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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933 Responses to Open Thread 116.5

  1. robirahman says:

    There will be a Slate Star Codex meetup in Washington DC this Saturday night. (Apologies for the conflicting date with the NY solstice.) We’re meeting in the second floor lounge of 616 E Street NW at 7pm.

  2. Plumber says:

    @Scott Alexander,
    Is there any way for me to get e-mail notifications of SSC comments like I had back in October?

    Shall I cancel the subscription and then re-subscribe?

    • CatCube says:

      There’s a separate system that you can use to get e-mails for comments only replying to you.

      It can be found here: https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/05/25/open-thread-76-25/#comment-504989

      That requires editing the URL with your username. Since it might be difficult (you’ve said you’re on a mobile device), the link for your username is: https://sscnotify.bakkot.com/subscribe?author_name=Plumber

      You put in your e-mail, and it’ll e-mail you whenever somebody puts a reply to a comment you’ve written, or puts “@Plumber” in one of their comments.

      Note that if you really want the previous functionality of an e-mail for every comment, you probably don’t want to mess with this one, since you’ll get two e-mails for every reply to you if they end up fixing the previous one; this is a totally separate system AFAIK.

      • Plumber says:

        Thanks!

      • 10240 says:

        This should be advertised more. I haven’t known about it until now.
        It would be nice to have a variant that also sends e-mails about indirect replies (replies to replies).
        Does the @name mechanism work for names with spaces in them?

        • fion says:

          I agree that this should be advertised more. I’ve argued in the past in favour of a page on the blog for non-obvious stuff that’s useful to know. It could include all the various scripts people have written, that “random SSC” button that one person made, maybe some information about how to navigate the site, a list of rules/etiquette for the comment threads, and perhaps even a list of current bugs, although this would require more maintenance than all the rest.

          Basically, all the stuff that either people regularly ask about, or that people wouldn’t know existed if someone hadn’t told them.

        • CatCube says:

          This should be advertised more. I haven’t known about it until now.

          I’ve lobbied to have the links put on the “Comments” page before.

          I suppose I should also mention the other “secret” widget that I consider absolutely essential to reading the comments here:
          SSC Thread Autocollapser

          This collapses (auto-pushes the “Hide” button) on any thread that doesn’t have any “-new-” comments, so you can easily keep up with what’s been said since you last visited. Two notes: it seems to take a lot of clock cycles so it may not be great on mobile, and it treats the “http” and “https” slatestarcodex sites as different (though the “new” highlighting function does this, and the widget just uses that)

          Does the @name mechanism work for names with spaces in them?

          So far as I know. I know Nancy Lebovitz uses it and gets replies. We’ll see if @Nancy e-mails her.

          It’s a pain to generate the links for a name, though, because WordPress insists on mangling the link in the comments.

    • Plumber says:

      Very neat suggestions but not quite what I was looking for.

      Back in September and October WordPress used to send me an e-mail notification of almost every SSC comment with up to 100 comments per e-mail.

      I liked that.

      Then it stopped and I only get notifications of a new thread, but not the comments.

      Now I have to use blogtrottr to get comments, but I like the old WordPress notifications better.

      Any way to get them back?

      • fion says:

        Are you saying that you want email notifications of every comment somebody makes on any SSC post? That’s, like, thousands of comments a week! You want them all? Or have I misunderstood?

        • Plumber says:

          @fion,

          Yes. I used to get that (back in September and October) e-mail notifications from Slate Star Codex/WordPress that would give up to 100 comments per e-mail like this:

          baconbits9 commented on OT111: Ophion Thread.

          in response to JPNunez: 

          Then we also got to consider the utility loss by the unemployed by having them work stressful, low compensated jobs, and the impact in their health. Do notice that a lot of the unemployed would not get a job at the minimum wage, even if you increased it, due to a bunch of factors, so …

          Continue reading “OT111: Ophion Thread”

          Studies of unemployment in the US associate being unemployed with greater stresses and health impacts, and they find that being unemployed has similar negative effects to losing a loved one.”

          Jaskologist commented on OT111: Ophion Thread.

          in response to FlorianDietz: 

          A thought experiment: What would happen if someone developed a lie-detector that actually worked? Imagine: -Criminals can be found by just asking people “Did you commit any crimes this week?” -For the first time in history, people can be sure that politicians are not lying to them and genuinely do have their best interests at … Continue reading “OT111: Ophion Thread” 

          Criminals can be found by just asking people “Did you commit any crimes this week?”

           Reading Three Felonies a Day would become a very bad idea. Really, one should strive to be as ignorant of the law as possible.

          and then just two lines for each for 90 or so comments

          Slate State Codex September 24

          The Nybbler commented

          In desert areas

          which I could click on, uncollapse read a bit, and there’d be a link to the site to read more, but for some reason that stopped so now I subscribe via blogttr but it gives me only a few comments per e-mail so I’m getting way too many e-mails now and it’s not as easy as the old subscriptions.

          Back then along with “Hide” and “Report” there’d be a button to subscribe to either a whole thread, or just follow ups to sub threads, but that’s gone now for some reason. 

          I tried clicking on the “Automatic Hide not new comments” feature listed in this thread, but all it did was slow down loading time without hiding old comments so I got rid of it.

          Someway to more quickly see new comments without scrolling through whole threads would be appreciated!

          • fion says:

            Someway to more quickly see new comments without scrolling through whole threads would be appreciated!

            Do you use the thing at the top-right that says “n comments since [date]” with a little “+” next to it? If you click on the “+” it shows you all the comments since you last loaded the page, and you can click on them to automatically scroll you to that comment. I find it a little bit useful.

          • Plumber says:

            @fion

            “Do you use the thing at the top-right that says “n comments since [date]” with a little “+” next to it? If you click on the “+” it shows you all the comments since you last loaded the page, and you can click on them to automatically scroll you to that comment. I find it a little bit useful.”

            I never knew that, that’s a great tip!

            Thanks!

          • CatCube says:

            @Plumber

            Also, the link I gave above to the autocollapser will hide all the non-new comments. As I said, I don’t know how well it will work on mobile, but I find the comment section almost unreadable without it.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The one downside to that feature, as valuable as I find it, is that it won’t tell me if there was a comment on a previous article unless I actually visit it. So I potentially have to go to every article until it’s closed to comments.

    • Plumber says:

      The subscription stopped for some reason, I’ve re-submitted and am replying as a test.

  3. deluks917 says:

    I have been thinking about a theory of moderation I will refer to as ‘Kill Evil Instantly’ or KEI. The KEI theory is that you quickly ban the most problematic people. But you mostly leave everyone else alone. Instead of having a complicated set of rules and procedures you focus on getting rid of the bad actors. Just have a simple ruleset and ask yourself ‘is this person causing problems’. If they are causing problems you get rid of them. The downside is that you don’t give people much time to ‘redeem themselves’. But the upside is that you don’t need to bother most users at all. Unless someone falls into the bottom few percent of ‘most problematic users’ they won’t hear from the mods at all and can post freely.

    I think this model has a lot of merit. Why be inclusive of problem users at the cost of the majority. The big downside is that ideological moderators could use this policy to crush dissent.

    • toastengineer says:

      I think in a community the size of an average Internet hangout, if you end up with one genuinely bad actor in a position of authority, or someone who lets power get to their head, you’re pretty much insta-fucked. The key is to thoroughly vet and monitor moderators and try not to have any more than you absolutely need.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      The big downside is that ideological moderators could use this policy to crush dissent.

      Uh, yes, exactly. What do you think the progressive/conservative split is going to be on the median geek forum without a chilling effect? Because once an ideological moderator is appointed, they’re going to ban users for voicing conservative opinions unless the admin checks their power. The fact that a majority of geeks are progs even without the chilling effect will be used to justify “I’m just banning those who are troublemakers to the majority.”

      • DeWitt says:

        You might cynically argue that this proves the model works as intended; you just dislike the particular results.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Sure, but then banning progs would be that system working as intended the second we got the whip hand, leaving the only question anyone cares about “Do we have the whip hand, and if not what’s the best strategy to get it?”

          • DeWitt says:

            Yes, in a world where kicking out people with politics as opposed to yours works, it does indeed pay off to kick out people with politics opposed to yours.

            I don’t think we really disagree?

          • TakatoGuil says:

            @DeWitt

            I think the point is that instead of creating two parallel communities, one conservative and one progressive, human beings may find it desirable to have one community with a wide range of political opinions and a small collection of exiles who were unable to participate in the community.

      • albatross11 says:

        There is a whole common ideology right now that says that the very expression of some opinions is violence to some members of the community. That ideology is probably incompatible with any kind of free-ranging discussion. I’m pretty sure Conrad’s discussion about how he raises his kids w.r.t. homosexuality in media would have gotten him banned from a lot of sites, with the justification being that it was an attack on gays and so hate speech and so forbidden.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Can I preemptively put in a request to not resurrect that thread? Not directed at you, but at everyone who might respond.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve been wondering lately if it might be worth it to rot13 mere mentions of controversial subjects on trivial inconveniencing grounds.

        • albatross11 says:

          I agree–I don’t want to resurrect that discussion, it was just the first example that came to mind.

          • lazydragonboy says:

            Could someone link me, actually?

          • Plumber says:

            @lazydragonboy 

            “Could someone link me, actually?”

             Here is the link, if you actually read the whole thread than you have far more patience than I could muster.

          • Nick says:

            That’s not the original thread. That’s the second rehash, which blew up into a discussion just as long as the original and the first rehash. “I’m not anti-gay, I’m just not going to expose my children to pro-gay media” probably belongs on Scott’s list of scissor statements.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Here’s the original and the first rehash. Every time Conrad’s theory about homosexuality and its implications comes up, he gets dogpiled.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Yes the Conrad homosexual discussion is one of those examples of threads on SSC that were not worth the time to read. Everyone was talking past each other, each side seemed to be totally misunderstanding the other side. Along with occasional outbreaks of nastiness as one side got exasperated with the discussion and decided it was the fault of the other side. There were occasional good points made, but infrequently. We may be mostly civil on SSC, but that doesn’t save us if we don’t understand the points of the other side of the discussion.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Yes the Conrad homosexual discussion is one of those examples of threads on SSC that were not worth the time to read.

            I found it worthwhile to read because I did not have an exposure to Conrad’s position before then. Even though the discussion went nowhere I got something new out of it.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            We may be mostly civil on SSC, but that doesn’t save us if we don’t understand the points of the other side of the discussion.

            I think SSC’s brand of civility, or more broadly, our way of handling discussion, is exactly what should have saved us. (Not “us” precisely, since I wasn’t in it personally, but you know what I mean.) And in fact, I think it is, because our handling includes post mortems like this.

            And I see no reason why it can’t modify itself to adapt. For instance, we could try for a new norm wherein anyone can ask each side’s advocates to steelman the other(s), every so often in a long exchange.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            I am not sure that steelmanning is exactly what you’d want to ask for–but a request for them to restate (and succinctly defend) your position to the best of your ability might be in order.

            The distinction I am drawing is that steelmanning in practice seems to mean “rebuild your position in the closest defensible place,” but that might seriously not be a place where you want your position built.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Hmm. There are times when the rational thing to do is to walk away. I think this was one of those times. None of us have time to fix everything, and this would have taken a lot of effort to fix, even if both sides were willing to put aside the hard feelings already generated. Which they obviously weren’t since it never did get fixed.

            This doesn’t mean we can’t re-visit the topic again in the future and hopefully have a more productive conversation. And this being SSC, I suspect this will come up again. I wouldn’t be surprised if it degenerates again, because it is a very difficult thing to parse, but we might get lucky.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The way I learned steelmanning is that it’s the opposite of strawmanning. Both cases involve one side giving an argument of its opposition, in strongest and weakest form, respectively.

            So what I think of as steelmanning is effectively what you’re asking for, yes. It’s not rebuilding closer (motteifying?); steelmanning is just giving the existing structure more attractive decoration.

            As for walking way: sure, sometimes that’s the thing to do. Our time is finite. In that case, though, I’d prefer saying so (and incidentally, without implying that the other side is no longer worth talking to).

          • Aapje says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            It’s not really the opposite in all ways. There is a similar and dissimilar part.

            The similar part is that you replace the actual argument that the other person is making. When strawmanning, you replace it with an argument that is weaker to you and/or your ingroup. When steelmanning, you replace it with an argument that is stronger to you and/or your ingroup.

            The other person/side can actually feel strawmanned when you steelman them, as the argument that is stronger to you may be weaker to them. Furthermore, you are implicitly calling them stupid by doing this.

            So in a debate with the other side, where strawmanning is acting in bad faith, steelmanning is not actually very good faith behavior. It’s more useful for debating the position of the outgroup with the ingroup.

        • Viliam says:

          More meta: Should moderation policy contain a list of topics that are never to be mentioned again?

          No -> Some people will keep returning to some topics endlessly. Unless it is expressly forbidden, banning them for this annoying behavior will seem like taking sides in a culture war.

          Yes -> The explicit list (likely containing items that are utterly cryptic for an outsider) will be quoted outside of your website, to make fun of you. Also, people will return to the topics anyway, under disguise of being more meta. “Hey, I am not debating ‘X’; I am just asking why ‘debating X’ is forbidden? (Also, could you please explain to me some details about ‘X’ that I don’t quite understand? I want to be sure that I am following your rules precisely.)”

    • What this misses is the use of moderation to signal to users what is or is not acceptable behavior. I think one of the reasons SSC works well is that Scott does that.

      • johan_larson says:

        He does very little of it, but this forum is still quite civil. That’s a bit surprising.

        • Aapje says:

          Indeed, I honestly think that Scott is a very poor moderator and that this forum works despite the moderation, not because of it.

          • Aron Szabo says:

            If the results are good, wouldn’t that make Scott a good moderator, almost by definition?

            Could you elaborate on why do you think he is a bad moderator?

          • caryatis says:

            @Aron Szabo

            The existence of a good comments section does not prove that the moderation is well done, because that effect could have another cause.

          • lazydragonboy says:

            You could take this as leading by example, or leading from the front. Allow me a short story to explain what I mean. Recently I had to lead work periods at a retreat center I was doing a residency at. Everybody hated leading work periods because it involved telling other people what to do, and inevitably some people would not like being told what to do, or they would be bad at doing what they were doing and need to be told what to do right. Essentially the consensus was that work period managing on retreats entailed lots of micromanaging and anxiety that people don’t like you.

            My approach was to enthusiastically work on tasks while communicating the best way of doing this to my knowledge and that my approach may be flawed. In effect, I didn’t really communicate specific instructions that much; I communicated a theme: work hard, work cheerfully, use your own judgement, and if it is better than someone else’s, advise them on how to do their task better. There were certainly some things that got done wrong, but the overall effect was more got done more thoroughly than it usually did. I see Scott with his effort posts (and from what limited examples I have seen, his moderating) as doing something similar; he is communicating a theme: be nice, communicate in good faith, and if someone is communicating in a manner that impedes beneficial discourse, ask them nicely to amend their behavior. On the whole, I’d say it has worked.

            EDIT: It looks like Conrad and others said more or less the same thing before me.

          • Aapje says:

            @Aron Szabo

            I’ve seen situations get out control, where I’d think a intervention would have helped. When Scott does intervene, he often is rather heavy handed and gives weird punishments, sometimes giving huge bans for fairly minor things or minor slaps for fairly serious things.

            My impression at most other forums I’ve been is that without much heavier moderation that what Scott is doing, they would degenerate quickly. I think that main reason why that doesn’t happen here is because the commenters tend to hold back, not that they get held back.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I think it’s the magic of the “kind, necessary, true” rule. Everyone agrees with it, and it’s fairly simple for each user to adjudicate.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think this is right. Moderation that supports community norms tends to work better than moderation that’s trying to overrule community norms. (Note that there’s no guarantee that community norms will be good–sometimes they’re awful. But it will be hard to change them by moderation in a way that doesn’t just break the site or the community.)

          • Viliam says:

            “kind, necessary, true” rule … is fairly simple for each user to adjudicate.

            With some ill will, it would be easy to argue that attacks on outgroup are both “true” and “necessary”. Two out of three.

            It doesn’t happen here often, because people here are too smart to fall for such trick. But there are places where “true” is defined as following the dogma, and “kind” as not targeting the explicitly selected protected groups. (Also, if you say “my opponents need to be tortured and killed”, it is obvious you were exaggerating, therefore no harm done. However, if you opponent says “uhm, could we please be a little more nice to each other”, it is a dog whistle for something horrible.)

          • lazydragonboy says:

            @ Villum, I think you’ve got the right of it. True, beneficial, and even kind can be distorted in a manner that seems to justify cruelty to the speaker. In his comment guidelines, the quote Scott links to is fake as he indicates, but the suttas do actually contain similar guidelines on right speech. The one I remember is guidelines on giving admonishment, but it surprisingly generalizable and relates pretty directly to what Scott seems to be concerned with in his comment guidelines. As I best remember them (I am trapped behind the great firewall where Google can’t help me) the guidelines are:

            A monastic who wishes to admonish another should first establish these five resolutions:

            I will speak what is true, not what is untrue.
            I will speak at an appropriate time, not an inappropriate time.
            I will speak gently, not harshly.
            I will speak beneficially, not unbeneficially.
            I will speak with a mind of loving-kindness, not with malice.

            The last three have substantial overlap, but they do a lot to remove wiggle room. “Ok, maybe you were speaking gently but was what you said really beneficial? Even to the person who heard it? Ok. But were you speaking with an attitude of kindness? No? Maybe work on that next time.” I’ve seen this in real time, and people who really like to destroy evil villains often are capable of realizing they weren’t hewing to appropriate conduct at least after the fact.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I think Scott’s moderation comes primarily in form of the tone of the posts he writes. The sort of person who enjoys reading them turns out to be the sort of person who enjoys being civil. (Or at least, SSC’s version of civil.)

          What surprises me a bit is how much readership it’s gotten. Welcome surprise, though.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I agree that a lot has been Scott’s example, but he’s also done somewhat to squelch bad behavior.

            I was impressed that Scott forgot to mark the most recent open thread as “no culture war”, and the community refrained from culture war anyway.

        • @Paul Brinkley – This is it, I think. The “rationalist community” people and people who are interested in the topics they discuss tend to pride themselves on being “civilized”. The slight tendency to leave emotions at the door more often than other communities when discussing difficult issues leads to fewer instances of conflict and fewer personal attacks that would split the community enough to require removing disruptive people.

          There’ve been a few trolls here and there to be sure, but we have it pretty good all things considered, at least compared to other realms.

      • deluks917 says:

        Common Law develops? the admin can control forum culture to some degree by writing the rules and banning people who flagrantly violate. But if the admin is only moderating the bottom % of users (sorted by rules compliance) then the admin has a limited ability to shape the culture. One has to hope a sort of common law develops. People who violate said common law will be perceived as causing problems and get banned by the admin.

    • I’d like to see it tried, to be sure, but like David says, rules are important because they also provide feedback to users, so they know what is okay and what isn’t and they don’t accidentally stumble into the category of “most problematic” and get banned. This is why politically speaking, rule of law works. Everyone is on the same page. Rule of whim creates a chilling effect and accusations of unfairness. I’ve been part of a lot of communities that have fallen apart or split up, and I’d say the main reason was accusations that moderation was biased and that the rules weren’t clear or being clearly applied. This led to user revolt and users becoming a problem who previously weren’t.

      You could try and only ban truly problematic people and leave everyone else alone, but without those complicated rules it becomes hard for everyone else to actively stay unproblematic.

    • Bamboozle says:

      What about problematic people’s friends who want to stick up for them. Do they become problematic? Even if they weren’t problematic before and usually contributed well?

      What about their friends? It’s kind of like the website equivalent of using secret police to disappear people. Those close to them still on the board will start to ferment upset unless you can point to a clearly stated list of rules and have a history of fairly and visibly applying them.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’ve watched a well-moderated forum kind of fall apart w.r.t. moderation over time, and become much less interesting. Part of that was changes in politics and what discussions were deemed acceptable by a lot of the community, but I suspect a bigger part was that the moderators all got busy with other life events/personal crises and no longer had the spoons for evenhanded moderation.

        • albatross11 says:

          As an additional note, it seems like over the last decade or so, we’ve had the rise of a widespread belief among US center-left types that some ideas, arguments, and even facts should not be allowed any public presence. That for me to even allow such ideas to be expressed in a place where I take part makes me somehow guilty of tolerating those ideas. And further, the set of ideas and arguments and facts that must never be given any public presence has moved to include the beliefs of a substantial number of Americans, as well as scientific consensus in some fields of study and widely available statistics.

          That’s a belief that makes it very hard to have good moderation. To even raise the question of whether women are less common than men in technology fields for reasons other than discrimination is offensive and must be shut down, or the people who *could* have shut it down are held responsible for supporting those ideas. That’s pure poison for any kind of actual discussion of important issues.

          • CatCube says:

            As an additional note, it seems like over the last decade or so, we’ve had the rise of a widespread belief among US center-left types that some ideas, arguments, and even facts should not be allowed any public presence.

            It’s toxic and unfortunate, but not without historical precedent in the US:
            “Damn John Jay! Damn everyone who won’t damn John Jay!! Damn everyone that won’t put lights in his windows and sit up all night damning John Jay!!!”

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            That is a result of the lesson learned that most expounders of those ideas are bad-faith trolls.

            There is no point in constructively engaging in discussion with a biblical creationist, because odds are nearly unity that this is a sock-puppet of a full time troll.

            So science and biology forums insta-ban them on sight. Does this give the occasional person who was honestly raised in a cave by bible thumpers the impression that scientists hate christianity? Sure, but you cannot have a functioning fora dedicated to those subjects without that rule, because said fora would drown in trolls.

            Same applies to national socialism, ect.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That is a result of the lesson learned that most expounders of those ideas are bad-faith trolls.

            That is not a lesson learned. That is a tactic. The idea is that some beliefs are obvious and held by all decent people. And these beliefs are _important_, and thus all discussion must be based on their truth. Anyone arguing against them is thus at best a “devil’s advocate” and “not helping”. If they insist they’re not a devil’s advocate but the Devil himself, they must be trolling, because, again, these beliefs are obviously infallible.

            And it’s not creationism we’re talking about.

          • Brad says:

            On the flip side I’ve yet to see a convincing justification for any moderation at all from the “free speech norms” crowd.

            The two approaches I’ve see (neither satisfactory IMO) have been:

            1) the forum in question isn’t the sort of place that counts for the purposes of the norm (charitably because it isn’t powerful enough, uncharitably because it isn’t left enough)

            2) some attempt to distinguish between “ideas” and “insults”, object level rules and meta level ones, or so on and claim that the norms only rightly apply to one side of the line.

          • arlie says:

            @Thomas Jørgensen

            That may be the intent, but I sure see a lot of over use. My initial atttempts to learn about global warming were stymied by well meaning people clearly attempting to shout down “trolls” – which apparantly [in ther minds] included anyone except “true believers” – this in the context of a MOOC that was supposed to be academic/scientific and about mechanism.

            Asking questions was probable evidence of trolling, and pretty much certain evidence if those questions included anything that might be a talking point ever used by any “climate change denialist”.

            But I suppose that’s what I might have expected from people who stayed with a course ostensibly on “mechanisms” and “evidence” that prominently cited the ratio of “climate scientists” who thought ACG was real as if that were evidence in any direction.

            The material did get better, after this apparantly evidence-driven choke point – some researchers have found the average person is best persuaded by citing proportions of authoritative believers, not evidence, and will double down on their beliefs when faced with evidence that contradicts their priors. So too many courses try to persuade, rather than teach, rather to my disgust.

            But the policing of right belief in the forums never did improve. And IIRC it was one of those lovely systems where everyone and their dog was invited to downvote as a form of moderation – great way to enforce that no one ever sees anything but “right speech” for some definition of “right”.

          • Ketil says:

            On the flip side I’ve yet to see a convincing justification for any moderation at all from the “free speech norms” crowd.

            Not sure which crowd I’m supposed to belong to, but I think moderation should police behavior, not ideas. The true/necessary/kind-rule goes a long way, as does having a respected forum owner/moderator (e.g. S.A. here), as does having the designated “CW” threads. And if there’s anything else that can be done to foster more posting of ideas that I disagree with, or ideas which represent minority views, then I’m all for it.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Responding here because I think it’s a better thread:

            I think that the left’s war on ideas is instrumental, not because they care about making those ideas “unthinkable.” From their perspective, allowing discussion has negative effects on the time-domain (and possibly steady-state) propagation of liberalisation – the cost of allowing discussion is that it enables people to keep barriers in place. There’s a good chance they’re not wrong; see: the SSC thread where I was unable to convince someone that making decisions as if some black kids are smart (selecting groupmates using a biased random predictor) is better than making decisions as if no black kids are smart (sort them to the bottom and select groupmates from as close to the top as possible). Discrimination makes sense, and that’s rather worrying.

            You can see the line in attitudes about (for example) women. “Women don’t X” is fine, but different from ”women aren’t good at/shouldn’t X.” The latter is somewhat charged, and is often read to imply “you shouldn’t X because you’re a woman.” I don’t see a way to say the second thing without being normative and implying the third; after all, women just don’t X, and will do badly if they try, so we should advise women not to X. Want to be a physicist? Sorry, but women are bad at math; you’re statistically less likely to make a meaningful contribution to the field. So don’t. On a personal level, sorry, but I’d rather not work as a landscaper, despite my statistical suitability for the field.

            Anyway, I find that most leftists don’t really care about the truth value of these beliefs, preferring instead to look at the behaviors they support. I don’t agree, but I can at least sympathize. It’s not that people are bad for believing those things, but that the beliefs allow people to do bad things. Like tell women not be physicists because they’re bad at math because they’re women. And at least for now, I don’t see a good way to prevent that kind of thing from happening without the brainwashing. I disagree that the brainwashing is therefore warranted, but I understand the position.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad:

            I’m a pretty strong believer in free speech, but don’t know if I’m a member of the free-speech norms crowd. But I’d say:

            a. Moderation is absolutely necessary to avoid having a forum swamped by spammers or trolls or crazy people.

            b. Moderation is often needed to keep a discussion within some agreed-on topic. Your anti-Trump political screed ought not to appear on a forum that’s focused on evolutionary biology.

            c. Moderation of what ideas will be discussed is often useful in order to keep conversations moving, avoid endless arguments over the same thing, etc. It’s bad if every forum everywhere decides that abortion or gun control or whatever must never be discussed, but pretty reasonable to have many individual fora say “we’re not rehashing the abortion debate here anymore, it just gets everyone mad at each other and never goes anywhere.”

            d. There’s a lot of value in having fora where you can discuss unpopular ideas, even offensive ones, in a calm and rational way with people who disagree. Which ideas are offensive depends on who you ask–plenty of people in the world are deeply offended at atheists scoffing at the historical accuracy of the gospels, for example.

            e. If you’re discussing some problem or idea, and you moderate the discussion in a way that puts a thumb on the scales toward your desired conclusions, this tends to break the discussion and also is a dick move that’s visible to anyone paying attention.

            f. If you eliminate all places where anyone can have a rational discussion about some idea, claim of fact, claim of morality, etc., then you’re making a pretty big bet that this idea/claim has absolutely nothing to offer. Sometimes, you’re right–you’re not actually going to learn anything from holocaust deniers or young-Earth creationists. But there’s a big incentive to want to exclude ideas that aren’t obviously wrong or nuts, but that are uncomfortable and offensive. That way lies banning _The Origin of Species_ because it undermines the morality of all Christendom.

          • Nornagest says:

            “trolls” – which apparantly [in ther minds] included anyone except “true believers”

            At this point, “trolling” has been diluted to “disagreeing with intent”.

            I have a similar beef with “gaslighting”. There’s a place for the concept of lying through your teeth very confidently in order to make somebody else doubt their worldview — it absolutely happens, and in fact it’s a pretty basic psychological warfare tactic. But it’s a concept that doesn’t have any brakes on its scope, because if you’re convinced strongly enough of your own righteousness or of your opponents’ perfidy, then anything other than the party line can start looking like it.

          • dick says:

            But it’s a concept that doesn’t have any brakes on its scope, because if you’re convinced strongly enough of your own righteousness or of your opponents’ perfidy, then anything other than the party line can start looking like it.

            This is well put, and I feel the same way about albatross’s comments earlier about the Left thinking that “some ideas, arguments, and even facts should not be allowed.”

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            You were the proverbial child raised in a cave. Sure, your questions might be in good faith, but the issue is that any forum dedicated to the subject is going to have the same ignorant questions asked over, and over again by an endless stream of new-comers.
            If the fora wants to do *anything* other than refute the same propaganda points disseminated in bad faith by coal lobbyists think tanks, the best response you can hope for is “Read the FAQ”, and a ban hammer with the second post you make that indicate you have not read the FAQ.

            This is the endstate of any subject matter forum where non-experts are ever likely to wander in any significant number, and you can not call them intellectually closed off just for doing this – It is a necessary precondition for continued functioning on the internet. Now, they might be intellectual hermits engaged in group think of the worst order – Certainly there is enough of that going around, but the “We do not tolerate noob questions” thing is not evidence either way, because everyone does it.

            You can, however, tell a lot about the intellectual rigor of a given community based on the quality of the FAQ. If it is comprehensive, accessible and well cited, that is a very good sign.

          • Nick says:

            At this point, “trolling” has been diluted to “disagreeing with intent”.

            I have a similar beef with “gaslighting”. There’s a place for the concept of lying through your teeth in order to make somebody else doubt their reality — it’s a pretty basic psychological warfare tactic. But if you’re convinced strongly enough of your own righteousness or of your opponents’ perfidy, then anything other than the party line can start looking like it.

            I think it’s more that there’s a treadmill, like the euphemism treadmill. A term denoting a very particular negative behavior slowly loses all that particularity, til it just means bad behavior. I don’t think we’ve seen a good replacement yet for “gaslight,” though.

          • There is no point in constructively engaging in discussion with a biblical creationist, because odds are nearly unity that this is a sock-puppet of a full time troll.

            How do you know?

            Believing in biblical creationism doesn’t require one to be raised in a cave, merely to follow the same rule as almost everyone else–getting your beliefs largely from people you trust–and being exposed to otherwise trustworthy people who are biblical creationists.

            Do you think most people who believe in evolution do so because they understand both the theory and the evidence for it?

          • You were the proverbial child raised in a cave. Sure, your questions might be in good faith, but the issue is that any forum dedicated to the subject is going to have the same ignorant questions asked over, and over again by an endless stream of new-comers.

            I think this is in response to comment in the context of AGW. On that subject, almost everyone on both sides is a child reared in a cave. Just different caves.

            A couple of years back, before I quit arguing climate issues on FB, I concluded that almost nobody on either side of the argument understood what the greenhouse effect was. That included the sponsors of a popular video in which a schoolkid supposedly demonstrated the effect–a demonstration that only worked if you did not know what the effect was. One of the sponsors was the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

          • If the fora wants to do *anything* other than refute the same propaganda points disseminated in bad faith by coal lobbyists think tanks

            How do you know that all the arguments against your view of the subject are propaganda points disseminated by …?

            Do you count Freeman Dyson, from whom I learned one of the important points almost always ignored in discussions of the effect of warming, in that category? Chris Landsea?

            Have you considered the possibility that the reason you are so certain there are no good arguments against the orthodoxy you believe in is that you haven’t tried to look for them–since you already know all arguments on that side are propaganda?

            That you are a living demonstration of the downside of the policy you advocate?

          • albatross11 says:

            The more a scientific field becomes a matter of faith or group identity, the fewer people will feel comfortable asking the kind of questions that can make the field stronger over time. Think about the difference between a simple view of evolution and what you get from kin selection/inclusive fitness, group selection, sexual selection, the evolution of cooperation and altruisitic behavior, etc. Those are all (except for sexual selection, which I think Darwin considered) bits of theory that came out of people pointing out places the original theory didn’t seem to explain things very well. If you get to the point where raising those questions gets you branded as a likely troll/shill/heretic, then it’s a lot harder to make progress.

          • Brad says:

            @Ketil
            When it comes to writing I don’t think there’s any principled distinction to be made between behavior and ideas. Certainly when it comes to real free speech the government can’t and shouldn’t pushing rudeness any more than it can or should punish advocating that a certain politician be elected.

            It all comes down to preferences. Maybe you enjoy reading people defending white supramacy and don’t enjoy people calling people defending white supramacy racists. There’s nothing wrong with those preferences, but there’s nothing right with them either. If I or twitter or Harvard or Google come down differently we have every moral, ethical, and legal right to try to build the kind of fora and communities we want just as you have the right to try to build the kind you want.

            @albatross11

            I think the crux of the disagreement is in d and f. I don’t think anyone is obligated in any sense of the world obligated to listen to anyone else. It follows that no organization (save the government in public places) is obligated to provide a platform or audience for anyone else.

            The access demands being made are to places that haven’t existed for more than a decade. Where was the space to discuss unpopular ideas, even offensive ones, in a calm and rational way 30 years ago? Why can’t the discussions continue to happen in the same ways right now?

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad:

            I don’t think Twitter or Reddit or the New York Times or anyone else should be required by law to carry any particular views. But I also don’t see anything wrong with criticizing them for censoring views they don’t like, or for having a political bias, or for being dishonest about their actual rules.

            In the same way that activists can and do criticize Twitter for allowing people they don’t like to keep having accounts, I think it’s 100% legitimate for other activists to criticize them for suspending or banning people *they* like.

            Twitter isn’t obliged to listen to this criticism, and its current users aren’t obliged to think well of its management or to continue using it.

          • albatross11 says:

            I would also say I think the world is a better place when large communications companies don’t actively try to control what ideas may be discussed in public. It seems really unlikely that the management of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple, etc., is so much wiser and better than the rest of us that they’re going to do a good job of deciding what views should never be heard.

            I don’t think that needs a government response, but I do think it’s very reasonable for people to complain when tech companies start deciding what ideas should be ruled out of bounds for public discussion, and also for people to look for alternatives that don’t limit those ideas.

          • Brad says:

            Calling what they do “censoring” and not using the same term for what, say, Scott does is begging the question.

            As for the right to complain, sure there’s every right. But what I’m saying is that the contents of those complaints don’t strike me as boiling down to anything more substantial than “I don’t like what you are doing” even though they are dressed up in language that deliberately echoes that usually reserved for quite serious ethical and moral claims.

          • Aapje says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            One problem with making beliefs “unthinkable,” is that you can do no such thing. You can only makes beliefs unspeakable, which is not the same. Making beliefs unspeakable doesn’t actually teach anything based on reason. Creating taboos has two main effects:
            – Some people shut up about their heterodox ideas
            – Some people adopt the mainstream ideas due to peer pressure

            The first group tends to radicalize and lose faith in the mainstream. This seems undesirable.

            However, even for the second group, where the pressure does result in adoption of ‘correct’ beliefs, there are some major downsides. Because these people were not convinced by argument, but by peer pressure, they generally:
            1. Don’t so much have principles, but rather pattern matches taboos
            2. Cannot convince others based on argument, so have a tendency to try to win debates by authoritarian means
            3. Lack understanding, so their conformance is often poor
            4. Can change behaviors easily in environment with different peer pressure

            An example of (1) is that many people who say that they are against domestic violence, actually only oppose certain patterns of violence. For example, they react completely differently when the principle is violated against men than against women. Taboos much more easily uphold double standards, bias, etc than principled thinking.

            An issue with (2) is that it in general creates an abusive and authoritarian society, where people do things out of fear of punishment and where people try to get their way through punishment. Where people get silenced, etc. It seems to me that this tends to benefit the powerful.

            The lack of understanding (3) means that these people can very easily transgress when the situation is even slightly different. If the taboo is to not take advantage of a drunk person, but people don’t believe in the basic principle of consent, they can easily ignore a lack of consent due to other reasons than intoxication.

            Finally (4), if they conform due to peer pressure, then if you put them into a group with different norms, they are likely to go along with that group. So all in all, there is a good chance that these ‘reformed’ people are most likely to act virtuously in an environment where that norm is already accepted and interventions are thus least necessary (and allows for easy virtue signalling at no/low cost), but don’t do it when actually needed.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Aapje

            I agree completely, but I think that the people I’m describing don’t care. They want to kill the meme that women are bad at math, not stop people from determining whether women are statistically bad at math. They would be fine with that sort of study if there were no meme for it to feed.

            The difference is hard to articulate for me but, based on conversations I’ve had, important to them. For what it’s worth, I agree with them that memes (not internet memes, but statements like “women are bad at math”) prime people’s priors more than is reasonable. I just think their cure is worse than the disease, especially because their primed priors appear to be invisible to them. They only fight the “bad memes.”

          • Suppose you succeed in repressing the expression of some factual belief. One result is that some people, having seen no rebuttals to whatever arguments support the belief, will conclude that it is probably true–with the repression evidence of the lack of rebuttals.

            If the belief is false, repression may succeed in making fewer people reject it, since they don’t get to see the (by hypothesis correct, so probably convincing) arguments against it. But if it is true, repression may result in more people rejecting it, since they don’t get to see the arguments against it being rebutted.

            Which suggests that repression is more useful for supporting false beliefs than true beliefs, which provides a further reason to suspect that a belief whose expression is repressed is likely to be true.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Careful, David – that’s how you end up believing the FBI conspired with Castro to kill JFK.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Careful, David – that’s how you end up believing the FBI conspired with Castro to kill JFK.

            In all seriousness, the phenomenons David and aapje describe may very well be what makes that belief persist in many people’s minds. While they might not say it in those words, they may be giving it weight primarily because of how vigorously it’s suppressed.

            If so, the suggested way around is to engage the idea with its counterargument. This ought to be easy to do at scale for most popular conspiracy theories.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Paul is correct

            In all seriousness, the phenomenons David and aapje describe may very well be what makes that belief persist in many people’s minds. While they might not say it in those words, they may be giving it weight primarily because of how vigorously it’s suppressed.

            If so, the suggested way around is to engage the idea with its counterargument. This ought to be easy to do at scale for most popular conspiracy theories.

            I recently had this discussion with my girlfriend who was very concerned about a study that showed exposure to NAZI/White Supremacist memes made people more likely to believe that White people > Blacks. And I said, “of course, they have never been exposed to any coherent rebuttal to that point of view.” And she was dumbfounded (TBH she still disagrees with me), but my point was that the media’s banning of any discussion of this has created a sort of intellectual laziness wherein most people who disagree with white supremacy cannot articulate a coherent reason why it is bad, from first principles.

            Obviously this is a generalization, there are many people here and elsewhere that can (and most practicing learned Christians I find are very good at doing this), but it is generally a problem. If you go to reddit for a rebuttal to racism you are more likely to be downvoted so much your comment disappears than to get a real response. So when these things become totems, nothing but strawmen remain in the mainstream as rebuttals.

          • rm0 says:

            This belief, in many cases, stems from the idea that certain ideas and ideologies are both harmful and uniquely good at exploiting democratic “marketplaces of ideas”. If you believe both of these things, it makes perfect sense to nip growths of these memes in the bud.

          • Aapje says:

            @rm0

            But if the mechanism described above works that way, then this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can then take any bad idea and silence discussion of it so no one has epistemological antibodies (in the form of counterarguments to the strongest arguments in favor of the bad idea). Then if someone does argue in favor of the idea, the lack of counterarguments and a taboo on asking others for good counterarguments makes people very susceptible to believing it. Then you can use that as an argument to taboo the topic, which results in a lack of epistemological antibodies, etc.

            Note that with the Internet, you cannot realistically bully people into not speaking in favor of any idea everywhere, so the tabooing option may be far weaker than it was before the Internet.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Let’s be fair. Some ideas do gain ground from exposure. If that weren’t true, the entire advertising industry would have no reason to exist. So while I respect the argument that squelching ideas we think are bad can strengthen them, I think we also need to respect the argument that squelching ideas can have a strengthening effect at the same time.

            Which means we have to figure out which force is larger. We have some likely exemplars. Squelching the idea that there’s a 50% off sale on garden hoses at Home Depot: net weakening. Squelching a conspiracy theory: net strengthening. What are the key features? Motivation is obviously one. So is means: squelching the idea that anyone can check, such as “standing in fire is good for you”, isn’t going to strengthen it. I guess opportunity is a plausible third.

            As Aapje suggests, means (and opportunity) seem to be distant seconds behind motivation in the presence of the internet. However, I think that presumes the internet is not only freely available, but also freely used in the sense of everyone being receptive to all sides, and that’s clearly also at risk. I don’t mean that people are self-squelching themselves from ideas they despise, only to become tempted by them; rather, they’re fighting a second-order battle over which sources of those ideas are worthy of squelching, which then has predictable effects on other people who have less stake in filtering their personal sources. There’s a credibility game afoot.

        • Nornagest says:

          Everything is statistics. If my sink’s broken, a plumber is statistically more likely to be able to fix it than a florist. There’s no guarantee, but guess which one I’m calling?

          I don’t see why this becomes evil when you apply the same reasoning at scale, or with less dramatic statistical differences.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I think every moderated community I’ve ever been in has edged towards this approach at times, and then generally edged back away from it.

      It has a few problems:

      1. Some subset of people do in fact like something like due process, and get vocally upset when someone gets removed as “problematic” because, as the third party sees it, that person is expressing an unusual-but-not-problematic point of view. Due to the arbitrary and opaque nature of moderation in this style, there is often quick escalation of disagreements about moderation to themselves becoming flamewars.

      2. People use the perceived spectrum of behavior to identify the norm-breakers. So what happens is that at first you skim off the 2% of people who are just really pissing off everyone, and yay. But then as time churns on, everyone’s expectations reset, and now it’s the next 2% of people — whose behavior is unchanged — that start to look like the outliers in your community, and pressure builds to skim them off. And then the next 2%. And the next.

      3. Savvy “warrior”-types[1] exploit this system to get their enemies moderated out. If you can dial up your visible offense at what people say, then the people saying anything even mildly offensive look like they’re starting flamewars and, potentially combined with flaw 2, look like candidates for arbitrary and opaque moderation.

      These flaws all feed onto each other to make the system untenable in the long run (I think).

      Footnote [1]: By “warrior” types, I mean, “People who are interested in beating their ideological opponents by whatever means possible.” There are warrior-types in all ideologies.

      • deluks917 says:

        Don’t get rid of users at a faster rate than the forum is growing. In fact you should be getting rid of them slower than the forum is growing.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          It’s not about shrinking the community, it’s about growing ever more heavy handed in moderation.

          • deluks917 says:

            Your proposed mechanism does not seem to work if the rate of banning people is slower than the growth rate:

            “So what happens is that at first you skim off the 2% of people who are just really pissing off everyone, and yay. But then as time churns on, everyone’s expectations reset, and now it’s the next 2% of people — whose behavior is unchanged — that start to look like the outliers in your community, and pressure builds to skim them off. And then the next 2%”

            If the community is growing faster than 2% then its possible to never ben in the 2% who get culled.

          • If the community is growing faster than 2% then its possible to never ben in the 2% who get culled.

            It’s possible, but if the people being added have the same distribution of characteristics as those already there, the probability of never getting culled approaches zero as time goes to infinity.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            As long as your assume that everyone who is culled is replaced by someone precisely as bad, sure. But what then is the point of your scheme?

          • Jiro says:

            If you skim off the bottom 2% and the community grows by another 2%, that 2% is equally distributed. It isn’t all on the bottom. The new bottom 2% is still not as bad as the old bottom 2%, so the problem still happens.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            If you skim off the bottom 2% and the community grows by another 2%, that 2% is equally distributed

            If you let the community grow by 100%, the bottom 2% is still just as bad, though. You just need to calibrate against population growth once the initial cull ends.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            In business this is called “churn” and I’m not seeing why this wouldn’t work exceptionally well. You constantly remove the bottom X%, where X is the rate of new members, or <X if you want to grow the community. As long as X is not larger than the rate of new members, then you are constantly skimming the worst members and theoretically getting replacements that are no worse than average. Over time you can effectively filter out the worst members.

            Above just the baseline effect, as the community improves you develop a culture based around better values. You will tend to attract a better new member and discourage ones that do not feel welcome – allowing you to drop the X%.

            Two possible shortcomings – 1) eliminating the wrong population and having the reverse effects of both positives above. 2) Destroying the goodwill of the community through capricious removals.

            In both of these failure modes, it's the most thoughtful and helpful people that tend to leave, and the worst that tend to stick around. If you go down the road of culling, you really should know what you're planning and what your goals are.

          • John Schilling says:

            In business this is called “churn” and I’m not seeing why this wouldn’t work exceptionally well.

            Exceptionally well in what sense?

            “Churn”, is destructive to cohesion and promotes an every-man-for-himself attitude. In some contexts, where achievement is essentially individual (e.g. sales or investment), that may lead to a work force of highly motivated and highly capable individuals. And it is usually at least harmless to have churn in your customer base, so long as the absolute numbers are there. But it’s hell on collaboration, because it shifts the focus from “how can we do good work?” to “how can I get the credit?”

            If we’re trying to have a productive dialogue, that is inherently collaborative. Having each response motivated even in part by, “will this make me rise above him in the rankings?”, I do not think will work exceptionally well in that context. That way lies reddit, and we’ve already got one of those.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Hoopy and Doolittle:

            But again, the problem is that when you’ve taken out the 2% worst offenders, community values change, and people who formerly were defined in part by their contrast to the very worst posters now look like the end of the spectrum, and it’s hard to resist pressure to change your standards and cull them.

            (Actually as an edit, let me talk about this further, because it’s really rather difficult to resist. A few things happen:

            1. It starts with the more combative members of the ordinary membership. Previously, they fought the worst of the worst. When the worst of the worst aren’t there any more, they still want to fight. You can’t understand internet culture without understanding that a substantial portion of the people in a given community are there to fight. They’ll fight whoever they disagree with most. So someone who, without changing their own behavior at all, used to draw polite disagreement, will now draw violent argument because there is no better target for the violent argument, which is its own end.

            2. The people who had substantial overlap in opinions with your worst members, but who are not your worst members, used to signal their reasonableness by disagreeing with your worst members. They no longer can, and with the loss of that signal, people start assuming they are less reasonable.

            3. The combination of being now the target for violent argumentation and a loss of charity from the broad membership tends to radicalize the formerly-productive members. There’s only so many times that you can get called a piece of shit before you lose charity yourself.

            4. The mods also face internal pressure, because the mods are human, and they react to social dynamics even if they try to resist them: they will tend to bend to the group consensus.

            5. Then the mods ban the formerly-inoffensive posters, who most likely have an overlap of views with the people who were originally banned (even if those views are not in fact what caused the original bannings), and this cycle begins anew, but with following added sense of victimization: it looks a lot like the mods are targeting liberals/conservatives/feminists/sex-positive-people/furries/bronies/simulationists/fanfic-authors, or whatever other semi-random seed started this whole thing.)

            And the end result of this is not a perfected culture: rather, you start cutting further and further into people who are bringing useful minority perspectives into your community.

          • If you let the community grow by 100%, the bottom 2% is still just as bad, though.

            That is not correct.

            We start with 100 individuals, with badness 1-100. We eliminate numbers 99 and 100
            We add another 100, also badness 1-100 (it should be 98 with the same range but slightly different valeus but I’ll ignore that).
            We now eliminate 4 individuals (again 2%), badness 100,99 (two of the new arrivals), 98, 98.

            Keep repeating it, and badness gradually creeps towards 1.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @David

            Yes, sorry, bad math – some good users will churn out, so it’s not quite at the doubling point, but it’s generally true that number of bans should stay the same when pop doubles, not that % pop bans should. Which is good, because it means that as long as there’s a healthy reporting culture in place and abuse of report systems is considered egregious, you don’t need to add more moderators.

            @sandora

            An easy solution that seems to work here, at least to (1) and (3), is banning belligerence. (4) and (5) are ameliorated by simply not adding mods (or making issuing a bad ban a de-modding offense). Either way, having a Supreme Forum Dictator to watch the watchmen seems like a good thing, not a bad one. If Scott ever stops posting and decides to keep this blog around for some reason, I’ll definitely stop visiting.

          • SamChevre says:

            @John Schilling

            I generally hate churn, but a small amount of churn has been beneficial everywhere I have seen it – 2% seems about right in a workplace. With no churn, you have a “tarpit” – everything bogs down more and more around the one person who’s either just not able to do their job, or is very difficult to work with for some reason. With a lot of churn, you get exactly the “every man for himself” dynamic you describe, or else the kind of helplessness that assumes that competence isn’t actually going to help so why try.

            The right level of churn is observable; if the departures cause 80% of the workforce to sigh with relief, and there are only a few of them, then churn is about right.

            I think the same applies on a website. The worst actual commenter (I’m excluding straightforward spammers) is rarely a loss if you have 100 or so active commenters.

          • Aapje says:

            Exactly, some churn is good. Too much and you have a purity spiral.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Exceptionally well in what sense?

            Others have already said most of what I would reply, but well in the sense of creating a better community. This can obviously be done poorly, and ruin communities instead. Banning too many people can do that alone, as can banning for poor reasoning.

            If we get into specifics, I would choose to churn a small number/percent (as others mentioned) and I would do so for behaviors and not positions. I would promote clear rules about what behaviors are problematic, and would warn people publicly prior to banning.

            Otherwise my comment was about how the idea of churn is not inherently bad, and that the math being talked about was incorrect.

          • John Schilling says:

            Others have already said most of what I would reply, but well in the sense of creating a better community.

            Could you give us some examples of the better communities that you see as having been created by this method, that we may examine and assess? I took the claim of churn working “exceptionally well” as referring to the use of churn in a business context, and the businesses I see with a high churn rate I would not assess as being communities at all except in the most pedantic sense.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            the businesses I see with a high churn rate I would not assess as being communities at all except in the most pedantic sense.

            I think I see where you’re coming from now. “High rate of churn” is almost always very bad. Companies that use Stacked Ranking tend to have fairly significant problems from doing so. If you are modeling what I am saying around that, then I am miscommunicating.

            I don’t have any specific online communities to point you to, but I do have real world experience using a low level of churn to improve a company’s culture. What I have in mind is more along the lines of “reward the good employees [with promotions, raises, etc.] and fire the bad employees [using progressive discipline to identify consistent bad behaviors].” With the limited tools of an online voluntary community, we’re pretty much left with “discipline and ban” with very few rewards.

            My initial post here was sufficiently vague that I can see why it might appear I was supporting stacked ranking. Forcing yourself, or your moderators in this context, to remove X% of all users without considering what X should be and being willing to adjust as necessary would be a problem.

      • albatross11 says:

        I would say that all kinds of social media sites are currently finding all the ways that people can use the offensive-content-reporting system to shut down people they don’t like.

    • quanta413 says:

      I think you should call it Aku Soku Zan. Although maybe that’s where you got the name…

    • helloo says:

      Three questions –

      What is the “instant” part?
      Cause this statement –

      Unless someone falls into the bottom few percent of ‘most problematic users’

      Makes it seem that this won’t be an instant thing. Otherwise why would there be ANY problematic users. Shouldn’t all of them been banned?

      How will you handle “fights”? Ban both sides? Ban the side that “starts” fighting? Ban the “provoker”?
      Depending on how things work, it might very well reduce starting discussions or arguing about them or even calling out bad actors.

      But the upside is that you don’t need to bother most users at all.

      Are you SURE this is the case? Have you gone through the posts/comments/threads of a community to see how many of them might have at one time or another caused problems?
      I’m guessing even if the majority of users might not have, a good portion of posts were made by an user that at some time caused problems.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        I think they mean “instant” like, “there is no escalating series of warnings, short-term bans, and other lesser punishments. Just go straight to permaban.”

    • Aftagley says:

      I think your moderation strategy might still have some holes that you’d need to work out. I used to moderate a forum and I can tell you that dealing with the evil people was easy, everyone bands them. It’s the people on the margins who caused us trouble. Here are some scenarios my team always struggled with, that you might think about how your system would handle:

      1. Long-term member who’s started to trend downwards. This guy has been a member for a long time, is well known and generally well liked. Recently, however, the quality of his posts have been going down; maybe he’s starting to act like he owns the place and using that to shut down people he disagrees with, maybe he’s starting to form cliques and excluding others, maybe he’s just derailing a bunch of conversation down into inside jokes and self references. The moderation team has started to get complaints, what do you do?

      2. Well-liked member has one or two topics that set him off. We had this one guy who was incredibly helpful and nice in our forum. The problem was, there were a few topics he was incredibly passionate about and would address them in ways that bordered on overly aggressive. People started noticing and eventually began baiting him to set him off even more. 90% of what he does is great, that final 10% is starting to get notice. What do you do?

      3. The guy who can’t start good topics. This guy can contribute well to other people’s discussions, but every single discussion he starts is either weird, overly vague or against forum rules in some way. It’s annoying that your constantly having to close his discussions, but there’s not doubt he means well, he just doesn’t get the rules. What do you do?

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        The guy who can’t start good topics. This guy can contribute well to other people’s discussions, but every single discussion he starts is either weird, overly vague or against forum rules in some way.

        I feel personally attacked :V

      • Jade Nekotenshi says:

        An option I really like is the idea of a thread-ban: that is, a user can be banned from a specific thread (or from threads including certain keywords, etc), without necessarily needing to be completely banned. The threadban would be a good way to handle your case #2, especially if it didn’t happen too often.

        Also, some kind of selective-ban/restriction – though that’s probably not viable on high-traffic fora – where a user can reply to threads but not start new ones without mod approval, could address case #3.

        Case #1 is stickier, but is a good case for temp-bans and other “shape up or ship out” warnings, rather than no-warning-permabans.

    • Well... says:

      The worst thing a moderator can do, I think, is enforce rules arbitrarily, or enforce rules that aren’t clearly understandable or knowable to users. This is especially true if users are given the impression that 1) there are rules they can understand and should follow to remain in good standing, and 2) these rules will be enforced in as consistent a way as the human moderators are capable of. If you want to put a big disclaimer up front saying “RULES HERE ARE MADE UP AND/OR ENFORCED ON A WHIM” that’s another story.

      A good moderator should also understand when someone was joking or being tongue-in-cheek or bombastic, especially if it was in the context of lots of other people doing the same thing, even if this one user’s joke maybe went too far, and in that case give that user a warning rather than banning him outright.

      An appeals process should exist too if possible.

      • Viliam says:

        On the other hand, trying to make rules explicit will become a game for some members: How to annoy people while following the letter of the rules? How to make my opponent trip into breaking the rules without technically breaking them myself?

        Instead of appeal, just make the bans temporary, with increasing length. In case of unfair judgment, well, you lost a day. If you feel you have been banned 3 times without a valid cause, post your defense in Open Thread (that is, after your third ban expires).

        • BBA says:

          Yeah, I’ve always had issues with codes of conduct because there’s inevitably going to be some bad actors who unfailingly obey the letter of every rule while subtly poisoning the discourse. The main ways to root them out are banning them on an extremely strained technicality or making rules so vague and overbroad that everyone is technically violating them. In either case the real rule is just “don’t piss off the mods” and I’d prefer the more honest stance of just making that the written rule.

          • Well... says:

            The number of bad actors capable of sneakily toeing around the code of conduct has GOT to be smaller than the number who’ll show up if there is no clearly stated and consistently enforced code of conduct to begin with, and might also be smaller than the number of bad actor moderators who’ll take advantage of the lack of said code of conduct to just ban or otherwise punish users they suspect are in their outgroup.

      • Jiro says:

        The worst thing a moderator can do, I think, is enforce rules arbitrarily, or enforce rules that aren’t clearly understandable or knowable to users.

        This is a problem on the SSC subreddit.

        We’ve so far had:

        — The “boo outgroup” rule has no “outgroup” clause.
        — Pointing out that an important media outlet is biased on a culture war issue is just “boo outgroup”..
        — The rule about bringing evidence if you are taking sides on a partisan issue actually means that you should bring evidence if you are on the wrong side of a partisan issue.
        — Claiming that you’d use violence when asked what you’d do as part of a military junta gets you banned for a “call for violence”.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I think you run into the standard “ban all bad dogs” issue. Say you want to ban “dangerous” dogs so you look at the types of breeds most frequently associated with attacking humans or other dogs (by proportional representation, yada yada). So you find that (hypothetically) dobermans are the most “dangerous”, so you successfully ban dobermans now you are still left with a most dangerous dog type, which ever dog was #2 behind the doberman plus you have a person (or institution) that has been granted the power to ban the most dangerous dog. Since there is no reason for there to be a logical stopping point the last dog to be banned will essentially be at the whim of the person/institution that is doing the banning.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Gwern proposed a policy of the same name almost a decade ago, though his proposal was about ordinary users downvoting bad comments rather than moderators banning bad users.

    • Deiseach says:

      Instead of having a complicated set of rules and procedures you focus on getting rid of the bad actors.

      Coming late to the debate, but the problem there is that you are depending on “we don’t need to define what constitutes a bad actor, everyone knows one when they see them”. And that may or may not work, because if we’re going to trust a mod or mods on this, then we have to trust that Mod A won’t ban someone that Mod B would merely give a warning to. This has been a constant cause of trouble over on the sub-reddit, with people arguing “Left-wingers/Right-wingers get to run rampant and the mods never intervene, while Right-wingers/Left-wingers get banned for the merest triviality!” and accusations that the mods have favourites whom they treat better (i.e. don’t warn/ban where others would be warned/banned) than the rest, as well as wrangling over perceived inconsistency on how cases are handled.

      I think you need a set of rules, even though that comes with its own problems, because then you have something to point at as to why Burn’EmAlive999 got banned, rather than it being the whim of one particular mod.

    • vrostovtsev says:

      Your suggestion does work and was used in practice, e.g. on Elitist Jerks circa 2007 (the best community I’ve seen moderation-wise). They had a KEI policy, a short set of clear instructions on what is allowed and what is not and a separate forum where everything moderated went with a clear explanation of why it was removed and what were the consequences. People were encouraged to lurk there to train their mental models.

      The catch is, EJ was not a general-discussion forum, it was a specialized community for theorycrafting, so simple rules were really simple and non-political (e.g. “your post should advance the topic of the thread by either posing non-trivial questions or providing new information”). I don’t think this will ever work for general interests forums where you don’t know what you want until you see it.

      > The big downside is that ideological moderators could use this policy to crush dissent.
      no, the big downside is that after a couple iterations of [ban dissenters -> overtone window shifts to center on the moderator -> repeat] you’ll get an echochamber centered around your moderators who are having a gay old time having their moronic views be sacred while around them the average IQ drops into negatives

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        EJ also had the catch of requiring a team of extremely dedicated and intelligent moderators. There was enough traffic on that site to overwhelm Kaubel; fortunately, there were enough additional participants of comparable dedication and intelligence to keep moderation at pace.

        Ultimately, I’m inclined to theorize that EJ succeeded because it had the good fortune to draw the right crowd as it grew, combined with a very light touch from edicts from its thought leaders. Much like SSC. And probably much like any group (Google, the Star Trek fanbase, the United States, etc.).

  4. lazydragonboy says:

    Book Recommendation/Book Club thread:

    I have been on a nonfiction book kick for a while. I have read a lot of books I enjoyed a lot, and I would enjoy talking about them and being recommended more. So I was thinking it would be nice to have an informal book club with some other folks from SSC. If you have any books to recommend me based on what I have read and enjoyed, I would be interested in reading them (bonus points if they are on audible, though I am thinking of stepping up how much I read visually as I read way faster than I listen. I would also be interested in reading a book at the same time as someone on the forum and then sending emails back and forth to discuss it when we are done. I would also be interested in doing that with a book I have already read. If anyone is interested in doing this, my email is lazydragonboy@gmail.com

    Here are some nonfiction books I have read and felt were very helpful to me:

    Thinking Fast and Slow, By Daniel Kahneman
    The Signal and the Noise, By Nate Silver
    The Selfish Gene, By Richard Dawkins
    Broad View, Boundless Heart, By Ajahn Amaro & Ajahn Pasanno
    Small Boat, Great Mountain, By Ajahn Amaro
    Samadhi Is Pure Enjoyment, By Ajahn Succito
    Unseating Your Inner Tyrant, By Ajahn Succito
    Meditation, A Path to Awakening, By Ajahn Succito
    The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Disagree about Politics and Religion, By Jonathan Arendt (~90% Done)
    Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It, By Richard V Reeves (A much more friendly and evidence based book than the polymic title would indicate. It’s written by an upper middle class Brookings Fellow to others of his class, and he’s quite compassionate.)
    Eichmann In Jerusalem, By Hannah Arendt (~20% done)
    Galileo’s Middle Finger, by Alice Dreger
    Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, by Robert M. Sapolsky (~40% done)
    Make It Stick, by Peter C. Brown
    The Coming Storm, by Michael Lewis
    China’s Second Continent, By Howard W. French
    Age of Ambition, by Evan Osnos
    The Sense of Style, by Steven Pinker (~20% done)

    As may be apparent, I go in and out of books, sometimes forgetting to pick back up even ones I like.

    I am also starting or considering starting:

    The Dictator’s Handbook
    Surfing Uncertainty
    Narconomics
    The Better Angels of Our Nature
    Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
    Austerity, by Mark Blyth
    The Power and Independence of the Federal Reserve, by Peter Conti-Brown

    • Plumber says:

      @lazydragonboy,
      Sounds like a fine idea, and I’ve been interested in reading The Righteous Mind for a while now.

      Unfortunately 9/10th of my reading is of my phone as have a two year old son…

      …who rips books from my hands (or my reading glasses off my face when I try to read my old paperbacks), and I have a job…

      ….that won’t pay me to read books on “their time”.

      I’m supposed to carry a “smartphone” they issued me at work to look at the e-mails for Service Orders (and which I discovered may also be used to read some stuff online!) and the phone is easier to for me to keep out of my son’s hands than big books or glasses (he’s not as attracted to it, especially since we let him use a “tablet” of his own, while sometimes when my commute is faster than usual I hide and read a book but most of my reading now is of my phone these days, so I probably won’t match your pace, but I’ll e-mail you my progress after I pick up the book.

      • lazydragonboy says:

        Have you tried audible? Listening to audiobooks is a slow way of reading, but it is a convenient way of reading when you often wind up having to use your hands

        • cassander says:

          You can train yourself to process higher speeds with practice, and if you do that, it stops being quite so slow.

          • albatross11 says:

            I do this for podcasts–I normally listen at 1.5x or 2x, but slow back down to normal speed if a complicated idea or a lot of unfamiliar terminology appears.

        • lazydragonboy says:

          @cassander

          That’s true! I have practiced and gotten up to comfortably listening to 3x speed, which isn’t that slow. I’ve lost the knack right at the moment.

      • Walter says:

        You should definitely read The Righteous Mind. It is a really good book.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      I strongly recommend “Stumbling on Happiness.”

      • lazydragonboy says:

        Thanks for the recommendation. It does look like the sort of book I would enjoy. I will check it out.

    • Randy M says:

      Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, by Robert M. Sapolsky (~40% done)

      I’m working through his Behave right now. Interesting topic, but dense and thick.
      Side note, searching the author to double check that he was the writer of the book I’m reading reveals an impressively hairy man.

      I’m also reading Dalrymple’s View From the Bottom, which is about the British lower class, and is well written but depressing, so also somewhat slow going.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Three of the authors have the first name of Ajahn. What is that about?

      Also, I did send you an e-mail about book club. I like the idea, because discussions in SSC are too short (a few days before thread disappears) to have in depth discussions. I hope others respond.

      • lazydragonboy says:

        Ajahn is a title in the Thai Therevada tradition of Buddhism. It means teacher, but more specifically means someone has been a monk at least ten years (plus 1-3 years if you count the training period). That’s sort of the mark of long-enough-teach in that tradition. It looks like a first name because in the Ajahn Chah tradition those monks we’re ordained under, names are replaced with a Pali mononym upon ordination.

        Thanks for mentioning you sent me an email. I actually can’t find it in my inbox; I will search around in my spam filter. Any keywords in your email I could use for the search?
        found it!
        Sidebar: I have noticed often when people exchange emails on this thread they will allude in a clear way to their email address, e.g. “my username @ gmail”, or write it a manner that couldn’t be copypasted into an email, e.g. “sundrymatters at Gmail dot com”. Anyone know specifically they are trying to avoid with this? I have gotten an obvious spam email since I posted asking if I wanted website design services.

  5. onyomi says:

    Is this person (and, by extension, Nassim Taleb, assuming he endorses the RT) right that global political fault lines have shifted from a left-right or liberal-conservative axis to a globalist-localist axis?

    The French “Yellow Vests,” seem to typify this change, if so, in that their demands, though surely subject to “mission creep” in the manner of something like Occupy Wall Street, seem to span the traditional left-right spectrum in a way that seems nonetheless more coherent than e.g. Occupy Wall Street.

    The new localist seems to combine the following, traditionally conservative views:
    anti-immigration
    lower taxes
    non-intervention/anti-imperialism (though anti-war is also often associated with far-left)

    With some of the following, traditionally more left-wing/liberal views:
    pro-social welfare spending/anti-austerity
    pro-environmentalist (but more at the local level of e.g. reducing plastic and gmo than focus on CO2 emissions and the like)
    and though I don’t think explicitly touched on here, I think localists tend to be more pro-union or their local equivalent, and certainly against Davos-style capitalism

    I am, of course, more sympathetic to the “localist” side than the “globalist” side of this axis, and was also glad to the see acknowledgement of the problem of “dualization” in this comic RT.

    • Bamboozle says:

      pro-environmentalist (but more at the local level of e.g. reducing plastic and gmo than focus on CO2 emissions and the like)

      Not sure about this as my intuition says they would have a lot more in common with the US Rust Belt Coal Workers than not. That certainly isn’t pro-environmentalist. I’ve seen people argue that Macron’s tax policy on fuel was pro-environmentalist in that it was going to tax fuel and invest in renewables (allegedly). Whether he needed such a regressive tax to achieve this is obviously hugely debatable given he is also planning corporate tax cuts.

      It seems all the Governments are desperate for the “job providers” to locate in their country and are willing to give them anything they want to do so (like Amazon HQ2) at the expense of local political capital. Given that it seems every country around the world is struggling with unemployment (or underemployment in western countires as you have master degree holders flipping burgers and driving ubers instead of working in their field, not to mention just giving up entirely and not being counted in statistics) it really seems like the “lump of labour fallacy” is total guff. (que hysterics about AI takin’ our jobs!) ((AI hasn’t even really kicked off yet!))

      Edit: Overall i agree with this in broad strokes. Here’s an article you may find interesting on the subject from a British perspective. link text

      • 10240 says:

        it seems every country around the world is struggling with unemployment

        It doesn’t seem so to me at all. Unemployment is pretty low today in many countries, especially ones with flexible labor markets (not France).
        Of course every country has some unemployment, and every country will have people complaining about unemployment being a serious problem, as there is no defined threshold below which unemployment is officially not a serious problem.

        or underemployment in western countires as you have master degree holders flipping burgers and driving ubers instead of working in their field

        Is this a common thing? While technological unemployment is overstated IMO, it does seem like the fortunes of highly educated people have gone up much more in the recent decades than those of less-educated people, as demand for high-skilled work has gone up and demand for low-skilled work has gone down in Western countries. That would make it unlikely that college-educated people commonly do low-skilled work, except of course if they chose to study a field for which there is little demand in the marketplace. Again, of course there are a few masters-degree holders flipping burgers, and there are anecdotes about them since they are much more remarkable than someone without a degree flipping burgers or someone with a degree doing high-skilled work; but that doesn’t mean they are actually common.

        • Bamboozle says:

          It doesn’t seem so to me at all. Unemployment is pretty low today in many countries, especially ones with flexible labor markets (not France).

          Gonna start with the 2 largest populations in the world, India and China, which are desperate to create jobs as they improve efficiency in agriculture freeing up many unskilled workers. india china They’ve traditionally found mass employment by sending formerly agricultural workers to work in factories but once automation becomes cheaper than even former Chinese farm workers they’ll be in deep trouble.

          In western economies you need to ignore the official unemployment rate as (at risk of possibly sounding cw) as it is a political football and unrepresentative of reality. Some examples of what i mean:

          As measured by the BLS, the unemployment rate is defined as the percentage of unemployed people who are currently in the labor force. In order to be in the labor force, a person either must have a job or have looked for work in the last four weeks. A person only needed one hour in the prior week to be considered employed.

          Doesn’t sound like the 9-5 40 hour work week most think of when they think of a job. It also doesn’t count people who have “given up” looking for full time work, work part time and would like to work full time. Sometimes people have turned to the gig economy often taking 2 or 3 jobs as a substitute. Here is an article looking in to this further, as gig economy jobs are very poorly measured and prone to being counted as 3 employed people instead of one person with 3 crap jobs.
          uote>This leaves out a ton of relevant people. According to the November 2016 data, over 5.5 million Americans said they want a job, but don’t have one, and are not considered a part of the labor force. If these people were included in the unemployment rate, it would jump to 8.2%. The BLS is not attempting to be deceptive. These folks are left out of the calculation because more than half of them have not done anything to find work in more than a year. Another 10% of this group say they are not available for work at the moment.

          This is after a decade of QE where we have brought interest rates down to record lows for such an extended period that you’d imagine the unemployment rate should be negative somehow if extrapolated from historic trends.

          In a clearer picture, here is the labour participation rate for the US here and you can see a falling share of total people in work. Yes people are retiring but not at this rate, indeed we often read about people working into old age as they are unable to retire. You can see we haven’t ever recovered from the great depression. The US even pads it’s unemployment figures by having the largest military in the world, which could be viewed as a giant government-sponsored work scheme.

          You brought up France, and i’d say the only difference between France and the US is how they measure their employment rate. In the US they hide the true number of unemployed individuals from the baseline figure, where as in France and many European countries this doesn’t happen to nearly the same extend (excluding the UK which also likes to hide true unemployment whenever Hammond needs to pat himself on the back).

          People in European countries are also more used to dealing with government and therefore more likely to respond to surveys. For example in the US the coverage rate (the percentage of targeted households who respond) for the Current Population Survey (CPS) is just 88 percent. (The CPS is the survey used in the United States for measuring unemployment.) It is considerably lower for people who are likely to be unemployed. For example it is less than 70 percent for young African American men. This means that the U.S. data almost certainly understate our true unemployment rate, if we assume that the people who don’t respond to the survey are more likely to be unemployed than the people who do. This fact will be more widely recognized as soon as an important economist decides to pay attention to it. Meanwhile in France it is close to complete.

          TL:DR if you take the unemployed figures provided by Governments at face value you are being deceived. (I’d argue more generally if you take any of the metrics that are commonly used to evaluate a Government that are produced by the Government itself at face value you are being willfully deceived.)

          • Ghillie Dhu says:

            The US even pads it’s unemployment figures by having the largest military in the world, which could be viewed as a giant government-sponsored work scheme.

            FWIW, US unemployment figures have a “non-institutionalized” criterion; if one is in prison or the military, they’re not included in either the numerator or denominator.

          • Bamboozle says:

            @Ghillie Dhu I didn’t know that, thanks for giving me that information.

            I know the US sources technology and arms (and other Defense related materials) from a global chain of businesses, but having premium access to selling into the US Defense Industrial Complex is surely a boon exclusive to US companies regardless. (my minor point being the US has many tailwinds other countries don’t as “protector of the free world”)

            Nice username by the way.

          • 10240 says:

            Do you know any unemployment measure that can be compared between countries?

            As far as the US goes, even U6 (unemployed+discouraged+marginally attached+involuntary part-time) has returned close to pre-crisis levels.

      • 10240 says:

        Re: Brexit article: A test question about whether someone opposes immigration in order to preserve local culture and community, or that’s an excuse in order to oppose it for other, possibly less politically correct reasons: Would you oppose a high level of immigration by East Asians? (I.e. a group that’s as successful on average as the native population or more, and generally reputed to cause little trouble, while having very different culture from the local one.)

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          There’s two ways that someone could define culture, and I would argue that the more important is not the food and clothing.

          If I define my culture as hard working and conscientious, then I might be perfectly fine with other hard working, conscientious, individuals coming into my country – even if they don’t look like me or eat the kinds of food I eat. Similarly, I might reject people who look and act similarly on a superficial level.

          Of course, defining culture in such a way doesn’t really help with the PC problem, so people talk about local culture in terms of food and festivals or whatever.

    • Is this person (and, by extension, Nassim Taleb, assuming he endorses the RT) right that global political fault lines have shifted from a left-right or liberal-conservative axis to a globalist-localist axis?

      To go one level up, I think this is a view the right is willing to reconcile with, but the left is not.

      If you look up “left-right political spectrum” on Wiki, you can find this interesting paragraph:

      By 1914, the Left half of the legislature in France was composed of Unified Socialists, Republican Socialists and Socialist Radicals, while the parties that were called “Left” now sat on the right side. The use of the words Left and Right spread from France to other countries and came to be applied to a large number of political parties worldwide, which often differed in their political beliefs.There was asymmetry in the use of the terms Left and Right by the opposing sides. The Right mostly denied that the left–right spectrum was meaningful because they saw it as artificial and damaging to unity. However, the Left, seeking to change society, promoted the distinction. As Alain observed in 1931: “When people ask me if the division between parties of the Right and parties of the Left, men of the Right and men of the Left, still makes sense, the first thing that comes to mind is that the person asking the question is certainly not a man of the Left”.

      There are other examples such as the fascists declaring themselves to be “beyond left and right” but ultimately coming to be identified with the far-right, and for a less uncomfortable but more contemporary example; the libertarian movement making similar claims, but ultimately being identified as far-right, if a different variety.

      So the phenomena of people saying “the left-right spectrum is over” is itself quite old, and it has always been associated with movements who were ultimately identified by historians and mainstream media figures of the time as belonging to the right. Of course, that asymmetry makes the right seem more diverse than the left, and that may be because there are more ways to be unequal than equal. Anecdotally I’ve noticed that although the left is famous for splitting the splits are more often based around strategic theories and means to an end and not basic principles, such as questions over whether they should be Trotskyite or Stalinist or eschew revolution altogether for reformism and social democracy, whereas two far-right movements could be absolutely opposed on a level that goes right down to their terminal goals, such as an anarcho-capitalist Vs a Nazi Vs a Mormon theocrat.

      The French “Yellow Vests,” seem to typify this change, if so, in that their demands, though surely subject to “mission creep” in the manner of something like Occupy Wall Street, seem to span the traditional left-right spectrum in a way that seems nonetheless more coherent than e.g. Occupy Wall Street.

      The new localist seems to combine the following, traditionally conservative views:
      anti-immigration
      lower taxes
      non-intervention/anti-imperialism (though anti-war is also often associated with far-left)

      With some of the following, traditionally more left-wing/liberal views:
      pro-social welfare spending/anti-austerity
      pro-environmentalist (but more at the local level of e.g. reducing plastic and gmo than focus on CO2 emissions and the like)
      and though I don’t think explicitly touched on here, I think localists tend to be more pro-union or their local equivalent, and certainly against Davos-style capitalism

      I am, of course, more sympathetic to the “localist” side than the “globalist” side of this axis, and was also glad to the see acknowledgement of the problem of “dualization” in this comic RT.

      I agree that people try to move beyond the spectrum, but according to my theory this movement will quickly collapse into a traditional left Vs right placement. There are times in history such as when the Chinese were under Japanese occupation that the left vs right difference collapsed down to nationalists vs collaborators, but when WW2 ended, they quickly returned to left vs right.

      The demands of an early movement never tell you that much. I’d be surprised if a cohesive popular movement could step beyond the spectrum. In some ways, Macron has governed as a radical centrist, but this has led to literally everyone hating him, and when he disappears, the Gilet Jaunes will splinter into left vs right, that I’m sure of.

      • onyomi says:

        I find your general outlines fairly convincing, but it leads to the question of how you, personally, define “left” and “right,” and whether you think the meaning of those terms has changed over time. And if the meaning of those terms has changed, is it not semantic to claim the old terms still apply (unless you believe the meaning of “left” and “right” have changed in the past, but are not, right now, in the process of undergoing a new, significant shift)?

        For example, the labor movement has long been associated with “the left,” but that might change as immigration, in most places, becomes the most obvious factor keeping labor supply high. Related, the left in most Western nations today seems very much to have shifted focus away from the blue collar laborers of their own countries (whose commitment to social liberalism may always have been questionable?) to the poor of the world (who may wish to come to Western nations where they’ll often compete with the local blue collar workers)+minorities and women within Western nations.

        Also, though it may be that what most historians define as “the right,” in general, has more of a history of declaring the left-right division to be “over,” and may also tend to be more diverse in the ways it has opposed the sort of universalist vision of the left, I’m not sure I buy the bigger argument that the left changes less, over time, than has the right, if, indeed, that is one you intended. Rather, maybe there tend to be polls coalescing around such issues as universalism-localism, change-tradition, egalitarianism-hierarchy, etc. and currently those forces are coalescing around a more globalist-localist kind of axis, as opposed to say, a capitalist-laborer axis or a traditionalist-revolutionary axis. And these shifting polls, though they may pull in some of the same elements time and again, may also shift coalitions around in ways worth noting?

        • lazydragonboy says:

          Seeing as Conservatism and Liberalism have a genetic component, it seems reasonable to consider Left and Right as to have consistently existed as opposing ideologies, even if the positions of these parties change. According to Moral Foundations theory, which I will admit I am a bit smitten with at the moment, these ideologies use different moral modules to construct theory views; Liberals base their views on the Care/harm, Fairness/proportionality, and liberty/oppression foundations; while Conservatives build on these foundations as well as the Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Sanctity/Purity foundations. Humans’ affinity for these foundations appears to be genetic, so depending (substantially but not entirely) on their innate predisposition, someone will wind up Liberal or Conservative in their era, but their specific views will depend on what positions group members are building on these foundations.

          Note: Apologies if this isn’t totally clear. I am more than a bit sick at the moment, but comment seemed germane, so I wanted to chime in anyway.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Seeing as Conservatism and Liberalism have a genetic component, it seems reasonable to consider Left and Right as to have consistently existed as opposing ideologies, even if the positions of these parties change.

            But we can read books from times when Left and Right didn’t exist. It’s quite clear if you read the Greek Classics that Euripides was progressive, Aristophanes was conservative, and this dichotomy can’t be detected in earlier generations.
            The dichotomy disappears again at some point during the Roman Empire.

          • lazydragonboy says:

            I think Jonathan Haidt would reply that while the traits for conservatism or progressivism are innate, that does not mean the innate traits are activated at any given time. He carefully defines innate so that rather than meaning “something that is true everywhere for everyone,” it means “something that everyone has the preconditions for it to become true given appropriate stimuli.” So finding an esoteric Amazonian tribe that does not exhibit Innate Attribute X does not invalidate Innate Attribute X’s innateness, instead Innate Attribute X was simply not activated/utilized by the esoteric Amazonian tribe.

        • Walter says:

          “I find your general outlines fairly convincing, but it leads to the question of how you, personally, define “left” and “right,”

          My definition is thus-wise:

          Parties, or tribes, are engines. They run off a thing (the reason you bother to be an X is that they make you feel Y), and they produce a thing.

          Left parties run off greed (or rather, wanting things to be different, wanting stuff is like the least important part of it, but there isn’t a punchy one word summation for the hope/greed/desire thing) and produce contempt. Right parties run off fear and produce hatred.

          If you can replace a politicians word bubble with “You think you are better than me?”, he is on the Right. If you can replace the response with “Of course not! (Yes)”, his opponent is on the Left.

          Right side, hands at side, clenched fists, teeth gritted, eyes wild with rage. Left side, hands folder in front, lip twitching with suppressed smirk, eyes hooded and looking at sights unseen.

          It is a vibe much more than it is a set of positions. You see it once you look for it.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            Walter–I find this perspective to be extremely compelling, and I expect it to become a standard part of how I view left-right dichotomies. Thank you.

          • albatross11 says:

            This doesn’t seem to map very well to actual positions of the parties. How does it work with, say, abortion, welfare reform, more regulation of business, gay marriage, and gun control?

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            @ Walter

            I think I understand what you’re going for, and how you got there. In total, I would have to strongly disagree – mostly for the reason that albatross already said.

            That said, I might offer an adjustment.

            There seem to be many different groups with different priorities that join political coalitions. There are some who support specific policies of a particular group, for instance. There are others who are taught to be members of a party by their parents (especially when Machine Politics was prolific).

            I believe that you may be identifying a group (or several groups) of individuals that have certain characteristics:

            1. No specific and obvious link to a political organization a priori.
            2. No guiding policy requirements within their personal lives.
            3. A lack of strong understanding of one or more complex political discussions – often very little true understanding of why people care about the issue.

            There may be more characteristics, but I think that covers what I’m trying to convey.

            Within each side, there are people who have some or all of the characteristics I laid out (or more), but still strongly connect with a particular political party. Your comment seems to be speaking to these groups. If and when individuals are forced to choose between two sides, but they don’t have an obvious choice, I think you may be correct that certain types of tendencies become more prevalent in the left or the right.

            In a less inflammatory way, you could just accept what each side says about themselves. Progressives want to strive for more and better, and tear down institutions that hinder that “progress.” Conservatives want to retain the good in those institutions and are concerned about what could go wrong through “thoughtless destruction.”

            Striving for more could, perhaps uncharitably, be called “greed.” Concern for the destruction of good institutions could certainly be called “fear.” I’m less certain I agree with a universal “this side feels contempt while this side feels hatred” as it seems too narrow and based on 2018 US politics. I doubt that universalizes. I’m pretty sure the Right was feeling more contempt and the Left more hatred back in the 1950s and 60s. Perhaps contempt is the feeling of the dominant group at a particular point in history, while hatred is the subordinate group?

          • Walter says:

            @Joseph Greenwood:

            You are blowing my mind. I have never seen anyone agree with me on the internet before. Are you sure it is allowed?

            @albatross11:

            Abortion is an outlier, it is a backwards issue, and would take a whole post on its own.
            Welfare reform:
            Left, to poor: We will give you more money
            Left, to rich: We will give you the opportunity to help the poor.
            Right: We will protect your money from those lefty thieves!
            Regulation of businesses:
            Left: We will give you more clean air
            Right: We will protect your money from those lefty thieves!
            Gay Marriage:
            Left, to gays: We will give you the right to marry
            Left, to straights: Lets stick it to the bigots
            Right: We will protect marriage from those lefty, uh…vandals!
            Gun Control:
            Left: We will give you a safe society
            Right: We will protect your guns from those lefty thieves!

            If it helps, try to imagine a world where (abortion style) the parties were on the opposite object level sides of the issues. How does the pro-gun left and anti gun right looks?

            @Mr. Doolittle:

            I get where you are going, but I kind of reject the puppet master/minion dichotomy? Like, i don’t think it is about politically active folks manipulating their dupes by appealing to their emotions, it is like, everyone is manipulating by those emotions, the folks with enough free time become the politics guys and the rest just rage.

            I think we are mostly in agreement tho.

            Like, the Left is bigger than the united states left. The Right was no doubt active in Ur. ‘Let’s make it better’ and ‘It is fine’ wear different masks down the ages. I agree with you re: progressives and conservatives, they are the clothes that these ancient forces are currently wearing.

            I agree with you that the hate/fear and contempt/greed engines could swap out over time. I use them for the present, but in another age where the Right was ascendant it might well turn to contempt to maintain its power. I’d change my definitions at that time. For now they are easy ways to put stuff like the Yellow Jacket rioters/protesters on the political scale.

          • Baeraad says:

            This doesn’t seem to map very well to actual positions of the parties. How does it work with, say, abortion, welfare reform, more regulation of business, gay marriage, and gun control?

            I kind of think it does, actually, at least if we accept that one of the things the left is “greedy” for is dignity. Or to put it another way: you can’t smirk at people when life is humiliating and degrading you.

            Abortion? Having Nature declare, entirely without your consent, that you need to act as a walking incubator for nine month is extremely undignified. The process is messy and dehumanising enough in itself, but at least if you choose it freely there is some dignity in that.

            Welfare? Having to scrape and struggle for your daily survival like some sort of filthy animal is very undignified. Survival must be guaranteed, and so must a minimum of civilised comforts.

            Regulation? Those capitalist fat cats are the ones pushing for and benefiting from exactly the sort of dog-eat-dog world that degrades the losers and makes the winners look like brutes – so since we can’t get rid of them without society collapsing (which would make things even worse), let’s at least force as many rules on them as possible to make them behave themselves. Also, a lot of regulations are intended specifically to ensure that workers get to have some dignity.

            Gay marriage… well, that one’s a bit more of a stretch, I’ll grant you, but marriage is about getting to formalise and romanticise your sexual feelings in a way that makes them seem less messy and undignified. And in a wider sense, leftists don’t want gay people to be shamed, because being shamed is undignified.

            Gun control is the most obvious one of all. Leftists want to get to smirk at people? Well, then they definitely don’t want a society where someone might snap and shoot them after one smirk too many, now do they? :p And anyway, violence is definitely messy and undignified.

            I should mention for the record that I support all of the above positions, and at least partly for precisely this reason. Life is out to degrade and humiliate us, and one of the most important things in the world is to minimise the extent to which it’s able to do so.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            @ Walter

            Suppose we use different examples, such as

            Regulation of businesses:
            Right: We will give you economic freedom and prosperity
            Left: We will protect you from the greedy rich

            Do you have evidence that this narrative is less common than your own example?

          • Walter says:

            @WaronReasons:

            (Great name, btw)

            Kind of? Like, my ‘evidence’ is just looking at the way that the parties communicate. The left doesn’t talk about going back to the good old days, or fear the future really at all. Its pitch is much more about giving you a hand up.

            The Right’s pitch (at least in America) is that you always used to have prosperity/success until those filthy leftists rigged the playing field. We will shield you from their cheating and take us into the glorious future of the 1950’s!

            Like, obviously both parties, from time to time, need to get their drones to do whatever. The Right will frame it as protecting what you got / reversing some misfortune. The Left will frame it as improving the world so as to give you whatever.

            Both sides will also include digs at the other party, the left will accuse the right of being stupid/hypocrites/bigots (also sometimes pedophiles, but the big 3 are usually sufficient) and the right will accuse the left of being the left.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The left doesn’t talk about going back to the good old days, or fear the future really at all.

            Except if you don’t give the left power, we’re all going to die from global warming, and the evil racists, sexists, homophobes, islamophobes, transphobes, xenophobes, anti-Semites that are lurking under every bed will come out and Hitler everyone.

            I just think your whole thing is kind of one-sided. I don’t see how you can look at the media coverage over the past few years and not recognize the left does plenty of fear-mongering of their own. Which is entirely unfounded fear-mongering, as Trump’s been in power for two years and nobody’s been holocausted.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The left doesn’t talk about going back to the good old days, or fear the future really at all. Its pitch is much more about giving you a hand up.

            The Right’s pitch (at least in America) is that you always used to have prosperity/success until those filthy leftists rigged the playing field. We will shield you from their cheating and take us into the glorious future of the 1950’s!

            You got that wrong, it’s the Left’s pitch that you used to have prosperity/success until Ronald Reagan passed massive tax cuts for rich people and busted all the labor unions.

          • Nick says:

            The left doesn’t talk about going back to the good old days, or fear the future really at all. Its pitch is much more about giving you a hand up.

            Not to dogpile, but this isn’t my experience either. To be specific, with the election of Trump and the greater success of anti-immigration platforms in Europe, a lot of thinkpieces started showing up about the end of liberal democracy. To say nothing of liberal friends of mine talking about Trump’s election like it was the end of the world.

            This is sounding like a generation gap to me. I’m in my twenties, and I think Conrad and Beta are in their thirties. Are you significantly older than us, Walter?

          • John Schilling says:

            Which is entirely unfounded fear-mongering, as Trump’s been in power for two years and nobody’s been holocausted.

            Be fair; nobody had been holocausted in 1935 either. Not even krystallnachted.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I just turned 40.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            @ Walter

            The Right is not intrinsically nostalgic about the past and the Left does not intrinsically like change. In general, it depends on which side used to hold the power in the past. For example, in the Eastern Europe it is the Communists and their successor parties that appeal to the “good old days” while the economic Right styles itself as the party of the future.

            In the US the Right had mostly been on retreat since 1930s so they are the ones who usually “defend the past” from the Left. That said, I’ve heard far more left-wingers than right-wingers expressing nostalgia about 1950s (mostly in connection with 94% income tax rates).

            the left will accuse the right of being stupid/hypocrites/bigots (also sometimes pedophiles, but the big 3 are usually sufficient) and the right will accuse the left of being the left.

            I’m taking a speculative guess here (and apologies if I’m wrong) but I suspect that you are not a regular reader of the right-wing media sources. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

          • Plumber says:

            “The Left” is hardly a monolith (the PCE fighting the POUM), nor is “The Right” (are Falangist and Libertarians identical?), but to stick to U.S.A. electoral politics both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party claim the 1950’s :

            “Wasn’t it better when unions were strong and the rich paid more taxes?”/”Wasn’t it better before busing and Food Stamps?”

            I’m 50 years old and in my lifetime the Democratic Party has been primarily conservative and then reactionary on economic and labor issues (mostly slowing but not stopping Republican reforms), while the Republicans have squawked a lot about social issues decided in the courts that they have not actually done anything about while they implement radical reactionary economic and labor reforms.

            The sole exception is “Obamacare” when the Democrats actually were progressive for the first time since 1970 or so (EPA and OSHA), and the Republicans actually were conservative (who knew they had it in them?), but now Democrats are back to being conservative/reactionary (except for the “progressive wing” which asks for “Medicare for all” which may happen sometime in my sons lifetime if he’s lucky but I’m doubtful that I’ll live to see), while…

            …I really don’t know what to label Republicans as, just a few years ago they were pro free-trade and military intervention, but now they change so fast I can’t keep track.

            As far as I can tell, except that they often want to keep the world wars/cold war standing army, Republicans seem to favor the 1920’s or even the 1890’s, Democrats mostly just seem to go for the status quo, but they campaign on a variety of years: 1934 to 1941 for peacetime government jobs, 1936 to 1947 for labor laws, 1954 for union density, and 1964 to 1980 for most everything else, except for 2014 Obamacare. 

            As a shorthand I say Democrats want 1973 and Republicans want 1912 with a 1965 military (eh, close enough).

            As for me I’ve mostly seen Republicans campaign on court decided “social” issues (which I think should be decided on by local plebiscite instead) but delivering economic and labor reforms that I’m against, while Democrats campaign on economic and labor issues but only slow the Republican led changes….

            …until Obamacare. 

            I was briefly registered as a Republican, but for most of my adult life I’ve been third-party. 

            While not the changes I’d most like to see, Nancy Pelosi’s party actually made what looked like the first positive legislative change that I can remember in my 50 years of living, and as of 2015 I’m a registered Democrat.

            Now that they have the House back we’ll see if I stay one.

      • I find your general outlines fairly convincing, but it leads to the question of how you, personally, define “left” and “right,” and whether you think the meaning of those terms has changed over time. And if the meaning of those terms has changed, is it not semantic to claim the old terms still apply (unless you believe the meaning of “left” and “right” have changed in the past, but are not, right now, in the process of undergoing a new, significant shift)?

        When we ask whether left and right have changed over time, the answer depends on the level of resolution. Conservatism in 2018 isn’t exactly like conservatism in 1918, but it shares a common thread of objection to the left, which likewise isn’t the same as it once was when you look to the resolution of policies, but fundamentally on the level of principles; the egalitarian project is the same. Conservatism has always focused on an ordered power structure; even libertarian expressions are fundamentally grounded in a celebration of effortful economic hierarchy, whereas moderate leftism wants to tame these hierarchies and radical leftism wants to abolish them.

        What you could say is that if traditional monarchy is the original right wing, and democratic republicanism is the original left wing, then both sides have changed by moving further left over time, minus some upswells by the reactionary right.

        For example, the labor movement has long been associated with “the left,” but that might change as immigration, in most places, becomes the most obvious factor keeping labor supply high. Related, the left in most Western nations today seems very much to have shifted focus away from the blue collar laborers of their own countries (whose commitment to social liberalism may always have been questionable?) to the poor of the world (who may wish to come to Western nations where they’ll often compete with the local blue collar workers)+minorities and women within Western nations.

        This charge goes back aways too. Figures on the right were saying these things back in the ’20s and ’30s. Really there’s been a long post-war lull in the use of labor supporting rhetoric from the mainstream right. Anyway, I’d argue that support for labor on the left isn’t a basic principle but is derived from their support for egalitarianism and justice for the downtrodden. If you want to produce a more equal state of affairs rather than setting an equal standard, then you inevitably have to create a hierarchy of the deserving, so that those you believe have it worse come first on the list and have more effort put in their favor. To be for the poor in a Western context means that you are for the domestic working class, but to be for the poor on a global scale means that you must firstly be for the international working class.

        Also, though it may be that what most historians define as “the right,” in general, has more of a history of declaring the left-right division to be “over,” and may also tend to be more diverse in the ways it has opposed the sort of universalist vision of the left, I’m not sure I buy the bigger argument that the left changes less, over time, than has the right, if, indeed, that is one you intended. Rather, maybe there tend to be polls coalescing around such issues as universalism-localism, change-tradition, egalitarianism-hierarchy, etc. and currently those forces are coalescing around a more globalist-localist kind of axis, as opposed to say, a capitalist-laborer axis or a traditionalist-revolutionary axis. And these shifting polls, though they may pull in some of the same elements time and again, may also shift coalitions around in ways worth noting?

        You might get temporary unexpected alliances, but universalism vs localism isn’t a million miles removed from left vs right anyway. It’s true that you can have a localist anarchist leftist who wants to live in a totally decentralized commune (but he’d likely recognize this as part of a universal vision), or a universalist neoconservative rightist who wants a global empire in all but name (but he’d likely recognize this as part of an exceptionalist vision), but that’s because we are ultimately talking about a categorization system and not a law of physics. However, my argument is that these are exceptions and the right will find more reasons to be localist or nationalist and the left more reasons to be global. The universalist vs localist coalitions do not draw evenly from left and right.

        The localists/nationalists today are conservatives, some centrists, some libertarians, non-descript western chauvinists, various traditionalists, and neo-fascists and white nationalists on the more extreme end, whereas the globalists are progressives, neoliberals, some centrists, some libertarians, and communists and anarcho-communists on the more extreme end. I would say that though both draw from groups on either side, the localist group has more factions from the right and the globalist group has more factions from the left. Ultimately, what I’d expect is that as factions within each larger group fight for dominance, they are going to move towards more of a right or left character based on the factions that define them, as has happened to previous unorthodox movements that drew from different sources.

    • 10240 says:

      The French tend to support a high level of welfare spending and employee “protections” in general. They tend to be statist in general, all the while always distrusting the current government, and opposing changes or reductions in state interventions in the economy. In particular, both the far-left and the far-right tend to be economically left-wing. The left-right distinction means different things in different countries; changes in these political divisions can’t be extrapolated e.g. from France to the US or vice-versa. Furthermore, France has many major parties (unlike the US two-party system), so having many different combinations of ideologies is normal.

      Globalist vs localist is only relevant to a few political issues, so they are at best one axis out of several, if one wants to go into more detail than right vs left. Many issues, such as taxation and redistribution, have nothing to do with globalist vs localist. And my impression is that globalist is mostly a pejorative term used by the nationalist-protectionist right against their opponents in some countries, there isn’t really an actual ideology that can be adequately described as globalism.

      A combination of low taxes and high spending is obviously a contradiction, unless you want to go bankrupt on short order. Nevertheless it’s popular in France, Southern Europe, and other especially economically illiterate countries. It seems to me that in the US, at least, the debate is usually about high taxes + high spending vs low taxes + low spending. Although, high taxes on the rich are also popular in France, and these yellow vests seem to demand high taxes on the rich, and only want to reduce some taxes that affect everyone [more obviously than taxes on the rich].

      I’m skeptical of drawing parallels between developments in different countries. In the US, Trump is protectionist and anti-immigration, but very much capitalist when it comes to domestic economic policy. And, while many compare Brexit to Trump’s election, the UKIP has had mixed stances on free trace, with many statements supporting it.

      • A combination of low taxes and high spending is obviously a contradiction, unless you want to go bankrupt on short order.

        *Keynes twitches in his grave*

        • onyomi says:

          Besides that, the idea, at least for people like the Yellow Vests, I think, is that money saved on foreign intervention/empire can be spent on tax cuts and/or padding the safety net at home. Given the US military budget, it’s sad we seem unable to hear this proposition from anyone closer to the mainstream than Ron Paul and Noam Chomsky.

          • lazydragonboy says:

            Is there an extent to which we are sort of locked into our military budget? Like, if we massively reduced spending, what would be the consequences?

          • johan_larson says:

            Large-scale budget cuts translate into large-scale layoffs. There are currently roughly 1.28 million active-duty service members. If you are planning to cut the budget in half, you are going to have to get rid of something close to half of them. You don’t lightly throw half a million people out of their jobs, particularly with people who know their way around violence. At a minimum you would want to make it a gradual draw-down, probably by being very picky about re-enlistment.

            Also, if we are talking about big cuts in defense spending, like halving the budget or something like that, then it’s not just a matter of doing everything a little bit worse, it’s a matter of abandoning some substantial commitments and letting whatever happens happen.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m a pretty big skeptic of our aggressive foreign policy and most of our military interventions, but I have one big qualm about big cuts to the size of our military: I think an international situation where it’s clear we’ve got the strongest military is more stable than one where it’s not so clear who has the strongest military. If we get to 2030 and it’s not actually clear whether we or China will win an all-out conventional naval war, I think the probability of us getting into such a war goes way up.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I agree with both lazydragonboy and albatross11.

            We can’t shrink the military without shrinking our military commitments. Can we pull everybody out of Afghanistan? Can we pull the 25,000 troops we have out of South Korea? Can we tell Europe “the Cold War is over, so we don’t have interest in NATO any more, you rich countries can fund your own defense against Russia?” The media will crucify anyone who does these things. The media was apoplectic at Trump just for asking NATO to pay their fair share of their defense.

            I would very much like to do all of these things, but then maintain, in-line with what albatross11 says, a military so big and bad that no one will ever mess with us. But that would be an awful lot of cheaper if we were not also the world’s police.

          • bean says:

            Cutting the defense budget in half would force a massive change to our general posture. “Just retire 50% of each type” isn’t going to work because the fixed costs of supporting systems. You’re going to do a lot of damage to the defense industrial base, which is going to go very poorly with Congress. And you’re going to have to massively cut American defense commitments worldwide, which is going to be diplomatically difficult. Having US troops and planes in your country is a really nice guarantee that we’ll be on your side if the balloon goes up, and pulling them out is hard.

            I don’t think there’s a real alternative to the US being the “world’s police”. Freedom of navigation is absolutely vital to us, and we need to defend it at all costs. And having allies is vital, too. It would be nice if Europe was paying more (and the actions of the Germans are particularly shameful, as we paid for their defense for decades and they now refuse to do the same for Poland) but we’re better off if Europe isn’t under Russia’s heel, and it’s a lot cheaper to defend them with a few divisions and a diplomatic commitment than to throw Russia out. The same is pretty much true in Korea, with the added need to stop the South Koreans going North and to keep them playing nice with Japan.

          • albatross11 says:

            Note that there’s a pretty substantial difference between maintaining freedom of navigation and like 99% of the foreign interventions we actually do.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            bean, are there any changes you would make (in either direction) to current US military commitments? Or is this as good as it gets?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Talking about saving money by ending foreign adventurism is a pretty common talking point in both parties, I believe. But it’s just that, because in the US, spending and taxation are highly decoupled no matter what deficit hawks like to think.

          • John Schilling says:

            Is there an extent to which we are sort of locked into our military budget? Like, if we massively reduced spending, what would be the consequences?

            Others have done a good job of outlining some of the consequences. I will note one thing that is not a consequence of massively reduced military spending. Massively reduced military spending does not massively increase our ability to spend on “padding the safety net” or any such thing.

            The United States Government spends roughly six hundred billion dollars per year on the military. It spends roughly two and a half trillion dollars per year on safety-net programs. The states add an additional six hundred billion dollars in safety-net spending, or double that if you include public education. So, completely eliminating the US military, would allow us to increase social-welfare spending by less than twenty percent – much of which would be spent providing welfare to unemployed soldiers and defense contractors, and the rest would probably go to tribute to our new [redacted] overlords. More realistically, every 10% reduction in military spending – and even the first 10% is going to really hurt – adds a whopping 2% to the safety net.

            The United States Government should in this context be modeled as a machine that turns tax dollars and printing-press dollars on social-welfare benefits, with the Pentagon as a minor second-order perturbation and everything else completely irrelevant.

          • bean says:

            @albatross11

            First, separate “foreign interventions” and “foreign commitments”. These are not the same thing. Foreign bases are helpful to our ability to project power. Most specifically, the forward-based units of the Seventh Fleet are on the front lines in containing China, which is important for freedom of navigation, and we can use them a lot more heavily than we can US-based ships. (Maybe a bit too heavily, actually, but that’s a different issue.) Seriously, the neo-isolationst crowd mostly seems to go “well, Afghanistan is an utter mess, and Libya went wrong, so we should just pack in our toys and go home from everywhere.” I’ll agree that the last two decades have taught us a lot about the limits of US power to fix things, but Afghanistan has been a mess since the time of Alexander the Great (maybe we shouldn’t have tried to fix it after we kicked the Taliban out), and Libya and Iraq were both thoroughly screwed up by the Obama Administration, and Iraq is even doing pretty well these days despite that.

            @Conrad

            I’d have to study the issue more carefully before I gave a definite answer. I don’t have a comprehensive picture of what our current commitments are and what they’re doing there. I’m sure our current strategy isn’t optimal (because DoD/Foggy Bottom), but I also think it’s a lot more carefully thought out than is obvious at first glance, and my random tinkering isn’t going to help. I was going to suggest moving USAREUR from Germany into Poland and the Baltics, but they’re down to two combat brigades. We might need to actually move more troops there.

          • Randy M says:

            The United States Government spends roughly six hundred billion dollars per year on the military. It spends roughly two and a half trillion dollars per year on safety-net programs.

            I hear radically different statistics on this, from “Defense is almost negligible compared to social spending” to “Defense is a plurality of spending” (or something close to that).

            I suspect the difference is in using discretionary spending versus absolute numbers. (Some chance the difference is me misremembering arguments, but it’s a common claim that we’d have enough money if only the other side weren’t wasting so much).

          • The Nybbler says:

            Using “discretionary spending” is basically saying “Well, if we disregard all this social spending, defense spending is higher than social spending”.

          • Randy M says:

            And John’s point about state vs federal spending is a good one; states don’t spend much on defense.

          • John Schilling says:

            I suspect the difference is in using discretionary spending versus absolute numbers.

            You can look up how much money the government spends on various things yourself, you know. And drawing a line around some of it and saying “this is non-discretionary!” doesn’t change the amount of money that is being spent on various things. It also doesn’t change the fact that the money only gets spent if congress passes a law every year saying “spend this much on these things”; it’s really just a way of formalizing an agreement among congressmen to not argue about how much money they are going to spend on some those things because their constituents get really scared by such arguments.

            The federal government of the United States spends about six hundred billion dollars a year on defense, and about two and a half trillion dollars a year plus six hundred billion at the state level on (health care + child care + education + unemployment benefits + retirement benefits). This is a brute fact whatever labels you put on it.

          • 10240 says:

            to “Defense is a plurality of spending”

            Plurality just means more than any other category. That can be true if you break up social spending into many tiny categories, while leaving defense as one category.

          • Randy M says:

            Here’s an example
            Look at how much more we spend on Military than anything else, when you cut out “non-discretionary”, individual state spending, and sub divide everything else.

    • Aapje says:

      I think that the left has always had a rather uneasy divide between the elitist leftists with high-minded ideals and the proletariat who mainly care about class interests. The working class have never been that enamored with anti-racism, feminism, environmentalism, animal well-being/vegetarianism, migration, high taxes on them, interventions to help other countries, etc. As a Dutch saying goes: they worry about having some of the month left over at the end of their salary.

      However, for a long time they were appeased by seeing their situation improve, so they were willing to accept some of the elitist hobbies (as long as it didn’t go too far).

      A consequence of meritocracy winning out after WW II was that the inflow of leftist leaders from the lower class stagnated. It used to be that a decent number of the working class were working below their ability. These often got into leadership positions in unions and such and could then transition into politics, where they fought for their class interests.

      Once this stagnated, the leftist leadership became more dominated by cultural, rather than economic leftists, shifting the balance of power. So the leadership started caring less about the well-being (or even the problems of) the working class and more about high-minded ideals.

      A related problem is that the gains of the traditional leftist solutions for helping the lower class were increasingly exhausted. Education couldn’t be made much more accessible and/or there was fairly little untapped potential to be exploited, redistribution efforts began running into problems with ruining motivation & giving huge opportunities for fraud, etc, etc. This weakened the remaining economic leftists in the leftist leadership even more.

      Enter Macbeth third way politics, neoliberalism or whatever you want to call it. This was a break of the cultural leftists with the economic leftists. Instead, they crossed the aisle to work with the more libertarian rightists. Instead of positive liberty, it became more about negative liberty: removal of obstacles. This aligned very well with some of the interests of the leftist elite, like anti-racism, feminism, migration and interventions, which came to the forefront.

      Third way politics turned out to be anti-working class in many ways. It created a precariat, encouraged ‘hard’ capitalism with low morals and in general was designed around the needs and desires of high-g people.

      It took some time for the working and lower middle class to realize that these leftist politicians who still claimed to be fighting for their interests, in reality were not doing so. Hence the current backlash and flailing, as these people are feeling betrayed, abused and abandoned & have great trouble with forming a new ideology or fielding capable leaders to fight for their interests. Again, this is because meritocracy has robbed the working and lower middle class of smart people.

      • Aapje says:

        The above is of course a simplification. There are other things that played a role, like the disappearance of industry from the cities, which made industry workers much more of an outgroup to the blue tribe.

      • onyomi says:

        this is because meritocracy has robbed the working and lower middle class of smart people

        This is a very interesting point and relates to another issue I was thinking about recently, which is the extent to which “giving an opportunity (scholarship, affirmative action, etc.) to member of poor community (could be poor group within country or citizen of poor country given opportunity to live and work in rich country) will uplift the whole community” really works.

        I think it is kind of just taken for granted that giving members of poorer communities opportunities to work and educate themselves among richer communities will naturally have positive spillover effects for the places from which they came, since maybe now they have money to send home, capital to invest back home, and, seemingly most important of all, the story seems to go, they’ll impart the upper class/first world attitudes/knowledge to their relatives and neighbors.

        Less often discussed, maybe especially within nations, it seems, is the whole effect of “brain drain”–that is, by giving the smartest, most hard-working members of every underprivileged community the opportunity to join the elites, the underprivileged community also loses some of its best members.

        Both are kind of plausible, and I’d be interested to see if anyone has links to e.g. studies actually attempting to measure this. My vague, subjective impression is that while you get the occasional inspirational story about “local boy makes good; returns to hometown to open schools and fund scholarships,” most people who manage to pull themselves up from a poor background are not necessarily eager to move back to West Virginia, Compton, or Bangladesh and devote themselves to building up the institutions of those places. Then again, statistics I’ve seen do seem to show incredible reductions in third world poverty over recent decades, so maybe such things are working (though that could be due entirely to other reasons). Less optimistic it’s working in the case of poorer neighborhoods, counties, etc. within e.g. the US, but could also be wrong there?

        • Aapje says:

          I think that these effects heavily depend on (sub)culture (both of the sending and receiving side), so any studies will only tell you what happened for the specific combination of cultures that existed at the time of the study.

          It does seem to me that people will rarely move back to use their expertise unless they specifically went abroad to study and thus didn’t really migrate; or if they merely do season labor and never gave up their ‘real’ home. Once they actually migrate, it seems much more common that they only send money. However, corruption and other organizational problems often seem to be far bigger problems than a lack of money, so having smart people leave to be replaced by donations may be a poor deal. Was Ireland helped by the diaspora money going to the IRA?

          On the other hand, the majority of Dutch Turks seem to have a second home in Turkey. In theory, this means that they might put pressure on the Turkish government and civilians to cater more to their Europeanized sensibilities. Then again.

          • lazydragonboy says:

            Is that source reliable, this looks onion-esque (take pity on me, I’m trapped behind the Great Firewall).

          • Aapje says:

            It’s a personal website for some ex-Muslim, so not reliable at all. It was a bit of a cheeky link.

            However, things don’t exactly seem to be going in the right direction in Turkey.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think one part of this split is built-in.

            At one point, most people didn’t get advanced education or many opportunities for a high prestige/high income job, even if they had the ability, because of their birth. Then, lots of highly able people–smart, driven folks who would make first-rate leaders–got factory jobs and became active in the union and labor party and such.

            At some later point, those guys largely won the battle, and advanced education and a path to personal wealth and prestige became available to just about anyone with the ability to take advantage of them. And then, those natural leaders got put in the advanced classes in high school even though their parents were pipefitters or steelworkers, and they ended up going to college and getting high-end degrees and jobs–they became engineers and lawyers and accountants and doctors and such. But the result is that those same smart people were no longer stuck in the working class, and so didn’t see their friends and their personal interests as being bound tightly to the plight of the working class. The leaders who remained for that movement were either outsiders (educated elites who supported labor for intellectual reasons) or less capable insiders who weren’t bright or driven enough to benefit from those opportunities.

            We solved one problem (people denied opportunities because of their parents’ social class) and got a new one (few natural leaders among the people at the bottom).

        • lazydragonboy says:

          Less often discussed, maybe especially within nations, it seems, is the whole effect of “brain drain”–that is, by giving the smartest, most hard-working members of every underprivileged community the opportunity to join the elites, the underprivileged community also loses some of its best members.

          I remember an article my little brother sent me about a formerly black community near Cupertino that lost a lot of it’s most intelligent and educated members when redlining ended. Then, with the loss of their most educated and intelligent members they weren’t able to…I don’t remember. Something with eminent domain or getting screwed on a school deal or maybe just gentrification or something. The thesis as I remember it was that the community and its ability to represent itself got gutted when it’s most highpowered members we able to pull up stakes and leave.

      • Walter says:

        I’m not eloquent enough to phrase it right, but there is something about the Left where it is a bunch of white guys saying that white guys need to shut up and let someone else talk…over and over.

        Like, there is a split between givers and receivers, that both sides are aware of and can’t talk exactly about and sometimes bubbles up in weird ways.

        I can’t put it into words, but it feels like you are sort of poking the same fault line.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @Aapje, @onyomi

        Have either of you read The Rise of the Meritocracy by Michael Young? He kind of predicted this, and has what I think is the most interesting criticism of meritocracy I’ve seen. Most criticisms of it are that it doesn’t work – that it’s in principle workable, but in practice it’s rigged – or that the idea of some people having more “merit” than others is unacceptable, impossible, etc. His criticism was that meritocracy works too well and thus deprives the working classes of effective leadership: all the smart people are peeled off to go to university and become white-collar workers or whatever.

      • Again, this is because meritocracy has robbed the working and lower middle class of smart people.

        Have you read The Bell Curve? It makes some related points about the effect of meritocracy.

      • Plumber says:

        @Aapje

        “….this is because meritocracy has robbed the working and lower middle class of smart people….”

        How, where, and when?

        Most of the time “the Meritocracy” seems to be used for “college graduates”, okay fine.

        How my little brother got to go to college and then get a white-collar job free from heavy lifting:

        1) He met a girl.

        2) She was going to college. 

        3) Her parents paid for her living expenses. 

        4) He moved in with her, they got married. 

        5) She paid his living expenses. 

        6) Since he didn’t have to work he took some “community college” remedial classes.

        7) He transferred to SF State, took political science as a major, then our family kicked in for tuition, books, etc cetera. 

        8) Her parents gave them a home in Maryland. 

        9) He got a job with the State of Maryland (which his father in-law worked for)

        10) His life is gravy.

        How I “went to college”:

        1) I used to sneak into the libraries at U.C. when I was in High School (when I got older they stopped me)

        2) I saw a Laney Community College schedule of summer classes. 

        3) I took a class during the summer (Radio Technology Lab).

        4) When I tried to take another I was told “Your under 18, you weren’t supposed to be able to take that class, you need to get written permission from your high school or turn 18 before you can take anymore classes”

        5) I wenf to my high school’s office to get written permission where I was told “Sure, just sign up to take a test on a Saturday a block from school”

        6) I took a test called “The California High Proficiency Exam” (it was long but easy).

        7) My high school told me “Now thaf you’ve passed the CHSPE you can’t took anymore of ouf classes”

        8) I took two more classes (Cultural Anthropology and European History) at Laney. 

        9) I turned 18 and my mother told me “You’re not living in this house just to go to that ghetto school, get a job and pay rent”

        10) I returned to Laney years later signed up for a welding class and practiced welding while I was in-between jobs and living on UI, which would end when my union dispatched me to a job.

        11) Even though I’m only three years and one month older than my brother I look and move like some at least a decade older.

        How my wife went to college:

        1) Her parents paid her way.

        How my mom went to college:

        1) It was free then and it was easy for her to just work three months and earn enough to live for a year because rent was cheap and wages were high in the 1960’s!

        I got far better high school grades than my brother, it wasn’t his “smarts” it was his luck that got him a diploma denied me.

        Many times I’ve read of how a person in the top third of their high school in grades but in the bottom third of parental income has less of a chance of earning a college diploma than someone with the bottom third in grades but who’s parents are in the top third of income in the U.S.A.

        Merit?

        Smarts? 

        That’s called privilege.

        Don’t pat yourselves on the back on your “smarts” and “merit” so hard, you’ll hurt yourselves. 

        Some suggestions before calling it a “Meritocracy”

        1) Provide teachers who answer the questions of high school students, and high schools where you don’t get punched unconscious. 

        2) Equal access to college by providing living expenses.

        That would be a start.

        • lazydragonboy says:

          You might really like the book Dream Hoarders. The author defines the US as an unfair meritocracy; it is meritocratic, but access to merit creating opportunities is unequally distributed.

        • Aapje says:

          @Plumber

          My point is not about the well-being of individuals, but about political representation for the working class.

          I agree that, after a major increase in accessibility after WW II, it has become harder for the last few decades for the working class to get a college education, so we may be seeing a gradual restoration of a critical mass of smart people in the working class. Getting access to the ruling elite is a slow path, so the current politicians were students many decades ago.

          Ironically, the adoption of classic liberalism by the left has made socialist solutions more viable to improve the situation of the working class in the short/medium term. Although the issue remains how to ensure that in a more meritocratic society, the less capable do get their needs and desires catered to somewhat fairly.

          Having oscillations seems undesirable. Then one generation gets an easy path to wealth and power, who then pull up the drawbridge, screwing later generations, who then fight to ease the path and lower the drawbridge, where the beneficiaries then pull up the drawbridge, etc. This screws over some generations.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I am fairly sure that people who advocate meritocracies define merit as some function of talent and motivation, with (financial) resources being a secondary factor. (It should count for something, because it motivates people to provide for their friends and family while they’re still discovering the other two.)

          A proper meritocrat in their world would have noticed this high school student working unusually hard at college level material, inferred that they would someday provide a massive return on investment, and offered some type of scholarship. So if you’re motivated, smart, poor, but in a meritocracy, and this didn’t happen, it’s not that the meritocracy is innately flawed, but rather that it’s failing to discover you for some mundane reason.

          • acymetric says:

            If failure to identify such people isn’t a failure of a flawed meritocracy, what is it a failure of? Motivated, smart people falling through the cracks in a meritocracy certainly seems like a failure mode of meritocracy to me, even if the reasons for them falling through the cracks are mundane reasons.

          • Aapje says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            I think that a lot of people would separate talent and motivation into the innate part and a part caused by circumstance & would favor seeking to equalize the latter part (so smart people who grew up in a shitty environment still have a decent chance at success).

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @acymetric:

            If failure to identify such people isn’t a failure of a flawed meritocracy, what is it a failure of? Motivated, smart people falling through the cracks in a meritocracy certainly seems like a failure mode of meritocracy to me, even if the reasons for them falling through the cracks are mundane reasons.

            The difference is whether those mundane reasons are built in to meritocracy. If I didn’t notice your merit because of my staunch commitment to meritocracy, then meritocracy is failing. If I didn’t notice your merit because I mistakenly equated meritocracy with ability to attend an Ivy League university, then my implementation is failing, and meritocracy is fine (or at least, this case is not evidence of its failure).

            @Aapje:

            I think that a lot of people would separate talent and motivation into the innate part and a part caused by circumstance & would favor seeking to equalize the latter part (so smart people who grew up in a shitty environment still have a decent chance at success).

            I can certainly understand wanting to equalize circumstance, but again, you’ll then wind up with highly meritorious people producing less resources to fund causes and people that they care about. They’ll instead coast and rely on resources delivered to them by the Circumstance Equalization System.

            Maybe the answer is to find the sweet spot at which to tune the CES, but there’s no consensus on where it is, and a lot of motivation to set it way over to one side.

          • acymetric says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            I think we’re talking past each other a bit. I’m not saying that the concept of meritocracy inherently has those flaws, but that a given actual implementation probably will because of who is implementing it (us).

            Put another way, it is fairly easy to imagine people who are in favor of meritocracies, but firmly opposed to the meritocracy we live in because it is at least partially broken (it is easy for me to imagine at least, because it describes me). Saying “well then it isn’t a real meritocracy” is cheating, because these are the real-world problems that need to be solved for meritocracies.

            It then comes down to 3 questions for me:

            1) How much “slipping through the cracks” (or its inverse, unearned success) is acceptable? Presumably getting it to 0% is impossible, but where is the line? This gets into some utilitarian cost/benefit analysis (does sorting people more accurately by merit cost more than the value it brings) as well as some ethical issues (even if the costs outweigh the benefits, is doing the “ethical” thing of more accurate sorting still the preferred outcome)?

            2) Once #1 has been resolved (good luck!), what can be done to achieve this? Maybe things like anti-corruption/anti-nepotism laws. Better research into evaluating suitability for given roles to prevent both underemployment and overemployment. Something more novel?

            3) How do you handle the people that end up on the bottom? Let them crash and burn? Find some way to keep the floor from being “too low”? This is where the discussions about UBI, universal jobs, welfare, charity, etc. come in. This is really a problem whether you have solved 1 or 2 I suppose.

            Of course, any of those three points is going to be a giant culture war issue and we’ve certainly discussed all of them extensively and without end in sight here. I certainly don’t advocate scrapping meritocracy entirely and starting over, but I do think we need to acknowledge that there are places where it falls short, especially when talking about class issues, opportunity, and odds of success for various groups.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’m not saying that the concept of meritocracy inherently has those flaws, but that a given actual implementation probably will because of who is implementing it (us).

            Well, I said that based on your saying “people falling through the cracks in a meritocracy certainly seems like a failure mode of meritocracy to me”. If you’d replaced “failure mode of meritocracy” with “failure mode of this specific implementation of meritocracy”, I would definitely have agreed with that claim.

            If you want to talk about an alternative implementation of meritocracy, then your alternatives are probably going to be what I think of as modifications to the existing implementation, as opposed to wholesale replacement.

            But enough of me being pedantic:

            1) How much “slipping through the cracks” (or its inverse, unearned success) is acceptable? Presumably getting it to 0% is impossible, but where is the line?

            My usual rule of thumb is to build based on the cost of discovering errors. Suppose we’re running the system. If poor meritorious or wealthy unmeritorious people fall into our laps, we fix ’em. If we’d have to spend $2M hunting for $1M worth of false readings, we bag it and declare the system is running well enough. If other people (activists, journalists, etc.) want to spend their own money hunting, or figuring out cheaper ways to hunt, we’ll take their research for free and fix what they find. If we suspect they’re being selective, we won’t care. If we suspect they’re lying, we’ll reject what they find, or spend a smaller amount of money double-checking, depending on the estimated cost / benefit.

            “Ethical” won’t really figure into it. Different people have different ethics; let them spend their own resources accordingly. Our system runs only from the data everyone agrees on.

            2) Once #1 has been resolved (good luck!), what can be done to achieve this? Maybe things like anti-corruption/anti-nepotism laws. Better research into evaluating suitability for given roles to prevent both underemployment and overemployment.

            I was speaking more from us running a private institution, not a public one. So there won’t be laws; just policies. If we’re some government agency, we can peel off $X million for general research, where X depends on population size and expected benefit. And I’d still prefer policies over laws; the former are more lightweight. The cheaper it is to set and implement rules, the more and better rules you can set up, and the more people you’ll save or avoid giving unnecessary aid.

            3) How do you handle the people that end up on the bottom? Let them crash and burn? Find some way to keep the floor from being “too low”? This is where the discussions about UBI, universal jobs, welfare, charity, etc. come in.

            The bottom is usually well defined. People there are cheap to find and help. Just get in a car and cruise the underpasses, alleys, and church steps.

            The Tough Question is what to do with them once you find them. What counts as help? What if it costs more than the budget allows? What if they don’t want to be helped? What if they’re unhelpable? If we define merit as motivation + talent + circumstance, and the first two terms are low enough, the third term may still leave you with a negative number.

            This shouldn’t have to be a culture war issue if the system is reasonably transparent. Just flat out report that we found five homeless at the corner of Fifth and Mercator, one has a cocaine addiction, one is sixty-five and diabetic, two are borderline schizophrenics, and one speaks no English but seems to enjoy playing the guitar and might have some math chops, who’s hiring, okay, you sir, we’ll spend $300 showering and dressing him and send him over, now the other four show no marketable skills, and will cost $1000 per month per person to shelter and feed indefinitely, and the diabetic will cost another $200 on top for insulin, here’s the Patreon we set up for each, anything short of that gets paid for out of our budget, but when that hits zero we WILL put them back on the corner in order of unpaid cost, and here’s the counter for that. And by the way, the diabetic demands to stay out on the corner, do we want to abridge his rights? Because at that point, we will need a law, or someone willing to pay him enough to leave that corner.

            These strike me as worthwhile discussions. My regret is that I don’t know policy well enough to turn any of this into real action. It sounds like the sort of thing that could feed some EA program, though.

          • Aapje says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            In practice you can practically never completely fix a system, though. What I see that if people try to maximize one value, they start accepting enormous downsides to chase marginal gains in that value. Not rarely, those downsides interfere with the value they try to maximize, so that even the things they try to maximize are actually not maximized at all. Then if their ideology is dogmatic, where they believe the (false) theory over measurements/fact, it can get very bad.

            So then the realistic choice is to accept that only a certain level of meritocracy is possible, where too much focus on meritocracy runs into such problems as Goodhart’s law.

            Ultimately, I think that accepting non-perfection is one of the most important values that people should have.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            If merit were in fact a single value to maximize, I think I’d easily agree with you. However, I really don’t see merit that way. To me, it’s more like a vector, I suppose, with hundreds of components, and one that its bearer has a lot of control over if they themselves want to change one or two components. Merit includes how good you are at several hundred things you could be doing that the market demands. You could be good at writing Atlantic articles, or analyzing HR’s Access database, or harvesting tangerines, or logging in east Texas, or teaching ninth grade math, or any of hundreds of other things. Some are hard for someone to raise; some are easier. They can’t raise everything that’s easy, because that’s too much time and energy, but if they know which three or so to raise, that’s still easy.

            So if someone is losing at the merit game, my sense is that it’s largely because they don’t know which three elements of merit they need. And the system doesn’t know which things to demand until they know what’s easy for that person, which in turn requires the system knowing who it is.

            My sense, then, is that in meritocracies, knowing is much more than half the battle.

        • albatross11 says:

          One big impact reading _The Bell Curve_ had on me was to make me realize that my intelligence was probably mostly due to stuff outside my control–genes, early childhood environment, developmental noise, whatever. And so I couldn’t take credit for it, anymore than some dude with an inherited title of nobility could take credit for having that open doors for him all his life. When you absorb this, you also see that an intelligence-based meritocracy may be good for getting good outcomes, but it’s not really inherently any more fair than a title-of-nobility-based meritocracy where Lord Jones and Count Johnson get all the opportunities and have much easier lives than everyone else.

    • Thomas Jørgensen says:

      The actual fault line that matters is “No More Austerity”. Halt austerity, and the public rage will subside.

      The rest of the so called issues are side shows to the general rage at a political order that let the rich plunder the public coffers while squeezing everyone else.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Where is there austerity?

      • Why would public rage subside when at least half the (politically active) public are conservatives rather than progressives?

        • Thomas Jørgensen says:

          Because conservatives do not feel any actual rage over deficits. They may not like them, but it is a weak preference. You can tell this by the fact that Regan is not considered a traitor to conservatism.

        • But what I mean is that even if leftists stopped raging because austerity ended (?) and then the right didn’t care enough about deficits to rage about that (?), then public rage would still continue because the right would be angry about other issues like immigration and so on.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            No. Because immigration is not what they are actually angry about, they are angry about tight labor markets, that they then blame on immigrants. nobody gave a farthing about immigrant workers during the Glorious Thirty Years when unemployment essentially did not exist, and that was a period with a whole lot of immigration.

            What I am saying is, that if politicians decided to actually try to do something about unemployment, and smacked down the central banks when they try to bring unemployment back, this entire social problem will evaporate like morning dew in the Sonaran Desert.

            Unemployment currently exists because central banks slam on the brakes the second it looks like it will drop “too far”. They call this “Concern about wage pressure” but they still do it when inflation is 0.3 percent per year. Which.. That is a level of professional malpractice that should get them sacked. With actual Sacks.

            The Natural Rate of Unemployment is nil. Actually existing unemployment is policy.

          • baconbits9 says:

            nobody gave a farthing about immigrant workers during the Glorious Thirty Years when unemployment essentially did not exist, and that was a period with a whole lot of immigration.

            Which 30 year period was this and in which countries?

          • The Natural Rate of Unemployment is nil.

            You are saying that, absent misdeeds by central banks, nobody would ever quit a job or be fired unless he had another job waiting that he could step into?

          • Aapje says:

            You are saying that, absent misdeeds by central banks, nobody would ever quit a job or be fired unless he had another job waiting that he could step into?

            And also that there are no people with such mental or physical disabilities that they cannot produce enough value?

    • Ketil says:

      Is this person (and, by extension, Nassim Taleb, assuming he endorses the RT) right that global political fault lines have shifted from a left-right or liberal-conservative axis to a globalist-localist axis?

      Which person? But I would tend to agree, or at least say that globalist-localist is a different faultline that is becoming more pronounced. The right-left division was important during the cold war, but is less marked now, perhaps especially in Europe where we all agree to have mildly conservative social democracies run mostly-market-oriented economies.

      If you look at the localist movements, they are a mix of a) farmers, who want subsidies and market protection from cheap imported produce, b) socialists/leftists, who are against neo-liberal globalists who plunder the poor and hide their fortunes in tax havens, and c) blue-collar workers who want protection from immigrant labor, and d) conservatives with nationalist tendencies, who worry about ceding national sovereignty to foreign powers – to mention some. One could probably make a similar list for globalists as well, but the point is that this crosses traditional left-right boundaries.

    • SamChevre says:

      The left-right definition I find most helpful is cribbed from Corey Robin and Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.

      The left is opposed to small-scale status/power hierarchies, including local governments, traditional (patriarchal) families, businesses with significant arbitrary power over employees, religions that serve as social powers, and so on. It’s the old French Revolution opposition to “corporations”–which didn’t mean limited stock companies. The goal is to have equal individuals; the corollary is that this means a very powerful state with no mediating institutions.

      The right is (in principle) in favor of small-scale power hierarchies. The goal is to have lots of mediating institutions, and a very limited set of items where the state is the only relevant institution.

      From another perspective, the left is in favor of voice as the primary control on power; the right is in favor of exit.

      • mdet says:

        “The left is in favor of voice as the primary control on power; the right is in favor of exit.”

        +1 for New and Original Idea (as far as I know)

        • The Nybbler says:

          Which is strange, because it’s the right which is generally considered to be in favor of hierarchy and the left which opposes, and only those with high status get meaningful voice, while exit is available to anyone.

          • acymetric says:

            I would argue that neither is available to anyone. Meaningful voice requires status, exit requires means.

          • mdet says:

            “The left is in favor of voice as the primary control on power” + “Only those with high status get meaningful voice” = The left wants people without power to have high status.

            Sounds like a Turing-test-passing description of the (social justice) left to me.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “The left is in favor of voice as the primary control on power” + “Only those with high status get meaningful voice” = The left wants people without power to have high status.

            Sounds like a Turing-test-passing description of the (social justice) left to me.

            Status very easily converts to soft power (hard power is more like martial skill + auctoritas to get away with using it). “Make the powerless the most soft-powerful” seems astonishingly hard to implement.

            Oh, and the Church has 2,000 years institutional experience trying and claims to be helped by the omniscient form of the Good.

          • Exit requires entrance somewhere else, so exit is not available to all. Not all immigrants are equally welcomed.

          • The Nybbler says:

            No, there’s almost always the option of exit without entrance to somewhere else, unless the state is going to extreme circumstances to prevent it.

          • SamChevre says:

            @forward synthesis

            You are thinking of “exit” in terms of countries; I am thinking of it much more broadly, as exit from a particular instance of any institution. In general, you can exit an institution without entering another.

            For example, a significant number of people separate or divorce, and don’t remarry. You can stop going to church altogether, rather than changing churches. And etc.

          • onyomi says:

            @Nybbler

            Part of the reason I am more right-wing than left-wing is because I think hierarchy in a very general sense (parents-children, students-teachers, managers-employees) is necessary and good. Another major part of it is that the left’s supposed commitment to equality seems, in practice, to usually result in hollowing out the middle, not uplifting the bottom.

            Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to work out this way as much in Europe as compared to the US, South America and most of the rest of the world other than Japan and South Korea. Personally I suspect it has to do with the size, wealth, homogeneity, and cultural attitudes of a nation (successful social equalizing through e.g. transfer programs is much more easily achieved in a relatively small, homogeneous nation than a large, diverse one, I suspect). Maybe I would be more left-wing if I were European/maybe this also helps explain what to me is the long-inexplicable tendency of Europeans to be very left-wing as compared to Americans.

            Related, I suspect/have been told that a reason for many of the differences between US and European politics is that the US never had a really strongly stratified, hereditary hierarchy, and so are more likely than most people to believe the rich and powerful deserve it. If Helmut Schoeck is right (and I think he is) that control of envy is a big prerequisite for civilizational success, this could also be a contributing factor to the US’s historic economic success.

          • and only those with high status get meaningful voice

            That’s the reason to reject the left’s view.

            If a decision is being made for all of us, there is no way that more than a tiny number of people can have a significant influence on it. If one decision is made for me, another for three of your, another … it is at least possible to set things up so that each of us has substantial control over the decisions that matter.

            The voice idea is the idea that what the government does is all right because it’s us doing it. Why is it us? Because each of us gets a vote.

            One out of two hundred and some million.

          • exit requires means.

            Almost everyone has the means to exit from many of his relationships–to buy groceries at a different grocery store, eat at a different restaurant, work for a different employer.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            If a decision is being made for all of us, there is no way that more than a tiny number of people can have a significant influence on it. If one decision is made for me, another for three of your, another … it is at least possible to set things up so that each of us has substantial control over the decisions that matter.

            In a large, very interconnected society, very many decisions will impact large numbers of people, if only because of externalities. So why should a small group of people then have a significant influence? Why is it not the most just for all those people to have a small influence?

            Ultimately, your argument can just as easily be used to argue against the free market and/or globalism. When you offer a good at a competitive price, you drive down prices for potentially millions of billions of people. When you migrate to another country, you impact the job market for potentially very many people.

            Now, your bias is that you favor free markets and globalism and disfavor government, so you don’t make the same argument in that case, but this makes you inconsistent, selectively applying this argument to things you dislike.

            If you truly want significant influence on the things that impact your life, then the only remedy is living in a small isolated community, so your behavior and the behavior of others, impacts few. So then the influence of any of the people in the community is significant. As soon as you scale society up, expanding interactions greatly, your only choices are equal small influence by all participants, a dictator with high influence while others are denied it, or something in between. There is no option for many to have significant influence over many.

          • In a large, very interconnected society, very many decisions will impact large numbers of people, if only because of externalities.

            Most market decisions have private costs and benefits much larger than the external costs and benefits. The one significant exception is …

            When you offer a good at a competitive price, you drive down prices for potentially millions of billions of people.

            Those are what economists refer to as pecuniary externalities. When I offer that good, I am benefiting potentially millions of people buying that good (at a slightly lower price), at the cost of millions of people selling it. Unless you have some reason to think that the welfare of sellers is more important than the welfare of buyers, that’s a net effect of zero.

            Your more general point about an interdependent society is, as it happens, how I started my first book.

            We live in a complicated and interdependent society; each of us is constantly affected by events thousands of miles away, occurring to people he has never heard of. How, in such a society, can we meaningfully talk about each person being free to go his own way?

            The answer I gave there was that a market society lets the individual in an interdependent system come very close to the life of self-regarding action of the individual settler in the wilderness, because prices transmit costs. Anything he does involves costs to others, but as long as he has to pay for their cooperation–hire someone to do work, buy inputs–he is not imposing a net cost on them.

            In the ordinary private market transaction, the net externalities of your choice might be a few percent of the private costs and benefits. In the political market, the net externality is rarely as low as 99% of the costs and benefits.

      • onyomi says:

        Very interesting connection and relates also to the issue of nation-state size, with the left/today’s “globalists” tending to prefer ever greater unity/standardization among political units and the right/today’s “localists” advocating e.g. Brexit, Frexit, etc.

        David Friedman has a great article on the size of nation states as a function of the value of taxes on land, labor, and trade that can be collected. His thesis, if I’ve got it right, is that a high value of land (rents) tends to result in smaller nations because being politically connected to other lands does not greatly increase the value of rents that can be collected on it, whereas a high value of labor and/or trade tends to result in larger nations because, e.g. the total value of taxable trade across one large area (like the “Silk Road”) tends to be greater than the sum of its parts divided into smaller jurisdictions, and larger nations reduce the mobility of labor (effectively reducing “exit” power) simply by virtue of being larger.

        Maybe an oversupply of labor caused by third-world immigration is currently pressuring first-world nations to decrease in size as the value of land/rents increases relative to the value of human labor (automation could also have an effect)? Pushing against this is the high value of global trade enable by institutions like the EU, but as population grows, maybe the upward pressure on value of land, especially in dense areas like Western Europe, more than makes up for it, especially when the free trade is hampered by a lot of regulation, as it seems to be in the EU, and the economics is very imbalanced (not many first-worlders move to the third world relative to the reverse)?

    • One would expect policies to reduce CO2 emissions to be supported by globalists and opposed by localists. Insofar as reducing them provides a benefit, it is a benefit shared with the rest of the world, paid for by the country that does it—just what localists should be against.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        I don’t think that’s fair – the perceived marginal benefit may be low compared to the perceived absolute benefit, but the latter may still be high. Additionally, the assumption is usually that public money is not being spend to fight climate change because the government is too busy kowtowing to the Americans, Chinese, and/or multinational corporations, or on fighting foreign wars (for the benefit of the same). They may be wrong, but I don’t think they’re necessarily inconsistent.

    • Anon. says:

      On shifting political fault lines, I can’t recommend this highly enough: Piketty, Rising Inequality and the Changing Structure of Political Conflict.

  6. DragonMilk says:

    Slow Cooker and Cast iron skillet tips?

    I got both this weekend and utilized both:

    1. On the slow cooker, I was amazed that carrots could shrink so much. What is “high” vs “low” for, and what things can you leave in overnight?
    2. On cast iron, I for some reason thought they were “naturally nonstick” but I don’t see how. Tried to fry rice and had to turn it into risotto because the rice formed a socarrat-like caking of the bottom and heat would not come through efficiently.

    On the other hand I did learn how to make a good pasta sauce by buying heavy cream for the first time ever (whipping cream I’m guessing is different from whipped cream?)

    Thanks!

    • secondcityscientist says:

      Main advice for cast-iron skillets (assuming you got an unseasoned one) is DON’T wash it with soap after you’ve seasoned it. If you haven’t yet, read something about seasoning a skillet – basically, coat it in fat and put it in the oven for a while. If you need to clean it run it under hot water and scrape stuff off with a piece of plastic. It will become more non-stick with time and repeated use. Soap will wash away the season. It won’t ever become totally non-stick, though.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Oof….
        It came seasoned but my fiancee washed it with soap and water after my first dish.

        Sounds like I’ll vegetable oil it up and oven it

      • Lambert says:

        Modern soap is fine to use on pans.
        It’s only lye-based soaps that attack the layer of seasoning.
        So all the non-medievalists here don’t need to worry.

    • Did you season the cast iron, or was it already seasoned? That’s what makes it somewhat non-stick.

      • DragonMilk says:

        It came seasoned…but fiancee washed with soap and water before I made my rice dish, so this explains a lot.

        • Well... says:

          NEVER wash it with soap. If possible I just wipe it “clean” with a paper towel. If there is stuff kinda baked onto it I’ll use hot water and an old credit card or something to scrape it off, then immediately dry it before putting it away.

          • toastengineer says:

            The “never wash with soap” thing is outdated; don’t wash it with drain cleaner but regular soap is fine. Unless it’s stainless steel, in which case don’t use stainless steel.

            The problem is they come with a factory seasoning that isn’t very good. If you’re HARDCORE you strip that off and bond your own to the metal with linseed oil.

          • Well... says:

            Outdated?! Nonsense. I never use soap on my cast iron pans, and that heuristic still works fine for them.

    • Phigment says:

      High vs. Low on a slow cooker is for cooking things somewhat slowly or extremely slowly. It’s not really a strongly scientific things.

      Basically, I think of high vs. low for my slow cooker as “do I want to eat this in four to eight hours, or in eight to sixteen hours?”

      Pot roasts, stews, and chili are all things I typically put in the night before and leave going on low until lunch the next day.

      Beans, and bean-based soups, I am more likely to put on early in the morning and run on high to have at lunch time. Beans don’t seem to consistently get as done as I like, and there’s no such thing as an al dente bean.

      Almost anything can be left overnight safely, as long as you have the heat on; it’s not going to spoil or grow bacteria while it’s cooking, although it may turn into sludge. You can leave a stew cooking for weeks, as long as you keep the heat on and the fluid level topped up, and keep adding ingredients when it runs low. It’ll just get better and better. Pass it down to your children when you die, and tell them to keep it topped up and give it to their children.

      If you stop cooking it, though, then you need to refrigerate.

      • lazydragonboy says:

        Bit of warning though. If you try slow cooking meat and then try slow cooking bones, and then wind up eating the bones, that can get weird. Make sure the meat you buy is good enough quality that you want to be eating the bones. Otherwise the consequences can be unpleasant.

    • littskad says:

      1. Carrots do indeed have a lot of water in them. High will tend to cook things 2 to 3 times faster than low. Overnight, you’ll want to use low, probably. You can put just about anything overnight, so long as you have enough liquid in it. In the winter, I like to put oats in overnight on low to have oatmeal ready and waiting for me when I get up in the morning.

      2. You have to season your cast iron before you use it. If you haven’t done so, clean it thoroughly now with soap and water, dry it really well, put a thin layer of vegetable oil or shortening all over it, and put it in an oven at 375 Fahrenheit or so for an hour or so. Put it in upside down so the oil doesn’t pool, and put a tray on a lower shelf in case it drips. Then turn the oven off and let it cool. Then never put soap on it again. You just clean it with water, preferably while it’s still hot after use. If something sticks, you can use some salt to scrub at it. Never store it wet so that it doesn’t rust. The season will get better the longer you use it.

      • lazydragonboy says:

        If you add too much water while it is too hot you can actually crack the iron. This was a major bone of contention between my parents because my mom cracked a couple by plunging them into water.

        • littskad says:

          You’re right, you don’t plunge it in water. You just put some water in the pan as if you were deglazing it.

    • Plumber says:

      I have a pressure cooker/slow cooker but I don’t have much advice for it beyond that meat and onions will give off more liquid than you probably suspect so be sparing of your liquid (but don’t let it go dry) or the “stew” that your making may be soup instead. 

      As for cooking with cast iron don’t use tomatoes for some reason as the acid in it may get rid of the “seasoning” (that I’d the layer of baked on oil thar adheres to the pan making it slick).

      You know that “don’t” use soap story about cast iron? 

      Ignore that, just rinse thoroughly, then dry it in the oven or on the burner, adding vegetable oil from time to time to keep it from rusting.

      Use lots of oil when you first use it and after heavy cleaning, the more oil you bake on it the less “sticky” it will be.

      To get it somewhat non-stick before cooking smear vegetable oil over the inside of the pan, bake the pan at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes then let it air cool (in the oven is fine), then add more oil (or butter/fat/lard) for cooking when your ready to.

      For steaks I oil the steak not the pan.

      Cast iron takes a long time to get hot (but after it does it’s a more even heat) so I often heat it in the oven before putting it on the burner (invest in good thick oven mitts/towels/welding gloves).

      As an alternative try carbon steel pans that heat and cool faster but are otherwise much like cast iron except lighter.

      My latest cast iron pan is one with grill channels that works well for steaks.

      What I like about them is that higher heat is allowed, and that I may scrape the heck out of them without worrying about removing Teflon, and when I want them more non-stick I just bake on more oil.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I second all of this, particularly this part:

        You know that “don’t” use soap story about cast iron?

        Ignore that, just rinse thoroughly, then dry it in the oven or on the burner, adding vegetable oil from time to time to keep it from rusting.

        I use soap on my cast irons frequently and it’s not a big deal. Just don’t use a ton and get it off quickly.

        Other recommendation is to clean it right after you use it. It’s a lot easier to get that stuff off when it is hot. If you are lazy and get food stuck in there, you can scrape like hell, or you can fill up the cast iron with water, boil it to hell, and then scrape off whatever you left on inside of it.

        Double-second to this:

        For steaks I oil the steak not the pan.

        Cast irons are great for holding a lot of heat and transferring it well, which means they are absolutely amazing for searing meats quickly. However, they do not heat up evenly unless you pre-heat them in the oven. Normally I don’t care enough to pre-heat, but keep that in mind.

        I just re-seasoned all of my cast irons this weekend. I do it about once every 4-6 weeks. Rub with oil (RUB RUB RUB, don’t leave massive amounts in there), and throw them in a 500 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. Your cast irons will be damn close to non-stick. I made scrambled eggs in mine the next day and had NO stick: that’s superior performance to my actual non-stick pans.

        • DragonMilk says:

          Very interesting. Good to know that there’s hope after soap.

          Will try to re-season and such this coming weekend

          • CatCube says:

            The guidance on the soap thing is really inconsistent. This page from a manufacturer that sells pre-seasoned pans says that a little soap won’t hurt.

            Soap isn’t always necessary, but if you like, a little mild detergent is fine. Promise. Stay away from dishwashers and metal scouring pads, which can harm the seasoning.

            Note that their main recommended procedure doesn’t include soap.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The seasoning on the pan is polymerized oil. Polymerized oils can be quite resistant to detergent. So whether detergent is OK depends on how thick and tough your seasoning layer is, and how strong your detergent is. Dishwasher detergent (in a hot dishwasher) would strip it right off. Dawn is pretty well-known for removing oil as well.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @CatCube…so she basically scoured it with one of the metally thingies and soap….

            It’s ok, I only spent $15 on it so I can get a new one if re-seasoning fails! haha

          • CatCube says:

            It’d be hard for reseasoning to fail. As @TheNybbler said, the seasoning is just baked-on oil. Just bake on more oil. This shouldn’t be a reason to get a new pan.

          • Eric Rall says:

            As Nybbler said, polymerized oils can be quite resistant to detergent. It’s worth noting in addition that the various types of oil differ significantly in how readily they polymerized. Specifically, you want as much alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) as possible, since that’s the fatty acid that polymerizes the best.

            Of common edible oils, flaxseed oil has by far the most ALA (2.46 g/tsp), followed by walnut oil (0.48), canola oil (0.42), and soybean oil (0.31). Shortening (Crisco, etc) is generally similar to canola oil.

      • Nornagest says:

        Cast iron takes a long time to get hot (but after it does it’s a more even heat)

        This is only half true. Cast iron isn’t particularly good at spreading heat around: worse than copper and not much better than thin steel. What it does do really well is retain heat, so that the half-pound or so of water that you just threw on the pan in the form of a steak doesn’t immediately cool its footprint down to its own temperature. That’s what helps it get a good crust on the meat — but you absolutely have to pre-heat it, as you said.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          but you absolutely have to pre-heat it, as you said.

          I pre-heat on the stove because I am a lazy POS and generally get good results. It will be reasonably hot right where the burner is, enough that I can get a decent sear most of the time.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yeah, you don’t need to do it in the oven. Stovetop is fine; oven gets you more even heating, but most of the time it’s more than you need.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      The dirty secret of cast iron is that you need to use a lot of oil. Same for carbon steel. This may get a bit better over time, but honestly? Best advice I have is to just add more grease. Seasoning will only help so much.

    • WashedOut says:

      Slow cooker tips:

      First of all we should clarify that you *don’t* mean pressure-cooker, which is a completely different beast.

      Things that go really well in the slow cooker: pork shoulder, beef brisket, dahl, beef cheeks, lamb neck. All meat can be left on the bone, and the setting should be ‘LOW’ for everything. The only time you should use the HIGH setting is if you desperately need to evaporate off excess liquid, which you should never need to do if you get the initial ratios right. Some slow cookers have a WARM setting – disregard this entirely, because on the scale of low-warm-high, it isn’t clear which is hotter out of low and warm (warm could just mean ‘keep it warm but not high enough temp to cook it’) depending on make and model.

      Never put (even partially) frozen meat in the slow cooker. Never rapidly defrost something and then put it in the slow cooker. If your meat has been in the fridge for a long time, take it out and bring it to room temp an hour or two before it goes in. All of this is to guarantee the meat ends up tender and juicy.

      Generally you want to make a moderately thick to thick marinade for any meat you put in. Don’t underestimate the amount of embodied liquid in meat – you can get away with a pretty small volume of sauce without things drying out. Monitor as you go if you think you’re at risk of going dry – you can add half a cup of boiling stock/water if you need to but don’t overdo it. Any marinated meat you put in will do well sitting on a bed of very rough cut onion – this will also add a bit of moisture.

      If I’m cooking brisket for 6 people I’ll put it on LOW at about 11 am and serve at 7 pm. Don’t bother if you don’t have this much time. You can leave the house etc while it cooks. Have fun!

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      My recommendation for cast iron is “buy antique.” I’ve been collecting Griswold cast iron for a few decades, and this is all manufactured before WWII, so I’ve got stuff that’s had 100+ years of use to get very, very nicely seasoned. The prices on ebay look a little high to me, as I’ve picked up all of my stuff bit by bit in antique shops, but a #8 and a #5 skillet will do 90% of your cast iron cooking, so it might be worth dropping $50 – $80 bucks on the only cast iron skillets you’ll need in your whole life for your favorite cook for Christmas.

      And as everyone else says, no soap, scrape off anything that does get stuck on the pan, and worst case, rub it down with lard and put it in a self-cleaning oven. This also works great if you find something in an antique store that has some rust on it. Just don’t get anything that has pitting.

    • AG says:

      Gonna continue offending HBC, but does anyone have tips for slow cooker caramelized onions?

      The previous times I’ve tried it (low overnight, high during the day with frequent stirring), I get browned onions, but the taste is never like the real thing. Should I be leaving the lid open a smidge to evaporate off liquid? Do I need to add oil?

      • Lambert says:

        Maybe slow cookers are not hot enough.
        Most sugars need to reach 160 to caramelise.
        The browning is probably just the Maillard reaction.

        • AG says:

          ADBG has apparently had success with slow cookers doing this, and there are myriads of recipes online, so some equipment is capable.
          Maybe it’s my specific model of slow cooker that doesn’t quite hit the temperature target. I’ll have to get a thermometer to check. Thanks for the factoid!

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            “Success” with certain caveats. Cooking in the pan and scraping up the bottom will produce a superior product as it actually gets to the required temperature to get the full gamut of caramelization and maillard reactions. Throwing it in the slow cooker is an imitation product. You’re coming down on the “convenience” side of the convenience-result trade-offs.
            However, I made about 10 pounds of triple chocolate cookies, 6 quarts of chicken stock, and threw the 5 pounds of onions on top of that, in addition to doing all the laundry and all the dishes for the above, so I’m pretty comfortable with that trade-off for right now. Crockpots really aren’t all that consistent either (at least not in my experience), so the bottom quarter of onions actually turned out pretty well, while the other 3/4 are….okay.

            I might try doing a pressure cooker next, because you can get the temperature higher, but I am not sure how high I can get it. Ideally I think you want something in excess of 300 degrees.

          • Lambert says:

            Altering pH may give you more control over non-enzymatic browning.
            Maillard is fastest in alkaline conditions (See: (or should that be Taste:?) Schwabian lye pretzels)
            And apparently caramelisation is slowest in neutral conditions.

          • AG says:

            See, now I’m curious if a pressure cooker might do even better, since it uses higher temperatures.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      What is “high” vs “low” for, and what things can you leave in overnight?

      IIRC, modern slow-cookers are designed to only hit the simmer point, in the low 200 degrees, regardless of whether they are “low” or “high.” It’s just a question of how long it takes to get to that point. That also depends on the volume of food you have in there, but it can take a long time (like, 4-6 hours, or more if you keep opening it up) for a “low” setting to hit the simmer point.

      Be warned, if you leave food overnight, there’s a good chance you willl smell it. I once made a pork shoulder over night, and I could not sleep because it smelled so good. And…it was delicious.

      On the other hand I did learn how to make a good pasta sauce by buying heavy cream for the first time ever (whipping cream I’m guessing is different from whipped cream?)

      I honestly don’t know anything about pasta sauces. However, creams are defined by their fat content. You can make a substitute for heavy cream by using a combination of normal whipping cream and butter (I forget the exact proportions). I do this frequently because whipping cream seems to last longer than heavy cream, for whatever reason.
      If I really want a good soup or good mashed potatoes. Fat is flavor, and the secret behind really good mashed potatoes or really good soup is a ton of fat. Like, 1 pound of butter per 1 pound of potatoes.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Be warned, if you leave food overnight, there’s a good chance you willl smell it. I once made a pork shoulder over night, and I could not sleep because it smelled so good. And…it was delicious.

        +1.

        I like slow cooking ribs and made the mistake of doing it in the house once. Ribs smell delicious at 3PM but sickening at 3AM. If you’re going to slow cook overnight, leave the cooker in the garage or on the back porch.

        Also, if you don’t have a Food Saver (vacuum sealer) get one. You can cook big batches of stuff (like ribs), then vacuum seal and freeze them and when you take them out they taste like you just cooked them.

  7. Aapje says:

    We had a discussion about many men refusing to use condoms in the last OT. I’d like to expand a bit on a topic that came up, perhaps also for the personal benefit of this congregation.

    A common meme is that condoms are one-size-fits all. That’s what I remember being told in sex ed and it was insinuated that complaints were excuses not to use a condom. However, this appears to be false.

    A 1999 study found a strong correlation between girth and breakage:

    There was no evidence for an effect of penis length or circumference on condom slippage. Condom breakage, on the other hand, was strongly associated with penis circumference. Each additional centimeter of penile circumference increased the risk of condom breakage by 50-100%.

    Furthermore, comfort seems to also to be impacted by mismatch between the condom size and the size of the penis (note that condoms that are too long are often perceived as too tight, because a partially unrolled base is tighter):

    Men rated condoms less favourably if they were experienced as too loose, too tight, too short,[…] Men with larger penises rated condoms less favourably

    The FDA used to forbid the sale of condoms below and above a certain size in the US, but this changed last year after a recent study that found that the average size of the American man is less than the standard condom size.

    A logical worry is that men will pick the wrong size to brag to women or other men. Condom manufacturer My One has anticipated this and has made their length and girth codes arbitrary. S is longer than B, which is longer than E. Similarly, 11 is a bigger girth than 99. Remarkably ethical/wise.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Yeah, a lot of people don’t get just how obnoxious a lot of condoms are and how that can make compliance very difficult.

      Even with a condom that fits it can be hard to achieve orgasm if the material is too thick, and having one which is too tight is actively painful. There’s a lot of room for improvement in design.

      A logical worry is that men will pick the wrong size to brag to women or other men.

      This already happens unfortunately and I don’t know if there’s any incentive for condom manufacturers not to encourage this.

      Back when I was single, the two best-fitting brands that I could buy at the corner drug store were Trojan Magnum Bareskin and Skyn XL. The former was substantially more expensive than the latter and I suspect that the shiny gold packaging was a big factor in that. Paying a 100% markup for nearly-identical condoms in order to brag about your dick size is a good deal a lot of men.

      • fion says:

        Even with a condom that fits it can be hard to achieve orgasm if the material is too thick

        You can always just have a wank after you and your partner have had enough PIV.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          If I’m just going to masturbate in the end anyway I don’t need a woman there at all. I can handle that entirely on my own with zero risk of disease or pregnancy even without a condom.

          Also, this might be a bit of a tangent but I hate that acronym. Why not just say vaginal sex if you feel the need to specify?

          • fion says:

            Really? You don’t enjoy being intimate with a woman unless you ejaculate inside her? Coming during PIV is lovely, but it’s hardly the only lovely part of sex.

            There are ways of having vaginal sex that don’t involve a penis, so I guess PIV sex is a subset of vaginal sex.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            If there’s so little sensation that I would have to “have a wank after” in order to finish, there’s not much intimacy left to enjoy.

            There are ways of having vaginal sex that don’t involve a penis, so I guess PIV sex is a subset of vaginal sex.

            Right, but those sex acts all already have their own names and none of them occur with anywhere near the frequency of vaginal sex. To the point that in common usage sex means vaginal sex unless otherwise specified.

            It just strikes me as trying to make sex sound as unnatural and unappealing as possible.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            To add to what Nabil says, I feel pressured to act as if I’m enjoying sex with a condom on; in all honestly, it’s sexy and intimate but not actually too enjoyable. I don’t really find it any more intimate than mutual masturbation (which has the additional benefit of me not having to think sexy thoughts real hard so that the lack of physical sensation doesn’t deflate things). Condom sex is just exhausting and laborious, and insofar as sex is performative, requires me to try to hide that it’s exhausting and laborious, and honestly I’d rather not bother most of the time. Some of the above is probably related to size issues – I’ve never worn a condom that hasn’t been sightly painful – but really the constriction is just at the base, and it’s not like it’s so bad that I expect that the experience would improve tenfold without the pain.

            Luckily for me, risk of disease is nil and risk of pregnancy is low with my only partner, so it’s not really an issue.

          • fion says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            there’s not much intimacy left to enjoy.

            But sexual stimulation isn’t the only kind of intimacy. Would you rather masturbate alone than be in bed with a woman kissing, cuddling, touching and doing everything other than putting your penis in her vagina?

            in common usage sex means vaginal sex unless otherwise specified.

            Not in my circles. Probably only about 20% of my sex is PIV. I had one sexual partner in whom I never placed my penis.

            I’m sorry if you think the term makes the act less appealing, but I assure you my intentions are clarity; not hurting your sex life.

            There’s one other thing I want to pick up on. Are you aware that very few women orgasm during PIV? It’s lucky they don’t share your attitude or they’d all just masturbate alone rather than having sex with us.

          • Aapje says:

            There is a relatively new condom with a honeycomb pattern that supposedly is a bit better.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            But sexual stimulation isn’t the only kind of intimacy. Would you rather masturbate alone than be in bed with a woman kissing, cuddling, touching and doing everything other than putting your penis in her vagina?

            If I’m horny and there’s no chance of escalating beyond that, sure.

            I like kissing, cuddling, and that sort of emotional intimacy a lot. But it’s hard to cuddle when you’re aroused: what would otherwise be soothing becomes frustrating.

            I’m sorry if you think the term makes the act less appealing, but I assure you my intentions are clarity; not hurting your sex life.

            In your case I’m inclined to believe that but I’m very suspicious about the motivations of the people pushing these neologisms.

            Are you aware that very few women orgasm during PIV?

            Yes, the usual number that I hear is 1/3rd. Definitely a minority even if a sizable one.

            It’s not easy for me to understand what women who can’t orgasm from penetration get out of it. When I’ve asked they usually say that penetration still feels good even if they can only actually orgasm from foreplay. Chalk it up to another way that women’s sexuality is different from men’s.

          • fion says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            Obviously if a condom takes away all the enjoyment then that’s a problem. I was just making the case that taking away the ability to reach orgasm during PIV is not necessarily a problem.

          • fion says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            If I’m horny and there’s no chance of escalating beyond that, sure.

            Fair enough. I wasn’t expecting that answer, but I guess everybody’s different!

            the motivations of the people pushing these neologisms

            I had no idea there was anybody pushing it. Although now I think about it, I guess I can see why they would be… If there exist men who consider PIV (sorry) to be the truest, or perhaps only kind of sex, and everything else is ‘foreplay’, then I can imagine women who get more enjoyment out of mutual masturbation, oral etc than out of PIV would be annoyed at having their favourite part of sex considered as just the lead-up to the ‘real sex’. To put mutual masturbation, oral, PIV and other sex acts all on the same footing seems fairer somehow. I don’t know; I haven’t got thoroughly fleshed-out thoughts on the matter.

            penetration still feels good even if they can only actually orgasm from foreplay

            Surely that’s not hard to understand. “Leads to orgasm” isn’t the only way something can “feel good”. Hell, brushing my teeth feels good! I might have misunderstood your point…

            If I didn’t get sore balls all day after arousal-but-not-ejaculating then I wouldn’t really care whether I orgasmed when I had sex. Perhaps I’m in the same boat as the women on this one. 😛

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t know; I haven’t got thoroughly fleshed-out thoughts on the matter.



            If this discussion thoroughly fleshes you out, you might need to get out more.

          • mdet says:

            I’ve never found condoms to be painful or uncomfortable (less pleasurable, but tolerably so), and on the one hand I’m curious about what’s going on for those who do, but on the other hand I don’t *really* want to know and I’m sure yall don’t *really* want to tell me. I wonder if circumcised vs uncircumcised plays a role?

            Seconding fion though, orgasm is actually the least interesting part of sex imo. Watching my partner, playing with my partner, etc. is much more fun. Orgasm is more like… crossing the finish line? Satisfying, but mostly because of the race you ran to get there.

          • Randy M says:

            ime, orgasm is like reading the ending to a good mystery, at least in as much as you might well have enjoyed reading set-up and investigation more than the denouement, if you don’t actually get to that part the preceeding is going to be all the more frustrating.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I’ve never found condoms to be painful or uncomfortable (less pleasurable, but tolerably so), and on the one hand I’m curious about what’s going on for those who do, but on the other hand I don’t *really* want to know and I’m sure yall don’t *really* want to tell me. I wonder if circumcised vs uncircumcised plays a role?

            Spit on your hands and rub them together.
            Now wear a pair of latex gloves and rub your hands together.

            Guys have it really comically easy, so if your physical sensation is so massively degraded that you physically cannot orgasm, there’s a damn good chance the whole experience is not fun. Condoms are horrible, horrible things. Finally dumping them was one of the biggest QOL improvements we’ve ever made.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Mdet

            Seconding fion though, orgasm is actually the least interesting part of sex imo. Watching my partner, playing with my partner, etc. is much more fun.

            I mean, sure, but… have you ever worn latex gloves while eating a hot dog (or fries, or a dosa – some sort lof finger food)? I have for reasons, but I recommend trying it if you can. For me it's just really distracting in a way that makes it extremely difficult to actually focus on what I'm eating; the food loses its flavor and texture in my mouth because I'm too busy focusing on the feeling my hands are getting and how weird and unpleasant it is, and that's aside from the mild pain. I don't mind pulling out, aside from the fact that it's a terrible BC and disease prevention method and is stressful, but condoms are just… ugh.

            I'm uncircumcised, by the way, and can definitely buy the hypothesis that that's a major factor.

          • mdet says:

            Spit on your hands and rub them together.
            Now wear a pair of latex gloves and rub your hands together.

            I was more talking about people who have a problem with the fit of a condom, something I’ve never experienced. I think the only way to really get an answer would be a “what size & shape is your dick?” thread, which is too tmi, even anonymously.

            I get that there’s a loss of sensation, but for me it’s a significant-but-tolerable amount of loss, not “massive degradation”.

            Re: Mystery novel — I think my race analogy covers that. I’d be upset if I ran a race and wasn’t able to make it to the finish at all, but a great finish vs a mediocre finish is less important than just running the race well (ok, I think I’m straining the analogy now).

          • Aapje says:

            @mdet

            Imagine putting on a dress shirt that is way too tight. Firstly, putting it on is really hard. Secondly, you keep noticing the displeasing fit while going about your business, distracting you constantly. Thirdly, your circulation is being cut off.

            The latter can presumably cause mild paresthesia aka limbs falling asleep aka altered nerve function.

            Of course, people don’t merely differ in the length and girth of the penis, but also in how easily distracted they are by a poor fit, the details of their blood circulation, etc.

          • AG says:

            Not really serious answers/questions:
            -sounds like we should have shrink wrap type material condoms to solve the size issue.
            -I prefer nitrile gloves
            -I do understand the loss of sensation with a latex glove, but not really for something like plastic wrap. Is it just that the condom industry could benefit from some material science? (Maybe plastic wrap-texture polymers lack the accompanying elasticity to capture all of the volume?)
            -Weren’t there “coating on the inside” condoms trying to account for this, by increasing the sensitivity of the member in compensation?
            -A similar mechanism might be to include kinetic stimulation elements, like ribbing, which could enhance the experience for both partners. (this might still have volume capture issues)

            All of this, of course, is less feasible because of pride in not needing sex aids, pun not intended, as well as not wanting to pay extra for such a disposable.

          • mdet says:

            In my experience, condoms ARE made of shrink wrap material. They go on very easily and then shrink to a snug but comfortable fit once wet. I first noticed this after accidentally getting a condom wet before putting it on, at which point it became way too small/tight to fit. That was the only time I’ve ever had discomfort / difficulty, but I figured out the cause quick enough and haven’t had that problem since. I assumed that the “roll on easy, shrink to snug once wet” formula worked for everyone until seeing this thread.

        • caryatis says:

          @Nabil ad Dajjal

          > Are you aware that very few women orgasm during PIV?

          Yes, the usual number that I hear is 1/3rd. Definitely a minority even if a sizable one.

          Dude, it’s like 80%. It’s HARD to orgasm during just intercourse for a woman. Sex is still fun, but most people need direct clitoral stimulation to come.

          • acymetric says:

            I’m pretty sure you’re both in agreement here, the difference between 1/3 and 1/5 isn’t nothing but it doesn’t change the point much.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Edit: ninja’d

            I think that I was unclear.

            I was saying that a roughly 1/3rd minority of women could orgasm from penetration, and thus that a 2/3rds majority couldn’t.

            If it’s actually 1/5th and 4/5ths that’s more striking but doesn’t change the meaning of what I wrote.

          • What the piece linked to actually says is that 18.4% of women reported that intercourse alone was sufficient for orgasm. According to the abstract:

            36.6% reported clitoral stimulation was necessary for orgasm during intercourse, and an additional 36% indicated that, while clitoral stimulation was not needed, their orgasms feel better if their clitoris is stimulated during intercourse.

            So it sounds as though considerably more than 20% have orgasms during PIV intercourse, but for many of them it’s combined with cliteral stimulation.

    • caryatis says:

      You know, I don’t disagree, but there are other reasons not to wear a condom. I once bought custom-made condoms for someone I was sleeping with–he agreed they fit perfectly, but still didn’t want to wear them. Because bareback sex is just better in every way, and if you assess the risk of disease or pregnancy as low, it’s very tempting to go without.

      • lazydragonboy says:

        Despite the trueism that it is men not women who are anti-condom, I have had two female partners strongly pressure me not to use condoms.

        • caryatis says:

          Yes, I intentionally didn’t specify gender. Condoms are just not ideal for anyone. Too bad they’re all we’ve got.

  8. Joseph Greenwood says:

    You are in charge of drafting the constitution for Newlandia, a heterogenous country with 100 million inhabitants and a reasonable assortment of natural resources. What laws do you enshrine? How do you organize the legislative and executive branches, or do you organize your government on lines where that even makes sense? Are your political officials elected, or decided in some other way? What rights do you enshrine in a bill of rights, if any? How are new laws passed and repealed? Are the two processes symmetric? Does futarchy play a role in any of this?

    • LadyJane says:

      A legislative system combining direct and representative democracy based on citizen’s initiatives and referendums: Citizens would have the right to form petitions to suggest policies. Upon achieving a certain number of signatures (let’s say 0.1% of the voting population), these petitions would be transmitted to a legislature of elected representatives. Assuming that the policy being suggested was Constitutional in nature, the legislature would then be tasked with writing bills to carry out the policy in question. The legislature would then vote on whether or not to pass the bill in question. If they vote yes, then it goes to a referendum, where the public has the final vote on whether the new policy gets implemented or not. Legislators could also propose new policies on their own, but these still need to go to referendum before they can be implemented. However, to prevent the machinery of government from becoming too slow, legislators would have direct power over the allocation of the national government’s funds and the administration of the national government’s bureaucracies, without any need to hold referendums on these issues.

      The judicial branch of government would oversee national-level trials and set precedents for the interpretation of the nation’s Constitution. The executive branch would control the military and national-level police forces, but it would do little else on its own. Investigative, auditory, and prosecutory functions would also predominantly fall under the control of the executive branch, although the legislature and the judiciary would also have the power to initiate investigations, audits, and prosecutions, in order to prevent the executive from abusing its authority. The public could also petition the legislature to call for an investigation, audit, or prosecution, although these petitions would require a much larger number of signature (5% of the voting population).

      This system would be replicated on smaller scales for regional and municipal governments. The national legislature, regional legislature, and municipal legislature would all be comprised of representatives elected from the various districts that comprise their government’s territory; these districts would be drawn by a computer algorithm that took both geographical and population-related factors into account. Elections would be held every year, with polls open for a full week; the electoral system would have a single transferable vote. Legislators and chief executives (the President on the national level; Governors on the regional level; Mayors on the municipal level) would serve four year terms, with chief executives limited to a maximum of ten years (they could be elected to a third term, but it would only be for two years) and legislators limited to a maximum of five terms. Other positions (top-level bureaucrats, administrators, prosecutors) would also be elected, but they would serve five year terms with no term limit. Elected officials could be removed by a Vote of No Confidence by the legislature; once again, this procedure could be initiated by the public, but only if the required petition was signed by 5% of the voting population. Finally, there would be strict laws in place to limit the amount of money a candidate could receive from any individual or organization, and to limit the number of organizations that a candidate could receive money from; each candidate with the support of at least 1% of the voting populace would be guaranteed a platform and a certain amount of screen time, and conversely, no candidate could have more than a certain amount of screen time, counting advertisements. Elections would be overseen by independent commissions, comprised of individuals chosen directly by the populace.

      Accused criminals would have the right to a fair trial by a jury of their peers consisting of anywhere between 3 and 12 jurors (with more severe crimes having larger juries), with an impartial judge presiding over the case; conviction would require. Long-term incarceration would be reserved for offenders who committed serious crimes involving acts of violence or the threat thereof (murder, manslaughter, torture, rape, aggravated assault, coercion, criminal menacing), or for offenses against the integrity of the political/judicial system (corruption, bribery, abuse of authority, false incrimination, blackmail). Theft, fraud, and other crimes against property would be punished by a demand for restitution, to both the victims and to the police/judicial system, proportionate to the amount stolen (though exceeding the amount by a significant enough multiplier to serve as a sufficient deterrent); minor crimes against one’s person (minor cases of assault/battery and harassment) would be addressed with fines, community service, corporal punishment, public humiliation, short-term imprisonment in a local jail, or some combination of the above, at the jurisdiction of the municipal government. The exact sentence for any convicted criminal would be determined by both the judge and the jury, with the judge able to overturn a sentence by the jury that she felt was too lenient or too harsh.

      Economically, the nation would have a mostly free-market capitalist system. There would be very few regulations on businesses, though there would be some laws in place to prevent blatant abuse/exploitation of workers, negative externalities such as pollution, cartel-style price fixing, and practices that defraud and/or endanger customers (false advertising, selling tainted food or hazardously defective machines). Natural monopolies such as power lines and transportation networks would be treated as public utilities and administrated by regional or municipal governments; the provision of healthcare would be treated in a similar way. The national government would be funded through a land value tax and a capital gains tax, though regional and municipal governments would be able to set their own additional tax policies. Citizens would receive a modest universal basic income drawn from the nation’s surplus budget, proportional to the budget surplus for the previous year; the salaries of legislators, while high, would likewise be proportional to the nation’s budget surplus.

      In order to prevent a tyranny of the majority, or the rise of a Caesar-style demagogue, the Constitution would have strong rules in place to protect the democratic system itself and to protect individual rights. Laws prohibiting victimless crimes could only be passed on the municipal level, and would only be punished by fines; to prevent the fining system from being abused by local authorities, all money collected through fines would be donated to charity. Additionally, all levels of government would be expressly forbidden from confiscating the property of private citizens unless an exceptionally strong case could be made that it was necessary for the public good, requiring approval from both the legislature and the judiciary on both the national scale and the applicable regional/municipal levels, and subject to the possibility of a popular veto via petition; thus, eminent domain would be exceedingly rare, and only happen in instances where there was a huge popular demand for a public works project that required the property in question. Obviously, the government would be required to pay compensation for any property confiscated this way, significantly exceeding the market value of that property. Finally, all citizens would be equal under the law: in terms of the law’s application, government employment, treatment by government agencies, and service at government facilities, discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, nation of origin, religion, biological sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, socioeconomic class, political affiliation, or cultural affiliation would be strictly forbidden. Officially, none of these characteristics would be recognized by the government except for purely descriptive purposes (skin color and preferred gender identity would be listed on state-issued IDs in the same way that eye color and hair color are, but they wouldn’t correspond to any special legal status) and for the sake of keeping track of demographic statistics.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        I am intrigued by the idea of national referendums as a way to instigate national laws. It seems clear that the legislative branch could scuttle any given referendum in practice–but maybe that isn’t a problem, since a legislative branch that consistently flouts the suggestions of the people can always be voted out of office.

        I also really like the idea of funding UBI out of budget surplus–but you specifically said “proportional to the budget surplus.” What happens to surplus budget that doesn’t to legislator surpluses and divided among citizens? Do you have any ways of making sure that homeless people get their share of the UBI?

        • LadyJane says:

          If the legislature votes down a bill that was suggested by the public, people are always free to create a new petition that advocates for a similar policy while addressing some of the problems with the original proposal. This would create a back-and-forth dynamic between the people and the government. It would be extremely slow, no doubt, but I think the end result would be worth it, since it would lead to a society in which government policy was much more reflective of the general public’s desires.

          The entire budget surplus would be given to the public as a UBI, so that the amount people received would be variable each year; effectively, each citizen would be considered an investor with one ‘share’ in the government, and receive yearly dividends accordingly. In lieu of conventional salaries, legislators and other elected officials would simply have a higher number of shares during their time in office; increased shares could also be given to longtime government employees as a pension, or awarded to people who’ve earned various honors (e.g. soldiers with medals of valor). The idea is that the fortunes of the people, but especially of policymakers, should be tied to the economic health of the nation as a whole. It seems to be an ideal compromise between individualism and collectivism, and also a good incentivization system for people and policymakers to support sound economic policies.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            This idea excites me mainly because it creates massive incentives not to run a perpetual deficit.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            Thank you for clarifying regarding your plans for the budget surplus. I am very enamored with this idea, at least for now. Do you have any thoughts on making sure the homeless get their share? (If not, that is okay–it’s not as though they get their share of the benefits our current government offers either. I think this may be a hard problem.)

      • bullseye says:

        I feel like having national referendums for laws would greatly reduce the number of laws- but it might increase the length of each law as legislators cram as much as they can into each one. Also, the legislature might get around the referendums by delegating more power to the bureaucracy.

        I think you left off the end of the first sentence of the judicial paragraph. Then again I’m kind of drunk.

        Would judges be elected?

        Regarding fines going to charity, who decides which charity? I can easily imagine a local government sending their fines to a charity that provides services the government itself would normally provide, thereby effectively using the fines itself.

        Regarding confiscating property, I get where you’re coming from, but what about investigators collecting evidence?

        • LadyJane says:

          To address your points:

          Ideally there would be a rule in place to keep all bills focused on one topic. A few years back, Rand Paul proposed such a rule for the Senate, but it wasn’t passed.

          Regarding the incomplete sentence, that should’ve read “conviction would require a unanimous vote by the jury.”

          I’d say that judges should be appointed, rather than elected, to keep them as impartial as possible.

          I considered those issues with the fines-to-charity system, but I don’t know if it’s possible to come up with a system that completely unexploitable. This one at least seems less exploitable than what we have now.

          There probably should be provisions for investigators to confiscate evidence, but it would only be a temporary seizure of property, to be returned to its rightful owner after the trial concluded. The modern practice of civil asset forfeiture wouldn’t be possible.

    • LadyJane says:

      Does futarchy play a role in any of this?

      As much as I like the idea of rule by futanari, I don’t know if that’s compatible with the democratic system I outlined, unless people vote for us en masse 😉

    • Salem says:

      I immediately split Newlandia into ten chunks and delegate the problem to ten new forum members. 100 million people is far too large – there are no well-governed countries on that scale.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        Are there any provisions for how these districts interact with one another?

        • Salem says:

          Those aren’t districts, they’re independent countries. It will be up to them to decide how to interact with each other.

          • valleyofthekings says:

            Seems like this proposed system contains a significant possibility of civil war. (I understand it’s not really “civil war” if you’ve split the original nation into tenths, but from the perspective of the original nation it’s civil war.)

            I think I would strongly prefer a system which had a much smaller possibility of civil war.

          • Salem says:

            It’s not at all obvious whether the possibility of civil war is increased or decreased by my measure. I suspect sensible partitions would decrease it, but who can say, it’s a fictional country.

            But empirically, the longest period of world peace has coincided with a huge increase in the number of countries. Why do you think my measure would make war more likely?

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            Which period of world peace are you referring to?

          • valleyofthekings says:

            One strong protection which individual nations have against civil war is that there’s only one military.

            So, for example, you might imagine Montana notices that Idaho is spending all their resources farming potatoes, and decides to annex and enslave Idaho and take their potatoes as plunder.

            But Montana doesn’t have a military — at best they have a militia, which is tiny. And if they try anything, the US military will come in and crush them. And everybody knows it.

            But if Montana and Idaho are separate nations, then both Montana and Idaho had better have their own military to protect against invasion. And if one of them doesn’t spend enough money on their military, the other one can invade.

            I can imagine someone might argue that maybe Montana and Idaho and the rest of the states could develop a complex web of treaties and alliances describing who will come to whose aid in the event of war being declared. But the last time someone tried that it caused World War I, so I don’t think it’s a good solution.

            (Also, I think it’s economically more efficient to have one joint military than ten smaller competing ones.)

        • Salem says:

          Japan is not well-governed. Their levels of political corruption and waste are off the charts. It took them two decades to decide to do something about their central bank destroying the economy, and even then they only took half-measures. Their police are a joke.

          Well governed is not the same thing as successful. Japan is successful despite its governance, because it has an amazing culture. As in many countries, their governmental system is essentially a caricature of their society’s worst trait – an inability to admit failure and change course. The USA is an even more successful country than Japan, but it’d be a brave man to argue that this proves it’s well governed.

          • It would help if you would say what differentiates well governed vs not well governed in unambiguous terms.

          • Salem says:

            If I knew that, I wouldn’t be wasting my time here!

            I don’t know that anyone has unambiguous definitions of well-governed vs not-well-governed. It’s also a spectrum, not a binary. But the key point is that we need to be talking about the way a country is governed – its governing institutions, its political processes, its legal, judicial and regulatory frameworks, etc, not just some holistic notion of how good life is there. Sure, the governance affects how good life is there, on the margin, but so can lots of other things.

            But even if I can’t strictly define what it means to be well-governed, I can gesture at it. Switzerland, Singapore, Finland. And obviously it depends on the comparison. Japan is incredibly well-governed compared to Mexico or India. But I don’t think that’s the reference class.

          • Every country has its own problems that someone could point to as an example of why they are not well governed. Japans governmental problems don’t appear to me to be worse than any other first world country but without some kind of parameters as to what makes a well-governed country, any kind of debate over the subject is fruitless.

    • honoredb says:

      Futarchy without the literal prediction market–citizens register predictions in a centralized system, the predictions are aggregated based on past performance of the predictors, high quality predictors get small monetary rewards and qualify for government grants to be full-time predictors.

      Anybody can propose and draft a bill (people who draft bills that end up passing, again, get small monetary rewards and qualify for grants to be full-time bill drafters). Bills can only pass if the prediction aggregation reaches a given confidence threshold that it’s a good idea. The confidence threshold is higher the more people the bill will affect (so it’s easier to pass bills if you define a small region for them to affect) and higher still if the bill treads near essential liberties. The guidance for the confidence threshold is set in a bill of rights style document (itself amendable by bills), and the actual thresholds are determined by appointed judges (the judiciary is part of the executive branch as described in the next paragraph).

      There is no president or prime minister. Cabinet-level positions and the qualifications for them are defined by bills, and candidates who meet the qualifications are selected by nationwide approval vote. Sub-cabinet-level positions (including judges) are hired by cabinet-level electees. Once approved, a candidate remains until they die, retire, no longer meet the qualifications, or the qualifications change. Any member of the cabinet can call for an expedited referendum in cases where none of them has, or none of them wants to have, authority for an immediate decision. When secrecy is required and a decision falls under multiple bailiwicks, senior cabinet member wins (but secrets can only be kept by the state for a maximum of 7 years).

      There is a Royal Family, consisting of one adult chosen by lottery and their immediate relatives. The chosen adult acts as the Head of State for all ceremonial duties (and only ceremonial duties). They live in a palace and are the subject of a state-sponsored reality TV show. This role is passed down through primogeniture, but popular vote (or mass abdication/death) can force a new lottery.

      In summary: Every citizen is in the legislative branch to the extent they want to bother, but with performance-weighted voting on beliefs and fiscal grants for people who want to be full-time legislators but can’t afford it. Federalism and the bill of rights are implemented as a set of Bayesian priors (e.g. laws respecting an establishment of religion are a bad idea 98% of the time, laws affecting the entire country are a bad idea 70% of the time). Government leaders are elected for life or until impeachment, kind of like what Hamilton wanted. The head of state is always a reality TV star and is a figurehead by design.

      • bullseye says:

        I like your idea for the monarch, but I can’t figure out *why* I like it. (More specifically, I don’t know why I like it more than not having a monarch at all.)

      • hoof_in_mouth says:

        I like everything about this idea, I think it addresses the ways that election and governance work in practice. I also like the secrecy provision and the recognition of the clown show royals/presidents.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        This is a lovely model and it addresses some of the issues futarchy has with sufficiently small markets. However, it does still carry with it one major futarchy problem–metrics. How does one decide what policies are good and what policies are bad? If a policy (say) doubles the wealth of the bottom third of the country, and cuts the wealth of the top two thirds of the country in half, is that a good policy?

        In futarchy, a measure for “goodness” is decided on by an elected legislature, and even that has issues, of essentially the same sort that AI doomsayers worry about when discussing our robotic overlords. Just because you were gesturing at something good when you included (say) GDP in your aggregate measure of life quality doesn’t mean that your measure of life quality actually reflects life quality.

    • cassander says:

      Extreme decentralization on a modified Swiss model. The most accountable people in a federal system are state governors, so you vest as much power as possible in them. you do this by giving the state governors as much power over the federal government as you can get away with, and by making it as easy as possible to undo things done at the federal level.

      You start by having a legislature where the membership is one person per state, who serves at the pleasure of that state’s governor. it’s probably not practical to make that the only legislative institutions, especially if we want parliamentarianism, which we do, so we also have popularly elected house (I don’t think the method of election matters much) that elects a PM. PM appoints ministers largely from the lower house, with some system for appointing non-MP ministers.

      Passing legislation requires the approval of both houses, but each house can repeal legislation on its own. If you want to get really ballsy, allow just a minority of the state ambassadors to strike down legislation. Referenda exist, but only negatively. The population can vote down legislation, administrative actions, and recall people, but not initiate legislation or require positive action. Enshrine the principle that in the absence of federal legislation, each state is presumed to be able to do its own thing.

      If history is any guide, the states will model their institution on the federal, so you don’t need to restrict them much. Hopefully they’ll go unicameral with PMs, but the cost of enforcing that is probably greater than the benefits you get.

      • Nornagest says:

        The most accountable people in a federal system are state governors, so you vest as much power as possible in them. you do this by giving the state governors as much power over the federal government as you can get away with, and by making it as easy as possible to undo things done at the federal level.

        That sounds a lot like the US system pre-17th Amendment.

        • cassander says:

          I think you can make a fair claim that the the US system pre-17th amendment was the most successful state in history, so it’s not a bad model. But the US constitution wasn’t really structurally built to preserve that result forever, it just happened to be set up that way, then stuck like that largely through inertia. We can learn from how it failed and make something that’s actually built to stay that way.

          • BBA says:

            If “the most successful state in history” is the one that almost broke up three times in its 124-year existence, the last time culminating in a four-year hot war followed by a decade of low-level guerilla warfare, I’d like to know what a failure looks like.

            (Assuming of course that the 17th Amendment was actually the watershed between the founders’ constitution and the modern leviathan, which I do not believe at all. If any amendment was the watershed, it’s the 14th.)

          • Nornagest says:

            The Reconstruction Amendments — and Lincoln’s tenure more generally — were probably the most important watershed event in centralization-of-government terms, I agree. (And the New Deal is just as important if you’re looking to explain its modern state.) But the 17th is the one that formalized federal independence from state governments, which isn’t quite the same thing and which strikes me as more pertinent to Cassander’s post.

          • cassander says:

            @BBA

            the US went from a marginal nation of a couple million farmers to the largest richest, most industrialized country in history, while its core ideologies went from fringe to the conventional wisdom of most of mankind in about 200 years. That is an astounding run of success that is really unparallelled in world history. Rome maybe comes closest. that there were crises does not make the overall achievement isn’t remarkable.

          • BBA says:

            Fine, but how much of that happened after 1913? You’re the one who said the US was “most successful” before the 17th Amendment.

            My own view is that the Civil War represented the complete collapse of the 1789 constitutional order and the reconstruction amendments were a refounding. For rhetorical purposes, the re-founders stressed their continuities with the previous system, and ultimately the political class proved too cowardly to implement all the consequences of the new order for a century. But it was a break from the past, no less significant than 1776 or 1789.

          • cassander says:

            @BBA

            Fine, but how much of that happened after 1913? You’re the one who said the US was “most successful” before the 17th Amendment.

            The groundwork was almost entirely laid before 1913. But I didn’t mean to imply that the 17th amendment was some hard, abrupt turning point. I just wanted to point out that that the state that existed before 1913 was enormously successful.

            My own view is that the Civil War represented the complete collapse of the 1789 constitutional order and the reconstruction amendments were a refounding. For rhetorical purposes, the re-founders stressed their continuities with the previous system, and ultimately the political class proved too cowardly to implement all the consequences of the new order for a century. But it was a break from the past, no less significant than 1776 or 1789.

            I think that’s a perfectly fair reading of the history. But If you’re going to call that a break, there’s clearly another one at some point between 1912 and 1945.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      Umm. It appears you have left off the best answer: Dictatorship led by me.

      • LadyJane says:

        Everyone’s a fascist as long as they get to be the führer.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          I didn’t explicitly forbid this option (although I certainly didn’t lean into it). Do you care to pass any succession laws?

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Of course, the law is I pick a person.

          • John Schilling says:

            They really need to implement that one in Crusader Kings II. Though you can approach it with feudal elective monarchy, if you are careful about maintaining popularity and avoiding inbreeding and if you are lucky enough to not die in the first year or so after taking the throne.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            John,

            I’m not an expert on this, but don’t the Japanese already have a similar structure for inheritance and transitions where families often adopt their desired future CEO even late into his 40s?

            Perfect system for my benevolent dictatorship (which inevitably will fall due to being attacked form the outside because of our ever increasing prosperity).

      • Protagoras says:

        You only get to write the constitution. A constitution could certainly say that you are in charge for life (and choose your own successor, if you like), but as I understood it part of the challenge is coming up with a constitution that people won’t rebel against. Why would they accept you as dictator?

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          Why would they accept your constitution? Most modern constitutions are continually subverted without formal amendment processes.

          If Im allowed to write a constitution, we must assume I have the political power to at least implement it for a decade due to some sort of political will supporting a change and me being the leader.

    • SamChevre says:

      Split it into 50 states, and set up something very close to the pre-Civil War US Constitution, but with a right to secede clearly stated and clearly stated to include the national government’s enclaves.

      Key features I’d keep:
      1) A Constitution that delegates specific powers, and only those powers, to the national government.
      2) A guarantee that the national government is the ONLY body that can regulate interstate commerce; the goal here is that competition among states for desirable regulation is protected–there’s a strong competitive push to have regulation that doesn’t encourage people to buy products they want in/from from another state.
      3) A constitutional amendment process for granting additional powers to the national government that keeps the key features of the US Constitution: easy if there’s widespread, durable support, impossible otherwise.

      Key changes I’d make:
      1) The Supreme Court can be over-ridden by any of the following:
      a. A majority of state legislatures
      b. A majority of Senators
      c. If the Supreme Court decision reduces the power of a state from what it had been 10 years before, or increases the power of the national government to cover something it couldn’t do 10 years before, it can be over-ridden by 1/3 of state legislatures.
      2) I’d allow an income tax, but require that any payments to states by the federal government must follow the same rules as taxes–either based on population or on personal income, and nothing else. I’d forbid federal payments to any jurisdiction within a state.
      3) I’d provide that no body other than Congress can specify requirements or penalties, and no body other than the courts can assess penalties. (Goal is to prevent the development of an administrative state.)

      • cassander says:

        1) A Constitution that delegates specific powers, and only those powers, to the national government.
        2) A guarantee that the national government is the ONLY body that can regulate interstate commerce; the goal here is that competition among states for desirable regulation is protected–there’s a strong competitive push to have regulation that doesn’t encourage people to buy products they want in/from from another state.

        This method has been tried and found wanting. You can write whatever words you want in your constitution, but they’re meaningless without systems that encourage the former.

      • TakatoGuil says:

        1) The Supreme Court can be over-ridden by any of the following:
        b. A majority of Senators

        But this just seems to mean that the Supreme Court cannot check the senate effectively because any law that they pass the first time around will almost certainly be able to pass the second time around.

    • Civilis says:

      My idea is somewhat similar to Cassander’s extreme decentralization. This is currently nothing more than a thought exercise. My objectives are to force multiple balances of power (between the branches of the national government, between the national government and the states, and between the states) to better allow a diverse set of government cultures while still supporting the national economy of scale necessary for things like national defense and foreign affairs bargaining power.

      Break the country up in to roughly 40-60 states based on logical geographic and population boundaries, so that each state in our 100 million population country is roughly between 1 – 4 million people. The national legislature is two houses, the lower house set at 250 members, elected to a two-year term, one representative per district by popular vote (as in the current US House of Reps). With our starting population of 100 million, each member of the lower house will represent about 400,000 people. The upper house is set at two members per state, appointed by the states (legislature or governor, not sure which would work better) to staggered four-year terms so each state has one member up for election each election. The executive is a president / vice-president in the US style, elected every six years by modified electoral college. Each lower house district and each territory (more on this later) elects an elector, and each state elects two at the state-wide level, so most people vote for three electors (who may or may not commit to a particular candidate or party), who will then vote for the president. The presidency is term-limited to one term in office. The judiciary is similar to the US with the biggest difference that the national legislature doesn’t approve the President’s nominees for the Supreme Court, the state legislatures do, with a majority of the states needing to approve any nominee.

      The national government’s powers are similar to those of the US, with the same sorts of restrictions. The national government is allowed to collect a limited income tax only to be used for certain expenses that are naturally national in nature: the top level government itself (not any of its departments unless actively specified), the military (including veterans), the state department, and the census. All other national government expenditures must come from the state governments. I think this will limit the national expenses to things that you can convince the states are in their best interests to collectivize. I can see one national law enforcement body to handle interstate crimes, for example.

      The census is important, as it serves as a tool to keep the states relatively equal in power. Every four years, the government runs a census survey of the population, taking a headcount of citizen population. Any state that falls below the population where it can support a member of the lower house for two censuses in a row is demoted to territory, loses its seats in the national legislature, and has some of its self-government taken over by the national government (if the average lower house member represents 400,000 people, the threshold for supporting a single lower house representative will be around 200,000). Any state that hits a threshold where it’s significantly outsized for two censuses in a row (arbitrary threshold of 15 representatives / 6 million people) has four years to come up with a plan to split it into two or three smaller states, and get it approved by the state voters in a referendum, or be split by a Supreme Court managed national arbitrator along the simplest lines.

      For the states themselves, I expect that they’re each going to handle things differently. About the only things I want to specify are that each state have a separate executive (elected by popular vote), legislative, and judicial branch; that each legislative branch be bicameral; that one house of state legislature be elected one per district every two years by direct popular vote; and that the other house of the state legislature must be elected by a different method.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        each state in our 100 million population country is roughly between 1 – 4 million people

        So New York City might be eight states. I vote no. It already has influence disproportionate to its value.

        [Edit: Yeah, I know NYC is not in Newlandia. Still.]

        • bullseye says:

          Are you suggesting a city should have representation proportional to its value rather than its population? How would you measure value?

          • Doctor Mist says:

            If I had a way to measure it, then absolutely I would suggest that.

            But what I was really doing is pointing out a failure mode of what might look good on paper. The non-fictional U.S. is perilously close to having its laws and its norms written by a bunch of hive insects willing to write off everybody who doesn’t live in their echo chamber, and was trying to save Newlandia from that fate.

    • valleyofthekings says:

      The thing about designing a government for 100K people is that experimentation could be very very bad. The tradeoff is: if you try something new and it goes well, maybe your country is 10% better. But if you try something new and it goes poorly, maybe the economy breaks and everyone starves to death. So there are strong incentives not to experiment with (eg) liberarian anarcho-capitalism, or universal basic income above the poverty line, or total bidirectional surveillance systems, or Raikoth style archipelago, or whatever else.

      In this answer, I’m going to ignore that incentive. These are 100K imaginary people, and I’m designing an imaginary government for them, and it’s going to be as weird as I feel like, and if these were real people I’d do something much different.

      • valleyofthekings says:

        In this government, proposed laws are posted to an internet website. Voters can go to the website and upvote or downvote. If you want to argue in favor or against a proposal, you can go to the website and post your argument, and that argument can be upvoted or downvoted too.

        Any citizen can post a proposal to the website. I imagine that many people will get advertising, either paid or viral, to draw attention to their proposal. If you get enough upvotes to get in the top N, a government lawyer will contact you and offer to make sure your proposal is legally sane and enforceable, for free. You can take their help or you can hire someone, but your proposal can’t actually move forward until you pass legal review.

        At the end of every day, all the votes are reset, to make sure that individual proposals don’t reach the top and then just stick there. At the end of every month, the top ten proposals from that month start the process of maybe becoming law.

        To actually become law, a proposal needs to receive 60% of the vote for two months in a row. The “choose proposals off a website” stage was on an upvotes basis; this stage is now done by proxy voting, where representatives can vote yes-or-no on each proposal.

        We don’t have any formal election for representatives, but anyone can become a representative by passing a moderately difficult qualifying test. (The test includes questions about current law and recent legal proposals, to check if you’re actually paying attention to the things you’re about to vote on.) Once you become a representative, any non-representative citizen can transfer their vote to you, and your vote is weighted by the number of people who have done so.

      • valleyofthekings says:

        The court system is handled in much the same way as the US, because I don’t know much about how that works and I’m not going to try to change it. One exception is that we become eligible to appoint a new Supreme Court justice once per four years (and this happens the same way that laws are passed); existing justices get a 36-year term, and if they die or retire, their chosen successor serves the rest of their term.

      • valleyofthekings says:

        My plan for wealth redistribution is the following:
        * offer universal basic income which should be Enough That You Don’t Starve, but generally most people should want a part-time job even after the basic income
        * offer additional money using a Patreon-like system. Each citizen can name up to their ten favorite artists / content creators; these content creators get money from the government as a basic income supplement type thing. The target should be that anyone with >100 followers should not need a part-time job to live decently, but income growth is sublinear to prevent rock stars from becoming immediately super rich.
        * offer universal basic health care which includes antibiotics and vaccines and wound care, but does not cover disabilities, chronic illnesses, or cancer — if you’re worried about that, you have to pay for it yourself or get private insurance
        ** employers are forbidden from offering medical insurance, because if one employer does it then everyone will feel obliged to do it, and then it’s a barrier to hiring people
        * offer really excellent daycare, including (if you want it) the sort of daycare where you just visit the kid a few times a week. daycare is heavily surveilled, to make sure that everyone gets used to an “anyone who hits me will get in big trouble” mindset rather than an “I have to be aggressive to make sure nobody causes problems for me” mindset.
        * anyone convicted of serious crime gets deported to Australia. or, um, some random tropical island, if Australia objects.

      • valleyofthekings says:

        Let’s talk about taxes and property.

        All land is owned by the government. All natural resources are owned by the government. The government will rent land to you at a reasonable rate, but nobody ever gets to say “I can do what I want with my natural resources on my land” because that’s not actually yours.

        When the government rents land to you, this is essentially a “georgist land tax”. The government recalculates the rent at ten-year intervals, using a set of rules which are as transparent as possible to avoid corruption.

        We have income and inheritance taxes as well. These are designed to discourage “capitalists” in the Piketty sense of the word. — I mean, we still want people to invest in capital, we just don’t want them to turn into an upper class of Absurdly Rich People. How can we do that?

        …ugh, taxes are hard.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      This is a perfect setup for experimentation. Split the country into a dozen or so polities, implementing the most upvoted constitutions suggested from a thread created for the purpose and posted on r/slatestarcodex. Wait fifty years and see what happens. It’ll be just like that time Germany and Korea got split into two and we got to see whether capitalism or communism worked better (spoiler alert: capitalism won).

  9. multinomial says:

    I’m new here, and I joined because I enjoy reading about research and science. I’m not a professional, and I’m not a student. I used to be a post-bacc research assistant, but I’m taking a break to evaluate my priorities and directions in life.

    What I’ve read so far on this site sounds interesting.

    Regarding the meetup groups, can anyone attend? What’s a typical meetup gathering like?

    • j1000000 says:

      Anyone can attend. (I’ve never been to one so I can’t tell you what they’re like, but people seem to find them pleasant experiences.)

    • AG says:

      Typical meetup is that people break into conversation subgroups. You can freely wander between conversations.

    • SamChevre says:

      I’ve only been to the western Massachusetts meetups.

      Anyone is welcome, and there is one this Friday, Dec 14th.
      The Roost
      Northampton MA
      6:30 PM

      They are generally small enough (4-8 attendees) that there’s one conversation in which everyone is involved. The people have wildly varied backgrounds and the conversation topics vary widely–we’ve talked about the biological role of mosquitoes, the Sea People, AI rationality over non-human timescales, religious belief (the group includes actively religious members, ex-religious members, and non-religious members, and the discussions are civil and wide-ranging), and many other equally random topics.

    • Anyone can attend. The South Bay meetups at our house are generally twenty to forty people total, but since some leave before others arrive not quite that many at one time. Some people bring food and we, as the hosts, provide both nibbles and dinner for those who are still there by dinner time.

      People generally break up into small groups for conversation.

    • cassander says:

      The DC meetups are wild bacchanalias, that begin with feasting but usually descend into liquor and drug fueled orgies within the hour. Fortunately, there’s a collection plate that usually covers the cleanup.

      The other meetups, I suspect, are similar.

  10. liskantope says:

    Can anyone point me towards the SSC post where Scott addresses the relativity of attributes like perceived intelligence and lots of people expressing frustration that they’re not as smart as he is by saying something like, “But I’m constantly wishing I were as smart as Scott Aaronson, and Scott Aaronson has said he just wants to be as smart as so-and-so, and [long string of X trying to be as smart as Y where I think one of the Y’s was God]”?

    • lazydragonboy says:

      That sounds like it could be part of the against worrying about individual IQ (or something like that) series.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      Every so often an overly kind commenter here praises my intelligence and says they feel intellectually inadequate compared to me, that they wish they could be at my level. But at my level, I spend my time feeling intellectually inadequate compared to Scott Aaronson. Scott Aaronson describes feeling “in awe” of Terence Tao and frequently struggling to understand him. Terence Tao – well, I don’t know if he’s religious, but maybe he feels intellectually inadequate compared to God. And God feels intellectually inadequate compared to John von Neumann.

      is from https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/31/the-parable-of-the-talents/

  11. 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 distance between supports, in units of length (feet or meters)

    For example, if you have a series of beams 30 feet long at 10 ft on center, supporting 100 pounds per square foot, each beam has a tributary area of 10 feet; multiplying this by 100 lb/ft² gives you a uniformly-distributed load of (100 lb/ft²×10 ft)=1000 lb/ft, or w=1 kip/ft. (I’m neglecting the self-weight of the beam for simplicity, but that would just be added to that 1 kip/ft). Since L=30′, you have:
    M = (1 kip/ft)×(30′)²/8 = 112.5 kip-ft
    For a sense of scale, if you were torquing a bolt to this with a 1′ (30 cm) wrench, you’d need to apply 56.25 tons–500 kilonewtons or about 51,000 kg.

    The equations for maximum moment for most common situations, and some uncommon ones, are tabulated in beam tables. An example, copied from AISC’s Manual of Steel Construction, is here. And, of course, computer modeling with finite element software will also allow determination of these design moments.

    Plastic Moment
    So, we can determine the imposed moment; however, I discussed that this moment will produce tension and compression stresses. Given a particular section, computing what the stresses are at each point is a relatively simple exercise in mechanics. The second moment of area–I–will permit the computation of stresses according to their distance from the neutral axis, up to a point, anyway. The basic equation for this is:
    σ = My/I, where
    σ = Stress
    M = Applied moment
    y = Distance from neutral axis
    I = Second moment of area

    The second moment of area is a geometric property, and calculating it for an an arbitrary cross-section composed of simple geometric elements is a straightforward, if tedious, exercise. For example, for a rectangle, I=bd³/12, where “b” is the width and “d” is the depth. This also hints towards why we use I-shaped sections frequently; keeping the area of the rectange constant, halving “b” and doubling “h” will increase “I” by a factor of 4. I-shaped sections push more material towards the outside where it is more effective in resisting bending.

    Anyway, in bending the maximum stress will occur at the furthest point from the neutral axis. For a symmetrical section like a W-section, both the tension and compression faces are equidistant. The distance will be d/2. So working with that My/I, you can substitute d/2 for “y”, and you will get
    S = I/(d/2), where “S” is called the elastic section modulus

    What does this do for you? Well, it will turn that previous equation into:
    σmax = M/S, where
    σmax = the maximum stress in the section
    M = Applied moment
    S = Elastic section modulus

    The symbol used for the yield point of structural steel is Fᵧ (I’m using a small gamma because it looks like a lowercase “y”, and it’s the closest single-character Unicode subscript). Rearranging, the applied moment at which the outer fiber will just start to yield is:
    M = FᵧS

    However, remember that the concern here is safety. A collapse will not occur just because the outer fiber has yielded. It will occur when the section has yielded all the way through, forming a plastic hinge. At this point, you will have a compression and tension force which are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. Since the entire section has yielded, 100% of the stress on the entire cross-section will be Fᵧ. Therefore, both the tension and compression forces will be Fᵧ(A/2), that is, the yield stress times half the area. The line which divides the cross-section in half is called the plastic neutral axis. If the section is symmetrical, this will be the same as the elastic neutral axis.

    You can develop another quantity, the plastic section modulus that will allow you to calculate the plastic moment, the moment at which a plastic hinge is fully developed. This is referred to as “Z”. If the section is of a variety that can fully develop a plastic hinge, the nominal capacity of a section is this plastic moment capacity:
    Mₙ = FᵧZ where:
    Mₙ = Nominal moment capacity
    Fᵧ = Yield strength of the steel
    Z = Plastic section modulus

    Stability Effects
    Let’s discuss another epicycle: I said that one side of the section is in compression. Just like in the discussion of compression members, parts of the section which are in compression can buckle. Local buckling can occur if the flanges are too thin and wide, or if the web is thin compared to its height. Sections which are proportioned such that local bucking is not a concern are referred to as compact sections. If some yielding of the buckling element will occur before local buckling (i.e., inelastic buckling), the section is referred to as a noncompact section. Finally, if any element will buckle elastically, the section is slender. These terms are also used to refer to the elements of the section, for example, a noncompact section may have noncompact flanges, or a slender section may have a slender web. The equations for making these determinations are complex, and I won’t discuss them here. However, when a section is noncompact or slender you will have to use an Mₙ of less than the full plastic moment.

    Of note, there are currently 283 W-sections; 10 of them are non-compact for Fᵧ=50 ksi (the current typical strength of steel used). These are all due to noncompact flanges.

    Lateral Torsional Buckling
    There is another stability concern: the entire compression region can buckle. However, the tension region will help to restrain it. The effect is that the section will “roll over”, in a limit state called lateral-torsional buckling (LTB). This can be seen with a plastic ruler. If you take by the ends in your hands and bend it the “strong” way–if you were to stand it up on edge–the compression region will buckle to the side. Note that if you bend it the “weak” way, with it laying flat, this isn’t a concern. LTB can only occur when one dimension is longer than the other, and its bent across that direction; square or round sections aren’t susceptible.

    Except for those types of sections (or sections bent in their weak axis), LTB will occur when the compression flange is not restrained. If the distance between these brace points is below a certain limiting length, it will be able to develop the full plastic moment (if the section is compact). If the length between brace points is above this but below another limiting length, the nominal moment will decrease linearly to 0.7FᵧS (that is, 0.7 times the moment at which the outside fiber yields). elow this, the nominal moment falls off in inverse proportion to the square of the unbraced length.

    This is one of the functions of many types of floor systems. In addition to keeping the occupants and their desks from falling to the floor below, it may also brace the floor beams. Again, be cautious when modifying permanently-attached parts of a structure, because the building is designed as a system.

    Special note on Channels
    Channel sections require special care. Because of their asymmetry in one axis, loading them on their flange will also induce torsion (twisting). The point at which you must load a section to avoid this is called the shear center. For sections symmetric in both axes, the shear center is coincident with the geometric centroid; for C-sections, however, the shear center is not even within the section. Either special detailing or accounting for the torsional effects is required.

    Plastic Analysis
    A quick note on this, while discussing the plastic moment: for systems that are statically indeterminate, such as a moment-resisting frame, a single plastic hinge may not be sufficient to cause a collapse. Engineers are permitted to conduct a plastic analysis of the entire system to determine a sequence of multiple plastic hinges that will result in a collapse mechanism. This may represent some additional capacity in the frame, if the analysis time is worthwhile.

    I think that will do for now. Just a couple more posts on structural steel. I’ll discuss shear and combined effects next time, with connections thereafter.

    • ryan8518 says:

      Is designing for plastic bending really all that common in buildings/structures? I haven’t found it to be all that common in the aerospace applications I’ve worked on (with the glaring exception of bolts in a bolted joint, because those work by magic a bunch of difficult to quantify factors and that’s one we can actually quantify well). We do sometimes use it as a get out of jail card in piping system or other simple bending cases, but it’s pretty strongly discouraged given the implications for fatigue/fracture life.

      Or maybe asked a different way, is plastic bending something typically used in your first line analysis of the structure (e.g. everything in the nominal condition), but you can use plastic bending to show your contingencies (member out, extreme loads, or other controlled failure type scenarios)?

      To clarify, in the second moment of area discussion “h” looks like a typo for “d”, I’m assuming in one half of the problem you were thinking of a square defined by h & w, and in the other of a beam in b, d, & t (at least those are the notations I frequently end up in after too much time reading my copy of Shigley). Similarly, the last statement on critical length seems to have been caught up in the previous thought when it should say above.

      • CatCube says:

        To clarify, in the second moment of area discussion “h” looks like a typo for “d”, I’m assuming in one half of the problem you were thinking of a square defined by h & w, and in the other of a beam in b, d, & t

        That’s correct. I started typing that out using “b” for width and “h” for height, then decided that it’d be best to be consistent with what I had been using previously in the post. I missed one when doing the edit. In concrete, the standard notation is to use “h” for the overall depth of a beam, while “d” is the depth from the compression face to the centroid of the tension steel; in steel, “d” is conventionally used for the overall depth of the section, while “h” is the clear distance between flanges. bh³/12 is how I carry that equation around in my head.

        Is designing for plastic bending really all that common in buildings/structures?…Or maybe asked a different way, is plastic bending something typically used in your first line analysis of the structure?

        Yup–though with a caveat. The nominal moment capacity of a steel beam is the plastic moment, unless local effects or the unbraced length is so long that lateral-torsional buckling controls. I have a book of tables that give the capacities of most hot-rolled sections (the AISC Manual of Steel Construction), and they all give the plastic moment as the headline number–except where local buckling is a concern, of course. The selection tables are arranged by Z. I’ve never seen a design table arranged by S, now that I think of it.

        You can see a sample of the selection tables here, on pages 4 & 5 of the PDF. Table 3-2 (the table that looks like a, well, table) is arranged in descending order of Z. Table 3-10 (the graph with a mess of lines) is the same information as Table 3-2, just arranged in a graphical format.

        Let me use an example. This was the only design table I could find on the internet in short order, and unfortunately, the example I gave in the OP isn’t in this range. Let’s say that instead of a 30 ft span, it’s a 40 foot span. Let’s assume first that the beam is continually braced by a floor (so lateral-torsional buckling isn’t a concern). As above, it’s supporting 100 psf. Make a guess about the self weight of the beam of 90 lb/ft. The table is for LRFD, so we have to factor the loads; the total linear load wᵤ=1.2×Dead Load + 1.6×Live Load=1.2(90 lb/ft)+1.6(1000 lb)=1708 lb/ft=1.71 kip/ft. Using Mᵤ=wᵤL²/8= 342 kip-ft. (Or 464 kN-m).

        The standard steel in use in the US is Fᵧ=50 kip/in² (345 MPa), so you can back out the required Z from Mᵤ>ɸMₙ=ɸFᵧZ to get Z=91.2 in³, but if you look in the second column of that table, you can see it just gives you the capacities which are directly proportional to Z (if you had a different steel strength, you’d have to calculate the required Z and use that). The first section that will suffice for strength is a W16×50, but there is a section, W21×44, in bold; the bolded sections are the lightest for their group, so unless you have a dimensional restriction–or some other reason to want to stay in the W16s–the W21×44 would be selected as the most efficient.

        Let’s add a wrinkle–assume it’s braced at the midpoint, instead of continuously. That is, the unbraced length is 20 ft. The compression flange of a W21×44 must be braced every 4.45 ft to fully develop the plastic moment with no LTB (the column Lₚ in the table), so it won’t suffice. This is where Table 3-10 shines. If you look on the X-axis to find an unbraced length of 20 ft, and follow it up to the 342 kip-ft line on the Y-axis, you can see that there’s a dashed line labeled “W14×68” just above it, so this section will work. However, the dashed line means that there’s a lighter section, so continue upwards to find the first solid line. It’s hard to read at this point on the table, but that would be a W16×67–the lightest section that can support 342 kip-ft with an unbraced length of 20 feet. In this particular instance, you’re not using the plastic moment.

        I haven’t gotten to the caveat yet, though. I discussed this here, but the capacity doesn’t usually control for designing a beam. There is also serviceability to consider–limit states where you’re not endangering life, but the function of the structure could be compromised. Theoretically, there could be a wide range of serviceability criteria (maybe you need to have the steel beams a minimum distance from some magnetic-sensitive lab equipment, for example), but far and away the most common is deflection.

        Let’s take a look at that here. You don’t need to factor loads for serviceability checks, so the load would be the 1000 lb/ft live load plus the 67 lb/ft dead load (beam self-weight), or 1.07 kip/ft. Using the good ol’ Δ=5wL⁴/(384EI) and I=954 in⁴, you get a deflection of 2.23 in. This is a concern for two reasons: people reeeally don’t like it when they can feel the floor deflecting under them, and excessive deflections can cause damage to non-structural components like walls or cause doors to bind.

        One general rule is to keep deflections below 1/360th of the span. Here, that would be 480 in/360, or 1.33 in (34 mm). In other words, our W16×67 is no good. Doing some algebra on that deflection equation, you need to have I>1594 in⁴, which is off-scale of the table I linked to. There is another table that has the W-sections arranged by I, similar to the one for Z, which gives a lightest section of W24×68 (I=1830 in⁴). Checking the capacity with Table 3-10, it just so happens that this is on that PDF in that mess of lines we found the W16×67 in where you can see that ɸMₙ=364 kip-ft > 342 kip-ft, so this section is OK.

        I deliberately did that backwards to highlight the normal use of the plastic moment in capacities. The most efficient procedure, since deflection usually controls, is to select a section based on the required second moment of area and then verify that it meets capacity–that is, the real design process would just be the previous paragraph.

        • ryan8518 says:

          It’s a fair point, I tend to forget the primacy of deflection constraints outside the aerospace world, the only major system I know of that classically comes with hard displacement requirements are aircraft wings (since passengers get really nervous when the wing visibly sags on the ground or bends in the air, though the U-2 is a beautiful example of stretching this requirement). Usually limiting displacement concerns are secondary in my world (e.g. check at the end that nothing that isn’t supposed to bang together does). I suspect the reason for the different focus is twofold, I spend a lot more time detailing the joints of the system (since ultimately that’s where the stress of excess deflection ends up) and also I have a lot more control over the loads/operation of my structure (e.g. I don’t have to worry about someone deciding to put a 20 ton safe in the middle of the floor 10 years down the line, at least not without telling me first)

  12. 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.

  13. 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…”

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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?

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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).

  22. 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 be