help.
      3. Not quite a prayer of Thanksgiving. The closing looks like one, but it is written ithe future-tense, not in past-tense.

      It’s harder to classify than I originally thought.

    • S_J says:

      One not-quite-official section of Psalms is the songs of ascent section in Book 5.

      It’s supposed to be connected with songs sung by people who are traveling to Jerusalem for a major festival.

      That section is mostly songs about priests, services at the temple, the City of Jerusalem, and the community of worshippers.

      It includes one of the few Psalms attributed to Solomon. That Psalm is about Divine protection of Kings and Cities–fitting with the theme of Psalms about the Temple and the City of Jerusalem.

      I’ve always found this section of Psalms interesting. I suspect that even this section has poetry from various time periods bundled together.

    • SamChevre says:

      Non-random side question: what translation(s) of the poetic books do you recommend? It’s really hard to translate poetry well, and English and Hebrew are very different languages, so this is an exceptioanlly difficult exercise even among poetry translation.

      • Nicholas Weininger says:

        Robert Alter is very good, especially if you’re interested in (a) a deliberate attempt to bring across the rhythm and phrase structure of the Hebrew into English and/or (b) a translation with a lot of commentary giving both historical context and information about where and why the meaning is uncertain/disputed.

      • dndnrsn says:

        My Hebrew chops aren’t such that I can really comment on how faithful a translation is. I’ve been using the Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh translation, as I think it’s a bit better than the NRSV – it seems to be “targeted” a bit less at English than the NRSV, at least.

      • Aron Wall says:

        Somewhat orthogonal to accuracy/faithfulness is whether the poetry scans all right in the target language. Since about half of the Old Testament is poetry, this seems crucial for serious enjoyment of the Bible. Make your translation as accurate as you like, if it jars the ears when you read it aloud, that’s a problem. (When reading poetry of any sort, it’s best to sound it out, at least “in your head”, even if you normally read prose at a much faster pace.)

        For this feature I (as a non-Hebrew scholar) personally recommend one of KJV, NIV (1984), or Jerusalem. (The latter two are not quite as literal as the KJV but use modern language.) I’m sure Alter is great but I haven’t read his Psalms specifically.

        Oh, and somebody should have mentioned by now that the main poetic feature of Hebrew poetry is parallelism, where a similar meaning (or sometimes contrasting meanings) is expressed in different words in the two halves of each couplet. This is extremely fortunate (or rather, providential) because unlike most poetic features, this one survives translation into other languages, so you can enjoy it even if you don’t speak a lick of Hebrew!

        • dndnrsn says:

          I myself have a taste for stuff that’s a bit clunky – I really like translations of the Gospels with really faithful Greek – but I can see why nicer-sounding translations are needed. Liturgical use, for starters. I think the NRSV strikes a good balance between its sound and its fidelity as a translation.

    • S_J says:

      Here’s another thought, separate from the thought that about half the Psalms are attributed to David.

      The other Psalms are attributed to Asaph, or to the sons of Korah, or to Solomon, or Moses. As I mentioned, Solomon is listed as the author of one Psalm; Moses is also listed once. The remainder are anonymous.

      This is what I expect ofa collection of liturgical music/poetry that grew over a span of centuries. But it occasionally produces strange juxtapositions: an anonymous poem that refers specifically to tribal enemies from the time of Moses (136) is right next to a lament written by captives in Babylon (137), not that far from a personal prayer of David (139).

  17. Conrad Honcho says:

    Do we have any SSCers from France? What’s your take on what’s going on over there?

    • Machine Interface says:

      The one rallying point for the protesters, who otherwise seem to have a pretty wide range of often contradictory demands, is purchasing power (“pouvoir d’achat” — which is a very frequent leitmotif in French media discussions of the economic and social situation in France). They’re disprortionately middle class people, often self-employed or small business owners, from rural and urban-peripheral areas, who feel like their standard of living is going down, that they are disportionately affected by austerity policies which increase their taxes, cut down on public services, all the while the wealthy urban elites are getting tax cuts.

      A point of interest that distinguishes them from other similar movements is their very strong distrust of the established political class — including of opposition parties and of populist/anti-globalist alternatives. Jean-Luc Mélanchon (populist left) and Marine Le Pen (populist right) have very low approval ratings among the protesters (although they still do better than mainstream leaders). They are asking for significant changes to the political institutions of the Republic, with more direct democracy, more referendums and populular consultations, and more proportionality in legislative elections. They have also largely bypassed the French worker unions, which usually put themself in charges of organizing protests over chosen issues — only a minority of French worker are unionized, but the unions usually have a strong reach to mobilize and organize non-syndicated workers; their faillure to do so in that case has been partly attributed to a strong loss of credibility in failling to prevent any of Macron’s reforms from being implemented in the past 18 months.

      While the violence and rioting have somewhat caught people by surprise, it is not so unusual when dealing with an informal, leaderless organization — union-lead protests typically have their own security apparatus in addition to closely coordinating with police forces (and still violent incidents happen even then). There’s been a lot of hyperbole around the supposed unprecedented size of the protests (in mainstream media) or around the supposed violence and provocative attitude of police forces (in social media), but neither hold up to a close examination of fact.

      While protests of this size are unusual, they’re certainly not unprecedented. We’re talking about a bit over 150k protesters over all of France, when the 80s had several episodes of protest involving several hundred thousand people each — and that’s before getting into exceptional crisis like the may 68 riots, which saw protests of over a million people in Paris alone.

      As for police forces, they seem to have been fairly competent considering what they’re dealing with (multiple dispersed groups of professional rioters mingling within peaceful protesters and organizing through social media). The 8th of december saw about 1700 arrests for only 264 injured people (including 39 police officers). A handful of people have died since the protests started to escalate, none of whom in connection with police action. I’m not sure how many countries could achieve so few casualties in similar circumstances.

      Macron and his government have lost a lot of credibility overall, and after announcing for several weeks that he would not change his course, Macron eventually recanted and made a number of concessions (including a complete cancellation of the announced fuel tax). A lot of protesters are not satisfied and demand more. But given that Macron’s party seats on a large majority in the national assembly, and that Christmas and winter are coming, I predict with 80% certainty that this will start to deflate from now on, and that there will not be majorly dramatic consequences for the current government, even if they will now find themself in a much weakened position to pass their planned reforms — including budget-wise, since the bad timing of riots right in the holiday season and in touristy spots will have a noticeable impact on the economy for the following year. Populist parties might do very well in the next elections (with the above-mentionned caveat that the yellow vests don’t seem to trust even those).

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Thank you, very informative. How do you think Macron’s 100 euro minimum wage giveaway went over yesterday? If the yellow vests are mostly middle class, that seems tone deaf.

        • Machine Interface says:

          French media analysis seems to be that Macron’s goal in his speech was not so much to sway and convince the yellow vests themselves, rather than to sway general public opinion away from the yellow vests. This seems to have at least partly worked — 43% of French people think Macron made enough concessions and the yellow vests should now disperse; still a minority, but this is nonetheless impressive, considering just a week ago 85% of French people were supportive of the protest movement. And while 57% of people think the concessions are not enough, 80% nonetheless thought that those were good announcements.

          Of all proposals, the minimum wage raise has met the most lukewarm reception — especially because it will be payed by the state; in other words, it’s not a minimum wage raise at all, it’s a government-funded employee bonus!

          Some of the other proposals have had a good effect on at least part of the protesters — it seems notably that the announcement that taxes would not be raised on retirement pensions worth less 2000 euros a month had a rather positive effect and is causing at least part of the protesters (those retired or close to retirement) to disband.

          The tricky part now will be to find the extra 10 billion euros to finance all this — and as I understand their budget for 2019 needs to be completed this month. It’s predicted that France will again have to be over the 3% national deficit rule allowed by the EU for a while; it had managed to remain under it in the last two years — not that this number really means anything anyway, but it will be a lot harder to point the finger at Salvini’s government in Italy for not respecting that same rule.

  18. Well... says:

    Neal Stephenson doesn’t write his >800-page novels fast enough, so I’ve moved on to the Kim Stanley Robinson catalogue. I’ve already read Aurora (loved it) and am now listening to an audiobook of 2312 (so far so good, with one unintentionally hilarious part). What did the rest of y’all think of these, and what KSR should I read next? What should I avoid?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      A lot of people loved the Mars trilogy, but I found it extremely tedious. The same plot points and wistful melancholy inner monologues over and over and over again. That’s mainly the second and third books, though. For me they would be an “avoid,” but I believe I’m in the minority on this one.

      • Nornagest says:

        I liked the first book. The second and third are very Nineties Social SF, and they’re probably skippable unless you’re really into that style.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I can agree with that. Read the first one, but then skip the next two and maybe just read summaries. They’re long and plodding and nothing happens except lots of waxing poetic about rocks and change.

        • Chlopodo says:

          Could you specify what you mean by “Nineties Social SF”?

          • Nornagest says:

            I can’t easily wrap it up in a nice little conceptual bow, but a lot of hard SF authors started venturing out into softer, more social science heavy, more New Wavey territory in the Nineties, and what they produced that way tended to share certain similarities in terms of tone and themes. Late Arthur C. Clarke would be another good example, or the middle books in the Ender’s Game sequence. Star Trek: TNG, too, at least while Gene Roddenberry still had a lot of influence on it.

          • Randy M says:

            I think Card was always soft Sci-fi. Ender’s Game has basically one, maybe two hard sci-fi ideas–orientation in zero-g is different from atmospheric dog-fighting, and the effects of the molecular dissociation device. Maybe the behavior of a hivemind species counts.
            But apart from that, it’s all social dynamics, dealing wiht responsibility, etc. The climax of the book is about Ender’s relationship with his enemies, teachers, and squad as much or more than about his understanding of the technological problems facing him.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Randy M

            His later books in the series were definitely more social, though. The scale and scope of human interaction increased dramatically between Speaker and Children, with the last book barely having characters.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not sure what you mean by that. Human interaction increased without having characters? Do you mean without having plot or new ideas?

            edit: Or, you mean that it is mostly about organizations and groups interacting rather than individuals?

            Also, I’m not sure I agree about later books in that series being more social. The context was different, but even Ender’s game was largely about the relationships.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I mean that the relationships became more intersocial as opposed to interpersonal. Think about Novinha’s characterization compared to Peter II’s (who I never felt I got to know), or the “normalcy” of Lusitania compared to, say, Path or Pacifica. I think the interactions were more between societies than between fleshed-out people, and the contrasts were more along sociological than psychological axes.

          • Randy M says:

            Ok. I think I was focusing too much on Nonagest’s “softer” rather than “social science”.

          • albatross11 says:

            The portrayal of the religion on Path was seriously creepy and haunting and interesting.

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      His early stuff is better, IMO. “The Gold Coast” is eerily prescient, has compelling nuanced characters, and, because it is neither utopia or dystopia, is not poisoned by didacticism in the way the other two of the Three Californias (like Blue Mars) are. “The Memory of Whiteness” is also very good, as are his short story collections.

    • achenx says:

      Years of Rice and Salt is my favorite KSR, though I mostly stopped reading his books after that, so I can’t compare it to later works.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Have you ever re-read it? I liked it a lot, too, and was surprised to find more than once that when I tried reading it again, I couldn’t manage to finish it.

        • achenx says:

          I think I’ve read it twice.. once shortly after it came out in paperback (2003?) and then once again probably 2009-10ish. I remember enjoying it a lot the second time as well.

          So I didn’t have that experience with this one, though it is something that’s happened to me with other books.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I would need a lot of activation energy, I think, to reread it. I already need quite a bit to reread novels I enjoyed, and I didn’t really enjoy tYoRaS enough – I was expecting a bit more realism in the alternate history.

      • hoof_in_mouth says:

        I enjoyed the Mars trilogy but I couldn’t make it through Years of Rice and Salt. It’s been a long time but I recall thinking it was an atmospheric/personal story, devoid of conflict or adventure.

  19. helloo says:

    Anti-thought experiments (as in like anti-jokes)

    A runaway trolley is speeding towards a group of 5 unaware people. There is a switch that moves it to another track of which there is still one person there.

    What should you say to the decision maker afterwards to completely shatter their heart?
    (Paraphrased from a foreign webcomic)

    Again? It is said that “I think therefore I am” is a fundamental truth. But if that’s true then why are you still here?

    Two suitcases A and B contain differing amounts of money.
    It is predicted that person X would pick suitcase A.

    What is the best way to get them to obsess over the decision afterwards?

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      For the second one, tell them the AI predicted they would choose the suitcase with the least money in it.

    • Statismagician says:

      I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to do here. The first two don’t seem to parse, the third is a fairly straightforward insult, and the last just doesn’t seem very interesting; what do you mean by an anti-thought experiment/joke?

      • Aron Szabo says:

        I think the first two paragraphs belong to the same “experiment”. The formatting really could have been better.

    • dick says:

      I don’t really get this, but the third one is essentially the Two Envelopes Paradox, which is definitely worth reading about.

    • helloo says:

      Wow, OK, formatting was bad due to WordPress removing double line breaks and other white spaces, but didn’t expect this much confusion.

      There’s three examples.
      They start out like descriptions of thought experiments but then end up completely something else. Thus the tie in with anti-jokes.
      The classic anti-joke is “why did they chicken cross the road?”
      In which traditional joke form, it should then answer with a bad pun (ie. It heard the farmers saying they were going to Roost Her[pun:roast her/rooster]).
      However, it then ends with a straight (and thus unexpected) answer that isn’t meant to be funny by itself.

      First (the first two “paragraphs”) references Trolley problems
      The setup expects it to have the reader pick out the more moral choice – not to have them downplay the decision maker’s choice.
      In the comic, “Murderer!” is stated to be too cliche, “My daughter!” or perhaps “Our daughter!” got a bit of praise and ends with a weird revenge murder drama.

      Second references Descartes’s famous line. It’s kind of a stretch as it basically an insult and not exactly categorized as a thought experiment.
      If it makes it somewhat funnier, the way I heard it originally, it was reversed –
      “Why are you here?” “Sorry, I’m bad at answering those deep philosophical questions.”

      The third (starts with the suitcase) references Newcomb’s paradox
      The idea there is that rather some kind of test of free will or decision matrix, it makes the true goal as a way to troll the players.

      And now I’ve explained everything, no more fun.

      • dick says:

        I had never heard of Newcomb’s Paradox, and having read about it I’m not sure I get the point. It doesn’t seem like a paradox so much as a regular old contradiction. Also, the wiki page on it seems uncharacteristically terrible, in that its depiction of the problem omits what (I think) is the key stipulation of the riddle (that the predictor is never wrong, or almost never wrong, or something like that). Am I missing something here?

        • Protagoras says:

          The predictor never being wrong isn’t a requirement; arguably, if the predictor is right only a little over half the time, but you have no reason to think they’d be more likely to be wrong in your case, that can be sufficient if the difference between the rewards is high enough. David Lewis argued that the problem is related to the notorious prisoner’s dilemma (in his paper “Prisoner’s Dilemma is a Newcomb Problem”), and as usual he seems to have been correct, if that makes it seem any more significant.

          • dick says:

            OK, I was indeed missing something, it was not clear to me that outfoxing the predictor is part of what the player is trying to do. Or another way of saying it is, I didn’t get that in iterated versions of this, the predictor would be making a fresh prediction and fresh choice of money for each player.

  20. Well... says:

    I just did a quick internet search and found that in 200 years, nobody seems to have made any jokes about the advisory board of Emory University being a particularly abrasive bunch. I guess it’s been a rough 200 years — that or people’s sense of humor about the Emory board just needs a bit of polish. In any case I’m sure someone will really nail it one of these days.

  21. oldman says:

    Is there a religion other than Christianity where asking for forgiveness from G-d is all that’s required to get forgiveness? Alternatively, are there any religions which don’t believe that it’s possible to require forgiveness?

    (I know that not all Christians would subscribe to this description of G-d)

    • arlie says:

      With regard to ‘religions which don’t believe that it’s possible to require forgiveness’:

      Neo-pagans generally have no use for the idea of original sin, or the whole Christian structure of needing forgiveness in the first place.

      I’d also expect that religions that emphasize karma would tend not to have a ‘forgiveness’ out. If you screw up (as almost inevitably happens) there are consequences, and if they don’t get you now, they’ll get you later (e.g. in a future life). But on the other hand, there’s the accumulating-merit meme, so maybe not. (I know far more about neo-paganism than about Hinduism and Buddhism.)

      • lazydragonboy says:

        In Buddhism it varies a bit across traditions (Pure Buddhists are bigger on repentence practiced than other sects), but by and large one works to forgive others and to forgive oneself. One does not request forgiveness from external entities, though I have learned one forgiveness meditation where you recite I forgive you…you forgive me—or something like that. Generally the position is to understand the consequences of your wrong action, establish determination not to repeat the action, and forgive yourself.

    • Nornagest says:

      Forgiveness in the Christian sense is mostly just a Christian thing, but this sort of maps to how Pure Land Buddhism works.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I said that before. Also, forgiveness/grace maps better to bhakti in Hinduism, which teaches that you can escape the wages of karma by calling out Vishnu’s or Shiva’s name.

      • lazydragonboy says:

        In Pure Land Buddhism is it Amitabha who grants forgiveness, or is it just that through repentence practice on purifies old karma and that allows rebirth in Pure Land?

  22. nkurz says:

    In the previous open thread, @albatross11 wrote:

    I mean, 51-year-old highly-educated me can’t imagine taking heroin, but I can sure see how 16-year-old me did a lot of dumb risky shit that didn’t seem so crazy when I was a kid, but that could have turned out very badly for me. There but for the grace of God….

    Is this a common sentiment? I feel like it’s backwards for me. My recollection is that “16-year-old me” was quite rational. I was unhappy with the present, but had no interest in drugs as a means of escape because I had hope for the future, and didn’t want to risk losing that future. But now in my mid-40’s, I’ve seen much more of the world, am still unhappy, but have lost most of my hope for a better future. For the present me, losing myself in drugs seems like a much more reasonable choice, with far less downside.

    I’ve yet to try any illegal drugs, but rather than age, is the drive to do so maybe just a bias of life satisfaction? Perhaps independent of age, those who feel they have little to lose are more open to risky behavior, and those who feel comfortable in the current position are more likely to stick to the safe. Were the happy and content youth who looked forward to the future just as likely to engage in risky behavior? Are seniors who are less satisfied with their outcome as risk averse those who are desperate for change?

    • Walter says:

      I am very much with albatross here. My past self was an idiot, a criminal, a fool. He became me somewhere around 23. Memories from before that baffle me and make me cringe. I am very lucky to have ever come into existence.

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      My experience with heavy and hard drug users is that most of them seem to have started in their 30s (late 20s into mid 40s as the expanded range) and were almost always associated with enduring life problems. Crummy jobs, bad family situations, time spent in jail (especially family in jail), etc. They also almost universally had moderate to significant exposure to other forms of drug use and/or criminal activity, even if they themselves did not previously partake. Following that pattern, I could see even younger individuals with much crummier lives who would get into drugs earlier in life.

      The few people that I personally knew who got into drugs for other reasons were the rebellious youth who tried things like LSD and shrooms, rather than heroin. They were also more into recreational marijuana and had only limited criminal exposure (mostly only in regards to their own rebellious activities).

      People from cleaner backgrounds seemed to lean more towards suicide as escape from bad situations, but those situations seemed far less common at middle-class and above. For people with lower economic prospects and poorer family connections, these situations were much more common and suicide less common compared to drug use as a coping mechanism.

      In answer to your specific question about albatross – no, 16-year-old me would not have thought any more about hard drugs than current me. I might have been able to find marijuana, but I would have had no means to locate anything harder (and no desire to try). I came from a very stable background, even though my family was from a poorer area of the US South. I later learned that I probably could have gotten anything I wanted from extended family, but my immediate family kept that hidden from us as kids.

    • albatross11 says:

      I don’t think I was especially imprudent or dumb for a 16 year old boy, but even a pretty prudent and careful 16 year old boy often looks like a hormone-driven fool to a 51 year old man.

    • sty_silver says:

      I’m 24, so too young to really answer this question, but I was fairly terrified of taking drugs for most of my life, and I now think it’s possible to make a rational decision to take some drugs and gain a net benefit (even though the mean effect on people is probably negative).

    • Ketil says:

      But now in my mid-40’s, I’ve seen much more of the world, am still unhappy, but have lost most of my hope for a better future. For the present me, losing myself in drugs seems like a much more reasonable choice, with far less downside.

      Mid-life crisis? 🙂 For myself, I think I’m more rather than less adventurous, risk-taking, and even reckless now than when I was young. Not sure how common it is, I guess most people settle down to some degree as they age. (Something for Scott’s survey?)

    • Viliam says:

      “You started snorting heroin?”
      Grandpa: “I’m old! And don’t you start taking that shit. When you’re young, you’re crazy to do that stuff.”
      “Well what about you?”
      Grandpa: “What about me? I’m old! When you’re old you’re crazy not to do it.”
      Little Miss Sunshine

      Speaking for myself, 42 years old, I have less hope about future than I used to have, but I don’t take drugs because that would threaten my income. Also, I enjoy having my mind functional.

    • Bamboozle says:

      The answer from my own personal experience is yes.

      I have a relative who developed bi-polar in their 30s. A long term partner left them and immediately got married and had kids within 2 years with someone else, and a car full of their friends was hit off the road and all 4 of the died. She is now in her late 50’s an alcoholic and drug abuser. I still speak to her regularly and we are quite close, but sober or not the thing that most comes across is an absolute, soul crushing, hopelessness regarding the future. So i would say yes.

      If you are young and reckless you probably haven’t given much thought to the future. If you are older and more considered you probably have quite an assessment of the future as bleak.

    • albatross11 says:

      Just as another datapoint, I’m in my 50s and don’t feel hopeless at all for the future. I worry about some stuff (our retirement funds, our health as we age, whether our kids will do well), but the future mostly seems pretty interesting and positive. I’m bummed that the normal aging process means I won’t get to see nearly as much of it as I’d like, and what I do see will mostly happen while I’m not in such great health or shape as I’d like.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I tried out a lot of drugs in my younger days, but I don’t think it was irrational at all. I smoked a bunch of pot, had quite a bit of hash, tried magic mushrooms a few times, cocaine at a few parties, and something I was told was LSD but I think was just an upper. I don’t do that stuff nowadays mostly because I have more to lose and I don’t have the connections I used to. But also, one’s youth is about experimenting with new things. I did try a lot of different experiments, and I wish I’d done more rather than less in those days.

      I also hitchhiked around the country a bit, jumped a few freight trains, and tried parachute jumping. I wish I had done hang gliding.

      Now when I say experiments, I don’t mean long-term use of any of these things. I also got a college education, and I never did a lot of drinking, or a lot of smoking (tobacco or pot), or many hard drugs. Moderation is important, but moderation doesn’t mean no experimentation.

    • Baeraad says:

      I think I have the same approach to risk as I did in my teens – that is to say, I am naturally very risk-averse, to the point where I have to actively force myself to take at least some limited initiatives just so life doesn’t 100% pass me by. That hasn’t really changed.

      But I feel you about the midlife thing. I’m closing in on 40, and my dominating feeling these days is, “… so it’s pretty much never going to get better, huh? This really is it. I’m going to keep going like this for the rest of my life, only with an ever-increasing number of pains and health problems.”

      I still wouldn’t take drugs now any more than I would have back then, though. It’s not that things are going to get better, but I see all too well how they could get a whole lot worse.

      • I’m closing in on 40, and my dominating feeling these days is, “… so it’s pretty much never going to get better, huh? This really is it. I’m going to keep going like this for the rest of my life, only with an ever-increasing number of pains and health problems.”

        I’m past seventy and don’t feel that way. My body is gradually degrading, but not yet in ways that seriously limit me. I can’t learn poetry as easily as when I was younger, and I think I have more of a problem feeling for words, but neither of those is yet a serious problem.

        On the other hand, I have been enjoying my two grandchildren–they spent the past weekend with us–and there is a third on the way, will probably be at least one more. My fruit trees get bigger and more productive year by year–the persimmon tree gave me its first real harvest this year, and our largest apple tree gave a very large harvest, much of which I ended up turning into apple chips. I’m about to bring out another non-fiction book that I’ve been working on for decade or so and am happy with it, and have another novel almost done, although I’m less sure I am happy with that one.

        I’ve been lucky in a number of ways, but I don’t think my situation wrt age is all that unusual. Lots of people have stable marriages, children they get along with, and grandchildren. Lots of people can have fruit trees if they want to. Lots of people have projects of one sort or another that they value, and can pursue them more easily after retirement.

        Of course, lots of other people don’t have those things. I’m not arguing that everything is wonderful for everyone, just that there is no good reason to assume your life has to peak at forty and be downhill from there.

        With luck you should have at least another thirty good years.

        • Baeraad says:

          Well, that’s great for you (he said, trying his best to mean it). But my life has been crap, and it’s increasingly obvious that it’s going to stay crap. All I ever wanted was to feel accepted and get to play around with my silly little hobbies, but the world is divided into two groups of people who all love to spit on me and call it “criticism,” and the hobbies are filled with nothing but toxic people screaing about how everything I try to like is “PROBLEMATIC!!!” or “PANDERING!!!” or, in some cases and against all reason, both at once. I got shat on yesterday, I’ll get shat on today, and the only thing the future has in store for me is getting shat on over and over and over again, all while I work my fingers to the bone at a job I hate just for the privilege of getting to continue drawing breath.

          “Another good thirty years,” you say. I’d need to have had a first good thirty years, for that.

          • johan_larson says:

            What hobbies? What’s keeping you from finding a more supportive — or at least less scornful — group of peers with whom to practice them?

          • Baeraad says:

            Oh, fantasy fiction, video games, roleplaying… the basic nerdy staples.

            And what’s keeping me from finding a non-toxic community for the same is that those don’t exist – or if they do, they are (wisely, admittedly) hunkering down somewhere where I can’t find them.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Try other hobbies. Firearms, for instance… not that much SJ there. But, likely too restricted legally. Or model aircraft… no SJ there, though you have to deal with very “clubby” clubs, plus real pilots and the FAA wanting you to go away. Hmm. Maybe go full Tyler Durden and get into street fighting; it’s illegal but that’s the least of the problems.

        • LadyJane says:

          @DavidFriedman: Well that’s a relief, I was feeling worried about getting old just because I’m turning 32 in a few days.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      I cringe at my naivety from those days, but I was aggressively nonconformist, so I didn’t do sex, drugs, or rock-and-roll; I didn’t come to appreciate the Beatles until I was thirty.

      I didn’t have much hope for the future in the abstract; I mostly bought the claims of Ehrlich et al. that the population bomb would kill us in the eighties (if the nuclear bomb didn’t). But I sort of didn’t connect that vision with my own personal circumstances, which seemed fairly bright.

      Now I’m pretty hopeful for the future, in the abstract, which is why I’m an Alcor member. But I wish the facility were hardened to survive Civil War II. Maybe we’ll get past that, one way or another, before I need it.

    • Plumber says:

      I’m 50 now and my memories of 1984 are dim, but yeah I’d say I was more reckless then, I know that I rode motorcycles from 1986 to 2004 (just before my son was born) despite knowing friends who died from riding.

      I did drink more in high school and also tried some illegal drugs which I really didn’t like, my little brother also tried, and tried, and kept trying drugs including some (cocaine) that I was too scared to try.
      He got a college diploma and a white-collar job nit me.

      Maybe I didn’t try enough drugs.

  23. johan_larson says:

    Any thoughts on the legacy of G.H.W. Bush?

    The obituaries I have read make a big deal of him influence during the end of the cold war. And it’s true, Russia didn’t get a civil war, which is a very good thing. But attempts to restructure the Russian economy did not go well; ordinary people got nothing, and everything worth owning ended up in the hands of a small group of politically connected oligarchs. I seems to me there was room to do a lot better on that front.

    He also encouraged Iraqis to rise up against Saddam’s authority during Desert Storm, and then left them to Saddam’s tender mercies when he decided not to fully take control of the country. That was a remarkably shitty thing to do.

    • Aapje says:

      @johan_larson

      Theoretically, the Russian people did get something: collectively, they got vouchers that could be exchanged for a 30% stake in the Russian economy. However, most didn’t understand the value and sold them for way less than what they were worth. So the oligarchs gobbled them up.

      Then after the 1997 crisis, the rules went out the window and the oligarchs went full mafia, just taking what they wanted.

      I do think that the US can be blamed for wanting to turn Russia into a mirror image of the US very rapidly, without recognizing that the cultural groundwork wasn’t there.

      • Mr. Doolittle says:

        I do think that the US can be blamed for wanting to turn Russia into a mirror image of the US very rapidly, without recognizing that the cultural groundwork wasn’t there.

        While I agree that there was an attempt to move too quickly, I’m not sure “blame” is a good term. The problem, as I see it, is that there simply wasn’t much time between a full collapse of the old system and the need for a new system. I’m not going to claim that the approach taken was anywhere close to perfect, but I will say that any approach would have been gamed as much as possible by people with the ability to do so.

        • Thomas Jørgensen says:

          The issue is that Russia took advice from Goldman.

          If Russia wanted to be a functional country they should have just started implementing the acquis communautaire, on the grounds that it at least provides a check-list of what to do.

          Not sure it would actually work without the eurocrats showing up to check your work, but it would certainly be more *likely* to do so than just going “The Holy Market Will solve Everything”.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Not sure it would actually work without the eurocrats showing up to check your work, but it would certainly be more *likely* to do so than just going “The Holy Market Will solve Everything”.

            Agreed that an outside group would need to be involved in oversight to do it well. I don’t have a strong impression of whether Russians would have accepted that at the time. My baseline would be that no sovereign country would accept that if they felt they had a choice.

            Without the oversight, I have strong doubts that the level of corruption that existed in early 90s Russia wouldn’t have resulted in a similarly bad result as what we actually saw. Certainly different people may have been the recipients and the details could have been very different. I don’t think that an independent Russia really had a “and everything was divided fairly” option on the table.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            What is the relevance of the acquis communautaire? It’s just a body of law, isn’t it? But what was wrong with the existing body of law? Nothing. The problem was the lack of rule of law. Does the acquis at least talk about priorities? Better would be a triage system, but probably no one has enough experience to write such a thing.

            Czechoslovakia did pretty much the same thing and it turned out great. Some people say that the privatization was corrupt, there, too, but if so, it demonstrates that it was not the root cause of the Russian problem. Is there anything else you mean by Goldman?

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            It is a body of law which honest external auditors check for implementation. It is also a body of law international investors are intimately familiar with, by necessity, which makes the effective level of regulatory burden they apply to your economy lower in practice.

            An international chemical concern which is considering opening up a factory in your neck of the woods, might, for example, quite like it if you had no regulations about what they may pour into the back lot whatsoever, but that is not a good idea, for obvious reasons.

            And once you have decided you are going to have some regulations about such things, having those regulations be “We ran the EU rule book through a copier” means said international chemical concern already has all the internal resources in place for compliance, and will mind it less than if you wrote your own rules from scratch.

            Copying the US or any other major economy’s rules would do the same thing.. except the US will not send people to verify you did the implementation correctly, and the EU will, assuming you can get them to take your application at least as seriously as the Turkish one (Noone expects Turkey to actually join any time soon, but their work on the Acquics is still checked). Which, well, if Russia wanted to do that, they could probably swing it.

        • I think one of the best sources for this issue is a book not about Russia but about China, since China also abandoned communism but much more successfully.

          How China Became Capitalist by Ronald Coase and N. Wang.

          Pretty clearly, Coase thinks they did better by trial and error than they would have done following the advice of western economists–even if the economists had been from Chicago instead of Harvard.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        What was the situation before 1997? How do you know?

        My impression is that the people who sold their vouchers in the first round did better than the people who kept their shares, that the shares were already worthless by 1997. Maybe there was a shift to theft at gunpoint in 1997, but everything had already been stolen by white collar means before then. Mainly it was embezzlement and double dealing.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          With a side of Ponzi scheming. I was in Russia in the fall of 1993 and distinctly remember the obnoxious shouting TV commercials for one such scheme, MMM Invest, which went something like (imagine the cheesiest possible infomercial voice saying this but in Russian):

          “The American commercial magazine Business Week considers MMM Invest the very best investment fund in Russia! Turn your voucher into gold! MMM Invest!”

    • Walter says:

      His legacy is that Germany is one nation. Some presidents get one decision that dwarfs all the rest, and for Bush it was letting Germany reunite and stay in NATO.

      • Aapje says:

        Did he have a realistic option to refuse?

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Pretty sure it was possible. Neither the Brits, nor the French, nor the Soviets really wanted Germany reunified, and the Soviets always used German unification as a carrot to get Germany out of NATO. This was also possible, because NATO was particularly unpopular in Germany at the time.

          I mean, maybe you can’t keep the Germans from reunifying, but you can certainly handle it in ways that screw up the settlement, either by alienating Germany from European institutions, or possibly having Germany leave NATO altogether. Having Germany leave NATO almost certainly means you cannot expand NATO, which is going to be a security nightmare for all those various Eastern European states that don’t want to get steam-rolled by Putin in 2014. Plus I think a weaker NATO makes it more difficult to intervene in Yugoslavia in the 90s as well.

          There are several American Presidents who would’ve torched that transition (IMHO), notably Obama, Carter, Trump, and possibly Ford and Dubya.

        • Walter says:

          Yeah, West Germany wouldn’t have left NATO, and Britain/France would have backed the US’s play if they told West Germany that they couldn’t reunite with East Germany and stay in.

    • deluks917 says:

      He didn’t invade Iraq despite substantial ‘deep state’ pressure to do so. In addition the media is not kind to presidents who ‘tolerate atrocities’. I am obviously not sure exactly what happened inside the pentagon and White House. But if he managed to resist pressure to invade Iraw he gets a lot of respect from me.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Not really sure how Russia’s bungled transition was our fault. Yelstein won in open elections and stormed the parliament with troops. Not really anything Bush (or Clinton) could do about that.

      The biggest mark against Bush was probably the support for the eventually doomed war on drugs. However, he was hardly the only crusader in that particular fight, and it comes at a relative high-crime period in American history.

      Left Twitter seems to hate him because he apparently foreshadowed Trump with his Willie Horton comments, he hated gays, and because he was a Republican he also hated poor people. I only follow Left Twitter a limited amount, but it is an utterly bizarre and alien culture.

      • AG says:

        Left Twitter’s reaction to Bush is a Bravery Debate (in the sense of “All Debates are Bravery Debates”, rather than “Against Bravery Debates”). They’re attempting to push back against all of the veneration of the man because a significant portion of the ingroup (those harmed by his policies) need a social space where they aren’t surrounded by veneration of a man whose policies significantly harmed their lives.
        As usual, because of how social media works, this leads to over-exaggerations and performative hatred, than just pushback. But such is the nature of Bravery Debates, sometimes.

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        Objecting to the Willie Horton ad always strikes me as pure insanity. Crime was a major issue of the election. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, had championed the program that provided prison furloughs to first-degree murderers. Indeed, he vetoed a bill that would have restircted the program to only nonviolent criminals.

        Horton himself was sentenced to life after killing a 17-year-old convenience store clerk, he stuffed the boy’s corpse in a garbage can. That wasn’t Horton’s first offense: Years earlier, he’d been convicted of attempted murder for stabbing a man in South Carolina.

        After Horton predictably escaped while on furlough he broke into a home in Maryland. When the husband came home he tied him up, and spent hours torturing him, slashing him and jamming a pistol butt in his mouth and eyes. Five hours later, the lady came home, Horton went upstairs and repeatedly raped and beat her.

        The Maryland judge who sentenced Horton refused to send him back to Massachusetts, saying: “I’m not prepared to take the chance that Mr. Horton might again be furloughed or otherwise released.”

        There is no ad in the history of ads that has spoke more meaningfully on a more important issue.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          AIUI, though, most states had similar furlough programs and there was a bipartisan consensus that they generally worked fine, e.g. Ronald Reagan supported the CA furlough program when he was governor. So even besides the usual problems with deriving social policy from single outrageous incidents (generalizing the principle that any law named after a person, e.g. “Megan’s Law,” is a terrible idea), it was totally disingenuous to claim that Dukakis’s support for MA’s furlough program made him particularly soft on crime.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I googled around and found this article, saying the murders that occurred under California’s law were by criminals in prison for non-violent offenses (a burglar and a forger), and that afterwards changes were made to the personnel in charge of the program and to the program itself, excluding prisoners convicted of murder and other violent crimes.

            So, Dukakis’s support for MA’s furlough program did make him particularly soft on crime, when he continued support for the program a decade after California learned their lesson.

          • quanta413 says:

            Whether what you are saying is accurate really hinges on how many politicians supported programs that furloughed murderers.

            Conrad’s got CA being the opposite of MA at the relevant time, but how many states had programs like this?

          • John Schilling says:

            There is a difference in kind between furloughs for people serving finite prison sentences who will eventually be released back into the community, and furloughs for people serving life sentences. In the former case, there is a case to be made that the community benefits from having its once and future member retain social and familial ties. In the latter, what exactly is the point other than being nice to murderers at the expense of giving them unsupervised access to potential victims?

            Michael Dukakis inherited a pre-existing furlough program that was intended only for non-violent or at least non-murderous inmates serving finite sentences, and when that required clarification, came down solidly and explicitly on the side of “no, let the murderers serving life sentences have vacations as well”. The consequences of that cannot be excused by pointing out that other states offered furloughs to non-violent offenders serving finite sentences. What other states offered furloughs to murderers serving life sentences?

    • cassander says:

      I will never be able to forgive what he did to the iraqis, but blaming russia on him is unfair. He wasn’t in charge of that process and had very little control over it. Russia adopted just about the worst possible model for post-soviet transition, they did shock therapy for about 6 months, then reversed course. That gave them all of the pain and corruption associated with shock therapy, but not of the benefits that followed, and did permanent damage to the intellectual respectability of capitalism.

  24. Aging Loser says:

    Returning to something touched on in the previous open thread: the image/idea of the God-man dying for us is compelling — why clutter it with tendentious historical and textual claims? Why not think of him as dying for us sixty thousand, a hundred and twenty thousand, or half a million years ago?

    Then instead of Chesterton’s(?) dubious explanation of all of the dying-god mysteries as “anticipations” of the Christian version they are explicable as inherited memories of an original event.

    (That is, if you want/need to think of him as a concrete flesh-and-blood individual, as opposed to thinking that he suffers and dies in and through every human life perhaps continually.)

    • Jaskologist says:

      I feel there is a great inferential chasm between us. The obvious answer to me is “because that’s not how it happened.”

      • Aging Loser says:

        Yes, I suppose that there would have to be a big gap between people playing roles in life-encompassing games and people who aren’t; the thought “This is a game” can’t be expressed without taking a break from the game-playing, and one can’t be friends with (which is not to say that one can’t be friendLY with) someone who can’t express such a basic thought. Still, I can’t believe that anyone really believes these things — “really believes” in the sense in which I believe that the R-train stops at 45th Street and that I’ll be on my way to Staten Island later in the afternoon.

        For example, I’ve always tended to believe — no, always been inclined to imagine — that Judaism (the real thing with endlessly ramifying restrictions and positive requirements including the endless study of said ramifications) is the game that God wants Jews to play; he’s sort of playing it with them. That he wants them to play the game to an extent that makes it impossible for them to say, “Yeah, of course, it’s a game,” is kind of distressing.

        Game-commitment is admirable, but can make friendships between players and non-players impossible (the chasm). Sometimes new rules seem to emerge from within the structure — rules regarding how commitment to the existing set of rules is to be demonstrated. For example, in the late 19th Century the Blood Libel seems to have acquired the status of core Catholic Doctrine, as though it had been appended to the Nicene Creed in invisible ink; asserting it was a test of commitment. I doubt that anyone at all REALLY believed in it at that time.

        • Jiro says:

          Still, I can’t believe that anyone really believes these things — “really believes” in the sense in which I believe that the R-train stops at 45th Street and that I’ll be on my way to Staten Island later in the afternoon.

          This sounds like typical-minding.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Still, I can’t believe that anyone really believes these things — “really believes” in the sense in which I believe that the R-train stops at 45th Street and that I’ll be on my way to Staten Island later in the afternoon.

          I find this is a pretty common fallacy among atheists. They don’t believe, and can’t understand belief, so they think everyone else is faking it. Like Bernie Sanders blaming terrorism/ISIS on global warming. No, Bernie, they’re not slaughtering the infidels and dying as martyrs because they’re economically marginalized by climate change. They honestly believe slaughtering the infidels is the will of Allah and that they’re going to Paradise.

    • Walter says:

      Gosh, you’ve convinced me.

      Say, since I saved your life all those times (don’t bother me with any tedentious historical or textual claims, we agree that the function of the past is to make present beliefs more convenient) can you maybe undertake a campaign of charity and kindness in repayment? Give to the poor, volunteer, we’ll call it square.

      • Aging Loser says:

        Convinced you of what, Walter? What does the “I” in your “since I saved your life all those times” refer to? Are you a single paleolithic God-man or are you a psychically present divine co-sufferer? Does the “your life” refer to me, personally (but how can you save MY life/soul more than once?), or are you addressing humankind generally?

        Campaigns of charity and kindness, giving, volunteering, are “works” — salvation isn’t achieved through that sort of effort. (All of that try-harding only arose when genuine community began disintegrating and is an especially embarrassing aspect of commitment to the mainline-Protestant and Rationalist Churches today.)

        You use the word “convenient” as though what I called the “cluttering” of the mind by “tendentious historical and textual claims” were a trivial matter. Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word “clutter” — other images, including biological ones (fungal infestation, for example), might have been more appropriately employed.

        • Walter says:

          I, me, Walter, this person, saved your, Aging Loser’s, life a bunch of times. It was mad exciting.

          I redefined the past in this way so as to make my beliefs about the present more convenient. In particular, so as to create a debt from you to me, which I then requested that you honor by a campaign of good works.

          I did this in agreement with the principle you put forth, of redefining the past in order to improve my state in the present, which is what you convinced me of re: God dying at a different time than when he did.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      You kind of inadvertently touch on the answer in your reply to Jaskologist above: nobody does that because it’s transparently BS.

      The story of the gospels, with Jesus Christ performing miracles in first century Judea, is about very likely real people in a real place and time doing and saying things which are for the most part plausible. If you’re willing to accept the possibility of miracles, and most people are, then there’s not much left preventing you from simply accepting it as a factual account of miraculous events.

      Your prehistoric God-man story, on the other hand, is obviously invented and lacks anything real which an audience could hold onto. It’s so abstract and contextless that it’s impossible to believe in or even care about.

      • CherryGarciaMillionaire says:

        Your prehistoric God-man story, on the other hand, is obviously invented and lacks anything real which an audience could hold onto. It’s so abstract and contextless that it’s impossible to believe in or even care about.

        Adam and Eve, on the other hand….

        very likely real people in a real place and time

        Richard Carrier, in On the Historicity of Jesus, has done a Bayesian analysis of the likelihood that Jesus ever existed in flesh and blood. The optimistic estimate in his range is 2:1 against; the more-judicious odds are around 12,000:1 against.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          When did we switch from the New Testament to the Old Testament?

          Anyway, as I said below I’m not tremendously attached to the historicity of Jesus. One of the side benefits of not being a Christian. But the argument from the Amazon description there seems rather lame: it’s more likely that a cult named after their charismatic leader never had a charismatic leader to begin with? In what universe?

          I grew up around Moonies. It’s not surprising to me that someone would claim to be the Messiah and amass followers. People have been doing that for a long time, long before Jesus, and will keep doing it long after both of us are dead and buried.

        • John Schilling says:

          This merely shows that Bayesian statistics are as good as the frequentist kind for backing up lies and damn lies. Arguably better, in that every prior is an opportunity to sneak in a hidden assumption backed up by nothing more than “this feels about right” if that’s all you’ve got.

          The overwhelming consensus of professional historians, Christian and non-Christian alike. is that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person who lived and preached in Judea in the early 1st century, and Carrier does not effectively rebut the evidence or methodology behind that assessment. He merely makes up priors that he can plug into an equation that spits out the answer he and his audience want.

      • Aging Loser says:

        N.a.D., nobody thinks that anyone has ever done the magic-tricks ascribed to the protagonist of the Gospels; the tricks are themselves simply repetitions x 2 of the tricks ascribed to Elisha; the Jesus-character is so removed from reality that it’s meaningless to assert that this is the description of a real person (compare to Xenophon’s description of Socrates or to Plato’s via Alcibiades in Symposium); to the extent that the character becomes lifelike he’s evil (rather than crazy, as C.S. Lewis would put the alternative to his being the divine anointed king of the world) — a destroyer of families, a vampire-like dominator of young minds — and to the extent that he corresponds to any recognizable “Sage” type he’s a Hellenistic Cynic (they used to enjoy yelling at strangers in the same way) rather than anything remotely Jewish. (Paul didn’t read Hebrew and doesn’t convey the slightest familiarity with anything Jewish; he is very familiar with Stoic doctrine, however, and apparently his hometown was a center of Stoic teaching; of course, the Cynics were objects of great admiration for young Stoic gentlemen.)

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I know a lot of people, including biologists running their own labs, who explicitly believe that the miracles of the New Testament actually happened as described. They’re not lying; I’ve seen them lie and they’re not very good at it.

          You and I don’t believe in miracles but we’re a small minority.

          I’m not very invested in the historicity of Jesus one way or the other, mostly because I’m not a Christian and gave up being militantly atheist since high school. But the arguments you’re presenting that he didn’t exist are awful: by your logic, Teddy Roosevelt clearly never existed or held the office of the presidency because he’s such an unrealistic caricature of American masculinity. I find nothing extraordinary about an ascetic leader with an apocalyptic theology amassing a following and loudly denouncing more established sects until they pull strings to have him executed.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            I find nothing extraordinary about an ascetic leader with an apocalyptic theology amassing a following and loudly denouncing more established sects until they pull strings to have him executed.

            Honestly, the only really unbelievable part about Jesus’s historicity is the incredible success of his followers. That ~2 billion people are followers of the religion he established is incredible. That just happens to be the part that we can prove is true, though. Everything else about whether he existed is almost banal and not worth the time to disagree. He’s got more historical evidence than most ancient individuals, including the Roman governor Pilate, and we don’t really question whether those others really existed.

        • fion says:

          Jesus-character is so removed from reality that it’s meaningless to assert that this is the description of a real person

          This is a good point, and well put. I always struggle when discussing “whether Jesus existed” because I feel it’s not a well-defined question. I know people who believe that Jesus existed, but wasn’t the son of God, didn’t perform miracles, wasn’t born of a virgin nor in a stable, wasn’t crucified by the Romans and didn’t return from the dead on the third or any other day. But this is kind of like saying “King Arthur existed but wasn’t called Arthur, wasn’t the king of all of Britain and didn’t do any of the things in the stories” or “Robin Hood existed but wasn’t called Robin Hood and didn’t fire a bow and didn’t do any of the things in the stories”. In other words: there was at least one philosopher in the middle east during the Roman times, there was at least one king in Britain in the dark ages and there was at least one criminal in Nottinghamshire in the middle ages!

          • John Schilling says:

            But this is kind of like saying “King Arthur existed but wasn’t called Arthur, wasn’t the king of all of Britain and didn’t do any of the things in the stories”

            If all the Kings and Queens of England Britain because we kicked those damned Angles out, down to the present day, were members of the Pendragon dynasty, and there was compelling evidence of direct descent going back to a local warlord named Arthur in the early sixth century, then that would be an important fact even if the bits with Excalibur and Merlin and the Lady and Lancelot’s betrayal and Mordred and the Knights who Say Ni and all the rest were complete fabrications and/or gross exaggerations.

            Jesus of Nazareth existed, preached in Jerusalem, and established a cult that has lasted almost two thousand years and has over two billion living adherents. That’s important even if he didn’t literally walk on water.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Scholars, Christian and otherwise, are in overwhelming agreement on the following:

            * A Jew named (what we now translate to) “Jesus” preached and gathered followers in the early first century in the area of Galilee and Judea.
            * He was baptized by John the Baptist.
            * He was crucified by the order of Pontius Pilate near Jerusalem.
            * His followers carried on, and that’s the start of what we call Christianity today.

            Whether they believe that Jesus also rose from the dead is, almost by definition, a matter of whether or not they are Christian. But one more thing we can say is that his followers at the time believed he did, from as early as we have records for.

        • albatross11 says:

          Aging Loser:

          How do you square your very confident assertion here with the odd spectacle of a billion or so people apparently acting like they believe in the character and miracles of Jesus, many of them in situations where it’s actively harmful or dangerous to their well-being to do so?

      • AG says:

        Seems like the transition from “the world has its own whims” pantheons of uncaring deities acting out their personal soap opera to “our God is The Best” religions is relevant here.

        What separates Jesus from Prometheus?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Returning to something touched on in the previous open thread: the image/idea of the God-man dying for us is compelling — why clutter it with tendentious historical and textual claims? Why not think of him as dying for us sixty thousand, a hundred and twenty thousand, or half a million years ago?

      I mean, you can be a Hindu if you want to.
      What CS Lewis liked about Jesus was the quality of evidence we have, rather than “Maybe he died in 3102 BC, or a yuga before that, or maybe X generations before the first mortal king of Egypt…”

  25. Salem says:

    I’m looking to write a book. What do I need to do?

    More precisely, I’m looking to write and self-publish a children’s book. The primary purpose is as a present for my son, but I imagine that the fixed costs are likely high and the marginal costs small, so I am also thinking about:
    * Giving it as a present to friends
    * If I have any leftover copies, trying to sell them at a local fair to make money for a charity.

    My top priority is that the book be visually attractive and generally “nice.” Because this is a children’s book it needs to be I am under no illusions that this is going to cost me way more money that just buying a book at a bookshop.

    Things I think I need:
    * Illustrations. The text is already written. I was hoping I could commission someone to create some illustrations but I don’t know where to start.
    * Formatting. There are lots of tools out there – any advice?
    * Publishing. I was thinking of using Ingram Spark, because they seem quite good, but I’m not sure. I would prefer that the pages not be paper, but be of that semi-hardcover type that is popular in books aimed at toddlers.

    Things I don’t know I need:
    ???

    Any help much appreciated.

    • Aapje says:

      There are companies that specialize in taking advantage of gullible helping self-publishers. You may want to look into that. For example, this one offers to do children’s illustrations.

      For hiring illustrators, there are also agencies or you can reach out to artists whose work you like. AFAIK, being an illustrator is one of these jobs that more people like to do, than people want to pay for it, so it’s a buyers market, unless you get to the top tier.

    • For self-publishing, cover on the interior is expensive, so mostly people have color for only the cover. You may want to think about whether you can get adequate grey-scale pictures.

      In my experience, the only fixed costs of self-publishing are your time and effort producing the pdf of book and cover plus the cost and effort of getting proof copies sent to you that you then correct–finding mistakes that you were sure couldn’t be there, since you already proofed the pdf before you sent it. The usual arrangement is that you set a price, CreateSpace (which I published with, but which is being folded into KDP, a different Amazon subsidiary) sells it at that price and gives you a royalty which is higher the higher the price you set.

      There are various places online where you can try to hire artists.

      • Salem says:

        Thank you both for your kind replies.

        What are those places where I can try to hire artists?

        As far as I can tell for KDP, they don’t do hardback. This is bad because it’s a children’s book for a young child – I want it to be of that style where all the pages are robust not made of paper.

  26. CatCube says:

    Structural Engineering Post Series
    Steel Design III

    Continued from here: https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/12/05/open-thread-116-25/#comment-696486

    In my previous post, I discussed the design limit states for compression members (i.e., columns). In this post I’ll discuss flexural members (beams).

    Remember that there are two different design methodologies: ASD (which uses a simpler sum-of-loads and a constant factor of safety) and LRFD (which uses uncertainty-dependent factors on the loads and design strengths). The strength of a member is calculated using identical methods to produce the nominal capacity, which is then used in the design equation appropriate for the methodology. The factor of safety for ASD is Ω=1.67 and the resistance factor for LRFD is φ=0.90.

    As always, I’m going to give a brief once-over-the-world view of this topic and skip a lot of details that will confuse that view; don’t try to design something based on this post. As a further simplifications, I’m going to confine my discussion to the most common open sections, the I-shaped W-sections, and C-shaped American Standard Channels (C-sections). W-sections have two axes of symmetry, and C-sections one. The limit states I discuss have analogs for other types of sections, but details will differ.

    References will be to AISC 360-16 here.

    Flexure
    As a refresher, let’s discuss what I mean by the term bending (the term flexure is interchangable, and is what is used in the code). When you bend any structural member (turning it into a curved shape), you will make one side of it shorter and one longer; this is necessary for it to assume any shape other than straight. One common office item that I’ve used to illustrate this is the little rectangular pencil erasers: draw two straight lines all the way around the short dimension, about ¼” (6 mm) apart. This defines two cross-sections of the eraser. When you bend the eraser you can see that on one side the little pencil marks you’ve made get closer together, and on the opposite side they get further apart. To make one side shorter, you have to put it into compression. Similarly, the side that’s getting longer is going into tension. There is a line in the middle (down the centroid or center of gravity of the cross section–for the rectangular eraser, right down the middle) that has zero stress on it, called the neutral axis.

    The bending is turned into stresses that act parallel to the long axis of the member, compression on one side and tension on the other. If the beam isn’t shattering into pieces that fly off in opposite directions, it must be in static equilibrium. That means that the compression force must equal the tension force (the net forces must be equal–the stresses at extreme fibers may not be). Therefore, since you have two equal and opposite forces with a distance between them (the compression force is acting on the compression side and tension on the other), you also have a twisting force, or moment. This has the same units as torque, lb-ft or N-m. I’ll use kips which are 1000 lbs (or 4.45 kN), since the design forces in most structures are large enough that using pounds will produce rather large numbers.

    We can calculate this bending moment for a structure, since it’s dependent upon the loads imposed and the geometry of the beam. For example, if you have a uniformly distributed load acting on a simply supported beam (free to rotate on the ends, for example, the ends are sitting on a wall), the maximum moment will be:
    M = wL²/8
    where:
    M = Moment, in units of force × length (kip-ft or kN-m)
    w = Uniformly distributed load, in force per unit length (kips per ft or kN per m)
    L = The dist