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Open Thread 118.75

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

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863 Responses to Open Thread 118.75

  1. johan_larson says:

    Any Magic players here? I’m trying to figure out a fair mana cost for this card:

    Organized Guerilla
    Mana cost: ?
    Power 1/Toughness 1
    Ability: (Cost ?, as per the card itself) Search your library for another Persistent Guerilla card and put it on the battlefield. The card has summoning sickness as usual

    The idea is that once you find one of these cards, you can quickly bring all the other copies into play too.

    Is 1+W too cheap?

    How about if the ability lets you search both your library and the graveyard for other Persistent Guerilla cards, so they keep coming? (V2)

    Or better yet, add a stipulation that whenever you would put Persistent Guerilla in your graveyard, you put it in the library instead, so they REALLY keep coming? (V3)

    • johan_larson says:

      I’m thinking the V1 card should cost 1+W, and its ability should cost W. Used maximally, with 4 copies, that’s 4 1/1 creatures for a cost of 5, which seems useful without being breakingly cheap.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’m no expert, but Squadron Hawk is the benchmark I’d be comparing against here. That works roughly like your V1 card, with flying and the ability priced at 1+W, and it’s considered a very good card.

    • ManyCookies says:

      “Man everyone has such know-how in the OT. Bean with naval history and logistics, Friedman writes books on economics and medieval legal structures, there’s even a much more senior actuary around. When am I gonna get my chance to shrine?”

      “Hey I’m making a Magic card…”

      I like the squadron hawk comparison for V1, and flying was a huge part of why the Hawks were good. I think your 1W+W costing is fine, Lingering Souls made 4 flying bodies for 5 dividable mana and was fair (if very powerful) for Constructed, and in limited you’re constrained by how many you can draft. Heck you could probably slap Vigilance on this and it’d probably be acceptable.

      The problem with V2 and V3 is these cards need to be common to make sense, but that style of recursion tends to get real nasty at common rarity if it’s at any reasonable price (don’t think you wanna cost the ability at 2W or 3W!). If you’re just making this for a personal cube or whatever all the more power to you, but if you’re fitting this in a set I’d probably avoid V2 and V3.

      Power level aside, there’s two annoying play patterns here. Attacking in with combat would be a headache if you can use the ability whenever, especially if you’re playing with “token” buffs or whatnot. I’d either make the ability sorcery speed or have the dudes come in tapped from the ability. And the shuffling would be pretty obnoxious; with Squadron Hawk you get all your duders in one search, but with your card you’d often be spacing out your searches, requiring up to 3 non-shortcutable library searches (possibly more in Limited). Not a deal breaker, but ehhh.

    • moonfirestorm says:

      As others have said, Squadron Hawk is a pretty good match for this: there’s not much functional difference between searching your library for a copy of the card and putting it onto the battlefield for a cost, and searching your library for a card and putting it into your hand for free. The only real difference is that you can do it at instant speed, and you can evade countermagic once landing one, although I’m skeptical that people would counter a 1/1. And the tradeoff is that you don’t get to do fun Brainstorm tricks with it.

      Legion Conquistador and Squadron Hawk give two examples of this in modern times, and we can see that the creature is statted at just under the standard P/T for that cost: a 1/1 flier for 2 and a 2/2 for 3. So a 1/1 for 2 is probably fine, and costing the activation at 1 is also probably fine. I’d consider backloading the cost onto the activation, so you have a decent stat block and then a late-game ability. Maybe 2/2 for 2, then probably 4 mana for activation.

      You can also compare this to making a token (upside: can’t remove the token generator, downside: can only make a fixed number of tokens): Selesnya Guildmage is a 2/2 for 2 that makes 1/1 tokens for 4, and Jade Mage is a 2/1 for 2 that makes 1/1 tokens for 3. Graf Harvest is an enchantment that makes 2/2 tokens for 4 plus a limited resource (creature cards in your graveyard). The smaller the token, the more the 4-of limit will matter, so I think we’re in the right ballpark with both designs: the 2cc 1act might be a little pushed from this perspective.

      Once you start recurring (2 and 3 seem functionally equivalent in most games to me), you’re essentially promising an endless stream of chump blockers, which is likely to bog down games. This probably immediately requires a rarity jump, since even 2 of them are going to be incredibly frustrating in draft. The most comparable card is Reassembling Skeleton, which is severely overcosted for just its stat block and then comes into play tapped, so you can’t just repeatedly chump block.

      At that point you’re probably just pricing it like a slightly-better token generator: 1/1 for 2 and 3 to activate seems all right, since it’s just a Jade Mage that’s harder to remove at the cost of slightly worse base stats. It’s going to have some strong uses with cards that care about nontoken creatures, but that’s probably fine since you’re basically just building an engine. 3 to activate also keeps you out of “infinite with Ashnod’s Altar” range.

      Might have to make it black with the later variants too: Lin-Sivvi basically has all those concepts, but is a fairly old card and I’m not sure if the color pie wants white doing that sort of easy recursion.

    • Dack says:

      See also:

      Card Name: Llanowar Sentinel
      Cost: 2G
      Color: Green
      Card Type: Creature – Elf
      Power/Toughness: 2/3
      Card Text: When Llanowar Sentinel comes into play, you may pay 1G. If you do, search your library for a card named Llanowar Sentinel and put that card into play. Then shuffle your library.

  2. johan_larson says:

    If you’re looking for some good drama this weekend and have access to Netflix, give the series “Babylon Berlin” a try. It’s a German series about the underworld and political intrigues during the Weimar Republic era. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 100%.

  3. pjs says:

    > Discouraging the entire idea of heuristics is both terrible AND tilting at windmills at the same time.

    Why? No-one, just no-one, can use a broad demographic statistic in a consequential context (hiring,
    marriage, conviction) as a heuristic and get have it add much more than random noise to their decision making. This is true, but not obviously so; why shouldn’t we tell people that?

    And as to even toy examples, you yourself say that most people are “bad at math”. Why shouldn’t we warn people about this? Though you are the one who says “And on the degree of accuracy, surgeon is actually a really GOOD heuristic for male. 81% of surgeons in the United States are male, and someone who makes an assumption that is 80% right is doing a pretty good job” but continue to dodge the issue of what the _practical_, _useful_, question is in your example which this statistic answers to “80%” right accuracy. (To repeat myself: it’s clearly is not “I met this person in scrubs, should I greet him/her/it as a nurse”?) If you are advocating the use of heuristic like this, and in your own toy and inconsequential example make such a debacle of things (really? “80%” right? At what?) isn’t it rational to question the whole idea?

    • EchoChaos says:

      > No-one, just no-one, can use a broad demographic statistic in a consequential context (hiring, marriage, conviction)

      Of course they can. I used “female” and “white” as heuristics when dating, and my marriage has been tremendously happy.

      > (To repeat myself: it’s clearly is not “I met this person in scrubs, should I greet him/her/it as a nurse”?)

      You meet a woman in scrubs inside a surgeon’s office. Is she a doctor or a nurse? The answer, to a high degree of probability, is nurse.

      > If you are advocating the use of heuristic like this, and in your own toy and inconsequential example make such a debacle of things (really? “80%” right? At what?) isn’t it rational to question the whole idea?

      What debacle have I made? Please do the math for yourself. If you see a woman in a surgeon’s office, she is almost certainly a nurse.

    • Isn’t it heuristics all the way down?

      I meet a woman, get into a conversation, she sounds smart and interesting so I decide to ask her out. Sounding smart and interesting is only a heuristic for “the sort of person I would like to spend time with and perhaps end up married to”–some people who sound that way are nasty, or irrational, or superficial, or dishonest, or … . After knowing her for some years I propose to her. The information I have still isn’t perfect–it could be that she has some hidden medical problem and is going to drop dead the day after the wedding, leaving me with a broken heart, so all the information that led to my marrying her is only a (very good) heuristic.

      How good a heuristic demographics are depends what you are using them for. Being female is a very good heuristic for someone I might want to marry–or was before I was married. It’s conceivable that I could meet a wonderful man, discover a hidden bisexual side to my nature, and … . And most women would not be ones I would be happy marrying. But it’s still a very good one.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      @pjs.

      > Discouraging the entire idea of heuristics is both terrible AND tilting at windmills at the same time.

      Why?

      Are you doubting the need for heurisitics in general? I hope not. That’s what keep us from blithely walking down dark alleys in dangerous neighborhoods, making judgments about about new jobs, and new dates, and new friends, and deciding if a sale is a good deal or a fraud. Sure lots of people make lots of bad judgments because of heuristics, but without them we probably wouldn’t survive to adulthood, and if we did, we’d be friendless losers with no jobs. Heuristics are what make us human.

      Perhaps using the 80% heuristic of women = nurse is a bad idea because it isn’t needed and causes bad results. But don’t argue against heuristics in general.

      • albatross11 says:

        Right. There are some ways heuristics can go wrong for the person using them–basically think of false-positive and false-negative rates. (Though a heuristic can give you richer answers than just yes/no.). Sometimes, your heuristic is wrong, and then you make bad decisions. Figuring out the cost of bad and good decisions helps you decide whether you want to use a given heuristic. (If some kinds of error have a really high cost, then you’d rather have a less-accurate-overall heuristic that minimizes those errors instead of a more-accurate-overall heuristic that leaves an uncomfortably high probability of the extremely high-cost errors. For example, consider the heuristic that says if you have chest pain and shortness of breath, you’re having a heart attack. That has a really high false positive rate. But the cost of incorrectly assuming you’re just having indigestion when you’re having a heart attack is really high, so it’s a useful heuristic.

        The story of the female surgeon who keeps getting addressed as a nurse is useful because it highlights a different way these can go wrong–your use of the heuristic can impose costs on others. For example, if 90% of the scrubs-wearing women you see in the hospital are nurses and 10% are doctors, the heuristic that says “scrubs-wearing woman = nurse” is pretty accurate. But it may be that everyone following that heuristic really annoys the hell out of the female doctors, who keep getting addressed as though they were nurses.

        One reason this is hard to think about is that it crosses moral domains. Accuracy of heuristics seems like it lives in a different part of your thinking than rudeness or imposing costs on others or dumping on people who are already at the bottom. We’re trading off different values here, and its not always easy to see which tradeoff is right. (Nor does accepting one side of that tradeoff always and everywhere make you a jerk.).

        For example, consider the use of felony records or college degrees in hiring someone to be an office clerk. In both cases, there’s a reasonably-good heuristic that uses the information, but widespread use of that heuristic has some bad consequences that are concentrated among a particular identifiable group. You can demand that people not look at felony records or college degrees, you can even make it illegal to do so. But then you’ll make their decisions worse, and you’ll also incentivize them to look for proxies that get similar results[1].

        [1] There was a Marginal Revolution post a couple years back about this–forbidding employers from using felony records made them much less likely to consider black applicants, since they were strongly motivated not to hire someone who was going to rob them. This is locally rational, but has a pretty awful social impact–worse than employers looking at felony records.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Is it just me that’s deeply bothered by the acceptance of the “don’t hire criminals” heuristic in the first place? Or by the fact that the heuristic is so powerful that it can drive racist behaviors?

          I agree that there can be good reasons to not hire someone fresh out of the pen, but the fact that a fairly minor conviction makes for an albatross that hangs on one’s neck thirty years down the line seems absurd to me. It’s not even that it’s part of a wholistic assessment for a lot of places – a convict’s resume, I’m told, often goes straight to the trash, irrespective of other factors.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Okay, some details on hiring with a criminal record:

            The Fair Credit Reporting Act actually bans several of the practices you mention. You aren’t supposed to use information from more than seven years prior to the reporting. You have to tailor the restriction to some kind of business purpose – you can refuse to hire a thief for a cashier position, but a DUI conviction would be quite questionable. Places with higher safety requirements (driving jobs, factory jobs) can put more weight on drug use, etc.

            Hiring individuals with a criminal background is a complicated assessment. Added to whatever concerns the individual employer might have about the quality of an employee, keep in mind legal liability. If you hire a non-criminal (no prior convictions) and they rape one of your other employees in the parking lot, then you fire them and move on. If someone with a previous violent felony does so, you get sued for negligence in hiring and quite possibly lose, even if all other factors are the same.

            As far as the heuristic approach: Someone with a criminal record is almost always going to be a worse employee than an equivalent employee without the conviction. Even assuming their behaviors post-conviction are identical, the one with the record is going to have more court-related absences, a reduced resume (time spent in jail or otherwise not building their career), and more complications in life. Depending on what kind of work is involved, there may be legal and regulatory restrictions (banks can’t hire people with fraud convictions) that make the background check necessary. If an employer has alternative options, then it would be detrimental not to discriminate on this basis.

            I agree that it sucks, especially on the rehabilitation side, but I don’t see that employers are making poor decisions.

            As far as employers being forbidden from discriminating on prior convictions and that hurting black applicants – Most of that is due to how those “ban-the-box” laws are written. Employers are forbidden to ask about criminal history, even if the federal government also has laws in place prohibiting the hiring of individuals with certain convictions. So employers go through their normal hiring process, make an offer, and are then allowed to run the background check (which is, again, mandated), only to find out they have wasted weeks and many hours on a candidate that they aren’t even allowed to hire. The only response that makes sense there is to try to weed out the applicant pool so as not to waste time in that manner. Since they are forbidden to do this directly, employers are highly incentivized to find other ways to do it. Recruiters who miss hiring timelines get fired. You can’t make formal offers to multiple people for the same job. Any way you do that math, recruiters are screwed. I disagree with the “then don’t hire black people” formulation, but I can see how people who are legally forbidden from having a good option will choose a bad option.

          • The Nybbler says:

            banks can’t hire people with fraud convictions

            Banks can’t hire people with _shoplifting_ convictions (multiple), or one shoplifting conviction if the potential fine was over $2500 or they spent four days or more in jail, even if they’re decades old.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Yeah, once you get into the legal quagmire of what positions formally ban which convictions, ban-the-box laws seem like an intentional kick in the pants for employers trying to follow the law.

            Not hiring demographic groups is obviously faulty, so criteria like “gaps in employment” start looking really tempting to value. That, of course, hurts women who take off from work to care for small children. Employers might care less if the government didn’t mandate criminal checks, but then they ban criminal checks when the timing within the process actually makes sense.

            ETA: I notice I’m ranting a little bit on this subject. It’s a sore subject.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            What are the good ways out of this?

            I have learned to oppose government policies where they make someone else pay. As an obvious bad example, compare two ways to feed the homeless: The government wants to feed the poor, they should raise taxes by 0.1% and use the money to feed people. Or the government declares that every restaurant must feed every homeless person who comes in.

            The first idea works better and doesn’t distort the entire economy and lead to all sorts of epicycles (obviously high-end restaurants get exemptions). But the second tends to get made because it doesn’t involve fighting to raise taxes, and a lot of people really hate those scummy restaurants that keep on exploiting people.

            So could we use that lesson to get around this? Instead of forbidding criminal checks and leaving employers in the lurch, could the government indemnify employers? That doesn’t feel like a good solution, but maybe someone else can find a better way to run it, or maybe it is indeed less bad than the current bad options.

  4. Deiseach says:

    Who is this fool, and why does he think he has any right to have opinions on Ireland?

    Right, yes, we all have opinions on other countries and their internal politics. I may think Justin Trudeau is a bit of a gowl. But when I start telling Canadians that they should govern their country according to the way I want, then they can tell me shut up.

    • nerme'e sivni says:

      I don’t know, I’ve gotten used to everyone who doesn’t live in America being full of opinions that they love to share about everything that they think how this country should be governed differently. Often with obvious glaring lacks of understanding of local context.

      • Deiseach says:

        I suppose, to be fair, America has such a huge geopolitical and economic presence that what affects you affects us, whether we want to or not (e.g. Ireland is so damn dependent on foreign-investment firms, if the US economy catches cold and they all pull out to retrench or shut down this particular factory in that one Irish town or even just lay off a lot of workers, it will really fuck us over).

        What’s the worst thing Ireland can do to Canada – oh no, looks like we might threaten you with cutting exports of our butter?

        • Plumber says:

          @Deisearch

          “….. oh no, looks like we might threaten you with cutting exports of our butter?”

          Well that butter is really tasty!

          We’ve been getting “Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter” this year and it really has improved the flavor of fried eggs and toast for example.

        • brad says:

          I suppose, to be fair,

          How is that to be fair exactly? The rule you wish to propagate–that Irish people can opine at great length about, say, Hillary Clinton, but no one is allowed to have any opinions on Ireland–looks to me to be the opposite of fair.

    • ManyCookies says:

      Way tangential, but how did right-wing/anti-PC end up with a way stronger presence on political Youtube? Like Last Week Tonight videos will be 3:1 up/downs and have a shitshow in the comments, as is tradition, but then these videos will be at 20:1 up/downs with a unified comment section! Someone on r/ssc got soundly mocked for saying ContraPoints was one of the few left-wing intellectuals around online, but (being charitable) if he was specifically talking about political Youtube personalities then there really are a lot more Stefan Molyneux’s types than ContraPoints’.

      • theredsheep says:

        I would guess that it has something to do with YouTube’s base user demographic profile. Isn’t the most popular YouTube creator that PewDiePie guy? There are a ton of hardcore gamers on YouTube, and hardcore gamers aren’t known for their progressivism.

      • Uribe says:

        My hunch is that watching homemade political rants is a very white male thing to do (I have no evidence for this hunch), and that’s going to skew right, just like political talk radio skews right due to the demographics of people who like that sort of thing.

        Sure, SSC is very white male also but the education level of readers gives it a countervailing bias.

      • acymetric says:

        To take what Uribe said a little further, you’re taking something that leans left but is pop culture and comparing it to something that mostly only people who are looking for it will find (like the video linked above). Most people on the left would tend to say “that looks stupid” and move on rather than watch, rate, and engage in the comments section.

        If you want an apples to apples comparison, you would need to compare it to something more similar in stature. I’m having a hard time thinking of a really good comparison, but maybe something like clips from Glenn Beck or some other more right wing pundit? Something people from both sides are likely to be aware of and exposed to regularly.

        • ManyCookies says:

          Bill O’Reilly seems to fit this pattern. Clips of him on Fox News are well received, while the videos on the sexual harassment are like 2:1 up/downs at best and comment quagmire.

          (Why didn’t I do this research with an Incognito mode, now I’m gonna have BEN SHAPIRO ANALLY EVISCERATES FRESHMAN SJW recommendations for the next week)

      • sharper13 says:

        My guess would be the left-wing/PC crowd can just read the NY Times/Washington Post, or watch CNN/MSNBC/ABC/NBC/CBS/ESPN/Comedy Central/Late Night whatever and get a wide spectrum of political rants and entertainment for their bubble. If the folks on the other side don’t prefer the Fox News version, they have to go online to Youtube/talk radio/Whatever.

        In other words, similar leading left-wing/right-wing commentators have very different organizational options available to them to reach their viewers.

        Fox News doesn’t beat CNN in ratings just because of their inherently superior product, they have less video commentary competition than CNN does for the half of Americans who want to watch their hosts commentary.

    • BBA says:

      Do I, as an American, need to ask permission from Canada to call Molyneux a dangerous wackaloon?

      • albatross11 says:

        In America, we have free speech–you can even call the president of the United States a dangerous wackaloon, if you like.

    • LadyJane says:

      Why are you surprised by this? People in North America tend to have very strong opinions on pretty much all well-known global conflicts. I’ve talked to no shortage of Americans who have their own ideas on how to solve the problems between Ireland and the UK, or Spain and Catalan, or Israel and Palestine, or Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, or Ukraine and Russia, or North and South Korea, or China and Tibet, or the different racial groups in South Africa. Typically it involves wholeheartedly supporting whichever side they most associate with their preferred side in American politics, while denouncing the other side as entirely wrong and evil.

  5. C_B says:

    To what extent is knowing too much about comparative effectiveness of different talk therapy styles an infohazard?

    Context:

    —–

    The most consistent findings in rigorous investigations of the effectiveness of talk therapy are:

    1. Therapy is better than no therapy.
    2. If the paper is by someone who does one particular style of therapy, they will find that style to be the most effective.
    3. In style-agnostic meta-analyses, all styles are about equally effective.
    4. The biggest thing that appears to actually explain variability in effectiveness is patient buy-in.

    This leads a lot of people to think that talk therapy is basically “weaponized placebo” – it’s not that there’s actually any secret method or essence to it that results in healing; it’s just that talking about your problems in a medicalized context that you respect is good for your mental health.

    —–

    A friend of mine is going through some mental health stuff. She’s seeing a therapist, but it’s not going great – she’s very systematizing, and wants concrete advice on how to fix her problems; her therapist wants to offer validation and talk about her parents. My advice was that it was time for her to find a new therapist, but she’s reluctant on somewhat reasonable grounds: “I don’t know the first thing about therapy,” she points out, “how do I know my therapist isn’t the one who’s right? Maybe I’m wrong and what she’s doing is actually the most effective way to help me, even if it does make me want to roll my eyes?”

    What I want to tell her here is that different therapy styles are all basically interchangeable, what actually matters is patient buy-in, and if she can’t take her therapist seriously, then whether or not she is justified in being unable to take her therapist seriously, her inability to do so is, itself, preventing the therapy from being effective. But it occurs to me that, even if this is true, telling it to someone might be a trap – once you know this, maybe it becomes impossible to have high buy-in on any style of therapy, since it’s hard to escape the conclusion that therapy is “just placebo.”

    —–

    So: Does knowing that all styles of therapy are equally effective prevent any style of therapy from being effective?

    • nerme'e sivni says:

      I will warn smart systemizing people that they can almost always outsmart and out argue a therapist, but not to do it, because then the experience just is a waste of time and of money.

    • Lillian says:

      It shouldn’t be too hard to present the information she needs to make find a therapist she can buy into while at the same time avoiding the potential info-hazard. First off the first three points about the effectiveness of talk therapy carry no info-hazard. You should indeed inform her that talk therapy is effective, that therapists usually find that their preferred style is most effective, and tat meta-analysis finds all styles are about equally effective.

      The part where you need to tweak the message is the last one. Don’t tell her that talk therapy is weaponize placeboo effect and works only because of patient buy-in. Instead offer the alternate theory: Different people have different specific therapy needs, and each approach is optimized towards addressing particular sets of needs. The reason all methods appear to be equally effective is patient self-selection. That is to say, when a method is not working for a patient, patients tend to switch therapists until they find one that has method that does work for them. This isn’t even untrue, it’s basically the buy-in theory but stated in a way that prevents the person from accidentally making themselves unable to buy into it.

      Presented this way, this should make her more open to the idea of changing therapists. There do exist ones who give concrete advice on how to fix your problems rather than trying to give you validation and talk about your parents. The trick is figuring out which ones, since many therapists don’t advertise their specific techniques, and the ones i encountered who took a concrete steps approach were entirely by happenstance. Sadly they could not help me, because while i am in fact a smart systematizing person, i am also supremely lazy and what i most fundamentally want from therapists is that they fix my problems for me. Apparently the traditional name for a person who does that is not “therapist” but “lady’s maid” or “steward of the estate” and you need to be very rich to afford one, which i’m rather not.

      Though i will give a shout-out to a couple of therapists who did do something useful by running interference with my parents long enough for me to do execute my plans to skip town. An amusing case of therapy being helpful because of a third party’s buy-in rather than the patient’s

      • C_B says:

        I’m more trying to get at the empirical question “is knowing too much about comparative effectivness studies of therapy an infohazard w/r/t the effectiveness of said therapy?” here, rather than looking for advice on “assuming it is, how can I convince my friend to get a new therapist?”

        • Lillian says:

          Oh, well i would wager not? Honestly i wasn’t just presenting my alternate take on how why all talk therapy methods seem to work about the same not just because it neatly sidesteps the info-hazard problem, but also because i genuinely believe it’s true. If patients tend to have different individual needs, and also eventually self-select into whichever therapy method best suits those needs, then we would also get the same Dodo Verdict we see in the meta-analysis.

          Supporting this take is the fact that the placebo effect is actually fairly weak, and most of the reason why ineffective treatments appear to work is simply regression to the mean. Therefore given that talk therapy seems to really work, it highly unlikely that it does so because it’s a weaponized placebo, since the placebo effect would have to be stronger for that to be the case. So as far as the available empirical evidence goes, there is no info-hazard to be had. Indeed knowing that all talk therapy methods are about equally effective, and therefore you should just pick whichever one you personally like best, would lead to patients getting more out of their therapy, not less.

  6. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.outsideonline.com/2380751/sunscreen-sun-exposure-skin-cancer-science?fbclid=IwAR3sWibvQUV09pNGaNkBsyQN0rryxBjzXasrX0QsB841jiZTYqWMMTdZp6A

    Argues that sunlight is not that risky for people (Sunburn, especially early in live, is dangerous.) Vitamin D and blood pressure meds aren’t a substitute.

    I’ve read about this before– one more thing. The nitric oxide connection doesn’t show up in mouse studies because mice don’t have it. This makes sense. They’re covered with fur, and they’re nocturnal/crepuscular. Crepuscular means being active at dawn and dusk.

    So I’m wondering about how the human need for sunlight evolved, and to what extent furry animals share it. Cats presumably get something out of sunlight, and it’s not as big a deal for dogs.

    • Uribe says:

      Dogs lie in the sun to get their Vitamin D, which stays in their hair until they lick it off. Cats probably do the same.

      • nkurz says:

        I think this is false, but I’m not sure. Searching, I find a number of articles of “low repute” claiming this, and then a few of slightly better status saying that those articles are nonsense: https://biology.stackexchange.com/questions/74456/do-i-get-vitamin-d-from-licking-my-dogs-fur.

        I do find a few claims that lanolin can be converted to D3 by exposure to UVB, but I haven’t found anything that says this is a large enough effect in dogs or cats to be measurable. Instead, most reputable sources say animals do need Vitamin D, but get it from diet. Does anyone have a study saying that “sunlight and subsequent fur licking” is actually significant?

        • Uribe says:

          Interesting. The dogs I’ve had have always sought out sunlight to lie in, so I’m guessing there is a good reason for it. But perhaps it’s not for Vitamin D.

          To address the question in the OP: I’d guess that we didn’t evolve sunlight dependency for the purpose of motivating us to go to the beach, but rather we evolved a convenient way to get necessary Vitamin D (And whatever else we get from it). It’s only become less convenient recently.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Interesting. The dogs I’ve had have always sought out sunlight to lie in, so I’m guessing there is a good reason for it. But perhaps it’s not for Vitamin D.

            Probably they just like the warmth.

  7. ana53294 says:

    A judge prevents the sculpture of a devil from being located next to the aqueduct of Segovia.

    Millennia after being built, the Aqueduct of Segovia remains an inexhaustible source of news. This time, on account of its legend: according to a popular story, the famous construction was not built by the Romans, but by Mephistopheles himself, who was tricked by a young Segovian to build it in one night. To be able to present this story to the more than 800,000 tourists who visit Segovia every year, the City Council has decided to place a figure of an imp in one of the multiple views of the aqueduct. But with controversy: the complaints that the statue has raised among some neighbors has caused the installation has been paralyzed by a judge.

    The sculpture represents a smiley devil of 1.70 meters high, with a hand holding a mobile phone and a selfie, thought about all to attract tourists and their desire to upload new photos on social networks.

    […]”It’s crazy,” says the sculptor Abella, who points out the irony that this plump Mephistopheles will be installed next to the old headquarters of the Inquisition in the Spanish city. “It seems that the inquisitors have never finished completely from this country,” he concludes sarcastically.

    Would a statue of Mephistopheles be covered by free speech in the US? Or would it also be considered an insult to religious feelings?

    EDIT: There hasn’t been a decision yet; the final decision could take years (Spanish justice is slow). But the paralization itself is significant.

    • theredsheep says:

      We have at least one Satanic group that puts up statues of Baphomet just to annoy people who put up Ten Commandments or cross monuments. They win their court cases on religious equality grounds–if one religion can put up a statue, we have to allow all of them–and the statues stay in place.

      • ana53294 says:

        After googling for a while, it seems to me that what the Satanic temple has achieved was the removal of the ten commandments statue, but they haven’t been able to put a statue of Baphomet in any public land.

        The only Satanic statue was one with pentagrams honoring veterans they put in some small town.

        So it does seem like free religious speech is not that free in the US, either.

        • theredsheep says:

          Ah. I didn’t care enough to follow the story that closely; I don’t think of it as “freedom of religion” so much as “freedom to pee on trees” versus “freedom to troll people who like to pee on trees.” My apologies.

          EDIT: It does seem to me like a very different case than yours; from your blurb, it sounds like the devil sculpture is mostly a gag, the devil-as-folk-character, a humorous nod to the old story rather than an actual sincere monument giving thanks to Mephistopheles for building the aqueduct. Religious people don’t like devils even as silly jokes, and are fighting to take it down.

          Whereas our fight is between conservative Christians (who want to assert dominance of public spaces to help them ignore the decline of cultural Christianity) versus Satanists (who want to assert that the country equally belongs to Randian Objectivists with occult trappings, despite their being a much, much smaller group).

    • bullseye says:

      In the U.S., I can put up a statue of Jesus or Satan or whoever on my own property. That Satanic group was protesting the religious imagery on *public* property, in a courthouse. Putting up the Ten Commandments in the courthouse, while refusing to put up a statue of Baphomet, amounts to government endorsement of certain religions over others. That is not allowed under the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . “. For reasons I’m not clear on, the First Amendment is interpreted to apply to all government entities in the U.S., not just Congress.

      The Mephistopheles statue was placed by the city government, so if it’s interpreted as endorsing Satanism it could run afoul of the First Amendment in the U.S. I don’t think that’s a reasonable interpretation, but who knows.

      • Protagoras says:

        For reasons I’m not clear on, the First Amendment is interpreted to apply to all government entities in the U.S., not just Congress.

        The 14th Amendment has traditionally been interpreted as imposing many of the conditions of the Bill of Rights on all government entities. The text on which this is based is very brief and as a result could be interpreted in different ways, but the traditional reading doesn’t strike me as especially unintuitive.

        • brad says:

          I think incorporation could fairly reasonably be read into “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” but it’s a real stretch to read it into “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;”.

          • Protagoras says:

            The former is the one I intended when I said the traditional reading was not unintuitive.

          • brad says:

            You may well be aware of this but for the benefit of others the Supreme Court doctrine of incorporation relies on the latter.

      • Eponymous says:

        Putting up the Ten Commandments in the courthouse, while refusing to put up a statue of Baphomet, amounts to government endorsement of certain religions over others.

        I’ve never understood this argument. It’s not a law or ordinance, and nobody’s exercise of religion is impeded in any way. No advantage is granted to anyone on the basis of their religion. So why does the display of religious imagery on public grounds violate the First Amendment?

        • John Schilling says:

          “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

          “O”r, not “and”. Promoting any one religion is right out even if it doesn’t impede people in exercising others. And if “Respecting an establishment of religion” may be a bit vague for interpreting edge cases, prominently displaying one religion’s sacred laws in the room where you apply your own laws seems like a fairly central example of “respect”.

          • Eponymous says:

            prominently displaying one religion’s sacred laws in the room where you apply your own laws seems like a fairly central example of “respect”.

            This is not clear to me. If it was, then I wouldn’t be confused.

            The government isn’t actually doing anything to promote one religion over another in this case. At best, you can say that they’re sort of hinting at their preferences by their choice in decor.

          • I interpret “respecting” as meaning “with respect to,” not “showing respect to.” The current interpretation, that government can’t do anything that favors one religion over another in any way, strikes me as a bit of a stretch, given what “established religion” actually meant in England at the time.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            The government isn’t actually doing anything to promote one religion over another in this case.

            They may not be actively sending missionaries about the district, but they are, by any reasonable interpretation, doing something akin to putting up advertisements for one religion, which you could call promoting that religion.

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            That’s not what “respecting” means. It’s “Congress shall make no law regarding or on the subject of an establishment of religion.”

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I think part of what’s going on is that everyone in the US takes the absence of an established Church so completely for granted that we tend to assume the Establishment Clause must refer to something more controversial than that.

          • Eponymous says:

            they are, by any reasonable interpretation, doing something akin to putting up advertisements for one religion, which you could call promoting that religion.

            There are other interpretations. For example, it could inspire defendants and judges (who are mostly Christian) to be honest and remember that they are upholding a higher notion of justice. Or it could simply reflect the history of the country.

            It seems pretty weak compared to the sorts of things the First Amendment was aimed at, and which I take it to outlaw.

          • Lambert says:

            This is what the Lemon Test is for, right?

          • brad says:

            I think part of what’s going on is that everyone in the US takes the absence of an established Church so completely for granted that we tend to assume the Establishment Clause must refer to something more controversial than that.

            I’d say a bigger part of it is that no one* is a textualist/originalist when it comes to the First Amendment. The post-war libertarian-ish interpretations are so attractive to significant parts of the left and the right that everyone sort-of pretends not to notice that they have very little to do with the Constitution. This is especially true for free speech, but somewhat true for the religion clauses as well.

            *Okay, obviously not no one, but a tiny number and no one influential

          • Evan Þ says:

            @The Pachyderminator, I agree that’s the best way to interpret “respecting.” I combine that with @DavidFriedman’s interpretation of “establishment” – which seems the most historically informed – to read the clause as “Congress shall make no law on the subject of an Established Church.” In other words, there shall be no federal Established Church, and (pre-14th-Amendment) Congress shall not interfere with the state Established Churches.

            @brad, yes, the First Amendment’s application has grown. But on the other hand, the First Amendment was written to apply only to the Federal government – Massachusetts had a literal Established Church well into the 1800’s, and it was perfectly constitutional because the Fourteenth Amendment hadn’t yet been dreamed up. One big part of the growth of the First Amendment is that now it applies to the states too.

            (Yes, the Sedition Act of 1798. But that was very controversial at the time, and Adams’ losing the ensuing election has been taken to give the verdict of history against it.)

    • Deiseach says:

      1.70 meters high, with a hand holding a mobile phone and a selfie, thought about all to attract tourists and their desire to upload new photos on social networks

      I’d object to this abomination not on religious but on aesthetic grounds (and even on mundane planning permission grounds it sounds like it’d fit in as well with the historic buildings around it like – to quote Chandler and not the more earthy metaphor that first occurred to me – like a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake), and the ‘artist’ who created this mess should be ashamed of themselves. When you’ve sold your soul to Mammon, as the city fathers have here, and you the artist has collaborated with that and sold out, then you have no entitlement to be sneering about the Inquisition. You have made The Almighty Dollar (or Euro/other tourist currency) your One True God, and that’s as religious as anything else.

      Given that it’s based on another sculpture and legend of a similar bent in Germany (and indeed there are legends like this all over Europe), it could have been a better production based on mediaeval church statuary or with some of the charm of its Lubeck inspiration, but it’s just an ugly lump of stone for venal monetary ends with no artistic merit. It’s certainly no Génie du Mal!

      I hope it does take years so this lump of horrible will not get constructed EDIT: too late, it’s already been sculpted, installed anytime soon, and that eventually the decision will be a resounding “not just no but hell no!”

      • They set it up. The next morning, it is a pile of fragments smelling strongly of sulfur. Someone Was Not Amused.

        • Deiseach says:

          Well I tell you, the Morningstar has grounds for feeling insulted. Even if it’s only a representation of a minor demon instead of the Fallen One, it looks like “the only help Hell can afford is fat unshaven lazy drunks who flash their bits at you while taking a selfie (plus they don’t even take good care of their hooves)”. Reflects really badly on the entire Infernal enterprise.

          What arrogantly proud aspiring God-Emperor of the entire Universe and all of Creation for Eternity is going to take that lying down? 🙂

  8. Uribe says:

    Is Contemporary Culture a Slave to Dead Philosophers?

    There’s the refrain about politicians being slaves to dead economists. I buy that. Smith, Keynes, Friedman without a doubt influence contemporary economic policy, but those making economic policy tend to be intellectuals who are educated about economic theory.

    Jordan Peterson raves that postmodernism is the root of all evil, claims that it is why progressives are insane.

    I don’t buy Peterson’s claim. Rather, I think popular and even radical politics on the left is mostly influenced by pop-culture, not high-culture, certainly not by Foucault and Derrida, as Peterson would have us believe. I don’t believe contemporary progressives have, in general, read Foucault and Derrida, nor are their beliefs a result of trickle-down philosophy from the postmodernists.

    My Exhibit A is the Boomers. Boomers were and still are a huge political force in US politics. But Boomers political philosophy seems to have been influenced by their being the first young generation to have economic independence. They were young people with economic freedoms no generation had had before, which lead to other freedoms, sexual and artistic, for instance. In college, many could live independently, without working, and still have money left over to buy Beatles albums and LSD.

    It’s easy to make the case that the philosophy of young Boomers was more influenced by Lennon and McCartney than by Foucault and Derrida.

    I don’t see why this case is harder to make for Millennials than for Boomers. Their progressive politics is influenced by bottom up low/pop culture not high culture. Certainly not by dead philosophers.

    I think Jordan Peterson is way off the mark on this point.

    • Watchman says:

      I agree with you on the contemporary left and postmodernism. Their essential arguments, such as the efficacy of government action or the existence of easily defined identity groups are pure modernism: that see economy and society as mechanical processes that they can alter in predictable ways (see the idea that raising taxes will raise tax take) and identity as fixed upon certain characteristics (particularly skin colour and genitals). None of the underlying logic behind this sort of policy would have been out of place in 1920.

      I’m always confused as to what right-wing critics are alluding when they speak of left-wing postmodernism. Perhaps the left-wing are more likely to have taken on a veneer of postmodernism at university, but it doesn’t seem to manifest in policies that emphasise centralisation and socialism.

      • bullseye says:

        The contemporary left recognizes race and gender as “social constructs”; made-up categories that are nevertheless important because they affect how people behave and treat each other. I think this is postmodern, but I’m really not that familiar with postmodernism.

        The left explicitly rejects the idea that gender identity is tied to genitals. Whatever you feel your gender is, that’s your gender, and other people have to take your word for it. Race, on the other hand, does not work like this. I once read an explanation for the difference and it made sense to me, but now I don’t remember and I can’t figure out what it could have been.

        • Protagoras says:

          A much more thorough discussion of these issues than is encountered in any of the political discussions can be found in Ian Hacking’s The Social Construction of What?

        • Watchman says:

          I am happy that the left accepts this idea, but I don’t see it as postmodern in application. In reality you need to have a certain skin colour or a certain set of experiences to belong to certain identity groups, regardless of your own self-identification (witness Rachel Dalziel for an example). And the current arguments over lived experience versus adoption of a female identity for transsexuals are hardly indicative of an acceptance of identity as a social construct amongst left-wing feminists, who I’m pretty certain see themselves as representing an identity group.

          That said, I may have been unfair in my original comment, as the left does have plenty of thinkers who do understand postmodernism. But the actual understanding of how social construction of identity works shows a tendency to reify identities in a way that seems incomparable with the understanding that identity is not real. At best you see people who take social construction to be something they can regulate, but most left-wing discourse at the level of media commentary (and commentary on this) does not even display this weak postmodern position. So you end up with identity groups defined by something other than individual adherence, and then legislation built on the basis people’s identity can be established by external agency if necessary. That is modernism to me, and why the postmodernist thinkers put up with it is a question that needs to be answered if we are to accept left-wing thought is really driven by postmodernism rather than misusing a postmodernist trope.

        • Eponymous says:

          The contemporary left recognizes race and gender as “social constructs”; made-up categories that are nevertheless important because they affect how people behave and treat each other.

          Is this how someone who supports this view would put it? It seems obviously wrong to me, to the degree that I suspect it’s a strawman.

          It seems obvious to me that race and gender both reflect real physical facts, and are also categories vested with social significance. I would expect that both left and right would agree, and the disagreement is more about the precise nature of these.

          I would guess that the true distinction is something like: conservatives think that traditional categories and roles broadly reflect a good way to organize society for human flourishing, while liberals think they are generally oppressive, both collectively and to individual self-definition.

          • bullseye says:

            It’s basically my own belief, so I’m not strawmanning it on purpose.

            Biological sex is obviously a real thing. But it doesn’t always match gender identity. (There are some feminists who disagree; the rest of the left disparages them as “TERFs”; trans-exclusionary radical feminists).

            Biological race is sort of a real thing, but the obvious superficial differences are pretty much all there is (with some exceptions in small populations, e.g. native Tibetans have a gene that helps them handle high altitudes).

            Also, when scientists do genetic tests to see which populations are related, it doesn’t line up with race especially well. One study found 17 distinct groups; 16 of them were black Africans and the 17th was all of the other races, plus some black Africans. Another study found that native North Africans are all more closely related to each other than to anyone else, even though some of them look black and others look Arabic.

            “I would guess that the true distinction is something like: conservatives think that traditional categories and roles broadly reflect a good way to organize society for human flourishing, while liberals think they are generally oppressive, both collectively and to individual self-definition.”

            Sounds about right to me.

          • Nornagest says:

            Is this how someone who supports this view would put it? It seems obviously wrong to me, to the degree that I suspect it’s a strawman.

            It seems obvious to me that race and gender both reflect real physical facts, and are also categories vested with social significance.

            No, “social construct” is widely accepted on the left, especially the academic left. Its exact meaning is somewhat subtle, though: it’s less “this is completely made up” and more “culture has decided to carve a continuous spectrum of phenotypes up in a more or less arbitrary way”. Which is basically true, but also not very practically exciting: it just means race/gender are heuristics rather than basic categories, and they’re actually pretty good heuristics in the contexts where they grew up. Less good in other contexts, of course, but that sort of comes with the territory.

            On the other hand, certain strains of political thought view applying heuristics to people as inherently oppressive, and so you can see why they’d endow “social construct” with a lot of significance.

          • Eponymous says:

            @bullseye:

            Biological sex is obviously a real thing. But it doesn’t always match gender identity.

            True. But it seems you are arguing against the position that gender roles have *no* social dimension. I think this is a strawman.

            I would argue that the disagreement is mainly quantitative: you might say that gender roles reflect (say) 70% culture and 30% biology (thus being fairly mutable), while I might say that they are 70% biology and 30% culture. I wouldn’t characterize your position in this example as “gender is socially constructed!” (Now, if you said it was 95% culture and 5% biology, then perhaps you might so describe it.)

            Now if you’re just playing word games (labeling the biological stuff “sex” and the social stuff “gender”), then I’m not too impressed by the insight “gender is socially constructed!” Hopefully you’re not doing that.

            Admittedly, on race it sounds like you’re closer to 95%/5%, in which case perhaps “race is a social construct (with a few notable exceptions)” is a reasonable statement of your view.

            As to whether your view is scientifically defensible, I recommend David Reich’s book.

          • Eponymous says:

            @Nornagest:

            “culture has decided to carve a continuous spectrum of phenotypes up in a more or less arbitrary way”. Which is basically true

            It’s not the least bit true with respect to gender. The “male/female” division is a pretty obvious way to go.

          • bullseye says:

            “Now if you’re just playing word games (labeling the biological stuff “sex” and the social stuff “gender”), then I’m not too impressed by the insight “gender is socially constructed!” Hopefully you’re not doing that.”

            I wouldn’t call it a game. That’s what “sex” and “gender” mean to the left, and that’s how I was using them. If you recognize transgender people as being the gender they say they are instead of the gender their genitals suggest, you need words to clearly distinguish between biological sex and gender identity.

            “I would argue that the disagreement is mainly quantitative: you might say that gender roles reflect (say) 70% culture and 30% biology (thus being fairly mutable), while I might say that they are 70% biology and 30% culture. I wouldn’t characterize your position in this example as “gender is socially constructed!” (Now, if you said it was 95% culture and 5% biology, then perhaps you might so describe it.)”

            70% culture and 30% biology sounds about right to me, but I think the mainstream leftist view is closer to 95% or 100% culture.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Biological race is sort of a real thing, but the obvious superficial differences are pretty much all there is (with some exceptions in small populations, e.g. native Tibetans have a gene that helps them handle high altitudes).

            Not just small populations; the sickle-cell allele is much more common in parts of Africa than anywhere else, for instance.

            Also, when scientists do genetic tests to see which populations are related, it doesn’t line up with race especially well.

            The horrible banned discourse people say otherwise, claiming results from principal component analysis that first split off sub-Sarahan African populations from the rest, then break up largely according to conventional races.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Eponymous:

            It’s not the least bit true with respect to gender. The “male/female” division is a pretty obvious way to go.

            Perhaps “continuum” is false, but there is a fuzzy area between fertile females and normal XY males. It’s less than a percent and you can say the Left has blown it all out of proportion to subvert gender norms, but there are hirsute infertile women (polycystic ovarian syndrome), male-bodied people with chromosome disorders, etc.

            Regardless, it’s still quite different from race, which is a continuum whose dividing lines in the West only go back to the Early Modern Spaniards. If you have a population of Europeans and one of Ancient Northeast Asian descent that’s been genetically isolated from Asia for >10,000 years and you buy people from the West African coast, your society’s going to look to you like three simple groups plus castas from interbreeding.

          • Biological race is sort of a real thing, but the obvious superficial differences are pretty much all there is (with some exceptions in small populations, e.g. native Tibetans have a gene that helps them handle high altitudes).

            And sub-Saharan Africans (and some other populations) have genetic adaptation to high levels of sunlight that results in dark skins.

            But how do you know that the obvious superficial differences are all there is? Those differences are the visible result of adaptation to different environments. What reason to you have to believe that there are not also non-obvious differences for the same reason?

          • albatross11 says:

            Eponymous:

            I think most conservatives would prefer to organize society in ways that took less (perhaps no) cognizance of race. Consider affirmative action, for example.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            looking at genetic lines of descent – there are two very important things about human “races” when you look at the genetic code. The first is that humanity has really remarkably low genetic diversity for a mammal species with high numbers. We are not quite cheetahs, who are inbreed to the point of being near-clones, but.. not that far off.
            There was a major bottleneck event at some point.

            The second is that to a first approximation, all the human genetic diversity that exists is african. The “17 major lines, all of them in africa, with one of them being the foundation line for all extra-african bloodlines” thing is pretty typical for the research into this.

            The obvious conclusion to draw from this is that, well, any major differences you are measuring that line up neatly with skin tones and facial features are cultural artifacts.

            If the IQ differences were genetic, you would expect all the extreme outliers to just happen to belong to the descendants of some specific african tribe, the same way marathon champions are all not just black, or Kenyan, but specifically Kalenjin. Which is not what we see, so, presumably, the actual results are diet and culture based.

            And that view has really strong supporting evidence – Diet deficiencies, in particular, is known to wreak a whole lot of havoc on brain development. This, is my own personal theory of the economic development problem. (That is, why are some nations so poor, and why do they suddenly stop being so?) – If you manage to go twenty years with all the children being adequately fed and taught the basics of writing, reading and arithmetic, you get a generation which is a full standard deviation smarter than their parents were, and whoosh, vertical economic takeoff.

          • albatross11 says:

            Thomas Jorgensen:

            I don’t know how much of the observed differences are genetic vs cultural, but it’s worth noting that when we talk about IQ statistics, we’re mostly talking about IQ differences among completely assimilated Americans (and Brits and Frenchmen). If we’re talking about IQ differences between westerners and people in third-world conditions, it seems very plausible that environmental differences explain most of what we see. That case seems a lot harder to make w.r.t. (say) American blacks[1] vs American whites. For example, we do not see malnutrition, depressed height, or depressed athletic performance among American blacks, and it seems like we’d expect to see that among people who were malnourished or otherwise being so hammered by their environment that they couldn’t reach their full potential.

            Also, there are quite a few known, documented differences between broad racial groups in terms of how they respond to medicine, disease prevalence, etc. Even simple stuff like lactase persistence[2] shows up at quite different levels between blacks and whites. All that seems like it contradicts your model–these seem like pretty significant under-the-skin differences. I don’t see why some subtle difference in prevalence of some genes that led to intellectual differences that mostly only become important in the modern world would be ruled out.

            [1] Note that American blacks are mostly from a particular region of Africa where slaves were available at the right time; this doesn’t tell you a huge amount about the rest of blacks in the world.

            [2] Lactase persistence is basically just a marker for whether a lot of your ancestors kept cattle for a long time.

          • If the IQ differences were genetic, you would expect all the extreme outliers to just happen to belong to the descendants of some specific african tribe,

            Has anyone collected IQ statistics on different African groups? When I was a graduate student in physics at Chicago, there was one black in the theoretical group, which largely meant the grad students who got the highest scores on the qualifying exams. He was an Ibo.

            There may be a reason the Ibo are referred to as the Jews of Africa.

            And that view has really strong supporting evidence – Diet deficiencies, in particular, is known to wreak a whole lot of havoc on brain development.

            Another commenter pointed out that racial differences show up in American populations, which are not visibly malnourished. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that people from sub-Saharan Africa are particularly at risk of vitamin D deficiency, due to skin designed for a high sunlight environment. Milk is supplemented with Vitamin D, but Afro-Americans are much more likely than European-Americans to be lactose intolerant. And, as I think I mentioned earlier, it’s arguable that the official figures for vitamin D requirements are too low.

            Put all that together and you have at least one possible environmental effect that would selectively harm Afro-Americans even if they were, in general, adequately nourished.

          • Eponymous says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen:

            To a first approximation, everything you wrote is wrong.

          • johan_larson says:

            @Eponymous:

            Jesus Christ, man, if you’re going to flatly contradict someone, at least take the time to explain why you believe he is wrong. Flat contradiction is really rude.

          • Anonymous says:

            @DavidFriedman

            And, as I think I mentioned earlier, it’s arguable that the official figures for vitamin D requirements are too low.

            They are. By an order of magnitude.

            The RDIs in general are (un)educated guesses. F.ex. (IIRC) potassium is based on the amount that reduces blood pressure in black people; calcium is only that high because the standard diet includes so many antinutrients as to make calcium nearly impossible to absorb; vitamin C requirements depend on the amount of carbohydrates you are eating, etc. I need to get around to compiling the problems with the RDIs.

    • onyomi says:

      I think you may underestimate the “trickle down” effect of popular thinkers. The students don’t read Foucault; the professors read Foucault. The professors teach the journalism students who go on to write for the NYT or become screenwriters. The professors write the textbooks the high school teachers use. The professors get interviewed on NPR and quoted by National Geographic. They’re on the grant committees that choose which artists get funding. The “high” art similarly gets into the water supply and trickles down to the more commercial. The Hollywood stars learn how to virtue signal from the “high” artists and professors.

      Which is not to say that Foucault et al. are sui generis. It may be that there are world-historic socio-economic and/or technological forces making it inevitable that particular strains of thought will rise to prominence. If Foucault had died in infancy, maybe someone else would have come up with something similar.

      That is, Lennon may have been able to teach himself to sing and play the guitar, but where did he get his ideas about what he would sing about? Which is not to say that Lennon only became an anti-war activist because he read a book or talked to a philosophy professor, but I think you’re underestimating the extent to which the latter created the cultural “water supply” Lennon and others were imbibing since childhood.

      • Uribe says:

        FWIW, Lennon claimed his pacifism was influenced by Gandhi, and Gandhi’s pacifism was influenced by letters Tolstoy wrote him.

        • Uribe says:

          Correction: apparently Tolstoy’s Letter to A Hindu was to Tarak Nath Das, but it was published in an Indian newspaper Gandhi read.

          “In “A Letter to a Hindu”, Tolstoy argued that only through the principle of love could the Indian people free themselves from colonial British rule. Tolstoy saw the law of love espoused in all the world’s religions, and he argued that the individual, nonviolent application of the law of love in the form of protests, strikes, and other forms of peaceful resistance were the only alternative to violent revolution. These ideas ultimately proved to be successful in 1947 in the culmination of the Indian Independence Movement.

          In this letter, Tolstoy mentions the works of Swami Vivekananda. This letter, along with Tolstoy’s views, preaching, and his book The Kingdom of God Is Within You, helped to form Mohandas Gandhi’s views about nonviolent resistance.”

          So perhaps Tolstoy deserves credit for some Beatles lyrics and the Peace and Love movement in the 60s.

      • Aapje says:

        @onyomi

        Indeed and along the way these ideas become simplified and distorted.

    • Björn says:

      The statement is both correct and wrong.

      On the one hand, it’s quite clear that the current social justice movement is shaped by how activism via social media works. You have publishing outlets that rely on reiterating what their readers already believe because of economic incentives, and you have people ruminating for hours over their political ideology, because this is one of the things you can do when you spend your life on social media.

      But on the other hand, this is no reason why social justice culture plays out exactly as it does. The actual contents of the social justice movement are shaped by ideas that dominated American universities in the last 40 years. Those are often based on post-structuralist philosophy, though I think more attention should be payed to how post-structuralism changed when it came to America. In fact, if you look farther then the English speaking world, social justice activism is far weaker.

      The problem in Jordan Petersons idea about the social justice movement is that Peterson does not actually know much about poststructuralism and its reception in America. But his observation that the concrete ideas of social justice activism (which are more or less pop culture) originate from very intellectual concepts is true. And the intellectual components are exactly the most dysfunctional ones, like the focus on symbolic things, on fighting things that can not even be defeated, on obsessing about things that are beyond anyones control. So if one cares about making the social justice discourse less dysfunctional, confronting its intellectual origins is quite relevant.

    • Plumber says:

      @Uribe

      “….certainly not by Foucault and Derrida, as Peterson would have us believe…”

      Most of the responses to this post are confusing to me.

      I understand the concept of a “Left” when it’s Lafayette, Robespierre, Marx, Stalin and/or Trotsky, but the “contemporary”, “identity”, “social justice” as described in these comments puzzles me.

      What is the agenda?

      What is the platform?

      Who are the leading voices?

      When “Left” and “Right” are also identified with “Democratic Party” and “Republican Party” then I understand what is meant:
      Democrats keep abortion legal, Republicans cut inheritance and upper income taxes, but most of the discussion here goes over my head, with our host’s early posts on the subject being the hardest fir me to suss out, I’m reminded of trying to keep track of Irish political parties in a link from Deisearch’s.

    • bullseye says:

      Sounds like pretty clear fraud to me.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        It might be fraud, or it might be vaccination.

        • bullseye says:

          I think I misunderstood your question at first. The tv show clearly depicts fraud; your hypothetical question could describe the show, or it could describe vaccination.

    • The Nybbler says:

      This also fits into the discussion of paradigms– someone shows up and talks about a danger you can’t see. They say you should give them money and do what they say in order to avert the danger. Is it a fraud or not?

      Is the danger real or not, and will doing what they say help? There’s a difference between the person selling anti-alligator talismans in NJ and the First Alert rep showing up selling carbon monoxide detectors.

    • Eponymous says:

      This also fits into the discussion of paradigms– someone shows up and talks about a danger you can’t see. They say you should give them money and do what they say in order to avert the danger. Is it a fraud or not?

      So you’re saying the movie is about Global Warming?

  9. theredsheep says:

    Sorry for posting a lot, but I just heard about the verdict in Wunderlich v. Germany. https://adfinternational.org/news/german-homeschoolers-consider-appeal-after-human-rights-court-decision/ Homeschooling has been illegal in Germany since 1919. A Christian family tried to homeschool their kids anyway; the police actually raided their home and took their kids, of whom they apparently now have “partial custody.” They just lost an EU court case to have the law overturned, and are thinking about appealing to the highest court.

    Or so my one admittedly biased source says. European SSCers, is there another angle to this that we’re not hearing about? What’s going on here? And what are their chances?

    • Machine Interface says:

      Homeschooling is generally badly viewed in western Europe and associated with reactionary evangelical/baptist missionaries and/or cults. In countries where it is illegal, engaging in the practice in defiance of the law is considered child neglect, since the children are considered to be denied proper education. It is thus seen as reasonable ground for loss of custody.

      In France homeschooling is legal but under pretty strict conditions — the child must be registered in an official long-distance learning school, the parents must give a reasonable justification for why they want to homeschool their kid, and there are frequent controls by social services.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I see why those laws are in place, but as a former homeschool student who really enjoyed it and considers it a significant factor in my love of reading, I really don’t like them.

        Okay, I might accept the French ones, if “reasonable justification” is interpreted loosely enough. How is it, typically?

        • Eponymous says:

          love of reading

          I see you didn’t get the standard state-sponsored programming. Hopefully you didn’t read anything…subversive.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think like everything else, this is good intentions (because kids not turning up to school can be a persistent truancy problem which can be the result of parental neglect or abuse, and secretive abusive families can use the excuse of homeschooling to isolate the victims from any sources of help) taken too far. It’s more understandable to have suspicions about homeschooling in nations where school shootings don’t happen and where the level of security needed is much lower (with fewer but still existent problems of drug dealing, discipline, etc.) than it is in America, where parents may have very good reasons to pull kids out of public schools not just on educational but other grounds.

          On the other hand, the sort of aggressive laïcité in France and secular progressive values in Germany can lend themselves to this seeming “we use the power of the state to make sure all children are indoctrinated with correct thinking”. I think parents should have a little more room to exert authority over what they want their children to be taught, especially when it comes to social values. Yes, I think it would be bad if kids were taught that the earth is flat and only six thousand years old, but that’s something that can be remedied later on when they go out into the world as adults. ‘Religion is child abuse’ is not something so easily remedied.

          • Eponymous says:

            seeming “we use the power of the state to make sure all children are indoctrinated with correct thinking”.

            Not seeming, but the actual reality.

            I think it would be bad if kids were taught that the earth is flat and only six thousand years old

            Given the actual observed outcomes of the public school system, I’m not sure this would be worse.

            In my case, learning about (and later rejecting) Creationism was intellectually useful practice in thinking for myself. Maybe schools should intentionally teach obviously wrong things for this purpose.

          • BBA says:

            Maybe schools should intentionally teach obviously wrong things for this purpose.

            I remember being taught the “tongue map” in school – you know, how different parts of your tongue detect different tastes, with sweet by the tip, then salty, etc.

            This was obviously wrong to me, and to any other students who noticed they taste all the different tastes throughout their mouths. (This got explained away as “the tastes mix together in your mouth”, which satisfied 9-year-old me until we moved on to another topic.) And it turns out it’s something nobody seriously believed – it was a mistranslation of a German paper that somehow got incorporated into the American elementary school science curriculum for a few decades. It was obvious nonsense and nobody noticed or cared.

            Now maybe some people learned a lesson about critical thinking, years after the fact when they found out the textbook was wrong, I don’t know. Seems to me that if this were done intentionally, it’d work about as well as this unintentional example.

          • I was taught something wrong in Drivers Ed–that two cars hitting head on, each at 50 mph, was equivalent for each to hitting a brick wall at 100 mph. I objected that it was not true, the Drivers Ed teacher said that was what the book said and he didn’t know if it was true, so we agreed to take it to the physics teacher. The physics teacher said it was true, although he had no answer to my proof that it could not be true–he was the teacher, I was the student, so what he said went.

            That was very educational.

            Getting closer to the comment above, I’ve thought it might be educational to have a high school class with arguments both for and against creationism, ideally with the students heavily involved, taking sides, trying to go online to find arguments for each side.

            As best I can tell, most people who support what I think are correct scientific beliefs, such as evolution, believe them because that’s what they were taught by people they considered in authority, not because they actually understand the theory and the arguments.

          • onyomi says:

            @BBA

            What interests me about the “tongue map” is the fact of its ubiquity and longevity. I suspect there’s something about it that gives it a strong viral potential beyond simple happenstance.

            I think formal education likes models and ideas that break the world into well-defined categories and that can be illustrated in cute charts. This fits the bill perfectly. I am especially interested in this because of certain systematizing impulses in Chinese culture (yin-yang, five elements) that, while weirdly accurate in some cases, definitely also get applied over-broadly (Western humour theory, etc. also).

          • Doctor Mist says:

            DavidFriedman:

            What’s your proof? The assertion sounds right to me.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @Doctor Mist:
            Calculate the total energy involved in each collision, proportional to the sum of the velocities’ squares (KE = 1/2 m v^2)
            100mph and 0 mph:
            E = 100^2 Convenient Energy Units + 0 CEU
            = 10000 CEU
            50 mph and 50 mph:
            E = 50^2 CEU + 50^2 CEU
            = 2 * 2500 CEU
            = 5000 CEU, half as much energy involved.

          • What’s your proof?

            The simplest is to make the two cars mirror images of each other and hang a sheet exactly between them. No part of either car can pass the sheet, since there is an identical part of the other car pushing just as hard on the other side. So the sheet behaves like a perfectly rigid brick wall. That was the proof I offered.

            If you prefer, you can do it by kinetic energy per car to be dissipated or by momentum change: -50 mph for each car in either situation if it’s a perfect inelastic collision, -100 if perfectly elastic.

          • uau says:

            @Doctor Mist:

            It’s obviously assumed that the brick wall is a completely immovable object. Hitting either the brick wall or a similar car going in the opposite direction will both drop your velocity to zero, a change of 50.

            If you hit an infinitely heavy truck instead of a similar car, that can be close to hitting the wall at 100, because now your speed also changes by 100 (from 50 to -50).

          • johan_larson says:

            No need to theorize. The Mythbusters ran actual experiments with cars (and sledgehammers):

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-W937NM11o8

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            If you hit an infinitely heavy truck instead of a similar car, that can be close to hitting the wall at 100, because now your speed also changes by 100 (from 50 to -50).

            Yes, I think this is the key. When the 100 mph car hits the brick wall, the deceleration is from 100 to 0. When the two 50 mph cars hit each other the deceleration for each is from 50 to 0. It is only if one of the cars starting going 50 mph backwards would they have equivalent deceleration.

            Of course if the time of deceleration between the two scenarios is different, then that will make a difference. But I’ve never heard anyone make an argument as to the deceleration time difference.

          • bean says:

            Getting closer to the comment above, I’ve thought it might be educational to have a high school class with arguments both for and against creationism, ideally with the students heavily involved, taking sides, trying to go online to find arguments for each side.

            I once saw a paper on a college professor who did this in freshman biology. They had three different sections. Normal, heavy evolution, and one that took creationism/intelligent design somewhat seriously. In the opposite of what almost everyone I know who isn’t an SSC reader would expect, the ID-friendly class saw by far the greatest change in attitudes on the part of students towards accepting evolution, while the evolution-heavy version resulted in the pro-ID students basically just digging in and changing less.

            I’ve unfortunately lost the cite, but it was given to me by a guy who was teaching a series on creationism at my church, and doing such a terrible job that my family stopped attending Sunday School that summer. He framed it as “the other side doing research into how to convert Our Youth”. I looked at it, and thought “this basically proves that everyone is fighting on the wrong side of the issue”.

        • Machine Interface says:

          > Evan Þ

          “Okay, I might accept the French ones, if “reasonable justification” is interpreted loosely enough. How is it, typically?”

          From what I can tell from the texts, there’s actually no wrong answer per se. Rather, the inspectors make sure that the justifications given by the parents correspond to the actual situation and that homeschooling is compatible with the family’s situation and the health of the child.

          Numbers for 2012 give about 92,000 homeschool children in France, so it could be a lot of people making the demands are denied, but it could also be that it’s not a popular option — France has plenty of alternatives to the public school, including an extensive network of private schools, both of the traditional-religious-establishment kinds and of the alternative-education kind, as well as “private schools under state contracts”, private establishments that operate autonomously but receive state subventions as long as they teach the official curricula (they are allowed to dispense other teachings, including religious ones, in addition), which are considerably less expensive than “pure” private schools and seen as a desirable option by a lot of middle class parents, including middle class muslim parents (these institutions generally have better quality of teaching and better environment than public school in urban areas) .

    • eigenmoon says:

      Here HSLDA gives a timeline.

      They moved out to France (smart) but then had trouble finding work and returned back to Germany, which was already considering them criminals and they knew it.

      German police can be extremely annoying. But moving to Germany to openly violate its laws while already been well-known to the German government doesn’t sound like a very rational thing to do, although I don’t know their specific situation. An EU citizen can move to any EU country to work, and Austria is a German-speaking country that allows homeschooling… just saying.

      They had no case in ECHR whatsoever. You can’t seriously go in there and claim that something that’s banned in Germany, Sweden and Netherlands is your human right.

      • John Schilling says:

        You can’t seriously go [to ECHR] and claim that something that’s banned in Germany, Sweden and Netherlands is your human right.

        So if right-wing majorities win temporary control of those three governments and pass laws against, say, practicing Islam(*), it would be ridiculous to go to the ECHR with a claim that religious freedom is a human right?

        I think you’re going to want a standard that doesn’t make the ECHR seem quite so useless and redundant. And for that matter, if being banned by a handful of EU governments makes something “not a human right”, then “human right” becomes redundant with “stuff nobody ever makes laws against”. Or maybe the point is to just have an august body that sanctifies whatever EU governments chose to do as being 100% human-rights-compliant.

        * Or Scientology, or Nashville-declaration Christianity, for different political alignments

        • eigenmoon says:

          The European Court of Human Rights is supposed to understand human rights as they’re defined in the European Convention on Human Rights (1953). So “human rights” here might mean “stuff nobody made laws against in 1953”. Stuff banned by several European countries simply won’t end up in the convention.

          Freedom of religion is in the convention, but the governments may prohibit particular religious practices.

          Does that make ECHR useless? I dunno, compared to what? Imagine that somebody walks in some US court and says “hey, smoking weed is my human right!” and the court is like “ooh! how didn’t we see that before? let’ make it legal throughout the US!” Now such a court would be useful, but there isn’t one.

          • Deiseach says:

            Imagine that somebody walks in some US court and says “hey, smoking weed is my human right!” and the court is like “ooh! how didn’t we see that before? let’ make it legal throughout the US!”

            To be blunt, that sounds like how gay marriage was legalised. I don’t think the argument “this is banned in these three countries so don’t try arguing it’s a human right” is sufficient; I’d be sympathetic since I think things like “reproductive rights” (a.k.a. abortion) were legalised under similar arguments and I don’t agree with that, but on the other hand you do have to argue a case on more than “it’s banned in three countries” (since the return to that is “and it’s legal in six”). And the authority of parents over their children has surely been long considered a natural right, superior to any claim by a government or other body over the children?

          • eigenmoon says:

            I don’t think the argument “this is banned in these three countries so don’t try arguing it’s a human right” is sufficient

            I believe there’s a massive confusion here.

            To argue that “X is a human right” means to say:
            – yay! to establishing/defending a law that everybody may do X and to those who support that
            – boo! to the countries that prevent people from doing X and to those who support that

            To argue that “X should be upheld by the ECHR” roughly means to argue that every European country has a law that everybody may do X (and something something ratification). This is simply what ECHR is. There is no other philosophical or political viewpoint from which the ECHR may operate.

            When I say that ECHR isn’t going to uphold X as a human right, I’m not saying yay or boo to X. I’m not trying to suggest that you should say yay or boo about X. It’s just how ECHR rolls.

            And the authority of parents over their children has surely been long considered a natural right, superior to any claim by a government or other body over the children?

            Since when and by whom? Not just Germany, but Obama’s administration thinks otherwise. Again, I’m not saying boo to the authority of parents.

          • John Schilling says:

            The European Court of Human Rights is supposed to understand human rights as they’re defined in the European Convention on Human Rights (1953)

            The one that says “In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”

            If someone’s reason for homeschooling their children is that they are fundamentalist Christians and all the state-approve schools teach things that contradict core doctrines of fundamentalist Christianity, that would seem to be something the ECHR should fairly specifically side with the parents on.

            At minimum, saying that “you can’t seriously go to the ECHR” with such a claim, seems a bit much.

            Does that make ECHR useless?

            Yeah, pretty much. If the ECHR is going to just say, “if it were a human right, obviously no Western European government would ever pass a law against it, so since we can see that someone passed a law against it, it must not be a human-rights issue, carry on”, then I’m not seeing what the ECHR is good for. Possibly you can explain that part.

            Imagine that somebody walks in some US court and says “hey, smoking weed is my human right!” and the court is like “ooh! how didn’t we see that before? let’ make it legal throughout the US!” Now such a court would be useful, but there isn’t one.

            You’re not terribly familiar with the United States, are you?

            The supreme courts of several US states have done exactly that, starting with Alaska in 1975 and on the basis of private marijuana consumption coming under a previously-recognized human right to privacy. The United States Supreme Court made abortion legal throughout the US on similar grounds, and could do so w/re marijuana but so far has not felt the need – in large part I suspect because SCOTUS mostly deals with federal issues and the US federal government has been very careful to not enforce its laws against private use and local distribution of marijuana in recent years.

          • eigenmoon says:

            that would seem to be something the ECHR should fairly specifically side with the parents on.

            OK, now I see what they were hoping for in ECHR.

            The problem with the article you’ve cited is that it’s anything but specific. Germany can (and probably did) say “OK, we totally respect your right to ensure yadda yadda … as long as it’s done in a state school of course”. And now the parents have to prove to ECHR that they absolutely can’t do that within the state school. This might be the problem.

            I’m not seeing what the ECHR is good for. Possibly you can explain that part.

            I guess ECHR is good for preventing regressions. A state can’t easily say “we reconsider, this isn’t going to be a human right anymore” because if it was a human right in 1953, then ECHR has the power to enforce it.

            You’re not terribly familiar with the United States, are you?

            I guess not. Well, those semi-legislative courts sound useful. Unfortunately I don’t think Europe does that sort of thing.

          • John Schilling says:

            The problem with the article you’ve cited is that it’s anything but specific. Germany can (and probably did) say “OK, we totally respect your right to ensure yadda yadda … as long as it’s done in a state school of course”. And now the parents have to prove to ECHR that they absolutely can’t do that within the state school. This might be the problem.

            So, in the event of a human rights violation, the burden of proof is on the victim, and if the state comes up with any sort of excuse for what they are doing, the ECHR will say “…but the state says it isn’t violating anyone’s human rights, so I guess there isn’t a human rights violation; carry on”?

            I’m going to go with, useless against any competent tyrant or authoritarian busybody. And looking at wikipedia’s list of the ECHR’s greatest hits, yeah, I’m not seeing much to brag about.

          • theredsheep says:

            This sounds like one of those civil law versus common law distinctions. Never did totally understand how civil law (or whatever the descendant of Justinian’s code, followed in Europe, is called) was supposed to work.

          • eigenmoon says:

            the ECHR will say “…but the state says it isn’t violating anyone’s human rights, so I guess there isn’t a human rights violation; carry on”?

            Yes, I’ve found the ECHR’s judgment and this is pretty much exactly what ECHR actually said. However, the Wunderlichs were going with a different article for some reason.

            useless against any competent tyrant or authoritarian busybody.

            Well, there’s no actual way to enforce the court’s decisions on non-EU countries, so a country may simply flip it off like Russia did. Within EU, a much more powerful mechanism is coming up, namely the Cohesion Policy (“you’d better behave or no EU money for you… yes we’re looking at you, Orban”). Germany and France can do whatever they want anyway since they’re paying for the whole show.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The problem with the article you’ve cited is that it’s anything but specific. Germany can (and probably did) say “OK, we totally respect your right to ensure yadda yadda … as long as it’s done in a state school of course”. And now the parents have to prove to ECHR that they absolutely can’t do that within the state school. This might be the problem.

            Why would that be a problem? If the school is teaching things which contradict the parents’ religion, it seems fairly trivially true that this teaching is not “in conformity with [the parents’] religious… convictions.”

          • acymetric says:

            I think you could at least make the argument (I don’t know how well it would stand up to precedent) that “in conformity with religious convictions” would cover actions (forcing students to pray to a different god, somehow forcing students to eat foods prohibited by their religion, not allowing them to wear required religious clothing, other better examples that I can’t think of) but not exposure to ideas being taught that contradict the religious beliefs.

          • John Schilling says:

            Within EU, a much more powerful mechanism is coming up, namely the Cohesion Policy

            The enforcement mechanism isn’t the problem. The enforcement mechanism could be Almighty Zeus striking down any and all violators with lightning, or the Orbital Mind Control Lasers implanting a deep “The ECHR was right all along” belief in the relevant government officials.

            If the ECHR’s decisions are always “No human rights violations here; carry on”, so long as the state uses the right phrasing for its claim that it isn’t violating human rights, then the ECHR is useless no matter how powerful the enforcement mechanism.

            If the ECHR is willing to accuse outgroup nations like Russia of human-rights violations, where there is no possibility of enforcement, but always rubber-stamps member states’ government decisions where it could meaningfully protect human rights, that’s just an annoyingly pious brand of useless.

          • ana53294 says:

            The ECHR has ruled several times against the Spanish government, mostly about the treatment of the Basque conflict. So years after politicians were jailed, or newspapers got closed, the Spanish government had to pay a nominal fine (basically, a tap on the wrist).

            This time, with the Catalan, round, the Spanish government has learned to nominally play by the rules. Innocent Catalan politicians have already spent a year in jail, without a sentence (the whole innocent until proven guilty). They appealed the jailing to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court took the case (if they reject it, they can appeal to the ECHR). But they haven’t made any decisions yet (so they can’t appeal that decision yet). And the Spanish justice system is doing what it does best – take forever to reach a decision.

            This kind of tactic should be illegal, and it shouldn’t be allowed, because then any government can play the rules. You give people some unfair sentence quickly in the lower courts, and then make sure that the higher courts take their sweet time. Then, by the time the case has gone to the ECHR, people have already served their sentence, you have already scared the people you wanted, and you pay a couple of million euros for the pleasure.

            So yes, the ECHR is useless. And also powerless.

      • They had no case in ECHR whatsoever. You can’t seriously go in there and claim that something that’s banned in Germany, Sweden and Netherlands is your human right.

        Does “can’t seriously go in and claim” means “if you do, you shouldn’t be surprised to lose your case” or does it mean “the claim is obviously false”?

        Are human rights created by legislatures, or are the acts of legislatures merely relevant to predicting the verdicts courts will give?

        • eigenmoon says:

          I meant both. The European Court of Human Rights protects human rights as defined in the European Convention on Human Rights. If several EU countries have something banned, then it’s not in the Convention, otherwise those countries wouldn’t ratify it.

          You may define human rights in some other way, and probably it would include more rights than the EU government wants its citizens to have, and I would totally side with you, but it would have little to no relevance to whatever the European Court of Human Rights is doing.

          Are human rights created by legislatures, or are the acts of legislatures merely relevant to predicting the verdicts courts will give?

          The latter. Human rights are Schelling points against legislatures, as in “if you mess with these rights of ours, we’re going to make a big fuss”.

          Sometimes some country is in such a big mess that the people who want to be the legislature have no other way to achieve that but to promise to uphold a new human right. That’s great but I don’t think that counts as human rights created by legislatures.

  10. pjs says:

    It must be an trite observation that a great nonfiction book is one addressing a reader with similar views/knowledge/priors as the author, but which pushes the reader just a bit further into new territory (or challenges the reader, but in a calibrated way). If you haven’t even approached the territory, you really don’t get it. If you are beyond it, you learn nothing and just become annoyed by all the flaws. If you are on a different path altogether, it’s alien or forgettable. I’m thinking mostly, but not entirely, of technical books and textbooks as I write this.

    Do people agree? And if so, what’s the ‘great statement’ of this view?
    (Maybe this in English Lit 101, but I never took that!)

  11. johan_larson says:

    It is 1935, and you are a German. You are you in personality and attitudes, with appropriate edits to make you a German national and citizen. Your social position and lifestyle match your life in this timeline, with appropriate edits for plausibility. You do not remember your life here.

    A kindly time traveler has taken you aside and explained, with the aid of impressively high technology, what the next ten years will bring. He gave you plenty of time to ask any questions you had, and gave credible answers. Then he left.

    Now what do you do?

    • Plumber says:

      Try best to immigrate to the United States and be in place to work on the Manhattan Project.

    • albertborrow says:

      Run away? Defect to Britain and help Turing? That’s about all I can think of. Ideas like “assassinate Hitler” come to mind, but it’s not like he was the sole architect of WWII, and I’d imagine he had a protection detail capable of warding off an overweight untrained combatant.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Given how often Hitler’s generals opposed him, you could easily say he was the sole architect of WWII-as-we-know-it. Without him, we probably would have seen a later and much more limited war.

        There were several attempts at assassinating Hitler that got very close to succeeding. I might easily try another one… but part of me can’t help but think that whatever mysterious quality that protected him from Georg Elser et al would also protect him from me. After all, I now know I live in a universe with mysterious time travelers.

        • bullseye says:

          Hitler’s would-be killers were military officers with legitimate reasons to be in the same room with him. I imagine it would have been much more difficult for someone without that access.

          • johan_larson says:

            Yes, especially since in 1935 Hitler is already head of state of Germany. He has security, and plenty of it.

          • Evan Þ says:

            His best-known would-be assassins, but Bavaud and Elser were ordinary citizens who got pretty close.

            Getting in touch with the generals (perhaps through the agency of more approachable people like Bonhoeffer) would very likely be better, though. Maybe I could do that and then escape to Britain / Switzerland / America, if Bonhoeffer doesn’t convince me to stay for the same reasons he did?

    • honoredb says:

      My first instinct is to write it all up as a novel (very detailed toward the beginning, sketchier when it comes to Allied strategy), emigrate, then arrange for it to be published (analogue-me could get that done, I’m pretty sure). When events start following it beat-by-beat, hopefully it becomes a self-defeating prophecy through some mechanism or other.

      If I were trying to change history through personal action, though, maybe I’d approach Erwin Rommel. Rommel-1935 is a decorated war hero, a patriot, and well respected for finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts, but also doesn’t hold an active government position yet so he’s probably easy to get ahold of. He’s an engineering nerd, so if I’ve asked the time traveler about the details of immediate future technology (and I probably would have regardless) I can give Rommel decent evidence that my story is true, but even if not he might be susceptible to emotional appeals from a Jew. Rommel in our timeline supported Hitler, became an important army commander, then turned against him (probably on moral grounds), tried to depose him, and died. If he could’ve seen the path ahead, I think he would’ve found a way to take his country off of it.

    • johan_larson says:

      For me, the answer is probably to emigrate. As a highly educated engineer trained by the finest scientific establishment on the planet, that should be possible. North America, South America, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, … , there are a lot of options.

      If for some reason I can’t leave, living through the war as a middle-aged man wouldn’t be so bad. Find work in a small town in the western part of the country, don’t make a fuss, and do useful but not critical work. Make a habit of canning before the war to make the wartime and reconstruction-era rationing easier to bear.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Yeah, like Plumber, I’ve suddenly discovered a burning desire to move to the US. It does not appear there was any strong barrier to immigration of Germans, and my skill in whatever profession bit-wrangling has been edited to should keep me fed and clothed. I suppose I might tell someone about what I “think” is happening in Germany, suggesting I heard things from other upper-middle-class German professionals who were better connected, but I’m keeping my mouth shut about this time traveler (don’t want to be deported as a mental defective).

      • johan_larson says:

        whatever profession bit-wrangling has been edited to

        Probably a technician or engineer in printing, telecommunications, or some sort of archiving equipment. Perhaps you verk for die phone company.

        There is data-processing equipment in 1935, but it’s electromechanical and works with punched cards or paper tapes.

      • albatross11 says:

        The obvious answer is to emigrate.

        But I think before I did, I’d try to find some way to convince as many Jews as possible to GTFO. I’m not sure how. If I had Jewish friends and neighbors (likely given my technical/academic bent), I’d be in a decent position to tell them that this Hitler dude was scary as hell, and that they needed to get out even more badly than I did. Maybe quote the relevant bits of Mein Kampf to them until I got the reputation of being a crank on the subject, in hopes that as things continued to get worse, a few more of them would decide that the guy with the pathological fear of Hitler was maybe onto something and leave.

      • Deiseach says:

        It does not appear there was any strong barrier to immigration of Germans

        In 1935 you were probably okay. After war had been declared, though? I think myself that anti-German sentiment in the US was not as strong down to (a) it had been very vehement during the First World War and after that, German-American associations and private citizens made strenuous efforts to prove they were Good Americans and to cut off any rise in anti-German sentiment and (b) Japanese-Americans and Japanese nationals in the US took the brunt of anti-alien sentiment due to the attack on Pearl Harbour, whereas the Nazis hadn’t directly attacked any American bases or craft (unlike the case of the Lusitania in the First World War which did whip up similar levels of extreme anti-German prejudice).

        From Wikipedia:

        Between 1931 and 1940, 114,000 Germans and thousands of Austrians moved to the United States, many of whom — including, e.g., Nobel prize winner Albert Einstein, Lion Feuchtwanger, Bertold Brecht, Henry Kissinger, Arnold Schönberg, Hanns Eisler and Thomas Mann — were either Jewish Germans or anti-Nazis fleeing Nazi oppression. About 25,000 people became paying members of the pro-Nazi German American Bund during the years before the war. The Alien Registration Act of 1940 required 300,000 German-born resident aliens who had German citizenship to register with the Federal government and restricted their travel and property ownership rights. Under the still active Alien Enemy Act of 1798, the United States government interned nearly 11,000 German citizens between 1940 and 1948. Civil rights violations occurred. An unknown number of “voluntary internees” joined their spouses and parents in the camps and were not permitted to leave. With the war ongoing in Europe but the U.S. neutral, a massive defense buildup took place, requiring many new hires. Private companies sometimes refused to hire any non-citizen, or American citizens of German or Italian ancestry. This threatened the morale of loyal Americans. President Franklin Roosevelt considered this “stupid” and “unjust”. In June 1941 he issued Executive Order 8802 and set up the Fair Employment Practice Committee, which also protected blacks.

        …The October 1939 seizure by the German pocket battleship Deutschland of the US freighter SS City of Flint, as it had 4000 tons of oil for Britain on board, provoked much anti-German sentiment in the US.

        Following its entry into the War against Nazi Germany on 11 December 1941, the US Government interned thousands of German and Italian citizens as enemy aliens. In some cases their American-born family members volunteered to accompany them to internment camps in order to keep the family unit together. The last to be released remained in custody until 1948.

        So for a German emigrating to the US in 1935, I’d advise them: stay far away from the Bund or anything related to it (and that could include otherwise innocent German-American associations), keep your nose very clean, make sure you integrate into mainstream American culture very fast and make sure you support All-American values and pastimes (get interested in baseball whether or not you like sports, for example, and once war bonds and the like come along buy buy buy to show you are doing your patriotic duty) and be careful not to get employed in any business or industry that could be later considered sensitive war work (otherwise you are going to look like a spy or fifth columnist). Also loudly declare at any and all opportunities how you hate Hitler and the Nazis, but since you’ve done all this because of the time-traveler’s warning, you’re probably doing that anyway.

    • Protagoras says:

      I see that it has already been taken by several others, but surely that’s because it’s such a blazingly obvious choice. Emigrate to the United States.

    • theredsheep says:

      What was his credible answer for why he didn’t go back to the trenches in 1917 and quietly shank Private Hitler? Or any time before or after?

      • johan_larson says:

        That question keeps coming up. At this rate, I’ll win my bet.

        The answer is that many attempts have been made to kill or distract or change Adolf Hitler and other major political figures of your era, and the effects are typically disastrous. We don’t know exactly why, but there are signs the time-stream has been heavily edited around them, and the leading theory is that these edits have scarred or strained the timestream somehow. That’s an analogy, of course. But we dare not try again.

        This conversation we are having now is something of an experiment. We are curious to see what fairly ordinary people would do if given advance warning.

    • bullseye says:

      I’d get the hell out, to be sure. I have two Jewish grandparents, which makes me Jewish according to Nazi law.

      I’d probably go to Switzerland instead of the U.S. It’s closer, many of them speak German, and they’re never going to war with Germany so there’s less risk of them thinking I’m a spy.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      There are two options as I see it:

      1. Immediately go to france and start off by shocking/impressing the french general staff with your immense technical knowledge of german and french military technology [which you could obtain from your time traveling friend who I would assume also has the ability to, say, print detailed blueprints of past war technology]

      Inform them that in 1936 Germany will invade the Rhineland but that Hitler is vastly overstating Germany’s military capabilities and France could re-occupy the rhineland [and possibly overthrow hitler] without instituting conscription.
      You might also inform them about operation sicklestroke

      2. Immediately go to Hitler and/or the german general staff and inform them that after effectively annexing Czcechoslovakia an attempt to force poland to cede Danzig would result in a long and protracted war that cost germany lives and territory.

      You would need to have on hand detailed information about the outcome of events between 1935 and 1939 to convince them that you’re a credible source. Having tables of otherwise improbable to predict outcomes like sports events [think, back to the future] weather phenomenon, stock prices, etc.

      #2 is obviously way more controversial if you think Hitler would have opted for a second world war knowing full-well britain would not sue for peace, you could argue they would just force you to design their battle plans and military tech schematics etc. etc. I’m inclined to think Hitler was Cynical but not crazy, at least not until the very end of the war. And most people are of the opinion the 3rd reich should have been destroyed in its entirety even if a war over poland could have been avoided.

      • Evan Þ says:

        And most people are of the opinion the 3rd reich should have been destroyed in its entirety even if a war over poland could have been avoided.

        All else equal, I entirely agree. But on the other hand, if you compare “leave the Third Reich in place in Germany for however long” to “Fight WWII, enable the Reich to genocide the Jews of Eastern Europe, and put the Communists in power there for forty-five years”… then things get more questionable, and I’d need to look much more closely at where we’re setting things to go instead.

      • Deiseach says:

        Immediately go to france and start off by shocking/impressing the french general staff with your immense technical knowledge of german and french military technology [which you could obtain from your time traveling friend who I would assume also has the ability to, say, print detailed blueprints of past war technology]

        Problem with that is you’d have to convince the French that the Maginot Line is useless due to the Germans’ Cunning Plan of going around it and entering via Belgium, and that is going to be very difficult because it involves national pride, a huge sink of time, effort, money and resources, and a psychological crutch (the Franco-Prussian War and the First World War is still affecting the national psyche and the idea of A Massive Wall Of Fierce Military Protection is doing a lot of work in keeping people from panicking).

        You coming along and telling them that actually they should be panicking and making plans for a new nasty war because despite all their careful planning the Germans are still going to steamroller over them is not going to go down well:

        The Maginot Line …was a line of concrete fortifications, obstacles, and weapon installations built by France in the 1930s to deter invasion by Germany and force them to move around the fortifications. …(T)he line did not extend to the English Channel due to French strategy that envisioned a move into Belgium to counter a German assault.

        …French military experts extolled the Line as a work of genius that would deter German aggression, because it would slow an invasion force long enough for French forces to mobilise and counterattack.

        …Instead of attacking directly, the Germans invaded through the Low Countries, bypassing the Line to the north. French and British officers had anticipated this: when Germany invaded the Netherlands and Belgium, they carried out plans to form an aggressive front that cut across Belgium and connected to the Maginot Line. However, the French line was weak near the Ardennes forest. The French believed this region, with its rough terrain, would be an unlikely invasion route of German forces; if it was traversed, it would be done at a slow rate that would allow the French time to bring up reserves and counterattack. The German Army, having reformulated their plans from a repeat of the First World War-era plan, became aware of and exploited this weak point in the French defensive front. A rapid advance through the forest and across the River Meuse encircled much of the Allied forces, resulting in a sizeable force being evacuated at Dunkirk leaving the forces to the south unable to mount an effective resistance to the German invasion of France.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          … You could tell them that the German fortifications are a complete paper tiger, and that French armor is vastly superior to German ditto, both of which are true facts. (French armor doctrine is not, but that can be fixed a lot faster than spinning up new armor production lines)

          A French offensive into the Rhine during the German attack on Poland would easily reach the Rhine, because Hitler had stripped the German defenses completely bare to the point where they were manned by veterans of the great war with ten bullets each. Once the French army and the expeditionary force are standing on the Rhine, that is the game – German industrial supply chains just got completely wrecked, and someone will bloody well shoot Hitler and sue for peace. Very short war. That of course, then leaves you with a bit of a post war mess – The soviets are rolling into Poland from the east, so.. are you now at war with Russia?

          You could also do this over the Sudetenland, but the Brits would probably not back you.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Problem with that is you’d have to convince the French that the Maginot Line is useless due to the Germans’ Cunning Plan of going around it and entering via Belgium, and that is going to be very difficult because it involves national pride, a huge sink of time, effort, money and resources, and a psychological crutch (the Franco-Prussian War and the First World War is still affecting the national psyche and the idea of A Massive Wall Of Fierce Military Protection is doing a lot of work in keeping people from panicking).

          Actually, that was part of the plan: the Maginot Line was meant to form part of a joint Franco-Belgian defensive line against Germany. You’d be better placed trying to convince them to extend it slightly to cover the Ardennes, and then going to Belgium to convince their King not to cancel his alliance with France in favour of neutrality.

        • bean says:

          The Magniot Line did exactly what it was supposed to do. The problem was that the French managed to badly bungle the second part of the plan, which involved defeating the Germans in Belgium. That was mostly due to serious operational problems. Information often took a couple of days to travel between the French General Staff and the front lines, in either direction. I’m debating if this can be fixed by giving them better information or not.

    • nweining says:

      I’m tempted to say I’d emigrate, but Victor Klemperer is eerily similar to who I think I would have been in that place and time with appropriate edits (humanities nerd rather than engineering being the biggest difference), and he was much more prescient about where Hitler was going than most Germans of his time, Jewish or otherwise, and he dug his heels in and stayed. Which makes this thread perhaps an appropriate place to recommend his astonishing diary, published in two volumes in English translation as _I Will Bear Witness_.

      Notable quotation: “I will not go to Palestine. Whoever goes there only exchanges narrowness and nationalism for nationalism and narrowness.”

    • arlie says:

      The setup (comments to other responses) suggest that none of the upcoming disasters (war, holocaust, etc.) are preventable.

      If I’m “me” – complete with my current age, health, financial status, etc., I’m getting out, and taking all my friends and relatives with me. If my language skills are as meh as they are IRL, Switzerland seems like a good idea; if I’m at the same percentile for my country as currently (= middle of the pack), I have more good choices, assuming Germans then were as linguistically able as they are today.

      Once out, I’m working to get other people out, and to influence wherever I end up to accept more refugees. (Lots of people who tried to leave couldn’t get visas, etc.) With knowledge of the future, I can almost certainly increase my wealth significantly – whether via investments or via organizing research of tech we’re just about ready for. That will also be used primarily for refugees.

      If I weren’t reasonably sure that the war and associated disasters can’t be prevented, I’d be kind of torn – but probably succumb to cowardice/consciousness of mortality, and flee anyway. I don’t think I’m the sort of person that’s capable of influencing politics in any way other than providing funds for causes I approve of.

    • Anonymous says:

      Now what do you do?

      Join the Nazi party. Try to avoid taking any oaths incompatible with the Catholic faith. Use the time traveler’s infodump to rise to power, and gain Hitler’s ear. Do my best to steer him away from making the major blunders. Reduce his paranoia by pre-emptively foiling assassination attempts. See the Madagascar plan succeed, or something like it. Hopefully, Germany can win this time around, and commit fewer atrocities.

      I’d probably die trying, but that’s no reason not to make the attempt.

      (What? Did you think I would abandon my homeland to be smashed into ruin, millions of my countrymen to die and be sent into slavery – and for nothing? To permit the eastern and western communists to divide the world between themselves?)

      • The Nybbler says:

        Your desired outcome is the world of The Man in the High Castle, a world split between Eastern and Western fascists (and a prison camp on Madagascar)?

      • arlie says:

        Good for you.

        • Anonymous says:

          Not really. The scenario is actually grim in terms of options. In honesty, I’m not sure my courage wouldn’t fail me. But then I would have the foreknowledge of events to back me up – if I don’t intervene, horrible things will happen to my people. They will probably even happen if I do intervene, but then I can at least rest in peace, knowing that I had made the attempt.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        If you’ve got Hitler’s ear, it would probably be better to get him alone and then kill him yourself. Or, if you don’t fancy that, find out what went wrong in a historical murder plot, then warn the conspirators about that.

        • Anonymous says:

          If you’ve got Hitler’s ear, it would probably be better to get him alone and then kill him yourself.

          Feign friendship with, then murder in cold blood the leader of my people? The GM ought give me negative XP for not playing my character believably.

          Or, if you don’t fancy that, find out what went wrong in a historical murder plot, then warn the conspirators about that.

          Still a willing accessory to murder.

          • johan_larson says:

            Or maybe tell Hitler how far he can go without getting Germany in a massive war. He can rearm the nation, reclaim the Saarland, unify with Austria, and claim the Sudetenland. He might, possibly, be able to claim the German-speaking portions of Poland too. But going further means war, war that will go well at first but eventually turn into a disaster.

          • bean says:

            @johan

            Obligatory mention of Wages of Destruction. Hitler couldn’t stop there because the economy would have fallen to pieces.

          • johan_larson says:

            Why did Germany need more land? If Sweden in the early twentieth century could live on the land it had, and be decently prosperous doing so, why couldn’t Germany do the same?

            I can see why that wouldn’t be true if Germany aspired to be a military world power. Having hundreds of millions of people who could be drafted for war would be necessary for that, given that the competition included the British Empire and the United States. But if they accepted having only means of credible self-defense, they could have done just fine as a scientific and industrial powerhouse, sort of like a much larger Switzerland.

            What am I missing?

          • bean says:

            What am I missing?

            Hitler. The problem was that he saw being a world-class military power as necessary for ideological reasons, so he essentially mortgaged Germany’s economy in the mid-30s to try to get it while maintaining a high enough standard of living to avoid unrest. The bill was starting to come due in 1939, and he needed additional sources of income to push the reckoning off. The plunder of Poland funded the conquest of France, and plundering France let him go after the USSR.

            (I haven’t actually read much of the book, but dndnrsn has, and should be able to give more details.)

          • Protagoras says:

            Yes, Hitler would have considered his efforts a failure if Germany wasn’t competitive with the U.S., and being competitive with the U.S. while occupying only the parts of Europe that were majority ethnic German was obviously not possible. He needed territory and resources closer to being comparable to what the U.S. has. Adding Poland and adding Russia’s most productive territories really still wasn’t sufficient, but was at least getting closer, so that’s what Hitler was aiming for from the outset.

    • bean says:

      Try to worm my way into Germany’s military R&D establishment. Shouldn’t be too hard, as I’m an aerospace engineer. Get all the information I can on what they’re doing. Fake a copy of the operations plan for Fall Gelb (the plan the Germans used to invade France). Say I got it from a cousin or something. Hop a train for France in August 1939. Do everything I possibly can to get the British and/or French to take some notice and turn it into the disaster it was always meant to be.

      Edit:
      Actually, I have a better plan. Take a leaf from the book of Juan Pujol Garcia, and become a fake spy. Only you’re a fake spy for the allies, and feeding them real information gained from your time-traveller. Claim you’re running a ring of spies, one of whom is a janitor at OKW or something like that. Do all of this from somewhere like Switzerland.

      For extra fun, do the same thing with the Germans. Only you make sure that your true information to them is always just a bit too late to do any good.

  12. RavenclawPrefect says:

    Quick poll for opinions on the new comment sorting. Seems worth getting aggregate opinions instead of “me too” comment chains about the topic.

    (Also, the supplemental survey is still open. Probably closing it in the next few days, so hurry up and finish your 10,000 word essay in the free response box if you haven’t yet.)

  13. Hoopyfreud says:

    In the interest of adding further fuel to the fire raging on discrimination, here’s a question to the SSC commentariat, who I see as more sympathetic to the movie Gattaca than the average bear, at least in terms of the specifics of the plot:

    In a world where genetic screening is commonplace and cheap, should Vincent have been able to get any sort of job aside from menial labor, or is that fate a perfectly socially fine result of the application of rational heuristics?

    • Randy M says:

      I haven’t seen the movie; doesn’t the protagonist have a tendency towards heart problems or something similar? It seems like almost any job would either not have that be relevant, or else not be in dire straits if he suddenly died, and be able to take the risk if he were otherwise qualified.
      If he is an astronaut with a likelihood of dying on a mission*, that seems like a good reason to pass him up for both his sake and that of the mission.

      But that’s not a unique burden, surely? There’s billions of people who will never be astronauts, as I advised my daughter when she expressed an interest in it. You have to be the among the best in several metrics and willing to sacrifice anything else, istm. And you still might be disappointed.

      Also, the risk of using a hueristic when coming up with a greeting for a stranger, and when hiring someone for a job, to either party, are markedly different. In the real world, you look at women’s resumes for surgeon too, because it’s worth the effort. The devil is in the details.

      *Again, I’m not sure the movie adequately establishes this, but assuming so…

      Edit: That movie only came out in 1997? Wow, I assumed it was much older.
      Wikipedia makes it sound kinda dumb. They can check whether he is valid or not, but not actually check for specific relevant traits?

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        In the movie, non-genetically-engineered individuals are assumed to be suited only for menial labor. The majority of upper-class society is genetically engineered, but society as a whole isn’t really depicted. Assume a 50/50 division, if you like.

        For the purposes of this question, assume that the average genetically engineered individual has an advantage of about two standard deviations over the average non-genetically-engineered person along all metrics. In the film, the heuristic disqualifies Vincent from higher education and any job aside from menial labor; nobody bothers to perform an assessment because he fails the heuristic.

        • Randy M says:

          In the film, the heuristic disqualifies Vincent from higher education and any job aside from menial labor; nobody bothers to perform an assessment because he fails the heuristic.

          I really doubt you are going to find anyone here supporting that. (Obviously that means I myself don’t support that)

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Right, I don’t expect anyone to do so, but I’m interested to find out why people think this is bad, and whether they object to the reasoning or the outcome.

          • Plumber says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            “Right, I don’t expect anyone to do so, but I’m interested to find out why people think this is bad, and whether they object to the reasoning or the outcome”

            Outcome mostly, and it seems that as time went on only the “genetically superior” could afford the treatments to pass on their status to their children.

            Though ultimately it’s the division of labor itself and filling roles only with “the best qualified” itself that repels me.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Plumber

            Have you read Sam[]zdat’s The Uruk Machine? I think you’d like it, particularly A Taylorism for All Seasons.

          • Randy M says:

            Okay then.
            Similar to jobs now requiring college degrees merely as a way of winnowing down applicant pools, this creates a class of people unable to perform a great variety of occupations without much actual relation to the work being done, at least if we literally mean “only suited for menial labor.” This is bad for the economy, as it creates additional friction, bad for the employer, as they are not considering all the most relevant criteria, and bad for the individual. In exchange, they save virtually nothing, because a constant series of genetic screenings is not really that much cheaper and demonstrably not much more reliable than actually testing applicants on relevant metrics.

            A good heuristic should provide a net gain to the user–and not create negative externalities to a reasonable third (or second) party. I say reasonable because I don’t consider getting mistaken for a member of a different profession an actual harm, like in the other discussion, nor are the thoughts in another persons head of harm to me if they don’t act on them.

            Now, the wikipedia summary of Gattaca states that non-gene altered people have a life expectancy of 30 years. This is actually more dystopian that Idiocracy, but if that is a given, they should be able to test for this specifically, and it would not be unreasonable to screen out people likely to die over the course of a mission or shortly into a career requiring extensive training, even if it hurt the excluded person’s feelings. Likewise, I’d expect most “Valids” to search for mates from among others in order to expect some time together before death. Inasmuch as anyone would be mating for life in such circumstances, anyway.

            I am unsure how directly you expect this to map to other circumstances, but if you think I’m being inconsistent we can discuss whether there are any relevant differences.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The main character has a life expectancy of 30 years due to a heart defect; in-valids are basically “normal humans” to us. The cost of a genetic test appears to be roughly zero in the film. Whether or not this is possible IRL is certainly up for debate, but if you had a zero-cost test that screened out the half of your applicant pool that was 2 SD above the other half, would you apply it?

          • uau says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            Whether or not this is possible IRL is certainly up for debate, but if you had a zero-cost test that screened out the half of your applicant pool that was 2 SD above the other half, would you apply it?

            You seem to be assuming that the applicant pool is completely random (in the sense that it would have exactly the same distribution as the overall population). This seems almost certainly wrong in almost all practical cases. Anyway, this genetic test seems worse than what you could get today by asking the applicant to produce an IQ test result.

          • Randy M says:

            The main character has a life expectancy of 30 years due to a heart defect

            Wiki agrees with you, I skimmed too much I guess.

            if you had a zero-cost test that screened out the half of your applicant pool that was 2 SD above the other half, would you apply it?

            Yeah, probably. Assuming that you mean 2 SD above in all the relevant metrics related to the job performance, sure. I’m not sure that’s the situation shown in the movie (again, haven’t seen it) so don’t put me down as the Gattaca Guy or anything, but if a heuristic is good, it seems reasonable to use it. Obviously we’d need to spend some time to validate that.

            And I say that as someone who would probably be making children the old fashioned way.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @uau

            An IQ test result is not zero-cost, though. And, to reiterate, this screening is applied at all levels. Credentialing programs also apply this heuristic because credentials are scarce. That means that at some point, the applicant pool is the entire population.

            @Randy

            This is what depresses me.

            Hail Moloch, Lord of Reason and Inference. Bend at the altar of the efficient and drive your knife through the individual. Burn the books of knowledge whose ink is the life of a man and paint your body with the ashes of millions. Harken to the oracle and take up not your sword but your purse; if you but listen your fortunes shall redouble.

            Melodramatic, yes, but whatever. Blame it on my genes; I’m predisposed. And aware that’s not how it works.

          • uau says:

            An IQ test result is not zero-cost, though.

            That’s mostly irrelevant. If you perform the test once per lifetime the cost is close enough to zero that it doesn’t matter compared to assigning jobs more efficiently. And as I already said, if they have any education at all, that should produce some type of intellectual assessment almost automatically. Likely one more accurate than two standard deviations.

            That means that at some point, the applicant pool is the entire population.

            No idea what you’re trying to say here. It doesn’t make any sense when considering people explicitly applying for a particular job. Stupid people won’t try to apply for the position of a mathematics professor, and top professionals won’t apply for janitorial jobs.

            Only case where such “entire population” talk would make sense is if there is some central authority matching every person to every job (without anyone explicitly applying), but you didn’t say anything which would point to that.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            If you perform the test once per lifetime the cost is close enough to zero that it doesn’t matter compared to assigning jobs more efficiently.

            You know what, sure, I’ll concede the point.

            Would it be good if we gave all 15 year olds IQ tests and stopped educating the ones that didn’t meet a threshold? If every job they applied to screened by the result before looking at anything else?

            Sorry, Jimmy, but you can’t go back to school. I know your friends are there and you like writing, but they won’t let you any more. You’re too dumb. Guess you shouldn’t have stayed up so late studying; you sure wasted a lot of time. You dumb fuck. Hope you like flipping burgers, because it’s statistically likely that that’s where your comparative advantage lies.

            Obviously this isn’t what you’re suggesting – I hope you don’t think I’m putting this view on you, as it’s intended to be vulgar and extreme, not representative – but I think the rationale is the same.

            Finally, I’ll note that if treating people this way is rational and incentivized, there’s no reason to expect the entire market not to implement the heuristic, even when more efficient configurations are possible. You don’t need a central authority to universalize these behaviors.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Would it be good if we gave all 15 year olds IQ tests and stopped educating the ones that didn’t meet a threshold?

            Isn’t that more or less how most European countries sort their population for education? Not by one test, but by a series of tests to determine who can go on to higher education? And the US more or less does it too, thought in a much less efficient manner. Filtering out those who can’t hack higher education through testing sounds like the most rational approach to me. Probably it would be more effective if we also allowed older adults to join the higher education queue by taking tests later in life, because of false negatives at 15. Is there a better way?

          • uau says:

            Would it be good if we gave all 15 year olds IQ tests and stopped educating the ones that didn’t meet a threshold? If every job they applied to screened by the result before looking at anything else?

            You haven’t specified this well enough to allow meaningful comment.

            Finally, I’ll note that if treating people this way is rational and incentivized, there’s no reason to expect the entire market not to implement the heuristic, even when more efficient configurations are possible.

            You seem to be pretty explicitly assuming a “not maximally efficient” configuration. I assume you only mean “rational” in the sense of it being rational for individual employers to behave according to the incentives someone set up, not that the system itself would be chosen according to any particularly rational principle.

            Overall this makes your question rather pointless. You seem to be asking “If I intentionally set up this system to be evil, would that be good?”. Obviously it would not. But that doesn’t say much about the design principles of the system other than the “intentionally make it evil” part.

          • Plumber says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            “…Is there a better way?”

            Since I really don’t give a damn about “aptitude”, “efficiency”, and “competence” I’ll just give me wishlist:
            1) I and others like me get to spend time reading great books, hearing lectures about them, and have most importantly we have our questions about the subjects be answered and explained at our pace, the “advanced” be damned.
            2) When we do manage to crawl our way to classes with actually books there is a chair for us and we aren’t treated with contempt.
            3) Working restrooms with doors.
            4) Physical safety, instead of gangs of thugs punching us unconscious.
            5) We get to keep going to school after age 18.
            6) The kind of curriculum shown on the PBS “Justice” program be a common right of citizenship.
            7) Some way for us to have food, shelter, and clothing be provided while we have time in our lives to read before the physical pain of work hits us.

            I got to take a couple of community college classes before I turned 18 and had to go to work, I wanted more of that, but I admit I’m petty and I’ve seen what U.C. looks like, and I don’t want anyone to have that if I can’t have it as well, I want education for all of us who want it, I also want physical toil more equitably distributed.

            Aptitude be damned, I spit on the tests that determines who gets to be privileged with gravy lives, more importantly I have contempt for how things are rationed to be just for a few, and I reject the justifications for keeping the doors into the Ivory Tower so narrow.

            If letting those destined to dig ditches have the sweet joy of a quiet place to sit, read, and think for a few years more brings the colleges to be little better than our high schools, for the few to have less so the many may get more so be it.

            Closing all the selective universities, and redistributing the books to a greatly expanded public library system, with the professors in the libraries seems a good idea to me.as well if the college doors aren’t opened wider.

          • Name hidden for obvious reasons says:

            nd redistributing the books to a greatly expanded public library system

            What legally possessable book that you want to sit and read can you not get from the public library now already?

            Especially *yours*! I’ve spent a lot of time sitting and reading in the San Francisco Public Library. I’ve considered faking up having a mailing address in SF, just to get a library card for that library.

          • Would it be good if we gave all 15 year olds IQ tests and stopped educating the ones that didn’t meet a threshold?

            As of about 1955, when we spent a year in Cambridge, England, that was the British policy, except that the eleven plus exam was given at age 11. My sister was in the year just before the exam and, according to her, the whole year was devoted to learning how to take the test.

            A good score got you tracked towards university, a poor score tracked away–I assume a trade school or something but don’t actually know.

          • Plumber says:

            @Name hidden for obvious reasons

            “What legally possessable book that you want to sit and read can you not get from the public library now already?…

            There’s quite a few cited in the books do manage to get that I can’t access, but mostly it’s a matter of having time, plus I have no one to ask about what I’m reading. 

            We have a class of people (college students) who somehow get to spend time reading and going to classes instead of working into their 20’s, and most of them do it when they’re still uninjured by work,.and (judging by U.C. compared to Berkeley High School) they get to be in enviable surroundings, and their given lists of what to read!

            It’s too late for me now, but I want what they have for the kinds of kids I was.

            @DavidFriedman

            “…A good score got you tracked towards university, a poor score tracked away…”

            I’ve probably shared this story before, but I had an experience of “switching tracks.

             For my first year of high school in 1982 I was first assigned to the “Intermediate” track English track rather than the “Advanced” track (the majority of students were “Advanced”, there was no level lower than “Intermediate”), where most of my classmates every day in that class were black girls,  I have no memory of any reading being assigned, just the occasional essay (which a couple of the girls in class would ask my advice about), and mostly I did homework that was assigned in my other classes or read the Larry Niven novel “A Gift From Earth” which I found left on one of the mostly empty seats one day.

            Unfortunately my mother found that I had been assigned the non “Advanced” track and she insisted that I be moved in the middle of the semester to the “Advanced” English track, which actually had assigned reading (“Julius Caesar and “Great Expectations”), and was mostly white students.

            Unlike “Intermediate English”, every chair was taken and I had to sit on the floor whenever a classmate wasn’t out sick, and after being yelled at enough times to “Get out of my seat”, I learned to wait for every other student to take their seats first to see if I’d get a desk and chair that day, and on many days I had to alternate sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall, 

            Both my teacher and my classmates were clear that my presence was not welcome in the “Advanced” class and despite loving to read I hated that class, and I grew to hate my fellow white students (I missed the black girls) and one day I vomited in class.

            I’d have rather have gotten the books to read from the mostly white class and had stayed with the welcoming black students (the girls), and the indifferent black students (the boys), and had a chair and desk, rather than have endured the cruelty of the “Advanced” track which I’ve neither forgotten or forgiven.

            I “tested out” of high school early and got to take a Cultural Anthropology and a European History class at Lancey Community College before I turned 18 and had to go get a job,  those classes were wonderful, better by far than most of high school, so other than shoving kids into castes what purpose is high school? 

            Later this month my son will turn 14 years old (the age I was in 1982) and we’re “homeschooling” him (classes via computer and we got permission for him to go to a Spanish class at Berkeley City College which he passed!), because avoiding that Hellscape of high school seems a worthy goal.

            I really don’t like the high schools most are forced to attend and I really don’t like the Universities that only a few may attend, and were I King of California I’d eliminate both and greatly expand the community colleges and public libraries. 

            For the trade apprenticeship I did (barely) test into they were five applicants for every place in class, and despite some rather high qualifications to apply they were at least that many applicants for the city job I now have and neither are pleasant work.

            The older I get the more I resent how opportunity is rationed and oppose the tyranny of “aptitude”, and I want the shares of education, gravy work, and toil to be more equal, “competence” and “merit” be damned.

          • Matt C says:

            > other than shoving kids into castes what purpose is high school?

            Quote from James Herndon’s How To Survive In Your Native Land:

            “The school’s purpose is not teaching. The school’s purpose is to separate sheep from goats.”

            Plumber, you’d probably appreciate James Herndon. He taught school back in the 60s and wrote a couple of books about his experiences and what he thought was wrong with schools. He’s a good writer with lively, interesting stories. If you read him you’ll certainly be reminded of your own unhappy and unfair experiences in school, though. Be prepared for that if you pick him up.

          • and we’re “homeschooling” him (classes via computer and we got permission for him to go to a Spanish class at Berkeley City College which he passed!

            Are you familiar with the idea of unschooling? I’ve discussed it in a number of blog posts you might find interesting. The basic idea is that instead of having a preset curriculum–you are to learn these things in this order–you encourage the kid to follow out whatever things he is interested in. I sometimes describe it as throwing books at a kid and seeing which ones stick.

            On your point about college, I think it’s true of elite colleges. My impression is that a lot of students go to colleges which are more like your high school than like Berkeley. That’s partly based on having taught at SCU (elite, although not at the Harvard/Stanford level) and SJSU (not elite).

            With regard to books you can’t get in the library. Have you tried either Google Books or Project Gutenberg? A lot of older books can now be found on the web. Sometimes just googling for the title will turn something up.

          • Deiseach says:

            My dear people: suppose Vincent has an IQ between 110-120, so he’s on the bounds of “superior intelligence” by today’s norms.

            Well, not in the Gattaca world he’s not. If the Valids are all 140+, he’s the equivalent of IQ 90 to an IQ 120 person today. You’re thinking of Vincent as “bright, even smart guy” by our standards, maybe even as your equivalent. In the Gattaca world, you’re not smart anymore, you’re one of the low-levels whose jobs have been automated away.

            Think of all the comments on here over time about “IQ 90 individuals” and what a problem this lumpen mass of stupid people are for society (and I’d remind you that 90-110 is within the “normal/average” range) then imagine what that means. Well, maybe you don’t have to imagine.

            Vincent can’t go to university and is only considered fit for manual labour? I’ve read more than one comment on here about college being expensive signalling and people being encouraged to go to university who are just not able for it and it would be way better if they were steered into vocational training for manual labour instead. I had a snarl back at someone who, searching for an example of a stupid person, dug up “imagine a bus driver who must be around 90 IQ, you don’t have to be smart to drive a bus and plainly only stupid people get those kind of jobs as that is all they are able for”. What else is Vincent going to do in a world of Automated Knowledge Economy, where his SAT scores aren’t anywhere near enough to get him into a good university, he hasn’t the ability (like, say, a six-fingered pianist) to achieve the kinds of extracurriculars needed, and his “overcoming adversity” tale of being an In-Valid applying to a Valid’s education isn’t sufficient because he’s just not bright enough and is not officially part of a Discriminated Disadvantaged Minority? He could get a job driving for Uber or Lyft, but probably autonomous vehicles have now been developed by those companies in Gattaca-world where the truly smart solved the problems, and what can he do except the types of ‘sell his labour for the niches that are not already automated and don’t require 140 IQ’?

            We have Gattaca world already, in some comments on here about the lower IQ types and assumptions about them. Or how many IQ 90 software engineers are you all working alongside? I haven’t seen the movie so I could be mistaken here, but Vincent is working as a home carer for a disabled Valid (or otherwise gets access to his genetic material with his consent) but wants to be an astronaut. And how different is that from today’s ex-miner who won’t take a job as a care assistant in a nursing home since that is ‘women’s work’ and he wants a proper ‘man’s job’? I’ve seen that attitude criticised (not here necessarily but certainly elsewhere) as this is the reality of our new Knowledge Automated Economy; service industry jobs are what is out there for those not smart enough to be able to contribute on the Knowledge Economics side.

            EDIT: Whoops, he’s not a home help, he’s a janitor/contract cleaner. But the larger point stands.

          • John Schilling says:

            My dear people: suppose Vincent has an IQ between 110-120, so he’s on the bounds of “superior intelligence” by today’s norms.

            Then the movie doesn’t have the hero ending where Vincent gets to fly a spaceship to Saturn and show them, show them all, foolish insects doubting the power of human greatness, bwuahahaha, etc. And therefore doesn’t get made or at least not with that budget and marketing and we aren’t talking about it. The movie they made, requires that Vincent be as smart as someone who was genetically engineered to be a literal rocket scientist.

            The movie about someone with a 120 IQ in a world where 140 is the “new normal”, depends on whether that world also has the automation necessary to do away with humans in jobs like auto mechanic or infantry soldier where it’s helpful to have a 120 IQ but much more than that is in the range of diminishing returns.

            If not, then meh, he’s the auto mechanic who gets teased for reading comic books when his colleagues are all comparing existentialist philosophers.

            If so, then as you note they’re in the same position as people with a 70-80 IQ today, and we don’t need to make a fancy movie to note that this kind of sucks but we don’t have any easy answers.

          • Plumber says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            “Have you read Sam[]zdat’s The Uruk Machine? I think you’d like it, particularly A Taylorism for All Seasons

            Thanks Hoopyfreud, that was interesting reading!

        • uau says:

          Yeah, completely ignoring any moral or social issues, I don’t see any reason why this would be considered “rational”. The expected benefit from assigning an appropriate job should be much higher than the cost of doing a more accurate assessment at least once per lifetime. In fact, if they have any kind of education at all, that should produce some level of intellectual assessment almost automatically as a side effect.

          Two standard deviations is not a big enough difference for such a coarse auto-discard heuristic to make sense, unless perhaps you are talking about the very top jobs (the kind most of the superior population won’t get either).

          • Deiseach says:

            In fact, if they have any kind of education at all, that should produce some level of intellectual assessment almost automatically as a side effect.

            Let’s presume they still have SAT scores in Gattaca world, that would sort out the sheep from the goats. I think everyone is forgetting: Vincent may be smart by our standards, but he’s not smart by Gattaca-world standards, or if he is one of the rare natural geniuses, then he is facing the same problems as “gifted but poor/deprived kids” face today in achieving their potential.

            The notion that Vincent is suffering undeserved prejudice is at the heart of the movie, but it undercuts its own argument by having him suffering from a congenital disease that puts him at high risk of dying, never mind whether or not he really is just as smart as a Valid. They even throw in a Valid character who also suffers from heart disease who is also disqualified from deep space missions! So Vincent can’t claim on those grounds that he is being unfairly treated, thus we have to fall back on “he’s smart enough to be an astronaut but they only let him be an office cleaner”.

            Well, that’s a problem we’re arguing even nowadays over access to higher education, and see cases like the T.M. Landry School scandal.

            The movie is very dated because it couldn’t realise the economic changes that were around the corner (the rise of the Knowledge and Gig Economies) and it is talking about eugenics on the surface but has a different culture wars struggle going on in reality.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Gattaca and The Truman Show struck me as pleasingly like golden age science fiction– they each took an idea (not necessarily a good idea) and ran with it.

        In the case of Gattaca, it seemed implausible that there would be so few opportunities for people who weren’t genetically engineered.

    • Plumber says:

      @Hoopyfreud,

      I actually cried when I first saw Gattaca in the theater, I’d place it as one of the best films of the 1990’s and the best science fiction movie I’ve seen since the 1980’s.

      In some ways the society depicted is more just because at least you know your place and not to pine and strive for what will never be (unless like Vincent you get a “borrowed ladder”), but it’s also a world without hope.

      As to what sort of jobs Vincent should be able to get?

      “…what is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first one is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid…”
      Bertrand Russell

      Ultimately Vincent succeeds as an individual, but as for the rest of the “de-gene-rate”s”?

      Go on general strike, have the superior starve, burn it, burn it all, and spit on the ashes!

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Go on general strike, have the superior starve, burn it, burn it all, and spit on the ashes!

        Now you’re speaking my language, Plumber.

    • Drew says:

      Gattaca was about Vincent’s quest to commit mass negligent homicide.

      He was born with a congenital heart defect. The company didn’t want him to fly because there was an extremely high chance that he’d die mid-mission and endanger everyone else.

      They only seemed unreasonable because they used a new-and-scary technology to make the prediction. Drop the tech-level to things that we’re familiar with, and Vincent’s behavior is overtly monstrous.

      Blood-Alcohol Gattaca: “Don’t tell me the odds! I’ve dreamed of being a Surgeon my entire life. Just because your blinking-box says that I’m drunk is no reason to stop me from cutting into that man’s brain!”

      Stethoscope Gattaca: “Why should we believe your newfangled device when it says I have fluid in my lungs? I feel perfectly healthy. And there’s a chance that I don’t have pneumonia. So of course I should be allowed into this ward for immune-compromised children.”

      Sure, there’s a chance that drunk-surgeon will be successful at brain surgery. And there’s a chance that early-pneumonia guy won’t kill a room of kids. But you’d want to shake them both and shout at them.

      The second, lesser, moral mistake was that the company was bigoted and used genetics in a stupid way. Again, drop the tech level, and the mistakes get obvious.

      On average, taller people are better at basketball. And if you had to pick a team based on nothing but height, you’d pick the tallest people.

      But you’re almost never picking from random distributions. Instead, there are specific humans in front of you. And, if your options are a 5’11” morbidly obese guy, and a 5’8″ super-athlete, you’d have to be dumb to go with the tall fat guy.

      Genetics is just another indicator. It hints that someone will be good. But hints can be overridden by solid, specific evidence.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        The second, lesser, moral mistake was that the company was bigoted and used genetics in a stupid way.
        Again, drop the tech level, and the mistakes get obvious.

        Yes, this is exactly my point. Except, I question whether it’s irrational for a company to throw the Southern Illinois University resumes in the trash once they see that they have 10 applicants from Harvard. I still think it’s a mistake; I just don’t necessarily think it’s an irrational mistake.

        • Drew says:

          (Apologies for changing the example; height seemed cleaner)

          It probably depends on your position in the market, and what everyone else is doing.

          If you’ve got infinite budget, and first-choice of candidates, then yeah, start recruiting at Harvard. But, once you go down a segment, the trade-off is “First pick from Southern Illinois University” vs “Harvard Grads who were passed over by the market leaders.”

          The best Southern Illinois Grad is almost certainly better than the worst Harvard Grad. So, if everyone else is doing Harvard, you’ll get huge gains by moving against them.

          Ideally, things settle into an equilibrium. And if they don’t, then exploit everyone else’s dumb mistakes for $$$ and push the system back toward balance.

          • johan_larson says:

            You’ll also need to consider how much freedom of action you have in your hiring and how much of a hit you’ll take for hiring people with the Loser mark. If you’re in a business where appearances matter and competitive differences are small, you might be better off hiring the beta Harvard guys than the best of the SIU folks, even if the latter are more capable in a narrow sense.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The best Southern Illinois Grad is almost certainly better than the worst Harvard Grad. So, if everyone else is doing Harvard, you’ll get huge gains by moving against them.

            … assuming, of course, that the marginal cost of evaluating the SIU grads is less than the marginal gains from hiring the best of them. This may well work for SIU vs Harvard. I’m not convinced in the slightest that this will forever be the case.

            I’m not even sure it’s true right now.

          • Drew says:

            @Hoopyfreud: GPA seems to match what you’re describing.

            It’s a fixed (at graduation) number that companies treat like a signal of ability. And if you’re too low, you get knocked out of the running for top tier jobs.

            Companies would say just what you’re suggesting; some people low-GPA people are very competent, but the search costs are big enough to swamp efficiently gains.

            GPA-Gattaca would have a smart guy who misses a bunch of tests and assignments for sympathetic reasons. Maybe he catches mono while saving a kid from drowning. Then, famous psychologist James Mitchell won’t look at any applicant with a GPA below 3.5, crushing the heroes dream.

            That would be a setback, but in practice, it’s not a career ender.

            A person with a low GPA would get a lower status job — maybe helping the folks at Academi or Haliburton — and build a track record of success. From there, they could reapply to work with the people who are leading their field.

            Genetic scores, like GPA, seem like the sort of thing that would matter a lot for your first job, and much much less you have
            real accomplishments.

      • Randy M says:

        You definitely said it better than me.

    • John Schilling says:

      who I see as more sympathetic to the movie Gattaca

      Sympathetic to the movie, or sympathetic to something vaguely related to the concept the movie was trying to address?

      This is a mass-market Hollywood movie we are talking about. With few exceptions, that means it has to have unambiguous Bad Guys who are Just Plain Evil. If it is going to explore some novel social or economic concept, either the society which adopts this concept or the reactionaries who reject it have to do so in a maximally evil way, even if that means making irrational decisions that harm their own interests just to be sure we understand they are creating a dystopia. See also In Time, Elysium, The Island, Transendence, too many others to mention.

      So, whatever we may feel about the underlying concept of eugenics via genetic screening, we should all agree that a standard-issue Hollywood dystopia with eugenics and genetic screening is Wrong and we should neither do that nor sympathize with that.

      Also, if we ourselves favor some novel social or economic concept, we should react with fear and dread to the news that Hollywood is going to be using this concept as the basis for a mass-market film.

      If all we are asking is, given cheap and effective genetic screening, what jobs should be offered to people whose random genetic background includes a very high risk of early death via heart attack, there is a wide range of jobs in between “menial labor” and “astronaut on deep space mission” that would probably be suitable, depending on a rational assessment of the candidate’s actual potential.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        This is explicitly not what I’m asking; this isn’t about genetic indicators of heart disease, but about genetic indicators of competence. Vincent was a janitor, not a scientist, before he started his identity theft, and that’s because of how Gattaca’s society worked.

        • John Schilling says:

          The “way Gattaca’s society worked”, was explicitly designed by the screenwriters to be capital-‘E’ Evil. Is it your objective to have us all point at obvious evil and say “Evil”, or to maybe see if anyone can be baited into defending it? If so, that’s boring and unproductive and I can’t imagine why anyone else would participate unless they were confused as to what you were asking.

          If it is your objective to talk about something that is actually interesting and might involve non-trivial moral dilemmas, then you’re going to have to accept that the discussion will immediately depart from how the society depicted in the movie worked.

          I think you are dancing back and forth between the specific evil movie society and the broader concept of genetic screening in order to bait people into defending something that you can point to and say “but that’s obviously evil”, and I’m not going to play. If that’s not your intention, I would recommend starting over in a new OT and being very careful not to use the names “Vincent” or “Gattica”.

        • Deiseach says:

          Vincent was a janitor, not a scientist, before he started his identity theft, and that’s because of how Gattaca’s society worked.

          And the movie was set up to make it so that while Vincent could be every bit as intelligent as any of the real Valids he was working beside (the danger he fears seems to be ‘they’ll test my real DNA’ not ‘I’ll make a mistake that reveals I don’t know what I’m doing’) in order to hammer home that the company was Evil, eugenics is Evil, and racism/classism is Evil.

          But we have that world today even without Gattaca-style eugenics. People are still hiring from Harvard, not Cow College in Potato-State, on the assumption that a Mud-Encrusted Rural Genius will, if they are any good at all, still end up in Harvard not Cow College. That’s the real fight the movie wants to have, and it’s a different one.

      • Algirdas Vėlyvis says:

        This is a mass-market Hollywood movie we are talking about. With few exceptions, that means it has to have unambiguous Bad Guys who are Just Plain Evil. If it is going to explore some novel social or economic concept, either the society which adopts this concept or the reactionaries who reject it have to do so in a maximally evil way, even if that means making irrational decisions that harm their own interests just to be sure we understand they are creating a dystopia. See also In Time, Elysium, The Island, Transendence, too many others to mention.

        This. On many occasions I have struggled to express my visceral loathing for Gattaca to my friends or acquaintances. Thank you John, you’ve put it very well.

    • LadyJane says:

      So I see a lot of people talking about how Gattaca is bad sci-fi, because there’s no good reason to keep the in-valids from doing any work other than menial labor. And I have to say, I am really surprised that so many people here don’t get it.

      If it is going to explore some novel social or economic concept, either the society which adopts this concept or the reactionaries who reject it have to do so in a maximally evil way, even if that means making irrational decisions that harm their own interests just to be sure we understand they are creating a dystopia. …If all we are asking is, given cheap and effective genetic screening, what jobs should be offered to people whose random genetic background includes a very high risk of early death via heart attack, there is a wide range of jobs in between “menial labor” and “astronaut on deep space mission” that would probably be suitable, depending on a rational assessment of the candidate’s actual potential.

      The second, lesser, moral mistake was that the company was bigoted and used genetics in a stupid way. Again, drop the tech level, and the mistakes get obvious. On average, taller people are better at basketball. And if you had to pick a team based on nothing but height, you’d pick the tallest people. But you’re almost never picking from random distributions. Instead, there are specific humans in front of you. And, if your options are a 5’11” morbidly obese guy, and a 5’8″ super-athlete, you’d have to be dumb to go with the tall fat guy.

      In the case of Gattaca, it seemed implausible that there would be so few opportunities for people who weren’t genetically engineered.

      Of course it’s irrational and inefficient and stupid and pointlessly cruel, that’s the whole point of the movie. Virtually all social systems throughout history have been irrational or inefficient or stupid or pointlessly cruel in one way or another, why would this one be any different? People are irrational and inefficient and stupid creatures, and having an IQ that’s 2 SDs above the mean doesn’t change that. I know plenty of >130 IQ people who are irrational and prone to making stupid mistakes. Hell, in my worse moments, I can be one of them; raw intelligence is always on by default, but rationality takes conscious effort. If anything, smart people are more likely to persist in their mistakes, because they tend to be a lot better at justifying their irrational and stupid behavior to themselves than the guy with an IQ of 85.

      The in-valids aren’t restricted to menial labor because that’s the most efficient way to run a society; anyone who thought about it for five seconds would realize that that’s a horribly inefficient and wasteful system, as long as they didn’t have any deep-rooted biases preventing them from realizing that. But the valids aren’t unbiased! How could they be? Deep down, they’re still just bone-headed primates who engage in tribalistic chimpanzee politics and come up with self-serving post-hoc rationalizations for their actions, because that’s what humans are.

      This isn’t the world of The Giver, not all of the valids are equal to each other in actual or potential capability. That means it’s still a world with competition and natural hierarchies, which means that some people are still going to be at the bottom. Now imagine you’re a valid who got the short end of the genetic stick, in spite of your parents’ best efforts to lengthen it through bio-engineering. There you are, the dumbass with an IQ of “only” 115 in a society that has super-geniuses. That’s going to be rough on your ego, but hey, at least you can comfort yourself by knowing that you’re still better than all of those in-valids! And for the valids higher up on the social ladder, competition is going to be fierce; you might be an ambitious corporate executive or politician with an IQ of 175, but that’s not so uncommon anymore, life is still a dog-eat-dog struggle for power and wealth. So it’s in your financial and social and psychological interest to prevent the more exceptional in-valids from joining the competition too; after all, if another valid gets the high-paying job you want, that’s normal, but can you imagine how utterly humiliating it would be to lose out to an in-valid? Sure, it’s a long shot, but just to be safe, wouldn’t it be better to have rules in place to make sure something like that couldn’t even potentially happen? But naturally, the valids aren’t going to be consciously thinking those sorts of selfish and egotistical thoughts, they’re too good for that. They’re going to have utterly convinced themselves that this is simply the best way to run things for everyone. From their perspective, it’s just obviously the way things should be.

      I think within rationalist and rationalist-adjacent circles, and maybe among smart nerdy types in general, there’s this (possibly subconscious) idea that higher intelligence must indicate superior rationality and ethics, at least among humans. So to people with that notion, it might seem unbelievable that a society run by genetically-engineered super-geniuses would be arranged in such a staggeringly unethical and inefficient way. But as soon as you start comparing it to modern-day and historical societies, the world of Gattaca really doesn’t seem that far off at all.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I don’t think the Gattaca world be as described, even given the level of prejudice.

        African-Americans were relegated to low status, but they still had professionals (doctors, funeral directors, preachers) who weren’t doing menial labor and were better paid than the average. Some of the wealthiest had businesses producing hair straighteners and skin lighteners.

        Why doesn’t Gattaca have invalids making and selling contact lenses?

      • John Schilling says:

        Virtually all social systems throughout history have been irrational or inefficient or stupid or pointlessly cruel in one way or another, why would this one be any different?

        But it is different.

        Virtually all real social (and economic) systems have been inefficient. Gattaca’s economic system is very efficient, in the one specific area of imposing stupid irrational cruelty with 100% penetration. That is unrealistic, because people aren’t 100% cruel, in particular aren’t 100% devoted to any particular brand of cruelty, and the ones who really are stupid and cruel generally aren’t 100% efficient.

        As Nancy notes, and even in the antebellum south, African-Americans weren’t 100% relegated to menial labor. There were prosperous free black merchants and tradesmen running businesses with white clienteles, even prosperous free black landowners with slaves of their own. Racist white people were not 100% efficient in suppressing this “undesired” behavior, and for that matter white people were not 100% fanatical racists who would want to shut down black-owned businesses that they were making a profit trading with.

        African-Americans were, obviously, at a severe disadvantage, and it required extraordinary ability to achieve any measure of prosperity in that society. There are good stories to be told about that.

        But they aren’t stories for mass-market Hollywood movies, because the market demand is for protagonists who are extraordinarily capable and of indomitable spirit, and in any plausible society those people can become moderately prosperous in spite off society’s stupid, inefficient cruelty. And “moderately prosperous businessman faces stupid inefficient cruelty” isn’t the sort of Good-vs-Evil epic that brings in a hundred-plus megabucks gross. Vincent is a much less sympathetic character if he is a frustrated hard-working engineer who insists on covering up a health problem so he can fulfill his astronaut dreams.

        You can sometimes make a decent profit with a tale of a moderately prosperous professional using his position to help the less able victims of a stupidly cruel and inefficient society, but that’s a different kind of movie and I’ve only ever seen it done with historical, not SFnal, dystopias.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Technology and bureaucracy make some kinds of cruelty easier and more pervasive.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yes. I suspect an important factor here is how well you are at recruiting non-evil people to behave cruelly. At the level of a street gang or mafia or something, it’s probably not so hard to just recruit people who are pretty willing to do evil, nasty things to others. But if you want mass cruelty, it works better to be able to recruit normal, non-horrible people to the cause of behaving cruelly. Ideally, you work things out so that you have decent people who follow rules and play cooperate/cooperate most of the time, so that the industrial base underlying your murder factories/slave markets/brutal colonialism function well, but it’s still possible to turn the efforts of those good people toward extremely evil ends.

            I think this is how bureaucracy and rule-of-law can enable evil, even though they make the world run better in most cases. It’s very easy for a basically decent person to tune out his internal moral reactions and just follow the rules or laws. And in a decent society, that’s often the *right* thing to do–many things that seem locally cruel are still for the best, like taking a child away from his abusive or neglectful parents. But in a society that’s turned toward evil in some places, that same tendency leads decent people to obediently fill out the file cards for the secret police to disappear someone.

  14. The richest families in Florence in 1427 are still the richest families in Florence

    is the headline of a story describing some interesting research in economic history. I have not read the article it is based on but, assuming the story is correct, it found a close correlation between the last names of the wealthiest Florentine families in 1427 and the last names of those currently wealthy.

    There are two quite different interpretations of the reported facts. One is that families are surprisingly good at passing wealth and status down from one generation to another. The other is that the characteristics that produce wealth and status are to a large extent heritable.

    One problem for the second is that last names are passed down in the male line, while talents are passed down through both sons and daughters—a fact observed by Galton more than a century ago. A family could choose to exclude daughters from inheritance of wealth but not of talent. But that is a less serious problem than it at first appears, because high status women mostly married high status men. The daughter of a wealthy Florentine family would usually combine her genetic heritage with the last name of a husband from a different wealthy Florentine family. Hence both genetic advantages and wealth would for the most part remain, from generation to generation, associated with the same pool of last names.

    The story illustrates a general point: Facts rarely speak for themselves. How you interpret new facts depends on the picture of the world you fit them into.

    Which gets us back to the discussion of paradigms.

    • Well... says:

      Another interpretation could be that the laws and other infrastructure that have existed in Florence for the past 600 years have made it easy for families there to pass down their wealth.

      • albatross11 says:

        That was my thought. Assuming this is right, it would be interesting to look at whether laws, customs, arrangements, etc., are in place to allow (say) the oldest son to always inherit everything.

        Another way to think about this: Why aren’t the richest families in England[1] or the US now the same as, say, 200 years ago? Because we had several waves of massive wealth-producing innovation. It’s a common theme of novels written in/around the 1800s and 1900s that the old rich are turning their noses up at the crass behavior of the new rich.

        In the US, Vanderbilts give way to Fords give way to Carnegies give way to Fords give way to Hunts give way to….

        The Wikipedia article on the wealthiest Americans has a stunning number of people who were primarily self-made, rather than heirs to a family fortune. (I was surprised to see Ben Franklin there, but maybe he helped set the pattern.)

        [1] Okay, I guess the Windors are still pretty well-off….

    • Nick says:

      Did you forget to add the url to the tag?

    • Deiseach says:

      I wonder? Dante has a mention in the Divine Comedy of all the nouveau riche in Florence nowadays, how the city has swelled beyond its walls, and all the old names of the former leading families are gone, replaced by the new elite (with the implication that in the future, yet more newcomers will in turn push out the ones currently at the top of the pile). I’m sure some of the names come from that far back, but maybe not all (and I’d imagine some of them are ‘through the maternal line’) and some of the famous wealthy old names are faded today:

      Paradiso, Canto XVI

      ‘All who lived there then, fit to bear arms,
      and who dwelt between Mars and the Baptist,
      amounted to a fifth of those who live there now,

      ‘but the city’s bloodline, now mixed
      with that of Campi, of Certaldo, and Figline,
      was then found pure in the humblest artisan.

      ‘Ah, how much better would it be
      had those cities which I name remained but neighbors,
      had you kept your borders at Galluzzo and Trespiano,

      ‘than to have them in your midst and bear the stench
      of the lout from Aguglion and of him from Signa
      who already has so sharp an eye for graft!

      ‘If that tribe, which is the most degenerate
      in all the world, had not been like a stepmother
      to Caesar, but kind as a mother to her son,

      there is one, become a Florentine, who is in trade
      and changes money, who would be sent straight back
      to Semifonte, where his granddad scoured the country.

      ‘Montemurlo would still owe fealty to the Conti,
      the Cerchi would be in the parish of Acone,
      and the Buondelmonti might remain in Valdigreve.

      …Then it should not seem strange or marvelous to you
      to hear me talk of noble Florentines,
      whose fame is buried in the depth of time.

      ‘I saw the Ughi, I saw the Catellini,
      Filippi, Greci, Ormanni and Alberichi,
      illustrious citizens already in decline,

      ‘and I saw, as great as they were ancient,
      dell’Arca alongside della Sannella,
      and Soldanieri and Ardinghi and Bostichi.

      ‘Over the gate, which is today weighed down
      with such burden of new and unspeakable treachery
      that some cargo soon shall be hurled from the ship,

      ‘lived the Ravignani, from whom Count Guido
      and all those who since have taken their name
      from the noble Bellincione are descended.

      ‘The Della Pressa already knew the way to rule,
      and in their house the Galigaio already had
      the gilded hilt and pommel.

      ‘Great already was the stripe of fur,
      great were the Sacchetti, Giuochi, Fifanti, Barucci,
      Galli, and those who blush because of the bushel.

      ‘The stock from which the Calfucci sprang
      was already great, and already called
      to the seats of power were Sizii and Arrigucci.

      ‘Ah, in what glory I saw those,
      now quite undone by pride! And the golden balls
      made Florence flower with all their glorious deeds.

      ‘Thus did the fathers of those who now,
      whenever your church needs to fill the bishop’s seat,
      fatten themselves by sitting long in council.

      ‘The proud and insolent race, playing the dragon
      at the back of him who flees, but mild as a lamb
      to him who shows his teeth — or else his purse,

      ‘was already on the rise, but of mean stock,
      so that it gave no joy to Ubertin Donato
      when his father-in-law made him their kinsman.

      ‘The Caponsacchi had already made their way
      from Fiesole to the market-place, and both Giuda
      and Infangato were already citizens of note.

      ‘I will tell a thing incredible but true:
      The old city walls were entered through a gate
      that took its name from the della Pera.

      ‘Everyone bearing the noble coat of arms
      of the great baron whose name and praise
      are celebrated at the feast of Thomas

      ‘had from him their knighthood and their privilege,
      although he that decks it with a golden fringe
      today takes the side of the common folk.

      ‘Gualterotti and Importuni were already there,
      and the Borgo would even now be more at peace
      had they been left hungry for new neighbors.

      ‘The house that is the wellspring of your tears,
      whose just disdain brought death among you
      and put an end to your light-hearted life,

      ‘was honored then, both it and its allies.

    • bullseye says:

      If they’re actually the same group genetically, after all these generations, they’re either profoundly inbred or the wealth genes are all on the Y chromosome. It must be inherited wealth, and inherited social and political power that helps them hold on to that wealth.

      I’m sure they’ve been marrying other rich families this whole time, but some of those other families must have been from outside Florence (unless, again, they’re using an uncomfortably small breeding population).

      • I haven’t read the article, so I don’t know how close the linkage is. If the old elite were on average smart and married mostly within the elite circles, it wouldn’t be surprising if their current descendants averaged above the population average in ability.

    • Someone commenting on my blog went to the original article and offers this summary of the effect:

      Stated differently, being the descendants of the Bernardi family (at the 90th percentile of earnings distribution in 1427) instead of the Grasso family (10th percentile of the same distribution) would entail a 5% increase in earnings among current taxpayers (after adjusting for age and gender). Intergenerational real wealth elasticity is significant too and the magnitude of its implied effect is even larger: the 10th-90th exercise entails more than a 10% difference today

      So it isn’t on the scale of “rich then means rich now.” More “if you are descended from one of the pretty rich families then, you now are slightly better off than the average Florentine.”

      I don’t find an effect on that scale via heritable characteristics implausible.

    • Simulated Knave says:

      The more looks I take at the data, the less I trust the conclusions. There’s only one person making above 100K Euros (which seems small for a city of 300K with a 1.5 million metropolitan area). The fifth-highest income in Florence was only at the 54th percentile in 1427, and the second-highest only at the 67th. And the second-lowest income in Florence is earned by a guy whose ancestors were in the 84th percentile.

      I think this is one of those things where a lot of noise may produce a result, but individual variability is so high that generalizing is not really meaningful. Especially when you add in the original authors’ note that GDP per capita in Florence was constant for centuries, and it may be just that Florence has only had real social mobility for 200-odd years. If your great-grandfather was the richest man in the city, I’d be vaguely concerned if you DIDN’T have a 5% better life than the guy whose great-grandfather was a street sweeper. Having a prosperous childhood and inherited money SHOULD help!

  15. johan_larson says:

    Huh. Somehow I missed the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, which was in 2016. Strange that it didn’t make a bigger splash.

  16. theredsheep says:

    To what extent do you believe our sexual tastes are culturally formed? I know that some things–general regularity of features, for example–are supposed to be universal. But I went to Peru in 2011, and at first the local women just weren’t pretty to me; they have very strong features compared to American women due to their heritage. But after I’d been there a couple of months, they started looking way more attractive. It wasn’t sheer randiness doing it, either; I had my wife with me, and we continued having sex (though she was pregnant, which might have been a complicating factor somehow, I guess). It was like my brain, after ages of being surrounded by people who looked alike in an unaccustomed way, adjusted its settings. Anyway, anybody else have a similar experience, or experiences?

    • woah77 says:

      I can’t say I’ve had that experience, but I can say that phenomena is well understood in the military. “She’s a deployment 10” is a well understood phrase to mean that said woman isn’t especially attractive when choices are available, but if you were deployed in the middle of Afghanistan for eight months, she’d start looking very attractive by the end. I’m not aware of any formal studies, but it may have a something to do with familiarity and diversity of options.

      • theredsheep says:

        My question would be whether, in Afghanistan, one develops a keen sense of the beauty of female eyes due to having nothing else to judge by.

        • woah77 says:

          This sounds like the xkcd about eating sandwichs. https://xkcd.com/915/
          Randal Monroe’s claim: Humans have just one scale and resize all experiences to fit it. From that postulate, I suppose it’s likely that in Afghanistan you develop a niche appreciation for eyes.

          • theredsheep says:

            I forgot about that comic. To be clear, though, I’m not thinking that there’s a clear, universal scale of beauty everyone agrees on, and we just shrink or expand it based on what’s available (“okay, nobody that close to the platonic form of beauty, better lower my standards”). I think it’s more that the monkey-part of your brain resets itself according to what it’s surrounded by, and selects between variants of those based on unknown rules, possibly including regularity of features or hip-to-waist ratio, etc.

            So whatshisface from Avatar gets uploaded into this weird alien tribe, and after a while his brain resets to think, “oh, yeah, people are really big and blue with huge eyes, and have tails for some reason. All this is completely normal. Hey, that particular tailed gigasmurf is rather sexy! Wonder if she wants to bind hair USBs?”

          • woah77 says:

            That’s what I mean. You re-acclimate to your surroundings and everyone has a scale from unattractive to really attractive. The scale doesn’t change, we just fit our surroundings into it.

    • A1987dM says:

      To what extent do you believe our sexual tastes are culturally formed?

      Well, there’s no way the early-21st-century Anglospheric preferences for cleanly-shaven men or very thin women can date back to the environment of evolutionary adaptedness…

      • Kyle A Johansen says:

        Is there that much preference for ‘very thin women’, I suppose in one looks at porn one might find a lot of very fun women with disproportionately large breasts which might seem as evidence of your claim, even though it feels to make like ‘very thin’ is a preference of women rather then men, but that could really just be an environmental failure state since the thin+bolt-ones was not found in the evolutionary environment.

      • vV_Vv says:

        the early-21st-century Anglospheric preferences for cleanly-shaven men or very thin women

        Like these two?

      • Well... says:

        I remember hearing about a study that found women tend to prefer men with heavy stubble to men with full beards or clean shaven.

      • My casual impression is that current tastes see mildly unshaven men as particularly sexy.

        That makes some evolutionary sense. Facial hair signals “male,” hence women may be programmed to see someone clean shaven as dubiously male.

      • caryatis says:

        Thinness and hairlessness are both highly correlated with youth. In our society, both characteristics are also associated with high-status. Young and high-status = sexy.

    • Watchman says:

      I have a suggestion: unfamiliarity means your reaction to people with a different appearance to your normal expectations is initially collectivising, so you ascribe a general level of attractiveness to all the females or males in their sexual prime; note this could apply to moving to Japan and finding all the men very attractive as well. After some time in that place it is less alien; most importantly after the time spent in a place you are much better at distinguishing what were previously undistinguished individual features. Therefore your mental processing is less focused on a reaction to an alien group and reverts to normal patterns of assessing individuals on their own merits.

      Mind you, I’m equally happy with the evolutionary model that we are hardwired want to have children and will adjust our arousal stimuli to make this possible.

    • I have had a somewhat similar experience having nothing to do with sexual attractiveness.

      A very long time ago I spent a summer in Canberra, Australia, visiting at the ANU. I was staying in a dorm/hotel. One of the other residents was a man who at some point in the past had been badly burned–when I first saw him I found it uncomfortable to look at his face because it was so badly misformed. We got into conversation, he was an interesting person, and the effect vanished–he was no longer a person who looked horrible, just a person who looked different.

    • Well... says:

      Maybe human culture has a way of taking pretty much any symbol and mapping it to things like “fertility and ability to nurture young” or “ability to dominate and provide”. When women and men display these respective symbols it tends to make them more attractive.

    • freemantle says:

      I have had exactly this experience, when I lived on a Melanesian island for a year.

  17. Uribe says:

    One thing I’ve noticed about politics is that it tends to lag interwebz discussion by about 5 years.

    Trump probably didn’t read Moldbug, but Moldbug anticipated Trumpism. Granted, Moldbug dreamed of a more brilliant philosopher king, but we got Trump. And many of Trump’s stated goals read like a Steve Sailor wet dream.

    This leads me to believe the interblogs are a leading indicator of political direction.

    Recently. that Fox guy who used to wear the bow tie on CNN says it’s a problem that so many women make as much or money as men that it has caused marriage rates to decline substantially. This isn’t news, unless, apparently, you work for a news channel.

    I think Tucker Fucker makes a good point. Marriage really is a problem. Most people are happier if they are married and the decline of marriage has resulted in a decline in happiness.

    This is a situation Hegel anticipates: We have 2 big value contradictions: The value of marriage; the value of women’s rights. Women’s rights lead to women making more money and it turns out that this is hostile to the institution of marriage, because women want husband who provide more financially than they and men want the same.

    I’m just kinda drunk and spewing thoughts. Have no conclusion.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      The dialectical synthesis would seem to involve the reconciliation of the two via the reformation of marriage. But Hegel is a right blockhead, so who knows if it’ll end up going that way. I hope it does.

    • theredsheep says:

      Bear in mind that people say an absolutely enormous variety of things on the internet, and many of them are just fantastically wrong. Or, to put it another way, the internet is an army of blindfolded guys with rifles blundering around a field firing at random. The future is a single paper target hung up at one corner of the field. As it turns out, the internet is extremely good at hitting the target.

      Also, I’m not convinced about the women-marrying-up thing, though this may be because my wife married in a decidedly downwards direction. But I think there are other cultural factors at work; among others, marriage has stopped being a prerequisite for sex and drifted over time from “thing you do at the start of adulthood” to “thing that you do, y’know, whenever.” A married couple is, from some perspectives, indistinguishable from a long-term cohabiting couple anyway, and in some states they get called common-law married after a while whether they want it or not (happened to a brother of mine). But since the expectation that you’ll get married or otherwise “settle down” as soon as you grow up has gone away, and we place a high value on the superficially pleasing freedoms of the single state, household formation is getting delayed, leaving us in limbo during peak child-rearing years and causing many of us to delay the formation of other adult habits as well. The long-term results are probably not going to be very nice.

    • arlie says:

      Wasn’t there some research – decades ago now – which showed men either happier, or living longer, or both, if married – and the reverse for women?

      • Eponymous says:

        I have a vague memory of hearing this also, but I’m skeptical: I would have expected married people to do better (in both cases) due to selection effects alone. I could try to explain the differential result by sex (several explanations immediately come to mind), but that would be rationalizing a result I wouldn’t have predicted, so I won’t.

        Now is the fact true? This article suggests the research isn’t clear on the question (though it seems to be written from an anti-marriage and pro-woman perspective, to the extent of containing obvious flaws). Further googling yields inconsistent results, which supports no clear conclusions.

    • meh says:

      Most people are happier if they are married and the decline of marriage has resulted in a decline in happiness.

      I’m not an expert on the research, but I thought it was that married people are happier, not that people are happier if they are married. Any references for above?

      I would also think a decline in marriage and having children would lead to increased happiness.

      • Eponymous says:

        I’m not an expert on the research, but I thought it was that married people are happier, not that people are happier if they are married. Any references for above?

        See my comment just above yours. I did a bit of googling which seemed to support the view that there aren’t clear answers on this. (Incidentally, I’m very suspicious of “happiness research” in general, but that’s another matter.)

        I would also think a decline in marriage and having children would lead to increased happiness.

        I’m curious why you think this. Personally, I strongly believe that, to the extent “happiness” is a thing that exists, marriage and children generally increase it.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      There’s a lot of non-mainstream content out there, some of it is a more extreme version of the mainstream narratives and some of it is a total contradiction of said narratives. Not all of that stuff which was present on the internet 5+ Years ago was vindicated or is deemed relevant today.

      E.G. the people who from 2008-2011 were predicting a hyperinflationary economic SHTF scenario, and buying lots of precious metals, were proven wrong, and fewer and fewer people listened to these individuals

      People who explicitly predicted or insinuated there would be a day-after-tomorrow style enviromental collapse from a failure to adequately respond to climate change in the mid-late 2000s are not taken as seriously now as they would have been during the days of hurricane Katrina. (obviously you still have an elite consensus that favors carbon reduction but the public interest is weaker and the claims of climate advocates are less severe then they used to be)

      The people who sounded the alarm on demographics, immigration, and social-cultural-identity issues grew in popularity because the effects of the aforementioned things [demographics,immigration, etc.] became more visible, and the more people that noticed them the more people there are to signal boost immigration and cultural related issues.

      As far as marriage goes it seems plausible to me that at a deep psychological level a majority of women;
      1. Don’t like the idea of women generally having lesser payed job prospects then males generally
      2. Don’t like the idea of marrying a man who is less financially independent/secure then they are.

      Even though at a gross or collective level these desires are mutually rivalrous, at the individual level it’s not ostensibly irrational since #1 concerns other people and #2 concerns what’s immediately in front of you. From the individual woman’s perspective in a world of gender equality, the problem of dealing with men who earn less than you can always be thought of as some other woman’s problem.

      However on the general topic of marriage i think an SSC-quality-level investigation is needed to comb through the relevant research and see just how correct people like Tucker Carlson are.

      • One could have equal pay for equal work by gender and still have women marrying up–all they have to do is to consistently marry older men, farther along their career path.

        • acymetric says:

          Interestingly, that would seem to lead to some kind of crunch initially where a lot of people stay unmarried (because the older men are, as a group, already married).

          Also, doesn’t that already tend to happen? I think it is much more likely for a woman to marry an older man than vice-versa although certainly both happen (for these purposes I would say someone within a year or two, maybe even three would essentially be considered the same age).

          • quanta413 says:

            Yeah, but the crunch is only for one generation if the transition between marriage systems is drastic. On its own, the system doesn’t cause a crunch.

          • acymetric says:

            Right, that’s why I specified “initially”. I think we’re on the same page.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Well ‘equal pay for equal work’ is already a thing in a legal sense. I was thinking about it more in terms of the silly but much cared about earnings differential. But never the less the success of what you’re describing depends on how many unmarried young men are created by this arrangement.

        • 10240 says:

          One could have equal pay for equal work by gender and still have women marrying up–all they have to do is to consistently marry older men, farther along their career path.

          Or just work less than men (at a workplace). Which they by-and-large do (at least on average), but typically only after marriage and children.

      • Tenacious D says:

        E.G. the people who from 2008-2011 were predicting a hyperinflationary economic SHTF scenario, and buying lots of precious metals, were proven wrong, and fewer and fewer people listened to these individuals

        People who explicitly predicted or insinuated there would be a day-after-tomorrow style enviromental collapse from a failure to adequately respond to climate change in the mid-late 2000s are not taken as seriously now as they would have been during the days of hurricane Katrina. (obviously you still have an elite consensus that favors carbon reduction but the public interest is weaker and the claims of climate advocates are less severe then they used to be)

        Good examples.

  18. (I posted this on the previous OT, should have posted it here)

    My new book, Legal Systems very Different from Ours, appears to be available on Amazon now as a paperback (meaning that I haven’t actually gotten a copy), and I’m in the process of using Calibre to turn it into a Kindle. One tricky bit is the index.

    Which raises a question–should a Kindle have an index? I can, with some work, produce an index where each entry is linked to the corresponding point in the text. On the other hand, since it’s an ebook someone looking for a word can always search for it, so perhaps an index is superfluous.

    Opinions?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Depends on the content of the index IMO. If you identify passages in which the concept is treated, I think it’d still be useful.

      • For what it is worth, here is a sample of the book’s index:
        A
        Aitire, hostage surety, Irish, 189
        Akhnai, oven of, 305
        Al-Mansur (caliph), 105
        Althing, 157
        Amish
        affiliations, 43
        bishop, selection of, 44
        communion, 45
        compared to Romani, 50
        law, 309
        meidung (shunning), 46
        strong and weak, 139–40
        ministers and deacons, selection of, 43
        National Steering Committee, 51, 142–43
        Ordnung, 42, 44–45
        only binding on baptized adults, 47
        origin of, 42
        relations with U.S. governments, 50–53
        Rumspringa, 48
        schooling, 51–52
        Annie Lee Turner et al. v. Big Lake Oil Company et al, 308
        appeal of felony, 256
        appeal of murder, 316
        Articles of pirate ships, 116–20
        Associations for the prosecution of felons, 236–37
        Athenian law, 298
        Assembly (Ekklesia), 259
        incentive to prosecute, 263
        juries, 260–61
        kyrios, 265
        liturgies, 266–68
        marriage, 265
        metics, 259
        miasma, 264–65
        murder cases, 263
        private case, 263
        public case, 262–63
        public good production, 266–68
        slaves, 259–60
        testimony of under torture, 262
        theft, 264
        Athenian Rule
        and patent trolls, 326–27

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          At a glance, the multi-word and multi-page ones seem good to keep; similarly, any bits of jargon like “metics” that people might know they know, but not remember. I don’t think I would keep things like “communion” or “affiliations” unless these are the equivalent of section headings on their respective pages.

          Also, Athenian rule and patent trolls is a fantastic entry.

          • For some reason, the commenting software eliminated my indents. The next 16 entries after “Amish” should be indented, since they are subtopics of Amish. “strong and weak, 139–40” should be doubly indented, because it is a subtopic of “Shunning.” Similarly for some other things.

        • Watchman says:

          As a sometimes academic user of indexes, there’s two things I search for. One is names and name-phrases, which can be better done using a search function. An index might be necessary here if you were say writing on Warwick Castle, located in Warwick, Warwickshire and a seat of the Earls of Warwick. If my interest is only in the castle, town or peers a search here would be less informative so indexing might be valuable. I would suggest a rule of thumb that if in a conventional book your index for Warwick would require three or more indented entries, it is worth indenting.

          The second thing I might look up are concepts or non-time-limited events: judicial supremacy or the building of the castle for example. As discussion of these may not involve the key words being used in a basic-searchable fashion, then indexing relevant accounts or discussions makes the text usable.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      What would be nice is if you could get a bunch of people to read your book in PDF or some online form, see which words get searched most often, and make that the basis of your index.

    • Nornagest says:

      I think a book that is at least partly a reference work would benefit from an index, even on Kindle. Legal Systems… happens to be the only book of yours I’ve read, and it does seem to be such a book.

      • My son Patri, who works at Google, suggested that what I thought would be a lot of work done by hand could probably be done easily by someone who actually understood HTML and CSS—I think I learned to use HTML before CSS was invented. He was correct. Someone on FB offered to look at the problem, found a simple solution to a large part of it in fifteen minutes or so. All I have to do is add about five lines of code to the HTML defining the index and each subentry magically gets its own line and is indented.

        Rearranging the entries to make more sense, which I did for the print version, still has to be done by hand, but I think I’ll try it.

  19. sunnydestroy says:

    Fun, convincing blog post prognosticating the macro outlook for the US economy in 2019, plus what it might mean for the stock market: https://fat-pitch.blogspot.com/2019/01/january-macro-update-2018-employment.html

    Essentially, expect a slowdown in growth though recession isn’t really in the cards yet. Weakest indicator is housing, but everything else looks to be trending positive. One wild card is trade war concerns. The equity market will have its typical volatile swings, but the overall trend should generally mirror continued economic growth.

    So far it’s matching my thoughts that there likely won’t be recession in 2019, but growth won’t be record setting either.

    • Dan L says:

      It’s a good article, but it bears updating that the first bond market inversions have already started appearing. The takeaway that the most leading indicators are the most pessimistic is increasingly well supported.

  20. EchoChaos says:

    I had a nice conversation with Hoopyfreud and a couple of others about stereotypes and hiring in the last thread and I’d like to expand on it a bit, and I think it bears on IQ and a couple of the other things being discussed here.

    One of the dynamics that Hoopyfreud pointed out that he/she was upset by people who used race as a heuristic.

    I will suggest that race is used as a direct heuristic in America substantially less than most people think it is and that when it is used that way it tends to benefit minorities rather than disadvantage them.

    And I think that the reason that so many minorities get upset is because they experience race being used as an indirect heuristic in daily life a lot.

    To use an example, let’s say that surgeons are usually male and that nurses are usually female (both true in America). If a regular person walks into a surgeon’s office and sees a pretty young woman in scrubs and says “good morning nurse” then an acceptably high percentage of the time he will be correct, the nurse will say hello back and both will feel good about the encounter.

    But for a female surgeon, 100% of such encounters will be awkward and feel bigoted, because she is always on the receiving end.

    And on the degree of accuracy, surgeon is actually a really GOOD heuristic for male. 81% of surgeons in the United States are male, and someone who makes an assumption that is 80% right is doing a pretty good job. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/number-of-women-surgeons-in-the-us-3972900

    Well, I can hear people saying, you should just always check before you make any assumption. But that doesn’t pass the sniff test. Even in a perfect world people will always use heuristics, because we don’t have infinite time. Heuristics are time saving measures that are important.

    But in a lot of cases they’re a lot weaker than “surgeon = male” and they’re related to race and people do them anyway because they’re bad at statistics. Which means that even though direct use of race as a heuristic in hiring/renting/etc. is both culturally and legally unacceptable, minorities feel that their race is being used as a heuristic far more often than it is.

    • Plumber says:

      Some members of racial miniorities feel that they face more negative discrimination than they do because most nurses are women and most surgeons are men?

      Sorry @EchoChaos, my reading comprehension fails me, please restate the idea.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Racial minorities feel they face more negative discrimination than they do because every time someone makes a mistaken assumption on a heuristic they notice it (while they don’t notice all the correct assumptions because they aren’t part of those conversations).

        These are small and not particularly discriminatory, and in the big stuff (jobs, rentals, etc) they are in fact not discriminated against. However, it feels bad because it is constant, and the people who are constantly “microaggressing” are not particularly incentivized to fix the heuristics because they’re almost always right.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Racial minorities feel they face more negative discrimination than they do because every time someone makes a mistaken assumption on a heuristic they notice it

          I assume that you’re talking about people making inferences about the heuristics other people use when making big decisions and saying that those heuristics actually apply to small-scale decisions more than they apply to big ones. This is possible but not particularly convincing, particularly since IME people are more conservative (small c) when making big decisions.

          The idea that external social mores exert more pressure on those making the big decisions is more convincing, and I’ll grant that I’d be willing to believe that hiring and other institutional decisions are fairly constrained by that social pressure; that said, I think these institutions are therefore constrained by the strength of that pressure, that this is a bad way to make decisions, and that non-institutions make big decisions that aren’t subject to such pressure.

          • EchoChaos says:

            No, I am saying that they miscalculate how many people make adjustments based on the heuristic of race because they notice all the people who do.

          • 10240 says:

            If I’m a hiring manager and a woman applies to a job as a surgeon, I have another very important piece of information about her besides that she is a woman: the fact that she is applying to a job as a surgeon. That probably overrides any vague stereotype I have about surgeons being mostly men; I perhaps note to myself that it’s a bit unusual that a surgeon is a woman, but I have no reason to treat her differently from any other surgeon. However, if I see a person in scrubs, and I only know that she is a woman and a medical professional, it is relatively unlikely that she is a surgeon.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        … Simpler: Assume, oh, 1 percent of US “whites” are racist enough, and socially inept enough, that they will be noticeably a racially motivated asshole to any person of color they interact with.
        How many incidents of people being a racist asshole at them will Trevor, the apple store clerk experience in a week?

        • Plumber says:

          In the Apple store on Fourth Street?

          Assuming 1% are noticeably racist jerks?

          Hundreds every week.

          When I worked at a motorcycle shop parts counter I developed a “heuristic” that motorcyclists were ruder and stupider than average, switching to construction work changed my mind about this.

          So if you’re not a member of a racial minority you’ll notice discrimination against racial minorities less?

          That makes sense.

          And from that idea we should….?

      • Deiseach says:

        I think the idea is that, say, you are a patient and when you go into the hospital and see ten women in green scrubs, every time you say “Hello, Nurse Joan!” and eight times out of ten you’ll be right. The two times you’re wrong and it’s “Surgeon Joan” don’t stand out to you because they’re so rare.

        On the other hand, for Surgeon Joan, eight times out of ten she’s mistaken for a nurse and only two times out of ten is she correctly identified. For her, the wrong times are the common experience. So after a while, she’ll be less likely to think “innocent mistake” and more likely to think “deliberate sexism”, even if that’s not the case (unconscious sexism is another thing, but for simplicity’s sake we’re assuming active malice).

        So Patient Bob gets accused by Surgeon Joan of being a misogynist sexist monster for saying “Hello Nurse Joan!” to her, and she’s angry about that, while Patient Bob is angry that his simple act of civility is being presented as a deliberate insult (for him, this is the rare time he’s been wrong, but for Joan this is the eighth time today it happened and she has had it).

        For Joan, she’s going to assume that every patient – even if they never say anything – is presuming she’s only a nurse because she can’t be ‘smart enough to be a surgeon’ or ‘that’s a man’s job’ and she sees things in terms of deliberate discrimination.

        For Bob, he’s assuming Joan is oversensitive special snowflake or deliberately out to cause trouble and blame men, because he knows he wasn’t being a sexist misogynist, it was a real mistake.

        And the kicker is, both of them are right from their viewpoint: for Joan, she does face sexism every day; for Bob, he was innocent of any malicious intent. But put them arguing the case and instead of getting a compromise “Joan is right that patients assume she’s a nurse but Bob is right that this is not sexism it’s based on the ratios”, they’ll both accuse each other of bad intent and denying the other person’s lived experience.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Exactly. And Surgeon Joan is not being treated with sexism in the relevant ways (she’s been hired as a surgeon, after all), but she still feels exceptionally discriminated against.

          And this means if Surgeon Joe is promoted over her, even if for pure merit, she is more likely to assume sexism than the boring “Surgeon Joe is just really good”.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          My read is that the presumption of deliberate discrimination isn’t necessarily there; Surgeon Joan is tired and frustrated and sad and angry, and writes thinkpieces on medium and rants on Facebook about how the heuristic is bad, and her friends and readers agree and don’t do (that) thing, and it never gets back to Bob because Joan is screaming into the audient void.

          I can forgive Joan because all the good, nice people in her life except for the people she interacts with professionally and maybe some asshole she met on a dating website get it. I can forgive Bob because he’s never met a female surgeon before and he probably hasn’t thought too hard about Surgeon Joan’s hypothetical existence ever in his life. But I think Bob’s share of the blame is the greater one, because at some point in his life he ought to have learned that to assume is to make an ass out of u and me, and I can’t divine what compelling reason he might have to make the assumption in the first place. Joan, for her part, should find better ways of dealing with stress, but I have more sympathy for the difficulty of that problem than Bob’s.

          Also I think that assuming active malice “for simplicity’s sake” is really uncharitable, and smuggles some very important subtleties into the argument. It makes Joan propositionally wrong instead of merely bad, and wrong and bad is almost always worse than just bad, so Joan is disadvantaged from the beginning. It would seem prudent to me to assume ignorance or malice on both their behaves, rather than introduce an asymmetry. Bob might equally believe that surgery is a man’s job.

          • Aapje says:

            But I think Bob’s share of the blame is the greater one, because at some point in his life he ought to have learned that to assume is to make an ass out of u and me, and I can’t divine what compelling reason he might have to make the assumption in the first place.

            Nonsense. If he and all other Bobs would always ask, many doctors would feel disrespected and get angry for having to explain over and over again that they truly are doctors. They would often take this anger out on Bob.

            It also lowers people’s opinion of Bob if he asks, so doing this makes people treat him as less smart/lower status than if he would have guessed right. Note that research suggests that many things that are mistaken for racism are actually class-based discrimination that thus also can happen to white people who are thought to be lower class.

            Categorical, extremist claims that things that people actually do are always harmful to everyone don’t pass the smell test and thus suggest a huge blind spot on the part of the person who makes that claim. Why would people do things that harm themselves and others?

            A better solution is to make doctors clearly distinguishable from nurses, so people don’t offend doctors one way or the other. Of course, uniforms have their own disadvantages…

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            If he and all other Bobs would always ask, many doctors would feel disrespected and get angry for having to explain over and over again that they truly are doctors.

            For the last… several years? (I dunno, I haven’t kept count) I have greeted nurses and doctors I wasn’t sure (as in, sure) were nurses or doctors with, “Hello. Are you the doctor?”

            Not one of them has, as far as I can tell, felt at all chuffed, and the couple nurses who I asked seemed either flattered or amused.

            Note that research suggests that many things that are mistaken for racism are actually class-based discrimination that thus also can happen to white people who are thought to be lower class.

            My entire point has consistently been that making decisions this way is Bad. Not that it’s racist or sexist. I agree with you, and I disapprove just as much there.

            Also, I am not saying it’s universally harmful, or that it’s a great moral evil – I just want a strong norm against it, because I think it’s fundamentally unpleasant. I find it much, much more unpleasant than when people ask the question. If you disagree, I feel I should ask – do you greet all women in scrubs in hospitals with, “Hello nurse?”

          • theredsheep says:

            Not sure this is relevant, but at the hospital I used to work at, they all clearly indicated their profession on their nametags (and many doctors wore non-scrub clothing). Also nurses were generally officious and somewhat overbearing, but genial; doctors tended more towards “my bowel movements are solid platinum and I will write you up if you question it.”

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            This is exactly why doctor v. nurse scrubs and name badges have become more clearly distinct in recent years.

          • Garrett says:

            As for nametags, I foresee this being another problem.

            When I’m volunteering in EMS and take someone into the hospital, I’m required (by law) to give a report to someone of equal-or-higher qualifications than myself. In-practice, this means the nurse. However, new patients usually involve a flurry of people showing up to deal with things like registration, getting the patient into a gown, if needed. So it’s pretty typical to have 3-4 staff in the room at the same time. So the ID cards are great!

            Except that they are worn on lanyards around the neck and on the same ring usually include not just the ID card with position/title, but some access card, as well as the “5 Core Values of the Hospital” or whatever crazy mantra the higher-ups have decided everybody needs to think about by providing them yet another card to ignore. Not to mention additional keys for carts, drug lockups, etc. So the cards are frequently flopping around and covered by other things.

            So I find myself staring at the chests of a lot of women trying to figure out what their role is so I can provide a report. At some point I’ll probably get yelled at for ogling the female staff.

        • Plumber says:

          Thanks @Deiseach I understand the idea much better now!

          • Deiseach says:

            You’re welcome, Plumber; I often have to talk things through with myself to make sure I got the gist of it, and writing them down helps, as in the famous “How can I know what I think till I see what I say?” 😉

            And Googling to see who said the original – I thought it might be the celebrated Sir Boyle Roche but it turns out to be attributed to E.M. Forster – I see that there is such a thing as discovery writing.

            I am henceforward going to claim that I don’t make it up as I go along, it’s discovery writing, you probably wouldn’t have heard of it 😀

        • Fitzroy says:

          Thanks, Deiseach. You’ve very well articulated something that I’ve tried to argue before – that something can be simultaneously both an honest mistake and an example of ~ism.

          • EchoChaos says:

            You can certainly think of it as sexism (to use the nurse/doctor example), but Bob really isn’t being sexist.

            He’s just saving time and generally making himself and most people he interacts with socially happier. He occasionally mildly inconveniences a female surgeon, but he isn’t preventing her from being a surgeon or impeding her career in any way.

            If this is “sexism” then a large percentage of people aren’t going to support getting rid of it.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @EchoChaos

            He’s just saving time and generally making himself and most people he interacts with socially happier.

            If you really believe this, is the best possible world the one in which every single person Surgeon Joan meets calls her a nurse? Because I much prefer the world we live in today, after decades of women spiling ink to get people to not apply the heuristic.

          • Kyle A Johansen says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            Do you agree that, although your opinion is different, that a lot of people did prefer the world where people were more pleasant and less sensitive? (Before we had a ‘victim culture’)

            Although, I can easily understand how society can go the way to benefit upper-middle class people at the expense of the great mass of people, I think its shame when that happens.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Kyle

            Yes, and I agree that pleasantness is generally good and sensitivity often causes more unpleasantness. I just also think that this sort of behavior is and has always been unpleasant, and that the rate at which people encounter this unpleasant behavior has increased with the velocity of population, urbanization, and the increasing ability of people to break stereotypes. The previous social dynamic may well have been more pleasant overall, but I don’t think we can get it back without replicating the social context, and I think trying to do so is both ridiculous and bad for reasons not related to pleasantness.

          • is the best possible world the one in which every single person Surgeon Joan meets calls her a nurse?

            That isn’t the world. Lots of people Surgeon Joan meets–practically everyone she encounters who works in the hospital–knows who she is and what she is.

            It’s a world where strangers she meets often call her a nurse.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @David

            “Meet” in the sense of “to meet for the first time,” not “to interact with.”

          • Aapje says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            It used to be that people mostly intimately knew those they interacted with. The issue is that you can’t replicate this by expecting people to ask, especially when only the ‘right’ things may be asked and in the ‘right’ way.

            Perhaps we are in an intermediate situation where in the future augmented reality will allow us to secretly get information on anyone we meet. Then again, I foresee a fight over who gets to edit your profile that others see.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Aapje

            I agree that old norms are dead. I am trying to establish new ones. I’d suggest that asking is only as impractical as you think it is.

        • JPNunez says:

          The thing is the issue is not symmetrical; it’s Bob who first hurt Joan, and it’s up to him to apologize for his -unaware- first stone thrown.

          Whenever you insult someone, even if by mistake, the correct action is to apologize and try to do better in the future, not pull out statistics tables and try to explain priors.

          • EchoChaos says:

            He probably would apologize, and depending on how strongly Joan reacted he might never greet someone as nurse again, instead always asking profession.

            That won’t change the fact that the next patient Bob is going to do the same thing.

          • brad says:

            What if we teach all the Bobs not to be jerks while they are growing up?

          • Kyle A Johansen says:

            @brad

            What if the doctor looks incredibly similar to a nurse that used to work there. Is it still a jerk-move to say ‘hello, nurse’? What if he normally goes to a hospital that has different scrub colours for nurse and doctor, and at this hospital they do not and the doctor is wearing the other hospital’s nurse colour? Is he a jerk in both those cases justifying Joan’s reaction?

            I think “don’t get angry at people making mistakes that don’t actually affect you”, seems the most sensible rule to try to teach. Wrath is a deadly sin, making an incorrect inference is not.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Because there is no conceivable way to go through all of life without making heuristic judgments (most of them less accurate than the example).

            Don’t get caught in the specifics of the example, think on the concept. And what you should learn from it is “unless you have hard evidence of malice, it’s probably just someone following a reasonable heuristic”.

          • albatross11 says:

            We can teach the Bobs to make fewer mistakes like this specific one, but it’s probably impossible (and not even a good idea) to prevent them making all such mistakes.

            Stereotypes are applied statistics (sometimes wrong statistics, but often pretty accurate). Using those to make quick decisions (which person in this room should I ask my question, how should I greet this stranger who’s just walked up to me, is this person walking down the street likely to be a threat, is this woman likely to appreciate being hit on, etc.) is necessary, and refusing to use any group statistics for fear of making errors or offending someone just means making *different* errors.

            In this specific kind of case, I think it’s better to make the most accurate guesses you can about who’s who, and then modulate your interactions with them based on whether or not they’re likely to take offense. (So if you see a hispanic-looking guy walk into the room in work clothes, you’re unlikely to offend them by greeting them in Spanish (even if you’re wrong, it’s probably not insulting), but if you start talking to them like they’re the gardener, you may insult them unintentionally.)

          • albatross11 says:

            JPNunez:

            Whenever you insult someone, even if by mistake, the correct action is to apologize and try to do better in the future, not pull out statistics tables and try to explain priors.

            At a personal level, this is true. If I realize I’ve inadvertently offended someone, I’m mainly interested in smoothing things over, not deciding whether or not they should have been offended. But if I know that someone is very easy to inadvertently offend, so that an innocent interaction or joke or friendly comment is likely to end up with them angrily demanding an apology, I’m going to decide they’re extremely touchy and try to avoid them when I can. On a personal level, it’s probably a better policy for Joan to find ways to signal that she’s a surgeon instead of a nurse, rather than to get mad at her clueless patients.

            At a social level, the logic you’re suggesting creates a superweapon. Once I claim to be offended, you must give in and apologize, no matter what. When applied to internet arguments or political debates, it’s unworkable because you’re guaranteed to find bad actors who will exploit this to silence opponents and win arguments.

            This all makes me think of a noise complaint where either the drumming school or the migraine clinic could move, and it’s not clear which one should do so. Should Bob call all scrubs-wearing people doctor and let the nurses correct him? Should Joan get a monogrammed lab coat that says “Joan Jones, MD, FACS”? Either one works.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @JPNunez

            I think it depends on the nature of the insult and offense takens. Sometimes that’s the correct course of action, sometimes the correct course of action is for the offended party to correct themselves. A good example of the latter would be someone who takes offense at the use of the word “niggardly”, has its meaning explained to them, then says “Well it sounds too close to the other offensive word therefore I still find it offensive and demand an apology.”

          • acymetric says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            One confounding issue: there are definitely people who use that word who use it because they think it has the same origin as your hypothetical offended person (in which case the person would be correct to be offended because the intent was to offend with a slur). In the context of reading somewhat dated literature, I agree with you that correcting a mistake to understand the intent of the author. In the context of modern writing and discourse, that word is probably best left in the “find another way to say that” pile.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Albatross11

            On a personal level, it’s probably a better policy for Joan to find ways to signal that she’s a surgeon instead of a nurse, rather than to get mad at her clueless patients.

            I don’t see how you can so strenuously argue that Bob did nothing wrong while also slipping this in. At a similar degree of exaggeration of this rule as your social superweapon, you’re demanding that if people don’t want to be treated stereotypically, it’s on them to find ways to signal their nonconformance with the stereotype in a way that’s legible, or else all stereotypes with statistical correlates are justified.

            Do you not see why this argument is repulsive?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            I genuinely don’t see why that is a repulsive conclusion. It’s exactly what most hospitals are doing (nametags/scrubs that make it clear who is a doctor v. nurse, etc.)

            It’s exactly what I was taught as a kid for job interviews, dates, etc.

            Act/dress in a way that conforms to heuristics you want people to associate with you and avoids negative ones.

            You dress up well for an interview because humans know that the kind of a person who takes the time to present himself well will also be a good employee, so you’re more likely to get hired.

            You don’t rant at the person giving the interview that they should look beyond your ragged clothes, noxious breath and see that you’d be a great employee.

          • Randy M says:

            Do you not see why this argument is repulsive?

            I don’t, can you spell it out? We’re assuming the stereotypes are valid, etc.

          • brad says:

            What I’m seeing is your trivially beneficial cognitive shortcut is more important than someone else’s feelings. There’s a name for that and it’s jerk.

          • uau says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            At a similar degree of exaggeration of this rule as your social superweapon, you’re demanding that if people don’t want to be treated stereotypically,

            No, that’s a dishonest twisting of what albatross11 said. The comparable thing he suggested, in the same “personal level” paragraph, was that it may be easiest just to apologize if someone gets offended, regardless of whether an apology is at all deserved.

            But saying that you owe an apology, or that it’s wrong to not apologize, having a rule that you must apologize, that’s wrong and creates the “superweapon” issue. Having a strict rule that you must always signal nonconformance to a stereotype, or all bad consequences are strictly your own fault and no one else has any responsibility whatsoever, would similarly create bad consequences.

            So, albatross11 neither demanded that people apologize just because someone gets offended nor that they conspicuously signal if they differ from a stereotype. He said both may be a practical thing to get through social interaction with the minimum amount of trouble. He explicitly said that a rule always demanding the former would be a bad idea, and likely would say the same for the second. You dishonestly compare “does demanding this make sense as a rule” for one to “does doing this commonly help smooth social interaction” for the other.

          • Randy M says:

            What I’m seeing is your trivially beneficial cognitive shortcut is more important than someone else’s feelings. There’s a name for that and it’s jerk.

            There are non-trivial cases. I’m assuming it isn’t just the doctor nurse thing, but even then, saving time while asking for medication or something could matter.
            And, it’s up to someone else not to be offended over trivial mistakes. There’s a word for someone who takes offense at honest mistakes. Jerk fits here as well.
            And I’m not sure “occasional jerk” really rises to the level of “repulsive” but perhaps you and Hoopyfreud spend your time around a superior strain of humanity.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Right, we should remove all information content from our addresses and just use “hey you” for everything.

            My go-to has actually been “hey you, with the face” but I’d better cut out my trivial humor in case they happen to have had their face eaten by badgers.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @EchoChaos

            “Rule” is ambiguous between “strict rule” and norm, and I think Albatross was defending a norm by criticizing the opposite strict rule. I think that’s bad argumentation, told him so (note the conditional) and demonstrated that it could be turned around. I think the strict rule corresponding to the norm he proposed is just as bad, and that the merits of the norms did be debated without reference to a terminal extension of those norms.

          • albatross11 says:

            Hoopyfreud: I don’t think I made any argument about whether Bob did something wrong or not.

            I think that as a practical matter, it’s going to be easier for Joan to find some way to stop the annoyance of being mistaken for a nurse by her own actions than by getting all the patients or the whole society to change. And that snapping at every patient who mistakes her for a nurse will not lead anywhere good for either her or her patients.

          • Kyle A Johansen says:

            I think the ‘heurestics bad’ position, also seems to forget that Joan with her white coat and stethoscope may be offended if you ask if she is a doctor, and although that may suggest that one ought to just assume everyone is a doctor, it is possible that Pedro the janitor would be offended if you assumed he were a doctor, or at least Time the social justice nurse. (And that’s without getting into areas where different status hierarchies exist in the mind of different people).

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I think that as a practical matter, it’s going to be easier for Joan to find some way to stop the annoyance of being mistaken for a nurse by her own actions than by getting all the patients or the whole society to change.

            My mistake, I read your “better” as “more desirable, generally” rather than “better suited to solving the issue of misidentification” based on your later statements about “social superweapons” – which, I assume, you think should be avoided generally (at least that’s what I think). I agree that this is likely to be more successful and that it would be useful for Joan to do. I just also think that Joan ought to advocate for people not to use the heuristic (or at least that there’s nothing wrong with her doing so), because the heuristic is bad even though it’s relatively successful, and I think that telling people to not use bad heuristics is a good thing.

          • Whenever you insult someone, even if by mistake

            Insult: speak to or treat with disrespect or scornful abuse.

            I don’t think that addressing a doctor as a nurse when you have no way of knowing which she is fits that definition.

            Suppose we take it out of the sexual context. You are an assistant professor who is relatively young for the position and looks younger than you are. A student who doesn’t know you addresses you on the assumption that you are a fellow student. Has he insulted you? If not, why is the surgeon/nurse case different?

          • dick says:

            I think the degree of offense equals the degree of stigma attached to the assumption. Is it offensive to ask a black coworker if he was ever in the army? No, I don’t think so. Now imagine we lived in a world where there was a common stereotype that blacks are so poor that the only way they can get college degrees is the GI Bill. Would it be offensive to ask the same question then? Sure, maybe.

            The point being, the degree to which a female doctor takes offense when you assume she’s a nurse is proportional to the degree to which people (or this woman in particular) still feel the sting of the sexism that largely kept women from being doctors until fairly recently. And in your example, that youthful professor would probably take offense if he felt that his youth had kept him down in academia, and would not otherwise. (thought that’s confounded by the fact that being perceived as young as is generally appreciated for reasons unrelated to this)

          • Plumber says:

            @DavidFriedman

            “…Suppose we take it out of the sexual context. You are an assistant professor who is relatively young for the position and looks younger than you are. A student who doesn’t know you addresses you on the assumption that you are a fellow student….”

            When I was an apprentice plumber most of us were in their 20’s or 30’s, but we had one apprentice in class who was in his late 50’s.

            A new “Director of Training” was appointed and he came through and shook our 50-something classmates hand and asked him “How long have you been teaching?”.

            Most of the class found that hilarious.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            because the heuristic is bad even though it’s relatively successful

            So the heuristic is factually fine – often right but sometimes wrong (yaknow, the definition of a heuristic) – but morally bad?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Morally bad is a stronger statement than I want to make – let’s say I consider it aesthetically bad. Note that I am not a utilitarian.

          • brad says:

            Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.

            —Emily Post

            Sure, the person that jumps down the throat of someone that made an innocent, albeit thoughtless, mistake is also a bit of a jerk. But that doesn’t make the thoughtless person any less of a jerk. And the person that consciously decided he was going to use heuristic knowing he might offend because of some twisted logic of convenience doesn’t even have the innocent part going for him.

            To preempt an objection, there isn’t and shouldn’t be any law against being a jerk. But don’t come crying to me about freeze peach if you act like a jerk and people treat you like a jerk. That’s exactly as it ought to be. That’s how we maintain civilization.

          • albatross11 says:

            Gobblegobble:

            What heuristics make sense depends on their false positive/false negative rate, and also on the consequences of each one. You can think of this in terms of an externality, I think–false positives and false negatives have consequences for other people as well a for you, and it would be morally good if you would try to take that into account.

            The actual harm done by incorrectly referring to a surgeon as a nurse is pretty limited, though the description above gave a nice sense of how it might still get pretty annoying for Joan to have 30 people a day think she’s a nurse instead of a surgeon.

        • arlie says:

          Dumb question department:
          – How does Bob know the woman’s name is Joan? Why didn’t he get her professional status from the same source?
          – Why does Bob feel the need to add information he’s not sure about? I can address people without including their profession, even in their workplace.
          – In general, it’s almost always more polite to over-estimate someone’s status, rather than under-estimate it. If you address everyone in this setting as “Doctor”, you’ll be wrong more often, but the people you are wrong about will tend to feel flattered. Why don’t more people do this? (Is it cultural? One of my British friends uses “gentleman” to refer to any male stranger, including men obviously “living rough” [i.e. homeless]. Is that something completely unAmerican?)

          I suspect the problem is that “Bob” tends not to realize that he doesn’t actually *know* Joan’s professional designation, he just jumps to stereotypical conclusions. And that can certainly be a workplace problem for her, far beyond being addressed as “nurse”.

          • Randy M says:

            I feel like people are imagining radically different scenarios here. In one, Bob wanders into the Surgeon’s private office, glancing down and the nameplate that says “Dr. Susan Jones” and, seeing a woman seated behind the desk asks, “Excuse me, nurse, where’s the doctor?”
            In another, Bob steps out of a hospital room, and, trying to get the attention of a passing woman in a lab coat, calls out “Excuse me nurse, my wife’s in a lot of pain, can we get medicine, please?”
            Perhaps the more refined Robert would inquire, “Excuse me, ma’am, I’m looking for a nurse, do you happen to be one, or have you achieved an educational and professional status beyond that?” Or even something slightly less snarky–but I’m really just seeing an honest mistake that merits little offense and isn’t likely to be worth much social pressure to eliminate.

            And that can certainly be a workplace problem for her, far beyond being addressed as “nurse”.

            Can you expand on this?

          • Statismagician says:

            Surprisingly devious answer: Bob got Joan’s name from her scrub embroidery or badge, and for several decades up until very recently, both of these were deliberately difficult to use to determine someone’s professional status if you weren’t a medical professional. This is a evolution of the technicolor scrubs trend, and both moves were framed as ‘personal expression’ or ‘inclusive work culture’ by large hospitals but were actually promoted so that nobody would be quite sure what level of attention they were getting – if the medical assistant and the attending physician dress exactly alike except for some cues you, the patient, are not looking for, who knew, confusion follows.

            Recently hospitals (in my area, at least) have begun moving back towards specialty-specific scrub colors, very large and easily-identifiable professional lettering on ID badges, lab coat length as a marker of professional level, etc., but I have no idea how broadly true that is – the sneakiness explanation is anecdata, but from multiple nurses with careers spanning decades across several states, so I think there’s likely something to it. Probably part of America’s broader problem with how to deal with questions of explicit hierarchy, to which I don’t have a great answer.

          • arlie says:

            @Randy M – I don’t work in medicine. I do work in tech, where there’s a combination of “let’s all dress down” and let’s do away with titles.

            Within (software) tech, there’s a rough hierarchy starting (at the bottom) with customer support, then QA (testing), then people doing mostly maintenance, then developers, then tech leads, and then various types of manager. (Exact details vary somewhat with the specific office.)

            When someone from a different team has a problem, who do they ask for help? Well, they probably want someone at a particular level within your team. But you aren’t labelled. And if theywant to keep neighbouring teams informed of what their group is doing, who do they CC on the email/invite to the meeting? Again, you often aren’t clearly labelled, though your managers can probably be identified from the org chart. Too often, they pick the person who “seems to be” a team lead, or at least a developer.

            Net result – if you get seen as “probably customer support/QA” no one tells you anything, unless they want some help in your supposed area. That tends to leave you out of the loop and clueless – and less able to come up with the great solution to someone’s important problem they didn’t even bother to mention to you. So all things being equal, your acheivements for the year are less (or less important) than someone of equal status to you whose commonly seen as “probably manager or team lead”. So you get a worse review, slower promotions, etc.

            This is a chronic PITA for people who are miscategorized low for any reason, and requires focussed effort to work around – effort that someone who tends to be miscategorized high doesn’t have to make. So while the “obvious support person” is working on getting people to realize they can help with major technical issues, the “obvious tech lead” is actually working on those issues.

            FWIW, it was somewhat worse when I was younger – in those days, tech offices still had **typists**, which could be presumed to know nothing at all – but also somewhat better, because an easy workaround was to wear clothes no typist/janitor/etc. could possibly afford. (Of course that cost money you might need for something else…)

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Can you explain better the difference between direct and indirect heuristics as you’ve defined them? I think I substantially agree with your point but don’t understand the distinction. If you’re talking about affirmative-action-esque “I will W because X is a Y” versus inferential “X is likely to be a Z because they are a Y,” I think I agree with that too, but I think the distinction is pretty academic because “I will W because X is likely to be a Z” often follows.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Direct heuristic: I am adjusting my behavior towards this person because of his race.

        Indirect heuristic: I am adjusting my behavior towards this person because of a factor that is moderately correlated with race.

        So if I hired someone because he was white, that would be a direct heuristic (and get me fired).

        If I hired someone because he was college educated, high IQ and interested in a career in petroleum engineering, that would be an indirect heuristic that would still end up hiring a white in most cases.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Is your nurse example a direct or indirect heuristic, then? I don’t see that as falling neatly into your categories.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Indirect.

            Being a female and in scrubs is strongly anti-correlated with being a surgeon. You are adjusting your behavior towards a doctor in a way you wouldn’t otherwise because of factors that are correlated.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            But you’re also behaving differently towards a person in scrubs because they’re female.

          • Plumber says:

            @EchoChaos

            “…If I hired someone because he was college educated, high IQ and interested in a career in petroleum engineering, that would be an indirect heuristic that would still end up hiring a white in most cases”

            Okay, you just successfully convinced me to strongly support affirmative-action policies to benefit those without the privilege of a college diploma a high IQ, and don’t have much of an interest in being a petroleum engine beyond the pay (admittedly I already felt education and IQ are too rewarding).

            So what?

            I was already in favor of extra support for those who grew up poor, and in favor or redistribution without regarding complexion!

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Plumber

            That would be an interesting set of affirmative action laws.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think a decent social safety net is the best way to help out people who got a bad intelligence roll. I don’t think affirmative action in hiring for intellectually demanding jobs would work out especially well. “We let Joe into the neurosurgery program, not because he was brilliant, had done well in medical school, or had great hand-eye coordination, but because he was kinda dumb, had flunked out of medical school, and could barely tie his own shoes.”

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Hooyfreud

            Sorry, I missed this one. The patient is being rude in this case, but he’s not being rude because he’s sexist (direct), but because he genuinely thinks she’s a nurse (indirect).

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I seems like “direct heuristic” is just “racism/sexism” then – can you explain how this differs from the definition I offered?

    • pjs says:

      But male isn’t a good heuristic for surgeon! The 80% statistic you have only works the other way around.

      There are over 100x as many nurses as surgeons in the US (and about 20x as many male nurses), so if you defend “good morning nurse” for a women, why isn’t it just as justified/useful aimed at anyone in scrubs? (Ignoring the existence of other medical staff than nurses and surgeons this gets it 95% right, even for men, whereas you praise even 80% correctness.) I know you said this was in a surgeons’s office, so the relevant numbers aren’t going to be remotely so tilted, but still if you are going to defend the practical need for heuristics it would be more convincing to an example where the heuristic is both useful and correctly applied.

    • Most women who look pregnant are pregnant but I don’t tell them that. Why not? Because there is no pressing need for me to say anything while there is a risk of severely offending the anomalous women. When you are talking to someone, you should say the least offensive things you can because that’s common courtesy. Unless you have a compelling reason, don’t say anything about those assumptions to their face. The risk/reward ratio isn’t worth it.

      • Aapje says:

        Sure, but if you take that logic to its extreme, you never talk to someone unless absolutely necessary, resulting in a heavily atomized society where interactions are bare quid-pro-quo’s. So people then feel very isolated, get depressed, have problems finding partners, etc.

        You know, the things we fortunately don’t see happening already.

        • woah77 says:

          Wait, you talk to people when it isn’t necessary? When I’m not at home or work I explicitly avoid talking to people as much as possible. On the rare event where I go to a social event or gathering, then I talk to people, but most of the time I ignore everyone around me. All my normal social behavior is through screens.

          • Wait, you talk to people when it isn’t necessary?

            Routinely. Often when I’m in an airplane I try to start a conversation with the person next to me, and it sometimes turns out to be very interesting. One of the more interesting conversations of my life was flying from Bombay to Sydney next to a woman from southern India (the conversation actually started in the airport waiting room). She was flying out to join her husband, the marriage having been originally arranged by their parents. She found our marriage institutions as strange as I found hers. And this wasn’t a figure in a book from centuries ago but an intelligent, educated contemporary.

            More recently, I got into a conversation with someone who turned out to be an expert on a subject relevant to my medical history, who told me, probably correctly, that my conjecture about an odd symptom I had had a few years back was inconsistent with the evidence I had.

            And lots of other interesting conversations with random strangers.

          • woah77 says:

            I guess that can be my habit when I’m traveling, but I don’t do that very often anymore. During college and since I started working I haven’t had much opportunity for maintaining a social life and not traveling much means the only strangers I see are at the grocery store. As I’m there to exchange currency for good and get home as soon as possible, I don’t socialize much.

            As a side note, my comment was rather flippant and not entirely serious. It is a serious comment that 90%+ of my socialization at present is done through one of a number of digital mediums and not face to face.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I talk to people regularly. In the office break room, at a ballgame, anywhere.

            I like people, and most people who don’t want to engage signal that very quickly and I stop.

            But I find the vast majority of people are happy to have the ice broken and gotten into a conversation with someone else taking the social risk.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It’s not quite that bad. You can still talk to people who aren’t given social sanction to be angry, punish you, and call on other people to punish you for making minor errors or in general being “insensitive” in their sole judgement. So, white (and sometimes Asian) men, basically.

        • I didn’t say avoid any conversation, just don’t say anything about the offensive topic. You can talk to pregnant women about things unrelated to their pregnancy.

      • Randy M says:

        How willing you are to go out on a limb depends on both the strength of the limb, and the distance to the ground.

        Accidentally calling a doctor a nurse isn’t that bad. Nurse is an honorable profession that isn’t visually distinct from a doctor in many cases. It might get irritating after awhile, but it isn’t saying anything bad about a person to say they look kind of like a nurse, especially given both are wearing hospital clothes.

        Looking like you are pregnant when you are not does imply negative things about your health and willpower–certainly not uncommon things, but not complimentary, either. So it makes more sense to try to be more certain in that case than the nurse example. Although I don’t think it’s too terrible to discreetly inquire of a third party about a plumper than normal acquaintance if you have suspicion.

        Similarly, it’s pretty insulting to assume a man is a child molester because he is at the playground or a black man is a thief because he is wearing baggy clothing in your store, and anyone will reasonably take offense at your assuming such. But given the stakes, it probably isn’t unreasonably to glance their way now and again.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          But given the stakes, it probably isn’t unreasonably to glance their way now and again.

          What’s the threshold likelihood of a person being a child molester such that it’s reasonable to factor the idea that they might be into your behavior? Because I’m pretty fucking certain a random man at the park doesn’t hit that threshold when it’s explicitly articulated, and that this is an almost perfect example of making unwarranted inferences based on clear statistical trends with little individual predictive power.

          • Randy M says:

            I’d guess pretty damn low, but then, the stakes are pretty high, so I wouldn’t be offended by someone keeping the idea in the back of their (probably media-addled) mind if it didn’t actually effect any of our interactions.

          • I actually have a very recent real world example. I’m a Harvard alumnus, and volunteered to interview local applicants. Harvard gave me contact information on four of them, so I emailed them, including where I was.

            One of them responded, suggesting meeting at my house. I then looked at the page of instructions Harvard had linked to, and discovered that they disapproved of meeting an applicant at your house unless the applicant was accompanied by a parent. So I changed it to a nearby Starbucks.

            Pretty clearly, what Harvard was telling me was that they suspected me of being a rapist, child molester, or something similar, or at least that they thought other people would suspect such things of me. I thought that was foolish and made what I had volunteered to do a little less convenient, but I took it not as an insult from Harvard but evidence of things wrong with the culture both I and the author of those instructions are embedded in.

          • acymetric says:

            @DavidFriedman

            It was probably a combination of those two possibilities along with the possibility that someone might accuse you of being those things (especially if the person you interviewed did not get admitted, perhaps). More a sign of CYA legal culture than anything else to me.

          • CatCube says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I think that part of this is that child molestation is literally (and I’m using “literally” literally) the worst thing that somebody can be accused of in our society, and the stigma is so total for both the accused and the institution they represent that it’s worth going to absurd lengths to avoid even the possibility of the appearance of impropriety.

            As others have detailed above, this isn’t fair, but it’s hard to argue with the rationality of an HR department advising people of this. If the HR rep advises otherwise and the (unlikely) worst does happen, everybody will solemnly agree that they were a raging idiot who deserves to be fired. It’s similar to “nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM” from yesteryear.

          • Deiseach says:

            I then looked at the page of instructions Harvard had linked to, and discovered that they disapproved of meeting an applicant at your house unless the applicant was accompanied by a parent.

            That’s everything and everywhere now, though. Nobody will seriously think that you are going to assault a young adult applicant or that they will accuse you of the same, but just in case… It’s covering Harvard from any potential accusations, it’s covering you, it’s covering the student. Sure it’s excessive, but given that in the Recent Dispute a bit too much fondness for drinking beer when a young man was taken as proof positive that one was a rapist, it is the way society has gone. Careworkers/teachers/anyone who comes in contact with children and/or vulnerable adults is not supposed to be alone with them at all. That’s why you need a minimum of two people all times in daycare centres and the like, and if you only have one person to deal with little Susie or Baby Mike, you can’t do whatever you were going to do, you have to find someone or cancel it.

            It is an over-reaction, but it was over-reacting to the extreme of the kinds of (alas, unhappily) cases coming out of the Catholic Church and elsewhere, where former pillars of society who had been considered so respectable the merest whisper of accusation would be unthinkable turned out to indeed be doing terrible things. And I suppose there always is the remote possibility that if someone gets turned down for a place, they might try the gambit of “that’s because the interviewer made a pass at me and I turned them down” and if it’s in the interviewer’s private house well oops how do we show that’s not so?

            (And I think the Satanic Daycare Panic had a part to play in this, as well; it is surprising how the belief in large-scale ritual abuse has lingered on in sociology, social work and childcare, psychology and police departments where single ‘true believer’ individuals have more influence – see pages 84 onwards of this linked PDF).

        • The Nybbler says:

          This list is a pretty good demonstration that it’s not universal principles in effect here, it’s pure object-level stuff depending on the identity of the people involved. A universal principle would make it equally unacceptable to assume the man at the playground is a molester, the female doctor a nurse, the black man a thief, or the fat woman pregnant. But in fact it’s acceptable to assume the man at the playground is a molester, unacceptable to assume the female doctor is nurse, just as unacceptable to assume a woman is pregnant, and most unacceptable of all to assume a black man is a thief.

          • Randy M says:

            I feel like you are entirely ignoring the explication of the principle given in the post you are responding to– namely, how offensive is the assumption?
            And also ignoring that I said assuming the man was a pedophile is offensive, likewise assuming the black man a thief.

            I mean, do you all even do Bayes anymore? It’s not all or nothing. Since there’s no offense given in noting that a doctor looks like a nurse, you can act on that probability more readily than if a man looks like a thief or a woman looks pregnant. “Give a second glance” does not mean call the police because you see a sex offender. Maybe, given the actual low occurrence of stranger danger, I should have used another example. Sorry for the confusion, though.

    • fion says:

      Well, I can hear people saying, you should just always check before you make any assumption. But that doesn’t pass the sniff test. Even in a perfect world people will always use heuristics, because we don’t have infinite time. Heuristics are time saving measures that are important.

      Also, people will often find it offensive/awkward if you *don’t* make certain assumptions about them.

    • A1987dM says:

      You do realize that “81% of surgeons in the US are male” does not imply “81% of women wearing scrubs in surgeons’ offices are not surgeons”?

      • EchoChaos says:

        You’re absolutely right. It’s almost certainly higher than that.

        In a surgeon’s office you will have 1 surgeon to many nurses. Surgeons are 81% male and nurses are 91% female.

        So the relevant odds of a specific woman in scrubs in a surgeon’s office being a surgeon is substantially below 19% but people are bad at math.

        • pjs says:

          The fact that people are ‘bad at math’ is a compelling reason why these heuristics should be strongly discouraged. Note that ‘bad at math’ needs to
          include the important sub-case of ‘the math per se is completely correct, but the question being correctly solved is not the relevant one’.

          I’m not sure what you think the right question here is. I would have
          guessed it’s ‘Should I assume this person is a nurse, so that I can jump
          quickly to the right greeting’ (which is somehow a useful time-saver – ?), but
          you might disagree and if so it would be helpful to hear otherwise. (Surely
          it’s not: ‘give this person is a surgeon, what’s the chance he’s male’ !?!)

          In this case and (perhaps a bit unfairly) assuming the nurse-to-surgeon ratio is as in the industry as a whole, you are extremely unlikely (‘substantially below’ 19%) to make a mistake by assuming everyone in scrubs is a nurse. By the math.

          In inconsequential, basically toy, examples, like this lots of people get the math wrong – as you concede (even while I am not sure you yourself
          have it ‘right’ (as in: are addressing the relevant question)). And in consequential examples (hiring someone, serving on a jury) it’s next to impossible, almost inconceivably hard, to apply broad demographic statistics at all correctly. I’d go so far as to say that no one
          can. So I think the wisest course is a discourage the entire idea.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Discouraging the entire idea of heuristics is both terrible AND tilting at windmills at the same time.

      • Deiseach says:

        You do realize that “81% of surgeons in the US are male” does not imply “81% of women wearing scrubs in surgeons’ offices are not surgeons”?

        (A) As I have said often before on here, ME NO NUMBERS GOOD

        (B) Given that at my last hospital appointment there were no males involved at all, I think it’s probably not unlikely that a patient might – after going through female receptionist, female nurse, different female nurse, another female receptionist, female technician, different female technician, yet a third female nurse – respond to the next female medical personnel they encounter as possibly “oh another nurse?” instead of “this time it must be the doctor!”

        • Plumber says:

          @Deiseach

          “…at my last hospital appointment there were no males involved at all…”

          If you don’t count patients (including me) that’s been my experience the last few times I’ve gone to the hospital as well.

          There was a male optometrist a few years ago, and a radiologist after that, but most all medical workers I see are women now, nurse, pharmacist, or physician.

    • Plumber says:

      This whole “Who’s a Doctor and who’s a Nurse” thing has got my thinking about how I actually do tell:

      20 and more years ago the physicians were usually older men and the nurses were usually women, plus they were younger men called “orderlies” who’d help do such things as lift patients from beds to wheelchairs, today the orderlies are gone (and now nurses back pain problems have increased compared to decades past), as are most of the older male physicians, what I mostly see now is that the usually Asian or white, tall, thin, young looking women are the physicians, and the older looking, stockier women of all races are usually the nurses, the few men I see working at the hospital are mostly radiologists and custodians.

      Sometimes there’s also “Nurse Practitioners” who act in place of physicians, they tend to be older white women, but taller and less stocky than the other nurses, but not as thin as the physicians, but they are usually even taller than the physicians.

      The few times that I go to hospitals in San Francisco or San Mateo County instead of my usual hospital in Oakland, the medical staff seems a bit more male, and a whole lot more Asian and slightly more white, both the physicians and the nurses, and the nurses aren’t usually as noticeably stockier than the physicians (though still somewhat) but the age divide is still obvious, with nurses looking noticeably older, which is the reverse of decades past when it was the physicians who were usually more grey haired.

      I’ve had surgery twice, the first time the surgeon was an older white women with grey hair, the second time the surgeon was an older white man who may have dyed his hair.

      Come to think of it, there’s similar patterns at work, with a few tall older white male DA’s but most of the rest of the DA’s and almost all the public defenders being tall, thin, young Asians and whites, while the cops and deputies are older, stockier, darker, and more male (on average), and the inmates are very much more male, darker, and mostly younger than the cops and deputies, but not as young looking on average as the attorneys.

      • today the orderlies are gone

        Not my experience in a Bay Area hospital a few years back.

        The nurses are most likely to be women from the Philippines.

        Judging by my experience, female doctors are common, usually foreign, and probably better, on average, than male doctors. Surgeons, on the other hand, are male (both of mine were) and seem very able.

        • Plumber says:

          @DavidFriedman,

          Different for different hospitals I suppose.

          What you notice seems more like the few times I’ve gone to hospitals in San Francisco and San Mateo County.

          My usual hospital in Oakland may be an outlier than.

      • Deiseach says:

        Given all the divagations we’ve wandered into over nurses and doctors, I’m going to quote from a rather funny short story from 1894 by Arthur Conan Doyle called “The Doctors of Hoyland” (from this collection of stories):

        “How do you do, Dr. Ripley?” said she.

        “How do you do, madam?” returned the visitor. “Your husband is perhaps out?”

        “I am not married,” said she simply.

        “Oh, I beg your pardon! I meant the doctor — Dr. Verrinder Smith.”

        “I am Dr. Verrinder Smith.”

        Dr. Ripley was so surprised that he dropped his hat and forgot to pick it up again.

        “What!” he gasped, “the Lee Hopkins prizeman! You!”

        He had never seen a woman doctor before, and his whole conservative soul rose up in revolt at the idea. He could not recall any Biblical injunction that the man should remain ever the doctor and the woman the nurse, and yet he felt as if a blasphemy had been committed. His face betrayed his feelings only too clearly.

        “I am sorry to disappoint you,” said the lady drily.

        “You certainly have surprised me,” he answered, picking up his hat.

        Confusing the doctor for the nurse has been going on a long time 🙂

        • The Nybbler says:

          Many things have been going on for a long time. The conversation continues:

          Ripley: “I should much prefer not to discuss it.”

          Verrinder: “But I am sure you will answer a lady’s question.”

          Ripley: “Ladies are in danger of losing their privileges when they usurp the
          place of the other sex. They cannot claim both.”

    • DragonMilk says:

      I for one, admit that I failed the “this is my son” question

    • Statismagician says:

      I think this example is a bad one for addressing politeness vs .heuristics generally, because it’s dealing with a situation where there’s a strict legal and procedural hierarchy (or at least delineation of responsibilities) at work. The real fault lies not with Bob or Joan, but with the Exampleburg Hospital Board for having gotten rid of all the previously-standard obvious visual cues which indicate whose who in a medical setting as a shabby trick to hide how many things which used to be done by physicians or nurses were now being done by medical assistants.

      Analogously, if I’m trying to find the commander of a military base, discover that the Army has switched to a new insignia system without telling anybody, and assume it’s the older fellow coming out of the headquarters building only to learn he’s actually a sergeant and the real CO is the amused lady right behind me, there were procedural steps not taken that could have prevented this entire situation.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Thank you all for fascinating discussions and long digressions. I really enjoyed it and people on both sides make points I hadn’t expected.

      The net result, which in retrospect I should have seen coming, was that the more conservative (small c) people were in favor of people who are on the wrong side of heuristics shrugging off mistakes and more loudly signalling that the heuristic didn’t apply to them.

      The more progressive people were strongly in favor of fixing society so that people didn’t have wrong heuristics applied to them.

      I suspect (without malice) that this goes to the ingroup/outgroup identification. Having a heuristic misapplied to you is a Blue Tribe thing, which makes you more sympathetic to one side or the other.

      • Plumber says:

        @EchoChaos,

        Which side was I on?

        • EchoChaos says:

          I read you as being with on the socially conservative “get over it, we all get incorrectly identified sometimes, it isn’t malicious” side based on your story about the 50 year old plumbing apprentice.

      • Having a heuristic misapplied to you is a Blue Tribe thing

        Do you mean it is a thing that mostly happens to Blue Tribe members, or a thing Blue Tribe members are more concerned about?

        My guess is that it would be common for someone who expresses an opinion associated with the Red Tribe such as skepticism of the dangers of global warming to be assumed by the Blue Tribe to hold a variety of other views that he may not hold. For an extreme version, consider the view of Charles Murray or the Koch Brothers held by people who know almost nothing about them.

  21. Paul Brinkley says:

    Last year, a poker player bet a fellow player $100,000 he couldn’t stay isolated in a pitch black bathroom for 30 days. He took the bet, after they worked out the details.

    20 days later, he agreed to come out in exchange for only $62,400.

    What your price, SSCers?

    • Name hidden for obvious reasons says:

      Interrupting him at 15 days in with a parole offer was a dick move. But then, they are poker players, where rattling each other’s calm with dick moves is part of the game.

      I’d take the bet, and spend the time working on stretching, bodyweight workout, and meditation.

      • acymetric says:

        I’m not sure I would have taken the buyout, but I would probably be a lot more sympathetic to it after 20 days in pitch black.

      • fion says:

        I’d take the bet, and spend the time working on stretching, bodyweight workout, and meditation.

        I feel like you’ll have a lot of time left over. I don’t think I’d feel like doing more than about two hours of bodyweight exercise a day, and maybe an hour of stretching. Adding in nine hours of sleep still leaves you twelve hours of every day. Can you really meditate that much?

        • johan_larson says:

          Yes, I don’t know what anyone would do with that much time on their hands either.

          If the room was lit and I had pens and paper I would write a story. Thirty days with nothing but time on my hands? That’s the first draft of at least a novella, maybe a novel.

          But with nothing? I think I would be really miserable. Given the experience of others, I’m not sure I would make it through a month.

          • You could compose a novel in your head, planning to write it down when you got out. My first novel was composed in my head as a way of falling asleep, then told to my daughter at bedtime (each evening when I finished I wrote an outline of what I had told so as to keep track of it), then written down.

            It would be hard to keep oneself interested in that for a month, but perhaps not impossible.

          • Name hidden for obvious reasons says:

            Maybe first spend a year or two learning how to read and write Braille…

          • ana53294 says:

            You can touch type or write on paper without light, also (although the handwriting would be terrible).

            When I was at uni and took notes in lectures, I barely looked while I was writing. Muscle memory is quite strong.

    • Randy M says:

      It’s definitely not something I would bet any serious money on, since I’m not certain enough that I have the determination to voluntarily stay in solitary, sensory deprivation that long. And I wouldn’t do it for unserious money, since I don’t have a month to waste, either.
      Hypothetically, if someone else had the key and I was getting the money for certain… I’d probably do it for $100,000. That’s a down payment on a house, and I could probably arrange the unpaid time off work. I think I would recover. But the time in between… it would not be enjoyable, and I expect at points I’d beg to be released.
      I consider myself an introvert, but that’s pretty serious isolation.

    • Another Throw says:

      As long as this bathroom includes something to sleep on that isn’t a piss covered tile floor, I would take the bet for a sufficient sum. Solitary confinement is pretty rough, though, so even though I don’t have substantial opportunity costs and I am very introverted $100,000 probably isn’t enough. A half million (after tax) would be enough for me to seriously consider it. But then, I don’t have a half million to pay if I lose. So….

      • fion says:

        You can always say you’d do it for a particular amount at particular odds, like “If I win I get $500,000 and if I lose I pay $50,000”. If your friend/adversary/fellow poker player believed the chances of you succeeding were less than one in ten* then they’d still agree to the bet.

        *or is it one in eleven? Odds confuse me, but the point still stands

    • acymetric says:

      I have a pretty standard threshold for crazy “would you do this” bets: enough to pay off all debt (student loans and such) and have some fun money left over (and I don’t just mean weekend at the beach money). $100,000 is about the minimum, but it would take some major haggling to get there. I would be pushing for more like $250,000.

      One key thing though, is that a)I have control of the house thermostat and b)if the bathroom doesn’t have a built-in fan I want a small electric fan. Reason being, I have tinnitus and while it generally doesn’t bother me 30 days in the pitch dark would probably draw a lot of attention to it. I think I could do it without the background noise, but I would push for that as one of the accommodations. I probably wouldn’t have thought about that bit most days, but I have a terrible cold and it has cranked the tinnitus up to 11 the last few days.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Assuming my experience is like the one from the article, with great restaurant delivered meals, a bed, normal temperature, and the ability to take nice baths, etc.? If it wouldn’t hurt my career or reduce my ordinary yearly salary, I’d do it for $10k.

      I was almost tempted to say “for free”, as I think the experience and meditative aspects would be worthwhile, but I also think that I can’t get a month of my life back, and I’d rather have reading / human contact / etc for a month than I would silent meditation… so $10k seems about right.

    • sty_silver says:

      Assuming decent meals and the ability to get fresh air in and such things…

      … that’s like a 30 day silent retreat to practice meditation…

      I think I’d do it for 50 000. Maybe less. I think there’s a somewhat decent chance that I’d think it was time well spent afterward.

      Well, that is if it’s gain-or-nothing. If it’s actually a bet where I can lose, probably only for a much larger sum. Which I couldn’t pay if I lost, so it’s not clear how it would work.

    • Odovacer says:

      Similar to Chekhov’s The Bet. At least the player had the money to pay the other.

      • acymetric says:

        Seems like real cheating to have all the reading materials, wine, and a piano.

        • Aapje says:

          I think that it’s quite common for poker players to find loop holes in the agreement and socially acceptable if not taken too far.

          • acymetric says:

            I was referring to the charachter in Chekhov’s The Bet, who was a Lawyer, not a poker player.

            The poker player’s amenities were substantially less accommodating, what with the total darkness and all.

    • fion says:

      I think the darkness would be a very big factor for me. Starting to experience hallucinations due to sensory deprivation is something I feel very uncomfortable about.

      If I could have some light then I would attempt this under a win-or-quits arrangement for £10,000. I would never do it for a bet (unless the odds were so ridiculously in my favour that it’s essentially win-or-quits) because the idea of putting myself through a very unpleasant experience, indeed an experience so unpleasant I can’t continue with it even for large financial reward and then have to pay out is adding insult to injury in a big way.

    • Kyle A Johansen says:

      Assuming bed, good food, sufficient drink and access to facilities. I’d do it for free if I were unemployed.

      Considering the inconvenience, I wouldn’t be willing to bet any amount high enough that made it worth it.

      If it was a straight up payment, then probably the same sort of money that would convince me to take a month’s holiday on a tropical island; I’m not sure how much that actually is though.

      After all this poker player probably could have gone the thirty days, so why not me. It’d be a very novel experience.(Unlike fion, the visual hallucinations are what I’d be relying on for thirty days)

    • DragonMilk says:

      Depends on scaling. I’m confident I could last 30 days, but I’m often overconfident on things I’ve never done before!

      So rationally, I’d have to have the following threshold steps:
      0-5: Nothing
      6-10: 9k
      11-15: 21k
      16-20: 36k
      21-25: 55k
      26-30: 76k
      30: 100k

    • RavenclawPrefect says:

      $10,000, and most of that just to balance lost productivity. If you paused time and let me get all the room-time for free with no physical aging or time passing in the outside world, I’d probably take up to a year for free.

      I’m an extrovert, but people’s concern about solitary confinement has always confused me. I like my brain, and it makes for decent company by itself – other people are a bonus, but the default experience of existence is net-positive even if I don’t have someone else around to talk to and I rarely get bored. Are there things I might be neglecting here? Having inadvertently spent 48 hours or so without interacting with other people before, I didn’t notice any particular desire to do otherwise, but maybe going crazy after a week is a human universal and I’m just bad at introspection.

      If I were prepping for this situation, I’d probably just memorize a long list of interesting questions and puzzles to think over during my stay – 100 really tough math problems probably suffice. (If I run out, I’ll spend my time trying to come up with new ones.)

      • albatross11 says:

        It’s quite possible that your idea of what solitary confinement would be like is very different from how you would actually experience it.

    • Matt C says:

      A lot of money. I think this would be harder than a lot of people here seem to think. I bet most people could not do it, and the guy who did was unusually well suited for the bet. Even so he was willing to give up almost 40K to get out 10 days early.

      I would have concerns about injuring my mental (and possibly physical) health. The guy talked about trying to prevent his thoughts from going to “a bad place”. Well, that already happens to me sometimes without an isolation chamber. It’s easy to imagine having a freakout attempting this.

      If the prize is big enough, and I am allowed to rehearse, at some point it becomes worth experimenting and trying to skill up for the challenge. I bet with practice one could learn tricks for dealing with the isolation and boredom, especially in an environment with as much freedom of action as this guy had. If allowed, I might make a lot of origami animals from burrito wrappers or build a lot of bridges out of Q-tips.

  22. DragonMilk says:

    Alliances

    As much as there is to disagree with the current president about, beyond messaging, I’m not sure why there’s so much emphasis on “traditional” allies (NATO)

    There’s a bit of irony to me that France and Germany would like to form a European army together given the actual historical “traditions”, and what strings together traditional American allies to me seems to be the legacy of the British Empire + France who helped fund the American cause of independence from the British.

    But Japan? South Korea? Saudi Arabia? Taiwan? Other than the obvious diplomatic benefit of asserting verbally that the US is allied to them, a lot of it seems to be a matter of lingering favoritism after communism has fallen/resource protection and not that relevant today.

    This is all to say that I’m not that opposed to re-assessing strategic worth of maintaining certain alliances. Whether to question them publicly in order to get governments to cough up more money for their own national defense is a different matter.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      But Japan? South Korea? Saudi Arabia? Taiwan?

      Three of those four countries you mentioned are very important in containing / encircling China. And two of those three owe their continued existence largely to American support: how long would an independent Taiwan or South Korea last if China and North Korea had free reign?

      Now there’s definitely room to debate whether or not maintaining the balance of power there is something that the US needs to be doing. A nuclear Japan with a real army and/or a nuclear South Korea might be able to handle themselves, and if Taiwan went the way of Hong Kong it might not be the end of the world for them. But that would be a huge change in American foreign policy and implementing it without starting World War 3 might be tricky.

      I share your intuition that America should dial down our overseas involvement, but I’m increasingly thinking that the best way to do that is to wean our allies off of total dependence on the US military by encouraging them to match our troop presence / spending. If Japan et al can provide more of their own defense, America can provide less of it while maintaining the same level. The alliances themselves are important because they provide a framework for that to happen.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Yes, as a practical matter, I don’t see why asking allies to spend more so the 2019 DoD budget of $686 billion can be reduced in future years is a bad thing.

        That’s over 3.5% of US GDP and since the government is only estimated to be bringing in $3.4trn of revenue, that means a fifth of that is evaporating each year.

        Would be nice to get back to roaring 20s level of 1-2% GDP

    • bullseye says:

      It’s not actually tradition. Tradition is a buzzword that makes alliances sound more reliable.

    • ajakaja says:

      I feel like far and away the top reasons all rhyme with ‘stability’ and any discussion of the merits of alliances that doesn’t start with ‘look how nice not having wars between major powers is’ is just going to completely not cover anything useful.

  23. Le Maistre Chat says:

    You’ve seen it dozens of times. An SF movie set in present-day America: when sympathetic characters discover the SFnal thing, a government agency swoops in to silence them. The US is basically treated as a totalitarian state with secret agencies empowered to disappear people.
    Hollywood started making these movies in the 1970s: did they ever stop? The trope obviously grows out of real-world conspiracy theories, but I find it interesting that Hollywood would signal boost the belief that the US is a totalitarian state regardless of which Party is in power.
    Any thoughts?

    • Plumber says:

      Science Fiction author David Brin put it this way:

      “…..While individuals get our empathy and sympathy, institutions seldom do. The “we’re in this together” spirit of films from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s later gave way to a reflex shared by left and right, that villainy is associated with organization. Even when they aren’t portrayed as evil, bureaucrats are stupid and public officials short-sighted. Only the clever bravado of a solitary hero (or at most a small team) will make a difference in resolving the grand crisis at hand.

      This rule of contemporary storytelling is so nearly universal that it has escaped much comment — because you never notice propaganda that you already agree with. In other words, the reflex is self-reinforcing. A left-leaning director may portray villainous oligarchs or corporations while another film-maker rails against government cabals. But while screaming at each other over which direction Big Brother may be coming from, they never seem to notice their common heritage and instinct — Suspicion of Authority (SOA) — much in the way fish seldom comment on the existence of water.

      Indeed, one of the great ironies is that we all suckled SOA from every film and comic book and novel that we loved… and yet, we tend to assume that we invented it. That only we and a few others share this deep-seated worry about authority. That our neighbors got their opinions from reflexive, sheeplike obedience to propaganda — but we attained ours through logical appraisal of the evidence.

      No, you did not invent Suspicion of Authority. You were raised by it….”

      It’s sick and harmful.

      I’m weary of “rebels”.

      • Randy M says:

        An extra g snuck into the authors name there. I was about to say, “hmm, that sounds like what David Brin would say too”, and that seemed a bit too much of a coincidence. 😉

        • Plumber says:

          Thank you @Randy M!

          Auro-correct continues it’s war on me.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I like David Brin’s writing about writing more than I like David Brin’s writing.

          • Name hidden for obvious reasons says:

            I liked Brin back when he was brand new.

            He lost my interest with the Uplift books, and the only thing he’s done since that was even minorly interesting was Kiln People. And his ex cathra editorials have never been better than tiresome at best.

          • meh says:

            Yes. In some ways he is proving his own points.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I liked Brin back when he was brand new.

            Earth was the first depiction i had seen of people who thought the Enlightenment was a terrible mistake. Before even Moldbug. Of course, since it was Brin, those people were terrible human beings.

          • I don’t have strong views of Brin’s fiction and I think his nonfiction The Transparent Society made some important points. But I’ve interacted with him online and come away with a pretty negative impression.

      • The Nybbler says:

        If the real world authorities would stop justifying the suspicion, Brin might have a better point.

        If you like SF with reasonable authority figures, there’s Charlie Stross.

      • LadyJane says:

        Are you only sick of stories that portray the modern U.S. (or other modern liberal democracies) as being totalitarian, or are you weary of “rebels against tyranny” stories in general? Do you also dislike dystopian stories like The Hunger Games, or fantasy settings with an evil empire like Star Wars? What about historical tales featuring largely accurate portrayals of tyranny in medieval or ancient times?

        “The modern U.S. is a totalitarian secret police state” is a fairly extreme stance (although there are certainly authoritarian trends within the modern U.S. that deserve to be criticized, particularly the War on Terror and the War on Drugs, and I definitely understand why some stories would portray the military-industrial complex in a negative light). But I see a lot of value in the premise of “in a century from now, the U.S. or its successor state will be a totalitarian secret police state if we allow these trends to continue to their logical conclusion.” David Brin himself talked about how good dystopian SF can serve as a “self-preventing prophecy.”

        • Plumber says:

          @Lady Jane

          “Are you only sick of stories that portray the modern U.S. (or other modern liberal democracies) as being totalitarian, or are you weary of “rebels against tyranny” stories in general? Do you also dislike dystopian stories like The Hunger Games, or fantasy settings with an evil empire like Star Wars? What about historical tales featuring largely accurate portrayals of tyranny in medieval or ancient times?…”

          Hunger Games grew tiresome, I liked Star Wars in ’77 (I saw it nine times!) but Return of the Jedi really bugged me.

          The Grapes of Wrath (film and novel), In Dubious Battle (novel), On The Waterfront (film), and F.I
          S.T.
          (film) were “rebels against the system” stories that appealed to me, but I want to see stories where the system is defended against chaos for a change, and not defended by ‘Lone Heroes”.

          Something like the 1950’s science fiction film Them again is what I crave, the U.S. Army and scientist against giant ants, and no I don’t want a “deconstruction” like Starship Troopers, and no damn “secret agents”, out in the open, please!

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Men In Black? The quasi-government conspiracy secret agents are good guys? How about James Bond? MI6 are your friends, pal.

          • AG says:

            Independence Day would be ideal, no? And maybe BSG.

            Dark Matter and Killjoys are recent pulp scifi TV shows that had somewhat interesting interactions with a Space-Corporatism premise. Both had storylines building towards their protagonists fighting against said corporations, but were then waylaid by Alien Invasion. (Dark Matter got cancelled as their invasion began.)
            I liked them as low-effort comfort watches, as their character relationships and dialogue tended towards the Whedon/Buffy school.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Have you read the Starship Troopers novel? The film is every bit as bad as you make it sound, but the novel isn’t a deconstruction at all.

          • Another Throw says:

            How about James Bond? MI6 are your friends, pal.

            First of all, no, no they’re not.

            But more importantly, and at a considerable tangent, the thing that irritates me the most about modern movies is that, even if you grant that deconstruction is an interesting thing to do in the first place, they’re deconstructing the parody not the authentic article. Taking Star Trek as an example (because watching Daniel Craig gives me eye cancer) (and because it is a sure bet to fire Deiseach up) the parody of Captain Kirk as a superhuman sex-machine has so completely captured the zeitgeist that, even when people watch the original series, their response is not that perhaps the description in the zeitgeist might be wrong, but that, man! Those old folks were so terrible at making superhuman sex-machines! We could do it so much better! Plus deconstruction, because fuck `em! And then you end up with weird things like The Orvilles deconstructing a parodying of the deconstruction of the parody. This, naturally, takes it full circle and you accidentally end up with something that is, I hear, sort of watchable again.

            While Captain Kirk was neither superhuman nor sex machine, James Bond was definitely a sex-machine (with provisos). But there is no possible universe in which he is superhuman. Have you seen Goldfinger? He spends the whole move (and book) doing nothing but getting people killed and bumbling into being captured. Repeatedly. The entire plot plays out without any involvement from him whatsoever. And even his sex-mania (with the exception of a couple steady girlfriends and a wife) is a cool and calculating ploy to advance the interests of Queen and Country rather than an insatiable lust as a purpose unto itself. But no. Those old geezers couldn’t make a half way decent film about a sex-crazed maniac smashing cop cars in the streets of Manhattan Prague by swinging around his priapic member to save their lives, so we’re going to have to do it for them, and then deconstruct it, because fuck `em.

            I don’t know, maybe you missed the point?

            End rant.

          • acymetric says:

            @Another Throw

            But more importantly, and at a considerable tangent, the thing that irritates me the most about modern movies is that, even if you grant that deconstruction is an interesting thing to do in the first place, they’re deconstructing the parody not the authentic article. Taking Star Trek as an example (because watching Daniel Craig gives me eye cancer) (and because it is a sure bet to fire Deiseach up) the parody of Captain Kirk as a superhuman sex-machine has so completely captured the zeitgeist that, even when people watch the original series, their response is not that perhaps the description in the zeitgeist might be wrong, but that, man! Those old folks were so terrible at making superhuman sex-machines! We could do it so much better! Plus deconstruction, because fuck `em! And then you end up with weird things like The Orvilles deconstructing a parodying of the deconstruction of the parody. This, naturally, takes it full circle and you accidentally end up with something that is, I hear, sort of watchable again.

            I know you were (by admission) ranting, but I have a simpler explanation. The shows/films you’re talking about are dated. People look at them and say “this is dated, we can do it in a more modern way” rather than misunderstanding what was happening and then saying “we could do that better”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Another Throw

            Yes, I definitely missed your point.

            The topic was media that presents the government or authorities and the secretive parts of them as not evil. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not James Bond is competent or a successful sex maniac. The point is James Bond and the British government are portrayed as serving the public, protecting them from madmen who want to commit mass murder and/or rule the world. They’re not trying to oppress the populace to stifle dissent or anything.

          • Plumber says:

            Evan Þ

            “Have you read the Starship Troopers novel?…”

            No, I never read it, I had a friend in elementary school to young adulthood (who actually moved into my mom’s house while I stayed at my dad’s when we were in high school to escape his junkie mom) and he raved about it, but he was a reader of Soldier of Fortune and I wasn’t so I assumed it wouldn’t be for me.

          • Starship Troopers is a pretty good book. Part of it is a prose expansion of Kipling poem. Part of it is the interesting idea of deciding who can vote by who is most likely to put the welfare of the society ahead of his own–as demonstrated by volunteering for a service (not necessarily military, although that’s the one you see) that protects the society at considerable risk to himself.

            And part is just a good story of future warfare.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Interesting as a child of Boomers (but so early a child that I hesitate to say I am Gen X), I’ve frequently looked back on the 60s as the time when the current issues of (un)governance were hatched. In attempting to argue that the “current” exercise of authority was incorrect, the left and the right both began attacking the exercise or existence of authority itself.

        That said, I think the trope itself is much older. “Shadowy controlling organization” has a much longer history than 70s forward. As far back as there has been populism, there have been those arguing against the supposed cabal of the powerful and tiny minority.

        • Plumber says:

          @HeelBearCub

          “Interesting as a child of Boomers (but so early a child that I hesitate to say I am Gen X)….”

          We’re about the same age then, I’m an early “X’er” (born in ’68) who’s married to a late “Boomer”

        • acymetric says:

          Well, if you go too far back you leave the realm of “shadowy controlling organization” and enter the realm of powerful tiny minority overtly controls everything and everyone knows it, right? Just a couple hundred years really.

          It certainly didn’t start in the 70s though. When did rumors about things like Masons and Illuminati first start making the rounds? I know they got lots of popular attention in fiction in recent years but it seems the actual conspiracy theories are much, much older.

          • sentientbeings says:

            Well, if you go too far back you leave the realm of “shadowy controlling organization” and enter the realm of powerful tiny minority overtly controls everything and everyone knows it, right? Just a couple hundred years really.

            I assume you mean something like monarchs? “Powerful tiny minority” probably applies there. “Overtly control everything” probably doesn’t. I think that you might be conflating political participation and formal authority with the rest of human activity.

          • rlms says:

            Wikipedia has the first known anti-Masonic (and anti-Jesuit) being published in 1786.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m not sure of my history, but I think you have populism as known approach even back into Roman times?

            I’m not sure exactly what the requirements are for it to be viable as a movement or approach, but I would think that to the extent you have large number of people with relatively diffuse power in some form of organization, you will see these kinds of tactics employed.

            Even palace intrigues in a theoretically divine monarchy may take on this form, I think.

      • eightieshair says:

        It’s often been pointed out that Ripley in the first Alien movie is exactly the sort of character who is usually singled out for ridicule in SF and action films: a martinet who keeps quoting the rules chapter and verse and insists that things be done by the book.

        And if the crew had just listened to her and followed protocol they might have survived (some of them, anyway).

        • Machine Interface says:

          Yeah, in fact the movie was, at the time, playing on those expectations — the filmmakers counted on the audience rooting for Tom Skeritt’s character (who at the time was the biggest name actor in that movie, Sigourney Weather wasn’t really famous), against Ripley-the-stuck-up-bureaucrat.

          Which of course becomes a major twist when Skeritt is killed mid-movie, Ian Holm turns out to be a corporate mole, and Weaver ends up being the last survivor who was right all along.

          Of course nowadays everyone already knows the plot and Sigourney Weaver is a lot more famous than Tom Skeritt, so this subtext is completely lost.

          • Name hidden for obvious reasons says:

            Jeez, no kidding.

            I precisely remember the first time I watched Alien (in the original theater run), and Dallas dies, and I was all “WAIT, WHAT?!”.

            The subversion of expected plot armor, and the presentation of “no really, everyone could die” was astounding. I spent the next couple of days telling everyone I knew “You have got to go see this movie, tonight, no I can’t tell you why”.

          • wk says:

            @Name: I have always regretted that I wasn’t able to watch Alien without spoilers. It must have been quite an experience. It also has one of the greatest trailers I have ever seen – it gives virtually nothing away about the story line and is highly effective at the same time.

            While we’re talking about the subject of subversive elements in movies, I wonder, have you ever watched “Il grande silencio” by Corbucci? Or “The Long Goodbye” by Robert Altman? As somebody who grew up with both Western movies and Detective stories, I found both of these to have rather interesting subversive elements I didn’t expect before I watched them.

    • sentientbeings says:

      “Powerful secret agencies” in the movies haven’t always been totalitarian agencies – sometimes they are portrayed positively, so it’s not as simple as a non-partisan boosting of the belief that the US is totalitarian. It could be interpreted as a form of state worship instead. In fact, that could be true for positive or negative portrayals, depending on the details.

    • dick says:

      I think you’re overstating the case somewhat. Yes, it’s a trope that the US government is waaay better at espionage in movies than in real life, with CIA spies that can check a satellite to see what you ate for breakfast last Thursday, but it’s also true that such agencies are not generally the Bad Guy. At most, they’re mixed, where some people in the spy agency are the villain and others are good guys and there’s confusion about who’s who. That’s the plot of the last couple Bond movies, most Mission Impossibles, one or two Avengers, every Bourne movie, etc. The hero always manages to unmask and kill the ringleader, but generally without killing the rank-and-file soldiers who are assumed to be unwitting dupes.

      I notice this recently because it was not the case in the latest “Predator” movie recently, which seemed off-putting to me. The Big Bad in it (other than predators) is essentially a US government/military program called “Operation Stargazer”, and the protagonist and his allies kill quite a few Stargazer grunts (who are treated as disposable mooks whose deaths we’re not supposed to care about, like a Bond villain’s henchmen) despite them being apparently US soldiers whose only crime is having been assigned to a department run by the villain.

      (But I’m loathe to attach any ideological/political significance to this because it was a very silly movie, kind of a send-up of action movies. I don’t think this will start being the case in non-parody action flicks.)

      • woah77 says:

        Admittedly, with regards to “Predator,” most of the mooks who die are killed by the predator, and the few who are directly killed by the heroes are generally engaged in pretty despicable behavior (such as the barn grenade scene). Yes, there is a big fire fight between the heroes and the mooks, but I don’t recall the heroes just gunning them down.

        • dick says:

          It wasn’t as gratuitous as Rambo slaughtering Russkies, but when they’re assaulting the ship at the end the hero’s allies ambush and kill some guys who were just standing guarding stuff. Those allies do get killed shortly thereafter, which does temper it a bit.

          But my main point was that this was an exception, and the general rule is that American super-spies in American movies are either good guys or good guys that have been infiltrated by bad guys.

    • MrApophenia says:

      It’s probably not a coincidence this trope blew up in the 1970s, since that’s when a bunch of information became public showing that, yeah, the US government had a bunch of secret agencies that had been empowered to disappear people (and conduct experiments on civilians, and spy on whoever they felt like, etc. etc.)

      And given that we know for a fact that in the 2000s the government arrested civilians (including American citizens) and held them without charges and tortured them, and none of the people involved actually faced any legal consequences for it, and then we found out the NSA really was spying on everyone in exactly the way the tinfoil-hat contingent always said they were, I can’t say I’m super bothered by the trope still showing up.

      • albatross11 says:

        MrAppohenia:

        Some military personnel did face consequences for mistreating prisoners. Not the spies, though, and certainly not the high-level bureaucrats or politicians who ordered the torture. Laws are like market discipline–good enough for the little people, but too harsh and unyielding for the really important people.

    • BBA says:

      This is one thing I liked about the second season of Stranger Things. The new head scientist at the secret government research facility is a decent, reasonable guy who just has his own agenda and doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with our heroes. That’s a bit more interesting than just continuing the evil government conspiracy angle from season 1.

  24. Winja says:

    I know there’s a number of people here interested in nootropics. One thing that is kind of annoying about the nootropic community is the inability to really quantify the effectiveness of a given supplement.

    I had a thought the other day, and one that I don’t know how to take further, but would it be useful to match nootropic effects against the Big Five personalilty traits; e.g. Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism?

    After all, we’re unlikely to find something that just straight up adds, say, 10 IQ points on top of what you’ve got, but if a supplement can be ranked along whether it raises your ability to, say, be conscientious at your job*, then you might have something.

    I think the OCEAN traits might still be more wishy washy than what you’d really want when evaluating something, but it seems like it would be much better than the fairly subjective criteria most people use.

    There’s some really smart people here, so I’d be curious to know what you think.

    *and not screwing around on the internet

    • twicetwice says:

      If you haven’t already, you should also definitely check out gwern’s work on nootropics. He does a lot of self-experimentation, with a really impressive amount of rigor, and produces some pretty interesting data.

      But it sounds to me like the example you chose might just be ADHD medication? I guess this is a boundary I’m not clear on — what’s the difference between a medication/drug and a nootropic?

      On a related note, marijuana plausibly could raise your openness to experience, and quite probably agreeableness, alcohol for many people increases extroversion/agreeableness, and so on. Could you count those as nootropics on those grounds?

      Also, re: your original annoyance, I feel like with anything cognitive it’s going to be difficult to quantify the impact. (See: Scott’s writing on SSRIs and other psychopharmaceuticals.) Personally, I’m currently talking to my psychiatrist to find an ADHD medication that works for me, and one thing that’s frustrating to me is trying to evaluate just how effective a given medication is. Especially when it’s deeply confounded by life, variables like environment changes, the amount of sleep I’m getting, stress, exercise, etc. How much of the effect is due to me exercising more vs the medication? And how much has the medication raised the probability that I do exercise, if at all? And so forth. (I’m currently using exist.io to try to correlate data as much as I can; it’s moderately useful. If anyone has advice, I’d welcome it!)

      note: this got marked as spam when i tried to link to gwern + exist.io. didn’t know two links would trigger the filter! hopefully double-posting with the links removed is okay

      • Winja says:

        Don’t hang too much significance on my use of supplement. As you rightly point out, alcohol certainly can move the sliders around for openness and extroversion.

        For ADHD, I’ve found myself wondering if it’s a combination of high neuroticism and low conscientiousness.

        Gwern’s name is familiar, but I don’t know that I’ve ever looked very specifically at what they are doing, I’ll have to check it out!

    • Björn says:

      Isn’t it a good idea anyhow to focus on raising your conscientiousness and lowering your neuroticism, since they are much less stable across life then IQ, from which we know that it basically never increases in adulthood. Conscientiousness and neuroticism can be influenced by forming good habits and learning to recognize when your neuroticism is talking to you, you don’t even need magic chemicals. Learning to live out your other traits productively also helps you in life, even though the relationship to “good performance” isn’t so linear.

    • Plumber says:

      @Winja  

      “…if a supplement can be ranked along whether it raises your ability to, say, be conscientious at your job*, then you might have something…:

      A few threads ago @DavidFriedman recommended vitamin D supplements, and I’ve been taking them and since then I’ve found it easier to will myself to get out of a chair (thanks David)

      • Your thanks are really due to Bruce Ames, whose advice I was passing on. A pleasant old man who, according to Wikipedia, “is among the few hundred most-cited scientists in all fields.”

  25. sandoratthezoo says:

    So there was a bit of recent uproar at the idea that ibuprofen may cause hypogonadism.

    I’m not at all a medical professional, but when I try to read the paper (https://www.pnas.org/content/115/4/E715), the results look relatively robust for a small RCT — the dosage they gave the men was not unreasonable (600mg/day) and the effects were supposedly strong after 14 days. Lots of people take more than 600mg of ibuprofen in a single day, and while probably most people don’t take 600mg a day continuously for 14 days, it doesn’t seem impossible that taking ibuprofen 50x per year or something (which is not unreasonable, and I think there might be years in which I took ibuprofen more than 50x per year) could have an effect.

    But also I don’t really understand for example the LH/Testosterone ratio or, you know, most of the paper.

    So: Can anyone with more experience in this give me some layman’s advice about how to take this study? Should it make me noticeably more reluctant to take ibuprofen? Is a tempest in a teapot? If the only plausible substitute for ibuprofen is acetaminophen/paracetamol, is it like, “Oh, but that’s worse?” Is there any reason to believe that if ibuprofen does produce compensated hypogonadism, that naproxen will not do the same?

    My priors: Lots of people have taken lots of ibuprofen for a very long time. Clearly it doesn’t have dramatic effects. On the other hand, we aren’t necessarily good at noticing gradual but material long-term shifts in health when they phase in over a broad population over decades, and this seems like there’s a chance it’s something like that.

    (Edit: For anyone less enthused about generic drug names than I am: ibuprofen = Advil, acetaminophen/paracetamol = Tylenol, naproxen = Aleve).

    • The Nybbler says:

      It appears that what they showed is that ibuprofen resulted in the testes producing less testosterone in response to the stimulus of luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary. In their trial, the pituitary produced more LH to compensate for this, resulting in no change in testosterone levels. It doesn’t appear that they examined whether or not this continued after the ibuprofen administration ended. This doesn’t seem all that worrisome on its own, but it’s easy to postulate situations where your body was already on the margin and the ibuprofen could cause uncompensated effects.

      If the only plausible substitute for ibuprofen is acetaminophen/paracetamol, is it like, “Oh, but that’s worse?”

      The discussion suggests that acetaminophen and aspirin might also have problems (based on previous studies), so maybe you can’t win.

  26. eric23 says:

    Any thoughts on this research, which tries to condense a large variety of moral judgments into a single model that derives from our childhood experiences?

    • Statismagician says:

      Barring extraordinary evidence, my very strong prior is that all pop-psych books are essentially garbage. This has not got extraordinary evidence.

  27. fion says:

    Odd question, but I want to know if others experience the same.

    After shaving, my upper lip feels very smooth but my chin feels slightly bristly. Even if I try quite hard to get every spot on my chin and even if I don’t really bother trying with my upper lip, it always happens. Anybody get the same? Any ideas why?

    My best guesses are (a) the chin is a more awkward shape, so it’s hard not to miss bits and (b) the upper lip is soft, whereas the chin is bony. The softness means that if you press in just a little bit you can get a good contact everywhere, but this isn’t possible on the bony bit. Do fat people find it just as easy to shave closely on their chin? Does it depend on the type of razor? (I use one of those plastic ones with two small razor blades wedged in at an angle; don’t know what you call them.)

    • Well... says:

      I’d guess it has more to do with different follicle shapes or something like that; your mustache hair is probably somewhat finer than your beard hair, so the shorn-off ends right at skin level yield to your fingertips more readily so you don’t feel them.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Other way around for me; my cheeks shave fairly easily (which I expect is common), my chin less so but still pretty smooth, and my upper lip tends to be more bristly. I use an electric.

      (I use one of those plastic ones with two small razor blades wedged in at an angle; don’t know what you call them.)

      Sounds like a twin-blade disposable razor. I keep some around in case my electric breaks, but the ones I have (Bic) are pretty poor; a Gilette Atra (twin blade cartridge razor) works better. I haven’t used the ones with more blades in many years.

    • sentientbeings says:

      I think your guesses are good, but a large part of it is probably the convergence of different growth patterns at that location. The best direction to shave varies based on the growth pattern and different people have different facial hair patterns, but usually at least two different patterns converge in that area, which makes it harder to get a smooth shave.

    • Statismagician says:

      Also yes. Possibly try a proper safety razor; I find it helps.

  28. Elliot says:

    Has there been any update on the anxiety sampler kits from October?

  29. BBA says:

    Frontier Airlines flight attendants now ask for tips

    This seems obvious in retrospect as a way for airlines to pay their staff less, I bet Spirit and Ryanair are kicking themselves for not thinking of this first. But I don’t know that it’ll catch on. Flight attendants see themselves as crucial safety personnel, not glorified wait staff, are they really going to put up with this?

    (This is setting aside my personal opposition both to the spread of tipping culture and to the nickel-and-diming of airline passengers through ancillary fees. I fully recognize I’m being irrational and these are both economically efficient practices, so save it.)

    • imoimo says:

      I could use somebody telling me why tipping is efficient/a good idea, cause I’ve been feeling fed up with tipping recently, but also doubt it’s any worse than alternatives, from some reasonable perspective.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        If staff are tipped extra for good service and less for bad service, it allows them to be paid based on their performance rather than a flat rate or requiring extensive monitoring by management to measure their performance. Incentivizing employees to do good work is in everyone’s interests.

        People are irrational so $20 and also you’re expected to tip 15% looks like a better deal than $23 (this is also why airlines love selling $300 tickets plus $100 in extra fees rather than $400 tickets). Furthermore, it allows price discrimination: charging $20 plus tips allows you to get cheap people who wouldn’t pay the full $23, and allows you to get more than $23 from the rich people who like to give big tips.

    • Statismagician says:

      No, you’re not; just because the human condition is such that almost nobody realizes that total expenditure is what matters, not plurality expenditure, does not mean you’re wrong for noticing how silly this is. Also, thanks to [market friction], this will very probably* end up costing the consumer more than if Frontier &etc. had simply paid their flight attendants [new median yearly wage + new median yearly tips] and charged customers accordingly.

      *Controlling for lowered service quality + nobody who’s going to give an extravagant tip was flying Frontier in the first place (with the possible exception of especially cheap high-level Federal government employees; I think Frontier is still the preferred Federal carrier, but not willing to swear on it].

      • bean says:

        I think Frontier is still the preferred Federal carrier, but not willing to swear on it

        Huh? Frontier’s a budget airline, and not set up for business travel. Also, from DCA, they fly only to Denver, and from IAD, it’s only Orlando, Austin, Denver, and Vegas. Also, doesn’t the government have contracts depending on route, to make sure the federal travel dollars are spread roughly evenly? I’m pretty sure they don’t just have AN airline, because all of the other airlines would complain to their Congresscritters.

        • Statismagician says:

          Yeah, I’m clearly wrong; I was speaking from a half-remembered conversation from several years ago. Possibly my friend got a travel voucher and Frontier happened to actually be convenient, plus very cheap, who knows?

          • bean says:

            It’s also possible that Frontier did have the preferred travel contract on a certain route, which is the one he told you about. (The GSA does some complicated contract where they negotiate preferred fares between city pairs with the airlines. I don’t know many details, but there are special fare classes and it’s all very complicated.) If you’re flying to or from Denver, it may not be a bad option, and I’d guess that those travel contracts are sort of pork-like, so Frontier got a few to keep their Congresscritters happy.

    • quanta413 says:

      How many people order drinks on an airline flight? Especially a budget airline? Like huh?

      This is an incredibly minor opportunity for price discrimination, and it’s not clear to me the airline can capture much of it in the former of lower wages to the employee because I think tips will be far too low to affect someone’s decision to work at Frontier.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        I fairly frequently see people ordering alcoholic drinks on Easyjet and Ryanair flights (and asking for wine or beer on flights on more traditional airlines).

        This may be a US/Europe cultural difference.

        • quanta413 says:

          You may be right. I rarely see people order alcohol on flights in the U.S.

          • Plumber says:

            @quanta413

            “You may be right. I rarely see people order alcohol on flights in the U.S.”

            I haven’t flown in a long time but that’s seldom been an option, unlike the one flight I took on Air Canada in the late 1980’s when the stewardess offered me vodka while speaking a very pleasant accent that I assume was Quebecois.

            Best flight ever!

          • acymetric says:

            It seems like it is typically only available on larger planes for longer flights, but I could be mistaken.

          • Randy M says:

            Really? I’ve been offered in every flight with a beverage service, iirc. Usually with credit card readers handy for travelers without cash.

          • I often observe fellow passengers ordering alcoholic drinks, and offering them seems to be standard practice on U.S. airlines.

          • Plumber says:

            The longest flight I ever took was to Washington D.C. when I was 15, and the second longest was to Toronto, Canada (where I was offered alcohol) all my other flights have been inside California or up to Seattle and I don’t remember alcohol being available on those.

      • BBA says:

        Budget airlines like Frontier charge for soft drinks as well as alcohol. Within a decade I expect this “innovation” to make its way to every other US-based airline except Southwest.

        Water is still free, for now.

        • acymetric says:

          Heads up to airlines…nobody is going to tip for soft drinks on a flight. They might tip for alcohol (I might have done it already…I can’t honestly remember because it has been a long time since I ordered a drink on a flight).

        • quanta413 says:

          I understand that, but why would I get on the budget airline and the buy soda on the flight? I’m trying to be cheap. I don’t need soda and if they were going to make me pay for water I’d get it from a vending machine before the flight. I often buy a water bottle from a vending machine anyways because even on regular flights the plastic cups are too damn small.

          • BBA says:

            In-flight beverages on Frontier are $3 a can – expensive by normal standards, but about the same as they cost at an airport gift shop or vending machine. And since you can’t bring liquids through security (thanks TSA!) those are your only options.

            It also depends on the length of the flight. I live in New York but I have family in California, and I can really use some nice refreshing beverages on those 6-hour cross-country flights. If it’s a 2-hour short hop, then whatever.

          • quanta413 says:

            If they start charging for water on those 6 hour flights, then maybe they’ll get enough money from this price discrimination for it to be relevant.

            That’d really piss people off though. Just imagine if someone goes from mild to severe dehydration on the plane but is too cheap to pay for water or their card breaks or something. It’d be a fiasco up there with having passengers on the runway half a day or the police dragging doctors off the flight.

          • A1987dM says:

            @BBA:

            You can take an empty bottle through security and fill it from the tap in the restroom sink.

          • Airports frequently have a device next to the water fountain designed to fill up your water bottle.

            Norwegian charges for drinks, including water. But their base fare is absurdly low, so low that I worry they may go out of business, so it seems fair enough to me. Mostly I bring water, but on one flight I bought several soft drinks, at something like three dollars each–which seems very expensive but isn’t that far above what they cost in the airport.

    • John Schilling says:

      Flight attendants are crucial safety personnel and glorified wait staff; it’s not inherently unreasonable for them to receive tips in the latter role. It’s just that the idea never caught on (or, if it was a thing in the early days of air travel, thoroughly died out).

      Which is probably a deal-breaker. Where a well-established tipping culture exists, it can be an effective way of providing feedback on customer-service jobs while providing the better servants with more $$$ than they would likely get directly from management. But trying to create one by fiat, and especially by unilateral corporate fiat, is likely just going to breed confusion and resentment on both sides.

      • bean says:

        or, if it was a thing in the early days of air travel, thoroughly died out

        I have some knowledge of those days, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. The first stewardesses were nurses, although that requirement didn’t last long. That might have had something to do with it.

    • The Nybbler says:

      (This is setting aside my personal opposition both to the spread of tipping culture and to the nickel-and-diming of airline passengers through ancillary fees. I fully recognize I’m being irrational and these are both economically efficient practices, so save it.)

      Why is it irrational to oppose tipping culture? For restaurants it ends up being a ~20% extra fee to avoid shame, along with some potlatch-style competition among people to demonstrate how generous they are to waitstaff. For other things (valets, doorman) it ends up being an indeterminate extra fee you must pay either to get service you already paid an agreed-on rate for, or to avoid having the poorly tipped or untipped people deliberately damage your stuff.

      I generally treat anything where tipping is expected to be something I simply should not do at all (thus I do not get valet parking, for instance, or “redcap” service at airports, or take cabs — restaurants are an exception where I pay the standard ~20% tip). If Frontier wants me to tip flight attendants for drinks, I’ll either not be ordering drinks or not taking Frontier.

      • sfoil says:

        I still want to know how the “standard” tip went from 15% to 20%. It seems to have happened sometime around 2010.

        • acymetric says:

          Disagree, it happened in the early-mid 2000s at the latest. Kind of makes sense, as that is the only real way to see a “cost of living” increase for waitstaff pay (and by that standard, one could even question whether it has gone up enough). I suppose the other way is that increased menu prices would increase the tip amounts, but it would seem that would barely keep up with inflation if it even did at all.

          15% is still fine (only the most unreasonable people would call someone who tipped 15% “cheap”) but 20% is definitely the norm now for service that was at least decent/good.

          • Winja says:

            That doesn’t make sense. Assuming that the cost of a restaurant meal keeps pace with inflation over time, then tipping the same percent should include a built-in cost of living increase because the tip amount is based on the cost of something that has a cost that will generally keep pace with inflation.

            In other words, if I pay $10 for a meal and tip 15%, the tip is $1.50.

            If the same meal a year later costs $20, a 15% tip is going to be $3.00. The very structure of tipping has a built in cost of living increase.

            Note that the above cost of the meals and the implied inflation rate therein are made up for the purposes of illustration.

          • acymetric says:

            Well, sort of. Cost of living can outpace inflation, and restaurant prices may or may not adequately reflect that (they might not even adequately reflect inflation). The economics are complicated enough that I can’t really do a thorough analysis (it is going to vary year to year, by location, and probably by restaurant, and I am not an economist), but my intuition says that compensation would need to increase by more than what you would see from increased food prices alone.

            Edit: My intuition is at least partly informed by the fact that tip-based workers are not significantly more well off despite the large-ish increase in tip % (and what I suspect is a general increase in dining out). In fact, I would guess that the median waiter now is worse off than the median waiter 20-30 years ago, which is why it is so much less common to see adults working as waitstaff.

          • Nick says:

            I always worry that I’m a cheap customer, so I make sure my minimum tip is at least a few dollars. So I would never give only a $1.50 tip. This means my tips tend to look really generous when it’s only $8-10 but much closer to 15% as the price increases.

          • acymetric says:

            @Nick

            That is generally my pattern as well. It also depends a little on how long I occupy a table (I will probably tip more generously for a meal and 2 beers if I sit there and watch an entire football game than if I get the same meal/drinks but only stay for 30 minutes).

        • The Nybbler says:

          I suspect the “how” is that the sort of columnists who write about this kind of thing are the kind who are waitstaff when the job market has a downturn.

        • Lillian says:

          You know what one of my favourite things about travelling in Europe and South America is? The standard tip is 10% and is included in the bill. If you want to leave a bit of extra cash, that’s appreciated but not expected. It’s so much simpler and easier in every respect.

          • Plumber says:

            IIRC, in the 1980’s we paid 10% for standard service, 15% was for very good service and none was for bad, and a few pennies was for really bad.

      • acymetric says:

        It would probably be more appropriate to call it “tipping economy” rather than “tipping culture” (because if pay isn’t based on tips, base pay and cost of service will increase to compensate).

        I can understand why someone might feel that the tipping system is not optimal, preferring a system with no tips and higher base pay, and who thus argue that point, but given it is the system in place I don’t understand why people get so upset about it. It isn’t like signing up for cable at $50 per month, getting your first bill and seeing it is $50 plus another $45 in previously undisclosed fees. You know the tip is part of the cost when you go to a sit down restaurant. It isn’t some surprise that gets thrown at you at the end of a nice meal.

        If waitstaff pay increased to $15-30 per hour that cost would certainly result in increased restaurant prices. Again, I can understand why someone might think this is preferable, but I don’t understand why people get angry about being expected to tip given that is not the case.

        That said, trying to make flight attendants tip-based is an awful idea, I am not really in favor of expanding tip-based pay to other industries.

        • RobJ says:

          Judging by personal experience, I would guess that the anger about it comes from feeling like you’re being made to feel guilty about something you don’t think you should have to feel guilty about or didn’t even know about. I remember being really annoyed when I discovered that people tipped barbers/stylists. I don’t know if my parents hadn’t done it or I just never noticed, but the concept had never occurred to me until a discussion with friends in my 20’s revealed that everyone else tipped them. Then I felt guilty and assumed all my previous barbers thought I was a cheapskate. Same thing for when I found out that 20% was the new norm instead of 15% for tipping wait staff. My initial response in both cases was “How was I supposed to know this! The whole system is stupid! I’m going to stop tipping on principle.” But then, of course, I got used to it and just did it.

      • Protagoras says:

        Unguarded comments from people in tipped work suggest that a lot of people don’t actually tip 20%, and a significant minority just don’t tip. But many of those involved have some incentive to exaggerate. tipped workers want people to think higher tips are normal so they’ll offer them, and people don’t want to admit to others that they’re cheap, so they no doubt often claim to tip more than they actually do or just don’t talk about tipping if they don’t tip very much. And if the trend is to exaggerate tipping, that is also going to produce some ratchet effect over time as a result of people who actually believe the claims and try to follow the implied norms, which will tend to bring them closer to reality, and thus lead to those who exaggerate needing to go higher.

        • Randy M says:

          Good point. I probably tip on the low side, 10-15%, but try to make up for it by being pleasant and not wasting the server’s time or leaving large messes.

      • A1987dM says:

        I generally treat anything where tipping is expected to be something I simply should not do at all (thus I do not get valet parking, for instance, or “redcap” service at airports, or take cabs — restaurants are an exception where I pay the standard ~20% tip). If Frontier wants me to tip flight attendants for drinks, I’ll either not be ordering drinks or not taking Frontier.

        Same here. Not living in the US I don’t even have to make an exception for restaurants.

  30. onyomi says:

    Recently listened to an interesting academic presentation on what one might call “the upsides of hypocrisy.” Citing such ideas as “hypocrisy is a tribute vice pays to virtue” (La Rochefoucauld), the presenter pointed out that hypocrisy may be unavoidable, even desirable in a democracy where, by definition, people who disagree with one another have to arrive at some sort of consensus (or, at least, outcome everyone can live with, because maybe my guy can win next go round).

    This got me thinking that maybe one should view deepening public hypocrisy as a warning sign, not of some kind of general moral decay, but rather of widening divisions: the greater the values gap between different parts of a unified polity, the more hypocrisy is necessary to maintain the (for democracy, salutary) illusion that we have “shared values.” This may eventually give way to something that should probably scare us more than hypocrisy (assuming we don’t want rebellion, secession, balkanization, etc.), which is people just explicitly saying “f those guys; we don’t need their votes anyway.”

    At least in my lifetime, in the US, there is a convention of saying, after an election “yes, a lot of people didn’t vote for me, but I’m going to represent the best interests of everyone.” Even if that is a lie, I wonder if the really scary inflection point is when people no longer feel it’s necessary to tell that lie (though as someone who thinks the US is too big and would rather it break up into at least a few smaller nations, it could also be a long-term promising sign for someone like me?)?

    How much more cognitive dissonance can your leaders maintain before a polity falls apart?

    • DeWitt says:

      I don’t really know about that, but I think the focus on hypocrisy is a symptom of having fewer shared values around for sure.

      Consider a society where a couple central values are shared; it becomes very easy to debate people with these values in mind, because you can reasonably assume people will agree on first principles. Simple. As a contrast with that, if you don’t share many such values, there’s only so many things you can do to debate. Hypocrisy becomes a weapon then: there’s extremely few people that’ll ever view it as a good thing, and if your opponent and you can’t agree on values, the best you can do instead is point to where their arguments conflict with one another.

    • Winja says:

      The biggest upside to hypocrisy is the ability to do whatever gets you the best advantage in any given situation without it bothering you.

      My personal opinion is that this sort of behavior is straight up psychotic.

    • AG says:

      At least in my lifetime, in the US, there is a convention of saying, after an election “yes, a lot of people didn’t vote for me, but I’m going to represent the best interests of everyone.” Even if that is a lie, I wonder if the really scary inflection point is when people no longer feel it’s necessary to tell that lie

      Aren’t we seeing that happening now, where Trump is holding firm to fulfilling campaign promises to a minority-populace voting base?

      • Randy M says:

        I don’t think so. For two reasons. First, Trump honestly believes… wait, let me start over. It’s a reasonable position that the wall would actually be a benefit to most people–it might be ignorant or involve a selective focus on facts, but it isn’t a move to specifically spite one faction.
        Secondly, if a politician is elected partially on a promise to do something, they have an obligation to try and do that, or at least explain their change of heart. Governing in the best interest of the whole country doesn’t mean ignore what the majority (… of electoral college) voters demonstrably wanted, unless that thing is particularly damaging to some group of citizens, otherwise elections can only be referendum on competence and not a choice of direction.

  31. onyomi says:

    What are your odds on Trump plausibly being able to claim, in 2020, that he’s fulfilled his promise to “build the wall” (either because something wall-like, including, possibly, a big steel fence, has been built, or is well underway)?

    I guess I would rate it at 50-50 and/or “no clue.” What I think makes it difficult is that both sides must realize they have a lot to gain or lose by the outcome of this standoff. For example, I have a hard time imagining Trump wins 2020 if he can’t plausibly claim he built, or is building, the wall. Of course, he can say he did his best but the Dems were just too intransigent and/or the courts unfairly struck down his “state of emergency” allocation of funds, but that sounds pretty lame/weak. I think he has a hard time winning with that.

    Related, the Dems must know their chances improve in 2020 if they can stymie the wall. It’s obviously not just about the money; though I think it’s also not just about the actual immigrants and/or the optics of the wall per se. I think it’s also that, if they can deny Trump this victory, they know it will be hard for him to energize his base. Which is not to say that Trump wins for sure if he builds the wall, only that he probably loses if he doesn’t.

    With every government shutdown there is also the issue of who suffers the blame, though it kind of makes everyone look bad. It’s also not obvious to me who suffers more blame here, as it feels like both sides can very plausibly blame the other: Trump is clearly the one forcing a particular issue; at the same time, Dems are clearly being intransigent about providing, for the federal government, a paltry amount of money to allow Trump to fulfill his major campaign promise, so Trump can claim they are the ones being political. I guess independents (do they still exist?) will blame Trump more than Democrats for e.g. unpaid federal workers, but not sure how significant that is relative to the fact that I don’t think Trump can win 2020 without the wall.

    My uncertainty is also higher due to my uncertainty about Trump’s own priorities/thinking. I assume his ego makes him want to win in 2020, but I’m not sure how badly he wants that. Being POTUS probably sucks compared to the life he previously led, and I don’t think Melania likes being first lady. I’m also not sure whether he thinks actually having the wall is what counts, or simply being able to claim he did his utmost but those damn political judges messed it up so vote for me again so I can appoint better judges. I assume he’s the type who knows results matter, but am also not that convinced he actually cares about the wall per se. It seems more like a metaphorical 20 dollar political bill he noticed no one picking up on the sidewalk and he grabbed it.

    Also highly likely in my current probability space is that both sides find some way to declare victory with the likely final result of the wall not getting built in any meaningful way: for example, Dems agree to some small sum for “increased border security,” which Trump promises means “wall” and Dems promise doesn’t mean “wall,” and the Dems slow-walk the actual construction so much that little has actually been done by 2020, after which, they hope, they can just scrap it under President O’Rourke.

    • BBA says:

      To me the most likely scenarios are (a) no wall gets built, but Trump claims he built the wall and the crooked lying media is crooked and lying (sad!); (b) no wall gets built, Trump screams it’s Pelosi’s fault, lock her up, etc., which rallies the base; or (c) this “emergency powers” gambit ends up working well enough to get at least some wall built.

      In any of these cases, the base doesn’t get discouraged, and Trump has a clear path to a 2020 victory that looks a lot like his 2016 victory.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        What crime did Pelosi commit..?

        • BBA says:

          I was wondering the same thing last fall when Trump rally crowds started chanting “lock her up” about Dianne Feinstein. I take it that the chant is transferable to any woman in the Democratic Party.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Oh for fuck’s sake… Feinstein is probably the person in Washington I despise the most but that’s just asinine.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Well, parts of the wall are already being built. And Trump appears to be doing everything he can to get the rest of it. I don’t think any part of Trump’s base would blame Trump if the wall is not built when it’s clearly the fault of congress (both the Republicans and Democrats). If that happens, the rallying cry will be “vote for Trump and vote out the bums who won’t protect our borders.”

      This may or may not work. The malice of the left and the elites towards the working class appears boundless. You would think to protect citizens from having their neighborhoods overrun, from the unnecessary risk of crime, from the drugs, from the depressed wages and destroyed communities, a measly $5B to perform the most basic duty of government towards its citizens would not be a problem, but here we are. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez expressed the idea pretty well the other day, that the immigrants are more American than Trump (who’s trying to protect citizens from foreigners). When it comes to choosing between Americans and foreigners, the Democrats and their voters will always choose foreigners, and expecting them to do otherwise is fantasy. Schumer will not fold, because the working class American citizens he hates are suffering, and he likes it.

      • Trump did have an opportunity to make a deal that included the border wall and amnesty for some illegal immigrants brought to the US as kids but turned it down. I don’t know if his base either knows, remembers or even cares about it.

        • Kyle A Johansen says:

          Did the deal involve Amnesty today for a wall tomorrow? Or something else. If it is the first, then that’s just the makers of a disingenuous offer getting annoyed when others aren’t gullible enough.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          We were supposed to get a wall after Reagan’s amnesty. Instead we got blue California.

          Also, I don’t know who to blame for the previous “DACA for wall” negotiations. Lots of people didn’t like it on both sides.

          I don’t ideologically or practically have a problem with DACA for the wall. Politically, though, I’d feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy’s football again.

      • acymetric says:

        Well that’s a tacky looking wall…if you’re going to build a wall go for broke and look to the Great Wall of China (or heck, even the more recent Berlin wall) for inspiration. Not just some sheet metal (a glorified fence).

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          WE CAN’T LET CHINA BEAT US ON WALLS!

          That said, as much as I would like a 60 foot concrete wall with spikes and lasers and flamethrowers and a moat and nuclear landmines (wall is impervious to nuclear landmines), Border Patrol said they want a wall they can see through, so we’re basically calling a steel fence a wall.

          • acymetric says:

            I would have to very seriously consider switching sides if such a wall were proposed, I don’t even care where it is built.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Border Patrol said they want a wall they can see through, so we’re basically calling a steel fence a wall.

            Glass block? Transparent aluminum?

          • Nick says:

            Transparent aluminum?

            Ahh, so saving the whales is our concession to Democrats!

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            And why can Wakanda afford an energy wall when we can’t? Make America Great as Wakanda!

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Ahh, so saving the whales is our concession to Democrats!

            As of now, the idea of a wall built out of (transparent) landfill material amuses me.

      • nweining says:

        This is an uncharitable view of those who disagree, to put it mildly. Most wall opponents bear no such malice. They (we) just believe that the wall would not, in fact, do anything to protect citizens from “having their neighborhoods overrun, from the unnecessary risk of crime, from the drugs, from the depressed wages and destroyed communities”; that the claim that it would is a ludicrous racist lie, unsupported by any evidence whatsoever, which Trump is using, as he uses so many other lies, to snooker his loyal, fear-driven base; and that it sets a bad precedent to give in to Trump’s racist-lie-driven plans. You may well disagree with those beliefs, but they do not constitute “malice toward the working class.”

        • nweining says:

          I should add, too, that even the more radical position (which I am confident is a minority one among wall opponents) that the interests and liberties of American citizens deserve no special preference over the interests and liberties of noncitizens, because the distinction is arbitrary and ethically indefensible, cannot reasonably be construed to constitute “malice toward the working class.” Not believing that subgroup A of group G deserves special consideration or loyalty, and believing instead that all members of group G should enjoy uniform treatment, is not malice against members of A.

          • EchoChaos says:

            That is an honest position, but not one the Democrats can admit holding, because it would get killed electorally.

          • nweining says:

            @EchoChaos, where is the evidence that most of them actually hold it? Genuine cosmopolitanism is rarer than most anti-cosmopolitans think, and I say that as someone who tries hard to be a genuine cosmopolitan and wishes more people were.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That looks like malice. The government exists to serve the needs of the citizens, not foreigners.

            Take a hobo off the street and board him in your daughter’s room. She says “dad, please no, this is a strange person who is at best indifferent to me, and at worst malicious. All things considered I would prefer not to have to room with this hobo. Please do your duty to your daughter and eject the hobo.” When you say “no, you’re evil for not wanting to room with a stabby hobo” even after various rapes and stabbings, it looks less and less like you super love hobos and more like you hate your daughter.

          • dick says:

            Two report buttons doesn’t seem like enough…

          • onyomi says:

            @nweining

            the interests and liberties of American citizens deserve no special preference over the interests and liberties of noncitizens, because the distinction is arbitrary and ethically indefensible

            Is the fact that US citizens pay US taxes while foreigners do not not a relevant distinction?

        • The Nybbler says:

          It seems to me inconsistent to complain about lack of charity while claiming your opponents are motivated by racism.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      0%. Even if the Democrats allowed for the building of the wall, I’m sure there are going to be enough lawsuits associated with typical construction that the Wall could not be built in time for the 2020 election.

      The best Trump can hope for is to build some small stretches of barrier in certain areas and say he is working on it, and those damn Dems won’t let him build faster. I don’t know how strict legislative language is, but can he funnel some DHS funds for “border security” into something that resembles a wall, over at least a portion of the border?

    • If the Democrats really cared about policy, they could get some significant concessions in exchange for the wall, which isn’t even a threat to their professed values. I don’t see it happening though.

      • Winja says:

        If Trump was a complete jerk, he’d offer the Dems blanket student loan forgiveness in exchange for the wall.

        The result of watching the Dems backpedal and attack student loan forgiveness would be hilarious.

        • acymetric says:

          He wouldn’t be able to do that because there would never be true support from Republicans for the student loan forgiveness.

          That said, Dems wouldn’t attack student loan forgiveness (except for those who already oppose it, that student loan forgiveness is not a universal Dem stance). There would be a group who says “we stand on principle and won’t give in on the wall even to get the student loan forgiveness we want” and another who says “yeah we’ll take that deal” (the latter would probably want some concessions on existing illegal immigrant protections). This would mirror Republicans, some of whom would say “yeah, good deal” and some who would say “hell no we aren’t giving them student loan forgiveness”.

      • Plumber says:

        Trump doesn’t seem to have enough influence in his own Party in Congress that he can make a deal, if he did have that influence he’d have the funding a year ago instead of having to now ask Democrats.

        • EchoChaos says:

          He had to ask the Democrats either way because spending bills need 60 votes to pass the Senate.

          He didn’t want the egg on his face of having the government shut down for a wall while his party controlled everything.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            spending bills

            You have this backwards.

            The bills considered under reconciliation, which are specific budget and spending bills, do not require cloture and cannot be filibustered.

            Their are a limited number of these bills in each congress, and the previous congress had used all of them to try and kill the ACA.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Can you source that?

            These are appropriations bills, not reconciliation bills, which is a different process.

            Here is an article specifically discussing the fact that they have a filibuster on appropriations.

            https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/373706-filibuster-change-wont-fix-flawed-appropriations-process

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @EchoChaos:
            Reconciliation.

            Additional funding for more of the same kind of existing barriers along the border probably wouldn’t run afoul of the Byrd rule (extraneous changes in policy), but that is just my opinion. It would be up to parliamentarian if a wall across the entire southern border was a change in policy, but I doubt it.

            If you need sourcing on the limit on the number of reconciliation bills being met last year, I can come up with it.

            ETA: The basic thing we are arguing over is not whether Democrats can filibuster appropriations bills, but whether a) this would have prevented Wall funding if Republicans had chosen to attempt it, and b) whether “spending bills” need 60 votes in the senate.

            All bills requires 60 (procedural) votes in the Senate to proceed, except for reconciliation bills.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I am not sure what you’re disagreeing with me on. Trump needs new budget allocated for his wall and wants that laid into government appropriations.

            New outlays require 60 votes, and therefore the Democrats had the ability to filibuster the new outlays required for the wall.

            There was a brief government shutdown in 2018 over this issue, but the Republicans (probably wisely) decided not to press too hard on it because “the government is shut down while Republicans control everything” was bad press.

            Now that the Democrats are in charge of the House, despite the fact the Republicans still need 60 votes in the Senate, the Democrats are seen by the public as “part of the problem” to a greater degree.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @EchoChaos:

            The ability of the Democrats to filibuster really doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that it’s a spending bill. That is one disagreement with your original statement.

            The other is that, if they had wanted to, the Republicans could likely have done much of this under reconciliation last year. The parts of this that involve spending can potentially avoid the filibuster.

            So,your original statement linking spending and the filibuster is misleading.

          • John Schilling says:

            New outlays require 60 votes, and therefore the Democrats had the ability to filibuster the new outlays required for the wall.

            Right. In order to build a wall, or do anything at all controversial, you have to negotiate some sort of deal with your opponents in which you let them have something they want and can’t otherwise obtain, in exchange for their letting you have what you want and cannot otherwise obtain.

            A shockingly revolutionary notion for a democratic government, to be sure. But given that reality, it seems like the first step towards building a wall would be to obtain at least marginal control over all three branches of government, so that the opposition cannot obtain much of anything on their own and they are negotiating from a position of relative desperation and weakness. Step two, of course, would be to for the wall-wishers to elect a like-minded President who is renowned for his supreme artistry in deal-making.

    • JPNunez says:

      Maybe Trump can successfully turn around a no-wall situation, and use it to incense voters against democrats, and the deep state or whatever.

      That said, the full Wall building would probably not be done for several years, even if it was approved today. But then even I wouldn’t fault Trump for saying he delivered the Wall if the damn thing is in the process of being built in 2020.

  32. LadyJane says:

    Shame is, in every way, a libertarian solution to a problem. It involves no force, or censorship – and yet, the people who are subject to it often feel as if their rights have been violated, because they misinterpret those rights to include not only freedom of speech, but freedom from criticism, from response, and from consequences.

    That’s how you can tell a right-wing culture warrior from a libertarian. They ALWAYS believe in a concept of “freedom” that somehow ends up being practically realized as “I get to say whatever the fuck I want, but if you respond or deny me access to a private platform, I’m going to call that infringement”.

    I just saw this comment in a libertarian Facebook group, and I completely agree with every part of it. Can anyone provide a good (or even just internally consistent) counter-argument?

    I know that a lot of “cultural libertarian” types are vehemently opposed to the “free speech is not freedom from consequences” line of thinking, but I honestly don’t get the basis for their opposition and I’ve yet to hear a compelling argument for their position. Specifically, it seems like “free speech culture” is inherently self-contradictory, because it prioritizes the free speech of the first person to comment on a particular issue, while socially discouraging the free speech of responders. (Baeraad was willing to bite the bullet and say that he cares about “free argument” more than free speech per se, but I haven’t seen anyone else willing to openly take such a position, and it seems incredible bizarre to me.)

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I think the “consequences” bit is very hard to define; I think it’s fairly common for weaker libertarian-ish people such as myself to argue that the state has a legitimate role in ensuring that people have access to basic goods (and that you therefore shouldn’t, for example, be able to buy a water treatment center and demand that everyone give you their firstborn child or die of thirst, or charge hurricane victims $500 for a meal). In the US, the Civil Rights Act defines what I’ve called “basic goods” as “all goods,” and strictly defining basic goods is probably a losing battle anyway; is PayPal a basic good if that’s where all your income comes from? So solving the problem of reconciliation between “protection from arbitrary and exploitative discrimination” and “freedom to do business without interference” is actually pretty hard. I come down on the side of You Can’t Make People Be Good But You Sure Can Hope For It most of the time, but then I never had to live through desegregation…

      My point is that I don’t think there’s a legitimate rationale for people claiming immunity from criticism, but I do think there can be some rationale for somebody kicked off Patreon, especially if it’s done without warning in a way that jeopardizes their livelihood. Maybe. Depending.

    • Nornagest says:

      Let’s be clear: if freedom of speech doesn’t imply some level of freedom from consequences, then there is no such thing as freedom of speech. Censors don’t have time-travel powers; they can only control things retrospectively. What’s that if not a consequence?

      So, granting that “first speaker wins” is obviously stupid, it must be the type or the scope of valid consequences that we’re concerned with. I’m not much of a libertarian, certainly not an NAP libertarian, but there’s a few different self-consistent ways to think about that. One is to grant an unqualified right to hold and voice your beliefs, but qualify the ways you can promote them outside bare statements of belief. Another, not necessarily incompatible, one is to think of free speech issues less in terms of force per se and more in terms of escalation: if I say the sky is green and you call me an asshole, and if you call me an asshole and I punch you in the face, then those are both escalations, even though the NAP forbids only the latter.

      Also, given that a lot of this debate centers around the behavior of actors like Google and Facebook, one could also suggest that those actions aren’t necessarily purely private by libertarian standards just by virtue of the fact that they have CEOs and shareholders and issue stock. I’m personally starting to think that they’ve arrogated some state-like roles to themselves and should be judged on that basis (see: not much of a libertarian), but even if you don’t believe that, they’ve often got tacit or explicit government force somewhere in the background, or are driven by worries over lawsuits rooted in less-than-perfectly-libertarian standards.

      • albatross11 says:

        There are a lot of problems the government can’t reasonably solve, and this is probably one of them. The first amendment seems like about as much as the government should do toward ensuring free speech–nobody gets arrested for saying the wrong thing, nobody loses police protection for saying the wrong thing, etc.

        It’s a better world when we have more tolerance for weird and even offensive beliefs–tolerance in the sense of being willing to interact with people whose beliefs we think are weird or silly or wrong or even offensive, or at least leaving them alone. If we find ourselves in a world where expressing the wrong ideas is likely to turn you into an unemployable pariah whose friends no longer recognize you on the street, then even if the police never arrest anyone for saying the wrong things, that’s not a world where there’s going to be a lot of vigorous free discussion of ideas.

        But the solution here is cultural, not legal, as far as I’m concerned.

        • EchoChaos says:

          But a corporation is a legal entity, and if the principle is “you can’t cut anyone off from your services for expressed political beliefs, no matter how odious” then the corporation can’t be reasonably blamed for people with odious beliefs using their service.

          In my view, the government has a choice between allowing businesses total freedom of association or total accessibility, but the current regime where certain reasons for denying service are illegal and cause the crushing weight of the state to destroy you and some are totally fine is the worst of all possible worlds.

          • albatross11 says:

            That’s easy to say and hard to implement. Is it okay if Twitter blocks spammers and malware links? Can Tumblr block pornbots[1]?

            [1] Empirically, the answer is probably no, but morally….

          • EchoChaos says:

            We already have legal mechanisms for what speech is permissible and what speech isn’t. It’s not even particularly a gray area. Anti-obscenity and anti-harassment laws have been upheld constantly, which should easily cover spamming, malware and porn.

            If the speech cannot be banned by the government, it can’t be banned by private businesses is a good rule if you are going to force businesses to not have freedom of association.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I don’t see the contradiction. Neither do most of the libertarians I know IRL. You should be able to have a discussion with someone with different beliefs without immediate invective or threatening to ruin their life. If someone has truly abhorrent beliefs, just don’t associate with them. If they are in your workplace, put on your Adult Pants, and do your job even if you don’t like the person.

      When it comes to “association” and large private companies like news channels or Facebook or whatever, they clearly have the RIGHT to deny a platform, but they generally have an ethical responsibility to host a broader spectrum of debate than an unrelated private company or a private household. It’s not like they even deny this, they present themselves as serving this function. None of the libertarians BELIEVE them, but they see Twitter et al as Catholic Priests professing belief in God but are really just in the indulgences game. No salvation for you unless you pay.

      The specific act of internet brigading is ethically beyond the pale. Why would libertarians have to support it, just because the government isn’t involved? I mean, I don’t support you yelling at your kids at the top of your lungs, even if I think it should be legal. “It’s a libertarian solution for me to scream at my kids! There’s no government force involved!” No, you’re a jerk, you’re not making a “solution” at all, you’re just being a jerk.

      • LadyJane says:

        The contradiction is that I have just as much right to criticize someone for expressing their racist opinions as they have to express their racist opinions in the first place. Even if we’re purely talking about what should be considered socially acceptable, rather than what should be legally permissible, I don’t see any argument for why we should consider “[white/black/purple] people are worthless and I don’t want to be around them” to be a perfectly fine expression of free speech/association, while also considering “no, dumbass racists like you are worthless and I don’t want to be around you” to be a form of social censorship. The cultural libertarians seem to want some kind of weirdly selective social norm where it’s okay to express any idea, but not okay for others to criticize that idea.

        And yes, you could make an argument that large companies like Google and Facebook are close to monopolies and should reasonably be expected to accommodate people of all political viewpoints, no matter how reprehensible. If cultural libertarianism was just about expanding “the government shouldn’t discourage specific viewpoints” to “the government and monopolistic tech corporations shouldn’t discourage specific viewpoints” then I’d be a little more sympathetic to it. The problem is that they want to extend “don’t discourage specific viewpoints” all the way down to the realm of individual-scale interpersonal interactions, which itself seems like a form of social censorship for people who are responding to arguments rather than starting them.

        • I think a right to free speech only comes up in the context of government censorship, or violent attacks by private people on speakers. But the desirability of free speech also applies to attempts by private actors to suppress the speech of others, even if done by acts they have a right to take.

          If the reason I call you a racist is to convey my view of you, that’s free speech. If the reason is to get lots of people mad at you in order to punish you not for your views but for expressing them, that’s an attempt to suppress speech. The former is reasonable behavior. The latter is within your rights but undesirable behavior–I will think worse of you for doing it.

          The consequentialist argument for that position is that the proper response to bad speech is good speech–if someone makes a bad argument you should rebut it. If you can’t rebut it, that’s some evidence that it isn’t a bad argument.

          Making it costly to make certain arguments suppresses true arguments as well as false, so makes it harder for people to discover truth. Which is a bad thing to do.

          • LadyJane says:

            If the reason I call you a racist is to convey my view of you, that’s free speech. If the reason is to get lots of people mad at you in order to punish you not for your views but for expressing them, that’s an attempt to suppress speech. The former is reasonable behavior. The latter is within your rights but undesirable behavior–I will think worse of you for doing it.

            That’s a fair distinction to be make, but it’s also an incredibly subtle one. For instance, what if I tell my black friends that someone is racist not to punish him for having offensive views, but out of a genuine desire to warn them of a potential threat? Someone with extremely racist views may be willing to commit acts of violence against black people. Even if he’s not, he might be willing to screw them over in various other ways (e.g. sabotaging their projects, revealing their secrets, spreading lies and exaggerated rumors about them, or simply insulting them). Wouldn’t it be fair to inform them? Yet from an outside view, doing so could look indistinguishable from an attempt to simply stir up hostility against someone for having the wrong views.

          • acymetric says:

            To piggy back off of LadyJane, the problem here is that now we have to discern intent (which is awfully difficult to do), because the same action can be acceptable or unacceptable purely depending on the intent behind it. When talking about an ideal of how we would like things to be I think that is a fine one, but I’m not sure how you could actually put that into practice or even move things in that direction (because determining true intent borders on the impossible).

          • 10240 says:

            The motive is often obvious, and we are talking about cultural norms so we don’t have to be quite as precise as in the court of law.

            Furthermore, some of this discussion is not even about determining the intent of other people and socially punishing them for their behavior depending on their intent, but about whether we, personally, should engage in shaming and push companies to suppress certain views, or do the opposite and encourage people not to engage in shaming. Two conflicting desires exist in many people: an object-level one to shame certain opinions, and a meta-level one to uphold some sort of free speech norm if that seems beneficial. (Much like a constitution is useful to keep in check various temporary popular desires to violate certain rights that would be seen as a bad idea on the long run.) If we agreed that there should be no cultural free speech norm (because we can’t determine other people’s intent), people would take that as to mean that they should let their object-level desire to shame and suppress run free. Whereas IMO if we agree that a cultural norm of free speech is desirable, it’s a good idea not to engage in such shaming and suppression, and to encourage others to do the same, even if we have no way to enforce the norm.

          • but I’m not sure how you could actually put that into practice or even move things in that direction

            That would be a problem if I was proposing legal rules, but I’m not. I am saying how people ought to act. I think in most situations, someone knows whether he is trying to answer someone or to punish him, and most of the time, in judging other people’s behavior, it is pretty clear which they are doing. So I can do my best not to suppress speech, and I can lower my opinion of people (or organizations) that I think are trying to do so.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          The contradiction is that I have just as much right to criticize someone for expressing their racist opinions as they have to express their racist opinions in the first place. Even if we’re purely talking about what should be considered socially acceptable, rather than what should be legally permissible, I don’t see any argument for why we should consider “[white/black/purple] people are worthless and I don’t want to be around them” to be a perfectly fine expression of free speech/association, while also considering “no, dumbass racists like you are worthless and I don’t want to be around you” to be a form of social censorship. The cultural libertarians seem to want some kind of weirdly selective social norm where it’s okay to express any idea, but not okay for others to criticize that idea.

          I really don’t understand what kind of situation you are imagining. Based on your examples, it sounds like the “racist” view you’re picturing is someone shouting loud expletives about how much they hate minorities. My suggestion would be not to interact with that person, but few would suggest that you are required to sit down and listen to what amounts to a raving lunatic. Maybe you want to respond with your own profanity-laden insult, and I’m pretty sure most free speech warriors wouldn’t be TOO upset about that: after all, that person is the one who decided to start throwing f-bombs left and right and phrased their argument in a way to as offend as many people as possible.

          Is that really the category of views and specific speech you feel should be encompassed? Honestly, it seems to me that the views people want to cast out as unacceptable are QUITE broader than that. I mean, I see plenty of people saying they can’t be friends with Republicans (they don’t know I’m Republican because I don’t talk politics with these people).

      • LadyJane says:

        You should be able to have a discussion with someone with different beliefs without immediate invective or threatening to ruin their life. If someone has truly abhorrent beliefs, just don’t associate with them.

        Well, generally speaking, threatening or taking action to ruin anyone’s life seems unethical (although if someone is worried that their life might be ruined if their views became public knowledge, that’s on them). But why should I be obligated to have a discussion with someone who’s beliefs I find abhorrent without either insulting or ignoring them? “Just don’t associate with them” is a perfectly valid solution, but there are some defenders of free speech culture who consider even that to be a form of social censorship.

        • But why should I be obligated to have a discussion with someone who’s beliefs I find abhorrent without either insulting or ignoring them?

          I don’t think you are obligated to. But, in my experience, people are unreasonably certain their beliefs are true, hence unreasonably confident that those who disagree with them are either evil or stupid.

          If so, there is something to be said for biasing your decisions of who to converse with away from the tendency to avoid those you disagree with.

        • LadyJane says:

          @DavidFriedman: Generally speaking, I agree, but at the same time, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for people to avoid contact with (for instance) those who are actively bigoted against them. I wouldn’t blame a Jewish person for refusing to engage in a perfectly calm, rational, polite debate with a Nazi about whether he had the right to exist.

          I also feel like there’s a certain failure among the cultural libertarian crowd to notice how offensive generalizations can be taken as personal insults regardless of how politely they’re stated. If someone says “Charlie is a worthless dumbass with a double-digit IQ,” then most people wouldn’t find it unreasonable for Charlie to respond by insulting that person or refusing to talk to them. But if someone says “99.9% of black people have sub-100 IQs and no value to society,” and Charlie (who happens to be black) treats that as exactly the same kind of personal insult* and responds in kind, then a lot of people will argue that Charlie is being too emotional and overreacting. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with Charlie’s reaction there, even if the perceived insult was technically a general statement that wasn’t directed at him personally.

          *Which it basically is, even if it’s technically an assertion that Charlie is ‘only’ 99.9% likely to be a worthless dumbass with a double-digit IQ.

          • Except that the real claim that gets made, and objected to, is usually something like “the average IQ of black people is five points lower than that of white people.”

          • secondcityscientist says:

            Except that the real claim that gets made, and objected to, is usually something like “the average IQ of black people is five points lower than that of white people.”

            The number of people capable of thinking in terms of populations, probabilities and distributions is very small. If I heard someone say what you said, I would assume that they were not in fact capable of thinking in such a manner (because it is statistically unlikely they are) and were instead trying to insult someone else.

          • Randy M says:

            If I heard someone say what you said, I would assume that they were not in fact capable of thinking in such a manner

            Wait, are we supposed to reason about individuals from group statistics anecdote or not?

          • Jiro says:

            The number of people capable of thinking in terms of populations, probabilities and distributions is very small.

            But failure to think in terms of populations and distributions affects who is to blame. If a statement is a perceived insult to a logical thinker, the speaker is to blame. If the statement is a perceived insult only to people who lack understanding, it’s the fault of those people for lacking understanding, not the fault of the speaker.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            If the statement is a perceived insult only to people who lack understanding, it’s the fault of those people for lacking understanding

            This is the kind of statement I expect to be made mostly by idiots or white people.

            (This is to illustrate a point, and I don’t believe it – my point is that different people tend to different rational inferences, and that I don’t think that “everyone should make the inferences I do” is a reasonable basis for your moral culpability distribution function. I think the above statement demonstrates this point well; it’s a colloquial statement of “I think whiteness and stupidity are positively correlated with the likelihood of holding this belief.” It’s not a counterargument; it’s a tangential comment. But I think both that it’s possible for a rational individual to interpret this as lacking ill intent – there’s nothing explicitly denigrating about it – and for another one, like me, to suppose it’s absolutely dripping with self-righteous scorn and react accordingly.)

          • quanta413 says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            The difference is that one statement is your random opinion from anecdote and the other statement comes from decades of research and keeps getting roughly reproduced. With some variance in the exact value of X and the exact groupings of “white” and “black”

            That said, the context of a conversation matters. You can use something as an insult even if it doesn’t have to be. “the average IQ of black people is X points lower than that of white people” can be in the context of a scholarly work or debate on public policy (it is not much different than talking about “the gap” which is socially acceptable except that we’ve specified a more narrow type of test) or it can be someone being an asshole and intentionally making a false implication to piss someone off. If George who is black says “I’m having trouble learning differential equations” and Bob says “Well the average IQ of black people is X points lower than that of white people” then Bob is almost certainly just being an asshole.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Quanta

            I agree. My point was that the criterion as stated was bad because it’s hard (in the sense of “the hard problem”), not because it’s philosophically unjustified.

    • quanta413 says:

      This comment is too vague. What does “shame” consist of exactly? Who is being shamed and why? And what is your actual dispute with some vaguely defined group of “cultural libertarians”?

      Specifically, it seems like “free speech culture” is inherently self-contradictory, because it prioritizes the free speech of the first person to comment on a particular issue, while socially discouraging the free speech of responders.

      What mechanism are you talking about that would cause this?

      • LadyJane says:

        Shaming someone consists of insulting and/or ostracizing someone for having offensive views.

        “Cultural libertarianism” refers to the belief that free speech should be defended against not just government censorship and extralegal violence, but against all forms of suppression, from firing and boycotts and deplatforming all the way down to insulting people and refusing to associate with them on the basis of their beliefs. Cultural libertarians don’t want to legally prohibit insulting or excluding people for their beliefs, but they strongly discourage such actions (and some of them actually do want to make it illegal for institutions to fire or deplatform people for their opinions). The idea is that they’re protecting not just free speech as defined by law, but “the spirit of free speech” or “free speech culture” or some spook like that.

        As for the first speaker contradiction, see my response to A Definite Beta Guy above.

        • from firing and boycotts and deplatforming all the way down to insulting people and refusing to associate with them on the basis of their beliefs.

          I think the critical question here is whether you are doing those things in order to prevent arguments being made for those beliefs. If so, you are trying to make it harder for other people to discover whether those beliefs are true, which is a bad thing to do.

          If the reason I don’t associate with someone who expresses certain beliefs is that I find doing so uncomfortable, or the reason I don’t hire someone who is (say) a creationist is that I take that as evidence that he isn’t very smart, that isn’t a suppression of speech. If the reason is to keep those beliefs from being expressed, it is.

        • quanta413 says:

          Shaming someone consists of insulting and/or ostracizing someone for having offensive views.

          This is once again, still too vague. Insulting people is rude and not very productive but typically not very harmful in and of itself. Ostracism can vary from not very harmful to extremely harmful. If someone can’t get any job for example, they’re usually in pretty big trouble. If everyone refuses to sell or give them food, they’ll probably starve to death. If they don’t get invited to birthday parties, then no big deal. In between these sort of extremes are questions like “Is it ok or a good idea to ostracize them from entire industries as long as they could sell their labor to or buy a needed product from another industry more friendly to their views?”

          “Cultural libertarianism” refers to the belief that free speech should be defended against not just government censorship and extralegal violence, but against all forms of suppression, from firing and boycotts and deplatforming all the way down to insulting people and refusing to associate with them on the basis of their beliefs. Cultural libertarians don’t want to legally prohibit insulting or excluding people for their beliefs, but they strongly discourage such actions (and some of them actually do want to make it illegal for institutions to fire or deplatform people for their opinions). The idea is that they’re protecting not just free speech as defined by law, but “the spirit of free speech” or “free speech culture” or some spook like that.

          This starts out as an ok description but then veers into a weird strawman of cultural libertarianism. I’ve read people with vaguely that belief set and haven’t seen anyone endorse the idea that you should invite people to your birthday or engage with them in your personal life if you don’t like them. You can probably find a few crazies who will endorse the most ridiculous possibility, but I can find people saying the most ridiculous possibility for most things.

          It’s more the idea that norms of free speech do not end with the government. It’s hardly a new observation, J.S. Mill worried about the effect of the masses on speech.

          Personally I don’t think it makes any sense to discuss in a vacuum what sort of ostracism is justified for some hypothetical speech. Some ostracism is not very harmful and other ostracism may be extremely so. Some speech such as credible violent threats doesn’t fall under any free speech norms, and some speech does. Some organizations need their employees to have certain beliefs (like a Catholic priest needs to be a Catholic), but many beliefs are irrelevant to many organizations.

          As for the first speaker contradiction, see my response to A Definite Beta Guy above.

          The only contradiction I see is due to you having an idea of what your supposed opponents think that is basically the weakest possible version of their views. This isn’t particularly interesting, it’s like me saying that if someone believes that free speech only relates to government then they must be endorsing the idea that it’s morally acceptable for the rest of society to ostracize someone for saying anything so severely that they can’t find anywhere to live or obtain anything to eat (even by dumpster diving because everyone chases them away from dumpsters). And then the ostracized person dies in the gutter and obviously they deserved it.

          But that would be a completely ridiculous characterization of the actually held views of the typical person who believes free speech norms only relate to government. Even if I could get them to claim that’s what they believe just to signal their dedication to their point of view.

          • 10240 says:

            One source of confusion might be that on SSC there is a big overlap between those who think that a cultural free speech norm is desirable, and those who think that it’s generally a good idea to be willing to talk with people with very different or fringe views, evaluate their views charitably and not shame them (including Scott). However, for most of us wouldn’t consider this expected or morally obligatory.

    • 10240 says:

      I’ve argued about this before. My opinion is
      (1) From a libertarian point of view, it’s inappropriate to prohibit companies from restricting the freedom of speech by the force of law.*
      (2) Private suppression of speech, on platforms that are not inherently political and allow most sorts of speech, is wrong for much of the same reasons as legal prohibitions on speech are wrong, though not quote as wrong.
      (3) It’s appropriate to use private pressure to make companies maintain a freedom of speech. Just as freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from (non-legal) consequences, freedom to assign consequences to speech also doesn’t mean freedom from (non-legal) consequences for doing so.

      *At least it would be inappropriate in an otherwise libertarian society. In a society that already has extensive regulation that’s not going away, some of which impacts speech, some regulation promoting free speech at companies might make things less bad. E.g. some commentators argued that Google could’ve exposed itself to sexual harassment lawsuits if it hadn’t fire Damore; the fact that California also forbids discrimination on the basis of political views could have been used as a defense. C.f. Theory of the second best.

      Specifically, it seems like “free speech culture” is inherently self-contradictory, because it prioritizes the free speech of the first person to comment on a particular issue, while socially discouraging the free speech of responders. (Baeraad was willing to bite the bullet and say that he cares about “free argument” more than free speech per se, but I haven’t seen anyone else willing to openly take such a position, and it seems incredible bizarre to me.)

      Another counter-argument I made in the comment I’ve linked is that, IMO, only significant material repercussions count as a non-governmental restriction on the freedom speech, criticism or even shaming don’t.

      While I don’t quite agree with Baeraad’s view, it doesn’t seem that bad to me. In the situation you talk about, it would say that shaming is not OK, a cool-headed counter-argument or criticism is OK. The primary problem with suppression of speech is the suppression of ideas, and shaming people for their opinion doesn’t hold much value. My opinion is that shaming should be discouraged, but I wouldn’t want to enforce a cultural norm against it, and it would be unfeasible anyway because the boundaries are too vague.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Of course free speech is freedom from consequences. “You can say whatever you like, but if you say something unacceptable we’ll cut off your head as a consequence” is not free speech.

      As for private platforms, as a libertarian I agree that private platforms should be able to deny speakers access based on content, but you start getting into murky areas when those platforms are heavily government-regulated or influenced. If platforms deny you services because of what you say because the government will revoke their licenses or launch an expensive investigation if they don’t, that’s government action. If private companies fire the Archie Bunker types because the government will punish them if they do not, it’s the government suppressing their speech.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      There’s something fundamentally sneaky about portraying one’s own decision to punish someone as a “consequence”, as if it were the burn you get from touching a hot stove. People who try to cover up their own moral agency are rarely up to any good.

      • Walter says:

        +1 to this. Whenever anyone wants to do something shady they immediately offload the agency to the victim.

      • wk says:

        Lets say some guy calls his girlfriend ugly. Would you also consider it unethical to say “there will likely be consequences” in this setting, just because she has moral agency and freedom of choice, and doesn’t have to kick him out of her appartment?

        Moreover, I doubt people in either setting have any interest in covering up their moral agency. They are, if anything, proud of their choices, and their morality.

        • woah77 says:

          I think it’s disingenuous to suggest that kicking your now ex-boyfriend out of your apartment is in anyway equivalent to mobs of social media participants threatening to boycott your employer because of some political view you hold. Sure, every single member of that mob had freedom of choice and used that choice to tell an employer that they would boycott their products because of their employee. But it’s a categorically different kind of action.

          • wk says:

            I’m not claiming that the two situations are the same, not at all. Pauls argument, if I understand it correctly, is that the mere use of the word “consequence” is a tell-tale sign of ill intent, of sneaky behaviour, just because the people involved have choice, have moral agency. What I’m getting at is, how strict is this position supposed to be? Can the word “consequence” be used at all in the face of human action? If it’s ok to use the word “consequence” for the girlfriends action, why is not ok to use “consequences” in the other setting? And if it’s not ok for the girlfriend either, then I’m saying that most people simply don’t use the word “consequence” that way, and you can’t logically infer anything from them using the word.

            And second of all, I don’t think the people involved in putting pressure on companies to shut down speech they don’t like are trying in any sense to hide their moral agency. They’re not trying to be sneaky, or hiding behind passive language. They’re loud and proud.

          • woah77 says:

            To the first one: I wouldn’t call it a “consequence” since as you correctly point out, using the word “consequence” could be used to expand a justification for anything. I’d probably argue that as an offended part, she is free to revoke her association and remove her now ex from the premises of her residence. It might be an effect of what he said, but it’s not the same as a consequence, in that she was making her own choice. If she, somehow, broke the law in throwing him out, she would be liable for charges from her behavior.

            To your second point: They aren’t trying to hide their moral agency because they aren’t under any threat for performing that activity. There is no anti-outrage mob that goes after outrage mobs and targets their livelihood. When such behavior is criticized, the defense of outrage mobs is “Well maybe the target shouldn’t have said [whatever it was] and then they wouldn’t have had a reason to target him” and “Freedom of speech isn’t freedom from consequences.” Both are victim blaming and not conducive to a free society.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            “Consequences” becomes weaselly when it’s used in place of justification. “Freedom of speech isn’t freedom from consequences” is a thing people say after their punitive actions have been criticized; the forthright answer in this situation is “here’s why we’re right to punish this speaker”. Kicking the boyfriend out for an insult isn’t really an act whose justification is in question, at least not if the insult was sincere; if it was a playful tease to which she was overreacting, calling it a “consequence” would indeed be a dodge.

          • woah77 says:

            That’s very fair, Paul. It seems to me that when we’re talking about angry mob depriving person of livelihood the justification goes “He said this [terrible thing]” when then questioned about free speech it goes “Well, freedom from speech isn’t freedom from consequences, he shouldn’t have said that if he didn’t want to lose his livelihood.” Which smacks of extra-judiciary punishment, victim blaming, and weaseling to me. It basically boils down to “We don’t like him so he shouldn’t have a job” which sounds very oppressive to me.

          • wk says:

            @woah, Paul:
            Lets phrase this differently. Say the activists claim instead that “freedom of speech is not the same as freedom from retaliatory action from private parties, not the government, that stays within legal boundaries”. The word consequences is not used at all, so the question about correct terminology does not arise, and the statement appears to be perfectly correct from a legal point of view, at least to my IANAL-eyes. You might prefer that they have a different opinion, and find their actions supressing speech morally questionable, but would you still consider that statement a sign of sneaky behaviour?

            If you can convince me that activists would be fine with using the “consequences”-line, but not the second one for reasons other than it being not particularly short and snappy, I’m willing to grant you that they might be sneaky.

          • woah77 says:

            You might be right that they wouldn’t have an issue with it. I still do. Mob justice isn’t justice. If someone didn’t break any laws or compacts with you, then you have no right to punish them. Being “racist” or any other out-tribe signifier is not justification to punish someone. Attacking someone’s livelihood is punishing them.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I’ve seen activists actually using wk’s second argument, and I have a problem with it, but not quite the same problem I have with the “consequences” line. The second argument, with its crabbed definition of freedom of speech, has the effect of answering a question that hasn’t been asked (is it legally permissible for us to punish this speaker?) instead of the one that has (is it right for us to punish this speaker?) This could be done with underhanded intent, but I think it more likely to come from a failure to grasp the distinction between the two questions. I’ll consider the possibility that the “consequences” language could come from an honest error of the same sort, but it still doesn’t seem likely to me.

          • wk says:

            There is a decent chance that our argument is at least partially due to living in a different environment. My guess is that Paul is so used to the idea of free speech as a fundamental virtue and to people around him agreeing with that point of view, that any action by anyone that shuts down any speech in any way is immediately judged relative to that standard. Since the people shutting down speech are acting against a fundamental virtue, they are therefore most likely trying to hide their own lack of virtue, similar to how an adulterer knows they’re acting immorally, and might try to blame the victim for their own lack of morality (“he’s not paying enough attention to me”, “she’s never willing to have sex”, whatever). Meanwhile, I can safely say that virtually nobody around me has or would defend free speech in the abstract sense. In simply does not occur to people that there is value in allowing certain kinds of speech to be free. I have literally, in the full old sense of the word, heard the argument “but that isn’t speech, it’s a crime”, as a defense of speech-restricting laws. As a good illustration of that point of view, read the Durch speech restriction laws posted below. In other words, I’m used to people around me considering the act of shutting down opposing views of a certain nature to be perfectly fine and even morally necessary. Therefore, when I hear the above arguments from activists, I don’t immediately think of them as sneaky; to me, they’re just people who follow their own sense of virtue and don’t see anything immoral at all in their actions, so they’re not acting sneaky or hiding behind passive language. I also think it likely we’re both right about some of the people, and wrong about others.

          • woah77 says:

            That’s the difference between arguing with the speaker and targeting their livelihood though. I have no problem with nine million people telling someone that he’s a dirty racist. I have a huge issue with nine million people telling ComEd that employee #8472 is a filthy racist and they need to fire him.

        • John Schilling says:

          Would you also consider it unethical to say “there will likely be consequences” in this setting?

          It is at minimum disingenuous weasel-wording for the girlfriend to say “there will be consequences” rather than “I will throw you out”. The passive formulation implies a neutral observer offering dispassionate advice.

        • quanta413 says:

          If this was a pattern of negative behavior (not teasing or something) I’d tell him “Your girlfriend should dump your sorry ass” and if I knew his girlfriend I’d tell her to do so.

          It would be really weird to phrase it as “There will likely be consequences.”

          • acymetric says:

            I don’t think it is weird at all. “Face the consequences” is used all the time when the consequences are somebody being upset/retaliating in response to someone else’s words/actions.

            Not only is this a silly semantic debate, I’m not even sure the semantic argument is a sound one.

          • quanta413 says:

            Who am I talking to in the more precise context? Because like I said, I’d encourage the outcome.

            I’d find it somewhere between weird to weaselly to warn or threaten a person with unspecified “consequences”. It would be different if I was engaging in gossip with yet another third party I guess. Although I’m having trouble imagining speaking that way even then.

      • Randy M says:

        Your freedom of speech doesn’t restrict my right to organize legal harassment of you!

      • JonathanD says:

        So, I’d like to connect this to a concrete example from the last open thread. If the head of an institute, commenting on social policy in an interview, said that while people hope that all groups are equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”, what, if anything, should happen? If the answer is nothing, then how are his black employees supposed to feel? Should they just shrug their shoulders and move on? Trust that, while he may have said that, he didn’t really mean me? Take it as justified criticism and do better? Leave? And, if your director, in an interview, gave such statement, what should you do as a member of the board? What do you do if all your black staff start leaving? If you get a reputation as a place minorities (Asians excluded) shouldn’t work because they can’t get a fair shake? If the head of a national lab made such a comment and nothing happened, do I, as a member of the public, have a right to comment? If I do am I opposed to free speech?

        When you’re talking about people making controversial statements and not facing any consequences, I feel like that’s the sort of thing that’s easier to say in the abstract than in specific. For another: Take a person working in an office and then have them say something racially inappropriate. Maybe send this joke around on company wide email: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’”

        In both these cases, the person was fired. I think that was appropriate. For those with the view that freedom of speech means freedom from consequences, what do you think? Do you really think that no consequences was the right answer here, and an injustice was done when these people lost their positions?

        I know I’m asking these questions in a pretty confrontational way, but if someone thinks that, I would really like to hear about that, and hear about why. It’s a position I have trouble getting my head around.

        • Jiro says:

          Two people gave basically the same answer above: “Freedom of speech is not freedom of consequences” is weaselly because it is being used as an excuse to punish someone without having to justify the punishment. If you fire someone for making a horribly racist joke, you can justify the punishment directly, and have no need for such an excuse.

        • quanta413 says:

          Sending mass e-mails around the company for non-work purposes is bordering on reason to be fired in and of itself. So that’s easy. Way over the edge. Fire. I would think differently if the statement was not in company e-mail.

          The totality of Watson’s comments is different from the isolated quote. I think Watson was rude (and he has a reputation for this), but what he said was still within the bounds of a forced retirement being too much.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          @ Jonathan.

          Thank you very much for making a more specific argument. LadyJane is being far too vague to really figure out what she means.

          I agree that those two employees should “have consequences” for their bad behavior, perhaps being fired. They are causing bad feelings in the workplace, and the employer should not stand for it.

          You may be surprised that I also agree that Watson should have faced consequences for his comment insulting his Black employees. Even though this was my posting I put there to complain about how Watson was treated, I was referring to his comment about Africa and the implication of lower IQs of Blacks. I didn’t realize he had also directly insulted his employees. The institute certainly should have censured him, and maybe fired him. Although I don’t see how that one comment should have put him in the doghouse in the academic community. I do think much of that treatment was because of his totally reasonable concern about Africa.

          • albatross11 says:

            I suspect Watson’s widespread reputation for being a jerk also didn’t help him any, either in terms of getting people to believe that his comment was not intended to offend, or in terms of gaining him defenders among the many people he’d pissed off over the years.

    • Erusian says:

      Simplest counterargument: Are you really comfortable with the consequences of this? Or is it just because you expect your ideological allies to have more cultural power? A Christian organization once collected the names of every woman who’d had an abortion in a rather conservative county and published them in a newspaper. Many of the women were shunned or lost their jobs. One was assaulted, though the man had no ties to the people who published the list. Are you alright with that?

      Because every weapon you use will be turned on you. That’s really why rights like freedom of speech and freedom of religion exist. Every person, deep down, their belief system is right. If they don’t agree to respect others, though, all the groups end up trying to eliminate each other. Live and let live is a way to get around that, which everyone wants because religious civil wars are not fun times. If you start shaming people for their speech, people will organize to do so. Others will then counterorganize and you end up with wide social conflict. One that will generally disadvantage small, weak groups relative to large.

      Also, obviously freedom means freedom from consequences. If you can ‘have’ a freedom despite it having negative consequences, then you are always free to do almost anything. It’s a totally vacuous definition. It doesn’t mean freedom from being debated but that’s not really controversial. When people talk about weaponized shaming, they are generally not talking about someone suffering disagreement.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        All of this. “You’re absolutely free to do/be/say X! However, if you do, are, or say X the government and/or others will swiftly murder you.” That doesn’t sound much like freedom.

        • LadyJane says:

          This seems to be a bad-faith strawman, I think it’s fairly obvious from context that the libertarian in question did not support summary execution as one of the potential consequences of free speech.

          Would “freedom of speech is not freedom from [social and cultural repercussions by non-state actors that do not involve the use of violence or theft/destruction of property, nor the threat thereof]” be a statement that you agreed with?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Before I could agree with that statement I would have to know what the acceptable repercussions are.

          • LadyJane says:

            Here’s a list, you tell me what you consider socially acceptable. I’m sure you’ll probably agree that at least a few of them are okay, but I’m curious where people draw the line.

            1. Boycotts
            A. A company gets boycotted because it took an offensive stance as an institution (e.g. demanding that black people sit on the back of the bus, refusing to bake wedding cakes for gay couples); the intent of the boycott is to make the company change their policy or go out of business
            B. A company gets boycotted because a high-ranking figure (the CEO, one of the board members, the Head of Marketing and Public Relations) made an offensive public statement, albeit while clarifying that he wasn’t speaking on behalf of the company; the intent of the boycott is to make the company remove that figure, or at least force him to make a public apology
            C. A company gets boycotted as a result of a high-ranking figure making an offensive statement in private which was then publicly exposed (something like the Donald Sterling scandal); the intent of the boycott is to make the company remove that figure, or at least force him to make a public apology
            D. A company gets boycotted as a result of a random employee of no particular importance making an offensive statement on social media; the intent of the boycott is to make the company remove that employee, or at least force him to make a public apology

            2. Termination of employment
            A. An employer fires a worker for refusing to bake wedding cakes for interracial couples
            B. An employer fires a worker for refusing to address trans co-workers and customers by their preferred names and pronouns
            C. An employer fires a worker for talking on the job about how black people have innately lower IQs than other races, much to the chagrin of his black co-workers
            D. An employer fires a worker for making the same assertion to co-workers at a bar after work
            E. An employer fires a worker for making the same assertion in a private Facebook group, unaware that one of his co-workers was in the same group

            3. Social ostracization
            A. A Jewish activist refuses to debate a Nazi on the subject of whether or not Jews should have the right to exist
            B. A trans activist refuses to debate a political pundit who insists on deadnaming and misgendering trans people
            C. An Asian woman breaks up with her boyfriend after finding out that he’s a white nationalist, despite his claims that he “just wants white people to have their own homeland too” and “doesn’t have a problem with Asians, since they have high IQs like white people”
            D. A white man refuses to be friends with a black co-worker who’s expressed anti-white views, despite the co-worker’s claim that “he’s one of the good ones”
            E. LGBT people refuse to associate with a neighbor who expresses openly homophobic views
            F. Straight cisgendered people refuse to associate with a neighbor who expresses openly homophobic views
            G. People refuse to associate with a neighbor after discovering that he’s expressed openly homophobic views online, despite the fact that he’s never made statements like that in person and he’s always been polite to LGBT people in the neighborhood
            H. People refuse to associate with a neighbor after discovering that he supports a political candidate who supports anti-LGBT legislation, despite his claims that he doesn’t agree with the candidate on that particular issue

            4. Insults
            A. Some random vagabond on a street corner starts shouting about how the Illuminati and Reptilians are keeping all the sheeple enslaved with their TV mind-control rays; people simply laugh at him and continue walking instead of stopping to debate him and refute his arguments
            B. A famous conspiracy theorist has a TV show where he makes the exact same kinds of arguments, but more coherently and in greater detail, using misleading charts and cherry-picked statistics and out-of-context news stories to “prove” his claims; an even more famous journalist simply calls him a crackpot and summarily dismisses all of his ideas as abject nonsense
            C. A radio show host gets a call from a Klansman who starts going on a long rambling screed about the evils of blacks, Jews, and Catholics; after half a minute, the host just disconnects the call and says “Jesus, what a jackass, it’s 2019, how do people still believe racist garbage like that?”
            D. An anti-trans blogger posts an argument that’s politely worded but firmly dismissive of trans identities; a famous trans YouTube star makes a video where she responds by repeatedly calling him a transphobic asshole and arguing that his points aren’t even worthy of being addressed

          • albatross11 says:

            LadyJane:

            Insults are speech, and if you accept that free speech is important, that includes speech that involves telling you that you’re an idiot or an asshole for your beliefs, as well as for meatier comments where someone tells you in depth, point by point, why only an idiot would believe what you just said.

            I don’t think any of the things you described there should be illegal, assuming they’re not done by the state or somehow using state power to back them. (That is, if the Justice Department threatens legal action against companies that don’t punish some off-the-job speech by employees, that’s a first amendment issue.) Some states have laws against private discrimination w.r.t. political beliefs–I’m not sure that’s a good policy, but it’s no more unreasonable than a lot of other antidiscrimination laws.

            I personally strongly oppose using boycotts to try to force companies to police the off-the-job speech and political activities of their employees. This isn’t about libertarianism, it’s about thinking that this kind of action makes the world a duller and dumber and generally worse place. Explicit political actions or positions taken by companies are fair grounds for boycotts, though honestly I think that’s usually a bad idea, too–the world works better when I can do business with people who disagree with me about important values.

            Similarly, I think employers firing people for off-the-job political activities or speech is a really terrible idea, and I strongly oppose it. If that norm becomes commonplace, then most people lose the freedom to be politically active in ways their employer opposes. When you’re on the job, the boss can limit what you can say to the public while representing him, for very good reasons. He can also limit what you can say at work in general, but it would be a shitty thing for him to do to impose rules that only permitted some political views to be expressed, and not others. (Every workplace I’ve ever seen has only cared about employees not causing trouble with their speech, whether that’s politics or general bitching or propositioning coworkers. Also, I think most workplaces would give the offending employee a talking-to about toning down the “we’re the master race” or “you’re not really a girl, I’m gonna call you Fred” nonsense before firing them.)

            Deciding whom to talk to or hang around with or date seems entirely personal, and people can use whatever criteria they like for those decisions. Ostracizing a neighbor for their political views is something people can do, but I think a widespread norm of doing it, especially with fairly narrow limits of tolerance for different views, will make the world a much worse place. Trying to organize ostricization of people for their political views or actions seems deeply nasty to me.

            Again, none of this is about the law (except maybe anti-discrimination law w.r.t. political activity). Instead, it’s about what kind of norms I hope to see, in order to keep a society where people can be different and weird and disagree in public, without being crushed for it or bullied into pretending to believe whatever the neighbors all say they believe.

          • Hoopyfreud says: