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### 566 Responses to Open Thread 116.75

1. Is anyone here aware of Andrew Yang? He’s the first potential candidate I’ve heard of (outside of minor/third parties) in a Western country that is making his primary platform all about automation and the basic income guarantee (OK the UK Conservative Party had some stuff in a pamphlet somewhere but it’s hilarious stuff about the “positive conservative vision” of shaking hands with a robot while wearing a VR set). He’s a Democratic Party candidate, not some independent figure with zero chance. Actually, we know from Hillary’s book “What Happened?” that she had a chance to raise these issues but deliberately chickened out. This guy is hoping to make the issue the Democratic Party’s flagship issue and make the basic income its flagship policy (though he calls it a “Freedom Dividend” in an interesting piece of marketing).

As well as being a Democrat (I would have preferred a Republican but ho-hum) that is focused on automation, the third important element to me is that he’s neither an actual radical socialist nor someone trying to rehabilitate the label of socialism like Bernie, as can be seen from this FAQ answer on his website where he expresses it as a policy to advance capitalism. He repeatedly talks about evolving capitalism into a new form in his speeches, which is good. This normalizes the policy and is both a fact based defense against conservative dismissals using the buzzwords of socialism/communism (basic income is compatible with markets and private property), and assuages the fears of market positive moderates who are suspicious of those trying to sneak a real socialist agenda in by other means. So I’m rather pleased about this so far.

I’m right of center, a nationalist, and I don’t like the left wing identity stuff that’s part of his platform and worldview, but that’s to be expected, and all things considered it’s really rather paltry. All that kind of stuff pales absolutely in comparison to the importance of getting policy on technological unemployment and autiomation right. We have opposite views on affirmative action, guns, immigration etc but that doesn’t matter when it comes to the rise of the robots.

My only affecting issue (and it’s a big one) is that the basic income is a context sensitive policy. It shouldn’t be brought in too big, too early. He’s offering $1000 per month for every American over 18 (over 20 if you don’t graduate), which is a rather large amount. He seems to be under the impression that a lot of jobs have already been lost to automation, but this is highly disputed. It was always going to be the left that advanced the basic income first, but I’ve long been concerned about them ruining it by bringing it in as a massive wage boost rather than a replacement for most wages in the context of massive permanent unemployment. The one case risks inflation, the other not so much. The one is just another level of hand out, the other is existential. It’s entirely likely he’ll lose in the primaries, but I’m sure he’ll force the issue into the mainstream where Hillary could not. It’s possible that 2020 will be the breakout year for the basic income, or it might be the year that it kills it dead for a while. I just wish he’d started with a smaller amount of money that would be grown over time in response to rather obvious and indisputable tech-unemployment. That’s the way to do it. What do you think? • 10240 says: I think you’re a bit late for this OT. • Sure, but the next one is the non-culture war one, so talking about a politician whose bringing up rationalist topics is a no-no because it’s still a politician. 2. albatross11 says: Megan McArdle article in the Washington Post, sort-of on whether research into race/IQ correlations should be forbidden. Interestingly, she is in favor of forbidding such research. (This is a fairly mainstream position, as far as I can tell.). This policy looks to me like intellectual suicide, like intentionally blinding yourself on some topics because you’re afraid of the social consequences of what you might find out, or because you’re afraid that maybe the scientists will all be so biased they will come to the wrong answers[1]. We know about geology and evolution and the history surrounding the bible and astronomy because we didn’t make this kind of decision. At least not everywhere–plenty of individual scientists got hassled by the past equivalents of the jackasses hassling that Cambridge scientist for having attended the wrong conferences and asked the wrong questions. Of course, nobody actually means they want to forbid research or discussion of relationships between race and intelligence, anymore than any inquisitor wanted to forbid research into biblical history or discussion of the authenticity of the scriptures. They mean they want to forbid some conclusions and some lines of research likely to come up with uncomfortable conclusions. It’s like if the tobacco industry were so influential that people were allowed to do research into health benefits of smoking, but not research into health problems caused by or associated with smoking. [1] Obviously, she means wrong in the sense of “answers you don’t like,” not “answers that aren’t true.” Because she wants to forbid anyone actually trying to find out what the right answer is. Hey, you can’t discover something you don’t want to know if you make sure nobody’s allowed to look for it! [2] Who is generally a sensible person, I should note. • johan_larson says: In principle, any subject should be open to scholarly investigation. But I think it’s fair to say that some areas are so contaminated by past misdeeds, present suspicions, and long-simmering acrimony that people being people all hope of doing good work and having the conclusions fairly assessed and if true, accepted, is pretty much lost. And the relationship between race and intelligence is one such area. Some really crappy science was done there, and decent people really suffered for it, so it’s not surprising that new efforts are greeted with suspicion and even hostility. I think you’d have to be half-mad to try to do research in this area. • sandoratthezoo says: I hate to argue the banal position that we should seek truth, here, because I feel like there are plenty of people who will reflexively agree with me. But isn’t the way that we overcome this kind of simmering pile of crap by doing just a lot of research? Each one moves the needle very little, but slowly, painfully, we assemble a better view of the world? That’s how it worked for climate stuff, for me. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, I saw a lot of very motivated reasoning about how there was a global warming apocalypse coming. A lot of that was very untrue, and clearly motivated. But we didn’t just throw up our hands and say, “Well, that’s it,” we did another three decades of research, and I’m glad we did, because it did overturn my belief that this was all a crock of shit, and no, we really do have anthropogenic global warming, albeit at a slower rate than what the most alarmist folks believed. And we got to a better understanding of this not because someone came in and swept away all the bias with one brilliant study, but through decades of incremental progress within a continuous acrimonious background environment. • Mark V Anderson says: Yes, I agree with Sandor. The way to absolve oneself of bad actions in the past is to have good ones in the present. The good ones for society at large is to have good research. Not to have any research at all is to maintain the status quo of what was done before. And supporting no research is the same as accepting the prejudicial beliefs that people ordinarily have when living in ignorance. No research supports this prejudice from both sides. • albatross11 says: johan: Do you apply that logic to everyone doing research in this area, or only people coming to the socially wrong[1] conclusions? For example, when some educational researcher wants to try some new intervention to close the black/white gap in educational outcomes, you want that research forbidden, right? Or when someone wants to do an analysis to show that the race/IQ correlation is just an artifact of family income and wealth and education, you oppose that research going forward. Right? Because otherwise, you’re not saying “don’t do research in this area,” you’re saying “Do research in this area, but arrange to always get the socially desirable answers.” Also, how do you feel about economic/sociological research into wealth inequality and class conflict? Surely that research must be banned, since previous iterations of it led to Communist revolutions that killed tens of millions of people and left a couple billion living in nasty police states. [1] Again, if you want to forbid research into the factually right conclusions, you have no way of knowing what those are–you’re stuck with socially right/acceptable conclusions. • johan_larson says: I’m not calling for any research to be forbidden. I’m not sure where you got that idea. I’m simply pointing out that some research is likely to be a waste of time, since people are unlikely to accept the results of such research, even if it is carefully done. And there are typically more other issues that can be investigated more usefully. • baconbits9 says: But I think it’s fair to say that some areas are so contaminated by past misdeeds, present suspicions, and long-simmering acrimony that people being people all hope of doing good work and having the conclusions fairly assessed and if true, accepted, is pretty much lost. I think the opposite is true, the worse the history of a realm of study the worse our current knowledge is and the larger the gains that can be made. Even small “I’m less of a racist as a researcher than the IQ investigators of 50 years ago”* types of gains should be easy to get. *for example, not meant as if I have a citation for how racist IQ researchers were 50 years ago, or with an opinion on the matter. • albatross11 says: I believe the actual bias of existing psychology researchers is massively toward finding that differences do not exist. That’s what motivated reasoning would get you, and it’s actually a pretty nice testament to the integrity of liberal scientists in this area like Eric Turkheimer and Paige Harden that they honestly report what they know even when it’s not at all what they’d like to believe. • Nabil ad Dajjal says: This policy looks to me like intellectual suicide, like intentionally blinding yourself on some topics because you’re afraid of the social consequences of what you might find out, or because you’re afraid that maybe the scientists will all be so biased they will come to the wrong answers[1]. We know about geology and evolution and the history surrounding the bible and astronomy because we didn’t make this kind of decision. This probably wasn’t your intention, but you’ve made a pretty good case for why people with her beliefs should try to censor scientific research that touches on those beliefs. Christians failed to effectively prevent scientists from researching the age of the earth and the origins of life. As a result, that research demonstrated convincingly that a lot of their religion’s claims were either untrue or, at most, true only in an unsatisfying metaphorical sense. Christianity lost a lot of intellectual credibility in the process. If liberalism (as in Locke, not just anything left of center) and progressivism are in an analogous position to 18th and 19th century Christianity, that would be a powerful argument against allowing scientists to research intelligence and human genetics. • I don’t think classical liberalism is threatened by research into intelligence and human genetics, even if it turns out that intelligence is in large part heritable, as I think likely, with significant variation among ethnic groups. Liberals always knew that individuals varied in their abilities. The only thing I can see threatened by such research is the part of progressivism that hinges on belief in the large role played by discrimination, especially racial and gender discrimination, in outcomes. It might turn out that almost all of the observed difference in outcomes is due to innate differences, which destroys most of the argument for affirmative action, anti-discrimination legislation, and the like. But if that is the case, progressives could still be in favor of the same broad policy goals as before, just a somewhat different set of policies to achieve them. • sandoratthezoo says: I don’t think it even destroys very much of the argument for most policies. Maybe quota-based affirmative action. Everything else? Not so much. You could easily see an argument for strong anti-discrimination laws if, for example, redheads were known to be less intelligent on average, on the basis of, “We have to make really sure that someone isn’t dismissing the merits of a particular redhead since it is well known that redheads are on average less intelligent, but exceptions obviously exist.” • The argument for doing something about discrimination against redheads depends on the claim that redheads are being discriminated against, and probably on the claim that the discrimination actually makes them worse off. If redheads have 10% lower income than other people, that looks like evidence–until it turns out that redheads have a lower average IQ, and that fully explains the lower income. Have you heard anyone seriously argue that we need affirmative action for males because their life expectancy is shorter than that of females? It’s undoubtedly true, and it’s a major disadvantage–but practically everyone takes it for granted that it’s due to biological differences between the sexes (that might not be true, but it is what most people assume), so not due to discrimination that needs to be prevented. • Nabil ad Dajjal says: I think that you’re unfairly downplaying how much of liberal thought, both historically and at present, relies on the idea of the human being as a “blank slate.” The Lockean state of nature and, more recently, Rawls’ veil of ignorance both fall apart when we stop viewing human minds as interchangeable, malleable homonculi piloting our bodies and start seeing ourselves as living organisms. The more we see ourselves as the product of our ancestry and the more differences we can see between people with different ancestry, the less a universalist individualistic philosophy makes sense. You can’t have been “born into” someone else’s circumstances, it’s no less absurd than the idea of owing gratitude to a creator God. And just as Christianity was diminished by losing the Genisis creation-story, liberalism will be diminished by losing the idea that birth is somehow arbitrary or meaningless. • sandoratthezoo says: The average person who basically buys into liberal thought couldn’t tell you what the Rawlsian veil of igorance means and probably has no more than a vague notion of what the Lockean state of nature is. Like, they may have heard the phrase “nasty, brutish, and short,” but that’s about it. (And nothing about inherited mental traits undermines nasty, brutish, and short.) In contrast, the average Christian in the 18th Century was very clear that Genesis claimed that God created the heavens and the earth, man, and the animals. This is a major difference in how much new information undermines the seeming authority of the respective institutions. • 10240 says: The partial inheritability of intelliengence (within a given race) is widely accepted and much less controversial than racial differences. I don’t think it has affected liberalism. And because there is an overlap between races even if there is a difference between averages, every individualist principle that holds if intelligence is inherited also holds if there are differences between the averages of different races. I think the Rawlsian veil of ignorance is meant to cloak how intelligent you’re going to be, what race you’re going to belong to etc. (Though, one could argue that it’s impossible to talk about what you would want if you had a different intelligence, as you would be a different person. A counter-argument is that you can imagine yourself under mind-altering drugs, and you still sympathize with yourself.) I don’t think a Rawlsian veil of ignorance is necessary for liberalism. I don’t think many people subscribe it anyway; I don’t. If people subscribed to it, most people would be much more egalitarian; everyone other than libertarians would be hardcore utilitarians. I’ve always held equality before the law a fundamental principle of justice that doesn’t need much further justification. Likewise, I don’t think fundamental principles of freedom need further justification. • Nabil ad Dajjal says: Nasty brutish and short is Hobbes, not Locke. /pedantry Anyway, I was going to disagree but my girlfriend was reading my response over my shoulder and asked me who Rawls was and what the veil of ignorance is. I explained as best I could but she didn’t really understand or care at all. Given that she’s a highly-intelligent and extremely well-educated normie, I think that’s a definite point against my hypothesis and in favor of yours. • Brad says: I’m sure what work “normie” is doing there. In our contemporary era there are hundreds, if not thousands, of mostly non-overlapping sets of knowledge that all qualify as “extremely well-educated”. If someone had a degree in political philosophy and wasn’t familiar with Rawls that would be surprising. But if it was math or art history, that wouldn’t be surprising at all. He isn’t Shakespeare, or even Dickens. He’s Walter Scott. • albatross11 says: Yeah, I think Rawls’ argument (as I’ve understood it, anyway) works fine with differences in intelligence, as with any other differences–you should arrange society so you’d be as comfortable as possible getting assigned a random life in the society–including differences in race, gender, intelligence, health, wealth, social class, etc. • you should arrange society so you’d be as comfortable as possible getting assigned a random life in the society–including differences in race, gender, intelligence, health, wealth, social class, etc. That is Harsanyi’s argument–he came up with the veil of ignorance before Rawls and, unlike Rawls, did it right. Rawls’ claim is that you should arrange society so that you would be as comfortable as possible if you knew you would be assigned to the most unpleasant life in the society–in effect he assumes infinite risk aversion. I have not yet found any plausible defense of that position, nor figured out why people take him and it seriously. • albatross11 says: Nabil ad Dajjal: I see your point, but I can’t help wondering if maybe there might be some value to knowing how the universe works, even if that knowledge undermines widespread, influential beliefs. • Nabil ad Dajjal says: To be clear, I disagree with censoring science for ideological reasons. If your beliefs can’t survive scientific scrutiny, then they shouldn’t survive. But our premises aren’t widely shared. Assuming that an ideologue considers their ideology more important than scientific progress, it’s a very compelling argument. • Atlas says: Her position makes no sense to me. She seems initially to be criticizing the harassment/censorship campaign against Carl, albeit in the gentlest and most indirect way possible, and quotes Haidt and Jussim. (She does the whole “Just Asking Questions” Socrates routine that social justice leftists really, really hate, because they realize that anyone who does that doesn’t actually believe in their dogmas.) She then goes on to state that she by-your-own-logic owns the libs by agreeing with them, because her actual view is that: Given flawed scientists and imperfect scientific methods, and given the fraught history of Western racism, isn’t the likelihood of getting it wrong just too high? And the potential cost of those particular errors simply too catastrophic to risk? All societies place some questions out of bounds because they’re too toxic; we don’t debate whether child molestation or spousal murder is acceptable. Let’s simply take this little gem of a paragraph one sophistry falsehood idea at a time: >given flawed scientists and imperfect methods This is either an isolated demand for rigor or a statement of almost total epistemic nihilism. If we can’t trust researchers to make accurate judgments about reality, why only censor this issue? Why not censor research into parenting, personality, cognitive neuroscience, et cetera? You could launch an all-out assault on the relevant research fields or even modern science as a whole, but you can’t just arbitrarily apply this exacting standard to one specific research question. >isn’t the likelihood of getting it wrong too high? Hmmm, so what you’re saying is that, if we conduct careful empirical research free from censorship and have open discussion of that research, we might still arrive at incorrect conclusions? Yes, I see your point, but isn’t perhaps also possible that if we don’t do any research and don’t have any free discussion of the issue, we might also reach incorrect conclusions? Indeed, perhaps some crazy radicals would even contend that it is more likely to develop incorrect beliefs in the absence of research and discussion. >potential costs of these errors This is based on the fallacy that Steven Pinker so effectively demolished in The Blank Slate, namely the idea that the only kind of consequential harm that research into “nature vs. nurture” can produce is pro-nature right-wing harm. Lysenkoism and blank slate dogmatism can be just as dangerous, as seen in various disastrous Marxist states in the 20th century. My own view, which doesn’t seem to be a fundamentally very controversial one, is that the best way to avoid such disasters is to have the best understanding of the world that we live in as possible. >All societies place some questions out of bounds because they’re too toxic I have never understood this argument in favor of censorship, in which some sort of atrocious belief is invoked to demonstrate that at least some questions are out of bounds. (It’s rather like the famous joke about “haggling over price” that is often attributed to George Bernard Shaw.) Why would we need to censor people with obviously wrong beliefs? What possible arguments in favor of “child molestation” or “spousal murder” does McArdle think that a polemicist could marshal to win support for their legalization? The reason these questions aren’t debated isn’t because they’re censored, it’s because, unlike certain issues in psychometrics, virtually no one thinks that there’s any serious arguments contrary to the banal mainstream position worth exploring. An oft-repeated, but very true, observation is that arguments are not censored because they are known to be false, but because they are feared to be true. There’s just literally no reason to censor an argument that you can convincingly demonstrate to be false. I should probably find a quote by John Milton or John Stuart Mill that means exactly the same thing, but my most immediate reference is Tyrion Lannister’s comment on Cersei’s proposed censorship of the truth of her children’s parentage in A Clash of Kings: “When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.” Something that I really dislike overall in McArdle’s column is the implicit framing of banning research as “neutral” whereas allowing research is taking a side. As a great Canadian philosopher once said, “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.” It reminds me of a really insightful point that Glenn Greenwald made about memorializing political figures: it’s not “apolitical” to write an obituary for a president or a senator praising them for being a great man and a great leader. That’s just as political as writing an obituary in which you criticize their decisions and legacy. Likewise, if you ban research on hypothesized differences, that doesn’t place the issue in some sanctified neutral intellectual Switzerland; it favors one camp of researchers and political activists at the expense of another. Here is McArdle’s conclusion: In fairness, however, I did emerge with two prior beliefs basically confirmed: first, that research into race and IQ should stay off limits, but, second, that those limits are better established by debate than denunciation. I really have to express my genuine contempt here. What a weaselly, intellectually cowardly, wishy-washy stance to take. Why not have denunciation of the evil hereditarians all the way down? Why not have freedom of speech and inquiry all the way the down? McArdle might certainly be attempting to be tactful/lying about her true beliefs, but in that case why even write a column about the issue at all? If you’re at all curious about the Noah Carl affair, or the broader issues of aitch-bee-dee that it raises, don’t read Megan McArdle’s take on it. For a left-wing perspective on the issue, see what David Graeber and the academics he’s allied with are saying. For a right-wing perspective, see Emil Kirkegaard and Steve Sailer. Just don’t bother reading McArdle’s take. In fact, let me amend that: Don’t bother reading McArdle’s take on anything, except maybe how to fail upwards, which she is indeed an expert at. McArdle is one of those individuals, like Max Boot or Jeffrey Goldberg, who has convinced me of the truth of Nassim Taleb’s critique of punditry as a profession by personifying its manifold flaws. Her lack of intelligence and actual expertise on any subject is bad enough, but it’s really compounded by her cynical and careerist vacuous centrism masquerading as libertarianism. This isn’t a problem I have with actual, honest libertarians, even extreme ones who argue that the use of chemical weapons is a justifiable response to a neighbor’s violation of the NAP by playing excessively loud hippity-hop music or “but what if the [redacted] consents though?” I might agree with some of their beliefs, disagree, even disagree emphatically, with others, but I respect that they have an intellectually coherent worldview that they’re honestly defending to the best of their ability. On the other hand, McArdle is a “libertarian” only in the most nominal sense. As far as I know, she’s rejected every moderately interesting or radical idea that libertarians have ever suggested. For instance, she repeatedly voiced her support for the Iraq War and was harshly critical of Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign. A cursory Google search reveals her totally boring, skeptical and tepid takes on libertarian proposals like school vouchers and cryptocurrency. • cassander says: Mcardle has gotten less interesting has she has gotten more exposure and prominence. This is probably inevitable, but it’s still sad. Even at bloomberg, she still had some excellent insights, but at the post it’s like they put something in the water to change her. • suntzuanime says: Interesting young writer rises to prominence, gets pumped with massive shot of mainstream attention, doesn’t feel good and changes – CENTRISM. Many such cases! • albatross11 says: Atlas: Yeah, the basic form of her argument (which, to be fair, she didn’t spell out) seemed to be: “Humans are imperfect and have biases, and therefore we can’t let human scientists investigate anything very important, lets their biases lead them into some incorrect and socially damaging ideas.” That argument works for suppressing research into absolutely anything. Does smoking cause cancer? Does HIV cause AIDS? Can you make a blue LED? Are there extraterrestrial civilizations visible by their EM emissions? How can we possibly let flawed human scientists investigate these questions, knowing their biases might lead them to the wrong answer? I guess we’d better just shut down science, and let existing socially and politically powerful groups determine the acceptable answers to those questions for all time. It’s hard to see how *that* could go wrong. • Mark V Anderson says: Atlas, nice parsing of her argument. I agree with it all. So far I’ve seen a lot more good from MM than bad. I am not going to let this one essay turn my view of her of one of the goods ones to the reverse. • albatross11 says: Yeah, I also have seen a fair bit of good writing/thinking from McArdle. She’s in the same category as Conor Friedersdorf–a reasonably bright and well-intentioned person who makes sensible points, but usually doesn’t come up with knock-it-out-of-the-park new insights. My guess is that, in this area, she’s thinking fuzzily because of what’s socially acceptable and what’s acceptable within her circle of acquaintance. I cannot imagine her accepting the same argument she seems to be making when we’re talking about most other areas science might investigate. • albatross11 says: Another aside: that kind of research isn’t currently off-limits. It often gets researchers called mean names, and sometimes gets them no-platformed by an angry mob of idiots, but such research is funded and done and published pretty routinely. 3. Tejas Subramaniam says: Not sure how these open threads work/if the author reads these comments. I’d be interested in reading an analysis – similar to the one in “Guns and States” – on the deterrent effect of capital punishment. Liberals like to quote the statistic that 88% of criminologists think that capital punishment doesn’t deter crime, but I’m not sure that’s accurately representative of the consensus among those who’ve researched the subject; most studies I’ve come across (aside from a few famed ones like Donohue and Wolfers) by economists seem to indicate some kind of deterrent effect. However, I recall the National Research Council doing a comprehensive research review critiquing the methodology of pro-deterrence studies. In addition, one problem with researching the deterrent effect of capital punishment is that capital punishment is used not-that-commonly, which could undermine its potential for deterrence. It’s a difficult issue and also a possibly interesting one to explore. • I would be skeptical of any “criminologists believe,” due to the following experience. To the best of my knowledge, the first serious statistical study of the issue was by Isaac Ehrlich and found a strong deterrent effect. I had a colleague, a prominent legal scholar involved in criminal issues, an opponent of capital punishment and a very nice man, who told me that Ehrlich’s work on the deterrent effect of capital punishment had been debunked, that the evidence showed no deterrent effect (of punishment in general, if I remember correctly), and that Ehrlich had refused to make his data available for others to analyze. I asked him for support, and he lent me a book of articles edited by, I think, some friends of his. I read it. The only material critical of criminal deterrence I found in the book was in the introductory material by the editors, who offered reasons why the evidence supporting the deterrent effect of punishment could be wrong but provided no evidence that it was wrong. The articles in the book offered evidence of the deterrent effect of criminal punishments. One of them was by someone who had been given Ehrlich’s data, presumably by Ehrlich, had duplicated his analysis and confirmed the result. I reported this to my colleague. It was clear from his response that he had not read the book, was relying on what his friends told him was in it. He was a professor at a top school and, in my judgement, an abler and more honest man than the average academic—sufficiently honest to concede that what he had told me was based on second hand information that he had not himself confirmed. Given the general political bias of academia, I conclude that a majority of criminologists would believe that capital punishment did not deter whether or not any evidence supported that belief. That said, it’s my understanding that there has been a good deal of statistical work since Ehrlich’s original paper, some of which supports his conclusion and some of which does not. For obvious reasons, it’s hard to identify the direction of causation in the natural experiments available to us. A shift towards or away from capital punishment might be the cause of changes in the murder rate but might also be the effect–we aren’t in a position to do controlled experiments. And, as Tejas suggests, the fact that capital punishment is uncommon in modern developed societies makes it hard to get relevant data. • Bamboozle says: Apologies for dodging the above but I’d like to know what you think about something somewhat related to your question. This story documents elderly japanese women who purposefully commit crimes to try to go to jail as jail is nicer than their life. I believe that people tend to view the function of prisons differently depending on their personal politics i.e. when i lived in Texas everyone was pro death-penalty and believe prisons were to serve as a deterant/punishment vehicle where as in Scotland prisons are meant to rehabilitate prisoners. What approach do you think should be taken regarding the above article? 4. johan_larson says: Minnesota and Oregon are moving to abolish zoning laws that require single-family housing. It will still be legal to build single-family units, of course, but any area where they’re legal, denser modes of construction will also be legal. https://slate.com/business/2018/12/oregon-is-looking-at-ending-single-family-zoning.html This sounds like a move in the right direction. • Mark V Anderson says: Well the article said Minneapolis, not Minnesota, which is quite a bit different. And even that isn’t right. Minneapolis is required by the state to have a plan for the future, so they wrote up Minneapolis2040. This is merely a plan, not a law at all. And there is also lots and lots of opposition, so it is far from certain that any of this will become law. It actually has been a bit entertaining to watch the leftists on each side go at each other with no gloves in sight. The lowered zoning folks are doing this because it will supposedly increase the amount of affordable housing, and those who disagree are clearly racists who want to keep their large houses in White neighborhoods. The ones against lowered zoning insist that this plan is just a plot by developers to knock down all the houses and create apartments, and of course these apartments will all be$1/2 million condos, and so won’t help the poor anyway.

Both sides have seriously poor logic, so it’s hard to favor one side or the other. I do favor less zoning, so I am in agreement with that part. But the whole plan is actually hundreds of pages long, and most of the stuff that I’ve seen in it is terrible. It’s just this one more controversial area that probably will improve the city a bit (if it actually happens).

5. BBA says:

Recently interest rates on bonds and interbank loans have been rising, but interest on bank savings accounts remains close to the zero lower bound. Yesterday, Robinhood Financial announced their newest product: a “Checking & Savings” service that promised bank account-style features and a 3% interest rate, to be funded by investing customer funds in short-term bonds. Robinhood is a brokerage, not a bank, so deposits aren’t insured by the FDIC – but don’t worry, they said, the Securities Investor Protection Corporation insures brokerage accounts so this new service is just as safe.

They announced this without telling SIPC. Today SIPC informed the public that they only cover cash funds and securities in brokerage accounts, and this Robinhood plan looked more like an interest-bearing loan to a brokerage, which is not something that SIPC covers. (SIPC also doesn’t call their coverage “insurance” probably because that implies insuring the value of the accounts. If your brokerage failed in February and you had 100,000 in Moviepass stock in your account, SIPC would return those shares to you but they’d be worth less than a dollar now.) And now the SEC is going to give Robinhood a stern talking-to about what a brokerage is and isn’t allowed to promise its customers. Now I’ve been working in finance for almost a decade and I’m facepalming at how little Robinhood understands how the business they’re in works. Yeah, they’re disruptive and they have a smartphone app and they move fast and break things, but that doesn’t mean they’re allowed to ignore the law. I’m agnostic on the merits – maybe they should be allowed to run this service, but they aren’t. (Maybe they had some awareness. Matt Levine humorously pointed out that “checking accounts” and “savings accounts” are bank products so Robinhood couldn’t call it either of those, but the magic ampersand in “Checking & Savings” makes it okay.) What do you think, sirs? • The Nybbler says: The SIPC seems to think they’re playing fast and loose with their claims, and they ought to know. And it seems to fit with the plain language of what they cover. Also 3% seems high for cash-equivalent investments. And there’s no way I’d invest with a company called “Robinhood” anyway, not without being very sure which side of the whole “rob from the rich and give to the poor” mechanic I’m on. • dick says: Neat write-up, thanks, I wondered what was going on with this. Agreed it’s weird that a big well-funded startup would launch with a business plan that isn’t clearly legal, but there’s plenty of precedent – Uber, Air BnB, and the seventeen interchangeable “litter big cities with scooters and see what happens” companies. Apparently, “are you absolutely sure this is legal? is not something you need to have an answer for before getting VC money now. • The Nybbler says: Maybe there just aren’t any 100% legal opportunities left, rent-seekers and bureaucrats and safety enthusiasts and those just in favor of state legibility having foreclosed them all. • dick says: Yeah, that’s the problem with the tech industry right now, no opportunity. Gosh, those Uber VCs had nothing to invest their money in, except any of the other literally hundreds of wildly successful businesses formed in the same period. Sarcasm aside, you’ve got it backwards. The issue isn’t that Uber is illegal. It wasn’t legal for cable companies to bury their lines on city property in the 80s until they got permission. It wasn’t legal for telcos to launch satellites, until it was. The issue is that Uber started talking to municipalities after they got a billion dollars of investment capital and launched the company, rather than before. That’s an inversion of the usual way of doing things, and the reason is FOMO by investors, not lack of other options. • The Nybbler says: If you went to New York City with a proposal that would harm the taxi monopoly, NYC would just tell you “no, we like our taxi monopoly, go away”. If you told the various municipalities with a Comcast monopoly you wanted to run your own cable, they’d tell you “No, we like Comcast, go away” (this happened to RCN cable a lot… and Google Fiber, you may have noticed, failed). Sometimes you just can’t get permission by asking, and outright disobedience may be a better way of getting it than any other way. • dick says: Edited to rephrase: I don’t disagree with any of that, and it was true twenty years ago too, and two hundred. What I disagreed with was the notion that the reason it happens now is that investors have no other clearly-legal options, which is trivially disproven by the large number of clearly-legal new successful businesses built in the same period. • BBA says: Robinhood’s primary business plan is a brokerage with commission-free trading funded by payment for order flow. That’s legal, maybe a little sleazy depending on what you think of PFOF, but they’ve been fully approved by the SEC and FINRA since the beginning. They have to be – nobody would trade with them if they weren’t. • Bamboozle says: But that doesn’t mean they have a banking license and can claim to offer “bank accounts” even if what they really are offering is money-market fund access • BBA says: I was trying to get across that this isn’t an innovative disruptive startup whose product is getting shut down by short-sighted regulators. This is an existing company whose first (innovative, disruptive) product was approved by regulators a few years ago. It’s the new product that’s running into regulatory problems, but they’ve been complying with regulations long enough that they really ought to know better. They could have made this a money market fund, but that’s a type of mutual fund that has to be registered with the SEC, report its assets annually, etc., and it would have to be separate from the brokerage’s own assets. Commingling funds is a huge red flag. • abystander says: Robinhood has taken down the checking page although google still has a cache of some of it promoting 3% compared to other brokerage firms. • baconbits9 says: Basically if you want to break into an established market you cannot do something that will work, you have to do something that might work. Studying the rules perfectly, figuring out a totally safe approach and doing things exactly as they are written is going to leave you, at best, a small fish in a large ocean, and likely just cause you to go out of business as you can’t differentiate yourself against the hundred other people doing the same thing. This dichotomy is why most entrepreneurial actions fail, its also why the economy demands that same action to get real growth. • BBA says: This was “something that won’t work”, which they announced to the world as “something that will work” when there was a clear and obvious reason why it wouldn’t and they just didn’t bother picking up the phone and calling SIPC and asking “we cool?” And the SIPC coverage was a pretty big selling point. An unsecured loan to a third party subject to normal bankruptcy laws looks a lot less attractive. (But people still keep money in their PayPal accounts, so who knows.) • Bamboozle says: Make no mistake this is a product that already exists and you can access in multiple other places around the world, this is nothing new. It’s a Money Market Fund but done by Robin Hood so it must therefore be something else. It’s a type of investment, not a current account. Usually these are run by banks and you only get access to them with a sufficient level of capital via a Private Banker but Robin Hood is trying to introduce this to everyone. The problem being, if you let people take and place money at a whim it is hard to manage your cash flows and therefore hard to make your 3% or whatever you give the customer plus your margin. 6. Hoopyfreud says: Is there a name for the phenomenon where a partisan is more well-known by the outgroup (who vilifies them) than their ingroup? This is based on a comment about Linda Sarsour a while back, where it was claimed that someone unfamiliar with her clearly wasn’t tuning into right-wing media. For the inverse, see: Richard Spencer. This pattern sets off some alarm bells for me. It smells like an attempt to mediate the perception of the outgroup though its fringe members (or fringe situational allies, if you prefer – heretofore referred to as “fringe”). Ingroup tells outgroup they must disavow the fringe because they’re under the impression that the fringe is close to the center; outgroup takes offense because it’s completely unreasonable for ingroup to imagine that outgroup is aligned with fringe, or to demand that they take responsibility for fringe’s actions. Ingroup responds with, “but Linda Sarsour wants Sharia Law” or “but Richard Spencer is a neo-nazi,” implying that these people are central and that outgroup is obligated to recognize that. In the interest of civil discourse, I propose a counter-meme: wicker-manning. To be used to describe a situation in which discussion centralizes on terrible people who are used as an effigy for groups they are associated with, and to assert that tolerance for those people is equivalent to endorsement of [terrible things] – in effect, to build a straw man around a terrible person, then try to burn it down. The trouble, of course, is training one’s self to detect wicker men; straw men seem much easier to detect to their outright implausibility, while wicker men exist, but their centrality is implausible. Any suggestions for criteria (or feedback along the lines of, “this is a terrible idea”) are welcome. • ManyCookies says: That sounds similar to weak-men: One of the cutting-edge advances in fallacy-ology has been the weak man, a terribly-named cousin of the straw man. The straw man is a terrible argument nobody really holds, which was only invented so your side had something easy to defeat. The weak man is a terrible argument that only a few unrepresentative people hold, which was only brought to prominence so your side had something easy to defeat. For example, “I am a proud atheist and I don’t like religion. Think of the terrible things done by religion, like the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church. They try to disturb the funerals of heroes because they think God hates everybody. But this is horrible. Religious people can’t justify why they do things like this. That’s why I’m proud to be an atheist.” It’s not a straw man. There really is a Westboro Baptist Church, for some reason. But one still feels like the atheist is making things just a little too easy on himself. Does that capture what you’re thinking about? • Hoopyfreud says: Yes, pretty exactly. Sad that it hasn’t taken hold; I’ll start using it. • Paul Zrimsek says: Bogeymanning? • Plumber says: @Hoopyfreud “…. I propose a counter-meme: wicker-manning. To be used to describe a situation in which discussion centralizes on terrible people who are used as an effigy for groups they are associated with, and to assert that tolerance for those people is equivalent to endorsement of [terrible things] – in effect, to build a straw man around a terrible person, then try to burn it down….” @Paul Zrimsek “Bogeymanning?” “Bogeymanning” and “wicker-manning” are brilliant! I’ve seen many cases of that, almost every time someone uses the term “The Left”, and I’m seeing it more and when “The Republicans” is used. I’ve no solutions though, especially since “Lord Summerisle” isn’t around anymore to demonstrate how to do it properly! • Tarpitz says: If you need him back to ask you can probably just sacrifice a virgin or two in the right spot in the Surrey hills. • 10240 says: Is there a name for the phenomenon where a partisan is more well-known by the outgroup (who vilifies them) than their ingroup? One subcase of this is the one you described: where the specific person is worse or more extreme than others in the group. There is another possible subcase, where the person is pretty typical for the group, but some detractors of the group still find it rhetorically more powerful to attack him than to just attack the group in general. The example I’m thinking of is George Soros for social liberalism. (Are there others?) As much as I know, there is nothing particularly special about his views. It’s convenient to attack him because – he’s a rich speculator (and a Jew, for those who care about that sort of thing). That makes him an easy target of hatred, and it can be used to create a perception that the political views he supports are meant to financially benefit him. – If a single person (who doesn’t hold any elected position) is seen as having outsized political influence, that’s seen as unfair. Detractors can create a perception that no one comes to views similar to Soros’s through one’s own reflection, so such views shouldn’t be treated as reasonable; people with such views are either paid shills or influenced by Soros’s propaganda. The Hungarian government has made an entire propaganda campaign against Soros in the last few years, and has the habit of claiming to see Soros behind any criticism of the government. • Paul Zrimsek says: Saul Alinsky is frequently mentioned by conservatives, often in the same breath as Soros, though he didn’t do anything but write a book. Tom Steyer does pretty much the same things as Soros, but for some reason doesn’t get bogeymanned nearly as much. • broblawsky says: Soros is a target of the international far right; look at the way he’s perceived in Hungary. Steyer is a purely American target. • I think the Koch brothers are more prominent to people on the left than people on the right. Until the left started demonizing them, I think the only people on the “right” who paid attention to them were libertarians, due to intra-libertarian conflict. That was the context where the term “Kochtopus” originated. There is currently an attempt to demonize James Buchanan on the left, slightly impeded by competent historians on the left noticing that the evidence is mostly bogus. My guess is that most non-academics on the right have never heard of him. • 10240 says: @DavidFriedman Off-topic: Octopuses are cute. I have trouble associating them with a negative metaphor. • I don’t think the idea was that octopuses were ugly but that the Kochs had their tentacles in a lot of different libertarian organizations. My first wife’s sister had a small pet octopus in an aquarium. Certainly interesting creatures. It could apparently recognize her. • Plumber says: @10240 “….The example I’m thinking of is George Soros for social liberalism. (Are there others?)….” Charles Koch and David H. Koch are often cited by economic leftists as “plutocrats undermining democracy”, but as far as a bogeyman to social liberals I remember Jerry Falwell in that role in the 1980’s, but I can’t think of any current ones, maybe because I just don’t read the kinds of national magazines (Newsweek, Time) that would give a broad view from the center anymore (I don’t even see those magazines for sale anymore, and they used to be at gas stations!), and while I still read the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times from time-to-time they don’t list any such cultural conservative bogeyman anymore (that I notice) while they do sometimes mention the Koch brothers. Or maybe it’s just because social liberalism has been mostly winning these past few decades while economic leftism has been in retreat? • abystander says: Monsanto was the bogeyman for the anti-GMO crowd even though Pioneer Hi-Bred was bigger in GMOs although since Pioneer was acquired by Dupont and then merged with Dow chemical, the combination more name brand recognition and has also started to attract fire. 7. Plumber says: @Nancy Lebovitz “…Why is America so much less anti-Semitic than Europe?…” Well I know who I credit: “….The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess a like liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy. G. Washington” • dragnubbit says: For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. G. Washington Signed, a slaveholder who also persecuted native Americans. The American experiment was always cobbling together disparate groups until a satisfactory majority was obtained that agreed they constituted the correct political power. Stick out too much (like the Mormons) and get chased out for a while. But eventually as we keep bringing in more and more immigrants, your talents and numbers can reach a tipping point where you will be embraced by general society even as they continue to out-group others. 8. Nancy Lebovitz says: We’ve got a why anti-Semitism discussion…. here’s the other side. Why is America so much less anti-Semitic than Europe? Is there anything to be learned from this about how to weaken other bigotries? • A related point. The Romani maintained cultural identity and their own embedded legal system for about a thousand years, much of it in Europe. That system has largely broken down in the U.S. over a period of less than fifty years, as one can see by comparing the book Anne Sutherland wrote about a Romani community in the Bay Area c. 1970 and the book she published a year or two, describing (although she doesn’t put it that way) the collapse of that system. As best I can tell, the reason it collapsed was tolerance, which greatly weakened the barriers between Romani and everyone else. • Nancy Lebovitz says: This kind of thing doesn’t explain how the tolerance happened. • dragnubbit says: Too many alternate targets (especially blacks). There is only so much cognitive effort that can go into bigotry and after a while you compare all the ethnic groups and admit the ones you prefer into the in-group. So at some point you just give up and declare the Swedes and Germans white, then the Irish, then the Italians and Jews, etc. and the process is continuing with english-speaking Latinos and Asians. • Reasoner says: I hypothesize that when you have a relatively even split between many ethnicities, such as in the US or Canada, ethnic tensions are less bad and everyone just adopts a generic “American” or “Canadian” identity. It’s when you have a just a few ethnicities (e.g. 95% [some European ethnicity]/5% Jews, or 50% [Ethnicity A]/50% [Ethnicity B]) that you sometimes get problems. Also, maybe the fact that the US was founded by religious minorities and has separation of church & state written in to the constitution has something to do with it. • 10240 says: Uneducated guess: America is more capitalist, and views business success more positively than Europe. “Jews are rich capitalists” doesn’t cause hatred if people don’t hate rich capitalists in the first place. • Paul Brinkley says: My guess at Reason Number One is the Holocaust. More specifically, ample and widely disseminated evidence of genocide results in a stable aversion to repeat it, coupled with an innate sense of support for the underdog. I also cite some historical accidents that help this along, including WWII being the first “televised war”; Jews having already been pervasive throughout Western societies by then (which is why various African genocides, Armenia, Nanking, and Bosnia don’t get the same attention), and a few decisive Israeli military wars since that captured the American military spirit. • BBA says: America already had a pre-existing central axis of bigotry, namely white/black. Jews round off to white. My ancestors escaped oppression in Europe so we could become oppressors here. Sometimes I wish they had stayed. • Creutzer says: Why is America so much less anti-Semitic than Europe? Wait, is it, though? What’s the evidence for higher anti-Semitism in Europe than in the US if you set aside Muslims? 9. Nick says: I’ve got a thing for @Plumber, but it will be of interest to others here. Michael Brendan Dougherty lays out a case for the populism Trump needs: 1. Revive family-friendly tax and economic reform. … Trump should turn to Republican senators, such as Mike Lee and Marco Rubio, who have tried to make creative family-friendly adjustments to the tax code. Expand and modernize the earned-income tax credit and the child tax credit. Bring back Ivanka Trump and hammer out a form of paid parental leave that Republicans can support. At the deepest level, anxiety about the future is tied to the very real recognition in low-fertility societies that there is underinvestment in human posterity. Government can’t solve that entirely, but it can work around the edges and acknowledge it. 5. Make Gavin Newsom defend Silicon Valley and the California model. … Today California is the most unequal state in the country. It is subject to brownouts and environmental rationing; its middle class is fleeing the state’s prohibitive cost of living. … Newsom embodies the Democratic party as it is coming to be under the influence of those rich whites who have come into it. It is the party that talks about inequality not because it plans on doing anything substantial about it but as an intraparty bonding exercise. Its actual obsessions are with minimal and symbolic forms of racial, gender, and sexual-identity inclusion at elite institutions, including universities, or on corporate boards. As mayor of San Francisco, Newsom spent government resources on an advertising campaign declaring that the city would not report to federal authorities the legal status of immigrants arrested there. He failed to make good on his pledge to reduce homelessness. But he will make good on his cultural grudges. A Republican president should highlight this relentlessly. 6. Rebalance our priorities toward work and away from education. Any long-term vision of America enhancing itself as a destination for high-end manufacturing must include a rebalancing of priorities and resources away from the most prestigious educational institutions that hoard them and toward the technical schools and other institutions that can re-skill the American worker. … A radical-populist Trump would also attack the labor regulations that prevent the formation of private worker co-ops and worker councils of the kind that are common in Europe and build a more collaborative and flexible relationship between workers and owners. The labor movement has retreated almost entirely into public services and professional sports, two places where it arguably harms rather than advances the common good. Worker councils can keep the labor market free while enhancing the skills of young and old workers. • Conrad Honcho says: I endorse everything in that article, except for the beginning part about the Republican midterm losses…I don’t think that had anything to do with Rust Belt voters “snapping back” to the Democrats. It’s just the usual “in the midterms, the independent voters who lean towards the party opposite the President’s come out but the ones who lean towards the President’s party don’t care that much” thing. But everything in there is a good idea for the working and middle classes. Oh, and that part about “Mexico being the wall” yes, do that, but also a wall. I would not be shocked if Trump orders the military to start building the wall, because even though yes, the reason we don’t have a wall is congress, not Trump, it’s going to be hard going into the 2020 race without significant work done on his signature campaign promise. • Nick says: I endorse everything in that article, except for the beginning part about the Republican midterm losses…I don’t think that had anything to do with Rust Belt voters “snapping back” to the Democrats. It played a part, but only a small one. More significant is the sheer number of voters who turned out (unusual even for a midterm, is my understanding) as well as suburban voters abandoning (or more likely just punishing) Republicans by voting Democrat (ETA: this is why he mentions Orange County). I have to imagine that beginning part was cut a little short—it seems to me MBD’s suggestion is as much about appealing to those suburban voters with pro-family tax reform and all as it is about serving white working class needs. • baconbits9 says: There does not seem to be any evidence that paid parental leave increases fertility, and I suspect that it decreases it. The short term incentives of “its somewhat more financially viable to have kids” are overwhelmed by the long term incentives of contributing to the impression that families ought to be double income and dramatically increases the opportunity cost of multiple children. • Nick says: That’s a shame. What would be the expected impact of the other suggestions, like the child tax credit? • Plumber says: I know what would have incentivized me and my wife to have had children earlier and more of them: A house in a quiet neighborhood, and means to have them educated enough, or us to have enough resources so that we would think they would have an even chance of doing the same for our grandchildren. If we had the house (which we could get because of decades of savings and the 2008 financial crisis) and I had my current job in my 20’s instead of late 40’s I hsve little doubt that we may have had grandchildren by now, and at least one more child of our own. • I think what they should do is give a tax credit for children but it decreases for each additional child. That would incentivize stay at home parents compared to two income households and with stay at home parents being more common, then it should be more likely that people will want to have additional children. • baconbits9 says: I doubt this pushes in the other direction to any significant extent, the richest countries in the history of the world (by basically an order of magnitude) have declining birth rates, the odds that increasing effective incomes by 2-5% for parents will push back against this trend in any significant way are essentially nill in my opinion. • Plumber says: @Nick “I’ve got a thing for @Plumber, but it will be of interest to others here. Michael Brendan Dougherty lays out a case for the populism Trump needs:…” Nick you know me well, that link was very interesting. Thanks! Lots of good proposals in there, on “the wall”, I still think it would be easier and cheaper just to fine and jail employers – no demand, no supply – but I do think the increased immigration since after Johnson’s immigration reforms in the 1960’s, and especially after Reagan and a Democratic congress gave amnesty in the 1980’s (see, I don’t blame just Republicans for everything!) have been mostly harmful for first the black working-class and later the white working-class (I should note that my wife’s parents were immigrants, as were most of my great-grandparents, so I’m not unsympathetic to immigrants I just feel more solidarity towards those already here), though since that happened at the same time as de-industrialization it’s hard to seperate the effects. The idea of the Republican Party becoming a Labor party is a fascinating one, and there’s definitely been cases in the last 150 years (even in the last 5 years!) of Democrats and Republicans switching policies with each other, and the Democratic Party has been steadily ignoring more and more of the interests of Labor in favor of “other priorities” (I think I’ve posted before that Democrats vote for union jobs and the welfare state but get gay marriage instead, while Republicans vote for banning abortions and prayer in schools but get income tax cuts that most earn too little to notice instead). Right now working-class voters are divided in terms of rural/urban and non-white/white (and to a lesser extent men/women), but I’ve long maintained that despite their differences in complections working class Americans of different races interests are largely aligned, especially black and white men (the main beneficiaries of what “affirmative action” there’s been have been mostly white professional-class women, and a few extra seats at Harvard don’t compensate for a devastated Detroit!), I may be extrapolating too much from my childhood neighbors but I remember in the early 1970’s a whole neighborhood of black one income married homeowners driving the same model cars as their white co-workers and while they went to different churches they met at the same union halls, but within 15 years that was destroyed and by the 2000’s (especially 2009 to 2012) the same destruction came to whites, first male joblessness, then divorce, unwed births, drugs and finally homelessness, much of it blamed on “culture” and “cognitive ability” (funny how the job and income losses came first). I know that “neo-liberalism” and new technologies have overall increased prosperity, but far too many Americans are worse off than their parents or grandparents. From the 1940’s to the early 1970’s, except for the richest Americans who were paying more taxes, it really was mostly a “rising tide that lifts all boats”, tenements emptied out, new homes in the suburbs were built on a mass scale, while a few mansions in Long Island were subdivided into apartments, so a few falling into the middle class with millions rising to it. Hourly wages rose largely steadily from 1946 to 1973, but an interesting sub section were (ever the canaries in the coal mine) black males who’s wages increased a lot in the 1940’s and 50’s as they left the agricultural south and got unionized industrial jobs in the north, and then increased again in the 1970’s after Jim Crow was eliminated, for few years white wages (adjusted for inflation) were falling, while black wages were rising (though still lower than median white wages), but soon they both fell in tandem. Something happened in the 1970’s that started a decline, and I absolutely remember how the numbers of “street people” (as the homeless were called then) increased, and I could see how who was begging changed, in the 1970’s it was mostly young white ‘hippies’ begging for ‘spare change’, by the ’90’s it was mostly black men who became outnumbered by whites, both men and women many with grey hair asking for “food or a dollar”, after 2008, and maybe that’s just how it’s in the San Francisco bay area, but surely I’m not alone in noticing these problems? The article noted how San Francisco Mayor (now Governor-elect) Newsome “..failed to make good on his pledge to reduce homelessness…”, and I definitely remember how the numbers of homeless grew during his tenure (but even more so under Mayor Lee afterwards), but Newsome was chiefly known at the time for ordering marriage licenses to be issued for same sex couples, which the voters of California then banned in 2008 (yep, the same electorate that voted for Obama), which the courts overruled making gay marriage legal in 2012. I may as well state my position on gay marriage, a decade and more ago I thought that they were so few gays that wanted to get married that it was a non-issue, it was only after so many got married and were visibly happy about it that I thought “Yeah, it’s an issue, and it’s nice that they can now get the paper” (I still don’t think forcing cake baking is right though), the thing is I still think the explosion of beggers living in tents is more important. I didn’t vote for Newsome for Governor (I didn’t vote for the Republican either) even though I otherwise voted straight Democratic ticket (as my union endorsed), Newsome actually reminds me of Trump with his personal life shenanigans and I don’t trust either of them and find both loathsome. I do appreciate Trump for something though: his ascendancy got his voters noticed and the media started talking to them and asking about their lives, and even though I don’t like the man, I like that. I do still maintain that it’s because they live in areas where the glaring differences in wealth are so extreme and obvious that they vote for Democrats and it’s because they mostly don’t that Republican voters have the luxury of voting based on their faiths instead, but the article has given me food for thought, and maybe I’m mistaking cause for effect, could being governed by Democrats somehow be the cause of increasing inequality? I invite suggestions of why or why not. @Nick “…The labor movement has retreated almost entirely into public services and professional sports, two places where it arguably harms rather than advances the common good….” Even though I switched from a union construction worker to a city worker over seven years, so it would probably hurt me personally, if I could trade for the mid 20th century situation of more than a third of private sector employees being unionized but few public employees having that status I would (even better, I’d like the vast majority to be first apprentices, then guild/union journeyworker, then owners employing apprentices and journeyworkers). “..Worker councils can keep the labor market free while enhancing the skills of young and old workers” German style works councils (and Spanish style co-ops) sound awesome! My ideal is towards self government, so unions (you get a vote) and self-employed owner-operators. The best places I’m worked for were small union contractors where the owner got his hands dirty with the crew, the worst places I’ve worked for where ones where multuple grand children of the founder owned the business and didn’t touch the work. • Doctor Mist says: I still think it would be easier and cheaper just to fine and jail employers – no demand, no supply Maybe, but the supply is already here, and if it can’t get semi-legit jobs my guess is that crime would be more attractive than slinking home empty-handed. E-Verify is a part of the solution, but it’s not a magic wand. • Plumber says: @Doctor Mist, Sadly, I know of no magic wands • Plumber says: @Nick After reading the article you linked to that I responded to in an earlier post I read some other articles at the site until I came across this: “….Some liberals have criticized his acceptance of donations from oil-industry workers and worry that he will not fit in with a Democratic party that is rapidly shifting to the left…” *deep breath* Okay intellectually I know that “some” is true of most every group with many in it and doesn’t mean much, but damn that ticks me off! Those are my guys! Unions founded “The Left” in the U.S.A., and when the Democratic Party wants volunteers to walk door to door to campaign for them it’s unions that they come to, and when I last “precinct walked” the Santa Clara County Democratic Party had their office in a building owned by the Carpenters Union across the parking lot from the Electricians union hall. As it happens my “home local”‘s (U.A. Local 342) major work is in the refineries in Richmond, and I’d gotten my B.A.T.C. card to work in them when The City called, so my money is tainted? That money is hard won, we risk our health and lives for it, and we could vote for a lot of other things to donate to, a boy scout troop, a kids scholarship, another teacher for the apprentices, helping rebuild a church or school, helping a member who got crippled, the list is endless. I know that the source of the quote is right-wing, so maybe designed to sow division in Democrats, well it worked and if I could I would give “Some liberals” an earful. • Nick says: It is a “sow division” line. That’s a fault line in the Democratic coalition. Anyway, I’m a little surprised you don’t know National Review by name, since it’s one of the big conservative publications. It’s an old fusionist rag—socially and fiscally conservative—founded by William F Buckley in 1955, so frankly it’s never been friendly to working class economic interests. But Michael Brendan Dougherty, who wrote the article I linked above, is not really committed to the fiscal conservatism part. Like Ross Douthat at the New York Times, he’d prefer a socially conservative party that serves working families. A week after that piece, Dougherty has one in support of the working class revolt in France, of all things. The key part: The fear in the air is that, like Italy, France is vulnerable to a populism that combines the grievances out on the peripheries of left and right and advances them against the liberal center. The background issues are the same as they usually are in France: rising costs of living set against sluggish or non-existent growth in wages. Demographic change, fear of losing French national identity, resentment at the intrusion of powerful corporations into commercial or even social life. Most who write for National Review aren’t interested in this, though. They’re more interested in lowering taxes and repealing Obamacare and getting Kavanaugh-style judges. So my advice is, keep an eye on Dougherty’s writing if you liked that piece, and just don’t bother with the rest. • Plumber says: @Nick “…It is a “sow division” line. That’s a fault line in the Democratic coalition…” It is a ‘faultline’. Democrats are liberals and populists with a few libertarians and very few conservatives anymore, the biggest division in the Democratic Party coalition that I see is between environmentalists and Labor unions, but as union jobs other than teachers steadily disappear that’s less of an issue (much to my sadness) My understanding is that Democratic donors are more liberal/libertarian than the base which is more populist than the donors, and it seems Republicans are conservatives and populists with very few liberals and the donors are more conservative/libertarian than the base which is more populist. Up thread @Conrad Honcho linked to writer who said: “…Partisans of both the Left and the Right agree on one thing and one thing only: the enemy is running the country. Both are right, which is why both can produce graphs. The Left is winning the culture war, and the Right is winning the economic war…” Which seems essentially correct to me. On a personal note most of my acquaintances are populists (my term) and conservatives (though I used to know a few full on Marxists when I worked construction and my dad was one, and it was popular to declare yourself an Anarchist when I was a teenager, so I knew some of them as well), the few I’ve spoken to who call themselves “libertarian” have all been ex-military and most are law enforcement, but that viewpoint I’ve also seen in some others, mostly immigrants, though they don’t use that label. My wife’s social circle is very different, mostly college grad mom’s, who she describes as “liberals”. Today my wife said “Political correctness has gone to far” while to me “PC’ is mostly just something to get off the table in order to concentrate on the real issues (meaning stuff more important to me) One interesting to me study and interpretation of the 2016 election had the voters divded like so: “…we can break the electorate into four types, based on their position in the four quadrants Liberal (44.6 percent of those who voted in 2016): ‘liberal on both economic and identity issues’ Populist (28.9 percent): ‘liberal on economic issues, conservative on identity issues’ Conservative (22.7 percent): ‘conservative on both economic and identity issues Libertarian (3.8 percent): ‘conservative on economics, liberal on identity issues…. “ “…We should understand that voters are not ideologically coherent, but instead have different mixes of left and right views across different issues…” “…In both parties, the donor class is both more conservative on economic issues and more liberal on social issues, as compared to the rest of the party…” “….although the parties are divided on economic issues, there is more overlap. Particularly in the Republican Party, there are a wide range of views on economic issues, now that the party has expanded to include more and more populists who were formerly Democrats….” So while populists are not the majority and are out-numbered by full liberals and are not many more than full conservatives and libertarians combined, still the majority of all voters are social conservatives and economic liberals – the donor base isn’t though, which is a hurdle, but there is a place to get some funds – Labor unions, though probably not the teachers who are the big dogs on the block (in California at least) but, while rare, I know my union has donated to some Republicans (for being pro-pipeline and less anti-union than most Republicans), and while they can’t match the donations of corporations there’s more feet on the ground. Even if the Republican candidate is just as worker friendly as the Democrat though it would be uphill for the Republican to get the endorsements to switch – my union hall still has pictures and quotes of Hubert Humphrey and F.D.R. on the walls (though also Abraham Lincoln), and while we remember that it was a Republican President who nominated a union plumber to his cabinet we also remember that he soon resigned. As to what the social conservative legislative agenda that was deeds not words would actually be (since on that front I judge Hollywood for more important than D.C) I have questions of, but I’ll save them for another thread. @Nick “…Anyway, I’m a little surprised you don’t know National Review by name, since it’s one of the big conservative publications..” I know of the National Review by name, Buckley was on television a lot when I grew up (and Robin Williams often imitated him), it’s been a while since I’ve read any pages though. @Nick “…Michael Brendan Dougherty, who wrote the article I linked above, is not really committed to the fiscal conservatism part. Like Ross Douthat at the New York Times, he’d prefer a socially conservative party that serves working families…” Thank you very much for the tip! With your recommendation I will definitely read more Dougherty as Douthat is the opinion writer I most read (along with Krugman and now our host). • idontknow131647093 says: I mean, it is no surprise that the establishments of both parties are more socially liberal (in a classical way, not always modern progressive, which is also different than conservative, the latter two both being a kind of collectivism), and economically conservative (in the free market sense, but also in a way that has traditionally been called liberal in many spheres). Fiscal conservatism, in particular, has never been popular. That is why in the constitution the debt is hard to raise (the debt ceiling is unconstitutional for instance, because each issuance of debt requires an act of Congress in the plainest meaning of the text), and taxes are hard to levy (basically they originally just had a straight capitation tax). Every politician knew these ideas were both popular, and destructive. They also knew identity politics (ala Trump and Obama) are both popular and destructive, so they put in the 1st Amendment which guarded against the identity politics of the day, and they didn’t grant the federal government powers over social legislation. • Nick says: You know, if @idontknow131647093 is right that the establishments of both parties are rather socially liberal and fiscally conservative, and if @Plumber is right that many Democrats vote for economic reasons and many Republicans for social reasons, and the Democrats seem steadily to win on the social front and Republicans to win on the economic front… then it sounds like the parties are serving the elite great and the voters not so much. Little wonder that a populist just won the presidency—unfortunately, it’s an incompetent one who harms his own agenda. • cassander says: the default in the american system is taxes and spending going up. Not by leaps and bounds, but going up almost every year. that’s not fiscal conservatism. • idontknow131647093 says: I don’t see how you can say Republicans win on the economic front… • Plumber says: @idontknow131647093 “I don’t see how you can say Republicans win on the economic front…” Well from this Democrat’s perspective the top mariginal tax rate for those with the highest incomes, and the gutting of private sector union density look like successes for them to me. As to what more economic wins the Republican Party wants that they haven’t already gotten (terrifying thought!), you’d have to ask Republicans. • cassander says: @plumber top marginal rates tell you almost nothing about the progressivity of a tax system. Yes, in 1960, the top rate was 90%, but that top rate applied to an incredibly tiny fraction of earners, and an equally small share of their overall income, while the top rate today applies to a much larger range. Also, that tax code had much higher rates, but also many more exemptions. effective rates were, if anything, lower. The top 1% made 9% of income and paid 13% of taxes. Today the figures are 20% and 38%, actually more progressive. As for private sector unions, they weren’t killed by changes in legislation, they died of their own accord. 10. johan_larson says: Any takes on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse? I caught an early showing yesterday and was quite impressed. The action really popped, there were some nifty twists, and the tender moments between Miles Morales and his father were really moving. The alternate Spider-Man characters were a mixed bag; Spider-Gwen and Peter B. Parker were cool, but I could have done without Peter Porker, and Peni Parker and her spider-mech were right on the line. OTOH, the theater ran 20 minutes of ads and trailers before the movie, so it will be a while before they see me again. 11. Anatoly says: Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma when jumping from aircraft: randomized controlled trial. Hugely important, so glad this is finally getting a rigorous treatment. This fills the huge hole first pointed out 15 years ago, also in BMJ: Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge: systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Note that this trial was randomized controlled, but unblinded. This is something that can be improved in subsequent trials fairly easily, I think (but perhaps it’s even more important, in light of the small n of the trial and overall importance of the subject, to do a high-quality replication trial). There were certain additional technical limitations pointed out in the article. Overall though, exciting news! 12. nkurz says: There have been a few climate science discussions recently, with David Friedman proposing that global warming is real but unlikely to be catastrophic, and others feeling this is a “denialist” position. I just read a relevant article on Judith Curry’s Climate Etc, about a University of Washington academic (Cliff Mass) who she feels is being unfairly persecuted for what seem like similar beliefs: Cliff Mass has been characterized as a ‘sort of’ climate denier. The first reference to this is a 2015 article Cliff Mass: Scientific lies and the new climate deniers. “He is also a dangerous new breed of climate skeptic. He has made a theme of downplaying the role of global warming in extreme weather events, and in exposing what he calls “overzealousness” in the scientific, media, and activist community.” A 2017 article in Stranger entitled Why does Cliff Mass believe scientists and leftist journalists are exaggerating the dangers of climate change? “Cliff Mass is not a climate denier, but he is their ally, which is as good as being a climate denier.” So, what does Cliff Mass have to say about climate change, in his own words? From an interview with the UW Alumni magazine and summary from the Wikipedia (based on my knowledge of Cliff’s opinions and writings, this is correct): “According to Mass, “Global warming is an extraordinarily serious issue, and scientists have a key role to play in communicating what is known and what is not about this critical issue. Mass has stated publicly that he shares the scientific consensus that global warming is real and that human activity is the primary cause of warming trends in the 20th and 21st centuries. He has been critical of the Paris Climate accord for not going far enough to address the negative impacts of climate change. However, Mass is also frequently critical of what he has characterizes as exaggerations of the past and current impacts of climate change in the news media, including the attribution of individual extreme weather events to global warming.” There are, of course, those who would argue that by nitpicking such details, Mass only feeds ammunition to climate change deniers. Mass doesn’t want to downplay global warming; he just doesn’t want to stretch the truth to try and out-extreme those who would deny it. “So global warming’s very serious,” Mass said. “But it’s coming up in the future, not right now, for us.” So in summary, Cliff Mass accepts the consensus science. However he breaks with the ‘activists’ in terms of thinking it is a bad idea to falsely claim that extreme weather events are caused by AGW. https://judithcurry.com/2018/12/12/cliff-mass-victim-of-academic-political-bullying/ If you are not familiar with her, Curry herself is a quite respectable former academic who has publicly taken a more “skeptical” position now that she has left academia. Separate from the object level question of how best to deal with climate change, I think the article is an interesting look at the evolution of the terms “skeptic” and “denier”. I’d recommend it if you are into such things. • broblawsky says: I’d argue that Curry’s argument is on par with claiming that since you’re unlikely to get struck by lightning, there’s no point in coming out of the rain, and by the way, you might as well hold up this big metal rod, the odds of any harm coming of it are vanishingly likely. • nkurz says: It’s a good image, but could you be more specific as to which of her arguments you draw this parallel? 13. Nancy Lebovitz says: https://warontherocks.com/2018/12/the-historical-profession-is-committing-slow-motion-suicide I have no idea whether history is in trouble, but I realized I have no strong opinions about what historians ought to study. Anyone here have opinions? Are there things you wish were studied more? Meanwhile, The Pursuit of Power by McNeill looks pretty interesting. • Björn says: The article sounds like in history the same things are happening as in the other humanities: The scholars are focusing too much on weird social things, which makes what they find out irrelevant for most people. • bean says: Anyone here have opinions? Are there things you wish were studied more? I think the article isn’t that far from the truth. There are things I’m interested in that simply aren’t being studied these days. For instance, there isn’t much good academic history of the Falklands War as military history. I’m having to work from several sources from the mid to late 80s and one or two books published for the popular audience on the 30th anniversary. The few interesting works of late are mostly written by non-academics. I’m starting to work on the Spanish-American War, and seeing the same thing. The last serious look at the destruction of the Maine was 20 years ago, and it was sponsored by National Geographic. The one bright spot is the existence of a few specialty publishing houses that are putting out excellent work, mostly the Naval Institute Press and Seaford in the UK. But they can’t cover everything, and it’s kind of sad how much of my reading comes from there and how little comes from university presses and the like. • dndnrsn says: Military history in the technical sense is a pretty low-prestige field in academia, and has been for a while. At some point “names-and-dates” history and “great man” theories and so on fell out of fashion, and to some extent those ways of doing history work pretty well for military history. • Statismagician says: What kind of theories replaced those, and do you have any examples of them being used in military history? I’m curious as to how that would work. • dndnrsn says: It’s been a long time, but when I took history, the cool thing was this sort of social-economic history. This tendency and this invention led to this social development, here’s how the Black Plague meant higher wages and better conditions for surviving peasants, sort of thing. Far less concerned with who’s king at a given point in time. You can do that with military history. Names and Dates is typical military history “but the Russians had left their exposed right flank wide open for Von So-and-So’s counterattack; he advanced for x km and took y prisoners before halting due to mechanical breakdown and lack of fuel. Note the panzerjager vehicle, converted from a Russian gun strapped to a Czech chasses.” Economic history is likeWages of Destruction, about the question of why exactly Von So-and-So’s men ran out of parts for their mix of German and Czech tanks, here’s why they didn’t have fuel for their trucks, here’s why they were gluing captured artillery to captured tanks like W40K Orks: it’s because of deep disadvantages in their ability to churn out stuff compared to their enemies, resource inferiority, and so on. They probably couldn’t have fixed this. Great Man history would be, here’s how the personalities of the leaders and their subordinates, the skills of their generals, determined what happened. Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin all on the book cover. Social history could be comparative militarism in the post-Napoleonic period, organization of the military, institutional transmission of military leadership doctrine. Why General So-and-So was more likely to be good at spotting exposed flanks or whatever than the median general. • Le Maistre Chat says: here’s why they didn’t have fuel for their trucks, here’s why they were gluing captured artillery to captured tanks like W40K Orks: it’s because of deep disadvantages in their ability to churn out stuff compared to their enemies, resource inferiority, and so on. Shoot, if the Eastern Front of WW2 was a bunch of Warhammer 40K Orks, we’re overlooking another reason the Soviets won. The red vehicles go faster. • Lambert says: It’s odd how I’ve come to the ‘professionals talk logistics’ view of military history without really realising it. Never really being introduced to it properly at any point, but just being exposed to Bean and A Blunted Sickle and, to a lesser extent, the War and Peace essays. • Nabil ad Dajjal says: A lot of the best historical research that is being done right now is outside of the academic discipline of history. Paleogenetics is generating some really fascinating stuff. Mostly people online only care when it has political relevance and/or involves Neanderthals, but there’s a lot of excellent and fascinating work being done to figure out who our ancestors were, where they came from, and what they were like. And not just human genetics either: a friend of mine is working on trying to reconstruct the diets of ancient peoples by analyzing plant proteins left on preserved teeth. There’s a lot of opportunity to apply scientific methods to studying what once were considered historical questions. • Montfort says: I heartily endorse The Pursuit of Power, and also Venice: The Hinge of Europe by McNeill, and I’m working through a few more of his books at the moment, too. This recommendation is the primary purpose of my reply, waffling commentary follows. I’m not sure I have a good handle on where history is going – after all, I only read a few history books a year, out of a great many published. And there’s more than a hundred years worth of reasonably modern histories already in the pool, so the rate of change isn’t immediately apparent to me. So it’s not necessarily the case that I want things like economic, diplomatic, and military history studied more, necessarily, but it would be good if there was a continued supply. Personally I’d cut back on biographies of people who already have 4+ biographies (though that’s probably more “popular” than “academic” history, anyway). 14. ausmax says: I was reading a world war 2 alt-history/science fiction book recently. (In the Balance, by Harry Turtledove). While reading I thought some about two mistakes that Germany clearly made during the war and was wondering if the war/history buffs here had thoughts on the following two alternate world war 2 questions: 1. Attacking USSR. What happens in the war if this betrayal never takes place? 2. Mistreating Jews. This one is harder, since obviously that seems to have been a fundamental value of Nazi Germany, but imagine an alternate Germany that is nationalistic and expansionist but doesn’t put resources into the holocaust and retains the Jewish scientists that left for the US. (Einstein and Fermi are the two that jump to mind initially, but I’m sure there are many others). Any thoughts on what would happen absent either or both of these mistakes? • cassander says: 1. Attacking USSR. What happens in the war if this betrayal never takes place? the germans continue to wage an indecisive war against the brits, because even if they take north africa, they can’t really challenge british navy without years of buildup when they’re being supplied by the US. In a year, the japanese attack pearl harbor, the US comes into the war, and germany is eventually crushed, though it takes a lot longer and gets a lot more non-russians killed. Postwar situation depends a lot on when how Stalin decides to betray hitler. 2. Mistreating Jews. If einstein never writes that letter to FDR, someone else probably does, and with virtually limitless wartime funding available, the bomb still probably gets developed, if maybe a bit later. Zero effect on the war in europe. • Protagoras says: I hate to agree with cassander, but the Germans didn’t really have a way to beat the Brits; it didn’t matter how much of their energy they focused in that direction. Or, rather, the only way they had to beat the Brits that had the slightest hope of success was to beat the Soviets first, and quickly, and get access to vastly greater resources than they’d gotten under their treaty with the Soviets. That probably wouldn’t have worked either (the Brits still had America helping them, and even the Soviet resources probably couldn’t have overcome that, plus even if the Germans had kept their Jewish scientists, I again have to agree with cassander that the Americans still would have gotten the bomb first). But it really was their only hope. • gbdub says: 1. I think “defeating Communism” was as much a fundamental value of Nazi Germany as getting rid of Jews was. So the clash was going to come eventually. That said, I think there were things that could have made it go better. Germany should have truly neutralized Britain first, if possible. An invasion was probably never going to work, but the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic were close run things. The Blitz was probably a mistake, it pissed off the populace and gave the real targets (RAF airfields and radar stations) something of a reprieve. Wreck the RAF and strangle the convoy lifeline, and Britain may have been amenable to an uneasy armistice (either that or too crippled to help anywhere). The attack itself was somewhat delayed in the year, and ultimately the German advance bogged down partly due to weather just short of Moscow. Had things gone off on time, or had Hitler waited another year to build his forces (and focus on Britain), Germany probably captures Moscow and the war is completely different. They also focused too much on Leningrad and Stalingrad. Would have been better to isolate and bypass these until Moscow fell. Bigger mistakes were probably supporting Italy’s African adventures and allying with Japan. The former sucked elite forces into a second front that never served German interests that much in the first place. The latter meant that America joined the Battle of the Atlantic in full force as soon as they could after Pearl Harbor. • Lillian says: The attack itself was somewhat delayed in the year, and ultimately the German advance bogged down partly due to weather just short of Moscow. Had things gone off on time, or had Hitler waited another year to build his forces (and focus on Britain), Germany probably captures Moscow and the war is completely different. Barbarossa was delayed for a month because the 1941 spring rasputitsa was unusually late, and heavy enough that the several major rivers burst their banks. If the German invasion goes off on time then they get bogged down in mud immediately instead of just short of Moscow. Postponing the invasion a full year is even worse, since Stalin wasn’t stupid and was fully aware that the Germans were going to come gunning for him eventually. He had just convinced himself that it was going to happen in 1942, which was very convenient for him because in 1941 the Soviet military was in the middle of a huge reorganization which would not be completed until the next year. Basically, there are no better conditions for the Germans to invade the Soviet Union than in late June 1941. If they go earlier they have to advance through mud and flooded rivers, if they go later that same year they cut their campaign season short, and if the they go next year the Soviets will be better prepared for them. They also focused too much on Leningrad and Stalingrad. Would have been better to isolate and bypass these until Moscow fell. The Germans did bypass Leningrad. That was in fact literally the plan: cut off the city, let the defenders and citizens die to starvation and bombardment. The problem is the defenders stubbornly refused to cooperate with their own extermination, and hundreds of thousands of angry men with guns can be a hell of an inconvenience to have behind your lines. As for Stalingard, again they did try to bypass it, as you can see in this map of German advances in 1942. The strategic goal of the offensive is Caspian oil fields just outside the map border on the lower right, and you can see the thrust of the advance is in that direction. They were foiled because, once again, the Soviets were not feeling cooperative. You could argue the Germans shouldn’t have advanced on the city at all, but Stalingrad was a major logistical and industrial base, so not taking it meant letting the enemy concentrate forces against their flank uncontested. Not a smart move. • cassander says: it wasn’t weather that bogged down the germans around moscow, it was the exhaustion of the german army after a 1000 mile advance. If the germans attack a couple months earlier they close in on moscow a couple months earlier, stalin transfers his eastern divisions west a couple months earlier, and typhoon is defeated a couple months earlier, but the outcome almost certainly doesn’t change. • broblawsky says: All the meth they were taking probably didn’t help. • Lillian says: It helped a lot in preventing them from being overrun by the Red Army during all the subsequent retreats. • bean says: Germany should have truly neutralized Britain first, if possible. An invasion was probably never going to work, but the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic were close run things. The Blitz was probably a mistake, it pissed off the populace and gave the real targets (RAF airfields and radar stations) something of a reprieve. Wreck the RAF and strangle the convoy lifeline, and Britain may have been amenable to an uneasy armistice (either that or too crippled to help anywhere). Disagree on both fronts. The British had plans to withdraw to airfields further north if they were seriously threatened in southeastern England, and the Dowding System as a whole was pretty robust. It simply wasn’t possible for the Germans to wreck the RAF. They didn’t have the numbers. As for the Atlantic, there was never any sort of turn-away from the battle. There were times the U-boats withdrew from the North Atlantic convoy routes, but that was usually because they were getting their heads handed to them by the escorts. The attack itself was somewhat delayed in the year, and ultimately the German advance bogged down partly due to weather just short of Moscow. Had things gone off on time, or had Hitler waited another year to build his forces (and focus on Britain), Germany probably captures Moscow and the war is completely different. How is it completely different? The Russians are not suddenly going to surrender because Moscow is taken. They’re not going to just give up basically ever. That’s not what they do when the Motherland is in peril like that. (WWI was an exception, and the reasons there don’t apply in WWII.) You’re definitely right on allying with Japan being a mistake. Not declaring war on the US would have left Roosevelt in a really awkward position. Instead, Hitler did him a favor. • ADifferentAnonymous says: What if the Blitz and Barbarossa resources were directed towards the Atlantic instead? • Statismagician says: I’m inclined to think that a) it doesn’t matter, because that’s still Germany trying to outproduce America and the British Empire, which just isn’t in the cards, and b) you can’t really do this; resources are not completely interchangeable as they are in RTS games. You can’t just melt down tanks and build submarines out of the results, let alone make tankers submariners anything like efficiently. • bean says: Pretty much what Statismagician said. There’s a fair bit of flexibility in what you build within a category (shipbuilding can trade between battleships, merchant ships, amphibious ships, destroyers and submarines relatively freely) but not a lot of room to play between categories (I can’t just order factories to switch from bombers to submarines). I can’t say when a change would have to be made to have much effect, but it’s probably way too early to be plausible without Hitler and co being clairvoyant. • John Schilling says: Too late to matter, unless you have Hitler deciding in 1938 that he’s so certain he’s not going to wage war with Russia that he doesn’t build a Wehrmacht capable of defeating Russia – in which case, the odds of Stalin seeing an irresistible opportunity for a double-cross of his own go way up. Germany’s defeat in the Battle of the Atlantic is due primarily to mistakes made before 1940 (untested torpedoes, poor crypto protocols, and misallocation of naval aviation), and inability to fully exploit allied mistakes in 1939-1942. By 1941 it was too late, and giving German shipyards infinite steel diverted from panzer-building and saying “how long will it take for you to gear up for increased submarine production?” isn’t going to change anything. That mostly just gets you more targets for allied ASW forces at just about the time they achieve technological dominance. • Chipsa says: In addition to what others have said, cancelling Barbarossa just gets the USSR time to tool up to attack Germany in 1942. You probably actually end up with a shorter war, as Germany ends up mostly on defensive earlier. • Lillian says: How is it completely different? The Russians are not suddenly going to surrender because Moscow is taken. They’re not going to just give up basically ever. That’s not what they do when the Motherland is in peril like that. (WWI was an exception, and the reasons there don’t apply in WWII.) The Russian rail system was laid up in a hub-and-spoke pattern, with Moscow being the hub. Its loss would not have resulted in the Russians surrendering, see how well taking Moscow went for Napoleon, but it would have been a serious blow to Russian logistics and seriously impaired their ability to transfer forces across the theatre. Note, however, that the Germans reaching Moscow and the German staking Moscow are two completely different propositions. The city was defended by a ring of fortified earthworks, and being the hub of the Soviet rail system would have made it fairly easy for the Soviets to move supplies and reinforcements into it. The whole thing could very easily had turned into a Stalingrad for the Germans. • bean says: Whose map of the Soviet rail system are you using? Russian maps are/were notoriously inaccurate, and I would be totally unsurprised if they’d edited their route maps to make Moscow seem totally vital, while also having bypasses in place to let them keep fighting if Moscow was taken. • Nornagest says: Stalin would probably have backstabbed Hitler eventually if Hitler hadn’t backstabbed Stalin, but it would likely have taken a few more years — Soviet industry and particularly military organization was really in a pretty sorry state in 1941. It’s unlikely that the Nazis could have used that opportunity to successfully invade Britain — Sealion was a non-starter — and I don’t think the German navy was ever in a position to win the Battle of the Atlantic, but they’d likely have done better in North Africa, which would have made it a lot harder to open the Italian front, which in turn would make a French invasion less practical. A stalemate across the English Channel might open the way for a negotiated peace, which — once the US beat Japan in the Far East, which is still likely — would set the world up for a 1984-like three-superpower arrangement, at least until Stalin decided to invade. A Nazi Germany that doesn’t hate Jews is simply not Nazi Germany, so I don’t have a prediction there. We could imagine a Franco-like traditionalist strongman taking Hitler’s place, but I can’t see a guy like that being anywhere near as expansionistic as Hitler was: Hitler’s expansionism was driven by his racial doctrine at least as much as by his personal ambition. The other option would be a Tito-like leftist strongman, which is more interesting. He could either end up as a Stalin puppet or as another pole of power, depending on exactly how he came to power and how well Moscow (which had its fingers in every left-wing revolution around that time, whether or not explicitly Communist) managed him. Expansionism might still be in the cards, but its justifications and targets could be very different. • Nornagest says: I think this belongs under @gbdub’s post, not mine. • A Definite Beta Guy says: The USSR just attacks Germany. You can survive this only if the US is not giving the USSR massive lend-lease aid, which the US is going to do, because FDR really wants to beat up on the Germans. There was no chance of Germany winning because all the major powers at the time hated Germany. France hated Germany, Britain hated Germany, Russia hated Germany, the US hated Germany. You cannot function as a great power when all the other Great Powers hate you. Germany was able to eke out some gains by playing Russia against the West and letting the US essentially bankroll its reparations debt, but that was always going to be a game with an end. You need to have allies at some point, and you need to make sure the other great powers cannot form a coalition against you. Honestly, the Germans did a good job of breaking out of their position. They got Austria, they got their army back, they destroyed the Little Entente, they took out Czecholovokia entirely, and they put immense pressure on Poland. Just don’t invade Poland at that particular point and see what the next hand gives you. But once that invasion of Poland happens and Britain and France declare war, you are on a ticking clock unless you really work some miracles, because your diplomatic position is absolute crap. • bean says: At this point, I feel compelled to cite Wages of Destruction, although I haven’t read it (yet). Germany’s economy was driven by conquest, and they couldn’t have waited too long to go after Poland or they would have collapsed. No, I don’t know how long. • cassander says: that plus the not inaccurate belief that the allies were re-arming as well in 1939 and that time favored them given their overall much higher level of resources. • dndnrsn says: Read Wages of Destruction as I believe bean has mentioned. The answers to your questions are both “because that’s what national socialism is about” and because of the German war economy. Belief in a racial struggle in which Jews were one of the major enemies was a core Nazi belief, and so was the belief that Germany in order to survive needed to claim rich land – as the colonial European powers did with colonies, or as the US did with an entire continent pretty much to itself even before it got involved in foreign countries’ business. Getting rid of the Jews – which started to include indiscriminate mass murder by late 1941 – was also one of the Nazis’ key beliefs. This stuff was part of their nature. Their original plan was to go to war in the early to mid 40s, but in the event things went down faster than that. Given the relatively ramshackle nature of the German war economy and other people noticing German spending and figuring that maybe some new planes and stuff would be cool it’s far from clear that delaying until 1942 or 44 or whenever would have helped them. Their economy was built on plunder – use the output of Czech factories to invade Poland and France, nab (at best, fake exchange rate giving the Germans more buying power) French agricultural products, to feed the war effort and the homefront (Hitler especially wanted to avoid cutting civilian rations, thinking that starvation in Germany in WWI had played a major role in the “stab-in-the-back” he thought had occurred; it’s not until late 1944 or early 1945 that rations really crashed). They invaded the USSR with all sorts of foreign equipment. If you subtract the stuff that sent them careening towards war, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, you don’t have the Nazis. If authoritarian conservatives had taken power instead of the Nazis (probably the second most likely outcome?) they would have been hostile to the USSR and fairly contemptuous against Slavs, certainly would have disliked and could well have discriminated against, but they’d be far less likely to invade the USSR (maybe go to war in general; see Franco) and the gap between official persecution and extermination is pretty big. Authoritarian conservatives almost by definition want stability; leadership in Nazi Germany was often characterized by its instability. 15. BBA says: I thought I found something, but it turns out I didn’t. There’s a bus route in Brooklyn called the B110 that runs from Williamsburg to Borough Park. It has a “B” number like all the other buses in Brooklyn (and like the “M” buses in Manhattan, the “Q” buses in Queens, etc.) that appears next to other numbers at bus stops, but unlike the other routes, it’s not run by the MTA and the bus drivers don’t take MetroCards. It’s run by the Private Transportation Corp., owned by Jacob Marmurstein, and serves the sizable Hasidic Jewish communities in those neighborhoods. The company makes several concessions to its riders’ religious beliefs: the buses don’t run on the Sabbath or Jewish holidays, and they used to have a policy that women had to sit at the back of the bus, out of men’s view. The latter policy caused a minor media outcry in 2011, with the obvious comparisons to Rosa Parks, and Marmurstein had to officially end it once it was clear he was violating antidiscrimination law. Unofficially, once the media scrutiny had died down, the Hasidic passengers continued to self-segregate by gender and nobody has made a fuss about it since then. The B110 operates under a franchise granted by the NYC Department of Transportation, one of four that remain of what used to be a huge system of private bus lines (and streetcars before that) that gradually went bankrupt or sought government subsidies and eventually were all taken over by the MTA and its predecessors. Aside from the B110, the other three unsubsidized private bus routes are the express airport lines – Manhattan to LGA, Manhattan to JFK, and LGA to JFK. These are currently run by Golden Touch Transportation, a subsidiary of the French conglomerate Transdev, which took them over in 2011. Before then, the franchises belonged to the New York Airport Service, owned by…Jacob Marmurstein. Hmmm. Could the controversy over the B110 have been planted in the press by Golden Touch in order to win the airport routes? I thought I was onto something, but the media flurry happened in October 2011 and Golden Touch took over the franchises in June of that year. (And apparently started running the routes in January, under authorization from the Port Authority to use the airport bus stops but without any DOT franchise… I’m not really sure how that worked.) So it was just an unfortunate coincidence for Marmurstein. Also, the airport express buses have been in decline for a while now, what with the rise of on-demand shuttle vans (like Transdev’s SuperShuttle; Marmurstein also owns a van service) and later Uber and Lyft and the rest of them, so in the long run it probably doesn’t matter. Still strikes me as a bit odd. But here’s something I found. Like all the other bus routes, the airport express buses were assigned numbers by DOT. The Manhattan-to-airport routes are MQ1 and MQ2, and the airport-to-airport route is Q53. But there’s another bus in the Rockaways, run by the MTA, also numbered Q53. And this isn’t just the MTA ignoring the DOT numbering system and assigning its own numbers: the route was one of the last batch of private buses taken over by the MTA in the mid-2000s. Back when it was still a private route, franchised by the DOT to Triboro Coach, the number was still Q53. So did the DOT just give two unrelated buses the same number and if so, why? Or did they just not care enough to notice? This bothers me a lot more than it should. Anyway, I didn’t find a point to any of this, but I decided to share it with you regardless. 16. Well... says: Last OT I asked about Kim Stanley Robinson recommendations, which I got enough of to give me some guidance. Thanks. This time I want to ask specifically what y’all thought about his book 2312. I think I’m about 1/3 through (“think” because I’m using one of those Playaway audiobook players from the library and it only tells me what chapter I’m on and how much time is left in that chapter, and I certainly haven’t been keeping track anyway) and I like many aspects of it but am a bit annoyed with others. Or maybe it’s that I find them distasteful. Like for example I find the protagonist, Swan, pretty excruciating to be around, and I like it better when the narration switches inside the minds of other characters. I also for some reason am just not comfortable with everyone who lives in space being so androgynous/hermaphroditic/bisexual/queer/etc. If those kinds of characters were represented at one or two orders of magnitude their actual proportion of the population in real life that’d probably be fine, but it seems like 95% of people in this universe are like that and it’s just weird. But I find the story itself quite compelling. And the science in the book is “hard” or “plausible” or whatever enough, and there’s enough of it, to scratch that itch that I read sci-fi for in the first place. And KSR’s writing style, though sometimes a bit too touchy-feely/flowery for my tastes, is still basically quite beautiful most of the time. And he also introduces little philosophical asides that are at least interesting and ponderous, despite sometimes being a bit heavy-handed. I don’t like this book as much as Aurora, but I’m still happy enough to be reading listening to it and will continue to do so until it’s done. • professorgerm says: I also for some reason am just not comfortable with everyone who lives in space being so androgynous/hermaphroditic/bisexual/queer/etc. If those kinds of characters were represented at one or two orders of magnitude their actual proportion of the population in real life that’d probably be fine, but it seems like 95% of people in this universe are like that and it’s just weird. I don’t know anything about KSR, but I’ve usually chalked this trend up to: 1. People acknowledging that birds of a feather flock together, even if they don’t want to admit it in those terms. Writers tend to be a bit… odd, which is not meant here to have positive nor negative valence, just as a neutral descriptor. So if they’re X, they populate the book with X, far and above the actual population. 2. Related, it’s some sort of reality-denying, Bank’s Culture wish fulfillment. They want luxury gay space communism, so obviously that’s what the future will be. Their pet theory of what utopia would be (but one man’s creature’s utopia is another’s hell, to be sure). 3. Seriously bad typical-minding. I want X, obviously everyone else does too and they just don’t want to admit it for offending their fuddy-duddy relatives. The explanations are variations on a theme rather than truly distinct. I, too, find it an unusual and unpleasant trend. • Plumber says: @professorgerm “…They want luxury gay space communism, so obviously that’s what the future will be…” FWLIW, Reading the phrase “luxury gay space communism” (four words that I never imagined seeing in a row) gave me a chuckle and brightened my mood • Hoopyfreud says: The full form of the meme is, I believe, FULLY AUTOMATED LUXURY GAY SPACE COMMUNISM It’s a very benign political meme of the left for making fun of itself, and I like it too (even as the utopian viewpoint frustrates me). • Chipsa says: And really, it has to be fully automated to work out. Otherwise you have a conflict between the luxury and the communism part. • Nancy Lebovitz says: It’s been a while since I read 2312, but I liked it on the whole, and what I liked best about it was the variety of space habitats. As I recall, the project on Earth didn’t make a lot of sense. • sandoratthezoo says: The problem with 2312 is that it’s frustratingly stupid. These guys are terraforming Venus and are, simultaneously, like, “How could we reverse 3 degrees of global warming? Nobody knows, man! Let’s just air-drop some animals into the arctic, that’ll probably work.” Like, seriously, Robinson is all, “Well, we can drop Venus’ surface temperature by like 800 degrees, but you see we can’t do that on Earth because obviously you can’t drop comets on Earth. Oh, wait, I did the temperature drop on Venus via a solar shade that is so capable that people are debating whether to use that same solar shade to give Venus a 24-hour day/night cycle? Well… fuck it, I’m not rewriting anything. They apparently can’t drop solar influx to Earth by 0.2% because reasons.” 17. Well... says: I’m going to stop doing side/oblique bends with the cable machine until I can figure out a way to do it where my movement being off by more than a few millimeters doesn’t instantly result in shooting pain and mess up my back for the rest of the day. Any suggestions? What other exercises are equally effective at targeting exactly the same muscles? I don’t like doing it with a dumbbell in one hand because it never feels like enough resistance until the dumbbell is so heavy that it’s too hard to maintain my grip. • dndnrsn says: How heavy are we talking? Is it a grip problem? What sort of rep range are you working? • Well... says: It’s been at least a couple years, but I think more like 10+, since I did side bends with a dumbbell. And now that I’m looking it up, it seems I was doing them wrong anyway. Not in a dangerous way I don’t think, but just in a very ineffective way. And now I’m worried that I did real damage to my nerves by doing side bends at all, cable or otherwise… • Anon. says: Pallof press? Landmine twist? • Well... says: I like the landmine twist, I might try that. • Reasoner says: You might try going to a massage therapist (or massaging yourself) 18. Paul Brinkley says: Is there a principled approach to determining the optimal rate of churn in an organization? Particularly, to maximize the good effects of competition, and also minimize the incentive to kill collaboration. • oldman says: I don’t think this would be the same answer for all organisations. Big 4 consultancies tend to want a very large number of junior people to work hard on lots of low level tasks. You want competent people doing low level tasks, but competent people won’t be satisfied with being junior for very long, hence there’s going to be a lot of churn. This isn’t really a big concern for the consultancies, as so much of their time is on short term engagement, you don’t need to worry about losing institutional knowledge. • helloo says: Big example of negative effects of churn I am aware of is what Microsoft implemented a while back and supposedly stopped. https://blog.impraise.com/360-feedback/microsoft-throws-stack-ranking-out-the-window I cannot get any details of how much the churn rate was, but it seemed to have caused issues that were independent of the rate. 19. AG says: So the general consensus is that the new Netflix anime Hero Mask is not good. However, relevant to this forum, the protagonist works for SSC. These are some ripe photoshop opportunities. “I’m James Blood, with the SSC” HERE’S MUH SSC BADGE • Nick says: Yeah, I watched it this weekend and got a real kick out of this. 20. paranoidaltoid says: (This question is going to sound extremely naive, and I apologize in advance if I encourage bad people to respond. But I’ve always been confused about this, and I think this is the right place to ask.) Why do people hate Jews? Why does antisemitism exist? They look like white, so it can’t be racism. Is antisemitism just a hold-over from when society was much more Christian? Is it just a manifestation of the hatred for the classroom’s smart kid? I just don’t understand why antisemitism exists, it seems so arbitrary. And the wikipedia article doesn’t contain a “history” section. Why does antisemitism exist? • DragonMilk says: As a Christian, I never understood it until I had an Orthodox Jewish roommate explain it to me (not sure if I ever met a Jew before then). They are very much culturally distinct and exclusive, and my hypothesis is that societies use them as the scapegoat out of envy. They value education very highly and will do trades (finance) that historically were not done by Christians or Muslims and would be accused of stealing their way to riches. So I think it’s a mix of envy of the wealthy who happen to be extremely culturally distinct. • paranoidaltoid says: That makes sense. It’s natural to hate the wealthy, but it looks bad to hate them simply because they’re wealthy. But if the wealthy happen to be culturally distinct? So much so that they don’t even believe in Jesus Christ? That gives you a very good excuse to hate them. • Aapje says: It’s natural to hate the wealthy, but it looks bad to hate them simply because they’re wealthy. That’s why you blame them for getting their wealth unfairly, so then you can punish them. It’s not actually because they are Jewish, Chinese, white men, etc. • Statismagician says: Large chunks of the Middle East do because, well, Israel, how it came to be, and the things it does. Very tiny, but loud and disproportionately-well-reported-on chunks of Europe/America do because tiny chunks of [anywhere] can be found who hate/love/worship/despise literally anything, plus some historical and religious inertia of the sort you mention. It’s not really a culture-wide thing anymore, as far as I know; I of course welcome correction if there’s some seething undercurrent of hatred I’ve somehow missed. With that said: They look like white, so it can’t be racism. This isn’t at all correct. ‘Race’ is only synonymous with skin color in the US; the rest of the world (has historically) called e.g. Slavs a separate race from Scandinavians, and Jews very much count under that more common, broader definition. • paranoidaltoid says: Very tiny, but loud and disproportionately-well-reported-on chunks of Europe/America do because tiny chunks of [anywhere] can be found who hate/love/worship/despise literally anything Good point, this probably explains the strains of antisemitism the media shows us today. I think you’re correct in saying that antisemitism isn’t a “culture-wide thing anymore”. Still, it’s a mystery to me that antisemitism is even on the plate nowadays. • Statismagician says: Just think of it as a particularly nasty instance of the Lizardman Constant. • Le Maistre Chat says: A few percent hating reptile people is all a big joke until Kull kills the Serpentmen. • Randy M says: You might be interested in this excerpt from Thomas Sowells book in which he dubs Jews ‘middleman minorities’ and compares distrust of the to Chinese in Asian countries where they are minorities and fill similar economic roles. I believe (from reading it some time ago) that he thinks it stems largely from envy at how hardworking people can make money without seeming to produce anything of value themselves via logistical roles as shopkeepers and so on. Anti-semitism of the kind I’ve seen on-line, of the triple parenthesis sort, is more concerned with the fact that (some prominent) Jews advocate for globalist, mutli-cultural policies while occupying privileged positions disproportionate to population especially in media, supporting movements that criticize “whiteness” while being personally nepotistic, criticizing white culture from the inside while having a minority status to retreat to. I don’t know how much this is simply conflating the actions of different Jews or attributing to malice what is values differences, but that’s the alt-right take. There’s a strain that dislikes them based on Israel being seen as imperialistic. Not all Jews like or support Israel, but guilt by association is a common fallacy. In a recent thread it was asked how much anti-semitism comes from Christian theology. There’s probably some, on the margins, but Christianity I observe is extremely pro-Jewish. Maybe in other cultures this isn’t so. • paranoidaltoid says: Thank for your reply, there’s a lot of stuff in it that makes sense to me. I’ll say this: It’s ironic to force Jews to work in dishonorable fields (like banking) and then hate them for working in such fields. It’s also weird to blame Jews for globalism, when the vast majority of politicians who created our globalist regime are not Jewish. It seems like people wanted to hate Jews in the first place, and that the reasons for hating them came afterwards. Anyways, I’m going to read the Sowell piece; thanks for linking it. Also, can anyone link me to the recent thread that asks how much antisemitism comes from Christian Theology? That seems relevant to my question. • I think pro-Jewish Christianity is pretty recent and American. • Nancy Lebovitz says: One thing from the Sowell essay– a lot of theories of anti-Semitism focus on the idea that Jews were hated because of being wealthy. Actually, a lot of Jews during periods of active anti-Semitism weren’t wealthy. In may cases a lot of Jews were quite poor. However, they were a middleman minority (doing the work of trading that their neighbors weren’t doing) and they were a little better off than their poor neighbors. Also of interest to ssc– Sowell says that Jewish emphasis on secular education came after Jewish success. The small businesses came first. I’m not sure how important Talmudic law was for Jewish success (it includes rules for business and rabbis would adjudicate conflicts)– there have been other middleman minorities who didn’t have anything that elaborate. He doesn’t address whether there’s anything unique about anti-Semitism as compared to prejudice against other middleman minorities. • Paul Brinkley says: How much would the fact that there existed Jews who weren’t wealthy affect anti-Semites’ views, if the Jews they tended to see were wealthier? Couldn’t selection bias account for anti-Semitic envy? Especially if those middleman minority Jews were largely interacting only with fellow Jews… In fact, that could even explain why anti-Semitism was unique. Lots of people stayed within enclaves of more established nations. National perception would be of a bunch of strange newcomers that keep within themselves and are therefore Shunworthy. But only Jews had a prominent crowd of wealthy members, AFAIK. • albatross11 says: ISTR that in a lot of places, Jews were employed as tax collectors, partly so that the local king/duke/lord could displace some of the anger at people having to pay their taxes toward those unpopular Jews. • Brad says: I don’t know how much this is simply conflating the actions of different Jews or attributing to malice what is values differences, but that’s the alt-right take. Do you have a guess or are you totally agnostic on the merits of the alt-right take? • Randy M says: I’m no expert, so I have no reason to give my personal opinion. Any reason you want it? The part you quoted is listing two possible reasons why this anti-semitism is factually incorrect and my saying I’m not sure the relative weights to give them; but my giving that perspective at all, even when relevant is rather suspicious, I guess. Report just in case? • albatross11 says: Amy Chua wrote a pretty good book called _World On Fire_ in which she put forward a similar theory. (I don’t know if she was aware of Sowell’s thesis and extended it, or came up with it on her own–her family was overseas Chinese in the Phillipines, so she had some personal/family experience with the whole widely-despised middleman minority thing.) • Douglas Knight says: Chua cites a couple of Sowell books. She does not cite the book excerpted above, because she wrote first. In fact, Sowell’s note 113 is Chua, but the endnotes have been stripped from the excerpt. • John Schilling says: 1. Economic desynchronization. Even in places where the Jews aren’t conspicuously richer than everyone else on average, they are concentrated in specific economic sectors that may not experience their booms and busts at the same time and to the same degree as the rest of the economy. So there will be times when everyone else suffers substantially and the Jews mostly don’t. And it doesn’t help that the Jews tend to specialize in fields where the mechanics of wealth generation are less simplistically visible than e.g. agriculture or manufacturing and so more vulnerable to claims of unfairness. 2. Rootless cosmopolitanism. Most people aren’t cosmopolitan. They devote themselves to making one particular bit of geography as nice and secure a place to live as possible, and they expect everyone else on that plot of land to share in that project as their primary loyalty. And some Jews do this, but others aren’t shy about the fact that their first loyalty is to their cousins of the Diaspora far away, or to a God and church that excludes most of their neighbors, or sometimes now to the state of Israel. 3. 1+2 combined, meaning that every recession you’ve got a bunch of Jews who are doing conspicuously better than the people around them but taking all that relative prosperity and sharing it with a bunch of people a thousand miles away rather than their suffering neighbors. Of course, there are also Jews who are pitching in and helping out, and the last boom time there were Jews who were doing a little bit worse than everyone else and maybe because they were sharing what they had with distant strangers, but one of these things is more visible than the others. • jgr314 says: This comment really bothered me and I’m not entirely sure why. Apologies in advance for any mis-steps in my reply below, I hope I’m not strawmaning the claims you make nor deliberately misinterpreting. Claims in para 1: is there evidence that supports these points? For economic desynchronization, it is the typical pattern that, even in bad times, someone does better than average. Not at all clear that this is usually or even frequently (individual) Jews. In particular, if you are talking about banking (“concentrated in specific sectors”), the banking sector is notoriously cyclical, it goes up and down with other sectors. I’m even less convinced that, as a group, Jews suffer less in downturns (“times when everyone else suffers substantially and the Jews mostly don’t.”) The claim about different sectors being perceived as more and less fair seems ad hoc when put in context of other forms of group bias. For example, if manual and agricultural work was somehow elevated, then we need another line of attack to understand anti-Chinese sentiment during the railroad construction era and anti-Mexican sentiment during agriculture worker waves. In other words, if the argument is “group A is hated for reason X, group B is hated for reason not X” then X and not X don’t seem to explain what’s happening. Paragraph 2: rootless cosmopolitanism. Cosmopolitanism I: if this means concentrated in cosmopolitan cities, I was about to grant this one. There are clearly core parts of traditional Jewish practice that bias toward staying together in communities rather than striking out alone (the minyan requirement and logistics of a kosher diet). However, I did a quick comparison of distribution stats for American Jews and Puerto Ricans in the US 50. Both groups are concentrated in NE urban states (and, even more, the cities) but Puerto Ricans seem to be more concentrated and don’t appear to attract the label “cosmopolitan.” Cosmopolitanism II: An alternative understanding that, I think is consistent with your usage is “attached to a distant international community.” Again, comparing to other communities, it isn’t at all clear that this applies to American Jews, especially. Compare: Jewish giving to Israel with Remittances from US. Unless I’m misreading, if we assign the full3bn given to Israel to American Jews, that’s still below the remittances to Honduras. I’m not aware of any of the groups/nationalities on the remittances list having the stereotype of taking local resources and sending them to foreign cousins.

Rootless: My understanding of this term here is “not connected to a particular geographic location” Or, perhaps more specifically, “not connected to their birth location?” Again, is there evidence that this applies to Jews in either an absolute or relative sense? My personal observations suggest that American Jews are irrationally committed to their home/birth locations at about the same rate and level of intensity as other groups (though not statistically significant, of course.)

Similar to my reply to Well, below, my (interim) conclusion is that the claims made are beliefs about Jews that can be used as post hoc justification, but the antagonism comes from some other cause.

I kinda feel like you’re looking for a better explanation for antisemitism than is likely to actually exist. I look at it as people don’t need reasons to form group hatreds, just excuses, c.f. Robber’s Cave

To paraphrase Yudkowsky, if bad things could only exist for good reasons, they wouldn’t exist at all…

• jgr314 says:

I think what I’m doing is reject/push back claims of the form “Jews have characteristic X, thus are hated by some.” As I wrote below when Well… asked for my theory: I don’t think there is a special effect requiring a special cause.

• Well... says:

To find extreme examples, you can go to that website whose name invokes inclement weather (it rhymes with “swarm runt”) and read all about why the users of that site hate Jews. (Granted, many of the users of that site might be trolls or FBI agents, so take it with a grain of salt.)

When I did that, I confirmed what I had already known from years of exposure to certain segments of the all-trite: non-Muslims who hate Jews these days tend to do so because…

– they think Jews are trying to take over the world
– they think Jews have some special way to easily get wealth that others don’t know about
– they’re jealous or something about how Jews dominate the media
– they think Jews are trying to destroy majority-Christian nations by influencing them toward liberal policies like open borders, welfare for minorities, and state-enforced political correctness.

I also confirmed that whether or not the New Testament effectively communicates the message that “Jews are evil” has nothing to do with why non-Muslim Jew-haters hate Jews. Protocols of the Elders of Zion is another thing that I’ve never seen mentioned seriously by non-Muslim Jew-haters.

As for why Muslim Jew-haters hate Jews…well, I’ll let other people discuss that.

• jgr314 says:

Thanks for making the sacrifice and doing this research so the rest of us wouldn’t have to. However, I think the points you listed are symptoms, not causes of the anti-semitism on “swarm runt.”

• Well... says:

Are you saying the causes of Jew-hatred there are unique and can’t be generalized to non-Muslim Jew-hatred elsewhere, or are you saying the points I listed are themselves symptoms rather than causes?

If the latter, then what do you propose are the causes, and what is your evidence?

• jgr314 says:

The latter. The points you listed are things that people who hate Jews claim, not things that make people hate Jews.

Also, I know that what I was doing wasn’t totally fair, leaving all the heavy lifting (ha ha!) to you.

My hypotheses:

(1) I’m not convinced that contemporary anti-semitism is a special form of bias that needs a special explanation.

In comparison, what groups aren’t hated or historically discriminated against in the US? Nearly every set of immigrants that arrived as a discernible group were escaping persecution in their origin country. So, in the context of lots of biases against others, it doesn’t surprise me that some random ones persist.

Sub-claim: people who are anti-semitic hate a lot of groups with a diverse and, collectively, contradictory set of expressed reasons.

(2) We are more aware of anti-Jewish bias because it has effective PR and branding, especially in the US, even if none of the “marketing” is intended to encourage or perpetuate anti-semitism. For example, everyone in the US learns: “WWII = fighting Nazis” and “Nazis = evil genocide against Jews.” The message is vivid, both the narrative and the visuals, so it is easy to remember. It is attached to a symbol that any rebellious teenager can draw/carve/spray paint to stir up the local authority figures. It has a special name (anti-semitism) while every other form of group bias has to share the generic formulation anti-Mexican, anti-Chinese, anti-Mormonism, anti-Catholicism, etc.

• Well... says:

Well yeah, to say these are “reasons people hate Jews” would be to say the claims are correct or reasonable, which I think they pretty clearly are not. Addressing the claims, in order (as if any of this needed to be spelled out…):

1. Jews are overrepresented among the ranks of the successful in many areas, but there is nothing to indicate they are trying to “take over” anything as a group. They don’t proselytize, they don’t Jewify, etc. and outside of Israel they’re not particularly fertile, and it’s a struggle to get them to marry inside their religion! I didn’t even marry inside my race, let alone my religion.

2. Jews don’t in fact have any special access to money, or ways of making money, that financially successful people from other groups don’t also have.

3. Jews do dominate the media (the Western media anyway), but see #1.

4. Jews do tend to lean left, which combined with #s 1 and 2 can produce the appearance — if you have a low IQ and squint really hard — that Jews are trying to destroy your non-Jewish society…but a lot of Jews lean right too, some pretty far. In fact, on “swarm runt”* there was a thread about WN Jews (to the effect of “what’s up with that?”, and many responses dismissively saying “Well, Jews are parasites and will wriggle in anywhere they perceive some potential gain”).

I don’t know that Jew-hatred is a special form of bias, meaning I don’t know that it’s got some special quality that hatred of other groups doesn’t have, I’m only saying that where it exists among non-Muslims, it is justified with the claims I gave, and not claims that Jews are Christ-killers or Goy-baby-blood-drinkers or whatever else.

BTW I’ll use “antisemitism” sometimes for the sake of moving a conversation along, but I think it’s a bad term and I try to use “Jew-hatred” whenever possible. Plenty of other Semitic groups hate Jews, and not all people who hate Jews hate all other Semitic groups. Jew-hatred is more direct.

*Swarm runt was my second choice for a short phrase that rhymed with the name of the site. My first choice was way better but I deemed it too crass and inappropriate. Hopefully it’s easy to guess.

• Moishe Postone’s essay on the topic is obligatory reading: Anti-Semitism and National Socialism.

Long story short: anti-Semitism in its modern, non-religious form is not just another type of racism that happens to apply to Jews. It is qualitatively different from other types of racism:
1. Other types of racism imagine the racial other as less capable, but anti-Semites perceive Jews as being more capable (in some respects. In terms of physical health and “virtue,” no, but in terms of competence at reaching their own instrumental objectives, yes).
2. Anti-Semites imagine Jews to be the masterminds behind both international finance AND international communism. Huh?
3. Whereas other types of racism usually find concrete grievances to complain about (such as, “Irish immigrants are promoting chaos and drunkenness”), anti-Semites perceive Jews as a more abstract threat that stand behind certain threatening phenomena but are not directly associated with such phenomena (for example, there are no complaints about Jews being in the Latin American caravan, but people believe that George Soros is leading a Jewish conspiracy to finance this caravan).

Whereas other types of racism can be based off rather mundane stereotypes and prejudices (“blacks are lazy and dumb, Chinese are rude and clannish, Irish are drunkards,” etc.), anti-Semitism requires a rather elaborate worldview as a pre-foundation, not just a set of pre-conceptions about Jewish people in and of themselves. The necessary elaborate worldview is essentially this:

“Capitalist society is, by itself, inherently wholesome, fair, and stable. National communities are natural (not “imagined communities”), wholesome, and stable. Therefore, if there are flaws in capitalist society, or conflicts that erupt within national communities, those problems cannot possibly be the result of unavoidable internal problems with capitalism or nations themselves. If there are economic crises and/or class conflicts that threaten to rip nations apart, these problems can only possibly be the fault of some malevolent outside force that is actively trying to spoil what would otherwise be a wholesome system (capitalism + nationalism)…perhaps so that this outside force can push us into turmoil and capitalize on the crisis to enslave us all. The Jews cause this havoc by promoting class conflict to weaken nations against themselves, sowing doubt about the nation’s existing way of life (whether through Marxism, post-modernism, nihilism, moral relativism, the idea that nations are “imagined communities,” or other philosophies, which anti-Semites will often lump together under the rubric of “things that threaten to sap the nation’s internal vigor”), accumulating wealth through legal and financial tricks (which makes capitalism more dysfunctional than it would be if there were only honest people doing honest work), etc.”

Basically, the problem is that capitalism’s problems are, at their roots, very abstract. (The Law of Labor Value, especially). But the symptoms are very concrete. So people look for a concrete cause of capitalism’s problems. Sometimes it’s “Wall Street greed” without a racial tag attached. Even that sort of thinking is very sloppy and has the potential to lead to anti-Semitism because the Jews are the most “abstract” people (not concretely a part of most national traditions, the group most disproportionately represented in abstract professions such as law, philsophy, finance, rather than physically working with concrete things like “honest folk” do, etc.), so “the Jews” becomes a very convenient scapegoat for the abstract problems of capitalism if people can’t correctly understand how all of the concrete problems of capitalism flow logically out of the Law of Labor Value.

Another way of putting it:
A. Marxism holds that class conflicts are objective and inevitable under capitalism (i.e. not due to the ill-will of any particular “greedy” person), whereas ethnic conflicts are socially-constructed (by reactionaries) and avoidable.
B. Modern anti-Semitism holds that it is the ethnic conflict against the Jews that is objective and inevitable, whereas class conflicts are socially-constructed (“by the Jews, no doubt!”) and avoidable.
C. Classical liberalism holds that there are no objective, inevitable conflicts in modern capitalist society, and that all current conflicts could, in principle, be fairly resolved to the satisfaction of all sides without a radical reshaping of society.

To liberals, it can often seem like National Socialism and Marxist Socialism are similar because they both share the idea of “objective” social conflicts that can only be resolved through some sort of vigorous action. But then why do National Socialists and Marxist Socialists usually hate each other’s guts? It’s because they hold completely opposite views about which social conflicts are objectively-created and which are subjectively-created.

Basically, the Marxist antidote to modern anti-Semitism is to realize that:
1. economic crises are inevitable outgrowths of the basic dynamics of capitalism.
2. revolutions are inevitable outgrowths of the basic dynamics of capitalism.
3. concentration of wealth and power are inevitable outgrowths of capitalism.
4. ugly class conflicts that rip nations apart are inevitable outgrowths of capitalism.
5. the erosion of traditional cultures is an inevitable outgrowth of capitalism.
6. Jews are not disproportionately at fault for any of the above.

• baconbits9 says:

Its all falsified on its base, racism has as much (or more) history arguing for the moral inferiority of the out-group as it does for just denigrating them. Antisemitism has typically been justified by the moral failings of the Jews, calling them greedy, untrustworthy and duplicitous. There is no fundamental difference between that and stereotypes against the Roma, and it takes no special view of the world to turn that into antisemitism (or to take your antisemitism and look for reasons to justify it).

• baconbits9 says:

It is also not true that racism can’t highlight positive attributes, anti black/pro slavery propaganda in the US often portrayed blacks as physically strong in an attempt to instill fear with the image of a savage murdering you and raping your women.

Trust and lack thereof is one of the largest distinguishers for in-group/out-group dynamics, and the comically simply “them stupid, we better than them” portrayal of racists is worthless. You can probably tie high racism to poorer communities in general as they tend to be low trust as it is. If you can’t trust you neighbor who looks and acts like you how are you going to trust someone with an entirely different set of values.

2. Anti-Semites imagine Jews to be the masterminds behind both international finance AND international communism. Huh?

If you perceive the goal of Jews as “power/wealth/influence for themselves” as I think the anti-Semites do, there’s no reason for a “huh?” The masterminds of international finance gain wealth, which gives them power, and the communist leadership gain power, which gets them wealth. It’s good to be the king.

• albatross11 says:

I think it’s pretty common to have racism (at whatever granularity) targeted at people more successful/prosperous than you. In the West, anti-Semitism is the trope namer here, but the overseas Chinese, Armenians, Lebanese, Indians in Africa, and Igbo, among others, have been on the receiving end of plenty of the same kind of hatred and treatment.

• According to Mark Twain, the reason is jealousy. He adds that there is no anti-semitism in Scotland–there are only six Jews there, and they are only there because they can’t make enough money to leave. (By memory so not verbatim)

There are other groups with similar characteristics, successful merchants in countries where they are a small minority, such as Indians in Africa, Asians in U.S. inner cities. How similar is the prejudice against them?

• Lillian says:

By contrast 12th century Genoa had all of two Jews living there, but the Genoese still passed a law demanding that all Jews of the city should pay a special tax to help pay for the cathedral’s lamp oil. That’s not a figurative two Jews either, a Jewish traveller passing through the city in the mid-12th century tried to take account of the local Jewry, and the only ones he found were a pair of North African merchants. This in a city of more than twenty thousand people. That would change somewhat over subsequent centuries, as the Genoese would make increasingly more profitable arrangements with Jewish merchants, more would come to take up permanent residence. Indeed a couple of Genoese colonies in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea were straight up run by Jewish merchant families. Nonetheless the population in the city proper remained small and regularly subject to onerous regulation and the occasional half-hearted expulsion.

• Garrett says:

I’ve been trying to dig into this a bit, more from a contemporary question about why anti-semitism seems to be more right-wing than anything else. Finding the philosophers of this movement are hard because most anti-semites tend to be … uninformative. That having been said, an an abbreviated chain of logic:

1) One important set of questions that some branches of conservatism as a philosophy ask is: what is the value of social trust? What increases it? What decreases it?

2) One set of answers is something akin to having common culture. It provides lower transaction costs when people don’t have to wonder what the appropriate norms are every time they change neighborhoods, etc. It can simplify transaction costs when things don’t need to be spelled out in-detail.

3a) Jews, as a religious group, hold different values from the “Christian majority”. Some are uninteresting. Some are. But it is still a form of incompatible separation.

3b) Jews, as a cultural group, explicitly hold different cultural practices than the majority in the host country. Once again, some differences are uninteresting. Some are. These are even more likely to be incompatible (eg. I’ve been told by at least one woman that she wouldn’t pursue a relationship with me because I’m not Jewish).

4) The result is that you have a group who wants the benefits of living in a particular culture while not fully participating in it. This is seen as offensive on various levels.

• Machine Interface says:

Another historical factor in some regions is the rabbinic judaism/karaism conflict. Karaites are a Jewish group (who may or may not descend from the biblical Saducees) who reject the authority of the Talmud and consider that the Tanakh alone makes authority on religious law and theology (they’re kind of Jewish Protestants, if you will).

Rabbinic Jews and Karaites do not like each other very much. When both group found themselves as minority in the same country, there has occasionally been attempts by one group to fuel animosity against the other group by the power-holding majority.

In Moorish Iberia, rabbinic Jews, who had good relations with the power, encouraged their Muslim rulers to persecute the Karaites. In Tsarist Russia, the exact opposite happen, with the Karaites prompting the Russian Orthodox to stamp on Rabbinic Jews.

Nicholas Donin, a 13th century Jewish convert to christianity, who may have been a Karaite, started the Disputation of Paris where horrified Christian authorities discovered the existence and content of the Talmud (until then Christians were only aware of the Torah and so did not realise Jews had such a distinct theology), starting the trend to ban the book in many medieval Christian countries.

• The basic disagreement between Karaites and Sadducees on the one hand and the main line of Rabbinic Judaism on the other, as I understand it, was not over the Talmud but over the theory of the Oral Torah, the claim that legal rules not justified by the written Torah could be justified by a supposed oral tradition going back to Moses. It’s similar to the distinction between strict constructionists and living Constitution scholars at present. I like to say that, by the standards of the Rabbis, every Supreme Court justice in history was a strict constructionist. The Talmud comes out of the Rabbinic approach, but so does the earlier Mishnah.

Two examples. The Torah says that the disobedient son is to be stoned to death. Rabbinic interpretation read so many requirements into the text that some authorities claimed it never had happened and never would happen.

The Torah says not to eat a kid stewed in its mother’s milk. From that, Rabbinic interpretation got the rule that you could not eat food made from milk and food made from meat at the same meal.

• Lysander says:

The Talmud Is the Oral Torah, now written down.

I think this analogy is misunderstanding the way the Oral Torah is perceived. It’s more like the Karaites hold strictly by the Constitution but the rabbinic Judaism says that the common law is of equal importance and authority to the Constitution. You can’t just make a new ruling if it isn’t justified by precedent, and Orthodox rabbinic Judaism is extremely strict about precedent. You cannot under any circumstances overrule a ruling by a rabbi of a previous generation.

• The Talmud Is the Oral Torah, now written down.

After some sixteen hundred years of transmission, most of it oral?

You think God told Moses that if someone stumbled over a pot in the road and broke it he was liable for damages except in three special cases, as per the differing opinions of Rab, Samuel, and Yohanan, and the author of the Mishnah was just careless in writing that he wasn’t liable?

You cannot under any circumstances overrule a ruling by a rabbi of a previous generation.

The law is according to the latest authorities. Just because many people don’t believe there have been any authorities since Joseph Caro … .

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

I’ll throw in another category of theory– once anti-Semitism got going (and it goes back at least to the third century B.C.E.), it eventually attracted a lot of creativity. There’s a concept of The Jew– swarthy, hook-nosed, greedy and treacherous– which is on call to amplify ordinary ethnic and political hatred.

“Middleman culture” doesn’t explain enough. Yes, there are a number of groups which good at making money but don’t have the political power to protect it or themselves, but no one has tried to exterminate the Bengalis. Or the overseas Chinese. No one says the Ibo are enemies of the (rest of) mankind or are trying to take over the world. There’s something weird about anti-Semitism.

http://jcpa.org/article/the-egyptian-beginning-of-anti-semitism%E2%80%99s-long-history/

People try to oppress or exterminate the overseas Chinese all the time.

The “boat people” of Vietnam targeted for genocide by the communist party were ethnic Chinese. The Chinese minority in Malaysia have been treated pretty shabbily. And from what I understand the situation is the same in most of the rest of Southeast Asia and Oceania.

Anti-Chinese sentiment in the US until very recently didn’t look like American antisemitism, although Harvard and the rest of the ivies have done a good job of recreating the same environment in higher education. But Chinese Americans also haven’t been in the “middleman” position in America for very long.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

There have been local attacks on overseas Chinese, but so far as I know, there’s never been an effort to kill *all* the overseas Chinese.

Right, but Nazism wasn’t and isn’t typical of antisemitism. It was a singular historical event.

There have been anti-Chinese pogroms, expulsions, and at least one attempted genocide in countries where they are economically-dominant minorities. I’d say that’s close enough for our purposes.

• Lambert says:

Yes. The Holocaust literally wasn’t possible without at least 19thc. (and probably 20th c.) logistics. Nor could it happen in much of the world even today. There’s just not the infrastructure and bureaucratic organs needed for the state to commit that kind of genocide.

Nobody has tried to kill all the overseas Chinese because that’s just not feasible.

• Paul Brinkley says:

So I see this subthread sort of addresses the point I just brought up above.

Namely, do there exist people who are affluent, are seen as representative of some enclave in a foreign land, and who aren’t targeted the same way Jews are? And the answer seems to be “possibly – see Chinese, Indians, Japanese, et al.”.

One reason this looks different might then be that it isn’t actually that different, but we’re not seeing all the genocidal sentiment because it’s in other places. There might be plenty of anti-Chinese or Japanese pogroms within the other of those respective countries, and we miss the majority of it because it doesn’t make the Western press as much. Maybe.

• John Schilling says:

One reason this looks different might then be that it isn’t actually that different, but we’re not seeing all the genocidal sentiment because it’s in other places.

Are we seeing genocidal sentiment in more than one “place”, and that seventy years in the past, w/re the Jews?

The historical fact of the Holocaust is or ought to be undeniable, but we may be led astray by pattern-matching every bit of local antisemitism to that one incident and saying “See, wannabe Hitlers!” of local bigots who if they were going after e.g. Chinese merchants in Malaysia we would mostly ignore. That the one group of bigots with the power to attempt a hard genocide happened to be antisemites, is a single data point that may have too much coincidence in it to be very useful.

• Are we seeing genocidal sentiment in more than one “place”, and that seventy years in the past, w/re the Jews?

I don’t know how many bodies it takes to count as “genocidal sentiment,” but a lot of people were killed in Indonesia in 1965-6. According to Wikipedia, recent estimates go as high as two to three million. They weren’t all Chinese, but an awful lot of them were.

• syrrim says:

I’m not a scholar of these things. But I was reading Gore Vidal, and came across this quote

Essentially he is a moralist, expressing the hang-ups of today’s
middle-aged, middle-class urban American Jews, hang-ups which are
not (as I shall attempt to show) necessarily those of the gentile
population or, for that matter, of the rising generation of American
Jews. Yes, I am going to talk about class and race-religion, two
unmentionables in our free land, and I am going to make a case that Jewish
family patterns, sexual taboos, and superstitions are often very
different from those of the rest of the population, black, white, and
yellow, Roman Catholic, Protestant and Moslem.

(This from Doc Reuben)

The thesis seems to be that Jews have a different worldview from their host society, but don’t realize they do. They think the way they think is the way everyone thinks. So they go marching off to implement some policy or another. Because of the disproportionate social power they’ve amassed, they implement these policies quite effectively. Then they wonder why people are mad at them.

I quote Vidal because this conclusion is quite inflammatory, and yet the only assumption I seriously question is that the worldview of jews and gentiles form such a bimodal distribution. Perhaps people more attuned to these things could confirm or deny this.

I’m not qualified to answer the question, but some of your reasoning here is terrible. Hopefully removing bad premises will help even if I don’t have much to add beyond that.

They look like white, so it can’t be racism.

That doesn’t make a lot of sense. What would you call the attitude of Nazi Germany towards Poles and slavs? Or, for a less hyperbolic example, the relationship between the English and Irish or the Flemish and Walloons?

Ethnic hatred isn’t something that only happens across color lines. People are entirely capable of telling the difference between members of different white ethnic groups.

Is it just a manifestation of the hatred for the classroom’s smart kid?

“They hate us because we’re so great!” is flattering but rarely true.

Everyone likes to have smart, hardworking neighbors because those are the best kind of people to work with you. That last clause is important: if you percive that your smart, hardworking neighbors are working against you, you’re going to dislike them.

• 10240 says:

Everyone likes to have smart, hardworking neighbors because those are the best kind of people to work with you. That last clause is important: if you percive that your smart, hardworking neighbors are working against you, you’re going to dislike them.

People are prone to viewing the economy as a fixed-size pie, and perhaps view some other forms of success as positional goods as well (sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly). Then if some group is successful, and work for their own (personal) interests to about the same extent as everyone else, people may be prone to percieving them as working against others.

• herbert herberson says:

They’re scapegoats for capitalism. It was true in medieval times with the whole moneylender thing, it was true in Nazi Germany where it was used to provide an alternative to socialism to immiserated masses, and it’s true today where the neoliberal agenda of global capital is reframed as Sorosian/globalist cultural Marxism. It really is that simple.

• Reasoner says:

This documentary is kind of interesting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShGYvxz7zHI

I think modern antisemitism has a lot to do with the modern debate on victimhood culture. Modern anti-semites say things like: “Who is the person you can’t say anything bad about? That’s the person who controls you!” Even something like Holocaust denial might be because people dislike the Jews leveraging the existence of the Holocaust as a rhetorical weapon. It could be seen as a really unfortunate cycle of fear and hatred, where Jews are taught to fear non-Jews and be hypersensitive to antisemitism, then this hypersensitivity causes others to resent them, which sometimes results in antisemitic incidents, which are seen as examples of antisemitism which justify the fear.

• Viliam says:

I think there are two separate questions: Why hatred against Jews started, historically? and Why it remains so popular?

I’ll start with the second one: At some moment, Jews became a Schelling point for scapegoating. These days, when someone happens to be in a situation that requires a scapegoat, blaming Jews is much easier than making up a new enemy. You already have antisemitism and conspiracy theories, and all you have to do is say “hey, you know what? this other problem — the Jews caused that, too!” Motive? Well, it is known they do all kinds of sinister stuff, so they are probably involved in this, too. Opportunity? They have all the money and own all the media. So whenever media disagree with you, it’s “of course the media attack me; they are owned by the Jews”; and whenever an individual or an organization opposes you, it’s “of course they are paid to attack me, by the American Jew Soros”. Trying to invent a new enemy would require more work; you couldn’t use the existing resources and existing antisemites.

The Jews are everywhere, so you can blame them for what happens at home, blame them for what happens in Brussels, and blame then for what happens in Washington. You don’t have to invent separate enemies for separate events; the message is more simple, which makes it easy to remember and believe. Like, is there something you can’t blame on Jews? You could even argue they benefit from the Holocaust, because now it makes them immune against all criticism.

And how is started? Just imagine the situation a few hundred years ago: You are an ordinary person living in a village, there is no TV or internet, you don’t know anything about anything. And there is this group of people who dress weirdly, speak a weird language, act weirdly, and don’t worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That’s already enough to start some gossip. And a few people get into conflict with them, e.g. by borrowing money and being unable to pay it back. Now you have ones who would benefit if the Jews would somehow… disappeared… and no one who would benefit it they stay.

• bullseye says:

In modern day, I don’t know what’s keeping antisemitism afloat, but it used to be religious (maybe with economics as a side issue).

The money-grubbing stereotype was the Roman view of the Middle East in general, because they had a more mercantile culture. The Jews singled themselves out by refusing to worship the Roman gods (a few extra gods weren’t a problem for most people), and refusing to have idols even for their own God.

Later, the West had a strong prejudice against non-Christians in general, and Jews were the easiest targets; they lived just down the street instead of faraway lands. Some of them were moneylenders, but starting in the Renaissance there were a lot of Christian moneylenders too; and there were always plenty of poor Jews.

• Anonymous says:

Why do people hate Jews?

More seriously, it’s a bunch of factors. The Jews’ distinctiveness – in terms of religion, dress, customs, even physiognomy (due to inbreeding) – allows them to be considered as a separate group. The natural human instinct is to hate and fear the stranger, and Jews tend to practice resistance to assimilation, staying strange even when they have lived in a place for centuries. Add to that the fact that they are a market-dominant minority, meaning that they are frequently more successful than the natives of the land they inhabit, and you have envy of their financial success and suspicion that they have used tribal connections to become successful… Plus, in Christian and Saracen lands, the historical permission of the to deal in something forbidden to the natives – usury – doesn’t help make the Jews look trustworthy.

“The Jews”, as a memetic concept, are almost like a caricature of a despicable outgroup, carefully crafted to trigger a normie’s hindbrain, tribal instincts.

• johan_larson says:

This is based on a pretty small sample, but the Jews I have known at all closely — grad students, mostly — have been a pretty elitist bunch. These people absolutely did not trust popular democracy, where the great mass of ordinary citizens have real power. To exaggerate for clarity, I think they would have preferred to be ruled by a small conclave of doctors, lawyers, and MBAs, while the great unwashed bleat ineffectually in a House of Commons or something.

If my observations generalize, it’s not hard to understand why Jews are unpopular. Why trust people who clearly doesn’t trust you and yours?

• 10240 says:

Is this more common among Jews than other educated people such as grad students? It describes my views pretty well, but I feel like it’s influenced more by feeling more informed than the unwashed masses than by being a Jew.

• quanta413 says:

I didn’t notice any difference between the few Jews I knew in undergraduate and the other white people around them. The elite tend to be elitist for obvious reasons.

• bullseye says:

The Jews I know are mostly American liberals, with standard American liberal values.

21. DragonMilk says:

Which political borders would you redraw on the world map to reduce unrest/violence for the long term and why?

You are not allowed to assassinate anyone or replace governments, and long term means answers like “Venezuela will be left with a suburb of Caracas” is not optimal. As in, current political situation has some but limited weight.

• Statismagician says:

Ethno-culturally homogenous smaller states where possible, and peace to be enforced between them by regional organizations like the African Union? Basically, there is no (e.g.) ‘Central African Republican people;’ there’s a bunch of tribal groups who’ve hated each other for centuries; stop trying to make them figure out how to do Western centralized democracies, it’s just not in the cards.

• johan_larson says:

That sounds like a good idea broadly speaking.

But what happens to the US (or maybe North America) if we play by the same rules there? We might end up with Greater Quebec, Dixie II: Electric Boogaloo, and The Berkeley/Boston Commonwealth.

• Statismagician says:

Yeah, that had occurred to me. I’d be tempted to roll with it, except that we could also just stop letting the Federal government justify anything it wants under the Commerce Clause and get much the same result.

• Plumber says:

@johan_larson

“…..what happens to the US (or maybe North America) if we play by the same rules there? We might end up with Greater Quebec, Dixie II: Electric Boogaloo, and The Berkeley/Boston Commonwealth”

And that would be bad how?

Truthfully I just want California and probably the U.S.A. divided up so I as an individual voter may have greater influence without my having to move.

I’d be okay with way more power devolving to cities and counties as well, leaving Sacramento and D.C. of little consequence.

• idontknow131647093 says:

#1. The Gaza Strip is now part of Egypt.

#2. The West Bank is now part of Lebanon.

I’m pretty sure I just won the thread.

• Statismagician says:

[outrage]
So, what, you want to subordinate the Palestinian people to different foreign governments, destroying their cultural unity while also forever giving up on reclaiming the bits of Palestine which are most culturally and economically valuable?
[/outrage]

• The Nybbler says:

Err, we were trying to _reduce_ unrest, not increase it.

• idontknow131647093 says:

“Long Term”

The only way to do that is to put a timer on the myth of a displaced Palestinian people that are somehow distinct from the surrounding Arab populations. Secondly we must put a timer on the idea that Israel is oppressing people who are actually benefiting from better governance than they would have under self government. Third we must end the idea of a 2 state solution, because there is no such thing, perhaps there is a 3 state solution, which is no different than my proposal.

Plus, if there is another war provoked short term, this is all the better for my long term solution as the war will clarify the boundaries all the more.

• Garrett says:

perhaps there is a 3 state solution

I’ve privately been in favor of this for years, yet almost never hear it suggested by talking heads. Any idea why?

• idontknow131647093 says:

Probably because most people in the media and a significant part of the FP establishment favor a 1 state solution of complete integration and elimination of the status of Israel as a Jewish Nation-State.

2 State solution is implausible and undesirable, so by presenting it as the only option their favored option looks better.

• Lillian says:

The only way to do that is to put a timer on the myth of a displaced Palestinian people that are somehow distinct from the surrounding Arab populations.

They didn’t start out distinct, but after decades of being refugees without a country of their own, since none of the real countries in the area accepts them as citizens, a differentiating Palestinian identity has in fact developed. They have a shared history and experience that is distinct from that of Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, and even Israeli Arabs. This is actually something of a significant complicating problem. Half a century ago Palestinians had very little in the way of national identity aside from being Arabic, and so they could have easily be integrated into any of the surrounding Arab states. These days they have a much stronger national identity, and as such are much harder to integrate anywhere.

• Paul Zrimsek says:

Surely you meant to make the West Bank part of Jordan as it was before, not Lebanon?

• idontknow131647093 says:

Either works actually.

• Tenacious D says:

Palestinians in Lebanon are a source of tension already, and Lebanese politics are hyper-sensitive to anything that would alter the sectarian balance of power.

• 10240 says:

• John Schilling says:

Assuming you can get Egypt and Lebanon (or Jordan) to go along with it, this still results in the residents of Gaza and the West Bank being hopelessly impoverished and oppressed subjects of a regime that will not accept them as citizens, still results in them and almost everyone else blaming Israel for that, and still results in their living within striking distance of Israeli population centers.

• If you could somehow make a smooth transition towards Taiwan being a part of China, that would make it far less likely that the US and China start a nuclear war over it.

• DragonMilk says:

A friend of mine wants to break up China into warring states era nations – like 7 tribes or so.

He’s a “United China is an evil China” kind of guy who says he’s from the kingdom of Wu

• Well, that’s just stupid. Wu was a second rate player that had one moment in the sun.

• DragonMilk says:

Tribal pride!

• Reasoner says:

• DragonMilk says:

Yup…

• Tenacious D says:

Divide Yemen in 2. Draw the boundary maybe a little further north than last time it was 2 countries (maybe include Ibb with the south?) and consider making Hodeidah port a UAE exclave.

Divide the DR Congo into at least 3.

Give California to Mexico, Canada, or the ocean, whatever’s easiest.

• Plumber says:

“Give California to Mexico, Canada, or the ocean, whatever’s easiest”

“.I don’t know about Mexico, but I understand that  the Canadian provinces are more self governing than U S. states are so I like that idea, as does the idea of California being an independent nation-state, through since California is so large being ruled from Sacramento instead of D.C. is only a marginal improvement.

• cassander says:

I think there are relatively few places in the world where changing the borders would result in an overall improvement in the situation. It might settle a particular conflict, but only at the cost of creating a new ones. I think you’d get the best effect not from trying to resolve particular conflicts between states, but to try to re-formulate the states to be less internally conflicted, in the hopes that that leads to improved governance, greater economic prosperity, and the reduction of conflict those things are associated with.

• Recognize the Republic of Somaliland and stop trying to create a unified Somalia by violent force.

Separate Catalonia, maybe Scotland, maybe Quebec, probably other places that are not occurring to me. Separate out the Kurdish majority areas of Iraq, Turkey, and Iran to create Kurdistan.

All of these are impossible given current political circumstances, which is why they haven’t happened, but they are all arguably improvements in the long run.

For the U.S., divide California into several states. I’m not sure there is a division of the U.S. at present that would work, but it’s worth thinking about.

• Statismagician says:

How do you divide California, out of curiosity?

• Nornagest says:

Just like is is now, but carve out the southern Sierra as a Great Republic of Hetch Hetchey and the Owens Valley and give it all the water rights.

That ought to be fun to watch.

• baconbits9 says:

This guy has a unique vision.

• johan_larson says:

Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Cottage Country.

Hollywood will be a constitutional monarchy, ruled by The Fairest of Them All, the monarch from a royal family that deliberately breeds itself for good looks.

Silicon Valley tried to be a strict meritocracy, selecting the leadership using an elaborate series of tests of mathematical ability. This selection system was promptly hacked by people with actual political skills, for the advantage of their children. Mathematical talent and hard work still count, sure, but the real game is getting your children into the right math training institute from an early age.

Cottage Country will be an anarchy. Who rules what is a complicated question. The security forces of Hollywood and Silicon Valley occasionally raid the area when the anarchists piss them off.

• Plumber says:

Statismagician

“How do you divide California, out of curiosity?”

Have Alameda County, where I live (maybe combined with Contra-Costa County, and if it that’s still not enough people to make a State (even though they’re existing States with less people) throw in San Francisco (where I work) as well (but I’d rather not), but definitely (if possible) have Marin, Santa Clara, and San Mateo Counties be in a separate State from Alameda County, though I suppose any division is still better than none.

• proyas says:

1) Carve up the South China Sea islands in this manner:
https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/potential-for-collaboration-in-area-beyond-national-jurisdiction

The islands in the middle, outside of any country’s EEZ, would be declared off-limits to military ground forces and would be managed by some regional or global organization.

2) Let the territory east of the Dnieper River secede from Ukraine and join Russia if it wants. Rump Ukraine would then join the EU and NATO. Follow with population swaps so Ukrainians live west of the River and Russians live East of it. Also, internationally recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

3) Separate Transnistria from Moldova, and merge Moldova with Romania.

4) Create Kurdistan from contiguous land now belonging to Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Also do population swaps to achieve ethnic homogeneity.

5) Settle remaining border disputes between China and India.

6) Break up Afghanistan into at least two smaller countries. Consider merging the southern portion dominated by Pashtun and Baloch people to Pakistan.

7) Break up California and Texas into at least three smaller states apiece. Also, merge some smaller (in terms of land area and/or population) U.S. states together. E.g. Why is there a North and South Dakota? Can’t Rhode Island be combined with Connecticut?

8) Separate Belgium into French and Flemish-speaking countries. Both remain in the EU and NATO.

9) Give part of northern Chile to Bolivia so the latter has ocean access and a decent port.

10) As for Africa…OYYY!!! I’m not even sure where to start, other than to say the borders need to be completely redrawn based on a detailed ethnographic survey and careful assignment of natural resources and ocean/river access to different groups to ensure there aren’t any tiny, landlocked, ethnically homogenous countries that are guaranteed to stay poor forever. Again, use population swaps liberally.

11) Carve a chunk out of western Saudi Arabia, encompassing Mecca, Medina and any other significant Islamic historical sites, and turn it into a new country governed by Islamic Law. Populate it with a diverse mix of different racial, national, and ethnic groups (blacks, Arabs, Turks, Persians, Kurds, South Asians, Indonesians, etc.) that are only united by faith. The Islamic Nation wouldn’t have any fossil fuels. Relieved of the moral burden of protecting Islam’s holiest sites, Saudi Arabia could then liberalize.

12) Solve all remaining problems in the Balkans with land swaps and mandatory population swaps. This includes Kosovo. Give Bosnia more coastline. Have everyone join NATO and the EU at the end.

• Nornagest says:

Rhode Island and Connecticut are independent because they were independent colonies back in 1776. Why the Dakotas are independent is a more interesting question — they were both carved out of a single Dakota Territory — but boils down to late 1800s partisan politics.

• DragonMilk says:

How does population swaps work in terms of equitably compensating people for their land and property? If they are forced to sell, they probably aren’t getting a great price.

How do you ensure that the new regime they are going to will look after their interests and not try to sell them the “new” land at a much higher price?

What historical precedents outside of Khosarau I where a population transplant has been successful?

• Anonymous says:

1. Split Germany back up into its component tiny Germanies. Just in case.

2. Split the United States into a few parts. Doesn’t matter, precisely, since the point is to make them unable to play invade-the-world anymore.

3. Split Italy into its component tiny Italies. Give the Pope his land back.

4. Give Eastern Ukraine to Russia.

5. Merge Romania and Moldavia.

6. Let Scotland leave the UK.

7. Let Catalonia leave Spain.

8. Adjust Hungary’s borders to include most of the Hungarian majority areas that were left out.

9. Wipe subsaharan Africa’s borders off the map, let them reform organically.

10. Have Russia spit out its horrible, misbehaving minority regions like Chechnya.

• zqed says:

These seem like pretty bad ideas for reducing long-term conflict.

> 5. Merge Romania and Moldavia.

Combined with Russian irredentism, this in itself pretty much guarantees an armed conflict between whatever Western European alliance there will be (after partitioning Germany/Italy) and Russia in the long term.

> 6. Let Scotland leave the UK.

Again, this very much improves the odds of England getting involved in an armed conflict in the future, if only by crippling the UK’s natural defenses (but also their nuclear capabilities).

> 8. Adjust Hungary’s borders to include most of the Hungarian majority areas that were left out.

To me, this proposal makes much less sense than all the others. Hungary has been unwarlike since 1945, and unwilling to push territorial claims even when they could have capitalized on their neighbors pissing off great powers such as the Soviet Union, the United States. or more recently the Russian Federation.

The same cannot be said for the Little Entente: a territorial change favoring Hungary would trigger an arms race, and probably long-term unrest in the region – unless they quickly coordinate their response and preemptively erase the Hungarians from existence altogether.

• Paul Zrimsek says:

Erase them all and replace them with an evenly spaced rectangular grid.

22. Thegnskald says:

For those who were following the physics discussion in the last thread, a summary of what I think I got wrong and what I got right:

The “compression wave” almost certainly exists, although it, paradoxically to me, extends both in front of and behind the traveling object. (To see this must be true, the gravitational field must also be Lorentz Contracted, and that from the perspective of the traveling object, its gravitational field must necessarily fill flat space.)

The compression wave probably accounts for the speed of light limitation, in that any acceleration from the traveling object’s perspective must be within the reference frame of the compression wave – that is, it’s observed flat space – and is, from an outside perspective, likewise Lorentz Contracted. (The vector of acceleration is Lorentz Contracted, basically.)

It is not responsible for time dilation, as I initially posited, or at least not directly. There are two “types” of type dilation; synchronized and unsychronized, for lack of better vocabulary to describe them. Synchronized time dilation is when an object is moving fast relative to another object; because both are standing still in their own reference frame, they experience no time dilation, but because the other for each is moving fast, the other experiences observed time dilation. However, when they are brought to the same speed and location, assuming each is accelerated equally (so suppose they originally accelerate apart, then both accelerate back together and stop), observed time compression precisely offsets the time dilation; they have experienced the same subjective time.

Unsynchronized time dilation happens in a gravitational field, and is correlated with the strength of the gravitational field. Gravity bends time, and motion relative to a gravitational field causes unsynchronized time dilation. This matters when we consider our spaceships outside a gravitational field – as we accelerate a ship, we also accelerate its gravitational field. However, the acceleration of the gravitational field happens at light speed, meaning it isn’t instantaneous – meaning that as we accelerate an object, it experiences motion relative to its own gravitational field, but only so long as it is accelerating. This creates unsychronized time dilation.

The compression bubble might contribute to unsychronized time dilation indirectly, by creating a reference frame in which an internally flat acceleration (from the outside perspective, a given thrust will result in decreasing acceleration, but from the inside perspective, the acceleration for a given thrust remains constant) can provoke the same unsynchronized time dilation – that is, because from your own reference frame your acceleration remains constant, the unsynchronized time dilation you experience likewise remains constant, instead of falling off as your externally observed acceleration decreases as you approach C.

(I think.)

• smocc says:

Unsynchronized time dilation happens in a gravitational field, and is correlated with the strength of the gravitational field

No. This is wrong. It is empirically false. This implies that the time difference of the two clocks in a twin-paradox experiment depends on the strength of the gravitational field, and hence on the mass of at least one of the clocks. But the twin paradox experiment has been done, and the time difference does not depend on the mass of the clocks.

• Thegnskald says:

It empirically does depend on the mass causing the gravitational field which the twin experiment was done in; the escape velocity, which is directly correlated with the gravitational mass in question, is part of the Schwarzschild equation used to predict those results. No?

• smocc says:

So your prediction is if we did a twin-paradox experiment on the moon you would get different results, and that if we did a twin-paradox experiment in deep space we would get no time difference?

For clarity, I am talking about a twin paradox experiment where we fly one clock in a jet really fast and another identical clock stays on the ground.

• Thegnskald says:

Define “different results”, I guess. We’d get different values, according to the equation.

The masses of the clocks should matter, but compared to the gravitational fields in question, are effectively negligible. In deep space, the motion of the clocks relative to their own gravitation field, assuming acceleration,, should start to dominate the effect.

Otherwise, we just run into the basic twin paradox. Absent a gravitational field distorting time, treating one clock as in motion and the other as staying still is creating a privileged reference frame. (Something I unintentionally did in my first description, when I effectively described a mass dragging its own gravitational field around relative to a privileged “stationary” reference frame. It is acceleration, not velocity, which is necessary to hold it in motion relative to its own gravitational field.)

• smocc says:

Look, here’s a thought experiment. We’ll put two spaceships in deep space that are initially at rest with respect to each other. They will carry identical clocks. One of the ships will turn on a rocket, accelerate away from the other ship, then turn around and accelerate back, ending up at rest next to the other ship.

If I tell you the position of the accelerating rocket as a function of time, can you calculate for me how much their clocks will differ by when they meet up again?

Follow-up question: will your calculation depend on the mass of the two rockets?

• Thegnskald says:

smocc –

I could, yes, assuming you gave me a nicely doubly differentiable function.

And assuming the spaceship+clock apparati have the same mass, the mass doesn’t matter. (Except insofar as we must guarantee they have some mass). It is strictly acceleration when comparing them.

(therwise our moon+Earth example with double-time would result in dramatically different results in which an accelerated Earth experienced less than half the time of an accelerated moon.

• smocc says:

So if the relative time dilation doesn’t have to do with their mass, it seems like it doesn’t have to do with the strength of a gravitational field, and so it doesn’t have to do with a compression wave.

My point the entire time has been that time dilation and the twin paradox are not caused by gravitational fields or waves. You can have time dilation without gravity. Do we agree?

• Thegnskald says:

smocc –

Nope!

The reason the mass of the spaceship+clock apparatus doesn’t apparently seem to change the result is that this effect is already included in the overall time dilation; this is the standard GR gravitational time dilation, and the stationary spaceship+clock apparatus includes exactly the same time dilation. Including it again would be double-counting.

What acceleration does is cause each particle to briefly be moving with respect to its own gravitational field – in addition to all the gravitational fields from all the other particles it was already moving with respect with.

Granted, I don’t see an empirical way to resolve this. I just have to ask if you have an alternative explanation for why acceleration, specifically, otherwise alters the effects of time dilation?

• smocc says:

What acceleration does is cause each particle to briefly be moving with respect to its own gravitational field

So if the accelerating twin is more massive, his gravitational field will be stronger, and his gravitational field’s gradient will be steeper. The accelerating twin will thus have extra motion through a stronger gravitational field than a lighter accelerating twin. Doesn’t that mean that we will see more time difference in an experiment with a more massive twin?

This is a really important question for your model.

• Thegnskald says:

smocc –

Yeah, but we’d see that anyways, on account of standard gravitational time dilation. If the inertial reference frame contains the massive object, then the massive object experiences a multiplicative ratio effect. Hence the Earth+Moon example from the last thread; you see the same behavior either way.

• smocc says:

If your model predicts that the time difference in a twin paradox experiment depends on the mass of either of the observers then your model is empirically wrong and should be abandoned.

Remember, twin-paradox experiments have been done, most famously in the Hafele-Keating experiment. The results of that experiment pretty nearly match the standard SR / GR predictions. And the standard SR / GR predictions do not depend on the mass of either clock.

• Thegnskald says:

They do depend on the mass of the clock; to see this, imagine a clock the size of a planet.

ETA: Now compare our planet sized clock’s timekeeping to a tiny clock.

The fact that we can cancel out the mass when comparing the clocks, if the mass is sufficiently identical, doesn’t mean the mass doesn’t matter.

• smocc says:

I think you are at the point where you need to do some calculations with your model. A great thing to do would be to check that your model can reproduce the results of the Hafele-Keating experiment. If you want a simpler situation you could do a hypothetical deep-space twin paradox experiment like I described above.

Let me be more precise: your model predicts that the entire time difference is directly proportional (or something close) to both the mass of at least one of the observers and the gravitational constant G. This is not true for the standard SR / GR predictions, which have a part that is not proportional to G or the masses of the observers. This part is the one labelled in “Kinematic” in this table.

Your model needs to explain that term.

• Thegnskald says:

Okay, I am pretty sure there is a communication error taking place here.

So, let’s call my model f(G, A). We have two observers, 1 and 2. Say S is subjective time. G is the local gravitational field. t is proper time.

My model suggests, for the deep space case:
S1 = f(G1) * f(A1) * t
S2 = f(G2) * f(A2) * t
G considers the mass of the clock apparatus.
The ratio S1/S2, for the case of equivalent local gravitational fields (equivalent mass in deep space), has mass drop out / cancel out.

This in spite of the fact that my model says mass matters. We can separate out the components and call them different things; I am arguing that they are, conceptually, the same thing. The math stays the same.

There is an omitted velocity term, it just drops out for the deep space case, so is omitted for simplicity. The only reference frame motion happening relative to a gravitational field in the deep space case is the acceleration term.

ETA:

The standard case is ALSO S = f(G)*f(A)*t, incidentally.

To demonstrate this, imagine a stellar enclosure in which gravitational time dilation is at a .5 ratio. Accelerating this such that the acceleration term results in a .5 time dilation ratio results in an overall subjective time dilation ratio of .75 – if the relativistic acceleration results in half the subjective time passing, and gravitational time dilation results in half the subjective time passing, then both continue to apply.

• smocc says:

Okay, but I have been talking about the time difference, which is also what the Hafele-Keating experiment measures. You are saying that your model predicts a time difference of Δt = (f(G1,A1)-f(G2,A2))*t which does depend on the masses of the objects.

I am saying that the standard SR prediction for Δt does not depend on mass. The Hafele-Keating results match the SR predictions (plus some GR parts). How does your model account for this?

• Thegnskald says:

How does the standard SR prediction account for gravitational time dilation caused by the mass of the clock apparatus?

I am including physics that are ignored by what you are referencing – mathematically rightfully, since the contributions to the calculation are negligible.

However, including them helps form a conceptual framework for understanding what is going on.

• smocc says:

Have you looked at this table from the Hafele-Keating expriments. It shows the two contributions that make up the predicted Δt. One is gravitational, and one is kinematic. Do you know how those two numbers are calculated? If not, you are going to have a hard time comparing your model to experiment / other models.

Neither the gravitational nor kinematic parts of those predictions depend on the mass of the clocks. The gravitational part depends on Newton’s gravitational constant, and the kinematic part does not.

Your model needs to be able to reproduce this prediction. Does it?

• Thegnskald says:

I do, yes. And yes, it reproduces these, although the formula I gave earlier explicitly excluded the “kinematic” portion, as stated there, since it drops out in deep space where your reference frame isn’t in motion relative to a gravitational source.

Both portions of the table, incidentally, consider gravity. The gravitational portion considers gravitational time dilation with respect to altitude, and includes gravity this way; this is f(G) in my equation, although the G in this case is the planet’s gravitational field, as by comparison the gravity of the clock apparatus is negligible. The kinematic portion considers gravity in the escape velocity portion of its equation; this is the omitted part of the equation. The table omits f(A), it looks like, which is also a negligible contribution.

• smocc says:

The kinematic portion considers gravity in the escape velocity portion of its equation

since [the kinematic contribution] drops out in deep space where your reference frame isn’t in motion relative to a gravitational source.

You are simply mistaken about these two claims when it comes to the standard calculations. That’s not how special relativity or general relativity work.

The way to calculate the kinematic contribution to the time experienced by each clock is to integrate T = ∫ √(1- v(t)^2 /c^2) dt for each clock where the velocity is measured in an inertial reference frame. The easiest inertial reference frame is the one where the inertial clock is at rest, so you get T for that one. The time for the accelerated clock depends on the velocity function of that clock, v(t).

This is how the kinematic entries in the table on Wikipedia were calculated. This is also how you would do it in a deep space experiment. Note that Newton’s gravitational constant G does not enter into it, nor does the mass of their observer.

• Thegnskald says:

So they didn’t use the Schwarzschild equation for the kinematic portion?

• smocc says:

When you do the calculations for the Hafele-Keating experiment you do need to use the Schwarzschild metric. When you do the calculations for a deep-space experiment you use a flat metric. In both cases there is a time difference, and part of that time difference does not depend on G. Agree or disagree?

• Thegnskald says:

I already agreed with that back when I said the mass terms cancel out. We have a philosophical difference here, not a physical difference.

Okay, I’ll ask a different question. Motion relative to a gravitational field causes time dilation, I think we can agree; the Schwartzschild equation I think shows this. Does acceleration count as motion relative to your own gravitational field? And if so, can’t we simplify two causes of unsychronized time dilation – one caused by acceleration, the other by gravity – down to just one cause, gravity?

• smocc says:

I already agreed with that back when I said the mass terms cancel out.

No you didn’t. You calculated a different quantity than me. You calculated t_1/t_2 when I was talking about t_1 – t_2. Your argument that G and masses cancel out of t_1 / t_2 does not apply to t_1 – t_2.

As far as I can tell you are asking two questions. 1) What is the physical mechanism of time dilation? 2) Are gravitational fields somehow the physical mechanism of time dilation? The answer to 2 is unequivocally no, because gravitational time dilation cannot explain many observed instances of time dilation, as both Soy Lecithin and I have explained.

I’d love to talk about question 1, but you’ll have to give up on 2 before that can be productive.

• Thegnskald says:

I am asking one question at this point: Does acceleration act as motion relative to your own gravitational field?

If the answer is yes, you get gravitational time dilation from this motion, and either special relativity is off by this factor, or this factor is already included.

• smocc says:

An accelerating body probably does move through its own gravitational field (caveat: we cannot ask this question about point particles, which makes it tricky). I have not calculated an exact answer to this question, but it seems reasonable enough.

BUT THIS DOES NOT IMPLY that an accelerating object’s motion through its own gravitational field explains time dilation. There are other sources of time dilation, and in almost any case those other sources are much more significant..

• Thegnskald says:

smocc –

Other mechanisms that are directly correlated with the sum of acceleration, though?

Because the total difference in subjective time, when the twins are brought back together, is proportional to the total acceleration experienced by the measurement, rather than any other factors.

It doesn’t imply it, exactly, but it does point and jump up and down while waggling its eyebrows.

• smocc says:

Because the total difference in subjective time, when the twins are brought back together, is proportional to the total acceleration experienced by the measurement

No it’s not. Or rather, show me and I will believe you. Define “total acceleration” in a precise way and then show me mathematically that the time difference between two clocks in a twin-paradox experiment is proportional to that acceleration. It should not be a very hard calculation as long as you ignore the tiny gravitational effects.

You will either not be able to do this because it’s not true, or you will not be using special relativity and you will have to admit that whatever model you are using disagrees with special relativity.

• Thegnskald says:

I am reasonably certain we have already covered this. Acceleration is the only thing that can differ between the twins (relativity says they’re both moving at the same velocity with respect to one another, after all); outside of an external gravitational field, what other factor are you proposing matters?

• smocc says:

The relative velocity! I showed you the formula. t = \int \sqrt{1 -v(t’)^2/c^2} dt’

This formula depends directly on the velocity and on the acceleration (if there is any) only indirectly. This formula even works when there is no acceleration. Time dilation is a real thing that happens even without acceleration. If you watch a clock moving past you at a constant speed in deep space you will see time dilation, even though it is not accelerating.

The only reason we talk about acceleration is that the distinction between inertial / non-inertial observers is the resolution to a possible paradox, but acceleration is not the root cause of time dilation.

• Thegnskald says:

Both twins “experience” the same V relative to the other, so that formula doesn’t produce any divergence in subjective time when they reunite.

Using just that formula, whenever the twins reunite, their clocks match.

ETA:

Also, that formula is wrong, I think. It’s v(t’) * abs(v(t’)) rather than v(t’)^2. You only get time dilation when objects move apart; you get time compression when they are headed back together. To see this, observe that simultaenity is defined in relativity with a lightspeed limit, and thus can be characterized as “the time for light from an event to reach an observer”; when heading away, it takes longer for light to reach the observer, so time dilation. When heading in, it takes less time for light to reach the observer, so time compression. The sign of v(t’) matters.

• smocc says:

If you think that formula is wrong you disagree with every textbook that has ever been written on relativity. Are you biting that bullet?

As for the bit about both observers seeing the same “v” this is where the distinction between inertial and non-observers come in. The formula I gave you is correct when the velocity is measured in the reference frame of an inertial observer. You can calculate everything in the reference frame of a non-inertial observer, but you need to use a different formula. And crucially, when two observers separate then rejoin at least one will be a non-inertial observer.

• Thegnskald says:

If you think that formula is correct with respect to special relativity, yes, with respect to that version of special relativity I am absolutely going to bite the bullet and say it is wrong.

And if that formula shows up in textbooks it is no wonder people have such a hard time with relativity.

ETA:

Hm. The integral looks right-ish, even it the instantaneous value looks wrong. Not sure how that works. Maybe the instantaneous value doesn’t represent what I think it represents.

It does just end up measuring acceleration for my linear case, though.

• Thegnskald says:

Nope, using concrete values, the integral is still wrong. It calculates time dilation when we should be getting time compression. I knew I shouldn’t be getting negative values out of the sum of the space under a positively valued curve, but the arcsin confused me for a moment into not remembering that a decreasing velocity has to be integrated, not just plugged in at the end.

ETA:. Or not. Okay, I need to sit down with some graphing paper. I am reasonably certain I should never get a negative value out of this based on what an integral is, but my intuitions are struggling a little bit.

ETA again:

Aha! It is a coordinate change. Okay, the formula is fine, it is just expressed backwards. The instanenous value doesn’t describe the time dilation, it describes the distance, and then the integral “decides” the vector for the distance.

Also, it is still describing acceleration, as what ends up being considered is the total change in velocity.

• smocc says:

Okay, so now that you have acknowledged that your theory is distinct from special relativity, what would it take to convince you that your theory is wrong and special relativity is right?

A great first step would be to take the speed / altitude data from the Hafele-Keating experiment, calculate the predicted time differences with your theory, and compare to the measured values.

Another good first step would be to derive your alternate time dilation formula mathematically from first principles. Where does your alternate time formula come from? If you say it’s |v|v instead of v^2 you need a mathematical reason besides just saying something about “time compression / dilation”

ETA: |v|v is especially wonky because now your time formula isn’t rotationally invariant. An inertial observer with a rotated reference frame would calculate a different time! Remember v^2 is a stand-in for \vec{v}\cdot \vec{v}

• Thegnskald says:

smocc –

No, no, the formula is fine. It represents something different than I originally thought. I was originally reading it as integrating with respect to velocity, rather than time, so my coordinate system was wrong. When I substituted correctly the answers came out correct. Should have paid closer attention to the dT. Integrating with respect to velocity prohibits time compression, integrating with respect to time permits it.

The end results for linear acceleration, though, just compare the end velocity to the start velocity (or rather the arcsines thereof); it is acceleration that matters. Haven’t tried with more complex velocity functions yet, but I am going to venture a guess that the case remains the same.

• smocc says:

I sat down a couple of evenings ago and found two different trajectories that both start and end in the same place but have different average accelerations. In particular I found two paths where the path with less average acceleration has more time dilation. Would you like to see those paths?

• Thegnskald says:

Sure, it would be a good exercise in integration. My skills are (very obviously) horribly rusty.

• smocc says:

Would it convince you that time dilation is not proportional to acceleration?

• Thegnskald says:

I mean, if I am not arguing for my current understanding, I am not learning anything, I am just replacing one set of cached thoughts with another.

So maybe? I would have to look at the paths and try to understand what is happening and why. If they don’t start and stop in the same intertial frame, for example – if they having different starting velocities or different starting vectors – it wouldn’t exactly overturn my current understanding.

If it doesn’t fit, I’d need to understand why it doesn’t fit. Maybe it is something like the update I made last thread, when I shifted from velocity to acceleration. Or maybe it will invalidate the entire model. Can’t know until I know why it doesn’t fit.

• Thegnskald says:

Also, do you mind if I e-mail you with some mostly-digested nonsense which may or may not be useful to real physics? (I have your e-mail already, but I don’t wish to pester with my nonsense.)

• Douglas Knight says:

You should meditate on Nybbler’s comment. Contraction is about the speed of light, but not about the gravitational constant or mass.

• Thegnskald says:

Taken into account already. Nybbler’s commentary pertains to what I am referring to as “synchronized” time dilation. You need gravity, and GR, to get the unsychronized time dilation.

• Soy Lecithin says:

If you mean that you need gravity and GR to get the twin paradox, you are wrong. The twin paradox is a fact of SR. It is true in any Lorentz invariant theory, with or without gravity. And it has to do with worldlines: the clocks, twins, spaceships, etc. are for illustrative purposes only.

I haven’t followed the full discussion, but it seems like this is part of what Smocc is trying to explain.

• Thegnskald says:

No. I am saying you need General Relativity in order to have an explanation.

Explaining it in terms of special relativity is effectively impossible, because special relativity doesn’t actually provide the descriptions of what is happening. So you get false explanations like “inertial frame shifts” and “worldlines”.

Worldlines, for example, can describe the fact that two paths through time and space can result in arriving at the same time and space having traveled different distances. But without general relativity saying that time can be bent by gravity, it is impossible for this to actually happen, since special relativity doesn’t actually provide a mechanism for the worldline to bend in this particular way such that the entire rest of the universe isn’t also bending in exactly the same way.

The time paradox arises from trying to describe a general relativity phenomen in terms of a theory that doesn’t actually provide the mechanism by which the phenomenon can be described.

• Hoopyfreud says:

@Thegnskald

Explaining it in terms of special relativity is effectively impossible, because special relativity doesn’t actually provide the descriptions of what is happening. So you get false explanations like “inertial frame shifts” and “worldlines”.

Special relativity provides just as much of a fundamental mechanism as GR does; there are fomulations of GR in which space does not curve. You are privileging the postulates of (one fomulation of) GR above those of SR, and running into confusing non-physical-sounding, undisprovable explanations for SR phenomena. There is no justification for doing this. The approach I prefer is to accept the postulates of SR and GR at face value, recognizing that there is no reason to treat one of these sets as more fundamentally true.

• Soy Lecithin says:

Worldlines, for example, can describe the fact that two paths through time and space can result in arriving at the same time and space having traveled different distances. But without general relativity saying that time can be bent by gravity, it is impossible for this to actually happen, since special relativity doesn’t actually provide a mechanism for the worldline to bend in this particular way such that the entire rest of the universe isn’t also bending in exactly the same way.

This isn’t right. Changing a trajectory just requires a force. It needn’t be gravitational. In fact, in the twin paradox as it’s usually presented one of the trajectories is curved by the thrust of a rocket.

I’m not sure how the twin paradox was presented to you, but maybe you could consider the following thought experiment: Imagine a theory that has Lorentz invariance, but doesn’t have any gravity at all. That is to say, in this theory mass has nothing to do with the curvature of spacetime. In fact, let’s go further and suppose that in this theory spacetime is flat. The curvature everywhere and always is zero and the positions of the various masses in this universe don’t change this at all. Now with this set up, imagine that twins Alice and Bob are floating in space and Bob is moving relative to Alice. Bob floats past Alice, but after a distance Bob sneezes and his sneeze propels him back towards Alice. When he reaches Alice again he is slightly younger. This is a basic calculation that doesn’t involve curvature, gravity wells, Swarzschild solutions or anything like that. And indeed it couldn’t, because such things don’t exist in this universe we’re imagining. That Bob is now younger than Alice follows entirely from Lorentz invariance.

(Maybe a flat universe like this without gravity seems dumb and contrived, but it’s really not.)

• Thegnskald says:

Hoopy –

Special relativity is a subset of general relativity; arguing that it can apply when general relativity does not is a bit… well, you need more laws of the universe to fill in the missing pieces.

Soy –

Cool. By what physical mechanism does three dimensional acceleration give a four dimensional vector?

The physicist who developed special relativity had general relativity in mind; apparently, his own explanation of the twin paradox used gravity.

I feel like you are ignoring the context of the theory you are utilizing. Assumptions of general relativity are baked into special relativity; you can’t suppose special relativity will behave the same way absent general relativity just because the math doesn’t directly reference the assumptions that the model was built upon. The parts of the math that cancel out don’t stop being physically relevant.

ETA:

Or, in other words: What makes you think that special relativity holds if general relativity does not?

• smocc says:

Assumptions of general relativity are baked into special relativity;

No, I think you have this completely backwards. Tell me the assumptions of general relativity, and I will show you where the assumptions of special relativity are baked in. It’s also ahistorical. Einstein invented special relativity 10 years before general relativity, and it took him two years to even get to the basic idea of GR.

Heck, that Wikipedia article says how he “used special relativity to see that the rate of clocks at the top of a box accelerating upward would be faster than the rate of clocks at the bottom.”

• Thegnskald says:

smocc –

Had it in mind, hadn’t created it yet. My understanding is that special relativity was just the part of general relativity Einstein was able to formalize first, and that his goal was the formalization of general relativity, which owing to it’s mathematical complexity took many more years than the small portion of the concept represented by special relativity.

But even if this isn’t the case, special relativity is still a subset of general relativity, so if general relativity doesn’t hold, special relativity probably doesn’t either.

• Soy Lecithin says:

No you don’t need general relativity to have special relativity. I have little idea about how special relativity was thought up historically (though I doubt thoughts about gravity had a role to play). But I’m very familiar with the way physicists think about it today. “Special relativity” is just the statement that physics is Lorentz invariant. Physicists think about all sorts of theories, some tgat look more like our actual universe and some that don’t. Given any such theory, one question you can ask is whether the theory is Lorentz invariant. In the old language that would be like asking if special relativity holds in this hypothetical universe. Physicists regularly think about theories that are Lorentz invariant as well as theories that aren’t. (There is incontrovertible evidence that the real world has Lorentz invariance, but that isn’t the point. Physicists regularly hypothesize all sorts of realistic or non realistic universes, and some of these hypothetical universes have Lorentz invariance while others don’t.)

General relativity is a completely different beast. Physicists think up theories that have gravity. What it means for a theory to have gravity is that it has rules for how the shape of spacetime changes in time and (if there is matter in the theory) how matter and spacetime interact. One such rule is “Einstein Gravity” aka “general relativity.” Einstein gravity has some nice features. It is Lorentz invariant and there is a sense in which it is the simplest way to put gravity in a theory. It’s not the only choice, however. There are all sorts of variations on it. And it’s totally conceivable to come up with rules for gravity that, say, aren’t Lorentz invariant, however odd that might be.

Physicists can think of Lorentz invariant or non-Lorentz invariant theories. They can think of theories with gravity and theories without gravity. Furthermore they can think of all four combinations of Lorentz invariant/non-Lorentz invariant, with gravity/without gravity.

What’s relevant to our discussion is that the twin paradox will hold in any theory that has Lorentz invariance (whether or not the theory also has gravity, let alone whether it has Einstein gravity in particular). The twin paradox follows directly from Lorentz invariance and doesn’t involve any other facts about the theory.

Maybe it’s confusing because there is a historical connection between SR and GR (GR wouldn’t have been formulated without an understanding of Lorentz invariance) and because they are often discussed together in textbooks. Maybe all this obscures what’s really going on?

It should be pointed out that most of the theories that particle physicists spend time thinking about are in the category of Lorentz invariant theories without gravity. Indeed, the standard model is one such. So the twin paradox holds in the standard model. No gravity involved.

Hope this helps.

• Thegnskald says:

Soy –

It doesn’t.

The short version of why amounts to the fact that saying theories can be written in compliance with a constraint says nothing about the reason the constraint exists. You are saying lots of stuff is written assuming special relativity holds – this doesn’t directly interact with my claim that special relativity holds because (something like) general relativity holds.

• Soy Lecithin says:

I see, In the part of this discussion that I’ve seen you were trying to explain the twin paradox using GR. This is wrong. The twin paradox follows from Lorentz invariance and Lorentz invariance is a perfectly fine feature for a theory to have, whether or not the theory also has gravity.

Now it seems like you want to explain something different, namely why our universe has Lorentz invariance. This is a great question, after all it needn’t be the case, and physicists can easily think up theories without Lorentz invariance. But you should realize that this question is a different sort of question. Consider the (actually very much related) question of why physics is rotationally invariant. It needn’t be. It’s totally possible to imagine a universe where things obey different rules in different directions. Maybe someday we’ll have a satisfying explanation for why physics is rotationally invariant, but as far as I can tell, questions like that are outside the current paradigm of physics. In any case the answer certainly has nothing to do with GR. To think of GR explaining SR makes no sense. GR implies SR only in the vacuous sense that GR is, by definition a theory with Lorentz invariance. To do anything like explaining why real world physics has Lorentz invariance you would have to start with something that didn’t already have Lorentz invariance “baked in” and then find that Lorentz invariance “pops out.” In physicist speak you’d have to start with a theory where Lorentz invariance was not “manifest” and then show that Lorentz invariance is in fact there nonetheless. The Lorentz invariance in GR is “manifest,” so GR is not a suitable starting point.

• Thegnskald says:

Ah! I see what you are saying now.

I’ll have to noodle on that for a bit.

• smocc says:

To follow up on Soy Lecithin’s point, there are theorists who something like what he describes. They typically start from the postulate that all physics is governed by local field theories (ie, that all dynamics is caused by interactions between fields at the same point, no action at a distance). Then they show that the only kind of interactions between fields that matter at observable distances are ones that are Lorentz invariant.

This isn’t perfect because they usually have to assume some smaller set of symmetries to get it to work, but at least it’s something. The best I can come up with fast is this paper and references therein.

• Hoopyfreud says:

The “compression wave” almost certainly exists, although it, paradoxically to me, extends both in front of and behind the traveling object. (To see this must be true, the gravitational field must also be Lorentz Contracted, and that from the perspective of the traveling object, its gravitational field must necessarily fill flat space.)

Again, the gravitational field is not Lorentz contracted. The gravitational field acts exactly like a beam of light does – its intensity is dependent on the apparent distance, not some sort of objective distance, which is why the gravity gradient is smooth from both perspectives. The paradox you (correctly) identify above does not indicate a compression wave out to infinity along the line of motion; it indicates that movement does not warp spacetime in the way you’re imagining. There is no substrate upon which information propagates; there is only relative propagation between frames.

• Thegnskald says:

Lorentz-contraction doesn’t produce a non-smooth gradient? Don’t know what that is about.

And if gravitational fields behave exactly like light, they are indeed Lorentz-contracted, given that Lorentz contraction also contracts light beams.

Finally, there is a substrate, of a sort – spacetime itself. Whether we call it a substrate or a coordinate system or something else, the fact that it isn’t flat is important for considering how information propagates, regardless of how we phrase the idea.

• fion says:

I’m struggling to get the hang of what you mean by this compression wave. Is it a “wave” in the technical sense? Does it obey the wave equation? With what speed does it travel?

When I and an observer who is moving relative to me shout to each other about our measurements between various objects in space we will find that all lengths with a component parallel to the direction of relative motion will be different between his measurements and mine, however far in space those points are from me and the other observer. My point is that Lorentz contraction doesn’t move with the observer that’s moving (which is what I imagine when I try to understand your “wave”), it contracts the whole universe.

(btw, sorry for dropping off the other discussion. I saw your reply to mine but forgot to reply until I saw your post here just now.)

• Thegnskald says:

It isn’t a compression wave, is the short answer. There is something that is sort of like a wave of compressed space as a result of acceleration causing the gravitational field to update it’s velocity, but it doesn’t behave like a compression wave in, say, water or air. It behaves more like light.

Think of it more as an envelope of space that is bigger on the inside than the outside. That is the sort of compression I am referring to. A compression bubble squashed on the axis of motion might be a better description, given that the compression is of spacetime.

ETA:

And to head off one miscommunication, the “inside” refers to the reference frame, not the chunk of space, which in a very real sense includes the entire universe anyways.

• fion says:

as a result of acceleration

We’re talking about acceleration? I thought you were using this as a means to explain Lorentz contraction.

the “inside” refers to the reference frame

Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. In what space does the wave/bubble/envelope propagate? (It can’t be real space because then a reference frame couldn’t be meaningfully said to be inside it.)

• Thegnskald says:

We’re talking about acceleration? I thought you were using this as a means to explain Lorentz contraction.

Originally, yeah. In the middle of that discussion I became convinced you need Lorentz contraction to explain why things move at all (evolution of bent space-time over a closed time dimension), so my brain became thoroughly derailed. But more relevantly, I realized my description, while accurate in some respects, also described mass as “dragging” its gravitational field along, whereas this “dragging” effect only occurs with acceleration. So the compression -wave- only exists with acceleration, the compression -bubble- exists with velocity, and can be explained in terms of speed-of-light limitations on when a new mass “learns” about the position of an incoming mass. So with acceleration, the “compression bubble” compresses a little bit more in the direction of motion – as it takes X time to “learn” what the gravitational field should be with respect to the moving mass, and X changes with the speed of the moving mass, in particular in a relationship to its original acceleration, as gravitational fields are universal so it is the original compression wave which changes the shape of the bubble.

It helps to imagine a mass in front of the oncoming mass, and imagine the information about the oncoming’s mass arriving a little bit later with respect to the mass itself, proportional to the speed of the mass. Or, in other words, if you instantly accelerate a mass to .999999% of lightspeed, the mass in front of it isn’t even going to “learn” that it needs to be affected by the mass’s gravity until the mass has nearly reached it.

Even that isn’t an entirely “correct” view of things, as it still imagines a static reference frame of zero motion upon which information propagates, but I think it gets you to the point where you can start mentally working with the idea of Lorentz Compression as it pertains to gravitational fields. Continuing with this not-quite-correct-but-close-enough description, gravity continues to be “compressed” because in the time it takes it to get, say, one meter ahead of the mass, it has already traveled a considerably longer distance. It is harder to see that the same is true of it going “backwards”, away from the direction of the motion of the mass; it helps to think of it as de-accelerating first, even though, again, this isn’t quite correct. The “correct” understanding is treating the moving object’s reference frame as valid, but I don’t think I can convey this idea very well, since the closest description to how I personally think about it (a parallel universe) isn’t even an accurate description of how I think about it. There aren’t words to convey the model, or if they are, I haven’t figured them out yet.

Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. In what space does the wave/bubble/envelope propagate? (It can’t be real space because then a reference frame couldn’t be meaningfully said to be inside it.)

This is the part it is hard to convey. We are describing a space that is, in a very meaningful way, bigger on the outside than the inside, and worse, this space coexists with all other space. It travels through “real space”, but the mental disconnect happens because you’re trying to think of a stationary reference frame, relative to the moving reference frame, as the “real” reference frame.

So let’s try using the objective-universe reference frame to try to convey what this looks like. Okay, I think I have kind of conveyed the way gravity moves, I hope. What is missing from that description is a critical element of what gravity is: In general relativity, gravity isn’t a force, it is a change in the density of space-time. A gravity well is literally bigger on the inside. For our moving object, all its gravity and fields are similarly compressed; if it had a conceptualization of the space around it, it wouldn’t “look” bigger, everything else would just “look” smaller.

To explain this, in turn, imagine your eyeball; for our purposes here, we’re using a reference frame that is “stationary” relative to your relativistic-speed “moving” reference frame. Imagine your eyeball is a sphere. In our moving reference frame, space has bent so much that the sphere is no longer spherical, it is flattened along one axis; the amount it has flattened is proportional to velocity. But all the other fields and forces your eye is carrying with it have also flattened, so there isn’t any “pressure”, and it holds up and behaves exactly as if it weren’t flattened. But because it is flattened in a particular axis, all the light coming into it is being distorted by the new shape of the eye. All the light coming in from the spaceship around it is coming in from mass that is flattened in exactly the same way the eye is, so it looks full and round; all the light coming in from the rest of the universe hasn’t been flattened in this way, so it comes in squashed by the new shape of the eye. From the perspective of you, in your squashed state, it is the rest of the universe that is flattened. From the perspective of the rest of the universe, it is you that has flattened.

The key part of “relativity” is when you grok that neither perspective is “correct”; it is purely a matter of perspective; the choice of whether we say you are in motion (and thus are flattened) or whether we say the universe is in motion (and thus is flattened) is pretty much arbitrary.

A description of a collision would get weird, though, because the space is legitimately denser around the moving object. Descriptions are only this neat and clean when we aren’t trying to describe things close enough to a relativistic-speed object to start experiencing the “bigger on the inside” effect to a significant degree. (We experience this effect every time we experience gravity, mind, so it isn’t a novel behavior. But we don’t generally experience local gravity fields strong enough to bend light to a noticeable degree, so it wouldn’t feel like the same sort of thing at all. It would, at least, be a very -short- experience.)

23. Aapje says:

Being/acting schizoid is considered a personality disorder. However, what if it is more like depression?

Depression seems to be an (over)reaction to dissatisfaction with life and results in withdrawn behavior, which makes a lot of sense. If doing what you are doing makes you unhappy, why not stop doing those things? It just goes wrong when there are no better, alternative things to do. Arguably modernity is to blame for many people being depressed, as a long time ago, depressed people would be forced out of their caves by hunger and thirst, where the act of hunting & gathering presumably solves depression (just like sports aka fake hunting seems to help with depression today). It is so easy for modern people to remain alive that they can very quickly meet their basic needs and so don’t get forced into this natural therapy as much.

Note that depression has a genetic component, presumably because some people are more sensitive to dissatisfaction and/or are more dissatisfied by the demands of modern society and/or their genes causes their life to be fairly bad. This genetic influence doesn’t make it into a personality disorder.

Anyway, what if schizoid behavior is a similar coping mechanism for dealing with unpleasant people/interactions? So instead of the general withdrawal that you have with depression, it is a withdrawal specifically from (close) interactions with other people. Some specific features attributed to schizoids suggests that deeper human connection is still desired. For example, Salman Akhtar attributed these covert behaviors to schizoids:
– exquisitely sensitive
– hungry for love
– envious of others’ spontaneity
– intensely needy of involvement with others
– capable of excitement with carefully selected intimates
– at other times altruistically self-sacrificing

What if these are attempts at closing the distance with other people, which, when the response is unpleasant, can then result in the more overt and visible schizoid behaviors?

• Hoopyfreud says:

Depression seems to be an (over)reaction to dissatisfaction with life and results in withdrawn behavior, which makes a lot of sense. If doing what you are doing makes you unhappy, why not stop doing those things? It just goes wrong when there are no better, alternative things to do.

Careful. Depression has a major anhedonic component, this being one of the main criteria for diagnosis. I don’t want to say more on the mechanism for this because there are certainly people here with more-technically-correct knowledge here, but speaking from experience – neither hard work nor exposure to enriching experiences “cure” depression.

• Aapje says:

That can be part of the defense mechanism, where negative emotions are weakened, with the side effect that positive emotions are weakened too.

Secondly, the mechanism I propose is that this works well in small quantities and that in more primitive environments, people will generally be cured after moderate depression, because then they cut out the depressive behavior and limit themselves to basic life-supporting tasks, which presumably are fairly satisfying. However, modern environments make basic life-supporting tasks so easy and demand things like work* (even if they are depressing). The result is that many moderately/slightly depressed people persist in the behaviors that cause these depressed feelings. As people ignore what their body tells them, the depressive feelings increase and increase. So the anhedonia, disinterest in doing things, etc ramp up to extreme levels where people can no longer ignore it. At these extreme levels, that people of the past presumably would rarely reach, these feelings become counterproductive. What worked in small quantities, becomes a trap in high quantities.

* And you can’t easily change jobs, because you are fairly locked into a career/niche.

• Hoopyfreud says:

I’m not sure that I agree with your “negative feedback loop that goes unstable under certain conditions” assessment. My model of depression is that it’s the type I diabetes of mental health – manageable, but very dangerous if unmanaged. Critically, I think that satisfying work is a depression management tool, not a cure. I find myself backsliding pretty dramatically if I stop putting effort into my management mechanisms, with anhedonia being the first symptom – and at least for me, the primary one. Under your model, there’s no reason for that to happen (given that, objectively, my life doesn’t suck enough to justify it).

• SamChevre says:

Hey, that’s the analogy I’ve used for depression. It points to one of the dangerous feature–the stimulus/response disconnect, which leads to either hitting the receptor harder and harder (eating sweets in diabetes, drinking for example in depression) or just giving up entirely on critical activities.

• Creutzer says:

• Hoopyfreud says:

@Creutzer

Meditation, relatively strict sleep cycle management (usually where I fall off the wagon, but not problematic enough to cause a backslide on its own), exercise, engagement with pets, and forcing myself to get out of the house (on weekends – I work sunup to sundown, at least in December). That’s the daily regimen. If I failed to do any one of those things for a week, I’d be in trouble.

E: also, avoiding drugs of any kind. I have enough maladaptive habits that I don’t need to add anything that lowers my inhibitions AND distracts me from my unhappiness; that just leads to emotion bombs down the line.

• Aapje says:

@Hoopyfreud

Under your model, there’s no reason for that to happen (given that, objectively, my life doesn’t suck enough to justify it).

That seems like a very dangerous way of thinking. How can a claim that someone’s life doesn’t suck truly be objective?

You seem to argue that you have a life that according to our culture should make you happy, so it cannot be making you unhappy.

What if our culture is wrong and/or you are atypical or a bit of both? You might be ignoring the displeasure that you feel in favor of conforming to a cultural norm that (almost) makes you ill.

In my country, (dairy sector influenced) ad campaigns and education used to tell people that dairy is healthy. Imagine being a bit lactose intolerant and believing this message, so you keep drinking milk while also mysteriously having health issues. Then you might keep yourself barely healthy by keeping a strict diet, with no fast food, white bread, etc, even while still drinking milk. This could then indeed work better than a diet with those things and milk, but without milk, you would be way healthier, even if you didn’t forgo these things.

Anyway, my explanation suggests that depression is often caused by people forcing themselves situations that makes them ill, because of how society is ordered, what the norms are, etc.

• John Schilling says:

That seems like a very dangerous way of thinking. How can a claim that someone’s life doesn’t suck truly be objective?

The claim can be read as, and I suspect is often intended as, “The measurable material circumstances of X’s life do not suck; X isn’t sick or impoverished or imprisoned, there’s nothing wrong with X’s life that a camera can record for the intertubes to disseminate, therefore I trust we all understand that X will be receiving no sympathy for any claims of life-suckage and will instead be denounced for attempting to distract attention from higher-priority victims.”

• Hoopyfreud says:

@Aapje

(Extensive edit after I recharged my phone)

I can point to the time in my life in which I developed depression; in the time since then, my emotional, social, environmental, and economic circumstances have changed dramatically. My depression has remained “under management.” I have not experienced anything like those motivating circumstances since, and I do believe that they would send me back into depression; for this reason, I have a strategy for pulling myself out if it becomes necessary.

If the “overloaded feedback loop” theory is correct, some of these changes should have made keeping myself out of a depressive state easier (or harder); they haven’t. They’ve largely made me happier, but that’s not the same thing as “further from depression.” I’ve played at a kind of primitivism before, in the wilderness for a week or two at a time, and I learned that I’m at least as capable of being depressed in that environment as I am under my current circumstances.

I have introspected quite deeply and found that I do not have needs that I cannot fulfil while living the life that I’m living; I have, however, found that neglecting to fulfil some those needs has an impact on my cognition that is extremely dangerous and unpleasant, for reasons that I cannot identify. Therefore, I conclude that there is nothing wrong with my lifestyle, but that there is something wrong with me.

Seems plausible, but my prior on any proposal capturing the True Fundamental Underlying Cause of a mental illness is much too low for that evidence to overcome.

If it were true, it would suggest that forced social interaction should be an effective treatment for schizoid behavior.

Please do not implement this without the consent of the schizoid in question.

• Aapje says:

No, because if the reason for the withdrawal is that interaction with people is unsatisfying, exposure to people will not work unless it is a more satisfying interaction than in the past.

• BeefSnakStikR says:

If social withdrawal is caused by unpleasant interactions, and a desire not to socialize with people, I’d call that plain “alienation.” (I’m not sure what DSM disorder that would go with, though). Lots of people seem to get over that, change their lives, and meet people who they aren’t alienated from.

Schizoid traits seem to involve fantasizing/ruminating/etc. about socializing, until the desire to fantasize/ruminate/etc overtakes the desire to actually socialize. That’s not quite the same as desiring to not socialize, or desiring certain social situations. It also seems to be self-reinforcing.

On schizoid forums, it seems like there are a lot of people who are introverted/have extreme social anxiety. But there are also a lot of people who function normally and are engaged with society, though. The overriding feature seems to be building up a personality/one’s relation to the world in one’s mind rather than “just not wanting” to engage with the world.

I guess self-diagnosis can skew things, and the people who describe themselves with the disorder might not be the textbook case. Plus, I’m probably biased into reporting the parts of it that I can relate to.

• Aapje says:

Schizoid traits seem to involve fantasizing/ruminating/etc. about socializing, until the desire to fantasize/ruminate/etc overtakes the desire to actually socialize.

That seems consistent to me to the desire being there, but there not being a practical way to meet the desire in real life. So people could then flee into fantasy.

On schizoid forums, it seems like there are a lot of people who are introverted/have extreme social anxiety. But there are also a lot of people who function normally and are engaged with society, though.

This seems consistent with my explanation…

The overriding feature seems to be building up a personality/one’s relation to the world in one’s mind rather than “just not wanting” to engage with the world.

As I argued, there is a desire to engage, but the desire cannot be met satisfactorily.

Imagine a person with broken taste buds for whom no food tastes good. She would love to go out to a restaurant and to have a great meal, just like any other person. However, if she does exactly the same things as another person, ordering a burger, the experience is going to suck, because the orgasmic moment of biting into the burger will be for her like biting into a piece of rubber.

So after a few such experiences, she might decide to eat mealsquares at home and satisfy her cravings for tasty food with ‘food porn.’ After all, when viewing pictures of food, she can fantasize her own great tasting moment that is way better than the real thing.

Similarly, a schizoid person can replace the dissatisfying real interactions with fantasy interactions, that are more satisfying.

24. Andrew Hunter says:

You are the British PM and hold a comfortable working majority. (We’ll ignore all the current mess with Brexit et al.) Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to dramatically increase the volume of trade between the UK and Australia at a minimum of government expenditure and deadweight loss.

Is there a much more efficient way to achieve the goal of otherwise-unattainable volumes of trade?

[1] Though I suppose Ricardo and the Corn Laws were recent memory.

• The Nybbler says:

Why ignore the Brexit mess? Crash out, or reach a negotiated solution that does not include any sort of trade union membership. Negotiate a free trade deal with Australia (this means deploying everything including the dirty tricks people to make sure the EU doesn’t make a deal with Australia which prevents this). Free trade with Australia, no free trade with EU –> more trade with Australia with minimal deadweight loss.

• Deiseach says:

Well, that is a large part of what the Leavers are pinning their hopes on – that leaving the EU means they can make up by trading with markets in the Commonwealth (which includes Australia). There are critics who think this is not a sufficient replacement:

Other observers, however, are skeptical that the Commonwealth can match the benefits of EU membership. Nearly 42 percent of all UK exports go to the EU, and no Commonwealth countries are among the UK’s top ten largest trading partners. Trade experts point to economic research establishing that geographic proximity is among the most important factors in determining trade, meaning that EU countries are likely to remain the UK’s most natural trade partner. They also note that many Commonwealth countries have highly protected economies, and that lowering their trade barriers could prove harder than Brexit supporters anticipate. The EU has so far failed to secure a free trade deal with India, for instance, and analysts say there is little reason why the UK, on its own, would fare much better.

I have read some articles suggesting that Australia would indeed like more trade with Great Britain, because it anticipates that would be to its advantage and that it could strike a hard bargain with the ‘Mother Country’. So the rose-tinted notion of Great Britain reclaiming its dominant position over the former colonies by making its own trade bargains with them as markets soaking up British exports may not be that workable in practice if it ever came to it. Whatever about “hormone-treated beef”, Australia’s push for more visas would be a problem for a post-Brexit Britain that campaigned on reducing and controlling immigration.

this means deploying everything including the dirty tricks people to make sure the EU doesn’t make a deal with Australia which prevents this

And it looks like the sneaky EU got there first! 😀

• The Nybbler says:

And it looks like the sneaky EU got there first!

Free trade between Australia and the EU isn’t a problem as long as they don’t sneak in any “and don’t you go making similar deals with those limey bastards!” clauses.

• Tarpitz says:

Does anyone in the UK seriously object to increased immigration from Australia, New Zealand or Canada? Politicians may have to dance around the subject, but I don’t think any voters see native English speakers from rich countries with similar cultures as a problem.

Free trade agreements don’t exclude each other. The exception is common tarriff areas like the EU.

• Chalid says:

You are of course fighting gravity, and IANAE but the origins of the gravity equation are not well-understood.

One explanation for why trade volume falls with distance is that it hard for a firm to export to countries where it has no contacts. Accordingly, strongly encourage cross-immigration. Subsidize Australian kids who want to go to college or especially business school in the UK, and vice versa. Subsidize an airline that will run a direct flight from London to Sydney.

• Tenacious D says:

CANZUK is lobbying for visa-free movement between Australia and the UK (+ NZ and Canada).

You are of course fighting gravity

• honoredb says:

Hm, maybe sell “Commonwealth Bonds” to raise money for a Sovereign Wealth Fund that seeks to maximize return on investment while only buying stocks in companies involved in UK-Australia trade? Sort of a gentle, indirect subsidy through citizens voluntarily paying to distort the market.

Or if it’s 2018 maybe you can subsidize trade in online services without too much deadweight loss.

• If you could build a bridge between the UK and Australia, that’d lower transport costs and increase the volume of trade, but, well, no.

Shifting from ships to trucks, for that long a distance, would raise transport costs, not lower them–water is far and away the cheapest form of bulk transport.

Nearly 42 percent of all UK exports go to the EU, and no Commonwealth countries are among the UK’s top ten largest trading partners.

There are two things wrong with that statistic. The first is that the fact that the U.K. has free trade with the EU and not with Australia results in more trade with the former, less with the latter. The second is that it is comparing all of the EU countries combined with each separate commonwealth country.

The EU is only about 22% of the world economy. Suppose, instead of the commonwealth, we create the ELFTA–English Language Free Trade Area, consisting of all countries where English is one of the official languages. Total GDP is substantially larger than that of the EU.

It isn’t at all obvious that the U.K. is better off in the EU and limited by EU barriers against the rest of the world. The critical question is how much of the rest of the world the U.K. either can or wants to have free trade with.

• Australia is a major coal producer, so the U.K. switching back to coal would increase trade some. Create a fad for opals. Persuade British consumers that their range of junk food, potato chips and such, is too narrow, and they need more variety.

For trade the other way, find some way of greatly expanding the ancient British beer industry. And for the historically minded, go back to exporting convicts as slave labor.

If something has a positive externality, null hypothesis is that the best policy is to subsidize it. I don’t think it would really be equivalent to tariffs, either. With a subsidy the advantages would go Australian goods > British goods = European/other goods, whereas with a tariff it would be Australian goods = British goods > European/other goods.

But I’d feel boring if I left it at that, so here’s a fun idea: Birthright Albion (a la Birthright Israel). Branding improvement ideas welcome.

25. ana53294 says:

An extreme right-wing party has triumphed in the local Andalusian elections in Spain. Vox is an anti-female, anti-federalist, xenophobic party that Steve Bannon supported. They got 10% of the vote there; I think it is quite safe to assume that they will get >5% of seats in Parliament in the next national election (although they won’t get the Basque and Catalan vote).

Until this happened, I read many articles on why Spain didn’t have a meaningful extreme right wing party; they talked about our history with a right wing dictatorships, and mentioned the quite inclusive right wing party that included every part of the right wing spectrum.

And it seems to me they were all wrong; Spain still has the same history; and we still have a big right wing party, and Vox still got a lot of votes in Andalucia. So, it seems to me that all commenters that try to explain the rise of right wing parties have no real idea what causes the raise of these parties, because they haven’t been able to predict these things before they happened.

The most commented reason seems to be the Catalan ordeal; my gut feeling is that that’s a big part of the reason, but I am not sure they got it right this time.

There are, AFAIK, three big European countries left with no big extreme right parties; Portugal, Belgium and Ireland. Will the extreme right also raise there? Will this be the new reality? Will all European countries have extreme right parties that have around 10% of votes?

• rlms says:

The UK doesn’t have a meaningful far-right party at the moment, even if you count UKIP.

• ana53294 says:

I was counting UKIP. You think it’s not a big enough party, or it’s not extreme right wing?

• rlms says:

Both, although I might take back that claim since apparently UKIP’s support has risen in polls in recent months, and they’re also moved further right. This time last year I would’ve said they were too economically right-wing to be a far-right party (!), in contrast to e.g. the BNP.

• Tarpitz says:

UKIP’s polling around 5%, and I doubt it would come close to that in a general election. It almost certainly wouldn’t win any seats in the Commons.

You might want to read Lou Keep’s stuff about social states. That’s part I, but I don’t think the explanation for the mysterious appearance of an out-of-mainstream political upset comes until part III. It’s the blindspot that comes from “social taxes” extending beyond the apex of the “social Laffer curve.” Basically the “respectable people” keep moving the bounds of respectability so far respectable that the non-respectable people are no longer engaged with, and disappear from sight. But they’re still there.

• Hoopyfreud says:

Not applicable if you don’t know the tax rate, though. It’s possible for a society to lack (from our perspective) “objective” far right ideologies without reference to the taxation mechanism; as an extreme example, there are so few Japanese Imperialist zealots that no matter how high the tax rate rises there aren’t enough of them to #riseup.

I agree with Lou, but I think it’s important to get a feel for the local social tax rates before applying the framework.

Isn’t that part of the problem, that the “true” tax rate is unknowable? The king’s bringing in $100M in taxes, but needs$200M to build the palace, so he doubles the taxes but only gets $170M while the citizens assure him it’s because of locusts or whatever? On the social side, we heard “Trump is finished this time!” over and over during the campaign, because the media that only talks to itself cannot believe there exists anyone who disagrees with them. Number of people on TV who think a “total shutdown on Muslims coming into this country until we can figure out what the hell is going on” is a good or even entertainable idea: 0 Percentage of voters who think this is a good idea: ~40%. Goes up to ~60% if you phrase it more diplomatically like “ban travel from Muslim majority nations with high propensities for terrorism but with reasonable exceptions and an appeals process.” The voters who think this and worse things are simply not engaged with. That’s where the missing$30M is from the king’s tax is, but this is a social tax payable on the “Islamophobia is bad” register.

• dick says:

Number of people on TV who think a “total shutdown on Muslims coming into this country until we can figure out what the hell is going on” is a good or even entertainable idea: 0

I guess your TV doesn’t get Fox?

I remember when Trump said that. The reason it polled so well is that it was a Barnum statement. He didn’t actually propose anything, there was no press release fleshing out the plan, it was just a sentence – “total shutdown of Muslim immigration” – and people could decide what that meant for themselves. At the time I knew several people who were strongly in favor of it, despite not agreeing with each other – each assumed the plan he liked was what Trump would end up implementing. Same was true on the other side – if you wanted to hate Trump, you could assume the worst and go complain about how terrible it would be when Trump did it.

I can see the value of doing stuff like that. It’s like a trial balloon, you say something vague, let America argue it out for a couple of weeks, and then when a consensus view emerges you just point at it and say “yeah, that’s what I was proposing.” In this particular case it led to a proposal that got rejected by the courts, but in general I think it can be effective. But it’s also super frustrating to watch, just in the sense that it leads to a confusing and tendentious debate between blowhards who don’t really know what they’re talking about and are free to conjure up strawmen and weakmean all over the place.

Trump’s travel ban was upheld by the Supreme Court.

ETA: And the vast bulk of Fox News presenters are neocons who don’t or didn’t support Trump. At the time he first floated that I think the Fox News evening lineup was Megyn Kelly, Hannity, and O’Reilly, and Kelly hates Trump, Hannity was probably for and O’Reilly mixed. So you’ve got maybe one guy at the “right-wing” news channel that agreed with the right-wing electorate.

• Hoopyfreud says:

No, Laffer curves are why revenue is unknowable. Taxation rate is a system input. I think you’re extrapolating American taxation rates (which you have an decent estimate of – I think I disagree with you on what it is, but I think you’re ballpark right) to other cultures. And while a social taxation rate is difficult to quantify, I don’t think you can make casual claims on such a weak estimate.

• Hoopyfreud says:

*Causal

• Aapje says:

@ana53294

There are, AFAIK, three big European countries left with no big extreme right parties; Portugal, Belgium and Ireland.

Wait, what?

Belgium was one of the first with a fairly large far-right party, Vlaams Blok (Flemish Block) in 1978. Note that after the party was dissolved by the courts in 2004 (in the year they won 24% of the votes for the Flemish parliament), it rebranded as Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest). Because it was so early, it got big at a time when the other parties still categorically rejected anti-immigration beliefs and the other parties thus excluded them from consideration (cordon sanitaire).

Because this lasts to this day, many voters have moved on to a less radical Flemish-nationalist party, Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie aka N-VA (New Flemish Alliance). They were part of the ruling coalition until a few days ago, when a refusal to sign the Marrakesh Treaty on migration (where the fear was that signing it would increase migration) got them rejected from the ruling coalition.

• ana53294 says:

Oh, OK. It’s too late to correct the post now. I’ve never heard about them, although I have seen all the other European parties in the news. I guess they don’t get that much media traction in international news.

That means there are only two big countries, Portugal and Ireland. And the UK is a toss up.

• SamChevre says:

I find it interesting that in the US, federalist and states’ rights are right-wing, while apparently in Spain, they are left-wing.

• ana53294 says:

In Spain, we have the Spanish right and left, and the local right and left (Basque, Catalan, Galician).

The current Spanish left is more tolerant of autonomies and language diversity than the Spanish right. But before the Catalan issue became so candent, both of them made deals with both Basques and Catalans to make coalition governments. And when they won in the Basque Country, they made a local coalition government because they wanted to punish nationalists, while at the Spanish level they hate each other (and, despite their hatred for each other, they managed to last the 4 years they had; this is why for Basques all Spaniards are the same).

During the Carlist wars, we fought several laws over the new Constitution. The new Constitution limited the power of the Monarch and unified Spain as one nation. But while it gave more rights to Castilians, it took away rights from Basques and Catalans. The Basque Country was, for all intents and purposes, a medieval free economic zone. The tariffs were not imposed in Bilbao, but in Burgos. We controlled our own taxes, and chose our own laws. So the Constitution meant a great loss in autonomy. So during this era, regional nationalism fought basically the whole 19th century against liberals, or left-wingers. And then, after the Republic, we had the Spanish Civil war, and regional nations fought against the right-wing, because the Republic gave more freedom. The current situation is a consequence of the Spanish Civil war, but as you see, re-alignments between right-left and pro/anti more autonomy for regions have occurred during our history. We just are in the period where right wing interests are better satisfied by less autonomy.

I don’t think that states’ rights and left-right division is that clear in the US, either. My understanding is, slaveholders wanted to keep their own states’ rights, while imposing on others’ right to keep fugitives. The same states that did not want the federal government sending the army to help desegregation now wants federal agencies such as ICE to deport immigrants. This doesn’t seem to me like a serious level of commitment to states’ rights on anyone’s side, because it seems more issue-dependent. There are people commited to free speech, and are willing to protect people they strongly disagree with; this doesn’t seem to happen with states’ rights, so I don’t see any real commitment on any side to states’ rights.

• Mark V Anderson says:

Wait a minute, Ana, are you saying the 10% vote makes Vox a big extreme party? That doesn’t sound at all big to me. I suppose they’ll get a few representatives, but I assume they will have little effect on politics except in a spoiler role?

Aapje already put the kibosh on your Belgium example, but are you saying that Ireland and Portugal have no far right party getting even 10%?

26. fion says:

If you’ve not been following it, there’s been some juicy (or depressing, depending on your cynicism levels) political drama going on in the UK the past wee while.

The referendum to leave the EU happened two and a half years ago. Nobody thought that Leave would win, but it did. For the past two years a Remainer PM has been leading a mostly-Leave Conservative party and a half-and-half country trying and failing to please everyone. She finally worked out a deal with the EU, which the EU was happy with, brought it back to the UK parliament and country more generally and… nobody liked it (but there’s not yet been a formal vote). Unfortunately nobody likes it for numerous contradictory reasons. Remainers don’t like it because it’s too Leave-y, Leavers don’t like it because it’s too Remain-y. There’s more to it than that of course, but the point is nobody likes the deal. Cabinet members resigned over it. It was due for a vote in parliament on Tuesday, but at the last minute the PM delayed the vote because there was no chance it would pass.

There was uproar over this cancellation, with various calls for the PM to step down. The smaller opposition parties (most notably the Scottish National Party, who despite the name are left-wing and pro-EU) called on the largest opposition party (The Labour Party) to table a motion of confidence in the government. Labour had previously said that if the PM’s deal was voted down on Tuesday (which it definitely would) then they would table a confidence motion then. When the vote was delayed indefinitely, Labour didn’t know what to do. Do they table the motion now? Do they wait for the Conservatives to implode a little more? The whole thing is a bit ironic, because technically any MP can table a confidence motion; it doesn’t have to be the leader of the opposition. I suspect that the politicians calling for the Labour leader to table the motion are doing it for somewhat opportunistic reasons.

A slight tangent: the Conservative government does not quite have a majority in parliament. They have a small number of DUP members agreeing to support them. This arrangement is super-fragile for various reasons. The DUP is a Northern Ireland party. Politically they’re not too dissimilar to the Conservatives, but sadly one issue that divides them is the EU, which is kind of the biggest issue in UK politics right now. The problem is that Ireland is in the EU, and Ireland and Northern Ireland have a troubled history for many reasons (sectarianism being the most obvious). But despite the religious differences, Northern Ireland and Ireland are very close (literally) and everybody who knows much about it says that putting a border between Northern Ireland and Ireland would threaten the peace which has held there for the last twenty years (the Good Friday Agreement). But putting a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is also impossible, since that’s within a country. But the Leavers want a border between Britain and the EU; that’s kind of what this is all about! It’s logically impossible to satisfy all these criteria. This makes live very hard for the PM because if leaving the EU puts a border between Northern Ireland and Ireland then the DUP will stop supporting her and her government doesn’t have a majority any more. A confidence motion will be tabled and the government will lose. This will almost certainly lead to a general election. On the other hand, any arrangement that keeps Ireland together will be unsatisfactory for the most Leave-y Conservatives, and again, the parliamentary majority is gone.

Ok, back to the confidence motions. In the end the Opposition was beaten to it, as the Conservative backbenchers (ie those not in government) tabled their own confidence motion in their leader first thing yesterday. This was a different type of motion, being an internal one. If successful it would have forced Theresa May to stand down as Conservative leader and remain PM while the Conservative party chose a new one. The vote happened yesterday evening and Theresa May won it by 200-117 votes. The pundits can’t really seem to decide whether this counts as a victory or not. Having 117 of your own MPs saying they don’t have confidence in your leadership is a kind of big deal. Having said that, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader lost a confidence vote by his MPs ages ago and he’s still going strong (due to being very popular with the Labour members and the Labour party having slightly different rules to the Conservative party).

So where does this leave us? Theresa May is still the PM, still the Conservative leader, and can’t have another internal confidence vote brought against her for 12 months. She has promised to stand down before the next general election (which seems to me like an odd promise, but it was probably in an attempt to win votes in the confidence motion), but I imagine she only means the next scheduled election in 2022. Labour will try to force a general election long before then, hopefully before the 29th of March 2019 which is when we’re scheduled to leave the EU. Nobody quite knows what Labour’s plan is after this. Assuming they win the general election (which is of course, not a given) they’ll probably try to postpone the leaving date and agree their own deal with the EU. This is a bit of a poisoned chalice, though, because it’s impossible to come up with a deal that will please everybody. It’s much easier to stand at the sidelines shouting “you’re doing it wrong; let us do it” but much harder to, you know, actually do it.

The default thing that will happen on the 29th of March if no deal is agreed is that we will leave “without a deal”. Nobody really seems to know what this means, but it’s what the most Leave-y Leavers want. It’s the worst possible outcome for the Remainers (who are, remember, half the country) and it’s undesirable for most of the Leavers. At this point it looks a bit like we might sleepwalk into it, because nobody will have a chance to stop it, but it really is all up in the air.

Or will we just call the whole thing off? The smaller opposition parties (SNP, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Plaid Cymru) and much of the Labour party would like to do exactly this, and are calling for a “People’s Vote” (which is just a more polling-friendly term for “second referendum”). The Labour leadership is afraid of alienating their Leave-voting base, and have said they’re committed to carrying out Brexit, but on Labour’s terms. The more intractable Brexit seems, though, the more likely it is that they’ll offer a second referendum. Public opinion has changed a little since the last one, we have a better idea what we’re voting for this time, and hopefully people have started to realise how hard it is… but to support a second referendum is seen (by the right-wing press at least) as a “betrayal” of the “will of the people” and some commentators think it would spell electoral disaster for Labour to support it. Of course, the Remainer-before-all-else types don’t mind this. They want to stop Brexit by any means necessary, even if it destroys their preferred of the two major parties.

I also want to give mention to Scotland, my home country. People in Scotland voted decisively to remain in the EU, and many feel it is very unfair that the country is being dragged out against its will. This is made all the more sour by the Scottish Independence Referendum four years ago, in which one of the favourite arguments of the No side was “an independent Scotland will not be in the EU and will need to reapply. Staying in the UK is the only way of being sure of staying in the EU.” If we’d all known in 2014 what we know now, Scotland would probably have voted for independence and would probably still be in the EU. People are very upset about this.

So we need to wait and see what the PM does now. Right now she’s in Europe, trying to modify the deal in such a way as to make it palatable to parliament (which many see as an impossible task for the reasons I’ve discussed). Various important people in the EU have said “this is the deal; there is no changing it” which will make the PM’s life even harder. Sooner or later she’ll need to get parliament to vote on whatever deal she puts to them and this vote will almost certainly be against the deal. But she might not even get that far before Labour calls a confidence vote (a proper one this time) and perhaps forces a general election. It’s a lot of turmoil only three months before Brexit is supposed to happen!

• ana53294 says:

What are the election laws in the UK?

In Spain, elections are called at least three months in advance. You can’t just call for an election next week, and neither can you do that for a referendum. And the election doesn’t mean you immediately get a new Congress; it takes a while for the new elected officials to be seated.

Unless the UK allows for elections to be called with a very short campaign time and MPs are sitted very quickly after the election, it seems to me there is no time.

• Chuckiegg says:

The UK is a little quicker than Spain in these matters but I agree there is not time. The current assumption is that the EU would agree to an extension of the 29th March deadline to facilitate an election or referendum, this is pretty plausible although not certain.

• kieranpjobrien says:

Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act there has to be at least 25 working days between parliament being dissolved and the election, held on a Thursday (by convention I think rather than law, there is no reason for this convention so far as I can recall). Parliament is dissolved a week after the election is called, so you need six working weeks.

The Tories aren’t going to call an election, so there needs to be a vote of no confidence. In that there is a vote of no confidence, then starting the next day there are 14 days for the government to regain confidence. At which point someone else gets a chance or the Queen dissolves parliament. Under this you need just over seven weeks (five week campaign, two weeks no confidence period, a day either side really)

So to get an election by March 29th (on 21st March) you need to call it by Thursday the 7th February, at the very very latest. To give Parliament time to start on the Monday following the election. Which means you need a no confidence vote on the 30th January. More realistically, if the winners are to have time to negotiate (negotiate what, the deal is the deal and you either vote for or against it, the EU aren’t going to change it), you need to have the no confidence vote around now.

There’s essentially no time for an election. The deal is the deal, you either vote for, or vote against. (I currently weakly favour voting against).

• johan_larson says:

I’m thinking she should hold a formal vote on the plan as it stands. If it passes, great. Onward and outward.

If it doesn’t, kick everyone who voted against it out of the Conservative party. And have the party back pro-plan candidates in the ridings of those who were kicked out. Then call a new election, announcing that if the Conservatives are returned to office, they will again try to pass Brexit with the one plan. If the Conservatives lose the election, Brexit is over for now. If they win and the vote on the plan succeeds, great. Onward and outward. If they lose, Brexit is over for now.

• kieranpjobrien says:

She can withdraw the whip but can’t expel them. She can ask constituency associations to remove them as their MP but A) a lot of them wouldn’t and B) the Tories would just lose even more seats (incumbency effect still has a decent impact in the UK.

• fion says:

I quite like the sound of this, but at the end of the day, she doesn’t want to destroy her party, and this would kind of do that, for the reasons kieranpjobrien gives.

• Tarpitz says:

This sounds like an excellent way to destroy her party and end her career without doing anything at all to resolve the Brexit situation. How on earth could it possibly be in her interests?

• rlms says:

I think the Labour leadership not wanting to alienate its base is only part of the the reason why it isn’t pushing for a second referendum; there’s also the fact that the old-school left-wing leadership weren’t really a fan of joining the globalist neoliberal EU in the first place and so won’t be too sad to leave (but obviously they can’t say that too loudly without alienating the middle-class part of their base).

The situation is made more entertaining by the fact that basically all of the parties are pretty shambolic at the moment even when you set Brexit aside. If the Conservatives had a leader who’d been elected due to having supporters rather than the other candidates backstabbing each other; Labour had a normal centre-left leader; Farage had managed to pivot Ukip into continued relevance after the referendum; or anyone cared at all about the Lib Dems, things would be very different. My impression is that the SNP are the only competently led party, but they seem to be laying low and biding their time for a second Scottish independence referendum.

• fion says:

I tend to think the media (and the Labour centrists, and the Lib Dems and the SNP and the Greens) tend to overplay the “Corbyn doesn’t really want to be in the EU anyway” argument, but I certainly agree that he’s much less pro-EU than most of the party.

It’s true. We have a pretty bizarre bunch at the moment!

• silver_swift says:

Remainers don’t like it because it’s too Leave-y, Leavers don’t like it because it’s too Remain-y.

Sounds like the definition of a good compromise then, doesn’t it? 🙂

More seriously: As someone who theoretically has an interest in following politics, but can only barely stomach actually following the stuff to the extent that is needed to be an informed voter in my own country, I very much like this kind of summary of big political events. So thank you!

• fion says:

To be honest, trying to take a bird’s eye view, I do think it’s a good compromise. (I just don’t like it cos I’m a Remainer.) 😛

And I’m glad you liked it. 🙂

But if you’re a Leaver, what’s the point of compromise? Leave won the election. So Leave. I’m pretty sure if Remain won there would be no negotiations with the EU at all, so the Remain side seems to want a system of “when we win we win, when we lose we half-win or maybe we keep voting until we win and then we stop voting.” I don’t think that’s how democracy is supposed to work.

• Randy M says:

I don’t know if that’s fair, although it’s certainly true in that political parties are happy to claim an election is a decisive mandate when they win and a call to compromise when the lose.

But how much of the subsequent international deals were on the referendum which brought about the “leave EU” decision? I don’t think even the most hardcore Brexiteer endorsed “never make a treaty with the EU in any capacity again” so all of these post election plans (whatever they are) seem to be fair game.

On the other hand, I’m perfectly willing to believe that the Remainers are making things as messing as possible in hopes of having another referendum so the people can “get it right this time.”

• Hoopyfreud says:

Leavers mostly seem to want the benefits of being in the EU without the drawbacks, and to be unprepared to accept a “hard exit.” They voted for a rosy phantom of the “leave” position which would allow them complete discretion at the borders and double the NHS’s funding without losing any if the wonderful economic ties or access to the Schengen area. That’s not happening, and they’re not doing a great job of coming to terms with it, appearing instead to stick their fingers in their ears and insist that it’s the negotiators’ fault for putting together such a terrible agreement, while simultaneously declining to do a better job.

A parallel for the US: this is the UK’s “repeal Obamacare, but only the bits we don’t like.”

• Deiseach says:

Leave won the election. So Leave.

Part of the problem is that they want to leave but to retain the benefits of EU membership, and the EU has naturally said “No, you can’t do that. If you want access to the single market, you need to be an EU member, or come to some agreement with us”. There’s also a lot of entanglement after forty-five or so years as part of the European Union meaning law and regulations and all the rest of it has to be disentangled, and that mean the UK would have different import and export rules to the EU which means customs inspections when moving goods into/out of Britain which means – well the Leave say “magic pixies will run the customs on fairy dust” but the rest of us wonder about where all this painless high-tech monitoring is going to come from. That’s a large part of the problem with the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland; nobody, not even the DUP, wants a hard border back but how can you have a soft border when one state is in the EU and the other isn’t?

A lot of the Leave campaign seems to have run on “we stop giving money to the EU and they’re not the boss of us anymore but since we’re so big and important they need us so we continue to have things like internal trade without barriers and keep the EU institutions headquartered here and basically have our cake and eat it”.

One reason for the objections to the backstop about the border is that it would be legally binding, and the reason we in Ireland, at least, want a legally binding agreement is because we have experience of British governments going “Why do you want this written down? We don’t need that, our word as British gentlemen is enough, you can trust us” and then backstabbing us as soon as we’re fools enough to believe them (e.g. Limerick is known as The City of the Broken Treaty from the Williamite wars). That’s why even Yeats had to put the caveat about “England may keep faith” into his poem about Easter 1916 and the Rising:

What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.

• idontknow131647093 says:

Deiseach

Part of the problem is that they want to leave but to retain the benefits of EU membership, and the EU has naturally said “No, you can’t do that.

I mean, there really isn’t aside from pettiness on the part of the EU. The free trade situation that previously existed is still mutually beneficial (probably moreso for the EU as a whole, although breaking it would concentrate costs on Britain for higher per capita costs). A free Irish border can be negotiated for certain residents, but ultimately is probably not even beneficial for both sides long term.

The ideal agreement is technically complex, but conceptually simple. However, the EU wants a conceptually complex agreement simply to poke the Brits in the eyes.

• cassander says:

@Deiseach

Part of the problem is that they want to leave but to retain the benefits of EU membership, and the EU has naturally said “No, you can’t do that. If you want access to the single market, you need to be an EU member, or come to some agreement with us”.

Doesn’t Switzerland have pretty much that?

• Hoopyfreud says:

I mean, there really isn’t aside from pettiness on the part of the EU. The free trade situation that previously existed is still mutually beneficial (probably moreso for the EU as a whole, although breaking it would concentrate costs on Britain for higher per capita costs). A free Irish border can be negotiated for certain residents, but ultimately is probably not even beneficial for both sides long term.

As someone on SSC said, a country (or Union) has five negotiating tools: doing nothing, lodging a formal protest, going to the media, imposing tariffs (or economic sanctions), or going to war. Nothing in between the last two.

The EU wants exist. Their options are to use tariffs to make membership beneficial or to go crusading.

Also, I don’t necessarily disagree that an open border may not be economically optimal for the Irish people, but there sure are a lot of them who are willing to die for the sake of it, so it may be best to accept that this is a terminal value for them and proceed with the analysis with that in mind.

• ana53294 says:

Doesn’t Switzerland have pretty much that?

First of all, Switzerland is part of Schengen. So they have more freedom of movement than the UK has.

You also need to keep in mind how Switzerland achieved this. Switzerland is in the middle of Europe, geographically. Roads go through it; going to Austria from France without crossing Switzerland would mean a big detour. So there had to be agreements between Switzerland and the EU. Switzerland patiently negotiated for decades, and more and more billateral binding agreements with guillotine clauses were signed. Now, after Brexit, and after the referendum on the freedom of movement, Brussels is not that keen on the deal anyway. So the deal will probably be renegotiated again.

If the UK had leaders with the vision and foresight to spend decades slowly making bilateral deals and making a system that gets you most of the benefits with fewer drawbacks, there would not be a need to leave the EU. They could achieve the same from the inside. Margaret Thatcher was doing that, when she got the rebate. Tory leaders could just build on that platform, and slowly lobby towards reducing CAP, make a national ID system, check immigrants IDs, register them, and deport those who remain more than three months without a job.

A Switzerland deal in 2 years is not possible. And if you want a Switzerland deal in 40 years (the time it took the Swiss to get all those deals), then there was no need for Brexit.

• cassander says:

@ana53294

If the UK had leaders with the vision and foresight to spend decades slowly making bilateral deals and making a system that gets you most of the benefits with fewer drawbacks, there would not be a need to leave the EU. They could achieve the same from the inside. Margaret Thatcher was doing that, when she got the rebate. Tory leaders could just build on that platform, and slowly lobby towards reducing CAP, make a national ID system, check immigrants IDs, register them, and deport those who remain more than three months without a job.

Oh, sure. The current UK position is like going to a car dealership, signing paperwork saying you are going to buy a car, and then saying “Alright, now let’s talk about price.” The smart thing to do would have been to call for a referendum that said the UK would leave if certain conditions weren’t met. But Cameron didn’t want a deal, he wanted to take the wind out of the sails of euroskpeticism.

Ironically, the conditional brexit might have worked better for his purpose but it would require politicians (like Thatcher) who saw their job as trying to extract the best possible deal for Britain. So instead they set up a vote, “EU, good or bad?” in the country in Europe with the second lowest approval of the EU and got snookered, which is pretty much what you’d expect from people who believe in integration as positive good and who see their job as trying to sell it to stupidly reluctant voters any way they can.

• John Schilling says:

First of all, Switzerland is part of Schengen. So they have more freedom of movement than the UK has.

South Korea isn’t part of Schengen, and they seem to have a pretty solid free trade agreement with the EU. The UK should be able to negotiate at least as good a deal as the RoK, either in advance or shortly after a hard Brexit. But Brussels needs to set an example to stave off Grexit, Nexit, Slovenaderci, Departugal, the Czechout, Cypronara, et al, until the EU is Finnished. So their negotiating position is going to be “No deal for the UK unless they accept all the obligations of EU membership and give up only the benefits”.

The only question is, who will blink first. And how much damage is done in the meantime. It looks like May was willing to blink early because she was never a Brexit supporter in the first place, but her party wasn’t willing to go along with that – both of which are understandable. It’s going to be fun to watch, from a nice safe distance, and we need a diversion from our own political issues over here.

• The Nybbler says:

@ana53294

But the UK leaders were and are on the other side. They wanted that ever closer union. So left to their own devices, there wouldn’t be more and more of what Brexiteers wanted; there would be less and less. Under those circumstances, “f- it, we’re out, we’ll take the bad with the good” looks like a good option if the opposition is foolish enough to offer it. And they’re going to be very suspicious of a deal that might leave them with the bad without the good.

• ana53294 says:

@John Schilling
The free trade with South Korea was signed in 2009 and entered into force in 2015. That is a lot more than two years.

There are several free trade deals the EU has signed; there is Canada, South Korea, and a not-yet-ratified deal with Japan, which is also apparently quite good.

None of those countries have a physical border with another EU country. The UK has physical borders with two European countries. And the situation with Northern Ireland makes this situation quite different, two.

Yes, the EU is trying to make it hard for the UK to leave to avoid other countries leaving. However, the most unpalatable part of the current agreement, the backstop, stems from the unique geographical situation w.r.t. NI, not a desire to punish.

@Nybbler

Yes, the UK doesn’t have leaders who can achieve a Switzerland deal, because they don’t want a Switzerland deal, they want to stay in the EU.

They stumbled into Brexit without wanting it. They don’t have plans or ideas on how to make it work. They don’t have the time the Swiss have, either.

So a Switzerland deal is impossible, because there is no long-term thinking about Brexit among the political class.

• Bamboozle says:

Because the Leave vote promised all things to all mean and didn’t have a clear plan in mind. Did people vote Leave to mean “no deal” or “but stay in customs union?” People say leave means leave, but they thought they were getting 355m for the NHS which was a lie, or that we’d be able to keep certain aspects of the EU, which was a lie. Polls at the time showed only about a 1/3 support for a “no deal” brexit among leavers. What kind of Leave did people vote for?

• Mark V Anderson says:

But Brussels needs to set an example to stave off Grexit, Nexit, Slovenaderci, Departugal, the Czechout, Cypronara, et al, until the EU is Finnished.

Best laugh I’ve had an while. And probably even true. Scott needs to change his rule to two of the following: true, necessary, kind, or funny.

• Ketil says:

The situation for Norway (and EEC) is a de facto but not de jure membership. So Norway gets to be part of Schengen (free movement of people and business), get to pay a substantial contribution, but have no vote in Brussels.

UK might get something similar, except for a) it plainly being a downgrade, keeping everything as is, just giving up any political influence for no benefit, and b) the EEC countries aren’t too thrilled by the prospect, especially little Norway, who is currently dwarfing the other members (Iceland and Liechtenstein), but would become much less significant next to giant UK.

• 10240 says:

s/EEC/EFTA/

• The Nybbler says:

Sounds like the definition of a good compromise then, doesn’t it?

It does but that’s a really bad definition. There’s no reason you can’t reach a compromise which incorporates the worst parts of both sides, and leaves out the best.

• dodrian says:

Remainers don’t like it because it’s too Leave-y, Leavers don’t like it because it’s too Remain-y.

Sounds like the definition of a good compromise then, doesn’t it? 🙂

While I’m normally of the opinion that if everyone is a little unhappy it probably is a good compromise, I think this is looking at it the wrong way – this isn’t really about a deal between remainers and leavers, it’s about a deal between the UK and the EU. It’s a deal where the UK gives the EU a huge chunk of money and gives up its representation in EU governance in exchange for a ‘transition period’ of continued access to the EU market. The UK is still required to adhere to EU law, and still prohibited from making trade deals with countries outside the EU. There’s no way for the UK to unilaterally withdraw from the transition period, which has no definitive end, and EU institutions (which the UK will no longer have a say in) will rule on any ambiguities in the treaty. The EU promises to continue to work to a satisfactory arrangement about big issues such as the Ireland/NI border.

So it’s hard for me to see what the EU is giving up here, and what the UK is getting in return other than empty political promises.

• acymetric says:

I mean…what did the UK expect to get when they started the process? This kind of seems like the foregone conclusion.

• Statismagician says:

My understanding is the Cameron &co. expected Remain to win the referendum, 100% confidence, giving them a mandate for generally Torying about in peace. You may think this was a particularly stupid way to try and score political points, but that’s why you and I aren’t Prime Ministerial material.

• idontknow131647093 says:

You know, good faith negotiation, rather than the EU acting like its a negotiation between China and Tibet.

• acymetric says:

Is the problem lack of good faith, or just that the EU has more leverage in the negotiation? Negotiating in good faith doesn’t mean negotiating a deal that is better for the other party when you could get a deal that is worse for them but better for you.

Even I did concede that the EU was acting in bad faith here, it seems entirely predictable that this is how it would play out. Hard for me to work up sympathy for the UK, sometimes you get what you asked for.

• dodrian says:

Yes – the UK should have known better, the EU doesn’t have a history of negotiating well with other countries.

Initially Theresa May seemed to do well-she talked the right talk (“no deal is better than a bad deal”) and acted like she had the cojones to refuse to play the EU’s game, and certainly she was a much better UK ambassador than someone like Boris Johnson who had just spent the past few years insulting Europe. But as the EU stalled negotiations, May failed to start any preparations that would allow the UK to leave without a deal, and threw away her biggest bargaining chip.

In the end her deal has given up most of the benefits of being in the EU, while gaining none of the benefits of being outside of it. Some people think this was her plan all along – to stall Brexit and force the UK to remain. That’s possible I guess, but if the UK ends up remaining in the EU it will almost certainly destroy her party (of which she’s been a member since a teenager) in a way that means even Jeremy Corbyn couldn’t manage to lose another election.

• idontknow131647093 says:

Is the problem lack of good faith, or just that the EU has more leverage in the negotiation? Negotiating in good faith doesn’t mean negotiating a deal that is better for the other party when you could get a deal that is worse for them but better for you.

Its true, but the deal is not better for the EU, just bad for England.

• Bamboozle says:

@acymetric this is why a lot of people voted Remain. The ideas of Leave sounded good but realistically they were never gonna happen. The EU had 10x the leverage the UK has, and now the UK will be free to get whipped by China, the US, etc once it’s left.

But Brexiters weren’t going to be cowed by such a sober outlook, on to the sunny uplands!

• dragnubbit says:

A ‘kick-the-can’ agreement to stave off a hard Brexit is inevitable at this point. The jockeying between the EU and UK is over what form it will take.

May was hoping to do it in the form of an agreement that looks enough like Brexit that the Tories can declare victory and resume regular UK politics.

But if that fails, sometime between now and March 2019 the UK and EU will announce some sort of extension of negotiations and postponement of hard Brexit for 6 months or a year that conveniently needs no formal approval by the EU (EU has already signaled the UK can unilaterally revoke Brexit, in which case the UK can unilaterally postpone it). The EU is not going to force hard Brexit – they want no blood on their hands.

The Brexit negotiations can be dragged out as long as it takes for either a hard Brexit parliamentary majority to emerge, a second referendum majority, or new parliamentary elections. There is no hard deadline.

• Hoopyfreud says:

EU has already signaled the UK can unilaterally revoke Brexit, in which case the UK can unilaterally postpone it

This does not necessarily follow – “shit or get off the can” is a viable position for the EU to take, and probably the strongest tool they have for getting the UK to cancel Brexit without signalling weakness.

• The Nybbler says:

Not delaying Brexit would be brinksmanship. I’m think that’s probably a bad tactic when the hard-line Brexiteers are likely fine with diving over the brink.

• ana53294 says:

If you mean the opinion of the Advocate General, it specifically said that the UK can revoke their Article 50 decision unilaterally – if this decision was genuine.

While what genuine means is difficult to define legally, revoking it, and coming back with a plan to do Brexit well and withdrawing again would not be genuine – which would lead to the automatic expulsion of the UK. This would be a legal gamble based on a very thin straw.

• dragnubbit says:

@ana52394

It is consistent with both EU statements and EU actions. They want UK to stay in and have no interest in being ‘blamed’ for Brexit, either within their own countries, in the UK, or in the world at large.

If the UK leaders say, ‘we need more time’, that only favors them eventually abandoning Brexit (at least based on current trends). EU leaders will find whatever pretext is necessary to delay Brexit as long as the UK is wobbly about it. They are not going to force the UK out ‘prematurely’ and lose the moral high ground.

That does not mean they will provide further compromises, etc. except for maybe a few face-saving gestures to May to help her stay in power while the whole thing drags out as long as it takes for a second referendum.

• ana53294 says:

They are not going to force the UK out ‘prematurely’ and lose the moral high ground. That does not mean they will provide further compromises, etc. except for maybe a few face-saving gestures to May to help her stay in power while the whole thing drags out as long as it takes for a second referendum.

But that’s what the backstop is – for all intents and purposes. It’s the – potentially eternal – temporary stop of the UK leaving the EU trading block.

The UK will be out of the EU Parliament, out of the Commission, and out of all other relevant governing bodies – but they will be part of the single market.

Giving the UK access to the EU Parliament, the Comission, letting them name EU Court of Justice judges while they are leaving – that would be stupid of the EU, because it would let the UK sabotage a lot of things, and hold important pieces of legislation hostage. Why would the EU give them that opportunity – especially when the UK was stupid enough to shoot themselves in the foot by prematurely activating Article 50 when they didn’t have to do it without thinking things through?

The backstop is all the temporary delaying the UK gets. And the backstop can last a lot longer than two years.

• dragnubbit says:

@ana52394

I agree the backstop is the indefinite limbo-Brexit. My post was under the assumption the UK Parliament will not adopt it. If they do it is the same practical effect as far as trade relations – indefinite extension under common market rules.

The deal is on the table, but the alternative is not ‘hard Brexit’. That is just for public posturing. The reason the Parliament (and especially Labour) seems so willing to race up to the brink is that they all assume there is no real brink and that they can just ask for an extension when the time comes even if they vote down May’s deal. The real ‘brink’ to most of the Tories is not hard Brexit, it is a second referendum or new elections (for either of those the EU would volunteer to extend the exit date in a heartbeat).

• sty_silver says:

Just want to say that I appreciate the summary. I don’t follow any reliable source for international news, so I only had a very vague idea of what’s been going on wrt brexit

• Deiseach says:

there’s been some juicy (or depressing, depending on your cynicism levels) political drama going on in the UK

Speaking for the Irish side, it’s been both 🙂 Watching your government open its collective mouths only to change feet has been both hilarious and infuriating, and they’ve done more to advance Irish unity in the past couple of years than our governments of any stripe plus the political/physical force campaign in the North by Sinn Féin/IRA has in the past fifty.

I mean, we get to read things like Priti Patel invoking the Famine, without even knowing that is what she is doing (which is again part of the problem – the ignorance of the history of what is supposed to be their own country – it’s the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, after all, and not realising how it happened that Northern Ireland got tagged on to the end is all of a piece with the entire mess), and anonymous former ministers allegedly saying we should know our place. Now, we realise that all this is for domestic consumption, but at the same time it’s the kind of thing that makes even the most milquetoast West Brit want to sing A Nation Once Again. For my part, it’s been wonderful entertainment seeing all the things said about our Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar: he’s Fine Gael and the type of Irish person who instinctively looks to London along the lines of ‘the mainland’ as the sort of culture and society they wish to be associated with, and he gets referred to by British commentators and politicians as though he’s the second coming of Pádraig Pearse. Not bad going for our first gay Irish-Indian Taoiseach! Even more astoundingly, it’s made me approve of a Fine Gael government and I’m third-generation Fianna Fáil raised to worship Dev 😀

If it wasn’t for the fact that England (and I do mean England) making a dog’s dinner of Brexit is going to drag us down too (and that’s not even including the Border question), I’d be enjoying the spectacle of reality hammering it into the skulls of certain parties, despite their best efforts to ignore it, that the Empire is long dead and Great Britain is nowadays a medium to small fish in a large pond.

• Bamboozle says:

As a scot i’m interested in your opinion, particularly regarding this:

If it wasn’t for the fact that England (and I do mean England) making a dog’s dinner of Brexit is going to drag us down too

Do you think this is the majority opinion in Ireland? I have friends from Northern Ireland who feel this way but i only have a couple friends from Dublin and i wouldn’t say they’re political (as far as you can be in Ireland).

I know Northern Ireland and Scotland Voted remain convincingly but so did London.

• Nicholas Weininger says:

I imagine that from the point of view of some Leavers, London isn’t “really” England anymore, it’s just another smug, wealthy island in the globalist archipelago, and taking Londoners down a peg was part of the motivation.

(I say this as a fully paid up and very happy and committed member and supporter of said globalist archipelago, fwiw)

• Mark Atwood says:

I’m a resident of the globalist archipelago, but I wouldn’t call myself a member, and certainly not a supporter.

I love just about everything about Seattle, except for 90% of the other people who live here.

• The Nybbler says:

It may be politically impossible to have an internal (Irish Sea) border, but there’s certainly no technical reason you couldn’t have one. The USSR had them, I believe. China has them too.

• Deiseach says:

The problem with re-introducing the hard border would be (a) the Good Friday Agreement and what this might do to it (b) the fear that it would morph from customs posts and stoppages to ramping back up to police and the military as in the Bad Old Days and nobody wants to raise that spectre from its unquiet grave.

• The Nybbler says:

I’m not talking about a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. I’m talking about an Irish Sea border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and between Ireland and the EU. Free movement of people and goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The DUP doesn’t seem to like this idea, and I doubt the Irish and the Europeans like it either, but I don’t think it violates the Good Friday Agreement.

• John Schilling says:

I don’t think Nybbler is proposing a re-introduction of the hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, but rather a soft border between Northern Ireland and Britain. One could walk or drive from Dublin to Belfast without seeing a border guard, but when you board the ferry from Belfast to Liverpool there’s one line for UK citizens to wave their passports at and another for EU citizens to undergo an actual customs check.

• rlms says:

Not a Northern/Republic of Ireland border, a Northern Ireland/Great Britain border. Going in that direction seems like the best option to me: making Northern Ireland some kind of semi-crown dependency that gets to remain kind of in the EU. It would probably annoy unionists and nationalists similarly.

• Hoopyfreud says:

@rlms

And if that gives the Scotts a kick in the pants on their own independence movement? That’s what the UK really wants to avoid – breaking up.

• Tarpitz says:

Who is “the UK” here? I suspect an awful lot of English Brexit voters would say, “Fine, off you trot.” The strength of English support for the union is not something I see polled very often, but I wouldn’t count on it being high.

• Douglas Knight says:

If we’d all known in 2014 what we know now, Scotland would probably have voted for independence and would probably still be in the EU.

Why do you believe that? Wouldn’t Spain have vetoed admission? Isn’t it that simple?

But the Leavers want a border between Britain and the EU;

No, that’s the completely backwards. The UK already had a separate treaty with Ireland about the movement of people. Neither state is party to Schengen border controls.
As for movements of goods, the UK wants free trade with Ireland. The UK will leave the border open. In the absence of an agreement, the EU will demand that Ireland institute customs. There’s an easy solution, which is for Ireland to ignore the EU.

• The Nybbler says:

As for movements of goods, the UK wants free trade with Ireland. The UK will leave the border open. In the absence of an agreement, the EU will demand that Ireland institute customs. There’s an easy solution, which is for Ireland to ignore the EU.

If you have neither an internal Irish border nor an Irish Sea border, you have de facto free trade between the EU and the UK whether you like it or not; goods just get shipped into Dublin and out of Belfast and vice-versa. (Why is there no major port on Carlingford Lough?)

• John Schilling says:

To round out the options, the EU could fairly trivially implement a soft border through the channel, turning a blind eye to what happens in Ireland proper but using Big Data and spot checks to sniff out any major evasion of EU borders/customs as the trade crosses into France.

• Garrett says:

Though this is certainly possible on the retail side, isn’t this what already happens when there is NAFTA and Canada is party to trade agreements that the US isn’t? Stuff flows freely between Canada and eg. Italy, but not from Italy to Canada to the US because of tariffs. Just base things on country of origin.

• The Nybbler says:

Doesn’t work if you have no border. Canada and the US have a border; if you drive 18-wheelers through the approved crossings, you have to clear customs and if you drive them through unapproved crossings you’re going to get caught eventually. If there’s no border at all, you load the goods onto trucks, drive them to the other port, and ship them out within the trade zone. If you have customs and inspections at either port, you have an Irish Sea border, not no border.

• Garrett says:

Doesn’t work if you have no border.

The US/Canada border is referred to as the longest undefended border in the world. If the requirements for reasonably-effective trade controls can be done in such a low density area, why not for the border on ireland?

Hell, in most cases you could simply limit truck traffic to official inspection stations and still manage to avoid most of the hassles for most people most of the time thus still getting reasonable levels of compliance.

• The Nybbler says:

The US/Canada border is undefended, but it’s a hard border. And rather harder than it was before 9/11; you now need a passport to cross it legally, for instance.

• Mark Atwood says:

undefended border

US CBP and US BLM are armed. They have US DHS heavy enforcement on speed dial, I know that because I’ve seen them call them. DHS has light armor, I’ve seen them rolling on the highways where I live. And, I’m quite sure that the local DHS field office can wake Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen up at night, and that she has the authority to wake the “National Command Authority” up at night. I’m quite sure that JBLM can have a significant amount of “destroy everything” in the air over Blaine in less time it took me to write this post, and the drive up the freeways is only 3 hours.

The border is defended. Just that nobody sane expects to have to defend it, and everyone politely and friendly like keeps most of the scary looking stuff a few hundred miles back and pointed in different directions.

• Nornagest says:

DHS has light armor, I’ve seen them rolling on the highways where I live.

A surprising number of law-enforcement agencies have light armor. I felt like I’d wandered into an action movie the first time I was driving down a highway (in Contra Costa County, IIRC) and passed an MRAP painted flat black, branded with the Sheriff’s Department insignia, and going forty miles an hour in the left lane.

Supposedly there are M113s floating around as well, but I’ve never seen one in law-enforcement livery personally.

• johan_larson says:

A surprising number of law-enforcement agencies have light armor.

One of the post-9/11 federal initiatives was a program to help state and local law enforcement agencies buy military surplus gear. I think some of the larger agencies bought it earlier, though. I wouldn’t be surprised if the LAPD picked up APCs after the Watts riots.

• MrApophenia says:

I think the main idea behind “undefended” is not lack of arms, it’s overabundance of miles.

There is just too much shared space between the US and Canada to actually enforce much. If you cross at official ports of entry in urbanized areas, there’s border enforcement.

But drive 50 miles in either direction along the border from one of those places and it’s just empty wilderness with no border enforcement of any kind. If people really want to go between America and Canada there’s really not a way to stop it.

It just isn’t usually a problem.

• John Schilling says:

There is just too much shared space between the US and Canada to actually enforce much.

The amount of space is almost irrelevant to what the EU, at least, cares about in this context. So is the degree of militarization. Nobody is going to be sneaking a thousand TEUs of untaxed Australian beef across some barren segment of the Montana/Saskatchewan border, nor running them through a border checkpoint in a McCall-esque convoy. And the same goes for anyone hoping or fearing that the Quebec – Liverpool – Belfast – Dublin – Cherbourg route is going to crack the Common Market. The sort of enforcement you need for that is mostly bureaucratic and doesn’t need to be anywhere near the actual border.

• lazydragonboy says:

@ John Shilling

Gosh. I haven’t heard that song in maybe 14 years. I heard it in movie theater when I was 11 or so while I was waiting to see a movie and my memory was that the song was funnier than the movie. Somehow I thought song was about a convoy of hunters chasing deer not a convoy of truckers, so when I searched to find the song I failed.

• Deiseach says:

There’s an easy solution, which is for Ireland to ignore the EU.

But we don’t want to, since the EU has been a net benefit for us, and ignoring them would mean tying ourselves back to the UK which we’ve been trying to separate ourselves from since decoupling our currency from sterling back in the day.

Putting all our eggs into the UK basket isn’t very appealing, particularly not with the attitudes on display right now of “Don’t we still own the Paddies? Why aren’t they bowing and scraping to us? Why do they think they’re some kind of sovereign nation of their own?”

• Douglas Knight says:

All I’m saying is that if you build a border, don’t lie about who built it.

Also, treaties don’t enforce themselves.

• Deiseach says:

All I’m saying is that if you build a border, don’t lie about who built it.

Don’t worry, we remember quite well who did it.

• spkaca says:

” the attitudes on display right now of “Don’t we still own the Paddies? Why aren’t they bowing and scraping to us?”
Citation needed. I voted Leave, I don’t think like that, and I don’t believe that attitude reflects British public opinion, either generally or among Leave voters.

• fion says:

Why do you believe that? Wouldn’t Spain have vetoed admission? Isn’t it that simple?

Of course it’s hard for me to say with any confidence, and I’m not too interested in figuring out the hypothetical, but I think Spain would have made life difficult for us and then let us in. Sure they’re afraid of their own independence movements (although we’ve seen now how aggressively they’re prepared to deal with that), but at the end of the day they’ve not got any reason to evict Scotland from the EU.

No, that’s the completely backwards.

I’m not sure you quoted enough of me for me to understand you. Are you saying that “the leavers wanting a border around Britain” is backwards? That doesn’t seem to follow from the rest of your paragraph, but perhaps I’m just being dim.

• Douglas Knight says:

You said that it is impossible to reconcile the UK’s desire for a border with Ireland with everything else. Nonsense. The UK has no desire for a border with Ireland, not any more than the border that exists now. If Ireland builds a wall with the UK, don’t blame the UK.

• fion says:

It depends what you mean by “the UK”. Theresa May doesn’t want a border with the EU, but Boris Johnson does. What do the 52% that voted for leaving the EU want? It’s impossible to say exactly, but quite a few of them want a border with the EU.

• Douglas Knight says:

Boris Johnson does not want any more of a border with Ireland than exists right now.

What do you mean by “a border”? I think you have a lousy abstraction, which is why I spelled out various kinds of borders that do and do not exist. But rather than being specific, you kept repeating “a border.”

• spkaca says:

“at the end of the day they’ve not got any reason to evict Scotland from the EU”
Firstly, they wouldn’t be evicting Scotland; they’d be refusing to admit independent Scotland as a new member, not quite the same thing. Secondly, probably more important, reason might not come into it.

• The Nybbler says:

How about if Scotland votes for independence effective on the date of Brexit, and becomes the UKs successor state in the EU? This of course means a hard border with Scotland (and a Disunited Kingdom), but the wars with Scotland are far enough in the past that there shouldn’t be such an issue.

As for movements of goods, the UK wants free trade with Ireland. The UK will leave the border open. In the absence of an agreement, the EU will demand that Ireland institute customs.

So basically the UK had the option of making the Irish border question the EU’s problem? I can see why people aren’t impressed by May’s negotiating, that seems like it should have bestowed a lot of leverage. They’re basically playing a game of chicken where the UK gets to decide first .

• baconbits9 says:

Is the UK allowed to negotiate (but not sign) these treaties prior to leaving the EU?

• dodrian says:

Edited: Sort of.

I initially misread the linked legal opinion – apologies. People have argued it both ways, and I’m not aware of an official ruling (which would need to be from a European court).

• Another Throw says:

The importance of the Ireland question has always bugged me.

I get that the Good Friday Agreement was monumental and all that, but would a border in Ireland really be that bad? By which I mean, there always seems to be a sort of subtext about “if you fuck this up, we’re going to have the Troubles all over again.” But, like, the people that were involved in the Troubles are too old to be blowing shit up and the kids these days are too busy with Instagram and Whatsapp to tell a Molotov cocktail from a hole in the ground. Politically disastrous, no question. But the vibe I get from the subtext seems excessive. Or am I reading too much subtext?

On the other hand, free ports, or special economic zones, are actually kind of common. Is it really such a disaster to make NI into one? Hell, you could go whole hog on the special economic zone theory and get a serious business boom going. I get that the “rules based” “free trade” espoused by the EU is mostly lipstick on a protectionist pig so they probably wouldn’t be too keen on turning Ireland into a free trade zone in the most expansive sense, but there has got to be some room there to make it into a boom for the Irish while satisfying the EU and the British. Or is this just too damn sensible?

• Hoopyfreud says:

I get that the Good Friday Agreement was monumental and all that, but would a border in Ireland really be that bad? By which I mean, there always seems to be a sort of subtext about “if you fuck this up, we’re going to have the Troubles all over again.” But, like, the people that were involved in the Troubles are too old to be blowing shit up and the kids these days are too busy with Instagram and Whatsapp to tell a Molotov cocktail from a hole in the ground.

I am much less certain about this than you seem to be. It seems like a very reasonable worry to me. the Agreement was 20 years ago – just long enough that the Troubles’ children are now sitting where their parents did.

• ana53294 says:

I can’t really say anything about Irish youth, but I don’t agree with the idea that modern youth who grew up with Whatsapp and Instagram are not capable of organized violence. If anything, Whatsapp (and its encryption) make it easier to organize. No longer do you have to use a payphone to inform about a bomb. You can send emails. There are plenty of ways of transferring information securely.

I grew up in the Basque country. As a teenager, I knew several people who were involved in terrorism-associated groups. I also knew people who were being followed by the police.

ETA has dissapeared (almost completely; although not yet technically) as a result of an internal Basque process where we saw that violence doesn’t pay off. This does not mean that ETA was not capable of recruiting and continuing the fight. In fact, I am pretty sure that if Vox (the Spanish extreme right wing party) achieves its goal of eliminating devolution and centralizing government, and they take away our autonomy, ETA will get back, stronger than it was when it was dissolved.

Breaking the Good Friday agreement would be something as important as removing devolution in Spain. I think the amount of backlash you would get would result, if not in IRA return, at least in the level of violence currently in France by the gilets jaunes.

• fion says:

I think you’re right in that “putting a hard border in Ireland would bring back the Troubles” is overconfident, and there are people cynically using it as a fear-mongering tool.

But it is true that there’s a risk of violence, even a risk of quite serious violence. If we can avoid it, we don’t want to take that risk.

It’s also worth noting that the issue is probably being blown a little out of proportion by the fact that the DUP are essential for keeping the Conservatives in government. If Arlene Foster thinks Theresa May isn’t looking after Northern Ireland well enough she can threaten to bring down the government.

• Aapje says:

@Another Throw

On the other hand, free ports, or special economic zones, are actually kind of common. Is it really such a disaster to make NI into one?

The problem here is that the EU at one point decided they want to be more than an economic union, but instead wanted to be an actual federation. So then it’s hard to bring Northern Ireland under EU economic rules, without having their political rules as well.

• b_jonas says:

You aren’t the first to use it, but I still don’t like the “logically impossible” phrasing. Theresa May is just promising that she’ll convince Ireland to also leave the EU, together with the UK, that’s all.

• A Definite Beta Guy says:

Yeah, I’m at a loss why anyone takes a look at the EU and says “I want me some of that.” Eventually you will be Greece or Poland or the UK and the EU is going to want to make an example out of you, and they have already clearly demonstrated that exacerbating an economic crisis so bad it makes the Great Depression look small is a small price to pay to prove their point.

I mean, there are worse options, but the UK is clearly large enough to forge its own path. If you think they are treating you like shit now, wait until you end up in a situation like Italy. Your position will only erode and they will only fuck you harder down the road.

• fion says:

I half agree with you. The EU is pretty shit in a lot of ways.

What I find interesting is how this falls on left/right lines. It’s true that you have a few left wing euroskeptics, but they’re all old and nobody seems to care much about them any more. Mostly right=leave and left/centrist=remain. Why do all these left-wingers care so much about being part of a capitalist club?

• Aapje says:

Because they mostly adopted neoliberalism and the EU is a neoliberal project.

• fion says:

No, it’s not quite that. First, even if that was the case, that’s weird, because neoliberalism is about as far from leftism as you can get. Second, with the exception of the Liberal Democrats, the most pro-EU parties in the UK are the most anti-neoliberal (Greens, SNP, PC). And it also doesn’t explain my friends and colleagues, who mostly hover around Jeremy Corbyn levels of left-wing-ness, but are as pro-EU as it’s possible to be.

I think part of it is a signaling thing. They notice that the most anti-EU people are uneducated, middle-aged bigots and they want to signal that they’re not like that.

• Aapje says:

First, even if that was the case, that’s weird, because neoliberalism is about as far from leftism as you can get.

Not really, because empowering the individual is/was the goal of many leftists. It’s a pretty natural transition from: ‘we need to provide positive liberty so people can develop their talents’ to ‘people can now develop their talents because of the welfare state we created, lets now give them more negative liberty so they can grab opportunity by the balls.’

This transition is especially natural as many leftist communities/people/families economically and socially transitioned from the less educated working and lower-middle class to upper and upper-middle class. So classic liberalism logically appealed to them much more as soon as they transitioned into a position that greatly benefits from classic liberalism and much less from social democracy. Just like with most groups, their ideals were and are designed in large part around self-interest.

Furthermore, their own experience of the opportunity provided to them and to their community simply is that positive liberty has been achieved for white people. The underclass they tend to notice in the places where they live is mostly ‘of color.’ So their conflation of the underclass with racial minorities simply reflects the experiences in their bubble.

So they didn’t even give up the positive liberty concerns, but focused them much more on social, rather than economic concerns: anti-racism, feminism, etc. After all, white men who do poorly are deplorables who refuse to take the offered opportunities and instead cling to their racism and sexism.

Second, with the exception of the Liberal Democrats, the most pro-EU parties in the UK are the most anti-neoliberal (Greens, SNP, PC).

The Dutch GreenLeft party is actually more critical of the EU than the labor party. It’s still a very left-libertarian kind of criticism, opposing multinationals, environmental damage, demanding more transparency, etc. However, there is extremely little concern about the issues of the lower (middle) class.

• So classic liberalism logically appealed to them

Are you using “classic liberalism” to mean what I would call “classical liberalism”? If so, has that become a common usage in Europe?

I would guess that most people in the U.S. wouldn’t be familiar with either term, but those who are would use “classical liberalism.”

When I do a Google search for “classic liberalism” what it gives me is “classical liberalism.”

• Aapje says:

I never noticed this distinction before now. In Dutch, we say classic for what you call classical and when we say classical, it means ‘in a classroom.’ So it seems that I was seduced by false friends.

So you can attribute this to my Dunglish.

• Interesting. What is the Dutch word for “in a classroom” that you naturally translate as “classical”?

In English, one might refer to a professor’s classroom manner but I can’t think of any other word that would be used to mean “in a classroom.” Certainly not “classic” or “classical.”

• Aapje says:

Klassikaal. Klas = class(room).

We say klassieke muziek for classical music.

If you replace the k’s in klassikaal with c’s, you are almost at classical.

PS. Note that we actually had some language reforms where k’s were replaced with c’s and vice versa. These are very similar in our language.

• brmic says:

Peace.

• Ketil says:

I don’t think pro/con EU works well along old right/left divides.

Pro-EU: centrists, Keynesians, pro-government, liberals

Con-EU: right-wing populist, anti-immigration, nationalists, economic protectionists, anarchists, anti-government

Economically, the EU is described alternatively as a bureaucratic regulationist hell, and as a laissez-faire neoliberalist hell. Migrationwise, it is alternatively a fortress against the poor, and destroying laborwelfare states and national markets by incorporating countries in Eastern Europe. It is both globalist, isolationist, imperialist, and regulationist.

In the UK, it is traditionally labor who are pro, and conservatives against. In Norway, it is vice versa.

EU is the definition of compromise, and regardless of your political views, pro or con is mostly a question of seeing the glass as half full or half empty.

• Tarpitz says:

I am a pro-immigration, pro-free trade liberal. I also regard almost any economic price as worth paying to get out of the EU, because it is an antidemocratic technocracy that prioritizes the interests of its own institutions over the interests and preferences of its citizens. Any club willing to fight that dirty to prevent members from leaving is one that everyone should leave immediately.

• Aapje says:

@Ketil

Regulation is often done in service of trade, as countries tend to have demands about what goods cross their borders. So opening borders often requires substantial regulation. The idea that more trade is achieved by reducing regulation is a fantasy.

These regulations tend to be a compromise between the desires of the countries involved.

To get a seamless transition between goods that are traded nationally and internationally, it’s quite common for the regulations to apply to intra-country trade as well. At that point, local desires/culture is made to partially adapt to the cultures of the other countries. This is less of a burden/imposition on the people with a globalist lifestyle, than on those with a more local lifestyle.

EU is the definition of compromise

It’s only a compromise between the elite of the various countries. The rest is expected to obey their betters.

There have been various referendums where citizens actually got to have their say, not filtered through so many layers of politics that it has become a telephone game, where each layer ‘interprets’ what the citizens really mean. The outcomes were mostly highly disturbing to EU(-minded) politicians, as their favored outcome tended to lose.

Is it a fair compromise if the majority fairly consistently rejects the outcomes of ‘the process,’ in the rare cases where they get the chance?

• 10240 says:

@Tarpiz How is it antidemocratic? EU decision making bodies are either elcted directly or nominated by the democratically elected governments of the member states.

• 10240 says:

@Aapje It makes sense to have a set of maximum regulations, such that any product that complies with the EU (maximum) regulations is guaranteed to be legal to sell anywhere in the EU. However it’s not obvious why a member state shouldn’t be allowed to have less regulation.

You could say that then a merchant could transport product from a country with less regulation to a country with more regulation. But then again, what stops a business from locally producing a product that doesn’t satisfy the local regulations, and sell it? What stops it is that random inspections may uncover the illegal nature of its products, and then it gets in trouble. The same would apply to imports that are legal in the country of origin but not where they are sold.

It’s only a compromise between the elite of the various countries. The rest is expected to obey their betters.

Like any representative democracy.

There have been various referendums where citizens actually got to have their say […] <The outcomes were mostly highly disturbing to EU(-minded) politicians, as their favored outcome tended to lose

Were there such referendums where the campaign was actually about the substance of the question, rather than about some generalized anti-EU populism?

Btw if we assume that the EU is not democratic, is there a reason to think that it (or its countries) would work better under more democratic governance?

• dodrian says:

@Tarpiz How is it antidemocratic? EU decision making bodies are either elcted directly or nominated by the democratically elected governments of the member states.

The EU is democratic in the technical sense that yes, its leaders are elected (EU parliament, the Council, sort of), or appointed by elected leaders (pretty much every other EU body), but as an institution it moves power further away from the people, and obfuscates decision making – decidedly undemocratic.

I would be interested in seeing people asked questions along the lines of “who is your representative? what legislation have they voted for/against? how can you hold them accountable? when was the last/next election?” about their local, national, and EU parliaments and see the differences between responses.

I think the best example of the anti-democratic nature of the EU comes from this video by Irish MEP Luke Flanagan as he tries to share information with his constituents about the EU’s trade negotiations with the US. His conversation with the bureaucrat guarding the door would be so funny were it not about decisions with far-reaching consequences being obfuscated from those whose job it is to vote on them.

• 10240 says:

I think the best example of the anti-democratic nature of the EU comes from this video by Irish MEP Luke Flanagan as he tries to share information with his constituents about the EU’s trade negotiations with the US.

@dodrian Are American congressmen allowed more access?

• Aapje says:

@10240

Such an arrangement produces a barrier. Either the buyer needs to be aware when he buys from a different country that they have different rules or the seller needs to be aware of the country that the buyer is from & whether he can sell the product.

These barriers can be so burdensome compared to the advantages that people are far less likely to trade internationally. An example of something like that between the US and EU is that I get blocked from quite a few American news websites due to the fairly recent GDPR law.

Another example is that it is common that companies refuse to sell certain products (like knives) internationally, because they might violate the local laws. Even the knives that are legal to buy are then often blocked, because the burden of figuring out which knives are legal and which are not, is too high.

The idea/ideology behind the EU is to minimize barriers for the internal market.

Like any representative democracy.

A representative democracy only works as a democracy when it is reasonably possible to punish or reward politicians for their decisions. This is already problematic for my country, more so for the US and far more so for the EU.

The EU’s decision making is so complex and spread out that accountability is extremely low.

On the one end, we have EU parliament, which consists of politicians from national parties who are forced into blocks by the rules (politicians not in a block get way less money, speaking time, etc). These blocks often require/engage in mass voting.

Furthermore, this system ties national to EU politics in a way that doesn’t have to reflect what the voter actually wants.

It’s pretty obvious that at a certain level of indirection, democracy stops working. That’s why you typically see separate elections at different levels of government. Even in cases where part of congress is elected indirectly, the other part of congress is commonly elected directly. This is important for the functioning of democracy and the EU violates this.

Then we have the other side of the coin, because a lot of things aren’t actually decided by the EU parliament, but by national governments.

The first problem with this is that the unclear division of responsibilities allow infinite passing of the buck. The national governments rarely actually take credit for things, they usually just say that ‘the EU decided X.’ The way things are set up allows for this.

A second problem is that while each national government represents a majority in its country, it leaves out a typically large minority (and in my country this fairly consistently is the lower classes). However, a crucial aspect of democracy is having a seat at the table, because this typically results in the needs of the minority being catered to out of empathy and because they can call the majority out on their delusions/rationalizations/etc, even if that minority cannot force the majority to cater to them. However, when the national governments meet and decide in EU policy, these large minorities are excluded from the decision making completely.

So this corrective mechanism that reduces group think and the issue of ‘wolves deciding which sheep to have for dinner’ is missing, resulting in decision making that is far more abusive of minorities than in better functioning democracies.

Were there such referendums where the campaign was actually about the substance of the question, rather than about some generalized anti-EU populism?

It’s interesting how you frame this question, where you seem to assume that populism can only be anti-EU. The most populist statements in my country during the referendum on the European constitution came from the pro-side, including claims that war would break out, electricity would stop working, that people who harbor doubts should stay at home, etc.

It was an extremely disgusting spectacle, where those in favor of a big EU seemed unable and/or unwilling to defend what they created, preferring to use rhetorical tricks instead (one such trick was one that Cameron also tried for the Brexit campaign, to state a complaint against the EU just before the election, try to get the other nations give something up and then declare victory and ride that wave…it didn’t work well here either).

Those who were against the constitution focused way more on the topic at hand, which valid and semi-valid criticisms, like wanting a smaller EU government, objecting to the admission talks with Turkey, etc.

During a later referendum on the ‘association’ treaty with Ukraine, the Dutch pro-side mostly bowed out of campaigning, apparently deciding that any attempt (by them) to defend the treaty would only make things worse. However, the chairman of the European Committee, Jean-Claude Juncker, didn’t get the message and warned that there could be a continental crisis.

The anti-side were mostly on the ball again, focusing on such things as the ability for businesses to sue governments (a more general point of contention for trade agreements), this being part of a slippery slope to gradually push Ukraine into the EU (something done with many other nations, where the citizens never got a vote) and whether this would actually reduce corruption as claimed or whether this would just help the ‘right’ corrupt people (the corrupt pro-Western Ukrainian elite in their fight against the corrupt pro-Russians).

Btw if we assume that the EU is not democratic, is there a reason to think that it (or its countries) would work better under more democratic governance?

For one, it would force the politicians to lie less often. We know now that many of the claims of the past were lies. For example, the euro was introduced with the lie that it was all about trade and less issues with exchanging money when on holiday, when one of the main reasons was to provide a counterweight (in favor of France) against German economic power.

Many of the crises that happened in the EU seem caused by decisions that the populace felt differently about. For example, the eagerness to accept new member states and give them full status caused the Greek crisis, as well as the depopulation of Eastern European states (where the remaining people now ironically vote anti-EU).

However, ultimately I think that people have a right to democracy. I don’t think that I am obliged to make a case for it.

• 10240 says:

@Aapje Encourage producers to label whether they comply with EU maximum regulations. If a product says that it complies with EU regulations but it actually doesn’t, hold the producer responsible, but not the merchant who sells it in another EU country. Perhaps even make this the default: a product sold anywhere in the EU must state on its label if it doesn’t comply with the EU regulations (but presumably complies with the more relaxed local regulations).

Even the knives that are legal to buy are then often blocked, because the burden of figuring out which knives are legal and which are not, is too high.

That’s not a problem if we have maximum regulations: if a company doesn’t want to lose out on international sales, it can look up the EU maximum regulations and comply with them. (Or check which ones of its products comply with them.)

It’s interesting how you frame this question, where you seem to assume that populism can only be anti-EU.

I don’t assume that. I mostly thought about things like the Ukraine referendum, where a ‘no’ campaign leader Arjan van Dixhoorn said ‘We really don’t care about Ukraine, you need to understand that. […] A Nexit referendum has not been possible until now. That is why we are using all the options we have to put pressure on the relationship between the Netherlands and the EU’

this being part of a slippery slope to gradually push Ukraine into the EU (something done with many other nations, where the citizens never got a vote)

In other words, people didn’t vote ‘no’ because they actually opposed the policy in question, but because a hypothetical future decisions. Then why not demand a referendum when/if Ukraine is to actually join the EU? (For which it would have to comply with a bunch of rules, which it’s unlikely to do anytime soon.)

whether this would actually reduce corruption as claimed or whether this would just help the ‘right’ corrupt people (the corrupt pro-Western Ukrainian elite in their fight against the corrupt pro-Russians).

So what? If they’re all corrupt (which they most likely are), and we can’t do anything about that, shouldn’t we, EU citizens, support the corrupt pro-EU people against the corrupt pro-Russians?

one of the main reasons was to provide a counterweight (in favor of France) against German economic power.

Was it? I’ve mostly heard arguments that the euro favors Germany (though I don’t agree with them), I’ve never heard the opposite.

as well as the depopulation of Eastern European states (where the remaining people now ironically vote anti-EU).

A few percent leaving is hardly depopulation. And I only know about Hungary, but while people vote for a party that engages in anti-EU rhetoric for a variety of reasons, a solid majority supports EU membership and thinks that EU membership is beneficial (usually a majority even among Fidesz voters).

However, ultimately I think that people have a right to democracy.

Well, we disagree then. I only care about individual rights, and quality of governance. I only support democracy in as much as it’s less bad than dictatorship — but even if the EU is not entirely democratic, I don’t think it shows the main negative traits of a dictatorship.

Furthermore, we have to remember that EU countries maintain their sovereignty and democracy, the EU is a set of international treaties, and its member countries have the right to leave. The job of the government of a democratic country is to govern well and in accordance with the population’s wishes, taking into account the possible choices it has. Such choices include joining or leaving international treaties. If being a member of the EU is, as a package, better for a country than not being a member, then a government should prefer being a member. And as a voter in a democratic country, it’s only reasonable to oppose EU membership if it’s detrimental to the country, and not because of concerns about its governance.

• Aapje says:

I don’t assume that. I mostly thought about things like the Ukraine referendum, where a ‘no’ campaign leader Arjan van Dixhoorn said ‘We really don’t care about Ukraine, you need to understand that. […] A Nexit referendum has not been possible until now. That is why we are using all the options we have to put pressure on the relationship between the Netherlands and the EU’

That was his motivation, not what the campaign was actually mostly about. In the same interview where he said that, it is noted that the actual campaigning is done by others.

It’s extremely common for financiers or otherwise driving forces to have grander motivations than the specific issue at hand. That is just as true for George Soros who funded some who were campaigning in favor as Arjan van Dixhoorn.

Furthermore, in any campaign you see some people appealing to greater concerns, both in favor and against.

Of course, people typically show extreme good faith to their allies and their arguments and extreme bad faith to their opposition and their arguments.

Note that in the interview, Arjan van Dixhoorn explains that he started off as a ‘europhile,’ yet became angry after the outcome of the constitutional referendum was mostly ignored. When there is a lack of real democracy, people get rebellious.

In other words, people didn’t vote ‘no’ because they actually opposed the policy in question, but because a hypothetical future decisions.

This policy is actually strongly related to membership, because the EU has a policy of granting increased favors in return for complying with demands. Membership is part of the same escalating set of favors as agreements such as these.

Politicians typically make these promises without democratic backing and then they strong arm the democratic bodies and governments into complying, against the will of the majority. So to have influence, you have to resist in time.

The European people never did get asked when it came to the previous 22 expansions of the EU, after all.

Very often, a trick that is used to push through undemocratic decisions is to claim that it’s either too early or too late for democratic input and/or a debate. The actual proper moment is a millisecond in between those two states.

Then why not demand a referendum when/if Ukraine is to actually join the EU? (For which it would have to comply with a bunch of rules, which it’s unlikely to do anytime soon.)

First of all, because the referendum law that allowed citizens to force a Ukraine referendum (with enough signatures) was abolished by the factions who just happen to be favor of a big EU. This was actually one of the reasons why Arjan van Dixhoorn worked hard to get a referendum on this topic, because this was the last chance to get this kind of feedback, before those in favor of a large EU could return to their bubble, where they can pretend to have the support of citizens by silencing many.

Secondly, because under the referendum law, many political decisions were not actually ‘referendumable.’

So what? If they’re all corrupt (which they most likely are), and we can’t do anything about that, shouldn’t we, EU citizens, support the corrupt pro-EU people against the corrupt pro-Russians?

Why be evil by supporting people that abuse their citizens, but are more culturally similar to us? Lots of politicians are trying to win the cold war once again, increasing EU influence as close to Russia as possible, with the predictable result of conflict in the region, at the expense of the people living there, who are the victims of the aspirations of the elite.

The Ukrainian people are screwed right now, which ‘we’ dutifully blame on the Russians, ignoring how we surely would not sit idly by if Russia had been successful in bringing Poland into the Commonwealth of Independent States (yes, Russia actually tried to build their own EU).

Was it? I’ve mostly heard arguments that the euro favors Germany (though I don’t agree with them), I’ve never heard the opposite.

It was France that pushed for and was most excited about the Euro. The sources are clear.

Before the euro, the D-Mark was dominant in Europe. The German economy was so strong and dominant that many countries mimicked Germany’s monetary choices. For example, Dutch interest rates would reliable copy the German ones, one day later. Furthermore, to stimulate trade there was an agreement to limit the exchange rates. This meant that France, who tended to be at the limit of what was allowed, was also forced to raise/lower interest rates as Germany did so.

So the end result was that monetary policy tended to reflect the German economy, not the French one. France wanted to reduce this by bringing both economies under a single currency, so the interest rates and exchange rates would not just reflect the stronger German economy, but would be the average of Germany and France (and thus closer to what is optimal for France).

This pushed the problems for France into the future, but it was not a magical solution that solved the problems that result from strong monetary bonds between nations with dissimilar economies. The idea behind the monetary union was that France would become like Germany, by adopting strict rules on deficits and such. However, the Germans actually violated those rules themselves (just like France, of course), with no repercussions, making a joke of the rules.

Of course, even with those rules, it is questionable whether you could have turned French people into Germans to such an extent that they become just as productive.

So we are probably now at the point where pushing the problems to the future is only possible as long as the world economy is doing well. Crises tend to expose structural problems, though…

A few percent leaving is hardly depopulation.

Fair enough, I should have been more precise that the issue is rural depopulation, something that has been a trend for a longer time, but that really accelerated with migration by the most capable to the richer countries.

Keep in mind that the migration is quite selective. Those who are left behind tend to be men, older and less educated. The result tends to be drastic, because the services in rural places tend to diminish greatly, as well as jobs and prospects for starting family, far more than the decline in population would suggest.

• 10240 says:

@Aapje

Why be evil by supporting people that abuse their citizens, but are more culturally similar to us?

As all the Ukrainian politicians are corrupt, whether Ukraine makes the association deal with the EU doesn’t affect its level of corruption either for the better or the worse, so whether it’s beneficial or detrimental to Ukraine is decided by other matters. Siding with some corrupt politicians doesn’t make things worse for Ukrainians if their rivals are just as corrupt.

You seem to be assuming that if pro-EU Ukrainian politicians are corrupt, then the benefits of a deal will only go to them, and not to ordinary Ukrainians. I don’t see why that would be the case. Corruption is certainly a drag on the Ukrainian economy regardless of the deal, but that doesn’t mean that ordinary Ukrainians are entirely disconnected from the performance of the economy.

Hypothetically the EU could use its influence over Ukraine to try to force it to become less corrupt, though it doesn’t look like much is being done in that regard.

increasing EU influence as close to Russia as possible, with the predictable result of conflict in the region, at the expense of the people living there, who are the victims of the aspirations of the elite.

Ukrainians toppled a government when it stalled the association deal, and elected a pro-EU government. It doesn’t look like only the elite wants it. Do you not support democracy so much this time?
(Indeed, association with the EU was a reasonable enough course of action that the previous, relatively pro-Russian government negotiated it in the first place.)

The Ukrainian people are screwed right now, which ‘we’ dutifully blame on the Russians, ignoring how we surely would not sit idly by if Russia had been successful in bringing Poland into the Commonwealth of Independent States

We blame Russia because it invaded Ukraine.
If Russia brought Poland into an economic alliance without threats, force etc., I don’t think we would oppose it by military force, and I definitely don’t think we should. (It’s not going to happen though.)

In general, I wouldn’t say we should oppose a country making an economic deal with Russia at all, though if we are talking about an EU member, it would be mutually exclusive with EU membership, so the country would have to leave the EU. In such a case it would make sense to oppose it by non-coercive means, such as trying to make EU membership a better deal for Poland than the Russian alliance.
I don’t think association agreements such as Ukraine preclude any contemporaneous agreements with Russia, so Russia had no legitimate reason to oppose the agreement.

Then there is the object-level consideration that Ukraine is probably better off in an association with the EU than with Russia because there is more gain from trade between more dissimilar economies.

• Aapje says:

Siding with some corrupt politicians doesn’t make things worse for Ukrainians if their rivals are just as corrupt.

Why pick sides at all then, especially if the fairly predictable result is escalation of both the conflict within the country and between the West and Russia? Why not push for compromise instead? Conflict/war definitely makes things worse for the Ukrainians, as we’ve seen.

I don’t particularly like Russia. I also don’t particularly like the Hell’s Angels. But I’m not going to punch one of their members if I happen to meet one, because I know it just makes things worse for everyone. I’m not so blinded by bias that I cannot think straight about the logical consequences of my actions. The EU elite are.

Ukrainians toppled a government when it stalled the association deal, and elected a pro-EU government.

That election was only held in the Western, more pro-EU part of Ukraine, because the other part effectively seceded/’was liberated’. So the new government doesn’t represent all of the Ukraine. Where you are saying ‘Ukrainians,’ the more correct term would be ‘pro-EU Ukrainians.’ Just like the EU tends to only care about part of the population in the EU, they similarly only demonstrated care about part of the population of the Ukraine.

They could have tried to find a balanced position, where Ukraine would get to have favorable deals with both the EU and Russia, but also independence from both. My country would not have existed without smart politicians who understood that you need buffer states between strong nations/blocks. The current EU politicians are so drunk on their belief that the EU brings peace that they court war, because they fundamentally don’t understand how things actually work.

They are convinced that expanding the EU brings peace to the world, so this is the only solution that they will try. Russia has seen it & has been told lies about other countries that would never be allowed to join the EU and then nevertheless did. So they logically have concluded that the EU will only stop with hard push back. They are almost certainly right.

We blame Russia because it invaded Ukraine.

Of course they are to blame for that. But it doesn’t take a genius to understand why they do what they do, just understanding of their culture as well as empathy. Russia has a specific culture where they indicate nicely what they want and if you ignore them, they escalate to 110% and fuck you up. The EU is utterly incapable of responding to that in a good way.

Ultimately, ‘we’ only have control over our own actions and we could have done a lot better.

I don’t think association agreements such as Ukraine preclude any contemporaneous agreements with Russia, so Russia had no legitimate reason to oppose the agreement.

The US had no legitimate reason to oppose Russia placing nukes on Cuba either. Yet it almost caused WW III.

Thinking merely in terms of legality is how you get tragedy.

Then there is the object-level consideration that Ukraine is probably better off in an association with the EU than with Russia because there is more gain from trade between more dissimilar economies.

These differences are completely inconsequential compared to the costs and other downsides of having a war and losing a part of the country.

• 10240 says:

@Aapje

Why pick sides at all then, especially if the fairly predictable result is escalation of both the conflict within the country and between the West and Russia?

I don’t think it was predicted by anyone. (Did you?) And after Ukraine has got in trouble for its choice to ally with us, it would be a really shitty thing to turn our backs on them. They’ve already paid the price, there’s no doing it back, and they wouldn’t get the benefit.

Now it’s unclear what we should have done if we did predict it. Maybe we shouldn’t have made the agreement. Or maybe we should’ve sent troops before Russia did. Russia doesn’t want WWIII either; presumably they would attack an area controlled by Western troops any more than we would attack Russian troops. Though, because of the way we are organized, we would have a harder way making our threat credible. That should be fixed, but it’s hard.

That election was only held in the Western, more pro-EU part of Ukraine, because the other part effectively seceded/’was liberated’. So the new government doesn’t represent all of the Ukraine.

WTF else were they supposed to do?
In any case, if the government doesn’t control the occupied areas, why should they have a vote?
The people who can’t vote comprise 12% of the population. The pro-EU parties would have most likely got a majority even if they had voted. And, again, it’s not even clear at all that the voters of the opposition party opposed the agreement.

They could have tried to find a balanced position, where Ukraine would get to have favorable deals with both the EU and Russia

I’m unaware that anything in the agreement with the EU precludes a deal with Russia. Except of course that Russia is not willing to make a deal with them now, but that’s not our fault. And if Ukraine has to bend over backwards to get a deal with Russia, I’m not sure that’s a favorable deal.

My country would not have existed without smart politicians who understood that you need buffer states between strong nations/blocks.

I don’t see why we need buffer states. There were no buffer states during the Cold War. And the West won in the end.

The current EU politicians are so drunk on their belief that the EU brings peace that they court war, because they fundamentally don’t understand how things actually work.

I’ve never thought that the EU was supposed to bring peace. It’s not even a military organization. Peace is brought by mutually assured destruction.

It’s not even obvious that a partitioned Ukraine, with a firmly pro-EU part and a firmly pro-Russian part, is worse off than a buffer state one. Though from the traditional national perspective a loss of territory is a very bad loss of prestige; and the remaining Ukraine is also in a bad situation as we are not guaranteeing its security.

• ana53294 says:

Russia has blocked gas to Europe several times due to disputes with the Ukraine.

They are building a huge gas line that bypasses the Ukraine entirely and goes directly to Germany. What in those action makes you think Russia is likely to reach any kind of compromise with the Ukraine that would be reasonable for the Ukrainian government, considering how big the the gas revenue is?

• Aapje says:

@10240

I don’t think it was predicted by anyone. (Did you?)

The exact details of future events are usually impossible to predict, since they depend on details that are unknowable. However, the objection by Russia to the eastward expansion of NATO and the EU is well known, as well as how Russia can react.

It was absolutely clear that the EU and NATO were poking the bear, hoping that it would not respond. It is their poor risk-reward analysis and surprise at the bear lashing out that is evidence of their incompetence.

And after Ukraine has got in trouble for its choice to ally with us, it would be a really shitty thing to turn our backs on them.

Yeah, bad decisions can lead countries down a path where they feel forced to do things that cause immense suffering, out of duty or honor. See the Vietnam War.

A possible solution to these situations is to not double down on the mistake, but to admit it, as well as the most realistic outcome of continuing on this path (rather that merely thinking in best case scenarios that almost never come true). Then one can try to step out of the frame in which one has trapped themselves and, for example, negotiate for peace.

They’ve already paid the price, there’s no doing it back, and they wouldn’t get the benefit.

Sunk cost fallacy. The price is still being paid, people are still fighting and dying.

But of course, if we just keep doing the same thing, the outcome will be different tomorrow. Or the day after tomorrow. Or…

WTF else were they supposed to do?

I was disputing your implied claim that the new government was elected by all Ukrainians. I strongly dislike this tribalist rhetoric, that is also very common in the media, where if the favored side gets into power, the government is treated as 100% legitimate and representing the will of all people, yet if the disfavored side is in power, the government gets treated as 100% illegitimate and not representing the will of any of the people.

I’m unaware that anything in the agreement with the EU precludes a deal with Russia.

The agreement requires Ukraine to implement economic, judicial, and financial reforms to converge its policies and legislation to those of the European Union, which coincidentally, is similar to what is demanded from potential member states. Hmmm.

Anyway, it obviously severely limits what can be agreed with Russia. It’s not like the agreement was merely to lower tariffs.

And if Ukraine has to bend over backwards to get a deal with Russia, I’m not sure that’s a favorable deal.

You keep sticking to this legalistic frame where the Ukraine and the EU aren’t to blame for predictable outcomes because the bear is acting extremely disproportionately by attacking you after you poke it. However, we’ve already seen that this is not actually a principled position, because during the cold war, the West was not willing to just accept self-determination by nations that liked communism or willing to let communist nations exercise their property rights by putting nukes on Cuba. So these ‘principles’ are obviously in large part rationalizations.

Since the principles are largely rationalizations that are abandoned as soon as they are not in our interests, it’s not very reasonable to expect those who lose when we exercise our rationalizations principles to just accept it, since they can’t expect us to do the same when the same principles dictate we lose.

A simplistic understanding of reality doesn’t make reality simple, it just makes our actions simple (as in ‘lacking mental acuteness or sense’). Lying to yourself that you won’t abandon your principles when you’ve demonstrably done so in the past, makes you delusional and makes you a danger to others and hard to deal with. After all, these delusions are self-serving, so others can’t accept them without harm coming to them, yet when others do reject them, this is considered hostile behavior by those harboring the delusions.

I’ve never thought that the EU was supposed to bring peace. It’s not even a military organization. Peace is brought by mutually assured destruction.

A narrative I hear a lot from those in favor of a big EU is that we need to accept their proposals because the EU brings peace and the alternative is war. I can’t help it that they are using these ridiculous arguments, including to guide their actions (which means we can’t just ignore it).

It’s not even obvious that a partitioned Ukraine, with a firmly pro-EU part and a firmly pro-Russian part, is worse off than a buffer state one.

I think it is, but arguing why requires an extensive explanation of why buffer states are good for the nations being buffered, as well as for the buffer state and this comment is already fairly long.

Suffice it to say that we should not just look at the short term. Ukraine got into a situation where the short term options are all fairly bad because mistakes were made with the long term strategy. Fixing that doesn’t give immediate results, but is very beneficial in the long term.

Of course, a lot of suffering would have been prevented if we had adopted a better strategy in the first place.

• Aapje says:

@ana53294

The conflict in the Ukraine doesn’t stand on its own. It’s part of a larger conflict between the West and Russia.

Furthermore, Ukraine only has various options because the EU and Russia give them these options.

So ‘we’ have the power to find a (real) long term agreement with Russia and to decide what options we give to the Ukraine, in return for Russia giving them certain options as well. Of course, it is hard to come back from this level of escalation, but I think that it’s better to go for de-escalation than to use an Israel-strategy*. Not in the least because Russia are not the Palestinians. Russia has nukes, a relatively strong military, etc.

Another option is a more limited agreement to stabilize and stop the war in the Ukraine, but that will not solve the larger conflict.

* Keep violating your promises and act in your own (perceived) interest at the expense of the interest of the other, because you are strong and they are fairly weak, so you get generally get away with it.

• Plumber says:

@fion

“…lt’s a ot of turmoil only three months before Brexit is supposed to happen!”

This is fascinating stuff!

Thank you @fion for writing it up (and thank you @ana53294 and @Deiseach for the Spanish and Irish perspectives and history).

I understand that there’s a generation gap (with older folks being more “Leave”  and younger folks being more “Remain”) which makes some sense to me, as does why the Northern Irish and Londoners being more “Remain”, but why are the Scottish more Remain but the Welsh more Leave?

• Aapje says:

The likely explanation is that Scotland is way more in favor of independence (at ~45% of the population) than Wales (at ~20%).

It seems very typical for the current European independence movements to reject the national government, but to embrace the EU.

• Plumber says:

That explains a lot.

Thanks @Aapje!

• fion says:

In addition to Aapje’s point, Scotland is a little bit more left-wing than England. We’ve discussed elsewhere in the thread about how left-wing people seem to be more pro-EU, which is somewhat mysterious in itself, but it could be that the Scottish pro-EU sentiment is part of the same issue.

(Of course, this doesn’t explain Wales, which is also more left-wing than England…)

I also wonder how much might be down to Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership. She is very popular in Scotland, and I might be mixing up the chicken with the egg, but I think she’s been influential in painting the Scottish public opinion in her image. She likes globalism, the EU, social democracy, independence and non-intervention.

• Plumber says:

Maybe because Scotland was last independent a shorter time ago than Wales?

• Bamboozle says:

Because other than the language, the welsh and english are much more similar in general than the scots. My guess would be this is due to cultural assimilation since Wales was conquered by the English, while Scotland formed a Union with England much later.

• helloo says:

One thing that’s been a mystery to me –

Most of the narrative regarding the initial referendum seemed to be that it was a vote of confidence meant to secure more power for the current leaders.
That noone expected it to win on Leave – the question was more how much of a lead would the Remain vote get.
And plenty of stories afterwards tried to indicate a lot of Leave votes were done more as a call for opposition than an actual desire to Leave.

So then, who was exactly pushing for the Leave narrative/lies/propaganda before the vote in the first place?
Does it make sense to push for something that apparently noone wants? Especially a seemingly strongly organized and effective way?
Even if they only hoped to close the gap between the votes, I am not sure why pushing people to want to Leave would be in their interests.

• dodrian says:

There has always been Euroskepticism in UK politics (whether or not to join the European Economic Community, whether or not to adopt the Euro, etc), and that public sentiment had been growing in Britain for a while (as a simple example see here, UKIP support had been at 0.3% in 1997 and grown to 3.1% in 2010). David Cameron was under pressure from some of his MPs, Euroskeptics themselves, and also concerned about losing their seats

Cameron used a referendum on the status of the UK within the EU for political leverage, both against the EU in the possibility of negotiating better status for the UK, and to appease the euroskeptic wing of his party. It was a good move politically, as it was never expected to pass and would shore up support for those MPs who could go back to their constituents and say “we heard you, and got a referendum on Europe, but the country voted to stay”.

As to how the referendum ended up in favor of leave, Dominic Cummings, director of Vote Leave, gives his take in this <a href="incredibly long rabbit hole of an article.

• helloo says:

I was not asking about where the support for Euroskepticism/Leave vote, but rather where the support to push for the Leave vote, especially as the support seemed to be local and disorganized.

• Douglas Knight says:

UKIP got 22% of the vote in the 2013 local elections and 27% in the (powerless) 2014 EU elections. That’s a lot! These are largely seen as protest votes. Some of the voters probably didn’t want to leave, but had some other protest, but probably many more wanted to leave than were willing to cast protest votes. People probably expected 40% to go for leave.

The Tories were afraid that these people would vote UKIP in the 2015 general election and throw it to Labour. So they made a campaign promise that if they won in 2015, they would hold a referendum on leaving, so that people wouldn’t have to choose between leave and Tories. (In the end UKIP did get 13% of the vote.)

• fion says:

I think it’s as simple as that the people pushing (and lying?) for Leave were those that want to leave, partly for ideological reasons and partly to help their acquaintances’ businesses.

This might not be the case for Boris Johnson. I think he might have been cynically using the campaign as a way to be seen as the natural leader of inward-looking conservatives. After losing as narrowly as possible he’d accept defeat, promise to continue fighting for inward-looking conservatives and run for Conservative leader when it was his turn.

I don’t know which is closer to the truth, though.

27. JulieK says:

This chart from the new book Prius or Pickup: How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide shows that before 2000, about 20% of Americans said they hated the Democratic party, and 20% of Americans said they hated the Republican party. Now the numbers are nearly 50% for each.
I found the chart in a National Review article which argued that America has gotten more intolerant. But I think there’s a sort of conservation of intolerance; racial and religious hatred waned, and partisan hatred came along to replace it.

• Aapje says:

This doesn’t really match the facts as racial intolerance has been on a gradual decline for many decades, with strong declines on major measurements before 2000. The recent strong increase in partisanship seems to coincide with a stagnation of racial tolerance.

• JulieK says:

I wasn’t claiming that one prejudice was instantly replaced by a different one.

• Paul Zrimsek says:

50% is not all that bad, considering how many of us hate both of them.

• Well... says:

The most right-wing guy I know drives a Prius-C. And not a neon-colored one, either.

One of the most left-wing guys I know drove an old 1970s Dodge pickup, which he borrowed from a lesbian activist friend. Also, my brother is pretty left-wing and pines to once again own a pickup like he did in college.

I don’t mean to say the stereotype is wrong, I’m only mentioning it because I only now noticed these facts about the politics of people I know, and found them amusing enough to share.

• Ketil says:

I couldn’t find the link (perhaps it was posted here?), but there was a study showing that people were more likely to express racist (or at least, racially dubious) views, if they first were given an opportunity to express support for Obama.

I think there is likely a real effect of virtue compensation here, if your leftist friend is outspokenly progressive (about climate change, say), that compensates for owning a non-PC car. Likewise, a right-wing guy could own a Prius to signal that his neoliberalist/pro-economy views doesn’t mean he’s indifferent to the environment.

28. Anders says:

I’ve uploaded a video of my research talk to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGxnKv0pdIE&list=PLIf5rLOVJkRmypa-xqc7fE_kdVeKqU-p6 . I would very much appreciate any feedback.

This research is about the generalizability of randomized trials (with a focus on pharmaceuticals), and was previously discussed on Less Wrong at https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/K3d93AfFE5owfpkx4/counterfactual-outcome-state-transition-parameters . I continue to believe this work is important, and if I am right, it has major implications for meta-analysis and generalizability. However, I have gambled my academic career on this, and nobody are listening. If anyone could convince me that this idea is either wrong or not important, I would consider it a huge personal favor, as it would allow me to move on with my life.

• brmic says:

Not important.
– The samples and the procedures for RCT are so different from the eventual application that your improvement is not relevant in terms of overall bias and variance. It would be relevant at the level of something like meta analyses, but there usually other considerations compete with yours and you’d have to be very lucky/catchy to outcompete the existing way of doing things.
– Having read/skimmed the paper: You offer a conceptual framework that IMHO is very poorly explained but when it comes to implementation involves lots of careful reasoning about the particulars of each case. This is ass backwards: If people are going to do lots of careful reasoning, they’ll do it along lines they think are important or are important to their audience and which they can communicate readily to said audience. You have to offer improvement in either efficiency (less careful reasoning, more checklists) or communication but appear to present your work under the delusion that pedantry is a selling point.
– Consider the final paragraph of the paper linked on LW. This should be the take home message, simple and clear. My thoughts in italics

, it follows that the standard risk ratio RR(−) should be used for exposures which monotonically reduce the incidence of the outcome, and that the recoded risk ratio RR(+) should be used for exposures which monotonically increase the risk of the outcome.

If I was the person to decide what is used, I wouldn’t have time to read this paper, and as I am, it’s pointless, I use whatever everyone else in my field is using. And that’s not based on ‘generalizability’ but on their understanding of the nature of the problem. If I’m lucky. Otherwise bigwig X picked one, and we’re stuck with it until he dies.

If the outcome is rare, RD may be used in the place of RR(+) for exposures that increase
the incidence of the outcome.

Err what. ‘may be used’? If you can’t even make a firm recommendation, how am I supposed to take this to my PI?

If the effect of exposure is not monotonic, the investigator
may still choose the risk ratio model based on whether treatment increases or decreases
the risk on average; in such situations, the extent of bias will be small if the extent of
non-monotonicity is small, or if the populations have comparable baseline risks. This
approximation is highly sensitive to violations of these conditions, …

This is the big one, right!? Thing is, I usually don’t know for sure and what you’re saying here is that essentially, if I’m not sure about monotonicity, I’m back to reasoning based on particulars. Gee thanks.

—————————————————————————–
I believe your idea could benefit from better presentation: Pick a clear use scenario (monotonicity all but guaranteed) show a hypothethical and two real applications (preferably one wrong) with clear and simple unambiguous instructions what to do, if necessary in a flowchart. Try to get this published, do some talks. Then, consider your work done. You developed the idea, you made an effort to communicate it (though, regrettably not to the level of an elevator pitch so far) the rest is up to luck and fashion and group dynamics, but there’s little you can do about that.

• Anders says:

Thank you for the comments. What do you mean by “particulars” though? The way I see it, the purpose of this work is to formalize a large class of the particulars that determine the choice. Since nobody else has tried to write down the actual logic behind their particulars, this seems important.. Other classes of particulars may exist, but if so, someone should formalize what they are.

• brmic says:

The way I see it, the purpose of this work is to formalize a large class of the particulars that determine the choice. Since nobody else has tried to write down the actual logic behind their particulars, this seems important.

Why would it be? What benefit is derived from formalization?

Your footnote 1 essentially acknowledges this: Depending on the case in question the relevant aspects differ and people will eventually pick the effect measure that makes sense to them. Others may disagree. Formalization is nice, but unless it offers strict guidance it will, in such cases, merely provide a laundry list of issues which are either clear and thus irrelevant, or contentious and thus haggled over. Adding a formal label (this is element 3C) is not an improvement.
But it could be, if it was clear, simple and unambiguous. Though even then, I don’t think your approach is an improvement over the simple requirement to provide constituent estimates based on which everyone can calculate their own preferred effect measure.

• Anders says:

Suppose you teach an introductory course that tries to provide students with an understanding of what things they need to consider when choosing an effect measure. How are you going to do this without a distilled formal framework that captures the intuition behind the considerations?

I continue to believe that the choice of effect measure has very significant consequences for the empirical predictions: You will believe very different things depending on which one you choose. Without a formal framework, we have to choose an effect measure arbitrarily. I therefore believe such a framework is very important.

Note: The purpose of the sentence that says “RD may be used in the place of RR(+) for rare outcomes” is not really intended to provide the users with several options, it just means that the valid approach (RR(+)) is approximated very closely by the RD, and that this is worth pointing out in order to draw parallels with earlier work that suggested “measuring relative benefits and additive harms”

• brmic says:

Suppose you teach an introductory course that tries to provide students with an understanding of what things they need to consider when choosing an effect measure.

I hope I’d have the good sense to quit first. Because either the thing is so irrelevant that nobody cares (and so I wouldn’t waste time on this material because it’s an irrelevant technicality), or they don’t get to decide. They check the literature or ask their PI.
If I wanted to offer some guidance anyway, I certainly wouldn’t haul out a formal framework. I’d tell them where the choice is actually made (i.e. not by them) and that if they want to discuss that choice intelligently, they might consider stuff like monotonicity.

You will believe very different things depending on which one you choose. Without a formal framework, we have to choose an effect measure arbitrarily. I therefore believe such a framework is very important.

1) No. My prediction for some other sample have much more to do with the particulars of the treatment and the first sample than with whatever number I elected to use as effect measure. I also usually will look at more than one effect measure.
2) Informal, heuristical frameworks are not arbitrary in the relevant sense. (i.e. they are arbitrary in the same sense that your formal framework is arbitrary where it’s vague (and that’s most of it AFAICT) and are not arbitrary in that there’s a clear consensus among experts).

• Anders says:

I hope I’d have the good sense to quit first. Because either the thing is so irrelevant that nobody cares (and so I wouldn’t waste time on this material because it’s an irrelevant technicality), or they don’t get to decide. They check the literature or ask their PI.

It is not an irrelevant technicality – the empirical predictions, and therefore the treatment decisions – will differ depending on the choice that is made. And eventually, the students become PIs themselves, and will need some way to conceptualize the choices that they make during their research, and which their conclusions depend upon.

I do not want to take part in a scientific community where it is acceptable for scientists to make arbitrary choices about things that affect the implications of their research, without trying to understand what makes one option better than another

• Aapje says:

I do not want to take part in a scientific community where it is acceptable for scientists to make arbitrary choices about things that affect the implications of their research, without trying to understand what makes one option better than another.

• Ketil says:

I believe your idea could benefit from better presentation: Pick a clear use scenario (monotonicity all but guaranteed) show a hypothethical and two real applications (preferably one wrong) with clear and simple unambiguous instructions what to do, if necessary in a flowchart.

I got around halfway through the presentation, but gave up. Too many concepts and abbreviations that weren’t clear to me. I’m probably not your target audience, so it might not matter much. But I agree with the above: give me a clear – specific and concrete – example when some common approach breaks down, and it’d be easier to understand.

And since you explicitly request bluntly honest feedback: your presentation style could be improved. Visually, I’d do something about the camera fish-eye effect and lose the tie, perhaps mount the camera higher up? Verbally, I’d recommend you loosen up a bit, and avoid just reading text off slides – engage the audience. Imagine explaining this to a your teenager niece (or something) – or better yet, have her in/as the audience.

• Aapje says:

Agreed about the tie. Either wear it well or don’t wear it at all. This very loose tie looks quite horrible.

• Hoopyfreud says:

@Anders

If the effect of exposure is not monotonic, the investigator
may still choose the risk ratio model based on whether treatment increases or decreases
the risk on average; in such situations, the extent of bias will be small if the extent of
non-monotonicity is small, or if the populations have comparable baseline risks. This
approximation is highly sensitive to violations of these conditions, …

This is the big one, right!? Thing is, I usually don’t know for sure and what you’re saying here is that essentially, if I’m not sure about monotonicity, I’m back to reasoning based on particulars. Gee thanks.

This, to me, is your biggest problem. If this research represented a paradigmatic shift – if you could use these rules to decide for everything – I think it could overcome the other objections raised here.

But “highly sensitive to violations of the conditions” isn’t that. That means researchers will have to hold two frameworks in their minds, which, as brmic says, makes this suited to people who evaluate research on a meta-level, but substantially less useful for PIs. If your heuristic loses value rapidly as you approach edge cases, it makes dealing with it a little like trying to fly an unstable aircraft without a computer.

• Anders says:

Thanks for the comment! It is true that my method only works in certain settings, and we have tried to be as transparent as possible about the limitations of the method.

That said, there are only four options on the table:

(1) Use my method to determine whether to report the risk ratio or the survival ratio
(2) Use the standard approach, which is to use the risk ratio or the odds ratio without any attempt at justification, and pray.
(3) Use the modern graph-theoretical approach (suggested by Pearl and Bareinboim), which essentially jettisons effect measures
(4) Conclude that extrapolation is impossible

None of these options are very attractive. If my method is biased due to non-monotonicity, then the standard approach has all the same biases, so going for option two just deprives the analysis of a framework for reasoning about how much bias there could be, and may lead to investigators choosing the risk ratio over the survival ratio when the latter has less bias

The option suggested by Pearl and Bareinboim (option 3 above) makes very strong assumptions, as it will only work if we can adjust for every cause of the outcome whose distribution differs between populations. My attempts to point out the shortcomings of option 3 is is the only part of my analysis where I get enthusiastic support from the academic community (that is, from statisticians who do not focus on causal inference). I have presented this work both at the Royal Statistical Society (i.e. to mathematical statisticians who do not focus on causal inference) and to the International Society for Evidence Based Medicine (i.e. applied trialists and meta-analysts) and while neither group of scientists appears to be sold on my COST parameters approach, I can say with some confidence that both groups appear to very strongly agree with me that the conditions for Pearl/Bareinboim approach are almost never met.

Option 4 is often the intellectually honest option, but before I conclude that I am unable to say anything about the target population I’m interested in, it seems worth checking whether the conditions of my model could reasonably be considered to be a decent approximation of reality.

• Hoopyfreud says:

If my method is biased due to non-monotonicity, then the standard approach has all the same biases, so going for option two just deprives the analysis of a framework for reasoning about how much bias there could be, and may lead to investigators choosing the risk ratio over the survival ratio when the latter has less bias

This is completely true, but I think you’re not getting a response because people are preoccupied with Bigger Problems with their research (often meaning actual problems, not puzzles), and the brainwork required to think about something like this is non-negligible. In an ideal world, they would bring their study to the Statistics Oracle who lives in the ventilation ducts and the Statistics Oracle would read your papers and track the field and ask them a pointed question about monotonicity and send them on their way. But nobody does that, as far as I know. Maybe someone should. Either way, despite its importance it’s probably not instrumentally useful enough for most researchers to bother to learn. If it makes you feel better, I’m cautiously optimistic about eventual adoption of the Statistics Oracle model.

29. lazydragonboy says:

Having been trapped behind the Great Firewall recently, I have been considering Google’s controversial plan to reenter China and cooperate with censorship. As I best recall it, Google’s defense of that plan is something like “We would be able to deliver most of our services even if we have to censored
some, and on the whole the benefits outweigh the costs.” Now I have experienced tremendous inconvenience due to my inability to access Google (and Baidu’s laughably bad English language search results), I sympathize with them. If it were put to democratic vote, I am not sure I would vote in favor of abetting Chinese censorship, but if there were working Google services, it would make my life easier.

What does the commentariat think? How would you vote? What are some comparable moral questions we could use to guide our thinking on this?

• raw says:

I’m not sure how I would vote but I was wondering why we have this discussion anyway. If you offer your service in another country you have to obey to their laws and rules (e.g. Google has to delete search results by request in the EU), even if theses rules seem stupid or do not match the ethics and morals of your home country. A lot of companies are doing business in China and have to go into “forced” joint ventures, as these are required by the Chinese government. Google decided that they don’t want to miss out on the Chinese market, so they have to obey.
The only other option would be, that they don’t offer any services in China.

• silver_swift says:

The only other option would be, that they don’t offer any services in China.

Isn’t that exactly what the debate is about here? Whether Google should offer its services to China and conform to Chinese law (and debatebly provide tacit approval of the law by doing so) or not offer their services at all because they disagree with said laws.

• raw says:

Well as long as the discussion is along these lines and not about China needs freedom of speech, which comes up in this context then it it fine by me.
The moral discussion within Google should have been obvious as long as they truly believed in “Don’t be evil” but this ship has sailed long ago.

• Guy in TN says:

In determining what countries you would be willing to set up headquarters for your business in (with the resulting taxation that contributes towards the respective government), one approach is to consider what your moral “red lines” are. This will of course vary widely based on your value system.

For me, while I personally dislike China’s restriction on political speech, it wouldn’t be a deal-breaker. It just doesn’t rank as high as other issues.

• eigenmoon says:

Once they’ve set up shop in China, it’s not so much censorship that’s going to be the problem but “Hey Google, give us the list of users who have ever read Winnie the Pooh”. Google tries to pretend that won’t happen, but come on.

• lazydragonboy says:

Yeah, to me that seems like the bigger concern. How does it stack up against “Holy shit, google is an excellent and convenient search engine, and google apps are pretty swell” in a utilitarian sense though?

• eigenmoon says:

That depends on how much utility is in your privacy. I’ve heard your government is going to assign social score to everyone based on some sort of machine learning, and then make life hell for low scorers.

Now if the government will read your search terms, your mails, docs, and spreadsheets, what do you guess will happen with your social score? On the other hand, what if the government knows you’re using something encrypted, but doesn’t know what, how will that affect your score?

• lazydragonboy says:

Well, being a US citizen it is lopsided in favor of having access to services— but for Chinese citizens the trade-off is more real and consequential.

• Winter Shaker says:

Frankly I’m a little surprised that China doesn’t censor SSC. I know it’s not a big site, but you’d have thought that a country that pours so much effort into preventing online freedom of expression would have discovered, and taken a dim view of, a blog that has freedom of expression as one of its primary concerns.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

We don’t discuss China that much.

• lazydragonboy says:

We also don’t speak in Chinese. English language stuff is censored, but not as much as Chinese language stuff.

• johan_larson says:

We’re officially not a threat to Chinese national security, culture, and social harmony!

Yay? Boo?

• rlms says:

Yet, growth mindset.

• lazydragonboy says:

Actually, amusingly enough, shortly after I posted this I was bizarrely unable to access SSC for a few minutes. I was able to access other websites too, so it matched the symptoms of a great firewall block.

• Aapje says:

Perhaps there are Tiananmen Squared ways to trigger the firewall?

• lazydragonboy says:

I mean, that was my thought. But if that’s true the firewall is wicked good. I mean, I heard they were training it with AI *mumble mumble* deep learning *mumble mumble* ummm stuff, but that would be impressive. Like, to my knowledge they pay people .5¥/comment to disrupt convos that are going south, but if they can do refined targeting…they wouldn’t need to.

• AG says:

Would be nice if they could share that targeted AI stuff with Tumblr. I’m not sure what’s worse, effective censorship chilling speech, or wildly incompetent censorship flagging minerals as porn.

Both are driving everyone to act in bad faith (because good faith gets you nowhere), but in different manners of bad faith. People in China are finding increasingly amusing metaphors to express their discontent, while porn bots are now openly posting their porn as SFW. So while the latter could be celebrated as the censorship being kind of “defeated,” it’s making the general experience for everyone worse.

• Nornagest says:

To be fair, pictures of deserts are pretty sexy.

• AG says:

Thinking that people treat deserts as dessert, the filter gives unjust desert to deserts, but so users desert the site, leaving it a desert.

30. saprmarks says:

I’m considering reading Ward, the sequel to Worm. I read Worm on the suggestion of some commenters here, so I thought I’d ask around here before starting the sequel.

I really liked Worm, at least after the 4th arc or so, but I haven’t really liked the first arc of Ward. That could just be because the story takes some time to get good, like Worm. Or it could be the sort of thing where an author uses up all the best ideas on the original, thereby leaving second-rate characters, plot line, etc for the sequel. Curious to hear where people stand on this.

• brmic says:

I quit at Eclipse x.5 because I judged my reasons for disliking the book as unlikely to change:
– I don’t like the protagonist
– I found the descriptions excessive
– I found the worldbuilding implausible

That said, the action does pick up eventually, though I found it a slog to get there.

• valleyofthekings says:

I also quit in Eclipse.

• JPNunez says:

Yeah, I started Ward and hasn’t grabbed me.

The protagonist is odd, and the constant cameos of old characters seems to hint that the real action hasn’t started yet. Also, the conversations are awkward; the protagonist joins a therapy session of heroes, and ends up joining them in a hero group, which is a very lame way of doing exposition. Therapy had been used in Worm but only one on one, which was good to get an insight on the characters. Here it is the equivalent of the characters meeting at a tavern in D&D and deciding to go onto an adventure. In fact, the next chapter is them trying out their powers as a group.

One day I will power through it, but right now it is not good enough to do week-to-week reading. Maybe it picks up later.

• rlms says:

I think there’s a general consensus that Worm stands above wildbow’s other works. Firstly, Worm generally has the better plotting, characters and probably worldbuilding, although the prose is better in his later stuff. Secondly, in Worm has a really good premise and protagonist. Thirdly, Worm plays more to his strengths as a writer; in Ward/Pact/Twig he started focusing more on psychological stuff which he is weaker at.

(I’ve read Worm approximately twice, Pact once, and gave up Twig and Ward after a bit).

• Walter says:

I like Ward better than Worm. I feel like WB’s writing has matured, and the setting has become much more plausible.

• Randy M says:

I have had chapter 2.2 of Ward open on my computer for about a month without progressing further. That doesn’t really say whether it’s worth pursuing further, given the length, but I’m in the same position as you.
I’m kind of surprised because I am interested in the character. It might just be that after racing through Worm, the slow pace at which the next novel starts is a stumbling block (slow in comparison to the long climax, that is).

• Nick says:

I’ve hit a wall in Ward right now too, and I’m not sure when I’m going to pick it up again. I stalled in arc 8. The frustrating thing is that I can’t pinpoint what’s wrong—I think it might be the slower pace, and the characters still feel lacking somehow, but I dunno.

• Nornagest says:

I never consciously dropped it, but stopped reading sometime in arc 6 or 7 and never started again. The main issue is that I don’t like the characters very much: Victoria’s okay, if almost unrecognizable from Worm, but all her teammates are just… there. I enjoyed hanging out with the Undersiders; I don’t enjoy hanging out with these people.

I didn’t like Blake and his friends very much, either (well, except for Green Eyes; she’s cool), but the worldbuilding there was stronger, and the pace was faster.

• Elementaldex says:

I loved Worm and liked Twig. Ward is pretty lame by comparison. I’ll read it eventually but I stalled out about two months ago.

31. johan_larson says:

The 4M organization exists to promote Devil’s Night, the night before Halloween, as an occasion for Mischief-Making and Merry Mayhem. They plan to distribute a thousand 4M packages at strategic points around the city to facilitate and promote the four M’s.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to advise 4M on what should be placed in these packages for maximum effectiveness. Your budget is $150 per package and the contents must be obtainable by adults without special permission. • Ivy says: For$150 you can probably get at least 5 fresh durians, more like 10 if you buy in bulk. Crack them open and leave a package in every subway station, mall, church, and public square in town.

• bean says:

That doesn’t seem to be in line with the goals. There’s definitely mischief in that, but “what’s that terrible smell” isn’t really Merry Mayhem. It’s just disgusting. (Although durians are delicious.)

• lazydragonboy says:

I saw yours and I thought “well, this is solved. I can’t think of anything so disturbing-yet-harmless as that. Then I saw other contributions and I was shocked. I guess harm is an option after all. now I may be able to contend.

EDIT: actually, on the weird-but-harmless theme, what about oxytocin areolizers? How expensive is oxytocin? Would diffusing it in public places be feasible?

• Nornagest says:

Oxytocin doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier. Diffusing it in public places would do nothing. I believe it’s also got a very short biological half-life.

• John Schilling says:

Oxytocin may cross the nose-brain barrier, so oxytocin aerosolizers are not out of the question. But I suspect that delivering an effective dose by environmental aerosol exposure, even in enclosed spaces, would require >>>$150 worth of materials and equipment and might not be practical at all. • lazydragonboy says: Ok. How about Datura? Is there any way to get a large portion of a population to consume datura? Or, as I put below, an NBOMe? Things are going to get Ugly rather than Merry with either of those, but if a substantial portion of the population consumed either of those things would veer towards Mayhem quite fast. • JulieK says: Glitter. Lots of glitter. • Nornagest says: 130 bucks’ worth of glitter, 20-dollar bolt cutters, and directions to the municipal water supply. • lazydragonboy says: ohhh that is quite nasty. • johan_larson says: I’m thinking 40 oz bottles of beer, and whatever you need to turn the empties into Molotov cocktails. Alternately, equipment and instructions for breaking into modern cars and hot-wiring them for joy-riding. And maybe some whiskey, for courage. • acymetric says: That kind of takes the “merry” out of “merry mayhem” doesn’ it? Some slightly less lethal ideas (not necessarily to all be included together, but all up for consideration). (Does “obtainable without special permission” imply that it can’t be illegal? We could probably get a whole lot of LSD for that kind of money without “permission” and cause a lot of mischief/mayhem but it would certainly be a felony) Empty 20 oz plastic bottles Dry ice A guide to identifying cars with car alarms Cheap ratchet set (~$15-20 for a small craftsman set)
Screwdriver
Hammer
Air horn
Fake tickets to [local sports/entertainment event for that evening]

• johan_larson says:

Does “obtainable without special permission” imply that it can’t be illegal? We could probably get a whole lot of LSD for that kind of money without “permission” and cause a lot of mischief/mayhem but it would certainly be a felony.

Whatever’s in the box needs to be stuff an ordinary person could buy legally without a doctor’s prescription or a firearms license or whatever. So LSD is out. It would be ok, however, to provide legal precursor chemicals for making LSD, and even instructions and cooking gear. But the stuff in the box needs to be legal.

• acymetric says:

I assume we are placing the boxes day-of, not sure we have time to train a bunch of amateur LSD chemists. Thanks for clarifying!

• lazydragonboy says:

LSD precursors are themselves kinda hard to get, and “amateur” and “LSD chemist” don’t really go together. You could include instructions on procuring LSD on the dark web, but that would break your per package budget. You could certainly do it with one of those phenethylemine ultra low dose research chems, but that is likely to not he harmless all and cause and of seizures.

Actually, something like that might work! Package up a suitable spray bottle/areolizers, some of those physical crypto-coins, instructions on how to get whatever NOBMe is cheapest at the moment, and a solution suitable for dissolving them into in a box—you’ve got a kit for joker-esque mayhem.

• johan_larson says:

LSD precursors are themselves kinda hard to get

I’m assuming that if you go far enough along the chain of precursors to precursors to precursors, you end up at utterly innocuous substances that nobody bothers regulating. Of course, climbing back up that synthesis chain may require quite a bit of skill and gear.

• rmtodd says:

I’m assuming that if you go far enough along the chain of precursors to precursors to precursors, you end up at utterly innocuous substances that nobody bothers regulating.

You may be assuming more sense on part of our legislative bodies than may actually exist. As possible evidence in that regard, I present https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyramine#Status_in_Florida — apparently the Florida legislature was so busy regulating everything that might possibly be turned into any of the interesting substituted phenethylamines that are on the Scheduled Drugs Lists (amphetamines, hallucinogens, etc) that they put tyramine, a common breakdown product of the amino acid tyrosine found in lots of foods like cheese and ham, on the Schedule I list. “Given that tyramine occurs naturally in many foods and drinks (most commonly as a by-product of bacterial fermentation) e.g. wine, cheese, chocolate, Florida’s total ban on the substance may prove difficult to enforce.”

• Dack says:

whatever you need to turn the empties into Molotov cocktails.

148 dollars worth of everclear, 1 dollar worth of rags, and a 1 dollar lighter.

• Nornagest says:

You can get a lot more gas than Everclear for 148 bucks, and it’ll burn better too.

• baconbits9 says:

But the everclear is going to encourage people to get hammered which is going to increase the likelihood of using the rest for mayhem.

• johan_larson says:

I did a bit of digging, and it turns out Molotov cocktails aren’t just bottles of fuel with a fuse. They work better if the liquid is a bit thicker and stickier. Apparently laundry detergent works well.

Storm-proof matches also work better as fuses than rags do.

• dick says:

I imagine you’re on a couple of lists now…

• johan_larson says:

I’m just exploring my national heritage.

• lazydragonboy says:

Honestly investing all this is pure ethynol and dropping it off near high schools, colleges, and other places where people are likely to over consume it is a recipe for mayhem and property damage.

• Civilis says:

Do fireworks count as “obtainable by adults without special permission“, given their legality varies by jurisdiction?

I’m thinking Mischief-Making and Merry Mayhem implies that you don’t want anything that is going to cause the person using it to rack up a felony for possession (as opposed to misuse).

I’m thinking I want the following in my $150 kit: A package of fireworks (widely legal fountain types, even in an area where more powerful fireworks are legal) and a lighting mechanism. A big wad of fake currency that can’t pass a casual inspection (cheap paper$3 bills with our mascot on the front) within whatever tolerance that won’t get you a Secret Service visit.
A bunch of water balloons with a small amount of glitter mixed in with the water.
A durian (if you’re putting together 1000 packages, you only need one per package for maximum mischief).
A cheap remote control car (or, ideally, a small autonomous robot programmed to run around randomly) with a cover that makes it look like a rat / spider / something creepy.
A couple of electronic noisemakers. When turned on, they wait for 15 minutes, then at random intervals loudly play either an obnoxious sound or some incredibly annoying music.

Alternative to maximize the mischief quotient: Prep 1000 large, bright, colorful balloons weighted to float over the city, rigged to pop either by remote control or on a simple timer. The first group of balloons to pop have glitter and about $75,000 in one-dollar bills. (1000 packages x$150 per package = $150,000) The rest have mostly fake currency (the above cheap paper$3 bills with our mascot and logo), plus enough glitter to mark their location and a couple of real bills. You want a delay for the word about the balloons filled with money to spread before bursting the fake-money balloons to maximize the number of people out and about scrambling for a buck.

• lazydragonboy says:

These are both great ideas.

• The Nybbler says:

In Boston, I just get some blinking Christmas lights and a battery and save the rest of the money.

In other cities, lots of fun stuff. Some of the packages should have strobe lights and loud sounds (car horns, police sirens, etc), set to go off at random intervals. Others just sound, perhaps with a motion detector so they remain silent if anyone is near them (to evade discovery). Some should emit foul odors. If the city has gunshot detectors, many should be set up to simulate gunshot noise — getting the police running around is definitely merry mayhem.

If we’re going for something more on the mayhem and less on the merry, lasers set to shine into traffic at intervals. Smoke bombs… or actual bombs. Poison gas generators (especially for enclosed spaces); I’ll skip the instructions on how to build one but it’s way less than $150. But now we’re talking more Joker than jokester. • johan_larson says: If the city has gunshot detectors, many should be set up to simulate gunshot noise — getting the police running around is definitely merry mayhem. Oh, the cops are sure going to love us. But at least we won’t have to worry about growing old in prison. • The Nybbler says: If you’re promoting chaos (mayhem), you can’t expect love from the forces of order. • Civilis says: There’s always bear repellent, if you want legally available mayhem. Make sure to include a package of zip-ties and some surgical masks. • arlie says: Masks. Markers of all kinds – graffiti can be both at once. Noise makers. Maybe a way to play loud music – with the music. Low risk fireworks – the kind that used to be legal everywhere, and sometimes legal for children, but are now banned in most cities. Some kind of toy that gives random suggestions, programmed to suggest interesting pranks. Confetti/glitter/streamers etc. Maybe beer or similar. • Tenacious D says: My plan is inspired by the Kirkwall Ba’ Game: Each package contains a jersey in one of five colours and a set of rules. A portion of the packages (say 5%) contain a ball (ideally with a GPS tracker to detect cheating). The members of the winning team will each receive$500. Each team has a prominent local landmark as their goal zone. To win, they have to bring–and keep–25 balls to that location. Public transit is allowed but personal vehicles are not. For Maximum Merry Mayhem, the goal locations should be chosen such that lots of people who haven’t received a package will also be trying to use those spaces.

• Paul Brinkley says:

A can of silly string or shaving cream
A fake fried egg
A fake pile of poo
A brick of chalk dust
A baggie of oregano
A T-Rex suit

Fill the remaining gaps with super bounce balls.

• helloo says:

My default would be to make things as movie/game like as possible.
Most of these would cost a lot more than the $150 given though. Various impromptu sing and dance. Giving people a soundtrack/themes. Choreographed close calls with slow motion. With the price limit though, the best I’ve thought is having a few cheap drones and chained remotes/simple GUI program interfaces per location. Sure, it likely would not fly with security, but plenty of other examples aren’t exactly law abiding either. • Trofim_Lysenko says: -With a little bit of very easy sleuthing and$20-30 per kit you could add a keyring that will disable (or trigger) fire alarms, open city maintenance truck tool boxes, start construction equipment, open most key control lockboxes, override most common elevators, and so on. Frankly, with a little ingenuity it shouldn’t be hard to use such a keyring to make your own fun or acquire the tools you need. Especially when such a keyring could, depending on the city, include the fleet keys for the city’s police and emergency response vehicles. Why joyride in a random car when you can joyride in a fire truck?