Open Thread 119.25

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1,261 Responses to Open Thread 119.25

  1. ManyCookies says:

    So uh, thoughts on the bizarre Trump serving fast food at a White House dinner episode?

    What I want to know is a. Did the players like it b. Was it hot and fresh? The players seem to have shut the fuck up and not done any interviews, which is 100% wise regardless of their stance (good job PR manager). And I’m not turning my nose up at fresh McDonalds fries, but if the non pizza shit was cold and soggy I’d be pretty fucking offended.

    Also I find it hard to believe they couldn’t find anywhere else in DC to cater, though considering Trump’s eating habits I think he genuinely felt fast food would be a sufficient and fun choice (did he eat with them?)

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      Right-wing sources I’ve seen said that Trump paid for the food himself, and personally selected it. He is well known to like fast food, so it sounds like a deliberate choice and not meant to be an insult or anything.

      I too wondered if it was warm and fresh…

    • Nornagest says:

      A nothingburger about cheeseburgers. That’s almost too cute to live.

    • albatross11 says:

      Hey, look, a news story involving Trump that sucks all the oxygen out of the media environment for a couple days, but has absolutely no significance beyond that. Why, it’s almost like Trump is some kind of master at playing the media, and he decided he’d like some other stories to die down while everyone’s talking about the carefully taken fast-food-in-the-white-house picture!

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Why, it’s almost like Trump is some kind of master at playing the media,

        Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving group of people.

      • ManyCookies says:

        Ehhh, what story did he need to snuff? Non prior shifting Mueller update #258 (it was an announcement to his report iirc), government shutdown that’s been going on for weeks with no significant recent change?

        I’d buy that trolling CNN was a bonus, but I don’t think it was free clean party-split trolling, I know at least one Repub who lifted an eyebrow. And had the team been vocally offended, a real a priori possibility, the outrage/disappointment could well have been bipartisan (“Just be happy you even met the president” is a rough spin).

        And the dinner was set and planned in advance, so it’s not like he could pull that maneuver out as convenient.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Ehhh, what story did he need to snuff?

          No one knows. It was that good of a PR stunt.

          Eighth Dimensional Chess: Legacy: Legacy!

        • eyeballfrog says:

          Perhaps it was nothing. If you only pull stunts when there’s something to cover up, people get wise. You should always include stunts that don’t misdirect from anything to keep deniability.

          Or there’s no secret motive and Trump is just a weird guy.

          • Well... says:

            It could be that it wasn’t to distract from or cover up something else, but to create some kind of association or mental image that he can use later.

          • Don_Flamingo says:

            Maybe he just wanted to eat a cheeseburger?
            I mean, imagine you are the most powerful man on earth… and you would like to eat a cheeseburger…
            why not arrange it so, that you can eat a cheeseburger?
            I’d do it.

          • Fahundo says:

            I mean, imagine you are the most powerful man on earth… and you would like to eat a cheeseburger…

            I’d get Five Guys or something, not McDonald’s.

    • Samu says:

      The first thing that came to mind was that scene from Kingsman where Harry has dinner with the main antagonist. Other than that, not much to say.

    • S_J says:

      Not about Trump, but about a news article I read.

      The article included these two sentences.

      Note that he was admirably ecumenical in his choice of victuals. Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Burger King; ‘If it’s American’, Trump said, ‘I like it.’

      How did Trump, and the reporter who quoted him, miss that Wendy’s is a Canadian brand, and is not from the United States?

      EDIT: my memory must be wrong: Wendy’s was founded in Ohio, not in Canada.

      • woah77 says:

        Technically Wendy’s is from America, since Canada is a nation of America. That said, it would be really funny for someone to use that example to point out how Mexicans are also American under that definition so he should like them too.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Same question as for anyone who dredges up this tired old canard: what is your proposed demonym for the United States of America?

          • woah77 says:

            I don’t have one and was mostly pointing out a convenient political “gotcha”. I think it’s generally understood that “American” means “of the United States” but I also find that technically inaccurate and like to poke fun at it from time to time. It’d be great if we could come up with a better one, but I think it’s far more likely we’ll be welcoming our corporate, AI, or Alien overlords before that is managed.

          • Evan Þ says:

            In one abortive alternate-history novel I started writing, I used “Stateser.” At least, I had the Canadians in the novel use it.

          • Scott Alexander says:
          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Saying “States” or “United States” instead of “America” because Mexico is techinically also America, is actually not as great a solution as you might think.

      • aristides says:

        Is Wendy’s Canadian? Wikipedia has it explicitly American, founded in Dublin, OH and the headquarters there. I don’t see a reference to Canada. Are you sure it’s Canadian?

      • actualitems says:

        Wendy’s is an American company, no? It was founded in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio.

      • biffchalupa says:

        Wendy’s owned Tim Horton’s for a spell in the 2000s, and may have actually reincorporated there for the tax rates but I’m not sure. Burger King did do this in 2014, so technically is a Canadian company (recall the outrage over so-called tax inversions around that time).

      • S_J says:

        It took me a while to find the origin of my automatic response, “Isn’t Wendy’s a Canadian brand?”

        Someone in my family said it years ago, and it was at a time when I didn’t make a habit of double-checking such details. The person who said it ought to have known.

        That “family knowledge” was likely spawned from confusion about the corporate ownership of Wendy’s and Tim Horton’s (which was founded in Canada), which @biffChalupa mentioned below.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      If, around the year 2000, a photoshopped image of President Donald with arms outstretched over hundreds of McDonald’s cheeseburgers beneath a portrait of Lincoln had shown up in a Rage Against the Machine video or Michael Moore movie, everyone would have regarded it as too clumsy and banal to be real satire

      It’s like a wizard took a middling 1990s adbusters cover and read some incantation to manifest it in the real world

    • Plumber says:

      @ManyCookies

      “So uh, thoughts on the bizarre Trump serving fast food at a White House dinner episode?….”

      Once again the first place I’ve seen or heard anything about this incident is here.

      I’m doubtful it’s common knowledge and judging by how fast new outrages/events of interest come up, I think it will soon be forgotten.

      • Well... says:

        Once again the first place I’ve seen or heard anything about this incident is here.

        Same here but that’s because I don’t seek out and consume journalism. In part because these kinds of stories exemplify journalism.

        As I wrote on my blog a little while ago, any given news story sits somewhere on a plot whose two axes are importance and actionability. The more important the news item, the less actionable, and vice versa. And anything that is very important or very actionable can be easily learned about from other sources besides journalism anyway. Therefore, there’s no good reason to consume journalism unless you include the weird endorphin bump people get from being “in the know” on the latest gossip.

    • AG says:

      Honestly, I don’t get the outrage. Most of the fast food chains (especially McDonald’s) are trying to increase their ingredient quality to compete with fast casual, and even if they didn’t, there is a flavor profile that you can’t get elsewhere. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, fast food is jamming those to the max, only outdone by, like, the snack industry.

      Now, if it was Panda Express, I’d be offended. (And Subway, that would be such a pathetic downgrade from fast food.)

      • Tenacious D says:

        There’s a common project management expression that goes: “good, fast, or cheap–pick 2”. It’s honestly a bit impressive how the main fast food franchises manage to stretch that to 2.5 or so. Their food isn’t in any danger of being mistaken for something healthy or gourmet, but it is tasty and the quality is consistent. You can go to a McDonald’s almost anywhere in the world and not really worry about getting food poisoning, for example.

      • quanta413 says:

        Now, if it was Panda Express, I’d be offended.

        Fighting words. Panda Express is delicious, as is American Chinese food in general. It’s its own cuisine just like Tex-Mex.

        Sometimes I want sichuan but sometimes I just want a giant pile of orange chicken.

        • AG says:

          No, see, I am elitist about fried rice. Well, not really really elitist, but the choice of rice (its texture and stickiness) matters, dammit. And Panda fails that test hard. There are so many cheap Chinese places where you can do better.

          I’ll give you that Glistening Orange Lumps and Glistening Brown Lumps can be appealing, but again, Panda is far from quality. You might get better from the local grocery deli, but also a lot of cheap Chinese places offer it as sop to American customers, and are better than gorram Panda.
          (I’ve even recently had multiple good variations on “breaded meat drenched in shiny sauce” at different Indian buffets.)

          It’s about Panda itself, not the food genre, which I agree exists and is valid. The authenticity argument is bunk, anyways, since all of these (Tex Mex, pizza, “””italian”””, are all the result of actual immigrants expanding their recipes to include newly available ingredients.)

          Most of the chain burger places are good now, other than BK’s chicken being an abomination. Maybe that wasn’t always the case (pink slime era), and it seems like there’s local variation for chicken fast food quality, but I just don’t think Panda has kept up vs. regular Chinese takeout places.

          • quanta413 says:

            I admit I don’t eat Panda fried rice either because it’s not very good. It’s reminds me more of slightly brown steamed rice for whatever reason.

            I’ll give you that Glistening Orange Lumps and Glistening Brown Lumps can be appealing, but again, Panda is far from quality. You might get better from the local grocery deli, but also a lot of cheap Chinese places offer it as sop to American customers, and are better than gorram Panda.

            Yeah, but Panda is faster and more consistent. It’s the same value proposition as MacDonald’s or Wendy’s is compared to stopping for at a local burger joint. I’ll take Panda over MacDonald’s 9/10 times. And over Wendy’s maybe 7/10 times.

            Most of the chain burger places are good now, other than BK’s chicken being an abomination. Maybe that wasn’t always the case (pink slime era), and it seems like there’s local variation for chicken fast food quality, but I just don’t think Panda has kept up vs. regular Chinese takeout places.

            I go the opposite way. I think most fast food burgers are more behind the typical local burger joint than Panda is behind local Chinese takeout. Unless you’re in Chinatown in a major city where it flips.

            Although if I’m ordering a chicken sandwich instead of a burger it’s more of a toss-up between fast food and local. Wendy’s has a really good spicy chicken sandwich.

          • AG says:

            Huh, what’s your local grocery chain? Ours is Safeway, and their deli section offers good chow mein and orange chicken that you can immediately pick up.

            As far as local burger joints go, I’m not evaluating them against the fast food places because the price points are different. Whereas cheap Chinese places are price-comparable to Panda. A lot of them also offer a cafeteria-style pickup during rush hours, so speed isn’t an issue.

          • quanta413 says:

            Schnucks and Meijer. I haven’t noticed any orange chicken or chow mein at the Schnucks. I don’t remember what is at Meijer.

            As far as local burger joints go, I’m not evaluating them against the fast food places because the price points are different.

            Where I am, I can think of places with comparable price points, but they do tend to be a bit slower. There are also a couple places that are slightly more expensive (like chipotle expensive) but way ahead.

            On the other hand, the local chinese food has some places similar to panda some of which are a little better and some of which are a little worse. And then a bunch of places that I like a lot more than Panda, but are a different cuisine. Although you can order Panda like food there, I just have no interest. They’re also out of my way at lunchtime. They might have much better American Chinese food like you say.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      The President clearly does not speak Republican as a native language, as he did not have Chick-Fil-A.

      Much ado about nothing. Some college students got to see the President and ate free fast food. Whatever.

    • quanta413 says:

      I’m disappointed a chance may have been missed to serve supreme pizzas topped with big macs and fries.

    • Chalid says:

      Was it hot and fresh?

      This doesn’t seem logistically possible, if they were actually coming from a real fast food kitchen? Surely it would take more than ~20 minutes to pack everything and drive it over, clear everything through security, and serve it?

      • albatross11 says:

        I have this mental image of him inviting everyone in to this fake display of fast food, straight-faced, and finally relenting and inviting them into the actual cooked-by-his-celebrity-chef fancy dinner.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I thought it was adorable. I would love to eat burgs in the White House.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I wept tears of joy at seeing the gorgeous White House fast food photography. This is exactly what I elected him to do.

      • Walter says:

        I do like fast food. I had similar feelings when folks were dumping on, I think Mitt Romney, for saying his favorite meat was ‘hot dog’? Like “Why are you laughing? He’s right!”

        I mostly elected him to pull us out of foreign wars and appoint SC justices, but having a fat guy like me in charge gives me, what do they call it? Representation, yeah, a nice feeling.

  2. Plumber says:

    @johan_larson‘s post asking

    “…..What works of art from 2001-2018 stand a chance of being remembered and enjoyed a lifetime from now?”

    and my realization that I barely know any of the suggestions, as did the postReturn of the Jedi “Star Wars” films remind me that the farther from about 1981 a work of art was made the less likely I am to know about it (except films of the 1940’s which for some reason I know better than those of the ’50’s and ’60’s).

    So keeping in mind that if it’s from 1976 to 1986 I probably already know about, what works of culture do you recommend to me?

    For my tastes the two novels I’ve most re-read are: The War Hound and the World’s Pain by Moorcock, and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkein, the two short story collections I’ve most read are British Folktales by Briggs, and Sworfs Against Death by Leiber, the two films I’ve most watched are Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Third Man, the two albums I’ve most listened two are Carmina Burana by Orff, and The Planets by Holst, and the two individual songs I’ve most listened to are Pretty Thing by Bo Diddley, and Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones.

    So what that’s not from the ’70’s or ’80’s should I check out?

    And what are your favorites?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Uh, I don’t know that you’re missing much. I mostly read old novels and short stories, and prefer narrative poetry that’s even older. I prefer classical music. I’ve seen many films past your cutoff date, but a lot of them aren’t really good.

      So have some anime recommendations:
      Mobile Suit Gundam: Campbell-style SF where the One Impossible Thing is an extension of particle physics rather than the bog standard FTL drive. The space colonies are O’Neill cylinders, where new cultures and ideologies form. A new ideology kills half of all humans. Giant robots fight.
      Vision of Escaflowne: Portal fantasy about a tomboy transported to a parallel world in the process of being conquered by an earlier transportee (hint: it’s a famous scientist).

      • and prefer narrative poetry that’s even older.

        Any suggestions for good narrative poetry in English that’s pre-19th century?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Everyone reads Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, but have you read Troilus and Cressida?
          There’s a whole bunch of 14th century Arthurian verse romances beyond Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
          The Faerie Queene
          Arthur Golding’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (AKA Shakespeare’s Ovid). Ditto what I call the “Dryden and friends” translation of 1717.
          The Rime of the Ancient Mariner barely makes your cutoff.
          But of course the greatest is Milton’s Paradise Lost.

    • EchoChaos says:

      If you haven’t read “Wheel of Time” I highly recommend it.

      It is a long read and there are uneven bits, but it’s great for someone who loves Lord of the Rings.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      For film, I recommend for you Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos (Pan’s Labyrinth is better IMO, but perhaps not as suited to your taste), Guy Ritchie’s Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Gus van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho, Salma Hayek’s (technically directed by Julie Taymor, but Hayek’s project) Frida, Martin Scorsese’s Silence, Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, Steven Spielberg’s AI, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Harold Ramis’s Groundhog Day.

    • johan_larson says:

      I gave a list of five of my favorite novels in the earlier OT. No need to cover that again.

      Some favorite films:
      Aliens
      The Terminator
      Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
      Batman Begins
      Saving Private Ryan
      Inception
      Ex Machina
      Margin Call
      The Big Short

      TV:
      Game of Thrones
      The Wire
      X-Files
      Battlestar Galactica (the reboot)
      ER
      The Civil War (Ken Burns)
      Prohibition (Ken Burns)
      World War II In Color

      I’m not deeply enough into music or videogames to give you useful recommendations. But if you like tabletop games at all you should give Magic: The Gathering a chance to impress you.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        But if you like tabletop games at all you should give Magic: The Gathering a chance to impress you.

        How do you expect him to afford a pay-to-win card game?!

        • johan_larson says:

          Play one of the limited formats, like Draft or Sealed.

          There are also a bunch of informal ways to play that can be fun and put everyone on the same level. In this video four players are given a hundred random low-value cards to build decks out of and then play a tournament against each other. It looks like they’re having fun.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            My friend made a cube specifically designed for newer players using low-complexity cards. (And he meant low-complexity–flashback was considered too complex since it required tracking the opponent’s graveyard.) It’s a great way to get players into the game because they don’t need any of their own cards but can still get the deckbuilding experience.

            Cube draft in general is a great way to play Magic, though the fancier cubes get quite pricey.

          • Randy M says:

            Cube is my favorite way to play magic. I remake a cube every year or so. Here’s my latest version

        • Peffern says:

          I will disagree with johan_larson here. My enjoyment from MTG comes almost exclusively from the deep complexity and rules arcana (pun intended?) and as such I don’t enjoy limited a ton.
          I prefer to play Cockatrice or XMage (or TTS) which are free unsanctioned ways to play online. To play paper you can use proxies or borrow/rent decks. If you are looking to grind tournaments or events this is not a good strategy but just for your own enjoyment I strongly recommend it.
          My format of choice is Modern (all cards since 2003 are legal, with a banlist) since it is old enough to have a deep card pool and lots of crazy interactions, but new enough that it doesn’t have some of the really busted cards from the late 90s that ruin the game.

          • johan_larson says:

            How much does it cost to assemble a Modern deck that’s competitive in local tournaments?

          • Dan L says:

            Depending on how competitive you want to be, anywhere from a few hundred to ~1.5k assuming you’re starting from scratch.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            That depends on your local competition and on the local meta-game (as well as your skill in deckbuilding and playing). You could probably make a “competitive” deck for about $10, but it’s not likely to win a lot of finals very much. You’ll also lose random games due to slow starts and bad luck. I would say that, properly spent, you could do quite well with a $40-60 deck. You can spend way more than that, and may need to spend into the low hundreds in order to compete if you have a strong local scene.

            There are lots of ways to build a more savvy deck that costs less and handles most of the things that an expensive deck can handle. You might not be able to pick any theme you want, but there are quite a few guides online about putting together useful-but-inexpensive alternatives.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            One further thought on this if anyone is still reading this section:

            One of the biggest cost differences comes down to mana sources. Playing with lands that come into play tapped verses lands that have an option not to (pain lands, for instance) can make a huge difference on how quickly a deck can be effective, and allow a player to take control of the board. The good lands are often $20-$50 each, which goes a long way towards the total cost of a deck. Mono-colored decks can have no lands that come into play tapped, and avoid the problem. Decks that only use two colors can generally get by with basic lands as well. Trying to make Five-Color-Control decks without spending a lot of money is going to fail, but mono-colored or with a splash of a second color can work fine. There isn’t as much color hate printed anymore, so if your local scene is using mostly recent cards there isn’t a lot of concern that you’ll auto-lose for being all in one color.

            If you’re trying to save money, then most of the cards in your deck are likely to be $1 or less and still quite effective, with maybe a few $5 rares to add power. There aren’t that many $50 cards and other than a major tournament they shouldn’t ever be necessary. There are a few decks that will depend on using a really expensive card, but they aren’t going to be the only effective decks available so just make something else.

            I personally believe that player skill (both in building the specifics of the deck and in playing it) are more important than card quality. If you are a below-average player with an above-average (cost) deck, you’re still likely to lose a lot.

        • Dack says:

          How do you expect him to afford a pay-to-win card game?!

          MtG: Arena is free to play (assuming you already have sunk the cost of a PC and internet access) and currently in open beta.

    • For my tastes the two novels I’ve most re-read are: The War Hound and the World’s Pain by Moorcock, and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkein

      A friend of mine who studied English at Berkely quoted his professor as saying that The Lord of the Rings would be the greatest novel in the English language–if it was a novel.

      Some suggestions for things I think post 80’s.

      Lois Bujold has written some very good science fiction, one first rate fantasy novel (The Curse of Chalion) and some other pretty good fantasy set in the same world at varying times. I have particularly enjoyed the Penric novelas.

      C.J. Cherryh has written science fiction and fantasy, both quite good. Downbelow Station has believably complicated politics. There is a fairly well defined set of coalitions at the beginning, a fairly well defined set at the end, but the structure of coalitions has shifted. It’s a pretty complicated story–I had to read it twice to have a clear picture of what was happening. My favorite book of hers is The Paladin, which isn’t really fantasy at all, more nearly a historical novel with invented history and geography–to some extent the inspiration for my Harald.

      Karl Gallagher is a very new author who has written an sf trilogy starting with Torchship. I thought they were quite good and dealt with some interesting ideas.

      Verner Vinge is another good sf author.

      And for something well before your time period, Kipling’s Kim.

    • Incurian says:

      Most everything by Neal Stephenson. Also the Aristillus series is excellent.

    • theredsheep says:

      I like Neal Stephenson, but he’s not to everyone’s taste, and some of his stuff–Anathem in particular–takes considerable reader investment. A lot of people like Game of Thrones, but I feel pretty eh about the novels. It’s Tolkien’s tropes with a gigadose of cynicism and a tendency to root for the bad guys, IMO. Also, lots of sex. But a lot of others disagree.

      Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo (my anime tastes are limited to stuff I remember from Adult Swim, but LMC brought it up). The manga of Fullmetal Alchemist is good, if you can stand reading right-to-left. I can’t vouch for Brotherhood, and the original series did something daft to the plot.

      I could probably list more, but I’m drawing a blank. Oooh! Ender’s Game, if that’s past your horizon. Not so much other Orson Scott Card, with the possible exception of The Lost Gate (but not its two sequels).

      The LOTR trilogy was at least acceptable. Do not watch the Hobbit trilogy (yes, trilogy). It was a sin against cinema. The Matrix is worth watching, but again, not its sequels. Sam Raimi’s first two Spiderman movies were fun. And the series Firefly and its companion film Serenity; it’s similar to Star Wars in many respects.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Sam Raimi’s first two Spiderman movies were fun.

        Those two movies were more than fun, they were really well-constructed, 2 especially takes Plato’s concept of two souls as its theme, and does it skillfully.
        However, the most artistic superhero movie is the Greek tragedy X-Men: First Class.

      • Nick says:

        Brotherhood is good in my opinion.

    • Atlas says:

      I second a lot of hoopyfreud and johan_larson’s choices.

      Regarding more recent film, I really like the work of Christopher Nolan, Wes Anderson and Denis Villeneuve. I’d recommend for starters The Prestige, Rushmore and Blade Runner: 2049. (Assuming that you’ve seen and like Blade Runner; if not, maybe try Sicario.) If you really like Raiders, you might like the Kingsman films, which I think have a somewhat similar charm. The Social Network is Citizen Kane for Millennials/Generation Z (except *hushed voice* it’s actually better than Citizen Kane.)

      Regarding novels, one of the best and most insightful novelists writing today is Michel Houellebecq. Submission is probably what made him something of a household name in the Anglosphere, but my favorite novel of his is The Elementary Particles. I guess it’s so popular at this point that it’s uncool to recommend them, but I really love A Song of Ice and Fire (the novels that the Game of Thrones TV series is based on.) I think Steven Attewell put it best when he observed that, while with most speculative fiction series the deeper you dig the less satisfying their world becomes, with ASOIAF the further you dive the more you’re rewarded. (Or something to that effect. It’s worth reading ASOIAF just to read Attewell’s excellent commentaries, honestly.) I’m really enjoying the Witcher series by Andrey…Andrez…Andzdrey….well anyway, a Polish gentleman whose books are apparently very popular in Eastern Europe and inspired a series of excellent video games. The books are a mishmash of European mythology and fantasy tropes, but they subvert and satirize their sources in what I find to be very engaging ways. A truly magnificent work of science fiction is Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun.

      Regarding music, if you like classic rock you might like The White Stripes. If you want something totally out of left field musically, try some of Tycho’s stuff.

    • March says:

      Yay, another fan of The War Hound and the World’s Pain.

      I like Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, both by Connie Willis. History/time travel books both; the one with ‘doom’ in the title is obviously more serious in tone and subject matter than the other, but Willis is very much a funny writer.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      “Some like it hot” directed by Billy Wilder and starring Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis. Still black and white, but the funniest movie I’ve ever seen. The whole genre of screwball comedy doesn’t seem to exist anymore and what a shame.

      EDIT:
      ‘Firefly’ and the movie ‘Serenety’ which finishes the story. It’s only one season and it’s a space-western. The characters are well fleshed out and the crew of the ship feel like family. The dialogoues are quick, have an organic feel to them and many lines are now iconic. It’s not overly witty, but often incredibly comical.
      It’s probably the best written show ever made. Probably wouldn’t have been, if it hadn’t been cancelled after one season.
      It’s about outlaws in space, basically. It’s the only show, that I’d consider having a libertarian outlook, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with messages. It’s just, you really get to like the outlaws and root for for them. And the main character has an odd sense of integrity, that makes this all feel very right and proper. The world just works that way.

      The Expanse. Awesome high stakes sci-fi in a future, where everything is different enough to be interesting, but not different enough to be completely unrelatable. It’s very much about problem solving under pressure, racism (Martians, Earther vs Belters and they right back at them), ship-to-ship combat, nuclear interplanetary warfare and scary alien bioweapons.
      And one crass old lady’s struggle to insult people viciously, till they hopefully agree to not all kill each other or get everybody killed. This show looks good, it sounds good and Jeff Bezos bought it, so there’s going to be a season 4.
      Also features the most thrilling political speech/pep talk, I’ve ever heard and it’s entirely in Belter Creole!

  3. decrim2020 says:

    This week we’re launching decriminalization.org

    2018 polling shows that drug decrim ballot initiatives have enough support to pass: 50% support, 30% oppose, 20% unsure

    If this result holds up after more in-depth polling, we’ll run an initiative in 2020!

    • Rob K says:

      Hi. This is neat that you’re thinking of doing this, and I’m glad to see it.

      That said, a couple questions. Do you have people on board with experience in ballot initiative campaigns? I ask because a rule of thumb I’ve learned from people with experience running initiative campaigns is that you generally want to be starting out at 60% support or higher if you’re going to take something to the ballot. For whatever reason – status quo bias seems very plausible – people tend to shift towards the “no” side of initiatives. (A few years ago I knew some folks at an advocacy organization well enough to watch the entire process from them trying to warn their coalition to be cautious to the coalition going ahead to the polling breaking steadily negative and the measure losing, not closely.)

      This isn’t a perfect rule, and in particular it assumes that there will be a decently funded opposition campaign. I’d strongly advise talking to some folks with background experience on what kind of chances those initial polling numbers give you.

      • Aapje says:

        @Rob K

        I think that another reason is that ballots result in counterarguments becoming more visible and fleshed out.

        A lot of changes seem good at first glance and presumably get a lot of weak support by people who like the sound of it, but when the debate heats up and the opposition starts to hammer the downsides, these people suddenly realize the price they have to pay and may not consider the upsides to be worth these costs.

    • Well... says:

      Was this post meant to spark debate about whether or in what way drugs ought to be decriminalized? From the OP it seems like not, but I know there are lots of people on here (including myself) who have more nuanced views of drug laws than simply “legalize’em” or “keep them illegal”. It might be productive for you (and gratifying for us) to take part in a discussion like that.

      I say that because I’ve signed up for initiatives like yours before but ended up getting swamped with communications that I thought vastly oversimplified the issue and actually turned me somewhat against the decriminalization positions I had stated I was in favor of initially.

  4. Samu says:

    Has there been a survey of the different musical tastes people here have?

    • EchoChaos says:

      Not that I know of, but it would be interesting.

      I listen to heavy metal and classical, which sounds like an odd combination but is actually surprisingly common.

      • Samu says:

        The same goes for me, too. I’m one of those people who unironically listen to all kinds of music. I might go from Black metal to rap to folk music in one sitting.

        Anyway, what are your favorite heavy metal bands and classical composers?

        • EchoChaos says:

          For heavy metal I lean strongly power metal, although I enjoy thrash as well.

          Favorite bands:
          Blind Guardian
          Sabaton
          Powerwolf
          Judicator
          Visigoth
          Hammerfall
          Gloryhammer

          For classical I focus most on the Baroque period, although I obviously listen to many.

          Bach is the titan of composition, and the Brandenburg concertos I could listen to over and over again
          Vivaldi
          Handel

          In the Classical period obviously Beethoven, although I prefer his earlier works over his later.

        • Incurian says:

          Tool and Chopin.

        • Plumber says:

          @Samu

          “….what are your favorite heavy metal bands and classical composers?”

          When asked that before I’ve been told that the bands I’ve named “Weren’t Metal” but actually were “Heavy Rock”, “Glam”, “Psychedelia”, “Punk”, or some other genre, and that one band that has songs I’ve liked – Motörhead only counts as “honorary Metal” so that left Black Sabbath, which I was told “only the later stuff counts”, and that the early songs I actually liked “aren’t real Metal yet”, so that leaves me liking a couple of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Venom songs, despite in my youth being at some Christ on Parade, Exodus, Metalica, Neurosis, and other bands shows, the names of which I’ve forgotten, and which I can hardly name a song.

          Motörhead – was awesome when they played the Omni, so I absolutely prefer “honorary” over “real”.

          In terms of classical I find I usually prefer 19th and 20th century composes more, off the top of my head I’ve liked pieces by Antonín Dvořák, Beethoven, Carl Orff, Gustav Holst, Henry Purcell, Lakme, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and I’ve long enjoyed the film music of Bernard Herrmann, which I’m not sure counts as “real classical”.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Metal is the king of slicing its genres into the smallest possible fragments in order to claim that they’re different than the segment over there.

            Identify a speed metal band as a power metal band or a doom metal band as black metal and you get some upset folks.

            Don’t worry too much about where the boundary falls.

          • Montfort says:

            @EchoChaos
            I don’t know, I think electronic dance genres might offer some stiff competition in that category.

            But what Plumber’s talking about is something different. There’s been a change in what the prototypical “metal” song sounds like. You can see the same thing with basic rock and roll. The early 50s stuff is something a young educated listener will know, intellectually, is technically “rock”. But it sure won’t sound like the salient examples he built his own conception of “rock” around.

            That’s not to say he’s wrong to think of Motorhead as heavy metal, any more than it’s wrong for someone to think of Elvis or Fats Domino as rock musicians. It’s just that new generations have built their fuzzy categories with different load-bearing pillars.

          • Deiseach says:

            Motörhead only counts as “honorary Metal”

            Video quality is absolutely terrible, but I pity the fool who thinks this doesn’t rock, and rock hard 😉

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @EchoChaos:

            Metal is the king of slicing its genres into the smallest possible fragments in order to claim that they’re different than the segment over there.

            OK, so in the early 1980s, Christian metal bands began to appear, and the gatekeepers of black metal argued that subgenre could never have Christians, because it’s inherently Satanic. So Christian bands with the closest sound to it identified as death metal and wrote lyrics about things like martyrdom or coined the term “white metal.”

        • WashedOut says:

          Metal:
          Primitive Man
          Vermin Womb
          Ulcerate
          Convulsing
          Portal

          Classical:
          Rachmaninoff
          Prokofiev
          Bartok

          In both cases I lean heavily into dissonance and melancholia. I can get into *some* black metal, if it doesn’t sound like it was recorded using a potato. Mgła are probably my pick of the genre.

      • CatCube says:

        One of my favorite renditions of the third movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14’s (The Moonlight Sonata) is on the electric guitar. It works really well, I think.

      • Well... says:

        Not an odd combination, and I would call it “unsurprisingly” common. Lots of metal sub-genres (esp. black metal, power metal, etc.) are centered around fast baroque-ish riffing on heavily distorted guitar. Even Metallica include in a lot of their songs baroque-sounding classical guitar sections (e.g. the intro to “Battery”).

    • Machine Interface says:

      Art music:

      >western
      >>the different periods of medieval choral music, the divided traditions of the migration period (Ambrosian chant, Old Roman chant, Mozarabic chant, Byzantine chant, etc…), the subsequent united Gregorian period, then the development and evolution of medieval polyphony: ars antiqua, ars nova, ars subtilior
      >>music of the Renaissance
      >> Baroque era, I like almost everything I hear from that time, Bach, Haendel, Vivaldi, Marais, Couperin, Rameau, Lully, Telemann…
      >> Classic era, much less of a fan; I do appreciate Mozart, but things really pick up with Beethoven and the transition to romanticism
      >> Romantic era, mainly Wagner and the Russian romantics, also late French romantics, transition to expressionism and impressionism
      >> The expressionist period of early Stravinsky; Debussy, Ravel… Soviet neoclassics, Khatchaturian, Prokofiev, Shostakovich
      >> Texturalism: Ligeti, Penderecki, Gorecki, and transition to sacred minimalism
      >> Arvo Pärt

      > asian
      >> Japanese art music, notably theater music and court music, solo recitals of shamisen and shakuhachi
      >> Hindustani art music, particularly sarangi improvisations
      >> Indonesian Gamelan, particularly the lively balinese varieties like gong kebyar, gong gede and jegog
      >> Thai and Thai-adjacent piphat
      >> middle eastern art music, particularly ney and oud recitals

      Popular music:

      >Jazz
      >> Swing, particularly Duke Ellington, also Count Basie, Django Reinhardt, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holiday…
      >> bebop, Dizzie Gillespie, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk…
      >> hardbop, Milt Jackson, Ahmad Jamal, the Jazz Messengers…
      >> a bit of post-bop, free jazz, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Anthony Braxton…

      >Soul, rythm & blues, Ray Charles, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Prince, Michael Jackson…

      > post-war French-language singers, George Brassens, Serges Gainsbourg, Jacques Brel, Léo Ferré, Claude Nougaro…

      > bossa nova, almost anything by João Gilberto or Tom Jobim.

      > movie and video game soundtracks, soft spot for the neo-romanticism going from the late 70s to the early 2000s, and for chip-tunes and synth-wave

    • AG says:

      I like maximalism. So:
      Pop music (mostly Asian idol music, but some western stuff, usually produced by Scandinavians)
      Classical music (with a preference for late Classical thru Romantic to early Contemporary)
      Musical music (with a strong background in the classic standards from the Golden Age of Cinema)
      But then I still dabble in pretty much everything else. Prefer psychadelic and British invasion trends for rock.

      Give me a fun rhythm/groove and/or a strong melody. Everything else is just execution details.

    • Well... says:

      I don’t think there has been such a survey, but I agree it could be interesting. I’ve discussed my own musical tastes on here before, at least. Some people might call them expansive, but I’m sure some other people wouldn’t:

      My bread and butter is heavy alternative rock from the 90s. My interest in rock radiates great distances outward from there but that is definitely the heart of it. (Speaking of heart, the only female rock singers I really like are Nancy Wilson and Fiona Apple.)

      I also love classical music. My favorite pieces tend to be symphonic arrangements from the 19th century, although some earlier stuff (Bach’s cello suites, Mozart’s overtures) and some later stuff (Barber’s violin concerto) really move me also. It’s rare that I’m in the mood for solo piano stuff or chamber music, but the mood does hit me every once in a while.

      I’m a huge fan of world music, in particular gamelan, the traditional music of India, and the stuff that blends traditional and pop from West Africa (I’ve got all the albums I could find by people like Habib Koite and Toumani Diabate).

      I like classic country a lot, and some modern country too. I’m not one of those guys who says he likes classic country and just means “I like Johnny Cash’s NIN cover”; I really like classic country. I’m pickier about my modern country, but artists like Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, Garth Brooks, etc. do work I pretty consistently like and am impressed by.

      I like bluegrass a lot. I’ve got a fairly sizeable collection of bluegrass albums and they get rotated in plenty often. I prefer the up-tempo stuff with banjos and mandolins and fiddles in it.

      I listen to black gospel music regularly. The Winan Sisters are some of my favorite performers in that genre.

      I like a lot of rap but I’m extremely picky about it. I tend to glom onto rap songs more than rap artists. Some of my favorite rap songs are “Pop Shit” by ODB, “Gimme Some Mo” by Busta Rhymes, and “99 Problems” by Jay-Z. I also tend to like random songs by underground rappers who I wouldn’t want living within 50 miles of me…”40 Glock” by Donkey is typical of these.

      I’ve been really getting into norteña, thanks to the local radio station. I couldn’t name any artists or songs in that genre (language barrier) but I like more than 3/4 of the songs they play. A lot. So I tune into that station probably 50% of the time when I’m driving and listening to music.

      I have a soft spot for jazz (all eras, from dixieland to modern) even though when certain people say jazz is stupid part of me wants to agree. One of my favorite jazz albums is “The Infinite” by Dave Douglas. And I’ve got every Weather Report album I could find. I like some jazz singers (especially Dianne Reeves) but I can’t get over how consistently bad jazz lyrics are.

      I could listen to steel pan music all day, every day. I have a bunch of albums by Andy Narell, including “The Passage” which I think is a masterpiece.

      There’s lots of other music I like too. Pretty much the only type of music I consistently don’t like is electronic music. No matter how much I listen to it, it basically sounds like beeps and boops to me. I’ve spent some time trying to figure out what exactly it is about electronic music that I can’t get past, and I still haven’t succeeded.

      • Don_Flamingo says:

        Hmmmm… electronic music is a really wide field.
        I think a lot of what you get to hear in the radio sounds uninteresting and samey, like a piece of untoasted toast dipped in milk. No texture. No taste.
        Or just downright annoying. Beeps and Bops, I’m with you.

        My parents really love Jean-Michel Jarre. He’s a pioneer in the field. Very melodic.
        I like it too. Here’s a link to his Beijing concert. Don’t mind the intro, that’s just classical musicians being very enthusiastic about being Chinese. (though tbh, I kinda like that part the most, though it doesn’t really fit into the rest of the concert at all)
        Just give it a listen in a place where you’ve got decent sound and play it in the background. It’s a lot more melodic, than modern electronic music.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzLFzToBL-I

        Otherwise Moby uses lots of electronic and synthy elements. Like in the song ‘extreme ways’, ‘Run on’ and ‘flower’. Those are fairly popular, but maybe you wouldn’t call them electronic music, per se.

        I also really enjoy listening to the soundtrack of ‘Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory’, which I think stands on it’s own, even if you haven’t played the game itself. It’s a bit disturbing, maybe. Though, sneakily stealth-murdering people for America to that soundtrack is great fun!
        There’s also a remixed version of it, that has the same tracks, but uses more acoustic elements, so maybe you can isolate exactly what annoys you with that.

        The Prodigy’s album ‘Always outnumbered, never outgunned’ is great for aggressively driving a sports car on a German autobahn or on serpentine mountain roads (pushing yourself into those curves, feeling the bass and the vibrations of the engine mix, it’s incredible).
        For that I’d also recommend ‘Military Fashion Show’ from ‘And One’, but I know that song, from before I’ve learnt English, so understanding the words might make it a bit weird.

        If you just wanna zone out on an American freeway (or you just don’t have access to a real Autobahn), there’s always ‘Shallow and Profound’ from the Hungarian artist ‘Yonderboi’.
        There’s also a purely electronic (no vocals) version of ‘Riders on the Storm’ on that album, which is good for comparative purposes.

        EDIT: Hesitant to mention this, because this song is either love it or hate it, but I find “Tweet, tweet, tweet” from “Sleaford Mods” pleasing to hear.

      • WashedOut says:

        We’ve talked musical recommendations a fair bit previously, but I don’t think i’ve spotted your penchant for Country music. Are you familiar with Gillian Welch? If not, check out her albums 1) The Harrow and the Harvest [more recent, more polished] and 2) Time the Revelator [older, grittier]. I’m not a big fan of the genre in general but her stuff rocks my world.

        If you want to listen to some modern jazz, try Grievous Bodily Calm and let me know what you think.

    • dick says:

      Rap, jazz, death metal, some classical, then rock. My late-night guilty pleasure listening is rap battles (silly and bizarre, but some of the wordplay is just absurdly entertaining if you’re in to puns).

    • Montfort says:

      Not officially, I don’t think. I found two subthreads on the subject from a while ago, and there are a few more about specific genres and probably album recommendations which I vaguely remember but didn’t dig up.

      But I wouldn’t let this discourage anyone from asking again. We have a lot of commenter turnover, tastes do change, and OTs aren’t very legible to historical research unless you remember key phrases of the thing you’re looking for.

    • Plumber says:

      @Samu

      …musical tastes….

      Since the tape deck in my car is broken I resort to the radio, and while there’s many pop, R&B, and Rock songs I enjoy, between the commercials, D.J. banter, and most of the songs, I tend to avoid those stations and tune into the ones playing blues, classical, folk, gospel, and jazz instead, but those stations often have weak signals, so the genre I listen to often depends on where on my commute I am “I’m in Emeryville so time for blues”.

      In terms of songs I select myself I tend to swing between stuff like Fanstasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and stuff like Train Kept a Rollin’ as performed by The Yardbirds.

  5. Randy M says:

    I’m enjoying watching Brandon Sanderson’s course on writing Sci-fi/fantasy fiction which in on Youtube. Do you have or know of good sources of advice for writing, beyond the obvious and most effective of just practice more?

    To contribute an example, in one lecture he gives the acronym MICRO for writing dialogue.
    M-motivation; what is each character trying to get out of the conversation? Important to consider to make the scene interesting.
    I-Individuality; how does the person’s class/background affect their voice? Not to go overboard with accents, but think about how to use word choice, idioms, etc. to give characterization or communicate world building
    C-conflict; having conflict in the conversation will often improve the scene (although see point one and don’t just make a character mindlessly obstructionist)
    R-realism; it’s not necessarily right to uh, you know mimic real speech … like real people use–but listen to how people talk and know what level of realism you are going for
    O-objective; how does the scene advance the plot or character arcs?

    • I wonder how many successful writers think of what they are doing in that sort of analytic way, how many just do it intuitively?

      • Randy M says:

        I think it is probably more useful in the editing or revising stage, asking “Why am I getting board reading/finishing this scene?” than in the first draft.

      • Nick says:

        When I’ve written dialogue I’ve had M and O on that list explicitly in mind. I, C, and R not so much—maybe to my detriment, since I’m not a successful writer….

      • Atlas says:

        Yeah, I think that’s a really good question. Relatedly, I tend to be skeptical of alleged “rules” in the arts, because it seems to me that there is no objective way to measure whether a given work of art is “good” or not. Even the more narrow task of predicting whether or not a specific work of art or artist will be popular seems to be quite difficult.

        A few random examples:

        JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books are, if I’m not mistaken, the single most popular work of literary fiction in the Anglosphere of the past couple decades. However, before the success of the first novel, none of Rowling’s teachers or coworkers seem to have judged her writing to be extraordinarily captivating, and Rowling herself does not seem to have predicted their success, given that she says she put aside the first book as a lost cause at multiple points during its composition.

        Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey is now widely regarded as one of the single greatest films in the history of cinema, and is regularly towards the top of rankings by critics. However, at its release, critical reaction seems to have been extremely polarized, with many prominent critics, such as Pauline Kael, trashing it.

        Shakespeare is today considered the greatest writer in the history of the English language. However, my understanding is that this was not the critical consensus for at least many decades, perhaps even a couple centuries, after his death. He certainly seems to have been well-respected, but not considered incomparably superior to other playwrights of the time like Marlowe or Jonson the way he is today.

        Additionally, an example of an alleged artistic “rule” that seems to be sometimes broken successfully in practice is that of “no voice over” in screenwriting. Two of many examples of this would be Barry Lyndon and Goodfellas, both of which are beloved by critics. Screenwriting guru Robert McKee claims that he is misinterpreted as being dogmatically against the use of voice over narration, when he simply objects to its overuse/substitution for showing. However, I think that the extensive use of voice over narration in the two films I cited easily fails the standard that screenwriting instructors set for use of voice over.

        • Randy M says:

          JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books are, if I’m not mistaken, the single most popular work of literary fiction in the Anglosphere of the past couple decades. However, before the success of the first novel, none of Rowling’s teachers or coworkers seem to have judged her writing to be extraordinarily captivating, and Rowling herself does not seem to have predicted their success, given that she says she put aside the first book as a lost cause at multiple points during its composition.

          Slightly lesser example–Jim Butcher supposedly wrote the first Dresden Files book as a way of irritating his writing instructor with cliches.

          • theredsheep says:

            I read that he actually set out to write the most formulaic book possible, but not necessarily to irritate his instructor.

        • bean says:

          I think you’re looking at the concept of rules wrong. They’re not ironclad. They’re meant to provide useful guidelines to people who are likely to get it wrong if not for them. “Be exceptionally sparing with voiceovers” is good advice for beginning screenwriters, who are tempted to take the lazy way out and tell instead of showing. But someone who has moved to the next level can tell the few cases where voiceovers will work well and can make effective use of them. It’s rather like the rule “don’t try to pick stocks, just use index funds”. It’s good advice for almost everyone, except Warren Buffet, who should pick stocks, and knows enough to ignore that rule.

    • Nick says:

      I’ve profitably read some of Limyaael’s rants.

    • Unsaintly says:

      Speaking of Sanderson, I remember attending a panel with him and several other sci-fi/fantasy authors, and the subject of Sanderson’s First Law of Magic came up (An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic) and the panel split almost exactly 50/50 in whether this was obviously true and a good idea, or obviously false and counter to the idea of fantasy. It was only years later that Scott wrote the Scissor Issue Article, but in hindsight it was an excellent example.

      Do any of you have thoughts, either as writers or readers, on that law of magic?

      • Randy M says:

        In favor. It is harder to maintian tension when readers don’t know what tools the characters have to solve their problems. And it could make the earlier events something of a shaggy dog story.
        To see it in another context, imagine the characters are in a high stakes race across the country. Then they learn that one of the freeways is shutdown. Then they learn that the competitor has a head start. Finally they learn that their car is out of gas.
        “Wow, how are we going to beat them?” Bob asks.
        “I know!” Alice replies, “Let’s take the private jet!”

        That kind of thing can be used early as a way of introducing the characters capabilities, but plot-significant problems should be introduced with the readers knowing why or why not it is a concern, and the characters finding a way around their limitations that you introduced earlier should be the result of some sacrifice.

        • Aapje says:

          It’s basically the Deus Ex Machina issue: the reader’s ability to empathize with the characters is compromised, because the reader can’t think along with the characters what they ought to do, because the limitations to the choices that the characters have is not clear.

          However, it is quite possible that (large) groups of readers don’t read that way and thus don’t have this complaint.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        Seems 100% correct to me, and I’ll make the prediction that this site’s audience will heavily favor it. Though if it really was such a scissor statement, maybe it’d be good for the next poll.

      • theredsheep says:

        There are exceptions. Susan Cooper comes to mind; a lot of people love The Dark Is Rising, but she spends the whole cycle blatantly making up stark new rules of magic to manufacture tension (“If we don’t do MAGICK_TASK correctly on the first try, we’ll be blasted out of time forever”), then solving them with equal hand-wavery. And Harry Potter, well, except for the final-horcrux loophole in Deathly Hallows, she doesn’t solve problems with magic at all. None of it is ever explained in even the vaguest way. It’s just flavor.

      • Nornagest says:

        In favor, with caveats. It’s most directly applicable when you have protagonists wielding magic in a systematic way — it would feel unsatisfying if Harry Potter solved a problem with an “Endum Bookium” that hadn’t been properly foreshadowed. (Some of the Potter books are a lot better about this than others, unfortunately.) Unsystematic magic gives you more leeway — there’s nothing wrong with the bumbling conjurer archetype — but leaves you with the problem of selling the magic as eldritch and unpredictable, or unreliable in some other way. It can’t just do whatever the plot needs it to, it has to be shown to fail and cause problems as well.

        • I think I agree. If the reader doesn’t understand the magic, then magical solutions feel like a deus ex machina. If the reader does understand the magic, and the author handles it well, then the magical solution is “see how clever the protagonist was in finding the one way of using magic to solve his problem.”

          • albatross11 says:

            I like it that in your universe, people have to study some math in order to be able to really learn how magic works….

          • theredsheep says:

            I once had an idea for a world where magic works, but it works like MS-DOS: you have to enter a bewildering sequence of fiddly magic keywords exactly right, and nine times out of ten nothing useful happens because you forgot a syllable.

            I never did anything with the idea, though.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @theredsheep

            That one’s been done too.

            More generally, the idea that you have to get magic exactly right and getting it even a bit wrong results in a fizzle if you’re lucky and disaster if you’re not is a pretty common trope.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          My first thought is that I am strongly in favor, but then I think of moments in the Dresden Files, say, or in Significant Digits, where a character resolves a plot-crucial problem using a clever (magic) trick that was not fully explained earlier in the book, and I found I did not mind at all. Maybe it was “I have clever solutions which I keep secret” was part of their character vibe, and I expected ahead of time that the characters in question would have clever tricks up their sleeves.

          I guess the mitigating factor there was that the author was invoking the plausible preparation of a character who was known to stay prepared in order to solve a problem within a fairly well understood magical system?

          I guess I softly agree.

          • Randy M says:

            I think in Dresden Files in particular, some cases you see Harry prepare something ahead of time without revealing to the reader what it is. This is okay, since you know that the Author isn’t just pulling solutions out of his rear at the last minute.
            Best is when some clue foreshadowing the solution is given earlier, though. Like if we’d seen Harry be able to hold sunlight in a napkin prior to using it on the Vampire.
            Anyway, griping prose can paper over some loose plotting too.

          • AG says:

            Yes, one of the core elements of the heist genre is that at the climax, you finally get to see the part of the plan they didn’t let you in on, which solves their seemingly insurmountable problems (often revealing that so-called complications were all according the real plan).
            “And now I call everyone into the parlor to explain how I solved the mystery” detective stories also withhold details as a core part of their plot mechanisms.

            So it’s about building this expectation in the audience that a certain amount of deus ex machina is an appeal point in the genre. “Here be the cavalry” can be something to look forward to.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            @AG

            Yes, but there’s a difference between Ocean’s 11, where you see most of the plan but are missing critical details to see exactly how it plays out (and also see errors that bring the conclusion into doubt) and Ocean’s 12, where they throw a bunch of crap at you at the last second and you feel like there was no way whatsoever to understand what happened while watching the movie.

          • AG says:

            @Mr. Doolittle

            Well, yes, entries in the heist genre vary in quality. But the point is that the deus ex machina magic is not inherently bad storytelling. There’s a way to consistently not do rules-bound magic, and still be good writing.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            I can agree with that. The most important aspect is to not blatantly contradict your own story, followed by not creating an obvious answer to your own plot tension that you now have to ignore. If a writer can manage those things without writing our concrete rules, than I have no problem with that.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Which is more satisfying?

        1. Luke Skywalker “using the Force” to guide some missiles into the Death Star’s core.
        2. Midichlorians

        • Nornagest says:

          But we already know you can use the Force like that! There’s a whole scene earlier on where Luke blinds himself and uses the Force to guide his weapon. All he’s doing there is blocking blaster bolts from a training droid, but steering his shots into the reactor vent is just the same thing at a larger scale.

          If Luke had missed his shots and then used the Force to blow up the Death Star, then that would have been unsatisfying. As to midichlorians, they’re just technobabble; they don’t tell us anything about how the Force can actually be used to solve problems.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, the training sequence was kind-of foreshadowing–he could use the Force to know exactly when and how to fire his torpedo, getting more accuracy than even the targeting computer could give him. That seems like a non-universe-breaking level of power, as well as being consistent.

            I think the critical thing is that the author needs to have worked out what the rules are, at least approximately. From the perspective of the reader (at least *this* reader), it’s important that the rules of the universe remain consistent.

      • March says:

        Medium in favor. It’s good to be able to have the ‘I didn’t see it coming but I totally could have’ realization.

        But Sanderson himself seems to want to make sure readers understand his magic all too well. The first chapter of the first Stormlight Archive book reads like a user manual.

        In general, he seems like the kind of conscientious guy who thinks things through a LOT, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he uses that MICRO acronym throughout.

      • Peffern says:

        In favor. The issue is when the system seems to work differently for the main characters *by virtue of them being the main characters* rather than for in-story reasons. “I pulled random magic MacGuffin out of nowhere” is fine for characters to do but only if that’s a thing that is known to occur in the story. If the magic system is large, convoluted, and poorly understood *by the characters*, then someone having a previously-unheard-of power or item is totally reasonable. However, if the system is supposed to be well-understood to the point where the author is explaining it to the reader, then it feels like a betrayal when something like this occurs.

        I personally prefer the Sanderson-esque model where the system and its rules are established first, and the characters’ dramatic moments involve thinking of clever ways to use or subvert it. I just finished Mistborn (only the first one, please don’t spoil the rest) and I am thinking in particular of the moment where Iva qrsrngf gur Fgrry Vadhvfvgbe ol nssvkvat zrgny evatf gb gur onpx bs fbzr neebjurnqf naq gura Fgrrychfuvat gurz ng uvz fb gung jura ur chfurf onpx ba gurz, gur evatf frcnengr sebz gur neebjurnqf naq gurl fgvyy fgevxr uvz.

      • John Schilling says:

        I am so strongly in favor of that law of magic, that I have to wonder if I am missing something about what the other 50% are objecting to. If it is that they actually want the sort of low wish-fulfillment fantasy where a Magic-Using Mary Sue suddenly remembers they memorized Summon Happy Ending last night then OK, just clearly label those books so I can never read any of them. But it would be very disappointing and at least a little surprising if those readers explicitly and self-consciously made up 50% of the fantasy audience, so maybe there’s a miscommunication of some sort here. What might we be missing?

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          I am also very strongly in favor of a law of magic, but I think I can see a good alternate understanding of the situation.

          If everything is explicit rules, it can no longer “feel” like magic. It’s essentially science with a different primal physics engine in the universe. What a lot of people want out of fantasy is a sense of awe and imagination. By regulating everything, you transform it into the Industrial Revolution with magic, where everything is weighed and time-study analyzed.

          For instance, consider the fairly frequent discussions here about the practical implications of the Resurrect line of spells in D&D. It would obviously have such a practical effect if it were real, but the whole point of playing D&D is to add fantasy to the experience. Being rigorous in the Law of Magic means you can’t just enjoy having a Resurrect spells benefits without extrapolating on how that would affect, well, everything.

          I personally believe that you can recapture a lot of that feel by making the rules cleaner and clearer, as seems to be Sanderson’s approach. That takes a whole lot of time and thought, though, so the failure mode is a rigid system where things are over-explained.

          The failure mode the other way is that there are too many places for plot devices to get overridden by a Mary Sue-type resolution. The solution is not necessarily constraining the author to a rigid set of rules (which is more necessary in a game, like D&D), but to avoid cliches and bad writing. A good writer should be able to do what a good Magic Law System Creator can do, but erring on the side of “magic feels right” over “magic is consistent.”

          • hls2003 says:

            +1. Taken to its extreme – and I haven’t read a lot of Sanderson, beyond his WoT conclusions and the first Mistborn, but he seems to lean this way – his approach seems to take worldbuilding in a gamified direction. Like putting the physics engine into a video game, or a DM preemptively trying to anticipate all of the clever power combos his players will attempt.

            If you’re too wedded to mechanics, then the obvious in-world approach is to systematize it into science and technology. It’s a more sci-fi approach (postulate this advancement, what are the implications?) in the fantasy setting.

          • March says:

            Gamified is exactly the word, yes.

            I love that if you’re reading about someone just finding out how their magic works. (“Hmm, what happens if I try THIS?”) But not if you’re reading about someone who is supposed to be good at what they do.

            Probably why I hated the sections with Szeth in the Stormlight Archive introduction (dude is supposed to be highly trained at what he does, he’s not going to go around thinking ‘if I Lash my magic to the sky at half strength I’ll feel 50% lighter and be able to jump farther’, he’s just going to jump) but didn’t mind the sections where Kaladin was trying things out, accidentally Lashing himself to the sky and falling upwards.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s okay if *I* don’t know all the rules of magic/technology in your universe. But I want you to know them, or at least have some outline of them, and to have some consistent rules that make sense, so you can’t just fix your plot problems with a Summon Happy Ending spell (or invent a Summon Happy Ending technology) that has nothing to do with the rest of the universe.

            Think of the ending to _A Fire Upon the Deep_. The ability of Old One’s godshatter + Countermeasure to s–x nebhaq jvgu gur mbarf was not at all something laid out in earlier parts of the book. And yet, it made sense in context and did not feel remotely like an authorial ass-pull to me. I don’t know that Vinge thought ahead and knew in the beginning that this was possible in the laws of the universe, but it was consistent enough with what we saw to make sense. (Vinge was writing SF, but since we’re dealing with godlike aliens here[1], their powers are a lot like magic.).

            Star Trek is almost the trope-namer for bad use of this in an SF context. This week, we solve our plot problem by inventing the Picard Planetbuster. Three weeks from now, the Planetbuster would come in awfully handy, but we’ve forgotten all about it–instead, we’ll solve this problem by remodulating the backward-biased particle defenestrators[2] to drive the aliens away.

            [1] One studies how to deal with them in Applied Theology class.

            [2] Technobabble also solves a lot of problems in the Star Trek universe.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s a more sci-fi approach (postulate this advancement, what are the implications?) in the fantasy setting.

            This should not be just a sci-fi approach. The characters in a fantasy story don’t need to be strictly rational, but given that x is demonstrably possible, the reader will wonder they x is not used elsewhere.

            Perhaps because it sometimes goes catastrophically wrong, and there really aren’t remotely comprehensible physical laws governing it–but then, it should sometimes go badly for the protagonist, too.

            Perhaps because there is superstition around it–but then, that should be shown and have ramifications if the protagonist uses x around the peasants. And even better if we find out why the superstition developed.

            Perhaps the price is too high–the blood of a loved one, say–that’s fine, but then it should only be used by evil people or in desperate times.

            Perhaps because it can only be done by a dying race with other priorities–that’s fine too, but then practicioners should probably have a wisftful–or angry, or haughty–air about them. More importantly, the climax shouldn’t come down to some other person replicating their tricks (unless you’ve shown that the reason magic is restricted to that race is because of their secrecy, etc.).

            “It’s fantasy, so the implications don’t matter” is just bad writing, assuming it is about humans. We are curious and seek advantage in the world.

          • Nick says:

            I think one of the things that makes A Fire Upon the Deep‘s ending less of an asspull is a comment early on that the zones of thought are not well understood and may be artificial. An attentive reader can pick up right there that they could be subject to change or even direct control. I’m pretty sure that line was in there, but it’s been a few years now since I read it….

          • albatross11 says:

            An extreme version of this would be something where the author followed some D&D-like rules for what his characters could do, but chose the dice rolls as needed for dramatic effect.

            One aside: I’ve had the impression, reading Harry Turtledove’s sweeping alternative history novels, that he was consulting mortality tables. Every now and then, one of the zillion minor viewpoint characters dies of some completely random, normal thing–an old man you’ve followed for 30 years of his life dies of a heart attack, say, where there’s no plot-driven necessity for his death.

          • albatross11 says:

            The early WOT books can explain a fair bit of “but why don’t they use the one power to…” by the fact that the Aes Sedai are rare, secretive, constrained heavily by rules, widely feared/hated, and have lost most of their knowledge over the centuries. The illuminator’s guild explains some similar thing w.r.t. gunpowder/explosives. Later on, we see the Sanchan, who *do* use suldam/damane pairs to do a lot of useful stuff like mining with the one power. (And the nature of the damane/suldam explains why they don’t innovate a whole lot.)

          • Randy M says:

            An extreme version of this would be something where the author followed some D&D-like rules for what his characters could do, but chose the dice rolls as needed for dramatic effect.

            Wildbow of Worm supposedly rolled dice to see who would live and die in the Leviathan fight, included the up to then protagonist.
            I’m not sure what probabilities were fatal, but it must have been pretty high.

          • hls2003 says:

            This should not be just a sci-fi approach. The characters in a fantasy story don’t need to be strictly rational, but given that x is demonstrably possible, the reader will wonder they x is not used elsewhere.

            Avoiding inconsistencies or Idiot Ball Holding is not just a sci-fi thing, true. That’s just bad writing period. But I always thought of relatively hard sci-fi as teasing out the interesting implications of a technology – at least that is what I consider the difference between a “hard” sci-fi and “soft” sci-fi. Perhaps that’s an idiosyncratic definition. I’m not saying that fantasy should embrace inconsistency and deliberately ignore its prior explication; but that you are more often getting story momentum from places other than the pure application of magic/technology.

            You can have fun books that do it either way in either genre, of course. And what makes a good or great work in any genre always comes down to marrying good storytelling with the other stuff.

          • John Schilling says:

            A common rule in fiction writing, and I think a good one, is that the writer should have a very detailed understanding of the setting, and then explain maybe 10-30% of that to the reader. That would seem particularly appropriate to the Laws of Magic, where both “I can make it up as I go along” and “Here’s the spreadsheet with the protagonist’s spellbook and manna budget” are failure modes.

            So, on the one hand, this implies an upper bound beyond which Sanderson’s Law no longer applies. On the other hand, most actual fantasy writers don’t even come close to reaching that bound. But someone warn me if David Weber starts writing straight fantasy.

          • Skivverus says:

            But someone warn me if David Weber starts writing straight fantasy.

            Um. Does The War God’s Own (and its co-universe novels) count?

            They’re pretty good fun, and conform to the First Law of Magic towards the less-explained, less-solve-y end of the spectrum. Also one of the technically-not-fanfiction-because-the-author-wrote-it short stories has the good guys accidentally summon a tank*.

            *Actually a lighter vehicle plus crew, but “tank” gets the point across.

          • John Schilling says:

            Um. Does The War God’s Own (and its co-universe novels) count?

            I somehow missed those. Thanks for the warning.

          • JonathanD says:

            @albatross11, re: Star Trek.

            Relevant

        • March says:

          I like magic that has consistent rules (which can be used by the reader to deduce certain solutions), but I also like magic that’s, well, thematically consistent? The latter doesn’t require explaining the rules, just presenting a coherent story – I’m fine with not having all the clues beforehand.

          I also think that following that law to the letter is impossible. It may be a good rule of thumb for the FINAL conflict in a story, but you’re going to have to spend time setting things up and complicating things, requiring you to solve problems with magic in ways the reader can’t predict yet, ’cause they’re learning how the magic works. If you make sure you build the conflict in logical steps that can be puzzled out by the reader, you run the chance that there’s no real feeling of risk or surprise anywhere.

          Maybe something to do with preferences for reading between the lines/explicit exposition?

        • AG says:

          The main counter-examples are mostly anime. In those cases, magic is just another part of the entire world being a metaphor for character growth. The deus ex machina climaxes are thrilling because they’re stand-ins for catharsis.
          But fantasy is often about this, as well. The Campbellian hero demonstrates that they are the extraordinary Chosen One because they can break the rules. To transcend the system is metaphor for coming-of-age and realizing that you have more agency than previously believed.

          The other element of this being the visual dimension. Certain imagery is just fun to consume for their own sake. Aforementioned anime climaxes are usually great because it just looks fucking cool.

        • Jaskologist says:

          What you’re describing isn’t magic, it’s science for a different universe. It’s no surprise that engineers would prefer it.

      • hls2003 says:

        It seems to me that Sanderson himself makes exceptions to the theory he is advocating. My reason is two words: Robert Jordan. Sanderson was (obviously) a big public fan of the Wheel of Time books (a big part of how he got the commission to finish them). But those books are some of the worst offenders I’ve ever seen about breaking rules and pulling stuff out of nowhere. Jordan literally invented a term for the authorial arse-pull (ta’veren) and I can’t count the number of times we’re told “X is impossible” in one book, to be followed by a ridiculously convenient “turns out a protagonist has a Talent for X!” moment two books later.

        I suppose one could argue that Sanderson is consistent, and that he liked Jordan’s work in spite of, not because of, that particular flaw. But it’s definitely there, and a primary example of the genre.

        I do think Sanderson believes it himself, of course, because his tendency to do “creative magical bootstrapping” was actually one of the most visible differences in the three non-Jordan finales. Like opening a tiny Gate to a volcano.

        • Another Throw says:

          But those books are some of the worst offenders I’ve ever seen about breaking rules and pulling stuff out of nowhere. Jordan literally invented a term for the authorial arse-pull (ta’veren) and I can’t count the number of times we’re told “X is impossible” in one book, to be followed by a ridiculously convenient “turns out a protagonist has a Talent for X!” moment two books later.

          I think I am going to have to disagree with you here; it isn’t arse-pulling when it is a consistent thematic element. Everything we are told is impossible is because “they couldn’t do it in the age of legends”. That is, anyway, according to the aes sedai’s ridiculously incomplete records.

          Throughout the entire series, the aes sedai are shown to be systematically close minded and parochial, huddling in their tower and obsessed with hording their surviving records. Novel research is extremely circumscribed and, in the rare event that it happens, should follow from the surviving records. When those records are faulty, of course you’re not going to get anywhere. Their penchant for secrecy and lying for in group power dynamics certainly doesn’t help, either. Even if one of them made a discovery, there is only about a 2% chance they would ever tell another aes sedai, but instead take it to their grave.

          When a new generation is not, due to exigent circumstance, acculturated in the huddling in the tower obsessing over fragments while back stabbing each other cult and instead goes out there and actually tries doing something without the baggage of faulty premises, they start to actually make discoveries. It also helps that this new generation has periodic encounters with the forsaken who, in their every act, embody how incomplete or just plain wrong the aes sedai view of the impossible is. Also, periodically capturing the forsaken and forcing them into being tutors didn’t hurt terribly much. Also, being periodically capture by the Sanchen and forced into being more competent than the aes sedai magical slaves didn’t hurt terrible much, either. (Okay, it probably did hurt, but not in the way I mean.)

          Which is a really long way of saying I don’t know why you would take the aes sedai’s word on anything.

          • hls2003 says:

            But it’s not just the Aes Sedai. Many things that the characters do are also considered impossible by the Forsaken, some of the most polished and sophisticated practitioners of their age. On multiple occasions Rand does something that mental-Lews-Therin considers impossible. Plus the popping up of plot-useful Talents or artifacts is very bad. I don’t remember which book, but one that I recall is someone saying “Gee, I wish we had more of these ter’angreal” and literally within two pages a protagonist develops a heretofore unknown Talent for replicating ter’angreal. In multiple books they’ll discover a “large depository of ter’angreal” right about the time they need something impossible done, and sure enough one of the devices will be just perfect. Jordan does that sort of thing constantly, and often in a way that renders things he’s done before (or will do later) pointless or silly.

            Suffice it to say I’m not a big fan, so I’ll defer to others on details of the books, which I haven’t read since the Sanderson conclusion. But I remember that aspect of them drove me nuts.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            I’ll agree on the ter’angreal and to a lesser extent your overall point.

            I will add that when Rand or another major character does something the Forsaken find impossible, that’s not covering plot holes, but fully intentional. It shows the arrogance and pride of the Age of Legends, but also that there is a new age being “spun” and the Wheel is intentionally creating individuals with special skills. It’s a major plot point of the books.

          • hls2003 says:

            @Mr. Doolittle

            I mean, I get what you’re saying. I understand that the turning of the Wheel and the gain and loss of knowledge from Age to Age was one of the main themes, and that he’s basically giving a cosmology for the Campbellian story form (we have heroes because the Pattern weaves them out to maintain itself). I guess my position is, just because Jordan recognized what he was doing, and lampshaded it, doesn’t mean he wasn’t violating Sanderson’s First Law. If I write a book where the rules of the world are explicitly “Anything can happen at any time, regardless of what’s happened before” and also write that it’s because there are Chaos Pockets and Lethe Pockets floating around that change the rules and make people forget what they did, technically I’ve acknowledged the issue, but I’m not sure that it helps make a subsequent resolution by magic any more satisfying.

            I suppose if the chief conflict in that book is to get rid of the Pockets, then maybe there’s sort of a meta-consistency? But if the solution is just “This Chaos Pocket wished them all away,” then that’s going to be kind of unsatisfying.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            I think at that point we’re down to individual readers deciding if they are satisfied by that response, or if that sets off an internal “this breaks consistency” metric in our head.

            I was okay with it, but sounds like it set off your alarm. I think that the difference to me is that he acknowledged and made the change part of his story, and then kept it with the new rules after that. If he made a change without acknowledgement, or went back and forth, I’m pretty sure that would have frustrated me. Some of the things that changed I felt were long-planned changes, while others seemed to be updates as he wrote and came up with new ideas. The ones that felt like new ideas (as with the ter’angreal I agreed about before) bothered me more than the stuff like the difference between the Age of Legends tech.

          • hls2003 says:

            @Mr. Doolittle

            Sure, that’s very fair to say. (Obviously I didn’t hate hate hate the books, I did read all 13 of them). I personally was not a fan of the way he used fate, the Pattern, ta’veren, etc. throughout, because I thought it gave him a crutch for whenever he wrote himself into a corner. One example that occurred multiple times throughout the series was “Rand meets with an implacable enemy who spontaneously converts and swears allegiance.” I’ll grant that there’s an explanation for it (his ta’veren aura). It just struck me as him conceding in advance that he couldn’t quite manage to get everyone in the right place and the right side at the right time, so sometimes he’d just shortcut. I would contrast it with, e.g., Tolkien’s treatment of Theoden and Denethor. Theoden really does get pretty suddenly converted by Gandalf, but it’s through the removal of an evil counselor allowing underlying nobility to shine through. He isn’t really opposed to the right side, just clouded. Conversely, Gandalf can’t “cure” Denethor, and there’s absolutely no indication that he would suddenly have sworn fealty to Aragorn if they’d been introduced. It would have been contrary to his entire character. Whereas I feel like there’s at least several implacable enemies who seem ruefully aware that they’ve just done a 180 with Rand, and can’t quite explain how, other than ta’veren.

            At this stage, though, I think we’re in pretty good agreement (or at least personal opinion “agree to disagree” territory). Don’t even get me started on his female characters’ personalities, though…!!!

      • hls2003 says:

        I am partially in favor, partially against.

        I think that avoiding explicit rule-changes and glaring inconsistencies is important. However, I think that it is much less important to have an affirmative rules-based system categorizing and classifying all magic. That seems to me to be a more modern game-based approach.

        Tolkien is the archetype of good fantasy (to me, at least, and clearly to many others). Tolkien did not have many glaring inconsistencies (e.g. if during the storm at Caradhras, Gandalf had said he couldn’t make fire, when we’ve already seen him set pine cones alight in The Hobbit). But neither did he have a spreadsheet of power levels, spells, and capabilities carefully matching each against another. When Aragorn commands the Dead, it is not because we have established him as a necromancer or wizard; it is because of a generally-undefined but understandable personal authority inherent between him and the Oathbreakers.

        So if Tolkien is lord of the genre, and doesn’t do it entirely Sanderson’s way, I can see why half the participants disagreed with his formulation. But if one views it proscriptively (don’t contradict) rather than prescriptively (always systematize), then I agree.

        • Randy M says:

          I think you can have the rules unstated, even unspecified in your own mind, and have it work if the things done are thematically relevant. Aragorn uses authority to command the oathbreakers–are rightful authority and duty to vows themes of the book? Are they concepts that the characters respect, or are they flaunted elsewhere to no consequence? Are there other characters that seem like they should be able to capitalize on authority in such a manner but don’t?

          • Skivverus says:

            Right; that’s where the “directly proportional” part of the law comes in; it’s not “this must be explicitly explained or else your protagonists can’t use it in your dramatic climax”. And it applies to more than just magic, as discussed elsewhere in the thread.

          • Deiseach says:

            And indeed Aragorn’s ability to command the Oathbreakers is backing up his claim to be the legitimate heir to the throne of the South Kingdom (as well as the North); it is because he is the descendant of Isildur that gives him the authority and right to claim the fulfillment of the Oath that was sworn to Isildur and never kept, and proving this legitimacy by successfully commanding the Dead and completing the pact bolsters his claim to be the successor by right of blood.

        • Deiseach says:

          Tolkien did not have many glaring inconsistencies (e.g. if during the storm at Caradhras, Gandalf had said he couldn’t make fire, when we’ve already seen him set pine cones alight in The Hobbit).

          I think Tolkien covered himself there; Gandalf said he couldn’t burn snow (you can’t make a fire where there’s no fuel) but in The Hobbit he did have fuel (the pinecones, the trees and indeed the wargs themselves).

          And indeed, earlier he does make a fire with wood:

          ‘You may make a fire, if you can,’ answered Gandalf. ‘If there are any watchers that can endure this storm, then they can see us, fire or no.’ But though they had brought wood and kindlings by the advice of Boromir, it passed the skill of Elf or even Dwarf to strike a flame that would hold amid the swirling wind or catch in the wet fuel. At last reluctantly Gandalf himself took a hand. Picking up a faggot he held it aloft for a moment, and then with a word of command, naur an edraith ammen! he thrust the end of his staff into the midst of it. At once a great spout of green and blue flame sprang out, and the wood flared and sputtered.

          `If there are any to see, then I at least am revealed to them,’ he said. ‘I have written Gandalf is here in signs that all can read from Rivendell to the mouths of Anduin.’

          `If Gandalf would go before us with a bright flame, he might melt a path for you,’ said Legolas. The storm had troubled him little, and he alone of the Company remained still light of heart.

          `If Elves could fly over mountains, they might fetch the Sun to save us,’ answered Gandalf. `But I must have something to work on. I cannot burn snow.’

          A different attitude to magic would indeed have a Level Whatever Spell of Burning Snow.

          • hls2003 says:

            That’s my point. It would have been a glaring inconsistency if Gandalf forgot that he was capable of setting wood on fire. Instead we get “At last reluctantly Gandalf himself took a hand. Picking up a [piece of wood – worried about filter] he held it aloft for a moment, and then with a word of command, naur an edraith ammen! he thrust the end of his staff into the midst of it.”

            Gandalf being unwilling to do so except as a last resort is not an inconsistency, as he puts it: “I have written ‘Gandalf is here’ in signs that all can read from Rivendell to the mouths of Anduin.”

            That we have absolutely no clue as to how or to what degree Gandalf can set wood on fire, does not impede the story in the slightest. Systematizing and organizing his fire-causing powers by the numbers is totally unnecessary to the story.

            Avoiding inconsistency is an important thing. Defining the magic down to the pennyweight is not.

          • Deiseach says:

            Avoiding inconsistency is an important thing. Defining the magic down to the pennyweight is not.

            Oh yeah, sure, but also you have to avoid the inconsistency of “I can make fire out of wood – and snow – and your grandma’s apple tart recipe – and the faint melancholy sensation on the first cool morning of autumn when the leaves just start to turn colour” without explaining in some slight manner “well hang on a minute here now, how exactly does that work?”

            If the Wizard Dangalf can conveniently have a spell or power for every occasion, that’s something that needs to be established at the start: is this the kind of world where Dangalf can pull a new superpower out of his pointy hat at every turn of the plot that needs it, or not? You don’t have to draw up a List of Official Magicking Rules in the preamble, but you can’t have the Wizard Dangalf able to do this but the Wizard Marusan not able to, if they are both supposed to be wizards of the same rank and type.

            Mostly this is the type of thing that happened with episodic TV shows (before the whole notion of an arc or tied-together season-spanning plot came along) where characters would in one episode have a long-lost family member/great old pal/love interest come along whom we had never heard of before, and after this episode never heard of again. Or they could/could not do this particular thing in one episode (“Joe can make a five-star meal out of the mouldy contents of your fridge!”) and then a few episodes later with a different writer, they could not/could do that particular thing (“Joe can burn water, don’t ask him to cook!”)

            That’s fine if you’re only dipping in and out of a show, but if you’re consistently following it, it’s really annoying when contradictions like that happen 😀

          • hls2003 says:

            @Deiseach

            I don’t think we’re disagreeing. I’m just taking the position that, if the Sanderson Rule means that magical systems have to be specified, detailed, codified, and quantified in order to have good fantasy, then I believe that excludes the central example of good fantasy (Tolkien) and is not viable.

            If the Rule instead means that you shouldn’t have obvious sitcom-level contradictions, including in the use of magic, then it doesn’t exclude Tolkien, and it’s fine. Though, too, the Rule would be making a much smaller statement in that interpretation.

      • bean says:

        I suspect that this is a case where you have two different groups reading different things into the statement. Everyone here reads it as “magic is unsatisfying if there aren’t rules”, and the other side is probably interpreting it as something like “only David Weber (or someone who infodumps like him) can use magic right”. Which seems like the sort of thing that is at odds with the tastes of many fantasy readers.
        (Although I’m definitely in the first camp.)

        • Nick says:

          I think the one camp is less “magic must have rules” (although some folks certainly feel this way) and more “if magic has rules, adhere to them consistently.”

          • bean says:

            But what would magic without rules even look like? I’m not even able to conceive of a system that doesn’t involve some sort of rules and isn’t bizarre and silly, with lots of “but why didn’t you do X here?” questions left for the reader.

          • woah77 says:

            It would look a lot like calvinball as an entire world.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            In any setting where magic is commonly found, especially if used by the protagonist, then you’re going to fall into the “magic has rules” side of the equation. The alternative is rare magic that’s only used by NPCs/antagonists.

          • Nick says:

            If it’s something explicitly supernatural, and not just preternatural phenomena, then I don’t think it has to be rule based. If your ‘magic’ is just “the favor of God” it could result in practically anything logically possible, right?

          • hls2003 says:

            +1

            It is just fine not to define the exact magical properties and construction of the Silmarils. But resolving the Wars of Beleriand by having someone “rediscover” Feanor’s work and “just make a bunch more so everyone gets one” would be super lame. Once you have established that the Silmarils are unique, and the light used to fill them has literally died, they have to stay that way.

          • bean says:

            If it’s something explicitly supernatural, and not just preternatural phenomena, then I don’t think it has to be rule based. If your ‘magic’ is just “the favor of God” it could result in practically anything logically possible, right?

            But at that point, you’re not able to actually solve anything in a satisfying way. (The rule is “solve problems with magic”, not “cause problems with magic”, after all.) Making the deity in your deus ex machina literal doesn’t really solve the problem that overuse of deus ex machina is bad writing. Either there needs to be some rules around gaining God’s favor and what he will do for you, or you’re back into silly, obviously plot-driven magic.

            “Sorry, God doesn’t seem to be willing to smite my enemies with fire today, like he did three episodesweeks ago, even though it would solve this problem quickly. Maybe I messed up one of my prayers this morning. Funny how it always happens that my exact level of favor with him is precisely what it will take to make the episode last 42 minutes.”

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            If it’s something explicitly supernatural, and not just preternatural phenomena, then I don’t think it has to be rule based. If your ‘magic’ is just “the favor of God” it could result in practically anything logically possible, right?

            Presumably “God” in this story has goals, methods, etc. that can be known. If the Priest character prays to his god and super magic happens, then we’re moving the meta-level up but still talking about a system with some kind of rules. If this god has limits, then those limits are the rules. If this god has morals, then those morals are the rules, etc. Such an abstraction is much easier to write within, than a “this is a wizard school where we teach the actual methods of magic”-type story.

            You could write about a follower of the God of Chaos and even do things not logically possible, and I would consider that to be “within the rules of the story.”

            If something is Inconsistent, it’s breaking its own rules, as established explicitly in the rest of the story, or as previously seen. A character saying “I will not kill” as a plot point randomly killing people throughout the story is Inconsistent, even though that’s not even magical. Depending on how well it’s written, stories can use Inconsistent points and not break immersion. Do it too often, or too easily, and the story loses coherence.

          • Randy M says:

            If your ‘magic’ is just “the favor of God” it could result in practically anything logically possible, right?

            But that is a rule–please God/a god. And people in such a world are going to be very interested in what pleases God–after all, this was seemingly our world to a great many people.
            Maybe you have a multitude of gods such that almost anything will please one of them, who will at her unfathomable whim intervene in the mortal world. But that kind of world makes it harder to tell a more satisfying story.
            More likely, there will be specific acts that tend towards encouraging the gods favor–rituals, righteous living, daring risk taking, etc. Maybe only the protagonist knows the right ones, but of course then you set up a literal platonic example of deus ex machina.

            ~

            One way the world might look if magic didn’t follow rules is that if the rules are seemingly unconnected and unknown.
            Why didn’t Hocus Pocus produce rabbits magically when I said it?
            Well, the planets weren’t in conjunction.
            Okay, the planets are in conjunction–still not working.
            No, on a Tuesday you need to say Pocus Hocus.
            How does it always work for you?
            I’m just in tune with the universe and have a knack for knowing the right ritual.

            Still probably unsatisfying, though.

            ~
            @Mr Doolittle
            “I thought you said you don’t kill?”
            “Well, gravity usually takes care of it for me.”

          • Nick says:

            Okay, I concede, folks. Magic must have rules.

          • hls2003 says:

            @bean

            But what would magic without rules even look like?

            I’m reminded of this bit from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

            “Well, sir, if things are real, they’re there all the time.”
            “Are they?” said the Professor; and Peter did not quite know what to say.

            and this bit from The Silver Chair:

            “Do you mean, do something to make it happen?”
            Eustace nodded.
            “You mean we might draw a circle on the ground—and write things in queer letters in it—and stand inside—and recite charms and spells?”
            “Well,” said Eustace after he had thought hard for a bit. “I believe that was the sort of thing I was thinking of, though I never did it. But now that it comes to the point, I’ve an idea that all those circles and things are rather rot. I don’t think he’d like them. It would look as if we thought we could make him do things. But really, we can only ask him.”

            I will grant forthrightly that the Narnia books are probably some of the least systematic fantasy novels I can think of. I know Tolkien disapproved of Lewis’ slapdash, kitchen-sink approach (as well as his perceived didacticism). But they have a distinct charm, and their popularity has undeniably stood the test of time, though they’re not at Tolkien’s level of artistry. I would think, then, that a successful fiction world where things are not consistent, rules-based, and systematic, would look something like that – where the rules are not known, and perhaps unknowable, and things happen for the plot, but the images and snapshots of moments are sufficiently charming to engage the reader without too much thinking through the implications.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Narnia works specifically because the protagonists don’t know or use magic.

            The Queen references the Deep Magic (if I’m remembering right…) that allows her to kill Aslan on the Stone Table, but Aslan teaches her the underlying rules. The Wardrobe works because it was made from a special tree from Narnia. The lampstand existed because the Queen brought a piece of a British lampstand to Narnia while it was being created, which encompassed something brought there.

            I agree that Lewis wrote in a way that avoided explaining how all that works, but I feel he was pretty consistent that there are rules, and that the characters follow them.

          • Randy M says:

            @Nick , lol, didn’t mean to dogpile.
            @hls2003
            Agreed, the wardrobe is pretty much a contrivance. Presumably it works when Aslan wants it to and not when it doesn’t. It specifically would be egregious if the outcome of the plot hinged (don’t pardon me, I am unrepentant) on whether they could get through it when they needed to.
            The magic of Narnia rewards the virtuous and the faithful, though not in any formulaic way. It is a fun world, charming even, but perhaps somewhat shallow.

          • bean says:

            I’m not sure Narnia is a good counterexample. First, a writer of C. S. Lewis’s caliber can do all sorts of things that lesser mortals shouldn’t. Second, I think the “solve problems” part of the law is actually rather critical. Magic used by NPCs, particularly villains, isn’t going to be under nearly as much scrutiny as magic used by the heroes. It’s easier to hide any inconsistencies offscreen. If it’s the bad guys, maybe this bad guy just doesn’t know the spell the last bad guy did that would instantly undo the party’s plans.

          • hls2003 says:

            @bean:

            I agree it’s true that the First Rule can be interpreted in a way that makes it valuable and true. Even in a less nuanced interpretation, I expect it’s excellent advice for upcoming writers. The interpretation I object to is sort of a pastiche; if one takes Sanderson’s advice as a proxy for “make sure you have a super-detailed understanding of your precise system of magic, or else your book will be badly written and you’ll ruin your plot,” then I think that’s proving too much. If one doesn’t take the First Law as a proxy for micro-managed magic, but more as a guideline to avoid “anytime you see something like that, a wizard did it,” then I agree with it. And if you want to define it more precisely to be about the exact resolution of a plot climax via magic, then I still think Narnia applies. Looking at the books:

            Lion: Plot resolved by Aslan + Deeper Magic
            Caspian: Plot resolved by Aslan + Bacchus and Silenus (?!)
            Dawn Treader: Plot resolved by Aslan + retired stars
            Silver Chair: Plot resolved by snake-killing, unraveling spells, and Aslan
            Horse: Plot resolved by minor battle (and Aslan)
            Nephew: Plot resolved by Aslan + Garden of Hesperides magic apple
            Last Battle: Plot resolved by Aslan + Father Time + falling stars

            I mean, I suppose one could argue that all the magical plot resolutions follow a system, because they’re all resolved by Aslan, who has a fixed character. “Not like a tame lion.” But poke the underlying magical systems and they’re a mishmash of umpteen myths and legends. A hundred years of winter? How is it possible the trees survived so long without spring? Why didn’t everyone run out of food in the second year? Who the heck did Ramandu marry to have a daughter? What form of the Witch would the werewolf’s seance call up? Did everyone just forget about the apples of immortality? I mean, I genuinely love those books, can’t wait to read them to my kids, but systematic they are not.

        • hls2003 says:

          @Mr. Doolittle:

          Narnia works specifically because the protagonists don’t know or use magic.

          This seems wrong to me. Lucy has her magic cordial that she got from Father Christmas, made of flowers picked from the valleys of the sun. She uses it to heal Edmund, but doesn’t attempt to use it to try to tease a spark of life back into the sacrificed Aslan. This is for obvious (book) reasons, and can be more-or-less retconned (Aslan is already dead, Edmund is not) but the point is that the rules of magic cordial and the precise healing factor of the fireflowers are not important to Lewis. Susan has a magic horn which, in Lion, does nothing but call Peter to come running, but in Prince Caspian is the primary plot point in calling Arthurian-type heroes back across space and time. Eustace becomes a dragon in Dawn Treader because he is “thinking greedy, dragonish thoughts” in a den, and is healed when Aslan appears to him in a dream. Puddleglum breaks the spell in Silver Chair in large part by a “good shock of pain” and the smell of burnt marshwiggle. Etc. There’s magic, all right, and the characters have it, or use it, or experience it working on them, and the exact nature of it is totally unclear (how does the Hermit’s viewing pool in Horse and His Boy work? Why hasn’t he created a whole industry of scrying? Why don’t others do it? Why does the wardrobe only sometimes work, other than that’s the story?). Sure, Lewis will gesture at it sometimes, but generally he just doesn’t care.

          In fact, the most systematic magic systems we see are the most unlike Lewis’ idea of regular magic. Uncle Andrew’s Rings, for example, work very predictably. One to the Wood, one to the Pools. He’s a systematizer, a “a little, peddling Magician who works by rules and books,” per the Witch. Even the Witch and her magic are more rule-bound – the Deplorable Word is a basic desecration spell that can be learned and recited; she needs her wand to turn people to stone; etc. But in general, magic is something mysterious that works the way it is supposed to, and not otherwise.

          I’m not trying to get on Lewis. I love those books. But it’s hard to see them as clearly planned-out with a coherent system of powers and magic.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            In retrospect, I feel you are more correct than I am. I most remember the first book and the last, which as you note are the most systematized. I really don’t remember much of the other books, and am more than willing to concede that I had forgotten more about how Lewis did magic than I remembered.

            (I will add that Lucy having a magic vial doesn’t mean she understands or needs to understand magic. She just puts a drop from it on somebody and it works. That she didn’t try on Aslan seems out of place, but since he was already dead it makes sense that it would not work the same anyway).

          • theredsheep says:

            The distinction is between benign and malign versions of magic. I don’t have specific cites–I believe it was Abolition of Man?–but somewhere he notes that the Renaissance was the true golden age of “magic,” in the sense of demonic or morally illicit sorcery. Magic in the renaissance sense was (for Lewis) the sickly twin of incipient science. Both were attempts to acquire dominion over the natural world.

            The more benign forms of magic aren’t systematic because they work within the natural order of magical reality, rather than being external rules imposed on it. We don’t know the rules because we aren’t really in full control. Something like that.

            Also, thank you guys for reminding me that Ayn Rand’s margin notes on Abolition of Man were a thing. Just looked them up again; one wonders how much pepto-bismol that woman went through.

          • hls2003 says:

            @theredsheep:

            Yes, I think that’s an excellent distinction. You probably are correctly remembering Abolition of Man; or possibly That Hideous Strength, which is more-or-less a novelization of Abolition.

            In The Discarded Image, Lewis also sets out his view that the scientific mindset of expecting to systematize regular rules from observations of nature is quite different from the Medieval mindset that he was fond of, which was not devoid of experiment or folk wisdom, but also had a much less impersonal aspect to it than the modern view.

            It also occurs to me that “time passing in Narnia” is another good example. A systematizer would estimate that one year in our world = 1,000 years in Narnia based on Prince Caspian. But then in Voyage several months = a couple years, and in Silver Chair you see that several months = 60-70 years. If you’re trying to discern the underlying logic of the time skips, you’re asking the wrong question.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            She uses it to heal Edmund, but doesn’t attempt to use it to try to tease a spark of life back into the sacrificed Aslan.

            This was one way the movie improved the story. Lucy got out her vial to use, but Susan waved it off.

      • Deiseach says:

        Pretty much in favour. You need to be very good and have things set up just right for a last-minute “with one bound he was free” magic solution to work, otherwise it’s just irritating.

        Part of why I really liked the second Thomas Covenant trilogy was that he kept his promise with the plot he’d been setting up; for the final book, I couldn’t see any internally-coherent way for the resolution of the plot except for the main character to die, but I was very dubious that an author would stick to the requirements of the plot and the limitations he had imposed on himself, that he would kill off the character and not have some “and out of nowhere a miracle” ending. But he did it! He killed off his character!

        It’s also why Gandalf doesn’t take Eagle Airlines to Mordor, that’s the cheating easy way out 🙂

        Now, if you’ve played fair with the reader and built up a way that the “and suddenly a miracle” gambit could plausibly work, then fine. But mostly it never works as well as hoped.

    • theredsheep says:

      Well, I’m an extremely gloomy and fatalistic person, and it tends to wreck my characters, and thus stories, by robbing them of all agency and forcing them to drift through the world like tumbleweeds. So my new one guideline for writing, before I say I’m done with each scene: “How is the protagonist moving the story forward here?” It’s fixing an awful lot of problems.

      Otherwise, I’m not much for following rules; my approach to writing tends to be more intuitive, like DF said. I learned to write by reading a lot of good writers and passively absorbing their tricks, I think.

      • Randy M says:

        I learned to write by reading a lot of good writers and passively absorbing their tricks, I think.

        That’s got to be the bulk of your training, for sure.

    • Atlas says:

      There was a short article in the New York Times recently with “dos and don’ts” for aspiring writers from already famous ones. Perhaps you’d find some of the advice useful.

    • AG says:

      Jennifer Crusie is a NYT best selling author. She was so incensed by the pilot to the Lucifer TV series that it set her off into writing her own version of the story, and has been cataloguing the process every step of the way. She also has put together a good number of writing concept posts before that.
      https://writingandromance.wordpress.com/
      http://arghink.com/category/structure/
      http://arghink.com/?s=questionable

      There’s Film Crit Hulk’s “Screenwriting 101” book.

      John Rogers was the showrunner for Leverage, and was heavy on using his (now abandoned) blog and the Leverage episode commentaries to impart advice so people didn’t have to waste time going to film school. I’d go back a few pages to find posts that aren’t as context heavy for their writing advice.
      https://kfmonkey.blogspot.com

      People have been praising the The Good Place podcast, recently, but that might be more about insight into production, than writing.

  6. Machine Interface says:

    Recently I watched Elia Kazan’s “America America”, which I found decent (at least as far of the narrow genre of “historical biopics about small people making it in life in a harsh world” is concerned).

    It had the usual tropes of western fiction about the Late Ottoman Empire: Turkish “invaders” (you’d think after 5 centuries, in a country where they are the majority, they’d have earned the right to qualify as inhabitants) are all oppressors, liars and thiefs, Greeks and Armenians are innocent, opressed minorities who only want to do good, honest hard work in “their” lands, and Kurds and Jews don’t exist, all of this leaving out any kind of possibly nuanced portrait of the era — such as the fact that many professions were legally reserved for the different ethnic minorities of the empire, such that the majority of Turks, when they weren’t already part of the aristocracy or of the civilian or military administration, had very little opportunity for work beyond peasantry and were effectively stuck at the bottom of the social ladder; or the numerous instances of ethnic cleansing against muslims that occured in the Balkans and Caucasus every time Ottoman territory was “liberated”.

    What I wonder is why such one-sided portrayals of the Ottoman Empire (and their equivalent mutatis mutandi for the latter Republic of Turkey) have such prevalence in western media?

    Does it reflect a pro-christian/anti-muslim reflex? Is it because our narratives favor small minorities achieving their national independence and unification against big multi-ethnic empires? Is it because most of the stories about the late Empire have been told to us by the Greek and Armenian diaspora? Is it because they were among the losers in WWI?

    • Statismagician says:

      Depends on where you want to put the start of ‘late’ at. The very late empire, like ~1890 on, really was a pretty awful time to be an Ottoman subject – the wheels began to visibly come off the social structures that made the early/middle period Empire function, this is when the hatred of/violence against Armenians began to really ramp up, the Balkan Wars (basically a regional dress-rehearsal for WWI) were quite brutal, there were coups and major political changes going on all the time.

      For earlier periods – cultural inertia is powerful, and people are bad at thinking at critical thinking? For like ~150 years the Ottomans were not just explicitly in favor of but actually making regular, sustained progress towards conquering all of Europe; you can spot the importance of this to European thinking in things like Machiavelli (one of the big reasons why Italy needs to get its act together is because otherwise the Turks will take over) and Shakespeare (the Turks are who Othello is fighting). And we know that e.g. the Greek nationalist movement deliberately played off of European veneration of classics to get support for their independence – I think Byron was particularly bad about this, but could be making that bit up.

      EDIT: Ottoman subject, not citizen.

      EDIT2: In fact, Byron died in Greece while organizing supplies for the revolutionary army, which I had forgotten. So, yeah, he was somewhat pro-Greek independence.

    • eigenmoon says:

      I don’t know about the media, but here’s why I don’t like the Ottoman Empire:

      1) Triple genocide. Why did you omit the Assyrians?
      2) Slavery.
      3) Senseless brutality. Do you think Greeks and Armenians made all of that up and in reality they were just as brutal? Well, do Greeks and Armenians make structures from skulls of their enemies?

      • Machine Interface says:

        @Statismagician & eigenmoon

        To clarify: I am not embracing a negationist position, I am not denying that the various atrocities attributed to the Turks did in fact happen.

        What intrigues me is the systematic omission of the context of these atrocities in western discourse. That is, western portrayal makes it seems like this was basically comparable to Nazi Germany: the Greeks, Armenians, etc were just quietly minding their own business and were just persecuted without provocation as designated scape-goats to explain the faillings of the Empire.

        But in reality, these populations were all engaged in recurring violent armed uprisings fueled by nationalist ideologies and backed by western powers and by Russia — whose interest were less about the well beings of these populations and more about expansionism at the expense of the Ottomans.

        And each time these populations won a local victory, that would mean the loss of one more chunk of territory for the Ottomans, immediatly followed by the massacre and expulsions of the muslim populations of these territories, who had lived there for centuries — between the gradual loss of the Balkans and Russian expansionism in the Caucasus, over the course of the 19th and early 20th century, it’s several millions of muslims that have been massacred or deported from these territories, ending up as refugees in the remaining territories. And the atrocities commited in those cases were not any more civilized — turned out Greek soldiers could be just as cruel to Turkish peasants as in the opposite situation.

        In other words, as condemnable as Ottoman actions were, they weren’t in response to imaginary enemies: they were in fact facing a very real existential threat

        • quanta413 says:

          What intrigues me is the systematic omission of the context of these atrocities in western discourse. That is, western portrayal makes it seems like this was basically comparable to Nazi Germany: the Greeks, Armenians, etc were just quietly minding their own business and were just persecuted without provocation as designated scape-goats to explain the faillings of the Empire.

          As long as we’re talking about context, maybe we could be more specific as to some of the reasons why the Greeks, Armenians, etc. were so opposed to Ottoman rule.

          But in reality, these populations were all engaged in recurring violent armed uprisings fueled by nationalist ideologies and backed by western powers and by Russia — whose interest were less about the well beings of these populations and more about expansionism at the expense of the Ottomans.

          They were engaged in violent armed uprising because the Ottomans were terrible rulers. Not that it was necessarily great to even be royalty in the Ottoman empire what with the practice of fratricide (later followed by the kinder practice of extended house arrest). Even then, the Ottoman response was often not a response to any particular violent armed uprising.

          And motivations can be “both and”. And even if the Europeans did it purely for their own gain so what? The Ottomans only ended the slave trade under pressure from European powers. And even then the Sultan had slaves until 1909.

          In other words, as condemnable as Ottoman actions were, they weren’t in response to imaginary enemies: they were in fact facing a very real existential threat

          Bullshit. Even many Ottoman officials resisted the final bout of insanity before the empire toppled. The Ottomans could have survived without their entire territory much like many European countries did after Imperialism ended. They didn’t have to engage in slavery and make a large chunk of their population second class citizens. They didn’t have to systematically massacre an enormous chunk of their population. Most countries had slavery and had second-class citizens, but many other countries survived the transition to more modern norms. Few shed tears for European countries losing colonies. Many of which had been held for hundreds of years.

          The European powers are hardly treated with subtlety in modern portrayals. Everyone agrees that imperialism and slavery were terrible. I don’t see why the Ottoman empire should get a more subtle popular treatment.

          Imperialism and slavery are bad is a reasonable popular treatment.

          And each time these populations won a local victory, that would mean the loss of one more chunk of territory for the Ottomans, immediatly followed by the massacre and expulsions of the muslim populations of these territories, who had lived there for centuries — between the gradual loss of the Balkans and Russian expansionism in the Caucasus, over the course of the 19th and early 20th century, it’s several millions of muslims that have been massacred or deported from these territories, ending up as refugees in the remaining territories. And the atrocities commited in those cases were not any more civilized — turned out Greek soldiers could be just as cruel to Turkish peasants as in the opposite situation.

          Of course, the Ottoman actions don’t morally justify the massacres in response in the same way French actions don’t justify the massacres in Haiti in 1804.

          But few people today will tell you “French reactions were justified by the possibility of the loss of their colony”.

          • theredsheep says:

            I don’t know much about the last days of the OE, but could it be relevant that other Great Powers mostly had overseas empires? All the mutilated slaves in the Congo couldn’t feasibly march into Brussels demanding justice against Leopold, nor could the Vietnamese invade France or the Indians launch sustained terror attacks against Britain. In the Ottoman Empire, they had Greek and Armenian separatist movements, but also a lot of Greeks and Armenians living throughout their empire, right? And the separatist movements would have called the loyalty of every Greek and Armenian into question.

            My aim here is not to apologize for the Ottomans; I just think that might be a relevant distinction.

          • quanta413 says:

            The European powers often had European settlers living in their colonies. Similarly their responses to any signs of rebellion were often brutal. Travel within the British Empire was relatively free too. So it makes little difference. At the end, the Ottomans made an attempt to exterminate the Armenians.

            It’s not like the Ottoman empire was cruel in response to rebellion. It conquered people, and it was cruel. This tends to incite resistance.

          • Machine Interface says:

            I’d seriously question whether Ottoman rule was any worse for ethnic and religious minorities than, say, Habsburg rule or Tsarist rule, but I think that’s a debate best left to real historians — I do note again that recognized minorities in the Empire had lots of special rights and privileges and were often better off economically than the majority of the Turks, due to protected access to certain professions.

            I wasn’t thinking of any kind of moral justification for either side — my inquiries are not about finding who was right and who was wrong, it’s about puzzlement over a general lack of representation of the accurate context of the events in the late Empire. Whereas we have plenty of media that analyze really well and in a nuanced way, say, what lead to nazism and to the Holocaust; the idea that not all Germans were bloodthirsty nazis and that the German people had been subjected to a lot of hardships, explaining how nazism could rise, are popularly accepted.

            It does seem to me that it would have some historical relevence to know that one of the main architects of the Armenian genocide was himself a survivor of the Circassian genocide conducted by the Russians on territory conquered from the Ottomans in the early 19th century.

          • quanta413 says:

            I’d seriously question whether Ottoman rule was any worse for ethnic and religious minorities than, say, Habsburg rule or Tsarist rule, but I think that’s a debate best left to real historians — I do note again that recognized minorities in the Empire had lots of special rights and privileges and were often better off economically than the majority of the Turks, due to protected access to certain professions.

            My point is not whether they are better or worse than Habsburg or whatever. They’re all bad and that’s a pointless distraction. It’s that the Ottomans don’t deserve movies or TV shows about them that are nicer than ones we get about people living under any other form of imperialism or slavery.

            Most people don’t even know about the negative parts of the Ottoman empire unlike they do for the Nazis. Subtlety can be for history books or movies that aren’t about Armenian immigrants.

            The claims I’ve seen that minorities were typically better off look like a mixture of sampling bias and irrelevant. If you look at the top of the minorities and compare it to the median of the not minorities then of course they’re better off. The privileges of the Patriarch are not the privileges of those he rules just like the privileges of the Ottoman Sultan are not those of his subjects. And I’ve never seen anyone give a reason to believe the privileges were a net economic benefit after you subtract all the penalties for the vast majority of non Muslims. It’s not uncommon for oppressed minorities to have some privileges. Ethnic minorities in China didn’t have to follow the one-child policy. Jews in Europe didn’t have to obey Christian religious restrictions about lending.

            And the existence of some privileges does not imply those privileges caused minorities to be richer. Chinese in the U.S. have done very well economically (better than white people) and they have no privileges in the U.S. A similar tendency holds for Chinese in Malaysia.

            Whereas we have plenty of media that analyze really well and in a nuanced way, say, what lead to nazism and to the Holocaust; the idea that not all Germans were bloodthirsty nazis and that the German people had been subjected to a lot of hardships, explaining how nazism could rise, are popularly accepted.

            Seeing as how the Ottoman empire was ruled by a supreme ruler, I’d say that’s largely because the opinions of the average Anatolian peasant were irrelevant. The German people were more relevant to what happened in their own country. The blame in Germany should probably be more widespread than in the Ottoman empire.

            It would be hard to tie in a bunch of peasants to a story. I had to look up America America. It’s not a documentary about the Ottoman empire. Stories about the Holocaust from a Jewish perspective don’t typically cover the Treaty of Versailles.

            It does seem to me that it would have some historical relevence to know that one of the main architects of the Armenian genocide was himself a survivor of the Circassian genocide conducted by the Russians on territory conquered from the Ottomans in the early 19th century.

            Which might be relevant to a history of the Ottoman empire or a history of the Armenian genocide.

            You’re applying standards of a history book to a movie. There are plenty of fine history books about the Ottoman empire.

        • Statismagician says:

          @ Machine Interface

          I think, unusually for me, that this is actually a place where postmodernism has something useful to say.

          Ottoman society was basically organized along medieval lines, with religion as primary organizing factor and war as the prime function of government. Post-industrial revolution and the Spring of Nations, neither of these are sustainable principles, so the Ottomans think they’re suppressing rebels against a literally half-millenium-old government, while to modern eyes the Ottomans look like incompetent tyrants trying to restrain the self-determination of e.g. the Greek people, and they are both right within their own paradigm.

          It is really important to be clear on the degree to which the Ottoman Empire was just not a like thing to modern nation-states. This, plus the fact that within historical time they really were an existential threat to Western civilization (however defined), accounts for the pattern you notice in my opinion.

    • theredsheep says:

      I’m Orthodox, and I don’t really hate the Ottomans. Ultimately, we were undone by Western treachery and imperialism; they only dealt the deathblow. Afterwards, they were a country like any other, but did at least give us more religious freedom than we could have expected if the conquest had come from the West. Also, galaktobouriko. Mmmm, galaktobouriko.

      The modern Turks are another story; we’re far too pathetically small a minority to pose a threat to them, but they’re still going out of their way to be pricks to the Ecumenical Patriarch at every turn. I look forward to the day when demographic forces turn “Turkey” into “Greater Kurdistan.” Although I’m afraid that will not be a bloodless transition.

      EDIT: I don’t want to understate how bad the transition is likely to be, when the Kurds start outnumbering the Turks. That’s going to be ugly. I only hope there will be a day when the local authorities aren’t trying to squash our religion out of existence, is all.

  7. Both the paperback and the kindle of my new book, Legal Systems Very Different from Ours, are now available on Amazon. I thought people here might be interested, since Scott reviewed a draft of the book and it was discussed some here.

    • Plumber says:

      Are the paperbacks only available through Amazon, or may “brick and mortar” order them as well?

      • Incurian says:

        Stop allocating resources inefficiently!

        • Plumber says:

          NEVER!!!

          INEFFICIENCY FO’ LIFE!

          • My understanding is that brick and mortar stores can order them as well. The page at the moment shows three sources other than Amazon, two at a price higher than Amazon’s, one at a price a tiny bit below if you don’t include shipping cost.

          • Plumber says:

            Thanks @DavidFriedman!

            I plan to get a local shop to order it for me.

            And while I know it’s not in thr same line I’ve been enjoying Harald, and your posts here

    • ana53294 says:

      Just a suggestion: since you self-published, it will probably be quite easy for you to create an Amazon author page. I think you can create a page and indicate which books are yours. Then whenever somebody clicks on your name, they can see other books by you, not by *every David Friedman whose books are on Amazon*.

      In scientific articles, they get around the issue of common names by assigning numbers to people. I wonder how they deal with that in the book publishing world.

  8. woah77 says:

    So I spend a fair amount of time online talking with some people who are proclaimed socialists and when we talk about how economies would work under their ideals I always get answers that don’t satisfy me as functional. I was wondering if anyone has tried to simulate their ideal economy or if anyone has any resources for going about setting up a virtual economy and attempting to simulate it’s function, efficiency, growth, and any other relevant factors.

    • herbert herberson says:

      I think you’re right to identify a gaping void. English-speaking socialism, at least in America, has a lot of planning and research to do before it will be ready to wield power effectively.

      If they do, though, I’m optimistic, being struck by the fact that although they eventually failed to match the west, the Soviet Union was a functional centrally planned socialist economy that existed for approximately 70 years which achieved many objectively impressive things during its tenure, all without the benefit of modern IT technology. If GOSPLAN almost worked when it was pen and paper and punchcards, I wouldn’t bet against the version of it that has machine learning and petascale supercomputers.

      (And that’s assuming you’re talking about the hardest version of socialism, rather than something more distributed and/or market-based.)

      • sentientbeings says:

        Soviet Union was a functional centrally planned socialist economy that existed for approximately 70 years

        It seems that the socialist definition of functional is set at a much lower standard than the capitalist one. I don’t think capitalists would characterize the Holodomor as part of a functional economy.

        If you’re willing to grind up enough human lives, you can make some impressive sausage for a while. Since that system isn’t good at allocating resources, it tends to run out of expendable people eventually.

        • herbert herberson says:

          And capitalism is baking the earth to a crisp despite everyone knowing exactly why and exactly how to stop it for 40 years. Pobody’s nerfect!

          • sentientbeings says:

            Do you believe the Soviets were better or worse than the United States, in terms of net environmental effects (or climate in particular)?

          • Aapje says:

            @herbert herberson

            The USSR built central heating systems where many apartments got way too hot and the solution was to open a window to vent out the heat in winter.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            The USSR built central heating systems where many apartments got way too hot and the solution was to open a window to vent out the heat in winter.

            Sounds like my first year college room (in the UK, built in the 1960s).

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Aapje

            Those were (and are, in that the systems are still around) pretty common in the US as well.

          • bean says:

            My second dorm room (c late 40s) was built that way, too. They later decided that they didn’t actually want us to do that, and fitted the central heating with a thermostat. Which was set on the top floor (I lived near the bottom) and placed under the wifi router. As a result, it was always freezing in my room.

          • Randy M says:

            Ha, bean, I was mentally calculating your age until I got to the part about wi-fi router and realized you meant the dorm was built in the 40s, not that you lived there in the 40s.

          • Nick says:

            In my junior year dorm room, one roommate and I had rooms that were always cold, while our other roommate had a room that was always extremely hot. The common room was Just Right.

          • Plumber says:

            @Aapje

            “The USSR built central heating systems where many apartments got way too hot and the solution was to open a window to vent out the heat in winter”

            I lived for 17 years in an apartment building that was built in the 1920’s in Oakland, California like that.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Here is the list of nations that built carbon free grids as soon as technically feasible: “France, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland”. The last two got it done by virtue of incredible gifts of physical geography.

            … Common factors.. Incredibly conscientious governments?
            They are all nations where politicians are generally True Believers in the virtue of governing well.

          • ryan8518 says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen
            I have a problem taking this at face value

            France being a special case, more appropriate common factors are small size of the market, abundant hydropower. France comes from need to leverage a whole of country effort to develop an independent nuclear deterrent (thanks to DeGaulle and an unwillingness to play NATO’s game), to the exclusion of a more rational energy policy. To a lesser extent early Swedish attempts to do the same before they decided the cost wasn’t worthwhile still show up in the size of the nuclear power sector.

            To note, Sweden generates roughly as much electricty as either of Tennessee/Oregon/Minnesota/Nebraska, Switzerland is comparable to one of Maryland/South Dakota/Connecticut, Norawy between Massachusets/Nevada, and Greenland is roughly Hawaii (source for US states is the EIA, for the countries its the wiki page for electricity sector in ___, *the map of which states produce US electricity is fascinating)

          • Aapje says:

            I keep forgetting that I live in a 1st world nation and that the US is a 2nd world nation.

            I kid (more or less).

        • rlms says:

          Was the British Raj capitalist?

      • See the work of British Marxist economist Paul Cockshott, such as this video on youtube.

        As for why he painstakingly builds up an alternative to using money in the first place, this video explains how a capitalist economy that uses money holds back the productive forces and technical progress by biasing production away from the most labor-saving techniques of production (in addition to the waste of labor-power that occurs during cyclical crises of generalized overproduction).

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          See the work of British Marxist economist Paul Cockshott,

          … as opposed to Paul Cockshott the feared pankration champion, as nominative determinism would have had it.

  9. JohnNV says:

    This may be considered culture-war, but help me keep it otherwise because I’m genuinely curious. Where can I read a statistically sound treatment of gun ownership in the US and the risks thereof? I’ve seen plenty of correlational garbage studies arriving at predetermined conclusions about gun ownership, but I can’t seem to find anything solid. The main question I’m curious about is for any specific individual, the decision to own a firearm has what effect on the likelihood to die by accident/suicide/homicide, and what effect on being injured by accident/intentional self-harm/intentional harm by others? And what methodology did they use to come to this conclusion?

    • DeWitt says:

      This is a decimal thread, so culture war is fine, and even then you’re not very inflammatory.

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t know, it would be interesting. But from a personal level, if you are interested enough in gun safety to check the stats, the stats of an “average” person probably don’t apply, because you are most likely going to avoid some of the risks. For one obvious one, you probably aren’t suicidal, which may or may not be included in the stats. And it probably matters a great deal who else lives in your household.

      • albatross11 says:

        Yeah, population suicide risk seems a lot less relevant than your own knowledge of your and your family’s suicide risk. If you’ve suffered from serious depression or a lot of suicidal thoughts in the past, you probably don’t want a gun in the house.

      • John Schilling says:

        Also, w/re criminal homicide and self-defense, the extent to which you hang out with violent criminals is going to dominate over pretty much everything else.

    • Statismagician says:

      You can’t read a statistically-sound treatment of gun issues. It’s like marijuana; we’re aren’t allowed Federal funding for studying it, and every person willing to spend their own money on this issue is transparently biased.

      • sentientbeings says:

        we’re aren’t allowed Federal funding for studying it

        Not so. See this Reason article from April, 2018.

        A snippet:

        Many people who support gun control are angry that the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are not legally allowed to use money from Congress to do research whose purpose is “to advocate or promote gun control.” (This is not the same as doing no research into gun violence, though it seems to discourage many potential recipients of CDC money.)

        But in the 1990s, the CDC itself did look into one of the more controversial questions in gun social science: How often do innocent Americans use guns in self-defense, and how does that compare to the harms guns can cause in the hands of violent criminals?

        The studies were not made public by the government. Eventually they were unearthed by Gary Kleck, a criminologist who has done a lot of work on defensive gun use. Kleck has been criticized in part because his estimates are much larger than the figures that gun control advocates prefer. Kleck’s initial analysis of the CDC surveys found that the surveys corroborated the numbers from his large surveys. He made an error, mentioned in the heading of that Reason article and expanded upon in a later one (his revised CDC number is lower), but the figure still corroborates the high number of defensive gun uses.

        So one interpretation is that when the CDC had funding to study the topic and found many defensive gun uses, they decided to suppress that research for 20 years. It would seem that the government might be non-transparently biased.

        If the number of defensive gun uses is very large, but research into the question is done by the government, then there are incentives for both sides of the policy question to prevent funding; one side fears the research will be biased, while the other side fears it will vindicate their opponents.

        • John Schilling says:

          Note also that there is a difference between “the CDC isn’t allowed to…” and “the Federal Government isn’t allowed to…”

          Since homicide isn’t a disease, and would seem to be more in the FBI or DOJ’s area of expertise, telling the CDC to knock it off does not seem like a crippling blow to the advancement of human knowledge.

          • dick says:

            If you had to pick either the FBI, DOJ, or CDC to do a large-scale study on how something affects the health of Americans…

          • The Nybbler says:

            @dick

            Would a study on chlordane’s persistence in the environment be better done by the EPA or the CDC?

            If you’re looking for studies on how bullet wounds affect health (spoiler: negatively), it might be the CDC you’re after. If you’re looking to know how guns get used by criminals, the CDC is out of their element. That’s criminology, even if it does affect health.

          • sentientbeings says:

            @John Schilling

            Agreed, and I’ll add that I especially disapprove of the CDC involvement as opposed to a law enforcement agency because I see it as a step in a gradual attempt to pathologize gun ownership.

            For the folks who think I’m crazy for suggesting that, look into doctors questioning patients about gun ownership, as well as recent (as in the last few years) statements re: firearms issued by the APA.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you had to pick either the FBI, DOJ, or CDC to do a large-scale study on how something affects the health of Americans…

            So, traffic accidents kill thirty thousand or so Americans every year. If we have a choice between the NHTSA, the DOT, or the CDC to study this…

            Airplane crashes aren’t so numerous, but they do capture public attention and we are going to study them. We have a choice between the NTSB, the FAA, or the CDC…

            Earthquake safety, definite health risk, so that goes to the CDC as well, right?

            This is the Center for Disease Control, and there is no usage of the English language where “disease” means “everything that can adversely affect health”. Particularly when we are explicitly talking about externally-induced physical trauma. Honestly, I can’t see how demanding that the CDC in particular be in charge of this research can be anything but mindkilled partisanship.

      • S_J says:

        echoing @sentientbeings below, the part of the Federal Government known as the Centers for Disease Control is forbidden from studying firearms-crime, if the purpose of the study is to advance gun control.

        In studying the data presented in WISQARS (the Web-based Insjury Statistics Query and Reporting System run by the CDC), it is possible to find out how many people in the United States died by gunfire in a given year. It is also possible to discover that these numbers are categorized by the CDC as suicide/homicide/unintentional. For every 100 such deaths in the United States, about 60 of them are suicide, about 29 are homicide, and around 1 is unintentional. (The CDC even has subdivisions to distinguish “Legal Intervention” from other kinds of homicide.)

        This typically isn’t considered ‘study for the purposes of gun control’, but the CDC has interpreted that rule to not publish or fund any other studies relating to the use of firearms.

        Other parts of the Federal Government do study firearms and the use thereof, by both criminals and people defending themselves from crime.

        Most of those studies are found in the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Some are produced by the FBI, some by other parts of the DoJ.

        One such report, in PDF, cpvers the years 1993 through 2011. If you want to see what is available, you should peruse those statistics. I notice that the tables for “guns reported used in crime” and “guns possessed by prisoners at time of offense” are not quite the statistical categories “all guns used in crime” and “all guns used by all criminals”.

        The one category that is not covered in this type of report is the risk of suicide-by-firearm. To repeat what I mentioned above, something like 60% of all deaths by firearm in the U.S. are suicides.

        What is hard to measure and study are these two questions:
        1. Does the presence of a firearm in the home increase the odds of suicide, in a way that the presence of ropes (or knives capable of cutting open arteries in the arm) does not increase the risk of suicide?
        2. Does the presence of a firearm in the home increase the odds of dying by the hand of another person?
        2.a. If it does increase the risk, does the increase come from other people with their own firearms, or other people gaining access to the firearm that is in the home?
        2.b. If there is a risk to other people gaining access to the firearm in the home, it is more likely to be intentional harm, or unintentional harm?

        Both of these require a good understanding of who does (or does not) own a gun. For various cultural reasons, it is hard for a Government-funded study to get good data on those things in the United States.

        Anecdotally, guns are much more common in suburban or rural parts of the United States. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, homicide-by-gun is incredibly common in certain dense, urban areas.

        Any attempt to figure out the risk to a person by gun-ownership needs to untangle a lot of data about confounding factors: social class, economic level, regional population density, the typical rate of crime in the neighborhood, rate of gun-ownership in the area, rate of gun possession in the area by those who are officially forbidden from owning guns, etc.

        Apparently, no researcher has taken up the challenge in a way that is answerable to all challenges about confounding factors.

    • John Schilling says:

      You’ll need to be more specific about what you are looking for. Statismagician notwithstanding, the federal government doesn’t have a monopoly on this, and there is sound academic research on almost every area, but not all in once place. And a possible exception for suicide risk; I’ve seen almost nothing good on the marginal risk of suicide(*) from gun ownership.

      For other risks and benefits, the collected work of Gary Kleck is probably your starting point w/re rigor and objectivity.

      * Suicide generally, as opposed to suicide-by-gun.

  10. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Analyzing Superman, Model 1938.
    Action Comics #1 explained that by adulthood, Kal-L/Clark Kent could “leap one-eighth of a mile, hurdle a twenty-story building, lift tremendous weights, run faster than an express train, and nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin!”
    1/8 of a mile is 660 feet, more than 22 times the real-world long jump record. The high jump record before the advent of the Fosbury flop was just under 7 1/2 feet, so a high jump proportional to Superman’s long jump would be ~165 feet… considerably lower than any twenty-story high rise. Presumably 1/8 mile was a significant underestimate and he could long jump close to a thousand feet, seeing as his high jump must be about 32x real-world limits (240+ feet). As far as running, 1938 saw the introduction of record-breaking express trains, Italy’s ETR 200 and Britain’s 4468 Mallard, which could reach 126 MPH. Assume this is Superman’s marathon rather than sprint speed, as presumably the narrator isn’t boasting that he could outrun an express train for 200 meters before stopping in exhaustion (impressive as that would still be in the real world). That’s 10 times peak human marathon speed.
    In his first appearance, he lifts a Depression-era 4-door car, which weighed a minimum of ~3500 pounds, then took a few steps and threw it, putting all the weight on the muscles of one leg. This means in a conventional gym setting, he could lift a minimum of 7,000 pounds, 12 times the real-world clean and jerk record.
    Now the big question, what does “nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin” mean? Obviously he’s immune to .50 caliber sniper rifles and crew-served machine guns, but did autocannons use High Explosive shells? Wouldn’t a 20mm shell actually be less deadly than 12.7mm Armor Piercing ammunition? Perhaps the author was thinking of infantry mortars? Also, how does the force of colliding with something at 126 MPH compare to getting hit with such weapons? Hmm, a quick calculation indicates the KE of 90 kilograms (a minimum plausible weight) at that velocity is 9.26 kilojoules, slightly more than half the maximum muzzle energy of M2 .50 caliber rounds.
    In summary, Model 1938 Superman’s leg muscles were 32x as powerful as an elite athlete’s, able to propel him to 10x peak human speed, and he was at least twice as durable as he needed to be to survive landing from his high jumps. Any experts, do those physics work out?

    • John Schilling says:

      The median artillery shell of the era was probably still a 75mm, or maybe 105mm but only if Siegel and Shuster were staying up to date on military technology. 75mm base-fused HE would penetrate about 25mm (1″) of steel armor, or twice that in mild structural steel.

      If so, the optimum anti-Superman weapon would probably be one of the more potent 20mm automatic cannons firing AP solid, which would be effective out to 400 yards or so and have a much higher firing rate than even quick-firing artillery. Alternately, the main armament of a battleship or the very largest siege guns would probably be effective with a near-miss by fragmentation effect, but unless you take him by surprise, Kal-El wil probably be clear of the blast radius by the time the salvo lands. Likewise aircraft bombs.

      If you need something man-portable, there are some 1930s-vintage antitank rifles that might suffice, but barely so.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The median artillery shell of the era was probably still a 75mm, or maybe 105mm but only if Siegel and Shuster were staying up to date on military technology. 75mm base-fused HE would penetrate about 25mm (1″) of steel armor, or twice that in mild structural steel.

        If so, the optimum anti-Superman weapon would probably be one of the more potent 20mm automatic cannons firing AP solid, which would be effective out to 400 yards or so and have a much higher firing rate than even quick-firing artillery.

        That was exactly my line of thought: 75mm bursting shells would be plenty, and that leaves him vulnerable to autocannons.

        Note that in Action Comics #8, the government attacks him with aircraft bombs and he says of having to dodge each bomb “Haven’t had such a fine workout in a long time!”

      • sfoil says:

        The old .50 API rounds penetrate around (Wikipedia says just short of) 25mm of RHA at 100 yards. New tank designs in early WW2 drove the development of man-portable weapons with better armor penetration than that. Which would suggest that Superman’s protection was roughly in line with the state of the art in 1938 — and that stealing or rushing out production of novel weapons was a good strategy for his enemies. Imagine some villain attacking Superman from ambush with an experimental super-rifle a year or two later.

      • Don_Flamingo says:

        So you want to murder Superman?
        Do you still have those fancy Davy Crockett nuclear RPGs lying around in America?
        I couldn’t think of a more excellent use for them 🙂

    • What I like about this very early Superman is that his feats are still just about within the realms of physics in terms of the magnitude of his power (totally ignoring all the daftness and being able to pick up cars by the bumper and so on). Obviously a man can not do any of those things, but some of these feats are probably replicable with some kind of terminator like humanoid robot that could be built in the future for hunting down the last human survivors admidst the rubble*.

      As far as running, 1938 saw the introduction of record-breaking express trains, Italy’s ETR 200 and Britain’s 4468 Mallard, which could reach 126 MPH.

      No expert here, but this kind of speed, for example, is just about the limit for a comic book speedster before you have to start having extra powers like super traction and the ability to ignore air drag. If you have a coefficient of friction with the ground of 1, the normal force equals the force of friction and so you can accelerate at up to 1g, which when you take into account air drag and the posture of running, suggests a top speed similar to terminal velocity. For a skydiver falling spreadeagle, although varying based on clothes and body size, that is generally approximated to be 120mph or 55m/s.

      1/8 of a mile is 660 feet, more than 22 times the real-world long jump record.

      If he can run as fast as stated above, this is more or less fits. Using this sim, adjusting the default human projectile to be as heavy as a totally jacked dude (100-120kg), and with a launch angle of 45 degrees, the velocity of 55m/s gives the right ballpark range of 180-220 meters depending on how you adjust the other factors like diameter (is he going shoulders first into the jump or jumping like a normal person?) and drag coefficient (that cape isn’t going to help him).

      Now the big question, what does “nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin” mean?

      This is kind of vague and could be compatible with any of the things you suggested, but based off what John Schilling said, an armor level equivalent to 1” steel is appropriate for our Terminator Superman, though if he actually had steel that thick all over, it would add hundreds of kilograms of weight.

      Model 1938 Superman’s leg muscles were 32x as powerful as an elite athlete

      This isn’t outside of the realm of possibility for artificial muscle fibers (with some severely limiting caveats).

      *Battery technology isn’t good enough. Superman would be more realistic if he could only be superpowerful for a very short period of time, and then he had to refuel by eating 50 hamburgers. He would also get very hot if he operated for a long period of time and would need some cooling method beyond human sweating.

  11. johan_larson says:

    There are two countries with more than one billion people: China and India. If you had to move to one or the other and stay there at least twenty years, which one would you choose?

    • The Nybbler says:

      India, because it was formerly run by the British. More English-speaking, less hostility to foreigners.

      • Randy M says:

        That’s a strong argument for India, but Chinese often want to learn English, and westerners are sometimes employed as English teachers in China. So it would be an opportunity.

      • Depends on what kind of hostility it is. Openly violent hostility then I’d avoid it, but if it’s “people avoid you” then for me that’s great. I’d really only want to move to either place if I was rich enough to be set for life, and money speaks as regards day to day hostility. Maybe decades down the line there might be the Chinese version of a pogrom against Westerners, but right now I think the West is rich enough that it seems like the worst is aimed at domestic minorities like the Uighur (and as sad as that it is, there’s no way anyone from outside is doing anything about it).

        I’d be very tempted to choose China over India (and put in the legwork to speak Mandarin and Cantonese) for the reason that China seems to be going places and India doesn’t. New Delhi and Mumbai don’t look like first world cities to me; they look kind of Brazilesque, as if modern skyscrapers have been plonked down into a third world backdrop. That’s more or less the best India seems to have. Beijing and Shanghai meanwhile give off the first world vibe that I love and need. China is still transitional in a way that places like South Korea and Japan aren’t, since they’ve achieved what modernity they have so quickly and disjointedly, but it’s leaps and bounds ahead of India in that respect. Maybe India will never have its day. The BRICS thing kind of fell through.

        China is more modern (in its areas that are modern), is headed towards being a superpower, and has a more cohesive sense of itself than India. In spite of having an authoritarian system, it feels more like a place that is fulfilling a kind of destiny like how the United States might have felt towards the end of the 19th Century. Add in some shallow reasons like preferring the food and women to India and if I was forced to choose between the two then it would have to be China. If the two were people, India would be absent minded, and China would be eagle eyed and productive.

        I can politically disagree with China, but I disagree with India on a social and spiritual level moreso.

        • India felt like a much more depressing place when I visited it, but that was in contrast to Shanghai, which I very much liked but which may not be typical of China. On the other hand, English is the second language of India, which would make life much easier–I’m not sure I could learn Mandarin starting at my present age. And my impression is that India is at this point making some progress.

        • @David Friedman

          And my impression is that India is at this point making some progress.

          I asked Google and it turns out the GDP growth rates of India and China are quite similar but China is higher (6.9% for China and 6.6% for India). In terms of GDP per capita you see China massively diverge from India in about the 90s.

          It could be that China has a higher economic potential than India, like I first suspected, but it could also be just that China got a headstart by liberalizing from 78 onwards, whereas India didn’t leave the “License Raj” until 1990. What’s weird though is that none of this seems to affect the average rate of growth in raw GDP, so it probably doesn’t matter. Scratch that.

    • Protagoras says:

      Obviously India. English being an overwhelming but not the only reason.

    • Statismagician says:

      India, I guess? English is more broadly useful, and I think their general-QoL trendline looks better than China’s for that time period. Plus I prefer the food.

    • Uribe says:

      I’d avoid the totalitarian country of China at all costs.

    • John Schilling says:

      Probably India.

      China has a larger aerospace industry and a more ambitious space program, so it’s not entirely inconceivable that someone there could make me an offer I wouldn’t refuse. And from my limited experience there, something like a professorship at Tsinghua University wouldn’t be out of the question. But it isn’t the way to bet.

      I can almost certainly find something useful to do in India. They have a decent little high-tech economy buried in that mass of humanity, they speak English if not American, they’ve inherited democratic government and reasonably functional institutions from their former colonial overlords, they are less likely to drag me into a war with people I like or otherwise use my talents for evil, their government is less likely to get in my way as I make my own way, and I think I would face less discrimination for being an outsider.

      Widespread poverty, pollution, and petty corruption are an issue in both places; I know where to find tolerable oases in China but I expect they aren’t hard to find in India either.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Hong Kong, which totally counts I swear, on grounds of food and infrastructure.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Until a year or two ago, I’d have definitely said China. But since then Xi’s regime has become more obviously authoritarian. It’s also becoming more obvious that there’s a segment of Indian society (and it’s the segment one would be spending the most time with as an expat) that’s very open to western/universal culture (example). So now I’d lean towards India.

    • Atlas says:

      I am really surprised that the responses so far have been so heavily tilted towards India, though perhaps I’m merely revealing my own unworldliness. My own choice, on the basis of what relatively little I know about the two countries at present, would certainly be China. This is for the simple reason that China’s population seems to have a mean IQ considerably higher than that of India’s, which, as Anatoly Karlin argues, has very important implications for the governance of the respective nations. (Note that I speaking here in terms of phenotype, not in terms of genotype.)

      I think Garrett Jones’ argument in Hive Mind, which Scott favorably reviewed, is mostly correct, and that countries with higher mean IQs tend to be better organized and have more nice things. However I am by no means planning to die on this hill; these are just some off the cuff thoughts.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        This here is a good example of what I was ranting about last .75, by the way.

        • Atlas says:

          Could you elaborate/provide a link? I took a quick look at the comments there, but wasn’t immediately sure what you were referring to.

      • albatross11 says:

        I suspect the picture w.r.t. Indian intellectual potential is:

        a. Heavily confounded by widespread poverty.

        b. Quite complicated by the caste/jati system. (Lots of smallish endogamous groups that have stayed mostly unmixed for centuries.)

      • John Schilling says:

        This is for the simple reason that China’s population seems to have a mean IQ considerably higher than that of India’s, which, as Anatoly Karlin argues, has very important implications for the governance of the respective nations.

        Germany has had a mean IQ several points above the global mean, fairly consistently across the period encompassing the Second Reich, the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Democratic Republic, and Reunited Germany. If you tell me that you would have chosen to live in Germany over e.g. Greece (about ten IQ points lower) in 1938, simply because of German academic superiority, I’d think you are making a mistake. And in 1942, I’d be trying to figure out how to kill you to correct that mistake, so it’s good that you’re not planning to die on that hill.

        So, yeah, most of us chose not to live in the country with the smart authoritarians who are hostile to just about every manifestation of human freedom other than the purely commercial and have put at least a million people in concentration camps, exhibit a disturbing level of ethnocentric bigotry, threaten military action in pursuit of dubious territorial claims, mostly don’t speak our language, and are smart. This really surprises you?

        IQ matters. Culture matters more.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          If you tell me that you would have chosen to live in Germany over e.g. Greece (about ten IQ points lower) in 1938

          Uh, hell yes I’d make that choice?

          So, yeah, most of us chose not to live in the country with the smart authoritarians who are hostile to just about every manifestation of human freedom other than the purely commercial

          And instead choose to live in Greece, where the same authoritarians are in charge and want to extract value from me as a helot?

          The war is coming. My choices are between live in a country with a terrible government doing nasty things that has some level of creature comforts (until the end days, I suppose), or live in a country where that terrible government has taken over and is wreaking havoc and devestation, and does not care one whit. In neither case will that tyrannical government listen to anything I have to say. In that case, yes, I’d rather be a Nazi subject living in Germany than one living in Greece. If I try to become a guerilla, I’d expect I’d be able to have larger impact in Germany, for that matter. (I suppose Greece gets liberated a year earlier, but I don’t think it was peaches and cream between then and V-E day either.)

          What am I missing?

          I mean, in 1938 in either location I’d do anything possible to emigrate to the US, but I think that’s banned by the hypothetical.

          As for the modern China/India thing, that’s a moderately more complicated question. I’m not sure how I feel. But I think your metaphor is 100% off.

    • Aging Loser says:

      Being able to read the nuances of facial expressions is a big deal, in terms of psychic comfort, and that’s a lot easier (for a Northwest European) with South Asians than with East Asians. (I live on the edge of Brooklyn Chinatown so I know what I’m talking about.)

      • Don_Flamingo says:

        I’m almost faceblind with non-whites, though I think that’s also a skill you can develop as needed.

    • WashedOut says:

      India, of course. Unlike China, it isn’t a wholly corrupt and delusional Orwellian nightmare, and I could study meditation there pretty much undisturbed for 20 years if I had to.

      • Don_Flamingo says:

        India is much more corrupt, I think, but much less delusional.

      • onyomi says:

        Uhh… I’m no fan of the Chinese government but this is extremely hyperbolic. And yes, India is more corrupt than China. China is probably more Orwellian than the US in many ways, but I think I could make a good argument the US is more delusional than China…

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      I don’t find Indian women attractive (or at least none of those I’ve met so far). Chinese ones though are. Marrying into an Indian family would not work, anyway. Too large cultural differences. And. AFAIK casual relationships don’t happen there much.
      I also don’t like Indian English, Bollywood, colorful Saris and Bollywood dancing, but Chinese is kinda fun and I think there’s more stuff to find there for me to like.
      I do like Indian food a lot, but I wouldn’t mind Chinese food that much. Also India has too many languages. I like the Indians around me, but find it tough to often be excluded because the conversation is in Hindi or Bengali or whatever, as much as it’s in their strange English. After a couple months of learning Chinese, they can’t pull that trick on me in China.
      20 years is a long time, after all. I’d have to pick China. I think I’d fit in there less worse. If we count Taiwan as part of China (and the PRC does, so who are we to disagree 🙂 ), then it’s a no-brainer.

      Edit: Also I find the risk of dying in a nuclear war much higher in India. If China is involved in one, then it’s probably with American and it’s WW3 everywhere/end of humanity, including India, but a Pakistan/India war has no obvious reason to involve the rest of the world.
      Perhaps India can be trusted not to start one, but I don’t have a good read on Pakistan for the next 20 years.
      Also India has historically had it’s own form of minor and major progroms, which were grassroots based. What if there’s some kind of Xenophobic/racist sentiment spreading around? In China I can at least plead that I’m a German and not an American. And they really like BMW and the German government is unlikely to anger China.

      • albatross11 says:

        Actually, if you’re looking for relationships for yourself or your kids, this is a big factor–if most women wouldn’t consider dating you in India for caste/family/cultural reasons, but most women in China would consider it, that might drive you to China even if you preferred most other things about India.

      • Deiseach says:

        After a couple months of learning Chinese, they can’t pull that trick on me in China.

        Because of course there is one and only one dialect of Chinese. What, you think if you learn Mandarin they can’t switch to Cantonese? Or one of the myriad sub-dialects?

        Mandarin is the most-spoken language in the world, with approximately 1.2 billion speakers. When most people think of “Chinese”, it is Mandarin that they are picturing. But Mandarin Chinese is far from the only variant of the Chinese language – or the only language spoken in China…

        In fact, there are a great number of Chinese languages. These include eight primary spoken dialects within mainland China, which are – in the main – mutually unintelligible. Remember – this is a country which is both very large and very, very old. Different regions within the vast expanse of terrain that is China can be separated not only by great distances but also by broadly impassable topographical features such as mountain ranges.

        Understanding the situation is complicated by the fact while many Chinese people in different geographical areas of the country may not understand each other when they speak their regional dialect, they may share the same written language. Even if their pronunciation of different characters within that language may vary.

        This is even true across locations as distinct as Taiwan and Hong Kong, for example. Both share Traditional Chinese characters as their written script. But in Taiwan, Mandarin is spoken. In Hong Kong, most people speak Cantonese.

        Even Chinese movies made in one language have to have sub-titles in the other (crappy example here) and that’s for their own native audience, why do you think a foreigner would do any better?

        • Don_Flamingo says:

          Idk, I guess, I think it’s just less likely, that they can or would do it in China.
          In Taiwan, I’ve noticed, that everybody tends to speak Mandarin (or their very much intelligble dialect of it, anyway) once there’s more people involved.
          Here in Germany, I’ve even witnessed Indians doing that to each other (Me: So, what are those two talking about?
          Some Indian: No idea. I’m not from their region.). Maybe they’re just really homesick, when they do that and it’s not representative, though.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’ve heard Indians say that they often find it easier to talk to people from other regions in English rather than in some Indian language.

    • Anonymous says:

      China. (I assume you mean the PRoC not RoC or Macau or Hong Kong.)

      Parts of China are first-world, I am already familiar with dealing with low-trust post-communist cultures, the women are apparently interested in white foreigners, I know a little bit of Chinese already and pick up languages quickly, and there are significant temperate climate zones in the country.

      Whereas India is moist and hot, the economy seems largely messed up, and it’s a hygenic nightmare with half the population defecating in the open. The only thing in its favour is the official language.

    • johan_larson says:

      I’m honestly torn. China is significantly wealthier than India (GDP per capita(PPP) 16k vs 7k), which I expect makes the cities significantly nicer places to live. India features really graphic poverty. Both places have problems with corruption and over-bureaucratization. But China is run by the Communists, which means the government is into really creepy and intrusive means of social control, such as routine censorship and the social credit scoring system.

      India, I guess. Freedom over money, unless its a crapload of money.

    • Walter says:

      India. I can only speak English.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Definitely China.

      Their communism is pretty much pure fiction at this point, and they are certainly a high-tech spy society, but that is well within the realm of survivable if I don’t particularly want to overthrow their political order, which I don’t.

    • Lambert says:

      This isn’t about averages, it’s about maxima.
      Both countries are large enough for you to find your favourite bit and ignore the rest of the place.
      Since India seems like it’s much higher variance than China, it has a very strong advantage on that front.

    • akarlin says:

      India
      * Great food

      China
      * Great food
      * Not keeling over from drinking tap water (lower chance of that, anyway)
      * Not keeling over from heatwaves (outside the south and interior)
      * Know basics of Chinese, pretty confident I can attain good conversational fluency with immersion
      * Better chance gov’t will find some use for my skill set
      * Resulting salary will be 5x higher than in India
      * Exult in the knowledge that I will be playing my small part to undermine the supreme evil that is Western neoliberal globalism

      • Gobbobobble says:

        * Exult in the knowledge that I will be playing my small part to undermine the supreme evil that is Western neoliberal globalism

        We are overdue for another World War, aren’t we? The Pax Americana sure has generated a whole lotta surplus population to cull.

  12. SteveReilly says:

    Speaking of fast food, does anyone understand the EU ruling that cost McDonald’s the trademark on “Big Mac”. As I understand it, the case hinges on McDonald’s not proving that Big Macs have been sold in Europe. Did McDonald’s have really terrible lawyers, or are the EU judges just nitpicking in order to side with David over Goliath, or am I (or the journalists) misunderstanding the case?

    Edited–Oops, forgot that the Trump-fast food thread would be below this which makes my “Speaking of fast food” opener a non sequitur.

    • Unsaintly says:

      I’ve done a little digging on the subject, but am not a lawyer myself. That being said:

      If they did in fact lose the “Big Mac” trademark, it would appear to mostly be nit picking on behalf of the judge. McDonalds submitted a lot of evidence supporting their trademark as being in active use, but the judge pointed out that none of it was fully supported – as a website and affidavits could be faked or made after the fact – and said it didn’t count without being backed up by actual order records or similar. McDonalds is planning to appeal the decision, and will definitely have said order records on the second attempt.

      On the other hand, there is a chance that this story has been misunderstood and everyone is just copying each other’s mistakes. One website I found made the claim that what McDonalds actually lost was the Supermac trademark, which they had filed for but never actually used. Only one website actually made this claim, with a second loosely supporting it, but if true it would mean that the law was correctly applied due to McDonalds not using the Supermac trademark for anything

      • SteveReilly says:

        Ah, thanks. I saw that claim on the Washington Examiner about it being the Supermac trademark and that makes a lot more sense.

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s a long-running dispute between the Irish fast-food chain “Supermac’s” and McDonalds; Supermac’s are trying to expand outside of Ireland but McDonalds successfully blocked them on grounds of the confusion that would be caused between Supermac’s and themselves by the use of “Mac” in the name, and Pat McDonagh (founder and owner of Supermac’s) wasn’t taking that lying down:

      The battle comes after McDonald’s previously succeeded in stopping Supermac’s plans to expand into Great Britain and Europe on the basis of the similarity between the name Supermac’s and the Big Mac.

      Supermac’s currently has 116 restaurants across Ireland, including three in Northern Ireland. Following this judgment, it now hopes to expand into the Great Britain and Europe.

      However, the judgement seems to be on technical grounds over a limited range; McDonalds seems to have trademarked a lot of variations on “Big Mac” and “Mc” in a fashion similar to buying up Internet domain names, then done nothing with them, and that is what the court ruled about not establishing a trademark:

      “It follows from the above that the EUTM proprietor has not proven genuine use of the contested EUTM for any of the goods and services for which it is registered. As a result, the application for revocation is wholly successful and the contested EUTM must be revoked in its entirety. According to Article 62(1) EUTMR, the revocation will take effect from the date of the application for revocation, that is, as of 11/04/2017.”

      So the court seems to be saying “In the case of [special claim here] you haven’t shown that you’ve really established a trademark”. I don’t think this means that now Supermac’s can call its own burgers “Big Macs” but they can say “By using “mac” in our name we’re not infringing on you”:

      Next up, they will look at their plans for expanding. “The European office now has the opportunity to decide on granting us the Supermac’s trademark for a food service, so we can operate in the food service business basically,” he said.

  13. sunnydestroy says:

    Anyone have any opinions on the sale price valuations of Asian stocks?

    I’m personally pretty iffy about Chinese stocks in particular just because I’ve gotten burnt hard before due to fraud in the books. Like, my investment went down to $0.00 level of fraud. I just don’t know if the accounting is fudged or not when it comes to Chinese books so I just stay away. It might be arguable that larger caps don’t have as much risk downside though.

    • jgr314 says:

      I don’t really trade equities in Asia, but there was a recent bloomberg article about really severe corporate governance problems in … HK. Given that they are basically the gold standard in the region (with the possible exception of Singapore), that is a pretty negative statement.

      Also, I would caution you against the view that large caps are immune to governance problems.

  14. Plumber says:

    Two political things are in my mind;

    First: I’m a really bad prognosticator.

    A while back I wrote something to the effect of “The Democrats chasing after the educated suburban vote is a fool’s errand, they aren’t swing voters”, well I was wrong, as well as bringing back some Obama-to-Trump voters in the Rust Belt, the Democrats gained voters from the suburbs, which I really didn’t expect. 

    Second: You guys are probably ahead of me on this, but most weeks I read some of the opinion pieces from the New York Times, and the Washington Post, and last week I saw pieces from Brooks, Douthat, and Emba – all of which referenced a “populist” leaning monologue by Tucker Carlson on Fox News. 

    Reading the monologue I see much I wouldn’t expect, much I disagree with, but also some things I’ve said myself, and that’s very interesting to me (and a Republican finally acknowledging economic conditions driving cultural changes is amazing!).

    Trump also said many populist things during his campaign – as do most candidates, Democratic and Republican, but what he’s actually delivered is the usual Republican tax cuts – I haven’t seen any sign of the promised public works in the last two years, but it looks to me that, just as the Democratic base had a sizable Sanderist revolt in 2016, the populist contingent of the Republican Party is starting to chaff more and more at only the donor classes goals being inacted (though judging by my prediction record probably not).

    What do you who are better prophets than me think about this?

    • Nick says:

      I don’t think the suburban shift to Democrats is necessarily permanent; one way to read it is those voters punishing Republicans for Trump and the general shift in the party by either voting Democrat or staying home.

      The Carlson monologue is interesting, and I’ve been reading some of the debate on that. I don’t agree with Carlson that it’s all the fault of deliberate actions by The Elites, and framing it that way is probably the biggest flaw in it. Actually—sorry, instead of recapitulating everything I think about this, I’m just going to copy-paste my thoughts after I read some early responses to it. This is unedited and comes out of a journal, so I’m not making any effort to be clear, but I think some ideas come through:

      01/10/2019 8:56PM
      This is going to be a short one, though it merits more space than I’m going to give it. A few days ago Tucker Carlson gave a 15 minute monologue on his show laying out a different kind of populism. I don’t think it’s Trumpism–it’s actually something closer to reform conservatism. He links devastation in many areas of the country to the destruction of family and community, and includes the free market as one of these destructive forces, and the legalization of things like pot as others. Carlson thinks this is being orchestrated by elites who, despite living in a pretty conservative way themselves, preach an increasingly libertine ethic that is destroying everyone else, and increasingly arrogate the benefits of the economy to themselves.

      This sparked a firestorm of commentary in the conservative world. David French at _National Review_ and Ben Shapiro at _The Daily Wire_ had some pretty sharp criticisms of it, though they agreed with a fair bit too. The commonest criticism is that Carlson is encouraging a victim mentality, and one that’s going to inevitably lead to disappointment and even greater resentment, because the problems we face are not actually very tractable. The second commonest criticism, which French really hammered, is that personal choices matter a great, great deal more to one’s success or failure in life than any federal policies, so drawing attention from the former to the latter is a bad idea.

      The first I think is an uncontroversially fair criticism of Carlson’s presentation. He was doing it on television, of course, so it’s hardly surprising, but it’s still a flaw that a serious presentation of “Carlsonism” needs to fix. The second is less fair. As MBD, who wrote a great response essay, pointed out, as well as Reihan Salam in The Editors podcast, pushing personal responsibility only goes so far, because there are ultimately significant factors at the level of community and federal policy too. It’s not going to be enough, for most people, much less to get the most out of the situation, to inculcate personal responsibility. We need communities that reinforce that in healthy ways and help out when one fails, and we need government policies that, at the very least, aren’t actively harming what one needs to make those choices, or the communities needed to foster that, and even a little more on that front would be a pretty big help.

      I’m inclined to side with MBD and Salam here. I like MBD and respect him, and he’s obviously right that at some point you have to do more than just clean your room. (Peterson expresses caution here, since he’s concerned about patterns of self-victimization. This is a serious concern, to be sure, but voting doesn’t have to be this monumental engagement with the world. If you spend 99% of your year setting your house in order, and 1% voting responsibly, this is already more than French or Shapiro seem to believe is possible.)

      Salam also made a point not unlike Ross Douthat’s one about our meritocratic elite. In Mormon communities real sacrifices of time and money are required of members to support one another and the broader community. Mitt Romney, despite being the target of Carlson’s ire, very much fits this mold. And it’s none other than the old WASP mold, even though Romney is no Protestant! The Utah Mormons are descended from New England Protestants, and it’s not surprising that they’ve preserved a culture where there are very strong expectations for elites to serve their communities. Salam doesn’t connect it to Ross’s argument, perhaps to avoid giant Twitter shitstorms, but the two are consonant. It’s kind of a shame, though, that he doesn’t bring it up, because he could point out a very serious failure mode in all this praise of personal responsibility, which is that those who pull themselves up by their bootstraps may end up a little full of themselves.

      Salam made a very good impression in the podcast. He doesn’t participate in it much, and I’ve read very little of his writing, so I don’t know him well, but I think this is an indication he’s someone to watch. He seems to be reform conservatism’s policy wonk, which is cool! They could use one. I’m going to be keeping an eye on his writing in the future.

      Links for posterity:
      https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/tucker-carlson-mitt-romney-supports-the-status-quo-but-for-everyone-else-its-infuriating
      https://www.nationalreview.com/podcasts/the-editors/episode-127-is-it-an-emergency/
      https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/01/tucker-carlson-monologue-populism-politics-personal-responsibility/
      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/05/opinion/george-bush-wasps.html
      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/08/opinion/sunday/wasps-meritocracy-ross-douthat.html

      • albatross11 says:

        I believe Salam was also interviewed on Jonah Goldberg’s podcast awhile back.

        • Nick says:

          I might listen to that. I listen to The Editors and Ordered Liberty on and off, but only the most recent ten episodes are available to listen to, and I have no idea how to get access to the rest. Like, I couldn’t find information about this anywhere, is it a subscriber feature? I would subscribe for a while if I could listen to back episodes.

        • Nick says:

          I had this waiting in the mail for me when I got home today. Those National Review folks sure work fast.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I haven’t seen any sign of the promised public works in the last two years

      He’s currently holding up government appropriations in an attempt to get funding for a YUGE public works project, what more do you want?

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Less of this please. In the context of “public works jobs in a populist context,” a single national construction project is very non-central, and it’s disrespectful to Plumber to pretend it isn’t with that sort of tone.

        • Walter says:

          I dunno, I kind of agree with The Nybler’s point. Like, the idea that Trump isn’t trying to deliver to his base seems to founder on his currently being seen trying to build a wall to protect people and bring our guys home from Syria.

          I don’t get Plumber’s question. Trump promised to try and help his base, and he’s done so pretty relentlessly. He cut their taxes, started a trade war to try and get them jobs, and is trying to build a wall to keep out their competition. Like, I get that he’s not succeeding at helping them, because that’s not actually in the cards, but claiming he’s not trying seems wrong.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            And if you put a bill on Trump’s desk with wall funding and a trillion dollars to repair roads, bridges, dams, etc, he’d sign it in a heartbeat. Dems could pass such a thing. They will not, even if they might agree with it, because they despise Trump that much.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            They could pass such a thing, but not pay for it. That’s more the problem, I think.

            @Walter

            You don’t understand the question because you’re thinking too big. A few % shifts on taxes and immigration numbers isn’t anywhere near the change that was promised. There’s a difference between the government promising a chicken in every pot and the government delivering BOGO chickens in every Whole Foods.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think whether or not the government can pay for things has been a serious point of contention for a long, long time.

          • Plumber says:

            @Walter

            “….Like, I get that he’s not succeeding at helping them, because that’s not actually in the cards, but claiming he’s not trying seems wrong”

            Trump sold himself as a “deal-maker” and the Party that he nominally belongs to controlled congress for the first two years of his Presidency, our last President also made lots of unfulfilled promises, but one promise, making a Massachusetts like health care system National, was effected (which wasn’t exactly the change promised, but it was a big deal).

            I don’t think anyone expects F.D.R., Eisenhower, or Johnson scale changes anymore but Trump just doesn’t seem like much of a deal-maker even when congress was the same Party as him.

          • Walter says:

            I think we mostly agree here. Like, you seem to feel that he’s failed, I agree. I think he tried/is trying, and it seems like you agree there.

            I feel like, it is easy to overestimate the presidency’s powers. President Obama is generally thought of as competent and hard working, and he spent 8 years in office and didn’t successfully close Guantanamo.

            I’m not salty Trump failed, because his goal was impossible. I guess that’s the last point of contention? Like, do we agree that nobody else in Trump’s shoes could have successfully solved immigration and brought back manufacturing jobs?

          • John Schilling says:

            President Obama is generally thought of as competent and hard working, and he spent 8 years in office and didn’t successfully close Guantanamo.

            That’s because his actual goal was to A: close Guantanamo and B: lock up everyone presently at Guantanamo in some other prison and C: definitely not A until B was complete. Unfortunately, “prison full of the worst terrorists we’ve found in fifteen years of hunting” was rather high on the NIMBY list. And of course the GOP wasn’t eager to hand him a symbolic win by paying the relocation costs.

          • albatross11 says:

            Also, Gitmo is basically a gulag for people who can’t be tried in a civilized court because we got the evidence against them with torture or illegal surveillance, or because we’ve tortured them and we don’t want that coming out in court for political reasons. Most people who oppose this on moral/civil liberties grounds don’t actually feel better about this if we move the gulag to rural Iowa instead of Cuba.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad:

            More to the point, they know that if they compromise there, Trump will be running in 2020 with a claim that he won a bitter fight with Congress to Build The Wall, which will probably give him a good shot at winning re-election. Democrats as a whole aren’t united on much, but I think they’re all pretty sure they don’t want Trump getting re-elected.

          • ana53294 says:

            Yeah, the main reason people dislike Guantanamo is not because it is in Cuban territory. It’s because of the human rights abuses. Many of these people where imprisoned illegally. I am pretty sure most of the evidence against them would be inadmissible in court because of how it was obtained.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            Late reply, but… Modern Monetary Theory isn’t a mainstream position. It’s insanity.

          • brad says:

            There’s nothing insane about it. It’s merely treats inflation as an observed variable. That seems entirely reasonable given the spectacular failures of other monetary theories to actually predict it.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      If this catches on beyond Tucker Carlson and the usual TradCath guys that talk about it, things have the potential to go south fast… there’s not a roadmap for any of this, but when right-wingers start talking about the excesses of capitalism and degenerate elites and say changes need to be made so the socialists don’t become popular, it’s not a good sign historically.

      • Aapje says:

        @ilikekittycat

        I think that you are mistaking the symptom for the cause. At the same time as complaints about the excesses of capitalism and abusive elites became popular on the right, it also became popular on the left. See communism.

        My conclusion is then that there was immense discontent which the status quo among the populace, not that fascism was particularly attractive.

        Furthermore, I would argue that the lesson of that time is that the best solution was a pretty sharp political change to actually address the reasons for the discontent. This political change that seems to have worked quite well at that time was social democracy (although we may need something a bit different at this time).

    • Yakimi says:

      For one thing, the u.s. empire is the largest of the historic European settler-colonial societies, but it is rapidly (in historical terms) being de settlerized by imperialism. That’s why in the right-wing reign of President “W” (for “White”) a Japanese-American general is head of the u.s. army, another Japanese-American is secretary of transportation, while African-Americans are secretary of state and “W”‘s national security advisor (did you ever think you’d see a Black woman as the presidential national security advisor?). NASA’s chief of the technology applications division is a Black woman scientist and the head of ATF’s anti-terrorism division is a white woman cop. In Silicon Valley there are four hundred computer corporations owned by Indian immigrant scientists. Oh, there’s tons of white male privilege and white male preference here still and will be for generations, the continuing momentum of “the daily lives of millions”. But the big guys are sending a message down to ordinary white men. It’s like a bomb. In the new globalized multicultural capitalism, in the new computer society, the provincial, sheltered white settler life of America is going to be as over as the white settler life of the South African “Afrikaners” is. Forget about it.

      —J. Sakai, The Shock of Recognition (2002)

      Righties are at last realizing that the defeat of socialism did nothing to further their desiderata and in fact untethered capital from its nominal alliance with the conservative and national agenda, and that they are being done in by the very forces they unleashed. The corporate world has made its culture war allegiances unambiguously clear. I expect future iterations of conservatism to be much more hostile to untrammeled corporate power.

      • Walter says:

        I feel like ‘the corporate world’ is mostly a tale wagged by culture. Like, the HR departments aren’t on the democrat’s side because they have been secretly infiltrated by progressives, they are on the democrat’s side because being progressive is financially better than being conservative, and that’s their job.

        The right lost culture for the obvious reasons, and we aren’t ever going to get it back. We aren’t going to turn away from capitalism because it is obeying its incentives and pissing on us, if we could do that kind of thing we’d all have been progressives long ago.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          Don’t underestimate the power of various federal and state laws in the actions of HR departments. If a company can get sued for not taking certain complaints seriously (and they can and do), then the people hired to make those decisions and avoid lawsuits are going to be really strong “supporters” of such laws. Whether they love or hate the laws personally, their actions will be extremely supportive. Not only existing laws that currently are in effect, but also the fear that an insufficient level of support for “marginalized” populations may result in new laws.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Different job-types lend themselves to different kinds of psychological profiles. There’s also the cascading effect of partisanship in an organization, a handful of people willing to enact purges out of strong conviction [not because they identify as being part of a conspiracy]

          Pinning it down strictly to market forces ignores the fact that this kind of signaling is very far from the median of the company’s customers and society at large, and is also of questionable profitability.

          So either 1. corporate Decision-making is increasingly being made by an unrepresentative segment of society 2. some unseen market or legal force is at work that forces to companies to unwillingly adopt a hard-line position that costs them money [but less money then they would otherwise]

          When it comes to advertisements and product development I lean strongly in favor of #1, for hiring I suspect its a combination of 1 and 2.

      • AG says:

        I expect future iterations of conservatism to be much more hostile to untrammeled corporate power.

        Revealed preferences show the opposite. Cutting taxes on the richest, emphasis on deregulation, appointees that are the exact opposite as draining the swamp, a complete lack of trust-busting, the embrace of corporate corruption by the right has never been so enthusiastic.
        (The left’s embrace of corporate corruption isn’t any better, but I’m answering the quote above.)

  15. Nicholas Weininger says:

    People who follow monetary policy: are there any good studies out there of whether the inter-regional divergences of economic outcomes in the US, and subsequent political dynamics, are related to the US becoming less of an optimal currency area?

    Thinking about the problems the eurozone has had, I wonder if the comparison of “rural heartland vs elite coastal cities” to “Greece vs Germany” is at all fruitful. Certainly the resentment of the one for the other seems partly-driven in both cases by a similar sense of having been screwed over economically. The question I’m interested in is whether, in a world where different regions of the US somehow had different currencies and fiscal policies but people and goods could still move freely among them in the way that EU citizens can move among the Schengen countries even though some of them aren’t on the euro, this could have been ameliorated.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Honestly, I don’t see this come up much in the popular econ blogosphere. It’s taken a total back-seat to other topics, like general recession management, income inequality, taxes, and more specific phenomenon like food desserts or limited behavioral insights.

      My brief guess is that the data would not show a significant change between now and 15 years ago. Even with economic divergence, places like San Francisco clearly suffered during the recession just like Omaha did. We don’t have totally different business cycles.

      Meanwhile, Greece continues to have unemployment at 19%, while Germany has unemployment of 3-4%. France has unemployment of 9%, which has been totally consistent since the recession. So, in typical terms, you’d think of Germany as overheating, France as steady state, and Greece as in a severe depression. What’s the correct European monetary policy?

      The US policy is substantially clearer, as our “Greece” is something like West Virginia, which is still pretty damn correlated with the rest of the US, even if it is still higher than the 2007 rate. So, even in the chance we are getting worse, I don’t think we’re nearly as bad off as Europe.

      Most of the problem in the US seems to just be structural changes. Detroit isn’t getting poorer because its economy is uncorrelated with the rest of the US economy, it’s getting poorer because American car companies shut down.

    • 10240 says:

      [Not an expert] As I’ve discussed before, I don’t really get why such a divergence would mean that having a single currency is not optimal. Or, rather, my understanding is that the regions/countries having separate currencies can have an advantage if, as a result of restrictions on dismissal, a high minimum wage etc., external devaluation (i.e. currency devaluation) is the only way to reduce the prices and wages in one region compared to another, as opposed to internal devaluation (i.e. a decrease in prices and wages, when measured in local currency, which may then be the same as the currency in the other region). But the US has at-will employment, weak unions and a low minimum wage, so it may have relatively little barrier to righting any imbalance though market mechanisms, even with a single currency. Furthermore, even if downward stickiness of wages can’t be avoided, an alternative to separate currencies could be to set a higher (average) inflation rate; then prices and wages in one region can lower compared to the other without having deflation anywhere (e.g. 0% inflation in one region and 5% in another rather than -2% and 3%).

    • Erusian says:

      I’m not aware of any studies but, beyond a feeling of having been screwed over, there’s very little analogous. In particular, the US is not a large export economy. Almost half of the German economy relies on exports, often debt-fueled exports to other countries funded by their own banks. They often specifically trade with weaker, less developed countries as well. The US doesn’t really have an analogous model. Only 10% of the US economy is export based and the less developed areas tend to export to the more developed ones.

      So the Heartland is more analogous to Germany, not Greece. It ‘exports’ food, manufactured goods, etc produced by capital heavy industries to the Coasts. But the Coasts aren’t really Greece either. While they have much larger welfare states, perhaps even arguably unsustainable ones, they also have much stronger economies. There would be a balance of trade problem (the coasts would import much more than they export) but they wouldn’t have to rely on Midwestern banks to finance it the way Greece did. It certainly isn’t like Southern Europe where many financial instruments hadn’t been introduced prior to integration.

  16. Aging Loser says:

    I’ve been reading a 13th century German verse-novel/romance called TRISTAN (based on earlier versions of the Tristan story). It’s very eerie and pagan-feeling. Tristan is a supernaturally gifted musician like Orpheus, knows all languages and is a trickster and supernaturally gifted liar like Hermes. He receives a poisoned wound in a fight with an Irish antagonist called “Morold” and has to be healed by Morold’s sister, the queen of Ireland, who seems to be a kind of witch-goddess. (Isolde is the queen’s daughter.) This must be a version of the dying-and-resurrected king theme (with the dark alter-ego/Set-figure represented by Morold) that Robert Graves sees as the key to everything. (Ireland, across the Western Sea, might be the land of the dead — just as Odysseus visits the land of the dead, which I had assumed to be America, across the Western Sea.)

    Another thing that I’ve been reading, which some of you probably already know about, is George Macdonald’s PHANTASTES — I learned about via C. S. Lewis’s reference in THE FOUR LOVES to the protagonist’s Shadow. I’m enjoying it a lot — it’s very strange. Gutenberg has the text online if anyone’s interested.

    • theredsheep says:

      I haven’t read Phantastes, but I did read his Lilith once. It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever read.

      • FLWAB says:

        I’ve read both Phantastes and Lilith: they are both strange, but good. It’s hard to find work like them: they’re very unique. A lot of MacDonalds work can seem a bit…trippy? But a trip where everything has some deep meaning, or at least seems too. His short story The Golden Key is a good sample of what I mean. His work definitely subverts genre expectations, but not out of deconstruction since he wrote them long before fantasy became an established genre: the conventions are subverted because they don’t exist yet, like a man who drives off road because nobody has made any roads yet.

        • Nick says:

          His work definitely subverts genre expectations, but not out of deconstruction since he wrote them long before fantasy became an established genre: the conventions are subverted because they don’t exist yet, like a man who drives off road because nobody has made any roads yet.

          TVTropes has a term for this, Unbuilt Trope.

          One of the neat things about reading works written prior to establishment of the genre conventions is getting a glimpse at other forms those conventions might have taken.

  17. theredsheep says:

    To what extent is (for lack of a better term) “virtue signalling” a bad thing? I’m thinking of the Gillette ad. Now, before anybody starts, I don’t really care about whether the ad is meant to be offensive, or should be perceived as such. Nor about whether MeToo et al are more good than bad on average, or anything like that. I want to focus on the question of whether any given moral cause being loudly adopted out of selfish motives is more likely to be good or bad for that cause.

    If, of course, you have a good argument as to why that ad is not primarily cynicism on Gillette’s part, I’d like to hear it. It seems clear to me that anything that cost as much to make and promote as that spot would not go under the philanthropy budget, such as it is, but as a form of marketing. And, of course, you could argue whether corporate philanthropy and marketing are even different things in the first place.

    Jesus said to do good in secret, and to oil our faces when we fast, whereas a Jewish author I once read argued that, if selfish motives induce more people to do good deeds, hey, that means so many more good deeds done, right? In the case of the Gillette ad, I have my doubts whether it actually accomplishes any good at all, again assuming you define MeToo’s goals as good. Nobody is going to pause before catcalling a woman and think, “wait, would Gillette approve of this?” Nor is it likely to convince anyone. But, of course, that is symptomatic of our deep cultural division at this particular moment, and might not apply to all times and places.

    Either way, I have my doubts as to whether a powerful actor like a corporation signing on to a cause does it any good, except insofar as they might later choose to flex their muscles to enforce the good as a moral norm, or contribute resources directly to it. But I’m not sure it can do any harm. What do you think?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I don’t think there’s any harm to truly signalling virtue — “I, Oz the Great and Powerful, am making sure babies get to eat” is probably usually positive, assuming he’s really doing so. But once you’re beyond that, you can definitely have problems. There’s that saying that hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, but “I, Homer The Thief, endorse the Citizens Campaign Against Theft” is likely to instill doubt about the Citizens Campaign (even if they really do good work). Even if you go to neutrality (Gillette being neither known for particular virtue nor vice where #MeToo is concerned), you can have problems. If virtue just becomes another way to sell razors, will people believe it is truly virtue?

      • theredsheep says:

        What would it mean for signal-boosting MeToo to be “truly” virtue? They’re pushing fairly standard prog orthodoxy there AFAICT.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Signal-boosting MeToo is not virtue. For there to be any true virtue involved, Gillette would have be doing the things they were promoting in the ad. Gillette is a classic faceless corporation (well, faceless subsidiary of a faceless corporation) and cannot manage that.

    • Uribe says:

      Virtue signalling is bad when it is transparent, because it makes people cynical, which lowers trust levels in society. Virtue signalling can only be a good thing if it’s done well. The Gillette ad feels phony (phonier than most ads) and therefore winds up signalling cynicism instead of virtue.

      • theredsheep says:

        It might depend on who’s viewing it; a lot of reactions I’ve read, from non-polarized people, seem to find nothing objectionable about it and can’t understand why people are getting upset.

        • Aapje says:

          The ad uses the term ‘toxic masculinity’ which comes with a lot of baggage. Those who are not aware of that baggage might not find it objectionable, but that may then be ignorance on their part. They might consider it objectionable if they were more aware of the meaning/use of the term.

          I would also argue that overly negative beliefs about men’s wickedness and overly positive beliefs about women’s virtuousness are the status quo. Non-polarized people’s opinions may then not be indicative of high morals, in the same way that the average Ancient Roman’s view on slavery would probably not be considered unobjectionable today.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            In addition to using “toxic masculinity”, the ad plays motte-and-bailey with it. (Are the guys we see anxiously scrutinizing themselves in the mirror supposed to be the toxic kind– rapists, wife-beaters, harassers? If not, what is it they’re supposed to be asking themselves?) So, not too surprising to see a certain number of non-polarized people exclaiming over the sturdiness of the motte.

            A better question might be why people who normally ridicule the idea of microaggression are getting upset. The ad is just the sort of thing that would qualify if it were aimed at one of the groups that aren’t considered fair game.

          • Randy M says:

            A better question might be why people who normally ridicule the idea of microaggression are getting upset.

            Aren’t μAgs usually unintentional faux pas, like saying “would you like to get lunch?” to a Muslim during Ramadan or something? This is corporate, targeted, and intentional. It seems to be at least a centiAg.

          • vV_Vv says:

            A better question might be why people who normally ridicule the idea of microaggression are getting upset. The ad is just the sort of thing that would qualify if it were aimed at one of the groups that aren’t considered fair game.

            The “micro” in microaggression implies that the aggression is small both in scope and intensity, when a big corporation releases an ad calling out your entire demographic group, I’d say it’s a pretty macro aggression.

            Imagine if the ad featured stereotypical Muslim immigrants selling drugs, molesting children, driving trucks into crowds while shouting “Allahu Akbar”, etc., then clips of Paul Joseph Watson play and you hear the words “demographic replacement” and “white genocide”, then some helpful Muslims show up to correct their coreligionaries, end with the motto “the best a Muslim can be”.

            Would you call that a microaggression?

          • AG says:

            @vV_Vv

            It’s a microaggression because it’s an indirect attack.

            “I don’t care for X class” is macro. “I don’t care for Y element of X class (but most X is Y)” is micro.

            Stating “All women should stay in the kitchen” is macro. Making kitchen jokes in the earshot of a woman coworker is indirect, so it’s micro.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Although most microaggressions are indeed indirect, I don’t think it’s the indirectness per se that makes them microaggressions, but rather the trivial (when taken in isolation) scale of the aggression. A major company showing an advert on national television isn’t trivial.

        • Jesse E says:

          Yup, this is it.

          Now, do people remember a Kendall Jenner ad from a year or so ago with Pepsi? It was kind of silly, slammed by both the Left and Right for “virtue signalling” about race and other thing.

          Guess what? African American and Latino people actually liked it.

          Just like outside of the Twitter/Reddit/Online bubble, I’ve seen zero negative reactions to this ad, even from relatively conservative people.

          Is it a kind of cheesy ad? Sure.

          But the people acting like Gillette is allying with feminist SJW’s to try to destroy masculinity looks silly when a Normie watches the ad.

    • DeWitt says:

      But I’m not sure it can do any harm.

      It reduces trust, becomes an arms race, and comes with free rider problems.

      I’m a little tired and can’t elaborate on this all as well as I’d like, but consider the image of politicians promising to be tough on crime. Taken unto itself, ‘I will not be very kind to people who break the law’ isn’t very objectionable. When multiple people run for office, virtue signaling becomes a problem, and you can end up with some overly severe measures getting proposed because everyone wants to look tough on crime the most.

      Tired now, sorry, but I do hope that illustrates one issue at least a little.

      • theredsheep says:

        Yeah, I get you. My OP was pretty muddled too, if it comes to that, so you’re fine. I probably should have made its focus narrower, though, since it’s hard to apply your perfectly cogent point to Gillette’s particular case.

      • Aapje says:

        @DeWitt

        To add to that, a lot of virtue signalling involves a hero-villain dichotomy, often based on stereotypes. This has potential problems such as mistreating people for crimes of others, but also the stereotypes being quite wrong and/or greatly exaggerated, resulting in not just unwarranted treatment of individuals by other individuals, but also unfair policies.

        For example, the mainstream and false belief that men are almost never victims of domestic violence by women (disproved by hundreds of victim survey studies) has resulted in victims being judged and treated as extremely unmanly outliers by other people, a lack of government funding to help male victims, male victims being treated as perpetrators by the police, victim support organizations, etc.

        We have a culture where male victimization is blamed on men (themselves) and female victimization on men. This ad just perpetuates and strengthens that sexism.

    • brad says:

      To what extent is (for lack of a better term) “virtue signalling” a bad thing?

      I don’t know what “virtue signalling” is supposed to mean these days other than it is something to be used as an insult when anyone says something the speaker thinks is too “progressive”.

      Let’s even narrow it down to corporate virtue signalling to give ourselves an easier definitional task. Is it virtue signalling for Chick Fil A to be closed on Sundays? Is it virtue signalling for Chipotle to use napkins made out of recycled paper? Is it virtue signalling for McDonalds to pay for the parents of children that are hospitalized to stay in hotels near the hospital?

      Jesus said to do good in secret, and to oil our faces when we fast, whereas a Jewish author I once read argued that, if selfish motives induce more people to do good deeds,

      FWIW the position you attribute to Jesus position is the halachically Jewish one, (see Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, Laws of Charity) not whoever that author that was.

      • woah77 says:

        I think it’s reasonable to distinguish between signalling and charitable activities. Companies who are giving money to causes aren’t merely signalling, they’re actively supporting their cause. Similarly, Chick Fil A isn’t running ads saying “Don’t come here, go to church this Sunday!” they’re just closing all their locations on Sunday so that employees have the opportunity to go to church and spend time with their families. I think for it to be signalling, it needs to be public and intended for an audience. I can’t see Chich Fil A or McDonalds qualifying there. Are their charitable activities private? No. But they aren’t exactly advertising it either.

      • theredsheep says:

        I had a vague inkling that the author was speaking for the Jewish position in general, but I read the book more than a year ago and didn’t want to make claims I wasn’t sure of. Thanks.

        Re: CFA et al, I would (like whoa77) distinguish those from merely endorsing a currently popular message without actively contributing to it via legal pressure, contributions, and the like. CFA’s position is probably helping to sustain a Christian culture to some extent, Chipotle … well, I’m not sure how economical recycling is in the first place, but if it is, they’re doing their bit. McDonalds is just being nice there, since “let kids be near their sick parents” isn’t part of any movement I can think of.

      • Aapje says:

        @Brad

        I would argue that “virtue signalling” as a pejorative is typically intended to call out those who act as authorities on morality, thus implying that they themselves know how to behave morally, while actually being hypocrites. Especially when the ‘signaller’ is doing something that is fairly costly for others, but not themselves.

        However, what seems hypocritical to some may not seem hypocritical to others. For example, some people think that Gillette is hypocritical for saying that they want to reduce sexism, while they actually spread (inaccurate) sexist stereotypes about men. Others think that Gillette is hypocritical for adopting feminist arguments that suit their business model, but not those that would harm it.

        In this sense a lot of accusations of virtue signalling are very subjective & depend on what one sees as hypocrisy. For one person, being anti-abortion is seen as choosing for women to die due to amateur abortions and thus is inconsistent with a claim of ‘loving thy neighbor,’ while to another, being anti-abortion is seen as choosing for fewer fetuses to be murdered and thus fully compatible with neighborly love.

        While ‘virtue signalling’ as a term may be typically be aimed at progressives, my observation is that progressives make similar accusations against others, just with different language.

        PS. Chastising others can very easily be interpreted as hypocritical, because it’s a demand on others, not an actual effort by the chastiser. So a very small sacrifice that isn’t made by that person/company themselves can thus seem hypocritical: “You want me to make a substantial sacrifice and/or what you do harms me, but you are unwilling to make such sacrifice and/or face such harm yourself.”

        • quanta413 says:

          Others think that Gillette is hypocritical for adopting feminist arguments that suit their business model, but not those that would harm it.

          Speaking of which, Gillette needs to make a line of “female” razors that don’t suck. The pink ones are crappy at cutting hair compared to the comparably priced not pink ones.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The point of the female razors is to suck. People who buy pink plastic for no reason will buy it at a premium for no reason, so…

          • quanta413 says:

            When I think about it harder, it’s just the pink electric ones that suck to my knowledge. I have not heard complaints about the non electric ones.

            Actually, I think most of the electric ones are a different brand, so I’m blaming the wrong company. Gillette should still swoop in here and make not sucky ones.

          • acymetric says:

            Ah. Your mistake is in thinking that electric razors don’t suck generally. I suppose it depends on what you’re looking for, but my experience in trying (non-pink) electric razors is that they

            a) don’t get a close enough shave

            b) tend to pull hairs a little bit

            I think they are primarily for people who don’t need a super close shave, or those who have thin/fine/non-thick hair. If one of those thing describes you (and leg hair is not typically particularly fine even for women) electric razors are probably out. I’m not sure I even realized they marketed electric razors to women.

          • quanta413 says:

            Electrics don’t cut quite as close, but the men’s electrics are still better. A good electric razor doesn’t pull unless the hair is really tough or long. The pink ones aren’t good though.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I know the term “virtue signalling” is your pet peeve, brad. Can we come up with some other term to specify “signalling of low-cost virtue while expecting high-value returns?”

        How about “virtua signalling?”

        • brad says:

          Right now I’m still trying to figure out if there’s any there there. If it’s a term whose entire purpose is to be a pejorative to fling at the left of center, brainstorming an alternative isn’t high on my list of things to do.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So what do you think about Gillette’s ad then? Commendable or condemnable? If the latter, then what would you call it?

          • brad says:

            I just watched it. I’m surprised there’s so much furor. It seemed pretty anodyne to me. That said, it also didn’t seem especially effective to me, I don’t want to run out and buy a mach 3. But what do I know about advertising?

      • brad says:

        Replying at this level because it is to both woah77 and theredsheep (edit: the other responses were posted while I was writing)

        Does signalling as used in the phrase only means empty, bad faith communication?

        Take, for example, the sentence:
        “The single women were signalling their availability by wearing revealing clothes, in contrast the married women were wearing longer dresses.”

        I think that’s a perfectly reasonable use of the word “signalling” without even getting into the perhaps jargon-y version from the social sciences. But I don’t think it matches how either of you are suggesting “virtue signalling” should be used.

        • theredsheep says:

          I did say “for lack of a better term.” I know it’s loaded, and I’m sorry I couldn’t think of a better one.

        • woah77 says:

          I suppose my definition of virtue signalling indicates a lack of effecting change. Chick Fil A, McDonalds, Chipotle are all effecting a change (regardless of its effectiveness). Gillette isn’t starting a men’s program to help men out. They aren’t directing money towards a cause. They made an ad for [some amount of money] and aren’t doing anything other than selling razors. When I hear or say virtue signalling, I understand that the person/entity isn’t doing anything. It’s armchair activism.

          I know it’s a fuzzy category, because I’ve seen cases where what appeared to be virtue signalling resulted in effective activism, but most of the time you’ll see people supporting something with only words and no actions, such as “thoughts and prayers.” Whenever an activity is done to show others how good a person you are without producing any actions or results, you are virtue signalling.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Whenever an activity is done to show others how good a person you are without producing any actions or results, you are virtue signalling.

            And I think brad’s objection, with which I supersize, is that “virtue signalling” is a real thing in social science where people signal real virtue by doing costly things that also signal virtue. Like forgoing meat because of the ethical problems with consuming animals, or carrying an unwanted baby to term because abortion is wrong. People started using it ironically to mock people who were using low-cost signalling but still expecting high-value rewards, and now people just assume the ironic definition is the actual definition.

            I propose “virtua signalling” as a term for the fake signalling of virtue.

          • hls2003 says:

            @Conrad:

            How about “virtual virtue”?

          • woah77 says:

            I can accept that. I supposed that when I see a costly thing that signals virtue I immediately categorize it as charity/activism/volunteering/etc and not as “virtue signally.” It’s not something I’m super attached to, just how I expect it to be used and what I expect when I see it used (low cost signalling). Virtua signally works just as well for me.

      • Randy M says:

        To take one example on your list:
        Using recycled paper for napkins–not virtue signalling.
        Printing “Made using 100% recycled paper!” on your napkins (whether true or not)–virtue signalling.
        Also probably harmless, but perhaps grating depending on the language. Like if it says “By eating here, you are helping to save the rain forests and preserve biodiversity that keeps our planet healthy!”

        Lots of things get called virtue signalling. Being virtue signalling isn’t about being a good or bad action; compare doing your work ahead of schedule and then trumpeting it to the office. No, you weren’t wrong to do your job well, but you are probably irritating your coworkers.

        And then the term might be used when there are actual disagreements about whether the actions are positive, neutral, or negative.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Is it virtue signalling for Chick Fil A to be closed on Sundays? Is it virtue signalling for Chipotle to use napkins made out of recycled paper? Is it virtue signalling for McDonalds to pay for the parents of children that are hospitalized to stay in hotels near the hospital?

        The short (and technical) answer is “no, but if they’re running ads about it, then the ads are”.

        I don’t know what “virtue signalling” is supposed to mean these days other than it is something to be used as an insult when anyone says something the speaker thinks is too “progressive”.

        I can sympathize with this. In response, I can offer what woah77, albatross11, and others have said. Signalling is specifically considered bad if there’s little or nothing substantive attached. Otherwise, it’s tolerable. So McDonald’s is improving QoL for parents of hospitalized children, and Chipotle is increasing the demand for recycled paper and lowering the rate of landfill growth.

        Chick Fil A is providing moral support to people who prefer to keep holy the sabbath, which tends to fall into the non-substantial category, and is therefore disdainful (to the extent they advertise that fact; I’m unaware whether they do). They get slightly more pass because they’re sacrificing revenue by doing so. However, consider the textbook example of non-substantial signalling I usually hear: someone sharing tweets making some moral point, and expressing their support or rejection, often with a hashtag. If said person were passing on thousands of dollars in income as a day trader or something in order to share such tweets, it’d still be disdainful. If, OTOH, said person was tweeting about a project to increase QoL in some way, that would be better received. Maybe even a total positive; they’re coordinating action.

        It’s still worse to advertise substantive virtue than to “do in secret” in the Christian sense; it’s just that it can be overcome by the substance.

        Non-substantive pretty much includes any sort of idea spreading, raising awareness, “going viral”, “thoughts and prayers”, etc. Whole lotta nothin’.

        Hypocrisy isn’t really distinguishing; it just exacerbates the nothin’. A hypocrite signals while lowering QoL.

        This stuff probably falls disproportionately on progressives because of historical accident. Progressives have some of the most visible signals. Or more accurately, the visible signals of late are often from progressives. This stuff applies just as easily to upper class snobs sniffily declaring that they’d never permit a stoner or person of poor upbringing (nudge, wink) into their home, but this talk rarely made it out of the club, boardroom, or parlor. And progressives who are virtuous in private are as ignominious as charitable conservatives, for obvious reasons.

      • brad says:

        There seems to be some disagreement here. Some would have it mean any communication whose content is essentially “I/we are virtuous”. That could be true or false and be productive or unproductive. Others would have it mean mean that when the actor in question isn’t doing anything virtuous and so it would be strictly pejorative. Others would judge the communication itself for effectiveness before determining whether it applies.

        Given the uncertainty over the definition, the lack of a burning need for a pithy term for any of the mooted definitions, and the fact that it’s use is itself at this point indicates at least something about the user, I think I’m sticking with my objection and will continue to update in the direction of less respect for speakers and writers that use it.

    • albatross11 says:

      Humans being what we are, society works better, the more your virtue-signaling[0] requires some actual virtue or good works or something. Signaling your virtue by actually feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, etc., has the desired primary effect[1] of getting everyone to see what a virtuous person you are, while also doing some good. Signaling your virtue by expressing how very, very concerned you are with all the right values is less likely to actually get much good done.

      [0] I think technically, virtue-signaling needs to be expensive for the signaler–I’m making a costly display of my virtue. But you can do this in ways that are just burning wealth, or in other ways that actually make the world a better place.

      [1] Note the figure-ground inversion here.

      • Aapje says:

        I think technically, virtue-signaling needs to be expensive for the signaler–I’m making a costly display of my virtue. But you can do this in ways that are just burning wealth, or in other ways that actually make the world a better place.

        Perhaps, but it seems a lot more pleasant if the expense can mostly be offloaded on others and/or diluted across so many people that you get a tragedy of the commons effect: overall the harm exceeds the benefits, but the benefits go to me and most of the harm goes to others, so I benefit for doing it, at the expense of the commons.

        • theredsheep says:

          In this particular case, I assume Gillette was deliberately courting the controversy, because I can’t recall the last time I ever had cause to say or type “Gillette” at all before this came out.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Gilette might not have been, they might have gone to an ad agency and said “we want an ad that shows our support for the #metoo movement” and then the ad agency puts together something intentionally inflammatory.

        • albatross11 says:

          Yea, God help your society when the best way for powerful people to virtue-signal is to do utterly destructive things. An example is the prosecution of ritual Satanic child sexual abuse cases in the 80s–the prosecutor got to pose as protecting children from Satanic ritual torture and molestation, while putting people in prison for alleged crimes that were less plausible than the average UFO abduction story.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Most forms of signaling ‘X’ virtue involve some demonstration of that virtue to some degree, but advertising in favor of a cause leans very heavily in the signal direction with almost no demonstration of virtue.

      If some company made an advertisement for their product with the added note that a portion of sales went to domestic abuse victims, that would be further on the virtue side of the spectrum.

      The danger of signaling in general is that it’s rivalrous and doesn’t increase the total amount of desirable items being produced [in this case, virtue], at least not necessarily.

      That said a lot of the ire directed at the company is by people who think that the thing being signaled was hateful and not virtuous at all.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        That said a lot of the ire directed at the company is by people who think that the thing being signaled was hateful and not virtuous at all.

        Yes. If Popeye’s Chicken decided certain segments of their customer base were, perhaps, too involved in bike theft and ran a nationwide commercial about how people shouldn’t steal bikes, and all or almost all of the actors in the commercial were black, I don’t think we would be sitting here applauding Popeye’s for their virtuous anti-theft stance.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      if selfish motives induce more people to do good deeds, hey, that means so many more good deeds done, right?

      This is how everything goes to shit. “It is okay that I sin for net -100 utils, because I am making 50 other people be good at +3 utils each, so it all works out.”

      But pretty soon everyone assigns themselves to that role, and “hey, I know that me pouring molten lead on this guy’s foot looks bad, but by sending a message that you shouldn’t make rape jokes on Twitter, it’s actually good.”

    • John Schilling says:

      To what extent is (for lack of a better term) “virtue signalling” a bad thing?

      Adversarial virtue signalling, where all you are doing is pointing out someone else’s vices (and the meta-vice of still other people having insufficiently opposed said vices), seems to me an unalloyed evil. It encourages the worst sort of tribalism and deepens social divides. It’s too cheap to be an effective signal. And, to the extent that people accept it as actually signalling virtue, it encourages still more people to do the adversarial thing rather than actually working to make things better.

      Don’t do that, don’t be surprised that reasonable people dissent when you do that, and don’t take that to mean that the reasonable people are now in favor of vice.

      Nobody is going to pause before catcalling a woman and think, “wait, would Gillette approve of this?” Nor is it likely to convince anyone.

      So, against the harms cited above, there’s no real benefit. Just a straight-up cynical attempt to misappropriate virtue. How is that not bad?

    • baconbits9 says:

      A few things that I think have been missed about the Gillette ad.

      1. Gillette has no real moral standing to make such an ad, telling basically half the population how they should act requires a pretty damn high standard and they aren’t close to it. This has nothing to do with how earnest the executives who developed the idea are, or if it was a cynical ploy to sell more razors or a first attempt to become more involved. They haven’t earned the right to tell people how to live their lives on this scale and backlash here isn’t any different than your uncle that you have met briefly twice showing up to give you a lecture on life before you graduate high school.

      2. This wasn’t a call to action, it was a call to reaction. “Get out the vote” campaigns, as much as I dislike them, at least have a concrete action to accomplish. Voting = Good so go and vote. Ok, fair enough. Acting good = good so act good, in a haze of swirling images is not that, its an emotional push to get an emotional reaction. The purpose of the ad is division, to create disagreement over the existence of the ad as much (or more) than the content of the ad.

      • theredsheep says:

        #2, at least, is a fair point; it’s clear to me that the controversy was the entire purpose of the ad. How about, say, Burger King coming out with the “Pride Whopper” after Obergefell? Do you suppose that has any effect, positive or negative?

    • The original Mr. X says:

      ISTM that the problem with virtue signalling is that the signallers expect other people to pay costs which they themselves will not. The white, male corporate executive who talks about the need for more diversity in senior management isn’t going to resign so they can give his space to a woman; no, the costs will be born by other men lower down the career ladder, who will be discriminated against when it comes to handing out promotions. The gated-community-dweller who posts #refugeeswelcome tweets isn’t going to have poor third-worlders who can’t speak a word of English moving into his neighbourhood; that cost will be born by other, poorer, people. And, to take the example at hand, I doubt that any of the people responsible for making the recent Gillette ad are going to change their behaviour to make it less “toxic” (however that’s defined).

      This also explains why Brad’s examples don’t count as virtue-signalling, since they’re all putting their money where their mouth is. If Chipotle were to run a “Use recycled products” drive whilst using cheaper, non-recycled napkins themselves, that would count as an example, since they’d be expecting other people to bear the costs of recycling whilst being unwilling to bear them themselves.

      • Aapje says:

        no, the costs will be born by other men lower down the career ladder, who will be discriminated against when it comes to handing out promotions.

        Yep, pulling up the ladder behind him, which actually is very much the custom nowadays.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        This also explains why Brad’s examples don’t count as virtue-signalling, since they’re all putting their money where their mouth is.

        Again, I must say I think this is insufficient. For example, if I donate half my salary to Puerto Rican hurricane relief (assume I earn six figures), I think anyone would agree that that is virtuous. If I then follow up with an avalanche of tweets, FB posts, and advertisements that I did that, all containing links to my website where you can Buy My Book, I think most would agree that that is less virtuous, and could reasonably accuse me of doing something virtuous just to draw attention to my book, which might even result in a net profit for myself. I expect people would disagree on whether this is a seemly tactic, and I also think it fits the component of virtue signalling that draws dislike.

        • brad says:

          I just think that since there’s no consensus on an actual meaning and in the wild usage is almost always with a sneer and aimed at the left of center, the overall picture is pretty clear — empty right wing slur, usage to be avoided at all costs.

  18. INH5 says:

    A few days ago I came across this study that claimed to find that in the United Statse the children of Nigerian immigrants graduate from college at higher rates than the children of Chinese immigrants (see Table 1).

    How good of a proxy is educational attainment for IQ?

    • EchoChaos says:

      Good, but somewhat distorted as affirmative action heavily benefits Africans in the margin over Chinese.

      I strongly suspect that Nigerian immigrants are selected for intelligence, and even with regression to the mean, some of that will stay. But a Nigerian with an IQ of 105 is getting into college far more easily than a Chinese with an IQ of 105.

      • INH5 says:

        These are college graduation rates. Affirmative action shouldn’t help much if at all with that, and if we believe “mismatch” theories might actually harm them.

        And remember that the Chinese immigrants came through the exact same immigration system. How much more selective would the process have to be for the Nigerians for them to close a hypothetical 20+ point IQ gap, even before you factor in regression to the mean?

        • quanta413 says:

          And remember that the Chinese immigrants came through the exact same immigration system. How much more selective would the process have to be for the Nigerians for them to close a hypothetical 20+ point IQ gap, even before you factor in regression to the mean?

          Nigeria is much poorer per capita than China though. So there may be filters on the Nigerian side of that process that are stronger than in China.

          Nigeria and China are both pretty big. Big enough that I expect significant subgroup differences in IQ. I saw a map of the IQ of various regions in China once, and the mean varied by ~10 points. And these were still pretty large regions.

          Also, Nigeria is really poor and was even poorer. I wouldn’t want to bet on IQ data from there being representative of genetic potential for IQ. I’d expect an average for the entire country of Nigeria comparable to all African Americans as a group if you could manipulate the environment so that Nigeria was comparable to the environment African Americans experience in the U.S. With some subgroups scoring probably scoring higher.

          EDIT: I’m intentionally ignoring the question of how close African American (or anybody else’s) IQs are to their genetic potential. I don’t want to discuss that. I’m assuming Nigeria is a worse environment for your brain on average at its current level of development.

          These are college graduation rates. Affirmative action shouldn’t help much if at all with that, and if we believe “mismatch” theories might actually harm them.

          Affirmative action could help graduation since poor students will tend to sort into easier majors whereas admissions doesn’t select the same way. But anecdotally, I really, really, really doubt that’s happening with Nigerians. I attended a graduation for neuroscience bachelors at UCLA and I think there might have been more graduates with Nigerian names than European ones. Neuroscience is not an easy major and UCLA is a very competitive school.

          Unfortunately, I’m unaware of any bulk evidence to bring about on this question. I’m just really doubtful that is what’s going on even though it’s technically possible.

          • I want to know what fraction of the Nigerians are Ibo. Given their reputation, I wouldn’t be astonished if the average IQ was above 100.

          • bullseye says:

            Wikipedia says 24% of Nigerians are Ibo, citing the CIA World Factbook. CIA World Factbook says 14%. Maybe the 24% is out of date.

          • LadyJane says:

            @DavidFriedman: For what it’s worth, all three of the Africans (not counting African-Americans) in my graduate program are Ibo. I’m not sure what percentage of African immigrants to the U.S. are Ibo, so I have no idea how much of a statistical unlikelihood this is.

        • 10240 says:

          I haven’t read the article in full, but from the phrases it uses, it’s not clear to me if it uses graduation rates among those who started university, rather than among the entire population.

          • INH5 says:

            From the Descriptive Analyses section:

            Table 1 provides an overview of our CPS ASEC pooled sample by ethnoracial origin and immigrant generation, along with the proportion with a bachelor’s degree or more.

            So it is among the entire population.

    • Aging Loser says:

      Perhaps males are hired by small-businessmen fathers and uncles and therefore see no need for college.

      My experience adjuncting at fifth-rate colleges suggests that educational attainment isn’t closely aligned with intelligence except to the extent that ability to make it to class indicates that a student integrates some idea of future states of affairs into his/her map of his/her place in the world.

      “Ultra-orthodox” Jews don’t go to college at all, and there are a lot of them (at least a hundred thousand in Brooklyn I assume), and they’re pretty bright.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        When the range of ability isn’t restricted to a subset of the population, ‘G’ intelligence as measured by IQ predicts educational attainment. But one can obviously find cultural subgroups that don’t encourage pursuing post-secondary education as much as the wider population and so they’re less likely overall to attend post-secondary.

        But cultural inclinations [including the cultural inclination of women to not pursue apprenticeships/trade schools] are just confounders in this instance.

  19. Mark V Anderson says:

    I have various questions for the commentariat about foreign languages. It is my understanding that pretty much all college educated people outside the US become fluent in at least two languages. And usually one of those languages is English. Maybe this is only my impression because those are the folks I have access to, so maybe I’m wrong there.

    In the US, this is much less common, for pretty obvious reasons. The country is big enough that most people rarely leave the country, or just for short vacations. Even if you do learn another language well, it is likely you will lose it because of few opportunities to practice. Plus of course if almost all of the globally educated know English, this greatly decreases the incentive for us to learn another language. (Thankfully for me. I suck at learning languages, so I am glad it wasn’t necessary for me to devote time to this).

    It is true that most US colleges require at least two years of a foreign language in high school to be admitted. Also, many colleges require their students to take a foreign language. But I think few college students become fluent in another language.

    But I am curious about Britain. British folks live close to other countries whose first languages are not English, so there is some incentive to learn other languages. But they have the same advantage of English as their first language. So what proportion of educated Brits are fluent in something else?

    I would guess that Aussies and Kiwis are similar to the US, since they are so isolated from other countries? I’m not sure about Canadians, since they officially are a bi-lingual country — do most Canadians know both English and French?

    • albertborrow says:

      The number of people who are “conversational” in a second language in the UK is 38%. As opposed to the United States, which is commonly said to have about a 15-20% bilingual population. I can’t find the source for that.

      • Any idea how much of that 38% consists of people whose first language is not English? The U.K. seems to have quite a large immigrant population, plus some people whose first language is Welsh and I suppose a few whose first language is Scots Gaelic.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          The question was whether they could speak a language other than their mother tongue, not whether they could speak a language other than English. So it deliberately excluded native speakers of other languages.

          According to the (EU) survey, 92% of British people* gave “state languages or official languages that have an official status in the EU” as their mother tongue (thy could give more than one answer), 3% gave “other official EU languages” and 5% gave “other languages”**.

          The three most widely-spoken languages (by non-native speakers) in the UK were French (23%), German (9%) and Spanish (8%), which makes a great deal of sense as these are the foreign languages most commonly taught in British schools, pretty much in that order.

          Meanwhile in Ireland, 94% of people said they were native English speakers, 11% said they were native Irish speakers. Another 9% said that Irish was not their native language but they could speak it (compared to 20% who could speak French).

          *The survey asked people resident in the UK, aged over 15, and with citizenship of any EU member state. So non-EU immigrants were excluded unless naturalised.

          **I assume the 92% is mostly English with some Polish/other European languages, the 3% is mostly Welsh, and the 5% is mostly South Asian languages.

          • bullseye says:

            The question was whether they could speak a language other than their mother tongue, not whether they could speak a language other than English. So it deliberately excluded native speakers of other languages.

            That sounds like it would include people who speak English as a second language; for them it’s a language other than their mother tongue. It also sounds like it would include bilingual people who don’t speak English, though I imagine that’s rare in the UK.

          • Tarpitz says:

            I feel like “fluent” and “conversational” are not necessarily synonymous in this context. I read French at university, have lived in France and can certainly converse quite happily in French, but I would hesitate to describe myself as fluent, and I would not class the vast majority of continental European graduates as fluent in English.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I feel like “fluent” and “conversational” are not necessarily synonymous in this context.

            Actually I think they are totally synonymous. What skill do conversationalists not have?

          • albatross11 says:

            My half-joking observation is that Americans who say they speak a language mean they can use it to order dinner or ask directions, and Europeans who say they speak a language mean they can use it to discuss philosophy.

    • Tenacious D says:

      I’m not sure about Canadians, since they officially are a bi-lingual country — do most Canadians know both English and French?

      Most francophone Canadians do. For anglophones, competent bilingualism is not super common outside of cities like Ottawa, Montreal, and Moncton that are in or adjacent to French-majority areas. Or being employed in a government position that requires it. Other than that, it’s common to have some education in French, but fluency is rare. Using myself as an example, I think my French skills are above-average among English-speaking Canadians: I can more-or-less read a newspaper in French, but having a conversation is a struggle.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        To compare to another bilingual country, IIRC (can’t find the data now) that the vast majority of Flemings (Dutch-speaking Belgians) can speak French, while a much smaller proportion of Walloons (French-speaking Belgians) can speak Dutch. English is widely used as an auxiliary language in Belgium- it is the language of command in the Belgian military, and the language that their national football team use in training.

        • Aapje says:

          Interestingly, research in Brussels shows that fewer people can speak Dutch well, but that Dutch is more often used. Also, it found that French-speakers in Brussels are increasingly hostile to the Flemish.

          This suggests balkanization, where people recede into enclaves of similar people.

          Also, the research found that not just English ability is increasing in Brussels, but that it is now a lot more often used in daily life. Furthermore, Arabic seems close to overtaking Dutch as the second language in Brussels.

          • Tenacious D says:

            Interesting. Do you think the balkanization will eventually lead to Belgium splitting into separate countries?

          • Aapje says:

            I already consider it hard to believe that they managed to keep it together so far. They seem to be living as separate states in many ways already.

          • Tarpitz says:

            They managed to go 18 months without a government after the 2010 elections. I imagine the country will break up in the aftermath of the Eurozone doing so, whenever that is.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            In the event of a split, is it more likely to exist as Walloonia & Flanders or is there any appetite to join up with France or the Netherlands, respectively? (and/or maybe that little German part to Germany)

          • Aapje says:

            Flanders is definitely not going to join The Netherlands. The Dutch are to them as New Yorkers are to rural Americans: extremely assertive people who ignore many implicit rules and thus are very hard to deal with without adopting their behaviors.

            Also, because of this, the size difference and the lack of interest in The Netherlands to join up: if they would join up with the Dutch, the Dutch would expect them to adapt to them and would be very unwilling to return the favor. So no chance without some major external force pushing them together (which is not present).

            I don’t know the exact extent of culture differences between Wallonia and France, which I suspect are significant, but the French are definitely not a people who tend to adapt to others, so Wallonia would also have to adapt to France to join up.

            PS. Note that Brussels is a rich, mostly French-speaking, but technically not Wallonian entity just within Flanders, which severely complicates a potential breakup.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Note that Brussels is a rich, mostly French-speaking, but technically not Wallonian entity just within Flanders, which severely complicates a potential breakup.

            Oh great, I can imagine a North Brussels and a South Brussels, as each side says they need part of the capital. Probably work about as well as East and West Berlin, or East and West Jerusalem.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            They could always give it the Baarle treatment.

      • convie says:

        Most francophone Canadians do.

        That’s actually only really true in the Montreal area. Less than 50% of Francophones consider themselves bilingual. Ever been to Quebec city? It’s easier to get by as an Anglophone in France.

        • Tenacious D says:

          Yes, I’ve been to Quebec City. I agree that outside Montreal the average Quebecer might not be fluent in English (although probably has more facility with the basics than the average anglophone Canadian does of French). I’m surprised that it’s less than 50% overall though, since just greater Montreal + francophones outside of Quebec must get close to being 50% of french Canadians.

    • John Schilling says:

      The statistic that would seem most useful in this context is, what fraction of people in various nations or other groups ever achieve useful fluency (either conversational or reading) in any language other than,

      A: their native tongue, or
      B: the official/dominant language of the nation they live in, or
      C: the default Lingua Franca, which for the past century has been mostly English (but see Russian, Swahili, Hindi, etc, in some places)

      A person is significantly handicapped if they don’t know A, B, and C. Learning any other language is for intellectual curiosity or enrichment, or for seeking specific economic advantage, and thus laudable but optional.

      • Aapje says:

        C: the default Lingua Franca, which for the past century has been mostly English (but see Russian, Swahili, Hindi, etc, in some places)

        Don’t forget French, which is a common language in large part of Africa.

    • jgr314 says:

      pretty much all college educated people outside the US become fluent in at least two languages. And usually one of those languages is English.

      My experience is that this isn’t true in Japan or Thailand.

    • rlms says:

      So what proportion of educated Brits are fluent in something else?

      A very small proportion, in my experience. I know one person who was sent to live in a European country as a teenager for a few months and picked up the language to more-or-less fluency, but all the other multilingual people I know either have foreign relatives or are language teachers.

      I think most British students do a few years of a foreign language, but the teaching is so bad as to be almost worthless.

      • acymetric says:

        Did they already have some experience with the language? That would be a shockingly short amount of time to achieve fluency starting from 0 or close to it.

        • rlms says:

          Not much I don’t think. Six months (I think it was about that long) doesn’t seem to me like an unreasonable length of time to get fluent in an easy language if you’re immersed in it.

  20. Well... says:

    “After processing the data, I’ve determined that the former vice president is going to drop a rap album,” said Tom algorithmically.

    “Mom, I’m sure it’s my Tourette’s syndrome acting up, but…isn’t it time for you to go home?” asked Tom, malingering.

    “Yup, we could turn people’s desire to help animals into a way to make money for ourselves,” Pete agreed.

    “I know it’s not what I said a minute ago, but I’ve decided to promise not to sue you,” Tom wavered.

    “I’ve now zipped up my sleeveless coat,” said Tom once he was fully invested.

    “‘I can’t hear over the din those communists are making,'” Tom read aloud.

    “This is great! The value is either one or zero,” said Tom ebulliently.

  21. sentientbeings says:

    I’m going to do a search of the open threads tomorrow, but since I tend to have only sporadic success when trying to locate old discussions, I thought I’d inquire here.

    Does anyone remember some comments (maybe even main post content; maybe a link round-up?) regarding large declines in insect populations? The large decline was not accompanied by the ecosystem collapse that a pessimist might predict. I’m looking for it in order to compare/supplement an article shared by a friend.

    I find this topic interesting because (1) it gets into complex system dynamics, in which it can be very hard to tell whether a small or large perturbation ends up having small or large effects downstream, and (2) because it also has big implications for the practice of purposefully eradicating mosquitoes (as the primary example), which, holding ecosystem welfare constant, would provide a really big boost to human prosperity.

  22. Scott Alexander says:

    Predictions on the government shutdown?

    1. Will still be shutdown on Feb 1st?
    2. Will still be shutdown on Mar 1st?
    3. Will still be shutdown on April 1st?
    4. Shutdown ends when the Senate agrees to a budget without Trump and overrides his veto?
    5. Trump gets more than half of the $5.7 billion he wants for the wall?

    I’m naively going with 60%, 20%, 5%, 25%, 20%, but not really based on any good understanding of what’s happening.

    It’s hard for me to imagine how this shutdown ends. Trump’s strategy has always been to please his base and screw everyone else, and his base really likes the idea of him being the guy who never backs down. And he’s built a whole image of himself as a tough deal-maker, so it would be humiliating for him to blink first. And I don’t think he loses much sleep over federal employees.

    But the Democrats’ base is also obsessed with the idea of them being “strong” and standing up to Trump, and not having a border wall is a sacred value to them worth an infinite amount of money. There are probably some Democrats losing a little sleep over federal employees, but I don’t think they’ll blink first either.

    And the last few elections have proven that Republican senators who defy Trump get voted out. I don’t think most of them really care one way or the other, but I think they’ll want to save their own skins, and that the optics of the GOP Senate overruling a popular (among the GOP) president – just as he looks like he’s trying the “stand up to the liberals” thing the GOP base feels like no conservative ever tries – would be awful.

    I can sort of imagine maybe some deal where the Democrats throw some bones to border security short of a full wall, Trump promises to respect DACA or something else Democrats want, and both sides say the other has fallen for their ruse and that’s what they wanted all along, but it would have to be really carefully planned for nobody to lose face.

    • BBA says:

      The most likely scenario I can think of is a few centrist House Dems sign a Republican discharge petition to reopen the government with wall funding. And even that’s extremely unlikely, in the next few weeks anyway.

    • ManyCookies says:

      Trump’s been getting the blame thus far, so unless that changes the Republicans probably need to blink before stuff like food stamps start shutting down. I’d be pretty surprised if got to that point (in March), but who knows.

      But the Democrats’ base is also obsessed with the idea of them being “strong” and standing up to Trump

      That’s a part of it. But even if the shutdown wasn’t over a big ideological issue, isn’t the correct Democrat political strategy just to hang tight? Like if Trump’s holding the government hostage and getting the blame for the effects, why would the Democrats back down?

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I think for “the blame” to work, it has to come from some hypothetical centrist who would like you if you weren’t to blame, but doesn’t like you if you are to blame. I think there are few such people remaining, and that Trump doesn’t care about them.

        The only reason for Democrats to back down is the suspicion that Trump may be a completely “irrational” actor who will just never reopen the government unless he gets what he wants (“irrational” used in quotation marks because this could be a winning strategy), and who can deal with the blame he gets for this the same way he deals with the blame he gets for all the other things people blame him for.

        • BBA says:

          Right now the word on the Democratic street is that Trump is irrational in the sense that he may agree to a deal, then renege when it comes time to sign the bill. This is their narrative on how the shutdown started (back in December, when the House was still under Republican control): there was an agreement on a budget without wall funding, it passed the Senate unanimously, then Trump got cold feet at the last minute. Now, they argue, who’s to say it won’t happen again? If they give him $5B, will he just dig in his heels and demand $10B?

          Now I don’t know if this is properly modeling Trump’s behavior, but it explains why even centrist Democrats have been holding firm so far. That, and seeing the wall as a giant middle finger pointed towards them. (Which it is.)

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Your last line I think is the more relevant. They can win huge political points if they offer to compromise and Trump reneges. Trump looks unstable, irrational, and like a spoiled baby if he does that. They will lose tons of political points if they simply offer to compromise (by funding the wall) and Trump accepts.

          • David Speyer says:

            Is there any conservative rebuttal I should have read to articles like https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/1/4/18168652/shutdown-border-immigration-wall-daca ? We’ve had a lot of negotiations now where Democrats thought they had secured majors concessions on dreamers or legal immigration in exchange for wall funding, only to be told there was no deal after all.

        • Dan L says:

          I think for “the blame” to work, it has to come from some hypothetical centrist who would like you if you weren’t to blame, but doesn’t like you if you are to blame. I think there are few such people remaining, and that Trump doesn’t care about them.

          Counterpoint: Trump’s net approval is down about five points in the past month – that’s a metric that’s ranged from about -10 to -20 over the last two years. If that trend continues for a few more weeks, it’ll be interesting to see if McConnell is still willing to go to bat to save Trump’s face.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think a likely long-term effect is damage to the Republican party’s reputation, causing it trouble in future elections. But Trump cares very little about that–he has no particular commitment to the Republican party or its future.

        My general take is that this is a battle over the 2020 elections. The last thing the Democrats want is for Trump to be able to point to a victory and claim to have started “building the wall,” even if the wall amounts to extending an already-existing system of fences another 10 miles. Trump very much wants to be able to point to such a victory. Neither side cares overmuch about what happens to federal employees or the effectiveness and function of the federal government. (The Democrats would care if they were getting blamed, but since Trump’s getting the blame, it’s not a huge deal to them.).

        Having a multi-month government shutdown will do a hell of a lot of damage, but very little of it will be photogenic damage that works well for TV news or Twitter memes, so it probably won’t become much of an issue. (Hey, the most employable, highest-value 20% of federal employees have all left, and new high-value employees are no longer interested in a federal job that has lower salaries than industry but now doesn’t offer job security or stability. I wonder if maybe it makes organizations work less well when the best 1/5 of their workforce goes away and is replaced by second-raters.).

        • Plumber says:

          @albatross11

          “….Neither side cares overmuch about what happens to federal employees or the effectiveness and function of the federal government…”

          I know it’s only a partial shutdown but except for checks written to old people, their physicians and nursing homes, the Coast Guard, and overseas military bases, there just isn’t much Federal government that I see left, the big public works projects of the 20th century are no more, and the nearby Army and Navy bases were shuttered in the ’90’s, the State of California already runs the “Obamacare” exchanges, there’s Medi-Cal instead of Medi-Caid, and Cal-OSHA instead of the Feds, I’m not sure what the role of the Federal government is anymore, and during these periodic times when the Federal government seems to have dissolved itself, when I hear what it does do that isn’t being done, it seems to me that the State of California can do those functions, about the only thing that can’t be done is keep other States from sending pollution (acid rain, run-offs, et cetera) from crossing State lines.

          When I’ve read about how weak Fed-OSHA is in enforcement it barely seems to exist anyway, if Where-be-Dragons, Dixie decides to not govern themselves to post New Deal/Great Society standards and become Hellscapes, or if Utah decides to establish a State church, let ’em, “laboratories of democracy” and all that.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I don’t think “blame” alone measures the effect of the shutdown. I blame Trump for the shutdown, but I approve of the shutdown.

        • albatross11 says:

          So, it seems like the result of a long shutdown is likely to be wasting a ton of money and making the government less efficient by getting rid of its most productive and mobile employees. I can see why you might see this as a cost worth paying for some political goal, but it’s hard to see how it could be a worthwhile goal in itself.

          I mean, we can break this into two situations:

          a. Everyone gets back pay for the furlough. In this case, the taxpayers have spent a pile of money getting the feds to not work. It’s hard to see any way this could make sense. I’m sure some fair fraction of what the feds are doing is dumb, and some is actively counterproductive[1], but assuming the shutdown doesn’t run forever, all that stuff will resume eventually. And there’s also stuff that’s valuable but hard to see, like public health and funding research.

          b. Nobody but the critical workers (who had to work without pay) gets back pay. The federal government loses most of its employees who have any alternatives, and takes a hit to its performance that’s many times worse than eliminating the civil service aptitude tests or imposing affirmative action. Also, lots of federal employees end up going bankrupt or having their houses foreclosed, the housing market in the DC area crashes, and a lot of people have their lives wrecked.

          I don’t see where the good in any of this is.

          [1] Though I don’t think the counterproductive stuff is more likely to be shutdown than the productive stuff.

          • hls2003 says:

            I believe I read that a bill had already been passed guaranteeing back pay to all furloughed workers. That had already been the case in 100% of prior shutdowns, but this presumably made it statutory law.

      • vV_Vv says:

        @ManyCookies

        Trump’s been getting the blame thus far

        But these are polls of the general populations. What matters is whether the food stamp recipients are more likely to be Democrats or Trumpers.

        @Scott

        The only reason for Democrats to back down is the suspicion that Trump may be a completely “irrational” actor who will just never reopen the government unless he gets what he wants (“irrational” used in quotation marks because this could be a winning strategy), and who can deal with the blame he gets for this the same way he deals with the blame he gets for all the other things people blame him for.

        Doesn’t this statement also work if you swap Democrats and Trump?

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          Because Trump has the reputation for being “irrational” that is plausible, while the Democrats do not?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think keeping the government shut down over a measly $5B to address the severe problems we have with border security is very rational.

            Well, it’s not rational if your goal is performing the most basic duties of government towards its citizens. It’s entirely rational if you’re just playing political games.

      • Jaskologist says:

        What if the government remains “shut down” for an extended period of time, and people notice that their lives aren’t all that affected?

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          I find myself quite interested in this. How many people will notice and personally care? Will those tend to lean one or the other politically? Will that change any person’s thoughts?

          Making this a lot trickier – There are key functions that are being done, without employees getting paid. The IRS is bringing back a lot of unpaid employees for tax season, for instance. Not getting refunds would have hit quite a few people across the political spectrum, but no longer seems to be a likely result. If we keep doing that, the public will not see any sting until a whole bunch of federal employees decide to quit. That only seems likely for the lowest paid employees who can’t afford to muddle through for a period of time. [Side note: Does anyone know if federal employees can get unemployment while furloughed?] Otherwise it’s a nice vacation with a very high expectation of full back pay, even for those not required to work.

          • albatross11 says:

            Which employees will leave first? Which ones will stick around even if there’s no back pay and they’re in bankruptcy? How will that matter for the future efficiency of government?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          NPR’s Marketplace opened with a segment about how businesses that normally hate government and now wistful and want it back. But every example was of someone waiting for the government to approve something so they wouldn’t be punished by the government when it woke back up. I’m sure there are instances of people who genuinely want government services that they cannot get but they didn’t bring them up.

          https://www.marketplace.org/topics/government-shutdown-2019 has yesterday’s episode so someone can double-check what I remember during my drive.

          • Evan Þ says:

            On a similar note, Atlas Brew Works is suing for an injunction on First Amendment grounds, allowing them to print new labels that’d normally need to be preapproved by the government, since the government isn’t there to approve them.

            I wish them good luck.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            NPR’s Marketplace opened with a segment about how businesses that normally hate government and now wistful and want it back. But every example was of someone waiting for the government to approve something so they wouldn’t be punished by the government when it woke back up.

            “Next on NPR: children who miss their abusive father when he takes a nap.”
            Turns out their reporters are only able to find children scared that they’ll be punished for what they did without his permission during his nap.

          • gbdub says:

            I saw several of these stories from various traditionally left-leaning outlets (you’d almost think there were a secret list of journalists coordinating what stories to run…) and shared by the lefter side of my FB feed.

            I was kind of shocked by how badly they mis-anticipated the reaction these stories would get. They seemed to think “aha, beer, THAT’S something that will make those uncouth Red Tribers care about the shutdown!” when the Red Tribe reaction was more like “wait, what the hell, why do the Feds have to approve beer labels? Maybe the government really IS too big!”

    • Erusian says:

      1.) 80%
      2.) 10%
      3.) 5%
      4.) 1% (twenty defecting Republicans? Over border security?)
      5.) 66%

      In particular, I don’t think either side wants to let this stretch into the primaries. If they do, it will tend to produce more radical candidates. Trump doesn’t really want that (he’s actually been doing a great deal to suppress Republicans who are more radical than he is, like Stewart). The Democratic leadership might be willing to take that deal with the devil, but I doubt they feel so weak that they’ll need to. Indeed, most of their handpicked candidates seem more mainstream than Berniecrats. I imagine the calculus is they feel Trump is weak so they are strong.

      My prediction for how this shutdown ends: the Republicans don’t back down but slowly make gestures at compromise. Trump has already implied he’d accept explicit appropriations for border security in place of outright wall funding. One of his surrogates even floated the idea of letting the border agencies get to decide what to do with the funds with no explicit mandate whatsoever. The truth is the Republicans have more room to maneuver here because they have an objective (border security) and can take any road to get there while the Democrats are mostly opposing this because they are anti-Trump. (If there is some deeper ideological reason against increasing funds to border security, I’d be curious to hear it.)

      If the Democrats continue to hold out they begin to look more radical and run the risk of shooting themselves in the foot. So they dicker over the specific amount of funding and give in. They then claim they won (because not explicitly wall and lower dollar amount) and Trump claims he won (because border security funding and higher dollar amount than would have been given otherwise). Expect a lot of Democratic supporters walking back statements about never giving in and declaring victory while a lot of Trump surrogates say something about ‘seriously but not literally’.

      And the last few elections have proven that Republican senators who defy Trump get voted out.

      This isn’t true at all. The last few elections have proven that Republican senators who stand with Democrats against Trump get voted out. The Kavanaugh thing was a pure tribal divide and every senator who ended up in the wrong tribe got voted out. Including Democrats whose states had a preponderance of red tribers.

      You know who are still around? The Freedom Caucus, including Representative “I don’t care, Mr. Trump.” Romney’s criticisms of Trump don’t seem to have seriously threatened his chances either. The Republican base is very willing to support anti-Trump factions, providing they oppose Trump for red tribe or conservative reasons and will support him when he does something red tribe/conservative. Trump isn’t immune to this either: Trump basically lets other conservatives pick his judicial appointments and if he didn’t there’d be a Republican revolt.

      I agree it would be suicide to side against Trump at this point. But only because the Conservatives and Red Tribe are at least closer to Build the Wall than the Democratic position.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I do not think “border security” will fly with Trump’s base. This is a well-known euphemism for “we’re going to squander money on ineffective stuff while not building the wall.”

        I agree with your percentages, though. The idea that 20 Republicans would override Trumps’ veto is ludicrous.

        The Democrats will not back down, Trump will not back down, he’ll probably wind up declaring a state of emergency and ordering the military to build it. Then President Hawaiian Judge will issue an injunction against it, which Trump will ignore.

        • CatCube says:

          I won’t argue with you about the perception of Trump voters, but the border wall is the “ineffective stuff” leg where the money will be squandered.

          I pretty desperately hope that your projection on the way it gets fixed is not true, though. That’s getting pretty close to “take up arms against the government” level dictatorial shit. Obama was pretty offensive on this point, but this would go even beyond his actions.

          Luckily, the president seems to obey court orders, even if he throws a snit on Twitter about them.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            “Fortifications along the border to repel invasion” seems like really basic military stuff to me. And the courts have no authority to stop it.

          • vV_Vv says:

            I won’t argue with you about the perception of Trump voters, but the border wall is the “ineffective stuff” leg where the money will be squandered.

            It is probably going to be ineffective at its ostensible purpose of reducing the number of illegal immigrants, but it has political value, not just because it was a campaign promise (that would be self-referential) but because Trump got flak over children being separated from their parents, children not being separated from their parents and dying under ICE custody, tear gas being thrown at children, and so on. An impassable wall will solve these problems.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I find it impossible to believe that the proposed giant steel slat wall will not reduce illegal immigration.

            It will also make immigration enforcement much more humane. Next time a caravan rolls up to the border it’s a lot easier to disperse them without using tear gas or other weapons.

          • albatross11 says:

            Don’t the caravans just go to standard border crossing points to present their applications for asylum? A wall will prevent the caravan members walking into the country without going through a gate, but if your goal is to apply for asylum, then you *want* to go through a gate.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Right, right. Well, I mean, if they didn’t.

          • gbdub says:

            The tear gassing happened at a location with both a barrier and an official border crossing facility. A subset of the caravan members attempted to bypass the crossing facility and force their way across the barrier, triggering the response from border agents.

          • CatCube says:

            The courts Goddamn well have input on whether the movement of money to fund something is being used legally. If Congress won’t fund something, it’s unbelievably dangerous to allow an end-run to move money from somewhere else. If Congress stops an appropriation to something, that thing stops. That principle is way more important than almost any particular thing at issue. I don’t think I’d even be willing to consider allowing a president–any president, and I’m terrified of what Hillary would have done with this power–this authority for anything short of a literal invasion. And, no, the current illegal immigration is not what I’m talking about. I mean near-peer “tanks and infantry moving in formation” invasion.

            Also, to build the wall, you need to condemn land. The courts damn well have input into that, and condemnation should also require consent of the state, per the Constitution (“…to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;…[emphasis mine])

            Will the wall be “useless” in that it literally won’t stop anybody? Of course not. But is it anywhere near the most effective use of $5bb to stop illegal immigration? It’s far better to fund more border patrol and to fund more enforcement against employers using illegal immigration.

            If, as part of the increased funding of the Border Patrol, a local office identifies an area where a wall will reinforce their efforts and can be tied in to local terrain or will push attempted crossings into more dangerous areas, I’m cool with that! But this top down “Wall is All” drives me bonkers, because it detracts from areas that will be much more effective at lower cost.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Last time I remember us discussing E-Verify, extremely red states that nominally have mandatory E-Verify for everyone are not doing anything to actually enforce compliance or even audit what employers are submitting.

            https://money.cnn.com/2017/02/28/news/economy/e-verify-immigration/index.html This isn’t the exact news story I found last time but it addresses some of the issues that Arizona has.

            This is real low-hanging fruit.

          • albatross11 says:

            CatCube: +1

            “Gee, we’re not getting what we want. Let’s just wipe ourselves with another inconvenient part of the Constitution!” is a pretty common sentiment among political types, but it’s not one we should support.

          • CatCube says:

            @albatross11

            I do want to emphasize that this is just an extension of “Pen and Phone!” However, that drove me bonkers when the D’s did it, and I don’t support “my side” extending it further; it should be fought, not embraced.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @CatCube

            The “President Hawaiian Judge” objection isn’t to the courts deciding. It’s to venue-shopping resulting in a nationwide injunction from a District Court, particularly a district whose connection to the issue is rather tenuous at best.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            There are lots of things the military can do to start building a wall that do not require money from congress. The military already has money to secure the country from foreign invasion. There is land already owned by the government. There is land that could be sold to the government.

            I’m not suggesting anything unconstitutional. However, single district court judges issuing blanket injunctions across the entire executive branch is…I don’t know if it’s unconstitutional but it’s a massive power grab that for some reason people just go along with. If the executive issues an order “no travel from these countries” and you’re prevented from traveling and sue, fine, the judge can issue an injunction to stop the government from hindering *you* while the case is heard but he has no authority to essentially veto the entire order being enforced against anyone. A judge can issue an order that the president must hop on one foot and rub his tummy every time he enters a room but that order should be ignored and the legislature might want to think about removing this judge from office. They pulled this stunt during the travel ban and Trump went along with it. If they do it again, enough is enough, he should ignore it.

          • CatCube says:

            There are lots of things the military can do to start building a wall that do not require money from congress.

            I work on civil works for the Army, and this isn’t obvious to me. Given what is in the news, and guidance from our public affairs, I want to be clear that this is my own personal opinion. Maybe after the lawyers parse how the appropriations work, it could turn out that I’m wrong and the funds can be shifted in this manner very easily. It could be a real stretch to use any of the appropriated MILCON dollars for this purpose, but it’s definitely outside of how those are normally. From a larger standpoint, I’m deeply uncomfortable about using Executive tricks to fund something that Congress is not willing to fund–the deepest power that Congress has is the power of the purse, and actions that affect that are far more destructive to our Constitutional order than any particular issue.

            Turning to the object level, you’re going to need a lot of dollars for civilians for this, since, well, the military just isn’t set up to do a design or construction of this scale. As far as I know, from 2014-2016 there was exactly one (1) practicing structural engineer in the uniformed active-duty Army, and then I got out and took a civilian job. Other required disciplines (primarily geotech) are just as thin in uniform. Troop labor is intended for temporary construction with a design life of 3-5 years, generally from standard designs. There are not significant numbers of actual practicing engineers in uniform to update those designs (or do new ones like this)–the promotion timelines for officers required by DOPMA really make it impossible to build up the experience required for anything other than dabbling in a career as a design engineer, so it’s typically something they’ll do for a few years before going back to “Big Army” and reassignment to a more typical Army officer billet.

            Similarly, the enlisted labor force is designed and intended for small, repeated projects with short lifespans–primarily in timber for vertical construction, and a more constrained set of earthmoving equipment than a typical construction company would see. It’s perfect for temporary roads and constructing FOBs for forces on the move, but active-duty forces have other demands on their time (and a lack of projects) that mean they don’t get nearly as much “stick time” on equipment as their civilian counterparts.

            Anything of larger scale or longer intended life is handled by civilians; the design will either be done by civilian Government forces, or contracted out to private A/E firms, and no matter who does the design the construction is contracted to private concerns.

            For the jurisdiction shopping, I agree with you–I think our imperial courts are on net a bigger threat than our imperial presidency–but don’t see how that’s a major concern for this particular issue. A court in Arizona, should, AFAICT, be just as willing to strike much of the end-runs around Congress down as a court in Hawaii. You’re correct that a court in Hawaii shouldn’t have the ability to say “boo” about this, and I’ll complain about that when and if it happens.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well crap. That all sounds reasonable and you know more than I do. I hate it when that happens.

          • John Schilling says:

            OK, but that’s for the United States Army.

            Trump is about due for another summit with North Korea, and there’s going to need to be some sort of quid pro quo if he’s going to lift sanctions like they want. North Korea has a lean and hungry army that is unconstrained by petty constitutional restrictions, and the North Koreans have extensive experience constructing ginormous concrete monuments to the egos of autocrats.

            Think outside the box here, folks.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Lots of experience with border security, too. I like the way you think John Schilling, I like the way you think.

          • wk says:

            Just make sure that hungry army never gets to see a McDonalds from the inside. Otherwise you’re gonna have a real invasion of illegal immigrants to deal with.

          • CatCube says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I’ve said this before, but I’m willing to design the damn thing* if they put out a call for Government designers because of refusals by A/E firms/political problems/etc. The Wall, as currently proposed in our political discourse is stupid, but it’s not immoral. I spend quite a bit of time working on left-wing wastes of money, so working on a right-wing waste of money would be an interesting change of pace. What I stridently object to is the notion that it’s not a waste of money.

            * I was willing to volunteer to work on the design previously; if they are funding it in a manner that I feel is unconstitutional, I won’t. Congress is allowed to waste the taxpayers’ money, but if we’re doing an end-run around that, that’s a big problem for me.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I accept your position that the wall is not something the military is well-suited to construct. I completely disagree that it’s a waste of money, however.

            The wall would be made out of steel, which is harder than the bodies of foreigners. So when the foreigners try to walk across the border, the steel wall would prevent them from doing so. You can trust me on this one since I was a physics minor in college.

            Since my goal is “wall built; foreigners repelled” I’ll go back to supporting the shutdown until Chuck and Nancy agree to fund the wall built through the normal appropriations process rather than the national emergency / military option.

          • CatCube says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Since my goal is “wall built; foreigners repelled”

            The first half of that has no meaning; only the “foreigners repelled” part is useful. If the wall is built, but it’s not going to repel foreigners at any rate proportional to its cost. Without it being integrated into part of a larger plan for border security they’ll just climb over it, tunnel under it, or go through it.

            And if we have that larger plan for border security, the wall would be the least important part of it.

            This also is eliding over the fact that “foreigners repelled at the border” is the wrong goal, and one I don’t care about. What I want is “massive reduction in illegal immigration,” and that is better handled on the demand (employer) side in terms of bang for your buck.

          • Plumber says:

            @CatCube

            “…that is better handled on the demand (employer) side in terms of bang for your buck”

            Yes!

            I imagine that a half dozen Americans in handcuffs for employing non-citizens, and one or two more every year on national television with a report thar they’ll do prison-time for employing non-citizens will do more to keep migrants from crossing the border than any wall.

            No demand, no supply!

          • CatCube says:

            @Plumber

            I’m not so much interested in prison. My half-developed thought is that the employer should be fined $5000 (amount negotiable) for each illegal immigrant employed, and the government gets half of that…the illegal immigrant who drops a dime on his employer gets the other half.

          • Plumber says:

            @CatCube

            “…My half-developed thought is that the employer should be fined $5000 (amount negotiable) for each illegal immigrant employed, and the government gets half of that…the illegal immigrant who drops a dime on his employer gets the other half”

            I’m digging it!

            I still think prison-time is more of a deterrent than a “cost of doing business fine” (why not both?) but a reward for turning in your employer is a solid gold idea!

          • John Schilling says:

            No demand, no supply!

            Except the demand doesn’t go to zero, because the demand isn’t just people looking for legitimate jobs in the US economy. The demand also includes people willing to work grey- or black-market jobs because those are still better than the jobs they can get in Guatemala, and people who don’t care whether they have jobs at all so long as the cartels and death squads don’t burn down their house and rape their daughters, and people who will endure anything so long as it means their children are born and raised as full US citizens, which thanks to the 14th Amendment you can’t stop but you can maybe influence what sort of citizens they are and how they feel about your kind of citizen.

            So you can maybe cut the demand in half, and cut the supply in half, but now 100% of that remaining supply goes from being the sort of “criminal” who technically committed a misdemeanor once when they crossed the border, to the sort of criminal who lives every day as an embedded member of a criminal conspiracy that is as hostile to people like you as you are to people like them.

            Patrolling the border, however weakly or imperfectly, divides the prospective immigrant population into two groups – the ones still living in Central America, and the ones who live next door to you and are pretty much like you in every way except they talk funny. Arresting everyone who would give legitimate jobs to illegal immigrants, turns the ones who are still here your enemies. I’d say good luck with that, except they’ll probably wind up being my enemies as well and I’d rather have them as friends.

      • vV_Vv says:

        I do not think “border security” will fly with Trump’s base. This is a well-known euphemism for “we’re going to squander money on ineffective stuff while not building the wall.”

        But if he gets the funds for more “border security” can he then mandate ICE or whatever to use these funds to build the wall without further Congress approval?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          If. But it looks like a trick. If it’s going to be used for the wall and everybody knows it’s going to be used for the wall, why can’t the appropriations bill just say “wall?”

          • CatCube says:

            Because that allows plausible deniability to both sides to get what they want, and break the impasse.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Depends on whether the language says border security but prohibits spending on a wall.

    • Walter says:

      My idea for the resolution:

      Trump declares an emergency and tries to build the wall that way, throwing that into the courts. With the wall getting built(or not) in that manner, he no longer opposes reopening the gov, everyone hastens to pass a ‘reopen the gov’ kind of bill.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      The votes to fund a wall don’t exist, neither do the votes to override a veto.
      The thing most likely to end the shutdown would be if presidential powers revolving around national defense are invoked to simply have the wall built using DOD funds, as some people have argued is technically do-able.
      It would then fall to the courts.

    • Aging Loser says:

      What do phrases of the type “I predict E with X% likelihood” (or whatever the formula is supposed to be) signify? Are people measuring their own levels of expectation? So that if you say, “I predict E with 50% likelihood” you’re reporting that you’re at about half your maximum confidence-level?

    • gbdub says:

      not having a border wall is a sacred value to them worth an infinite amount of money

      Why? Where did this sacred crusade against border barriers come from, and how is it logically consistent? There already exist hundreds of miles of (apparently reasonably effective) barriers along the border. Whether you call these “a wall” or “fencing” seems to mostly depend on whose sympathy you want. These were built mostly not that long ago, with bipartisan support from some of the same Democrats who are now adamantly opposed to Trump’s desire to expand the existing system of barriers.

      If there has been any serious push among Democrats to have the existing barriers removed, I’ve not heard about it.

      How do you square “walls are morally wrong!” with “I’m not in favor of open borders and if you say I am, you’re clearly arguing in bad faith against a straw man”? “It’s okay to prevent people from crossing the border as long as you don’t use a physical barricade to do it” is a very peculiar moral stance.

      It’s one thing to argue that Trump’s proposed wall would be a poor use of money better spent elsewhere, or that we should have higher priorities than security of the Mexican border. Or to say that border security is great but a wall is an inefficient or impractical way to get that. But that’s very different from holding “no wall” as a sacred value worth infinite cost.

      Even then, some of the anti wall arguments don’t really hold up.

      “It wouldn’t be 100% effective, people could get over / under / around it” Of course, but a) since when is “it won’t work 100% of the time” a knockout argument about any other policy? And b) that’s not the point of a wall. A wall is a force multiplier. The current incomplete barrier is effective in deterring crossing in high traffic, high population areas where getaways are easy and apprehending crossers would be difficult, instead funneling crossers to more isolated areas where there is more chance to catch them. If you want to penetrate the barrier itself, that takes time, equipment, and/or a larger team, all of which make you more likely to be caught.

      “It’s too hard to build the wall everywhere, private property and the Rio Grande get in the way” Rhetoric aside, Trump’s $5 billion request is not for a gleaming wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s to add a couple hundred miles to existing barriers in higher traffic areas. Maybe that’s a detail in the weeds for the people griping on Facebook, but congressional Dems ought to know better.

      The actual sacred value worth any cost here appears to be “don’t give Trump a win on a signature issue” but “walls are morally wrong” sounds better even if it doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        All of this.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        IMO, this is all about the 2020 presidential elections.

      • John Schilling says:

        Why? Where did this sacred crusade against border barriers come from, and how is it logically consistent?

        I saw what you did there, shifting from “walls” to “border barriers”

        Walls specifically, vs other forms of border barriers, are of approximately zero value for securing the border, or negative value if building them displaces any funding from border patrol efforts – which, in fact, it would. And border barriers in general, beyond what we already have and will uncontroversially maintain, are a very small marginal benefit in the best case and again go negative if they compete with the border patrol for funding.

        Walls explicitly labeled as such, have been very effectively advertised by Donald J. Trump as the cardinal example of Donald J. Trump Owning the Libs.

        The bit where Democratic congressmen consider it a “sacred crusade” to not vote in favor of using taxpayer money to pay for something whose primary effect and purpose will be to serve as a campaign advertisement for Trump 2020, does this really need explaining?

        Even if walls were useful or for that matter vitally necessary for national security, advertising them as [Party X] pwning [Party Y] means the window for their being built, and for the republic being saved from utter ruin if that’s somehow at stake, closes the moment Party X no longer controls the White House and both houses of Congress. So if you’ve identified something truly vital for national security, A: don’t advertise it that way and B: if you’re stuck with that framing, make really damn sure you get your wall funded during the two years your allies do control Congress.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          +1.

          A WALL (writ large) is ineffective, merely of symbolic value, a waste of many resources. In addition, from a symbolic perspective, its effects on our relationships with our neighbors and allies are significantly negative as well.

          There really is no reason to acquiesce to the demand that we eat tapeworm eggs “for our health”.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I’m not interested in getting back into an immigration debate today, but your metaphor is hilarious because parasitic worms are now beginning to be used as a treatment for certain autoimmune disorders.

            If your doctor prescribes you worms, you probably should acquiesce to that demand!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Point taken, however I was referring to the oft-cited (rumored) tape-worm pill diet aids.

            So, in certain, very specific , cases parasitic worms, like walls and other barriers, make sense. But as a generic recommendation they both fail.

      • tomogorman says:

        There is a difference between opposing walls and opposing “the wall”. Democrats plainly don’t oppose any physical barriers anywhere. There are plenty of them in existence in certain parts of the border and I don’t see any Congressional Democrats proposing tearing them down. In fact the Senate bill which passed in December with Democratic support appropriated 1.6 billion for border security – including repairing existing fencing.
        “The wall” is different. “The wall” is very much Trump’s promise of a “gleaming wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico”. “The wall” as in the GOP 2016 platform must cover “the entirety of the Southern Border”. “The wall” will be vastly more expensive than 5 billion once all put together. It will do much less to reduce problems than advertised given that it does nothing to solve visa overstays nor asylum requests. It will do almost nothing to reduce drug smuggling given that this processes through ports of entry. And it will do nothing to reduce terrorism because terrorists have not been using that route and given their logistics have no reason to. “The wall” will be vulnerable to breach like all walls and will require even more money for repairs and to monitor it. Therefore, “the Wall” will impose massive costs and is plainly not justified unless you think there are truly massive benefits. Democrats by and large think they will not, and many, think you could plausibly think there are is to give in to racist fear mongering. That is why opposing “the Wall” is a moral value because it, as opposed to any hypothetical wall, is being sold as racist project. Given that Trump’s rhetoric, along with other Republicans most recently Steve King repeatedly fits that, its not hard to see why Democrats see “the Wall” as a huge middle finger to all hispanic people. Opposing that can be a value.
        gbdub’s protest that this $5 billion request is only to add a couple of hundred miles is wrong. Trump did not sell it that way, and that process wasn’t followed. Trump very much is asking for a down payment on “the Wall”. Further, he has pushed it in such a way that he is explicitly asking for Democrats to concede on “the Wall” rather than compromise on a few more miles of wall rather than the start of the 2,000 plus mile wall.
        GOP position originally settled on 1.6 billion including the repairing existing fencing restriction. And everyone tacitly agreed to that until Anne Coulter said it made Trump look week. That is why this came up now rather than in budget demands way earlier.
        Also, if the demand is for a compromise on more border fencing why isn’t Trump saying that instead of talking about the Wall. If that is what he wants why need a shut down for it? Democrats could horsetrade over border security if not explicitly a wall, but Trump has repeatedly insisted can’t have border security without “the Wall”. Hell, if Trump wasn’t so erratic Democrats were openly willing to horsetrade earlier for around $25billion for DACA, but Trump reneged and asked for more. Thats the reason why it has to be a shutdown, because he needs leverage to make the Democrats eat a big loss. Thats the reason he can’t cut a deal, because no one trusts him to negotiate in good faith – particularly when the whole point is a political ploy to demonstrate dominance.
        Which is politics. Stupid politics, and wrong politics he should lose for, but politics. Just don’t try and pretend that Trump/GOP aren’t the ones norm violating in this process. Yes its only $5 billion or so, but its $5 billion explicitly tacked on to a huge symbolic loss. Thats norm breaking to shut the government down over for 27+ days. Its quite right of Democrats not to want to give in to that, when very clearly would encourage GOP to pull the same stunt again later this year with the debt ceiling, and next year when the budget needs to be passed again.

      • gbdub says:

        @John – you’re wrong about “what I’m doing”. The existing border barriers largely consist of giant metal slats stuck in the ground next to each other that are, for practical purposes, much closer in effect to a “wall” than to what people have in mind when they hear “fence”. If your whole argument is “there are better ways to build barriers than the way Trump wants to build a barrier”, fine, that falls into the practical concerns that I explicitly conceded can be valid.

        Again, Democrats are trying to make a moral case against “the wall”. The only moral difference between “the wall” and other physical barriers is that Trump wants “the wall”. If “the wall” is racist, then so is “an unusually sturdy fence that guys with guns patrol”. But of course we already have quite a bit of the latter and there’s apparently no fierce moral urgency to change that.

        @tomogorman – you’re kind of conceding my point, which is that the “sacred value” here is pure politics. This fight could be over basically anything else that Trump had made a campaign promise and was pursuing with this sort of politics. It’s disingenuous to pretend that “the wall” itself is the primary moral issue.

        • tomogorman says:

          How is that conceding your point at all? “The wall” (meaning 2,000 miles), per the Democratic, position is an expensive and wasteful project that does not make any sense from a reasonable cost/benefit calculus. It only makes sense if you massively over rate benefits because of racist fear mongering. It is a bad idea regardless of who supports it. Absent Trump there would continue to be close to 0 Democrats who support building 2,000 miles of continuous barrier along the Southern border.
          That is not inconsistent with thinking you might build barriers along some select small fraction of those miles – that might or might not be a good idea depending on the specifics.
          But Trump isn’t asking for that. He wants to start on “the Wall”. That he is only currently asking for money to start it, doesn’t change that the money is going to a fundamentally wasteful idea. So Democrats are not being disingenuous at all. They actually do oppose, as a moral matter, this project. Hence no reason to fund it at all. That they might not oppose a radically different and much smaller project doesn’t change that.

          • wunderkin says:

            It only makes sense if you massively over rate benefits because of racist fear mongering.

            Can we not assume that the only reason people have to disagree with us is racism?

          • AG says:

            tomorgorman isn’t doing that, though. Non-racist reasons to oppose immigration occur mostly due to immigration that has nothing to do with physical barriers on the southern lander border.
            Therefore, an emphasis on physical barriers on the southern lander border is due to opposing a very, very narrow subset of immigration that is, by its nature, racially discriminatory, and the arguments to prioritize this particular subset of immigration are nearly all blatantly racist.

          • albatross11 says:

            AG:

            {Citation needed}

            What if your concern is that there is a large amount of economically motivated illegal immigration from the much-poorer countries to our South, and you think a barrier would be a reasonable way to slow that down some? This may be right or wrong, but doesn’t seem like an unreasonable position to have, and I don’t see how it’s racist.

            At this point, I have to overcome an urge to just assume that any time someone ascribes an opposing position to racism, it’s just because they don’t have a strong argument to offer against it.

          • wunderkin says:

            @AG

            Albatross11 said it better than I would have. At this point, slinging around “racist” is basically just the modern version of calling someone a witch.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Can we not assume that the only reason people have to disagree with us is racism?

            Indeed. I suspect this is compounding much of the problem. Whenever I hear Pelosi or Schumer make statements about the wall, they begin and end with “(1) we will not fund the wall and (2) walls are immoral”, and are accompanied by advocates who could argue the logistics of a wall and its effectiveness like John Schilling does, but would apparently rather insinuate that the wall advocates are xenophobic or racist instead.

            As a result, I’m left opposing the wall, but also opposing the wall’s opposition.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            $5 billion would not be enough to build the wall. If you object to building the wall, put the new fences in some place where you think they would the most good. You can even tear down existing border fortifications and put up the new Wall.

            Or just put a bunch of stupid riders on it that make it difficult for much of the Wall to actually get built. Blah blah blah mandatory hearing period of 2 years blah blah blah. Then you can swipe the funds or kill the project when you take the White House in 2020.

            Also the idea of the Democrats heroically taking a stand against wasting $5 billion of taxpayer money is comical.

          • AG says:

            tomogorman isn’t naming pro-Wall people racist. They’re saying that believing that the wall will have benefits far more than using that money towards other immigration solutions is due to the wall having been pumped up as the best solution by arguments motivated by racism.

            That is, people stuck on The Wall as a must have been taken in for a con.

            It’s like the travel ban. There are people who believe in the motte version of it for non-racist reasons, but the ban came into being through openly racist origins, and there are much more effective solutions to battling Islamic terrorism (primarily, deradicalisation programs and focusing on culturally integrating/assimilating immigrants, programs which Trump has slashed funding for). The ban was made prominent over other solutions by banking on racist fear mongering. The wall was made prominent over other solutions by banking on racist fear mongering of a specific kind of immigration, that is not actually a major cause of the problems caused by immigration, nor will the wall solve the problems anti-immigration people want solved.

          • wunderkin says:

            tomogorman isn’t naming pro-Wall people racist. They’re saying that believing that the wall will have benefits far more than using that money towards other immigration solutions is due to the wall having been pumped up as the best solution by arguments motivated by racism.

            1, I think that’s a distinction without difference. 2, I don’t see the public wall opponents rushing to explain how that 5 billion dollars would clearly be better spent on more border patrol agents, or dones, or whatever.

            That is, people stuck on The Wall as a must have been taken in for a con.

            Implying everyone who disagrees with you is stupid is almost as bad as implying that they’re racist.

            It’s like the travel ban. There are people who believe in the motte version of it for non-racist reasons, but the ban came into being through openly racist origins,

            A list drawn up by the obama administration?

            and there are much more effective solutions to battling Islamic terrorism (primarily, deradicalisation programs and focusing on culturally integrating/assimilating immigrants, programs which Trump has slashed funding for).

            Europe spends vastly more money on these sorts of efforts than the US does, to very little effect. The claim that they are clearly “much more effective solutions” is difficult to sustain. And at a political level, do you really think that “these immigrants are totally safe to allow in as long as we spend a ton of money on welfare and education for them!” is a pitch that appeals to people on the right?

            The ban was made prominent over other solutions by banking on racist fear mongering.The wall was made prominent over other solutions by banking on racist fear mongering of a specific kind of immigration,

            The people who brought race into the question were the opponents of the ban, not the proponents. They took a ban on people coming to the US from a list of countries that consisted of active and Iran and called it a racist muslim ban because that was effective politics.

          • AG says:

            Consider if I’ve been inundated with messages about the “toxic health effects” of X food. (Like saturated fats!) I might support a ban on that food, but I’m not strictly X-ist, I might just be health-minded. I’ve been taken in for a con by the people who sponsored abunch of propaganda against X (because they sell alternative Y).

            I agree with the court’s rulings that Trump’s campaign rhetoric on the ban, as well as the original submission before revisions, matters in evaluating the motives for it.

            The deradicalisation and integration programs were offered as an example of how to battle terrorism, not also as the solution to immigration, because the travel ban was offered as a solution to terrorism, not immigration.
            The equivalent solutions to immigration would be different. I myself am not pro-immigration.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          @gbdub:

          The black swastika, angled 45 degrees, in a white circle with a red backing is an anti-semitic and racist symbol, right? Because it’s the symbol of the Nazi party of Germany? If someone had a proposal to paint it on all government buildings, that would be anti-semitic and racist?

          We can all agree, I assume, that black, white, and red pigments do not have any thoughts, much less anti-semitic ones. In the alternate history universe where there was never a Nazi party, we wouldn’t consider that symbol inherently anti-semitic. And in fact very similar symbols are all over the place in other cultural contexts, and have no anti-semitic character there (it kinda blew my mind when I saw swastikas all over a map of kyoto (they are the marker for buddhist temples)).

          The Wall is a symbol of Trump’s approach to immigration. He did not propose a wall as part seven of a wonkish position paper, he made dumb paeans to its beauty all over the campaign trail. It is, by his own hand, inseparable from Trump’s Proposal About Immigration.

          The Democrats’ sacred value is to not allow the Great Symbol of Trump’s Immigration Policy to become the southern border. The existing barriers are not that great symbol. The thing that Trump wants to build is that symbol.

          • brad says:

            I don’t see why this is so hard to understand. If Obama had proposed spending $10B to put up a giant statue of himself on the national mall is anyone seriously going to claim that the Republicans would have been happy to trade that for some other minor policy victory?

          • wunderkin says:

            @brad

            Every president is obsessed with legacy and enacts, or tries to, policies to secure it, and all politics is at least as much about symbolism as policy. Obama’s statue was the affordable care act, started out costing 100 billion a year and is only going to go up.

        • Dan L says:

          The existing border barriers largely consist of giant metal slats stuck in the ground next to each other that are, for practical purposes, much closer in effect to a “wall” than to what people have in mind when they hear “fence”. If your whole argument is “there are better ways to build barriers than the way Trump wants to build a barrier”, fine, that falls into the practical concerns that I explicitly conceded can be valid.

          Again, Democrats are trying to make a moral case against “the wall”. The only moral difference between “the wall” and other physical barriers is that Trump wants “the wall”. If “the wall” is racist, then so is “an unusually sturdy fence that guys with guns patrol”. But of course we already have quite a bit of the latter and there’s apparently no fierce moral urgency to change that.

          Others have already started making the argument re: symbolism, but I want to emphasize that the fact that The Wall is definitely different in kind from the existing bipartisan border controls was painstakingly established by Trump back during the Republican primary. This is apparently a very important distinction to Trump’s base*, and if merely extending the existing fencing is equally practical then I think it’s perfectly legitimate to question what exactly the difference in appeal was.

          *To address the root of the thread, I’ll put a side bet on “No wall, but either a substantial or symbolic increase in border fencing. Trump declares victory anyway, and his base retcons their expectations accordingly.” I don’t think it quiiite has the plurality of probability mass, but it’s up there.

      • Guy in TN says:

        Where did this sacred crusade against border barriers come from, and how is it logically consistent?

        1. Advocating for removing existing barriers is outside the Overton window/political suicide. There’s no reason to play games you can’t win. (This only applies to the left-faction obviously.)

        2. The wall has symbolic implications to the international community that invisible barriers don’t. Its like “How could you be against putting steel bars on your windows, but not against locking your door when you leave?”

      • David Speyer says:

        Democrats have repeatedly offered wall funding in exchange for various protections for DACA or TPS recipients, including an offer for $25B from Schumer in exchange for a path to citizenship for Dreamers. I have no idea where the idea is coming from that democrats haven’t been willing to put the wall on the table.

        • sharper13 says:

          Republicans have repeatedly offered the same (DACA for wall funding, etc…), including in the current impasse.

          The two sides haven’t managed to both offer that set of compromises at the same time, apparently, or they weren’t actually serious about it and only offered when they thought it would make a good soundbite because the other side was temporarily not interested.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      but it would have to be really carefully planned for nobody to lose face

      Especially in this day and age, it is extra hard to enforce any kind of message discipline. I believe that 20 centrists Senators could come up with a plan that would work, but well before it comes time for a floor vote someone would start screeching.

    • nkurz says:

      > It’s hard for me to imagine how this shutdown ends.

      One theory is that the shutdown makes it easier to initiate a permanent downsizing. There are certain conditions that need to be met before a “Reduction in Force” (RIF) is initiated, and by this theory, a 30 day shutdown might retroactively qualify to meet this condition: https://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2019/01/omb_issues_guidance_on_reduction_in_force_layoffs_due_to_partial_shutdown.html

      I don’t know how reasonable the theory is. If it’s true, it would seem to put Trump in a powerful negotiating position. Either he succeeds in downsizing the federal government if the shutdown is allowed to continue, or he gets the concessions he wants in exchange for stopping the shutdown. Even if this wasn’t Trumps plan going in, knowing very little about the legalities involved, it sounds to me like a plausible endgame. Trump certainly doesn’t seem averse to “doubling-down” when in a hole.

    • honoredb says:

      Seems to me there are two relevant asymmetries here: Trump’s ability to straight-up lie to his base, given the barest of fig leaves, is greater than Democrats’. And the Democratic position on immigration is much less specific than Trump’s: pretty much just “no wall, no deporting Dreamers, also we should probably have some sort of immigration reform maybe.” This means that the eventual compromise has a lot of freedom–Trump and Ann Coulter have to agree to refer to it as “money for building a wall” while it also has to not be money for building a wall. I hope people in Congress are thinking creatively.

      For example, the Make Mexico Pay For And Build It plan: Congress allocates the requested $5.7 billion for a Sovereign Wealth Fund, to invest in a portfolio of Valued American Institutions including Fox. Money will be paid out of it in foreign aid to Mexico when, and only when, Mexico builds X miles of wall on its border with us. Everybody wins: Trump can describe it as an even better deal than what he promised, since Mexico is both paying for and building the wall, Fox News has an incentive to go along with it, Democrats get a new fund to play with and can hardly call the possible wall a “monument to racism” if it’s being built by and in Mexico, and Mexico gets free optional funding for border infrastructure without having to publicly agree to it.

      Or authorize any congressional district to request federal aid to build a wall on its southern border. Restricting it to just districts on the border is a little too obvious a trick since none of them support the wall, but this way it could theoretically work but would obviously go hilariously badly.

      Or create a sovereign wealth fund with an initial investment of $10 billion that will fund the wall once it nets $150 billion.

      Or build the wall but also allow almost anyone to present themselves at it and get an unlimited work visa, with no quota and minimal red tape. Would reduce illegal immigration to essentially zero.

    • The Nybbler says:

      80%, 20%, 5%, 5%, 5%.

      I think Trump “wins” if he gets $1B or more for the wall, and I see his winning as less likely than not (say 30%). Anything over that is gravy and seems very unlikely.

      I also expect Trump will acknowledge when he’s beaten before requiring a veto override — most likely the losing way out is he agrees to a “temporary” resolution with a promise to consider the wall later (which of course will not happen without some other bargaining chip). He might take this if he thinks he’ll win on DACA (going to the Supreme Court soon, I believe), as that’ll give him another shot.

    • aristides says:

      I think I agree with your percentages, and would add that my most likely prediction is Trump gets 2.5 billion for the wall. Less than half, but enough for a victory. Other potential deals would be 5 billion with DACA, but it does not look like either side is willing to compromise that much and would take a lot of time to hash out.

    • Guy in TN says:

      I’m surprised you didn’t give odds for “national emergency declaration”, which seems like the most likely end-scenario.

      Trump wins, Dems can say the fought it, and the only thing we lose are our political norms, which we weren’t really using anyway.

      • hls2003 says:

        I put the chance that some federal judge (Hawaii or San Francisco are good candidates) will enjoin the emergency declaration for some amount of time at 90% or higher.

        Which makes any outcome other than “Trump declaration, injunction, Trump snarling at the judiciary on Twitter” a sucker’s bet. There’s little downside to Trump to do it; there’s little downside to Democrats to force him to do it.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      One way I can see to get a better handle on the probabilities is to figure out how many Democrat supporters are saying “ugh – I’d rather just build the wall than to endure more of this shutdown” and how many Trump supporters are saying “hrmph – much as I’d like a wall, this shutdown is killing us”.

      How many original supporters are expressing willingness to defect?

      Is anyone reporting on this?

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      When’s that Mueller report coming and what are the rules about changing Senate leadership? Because depending on how long this goes on and how bad that report is, I can totally see 20+ GOP Senators getting sick of Trump’s crap and convicting him.
      I think you’d need a majority of the GOP, though, which I still don’t think is impossible. But I don’t think Mitch would flip unless HIS neck was the next in the political guillotine. OTOH, do you need Mitch? If the House votes to impeach, does the Senate take up the case automatically, under the supervision of the Chief Justice?

      • brad says:

        The Senate Majority is relatively powerful at this point in time (several decades back committee chairmen had more power vis-a-vis the majority leader), but at the end of the day a majority of Senators can take control of the Senate and do whatever they want. Ditto for nearly any legislative body. We are seeing some of that in House of Commons right now.

      • Dan L says:

        When’s that Mueller report coming

        The chart’s a little old at this point, but it’s still good for calibrating priors. A year or two wouldn’t be surprising, press coverage notwithstanding.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Really? So we’ll probably get it just as Trump is (hopefully) leaving office anyway?

          • Dan L says:

            I don’t think there’s enough probability mass in any one location for anyone to get away with stating that the special counsel investigation is “probably” going to fit any one timeline, but the priors say what they say – there is a very real chance that Mueller won’t be delivering a final report to the AG until 2021 or later. I think an awful lot of people are expecting something like the Starr report though, despite that being quite a noncentral example of special counsel behavior – but if he did feel like making a direct case for indictment then it would have to be in the next several months.

            While I disagree with most of the particulars in the discussion below about the report not being a big deal when it comes out, I do think that matters will probably come to a head well before that conclusion. (Last week I’d have guessed that it’d be a Mueller indictment that Trump couldn’t let pass, but now it looks like the threat from the House is moving faster than expected.) So if what you’re really wondering is when the investigations in general hit their crescendo, months is probably about right. Lots of paths for that timing to be accurate.

      • BBA says:

        The Mueller report will be a dead letter. Nobody’s opinion will ever change on Trump, pro or anti, no matter what revelations the report contains (and they won’t be that impressive – the broad outlines have been public knowledge since before the election).

        There might be a few news cycles of intense discussion, but it’ll all be quickly forgotten the next time Trump does something really controversial, like call Hillary unfuckable.

        I’ll be delighted if I’m wrong.

        • albatross11 says:

          +1

          • theredsheep says:

            Yeah. I have my doubts about whether the average person, stopped on the street, would be able to give you a clear summary of what the Mueller investigation is about. Admittedly, that’s because I can’t; every now and then I try to be civic-spirited enough to give a damn, but then I pore through endless paragraphs about people getting subpoenaed over accusations that they lied about whether Trump did, or did not, talk to a person of Russian nationality, and no amount of skimming reveals an actual crime he is being accused of beyond telling people not to cooperate with the investigation (“arrested for resisting arrest”) and paying off his mistress with the incorrect pile of money. Correct me if there’s something I’m missing here.

            I don’t like Trump. I think he’s a POS, and would like to see him removed. But this bloody investigation is interminable and seems to yield nothing but promises of more results as soon as this one more guy testifies about how the Russians “hacked” the election. Apparently by spreading memes. For the love, this is Donald Trump. Is that the biggest scandal they can come up with?

          • brad says:

            I’m inclined to agree with BBA, but I wonder if Watergate were today if people will be as outraged about the fact pattern as they were back then.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          It’s not going to be dead letter if the GOP is sinking fast and Senators are looking for reasons to dump Trump.

          • Dan L says:

            This is a really important point. The reaction’s going to be a lot different between Trump’s approval numbers being in the low forties v. the low thirties, let alone something more extreme. Nobody in Congress wants to run alongside a president that’s sitting more than 20 points underwater.

          • Plumber says:

            Dan L

            “…Nobody in Congress wants to run alongside a president that’s sitting more than 20 points underwater”

            Only if he’s that unpopular in their district, which seems unlikely as they’re few Republican Representatives left from “split ticket” districts.

          • Dan L says:

            As a quick and dirty first approximation, an additional 5-point shift from the 2018 results would result in an additional 28 House seats flipping; another 5 after that would be another 29. The Senate is more limited what with only a third being up in 2020, but those scenarios would result in something like a D+1 and D+3 Senate, respectively. And a Democratic presidency, obviously.

            Is that likely? Almost certainly not – if the President’s that unpopular it seems likely that his approval will start decoupling from district-level results and he’ll drag the ticket down less. But a general increase in partisanship might actually fight against that, as straight-tickets force people D down the line. Worst comes to worst, Congressional Republicans need to fight that trend as much as they can.

      • EchoChaos says:

        If the House votes to impeach, the Senate must take up the case.

        They can judge it however they want, though. Including immediately voting to acquit while sending a crude sketch of a middle finger to the other chamber.

      • John Schilling says:

        When’s that Mueller report coming and what are the rules about changing Senate leadership?

        I wouldn’t be surprised if it was in the next few months. But I would be surprised if it was anything more than sleazy real estate deals, sleazy politics, paying his mistresses from the wrong slush fund, and covering all that up in ways that technically violate various statutes but that nobody but lawyers really cares about(*). After two years of being sold as “Trump is a Literal Russian Agent and Mueller’s gonna prove it Any Day Now”, anything less is going to be a giant nothingburger. The “We told you so, and look, he really is a criminal!” will cancel the “We told you so, there was no collusion, it was a witch hunt!” to no net effect beyond more hot air.

        What might plausibly happen, and what might be politically significant, is an indictment of Jared and/or Ivanka. For low-level sleaze that is only technically illegal in ways that mostly only lawyers care about, but Mueller is a lawyer and he has the authority to indict anyone who isn’t POTUS. He’s also politically astute enough to make it the very last indictment on his list, with every ‘i’ dotted, every ‘t’ crossed, and every other co-conspirator flipped to a prosecution witness.

        I’d give this maybe a 30% probability, but if it happens there will be a Trumper Tantrum from the oval office that even Mitch McConnell will not be able to ignore.

        * See e.g. Bill Clinton and perjury, which to the Republican House was a high crime worthy of impeachment and to the Democratic Senate was a partisan witch-hunt, exactly what they believed before there was any evidence of perjury.

    • Reasoner says:

      Scott Adams says Trump’s standard negotiation tactic is to take an extreme position in order to frame the debate, and then once he “backs down”, his less extreme position looks really good by comparison. So maybe the government shutdown is just about his negotiation posture somehow.

      • erenold says:

        This strikes me as an extremely good reason not to fund the Wall under the present circumstances.

        There is presently a norm against shutting the federal government down in order to leverage a policy change. My understanding is that historically, American public opinion has both observed and enforced this norm – see for instance the 95-96 Clinton, 2013 Obamacare and 2018 Dreamer shutdowns in the past, all of which were ended by public opinion turning against the party initiating the shutdown (or the perception of that happening). This is a good and valuable thing.

        If shutting the government down until a political actor’s preferred policy enactments are adopted becomes a legitimate, accepted and effective political tactic, it inexorably follows that Americans will get much more of the same.

    • JPNunez says:

      How I see it, neither side will back down for a while, but as the polls keep blaming Trump, as long as the Democrats don’t fuck up -and this basically means stay like they are and not make any stupid declarations-, Trump in the end will have to do something.

      And, I assume this will be an executive order, emergency powers abuse, whatever. Then everybody wins; the democrats get to point at Trump as a power abuser and a danger, they may even stop whatever it is in courts, Trump claims he won, etc, etc.

      In the end I doubt much Wall will get built, unless Trump wins again in 2020.

      So, putting numbers to it:

      a) Trump funds the Wall without Congress: 70%.
      -By the end of January: 40%
      -By the end of February: 90%
      -By the end of March: 99.99999%

      On the other hand

      b) Congress sends a budget to reopen the Gov: 30%
      -And it is signed by Trump: 60%
      -They somehow get enough votes to override veto: 40%

      Mixed option included in the first one:
      a.1) Congress sends a budget to reopen the Gov, Trump vetoes it, Congress cannot override the veto.
      -By the end of January: 10%
      -By the end of February: 40%
      -This does not happen: 50%

      edit: to the original questions. Not sure this is 1:1 consistent with my numbers above hahaha

      1. Will still be shutdown on Feb 1st?
      2. Will still be shutdown on Mar 1st?
      3. Will still be shutdown on April 1st?
      4. Shutdown ends when the Senate agrees to a budget without Trump and overrides his veto?
      5. Trump gets more than half of the $5.7 billion he wants for the wall?

      80% 19% 1% 12% 33%

      Didn’t really consider much the possibility they agree to anything. Again, the Democrats don’t have much to win by giving in, and even offering 50% of the Wall budget may look like pettiness, so it is against their interests to do so. But I cannot discard it outright. Current polls say that like half of all people reject ending the shutdown with a budget that funds the wall, but only 29% say it would be unnaceptable to end it with a budget that does not fund the wall. The democrats have nothing to lose right now, but things may change as the shutdown continues and gov services deteriorate.

    • AliceToBob says:

      Can a Supreme Court nomination/confirmation occur during a partial government shutdown?

      If not, then one possibility is that the retirement or death of Justice Ginsburg changes the incentives of the parties involved and resolves this situation. The state of her health is unclear, but it does seem to be declining.*

      Otherwise, as others have noted, there isn’t any fraction of 5-whatever billion, nor any degree of border barrier, that can’t be spun as victory for one side and humiliation for the other. And almost everyone belongs to a side, so there are a negligible number of undecideds to win over.

      I suppose I’m going to be naive, take Trump at his word, and assume that the shutdown will still be in effect on April 1.

      * I would not wish lung cancer on anyone, it’s a gruesome disease. I wish Justice Ginsburg a full recovery.

      edit: spelling errors, ugh.

      • John Schilling says:

        Can a Supreme Court nomination/confirmation occur during a partial government shutdown?

        Yes. “Government Shutdown” refers only to spending, and there are no expenditures necessary for the President to nominate or the Senate to confirm a SCOTUS candidate.

        I mean, if we wanted to be really, really pedantic, it would have to be done at the nearest Starbucks by whatever subset of Senators are willing to show up unpaid to cast their vote, because the lights are turned off in the Capitol and whatnot, but they’d do that if they had to and they don’t have to because they of course include an “…except for stuff that matters to us, like keeping the lights on in our offices” clause in the laws surrounding partial government shutdowns.

      • BBA says:

        In this case, there is a full-year appropriation in place for Congress (along with several of the executive departments) so the lights will stay on until September 30.

      • AliceToBob says:

        I was very wrong. Didn’t even make it to Feb.

    • bean says:

      Not relevant to this particular shutdown, but I have a plan for how to deal with future shutdowns. The President and all of Congress should be locked in the Capitol, with no more than a few staffers each. The Capitol is searched carefully, and all food is removed, except for a pile of MREs sufficient for about, oh, three weeks. They can come out when they have a deal.

      The ratings for C-SPAN would go up dramatically.

      • Statismagician says:

        So, Vatican Rules? I love this idea and propose we try and get it into the Constitution.

        • theredsheep says:

          Concur. Would they have access to knives, trap material, etc.?

          Actually, with the President and (as Senate pres) VP in there, who would be running the executive branch in the meantime?

      • Mr. Doolittle says:

        Data point – I would absolutely watch that show. That sounds amazing.

      • hls2003 says:

        Given the current political climate, each party would start electing based on obesity. Whichever side could sustain the hunger strike longest could wait out their opponents, then implement their policy without compromise when the other side capitulated or died of malnutrition, leaving a quorum of the fattest.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I believe you’re missing the possibility of cannabilism.

          • hls2003 says:

            But the more of your side that dies, even if cannibalized, the closer your opponent is to a majority of the quorum. More intriguingly, I thought Congressional immunity might allow for a Hunger Games war inside without consequences, which would of course optimize for electing vicious killers. However, Congressional immunity doesn’t cover breaches of the peace or felonies, so that’s probably out.

        • Nick says:

          Oh man, Republicans have so got this.

        • bean says:

          That was not what I meant. I was planning to use the incentive of being stuck in the Capitol with bad food to force them to come to a compromise. Not have them fight it out like that. It takes a long time for people to starve to death.

  23. niohiki says:

    On the issue of comment order on a per-post basis (for Scott, and whoever is interested!).

    I downloaded the Pujugama theme for a test. Turns out you can get the behaviour you want (oldest first for normal content, newest first for OT) changing just one line in the
    wp-content/themes/comments.php
    file. Somewhere in there you must have something like

    wp_list_comments( array( ‘callback’ => ‘pujugama_comment’ ) );

    unless there has been some very heavy modification. If you change it to

    wp_list_comments( array( ‘callback’ => ‘pujugama_comment’, ‘reverse_top_level’ => has_tag( ‘open’ ) ) );

    it will make posts tagged with ‘open’ (you may want to check the case) reverse the top level comments, just as wanted.

    I have tested this in the base Pujugama theme (as from here), and maybe your modified version requires some extra tuning to work, but I’d guess not that much. We can talk it over mail if you want, I’m happy to lend a hand.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      God bless you!

      • niohiki says:

        Well, no, thank you for the blog! I’m just glad to give a small contribution after everything I’ve taken from it over years!

        I also tried a very-slightly more elaborate solution, similar but also adding a small “Reverse order” link under the header “# responses to…”, so that readers can choose whatever they fancy best, after your default setup.

        You would need to place this

        <div style="margin: 1ex; margin-bottom: 3ex; text-align: right;"><a href="?<?php
        echo isset($_GET["reverseComments"]) ? '' : '?reverseComments';
        ?>#comments">Reverse order</a></div>

        just after the

        <h3 id="comments-title"> [...] </h3>

        block at the beginning of comments.php (this is the part that creates the “# responses to…” header). That code creates the “Reverse order” link, that links to the page itself plus a URL parameter reverseComments. Then, the actual comment list creation needs to be

        $reverse = has_tag( 'open' ) ^ isset($_GET["reverseComments"]);
        wp_list_comments( array( 'callback' => 'pujugama_comment', 'reverse_top_level' => $reverse ) );

        to take that parameter into account.

        I just copypasted from my comments.php, so again proceed with caution, and if more help is needed just ask.

        Also, if you end up thinking of something better (not unlikely), just write it on the next OT and I’ll see what I can do!

        EDIT: Tried to fix a bit the code presentation, but I should have thought before that it was going to be a disaster in the middle of a comment section. You may want to paste it somewhere else before reading it.

  24. Angel says:

    Does anyone have experience with maladaptive daydreaming?

    Reading some personal cases, I have begun to be more vigilant to my thoughts and the ways I structure them. For example, this blogger (Eretaia) says that, for people who daydream excessively, fantasy is like a canvas where they express their emotions.
    Analyzing how I think on a daily basis, I am impressed of how much I do this. Everytime I try to think about something (an opinion, an idea, an emotion…) I instantly create a fantasy where I express it. It is difficult for my to not express my internal dialogue in this way. The more I notice this the more I relate to the idea that Eretaia argues in their posts: doing this creates a separation in the self. Because the person you are in your dreams is different from you, they don’t have your traumas, limitations or experiences. So slowly this causes a feel of detachment from you and from the real world.
    It is a very frustrating feeling. Sometimes I feel sick of how little time I am in this world and how much time I spend in fantasys. It is like being disconnected constantly.

    I’m still skeptical, because maybe this is a normal human experience. So I wanted to ask you how do you experience this, if you do.

    • March says:

      Data point: I do not have that.

      I definitely have a penchant for daydreaming in the ‘stop paying attention to the environment and become lost in thought, especially if there’s not much going on to focus on’ sense, but that doesn’t result in fantasies the way you describe. Doesn’t happen when I try to think things through either.

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      I have often experienced this, but it seems far less and fading as I get older. Also, my “fantasies” are much more mundane than they used to be, where now I imagine scenarios of how to answer tricky questions that might be posed to me at work…

    • Aging Loser says:

      I do that sort of thing a lot, Angel, but my imaginary listeners are usually real people and often I’m defending/explaining my bad behavior to them. Or are real people who I think that it would be nice to share ideas with — who wouldn’t be as interested in real life in my ideas as I wish they’d be.

      Probably idea-novelists such as Dostoevsky do this. Maybe you should write an idea-novel — of course, you might be doing so already, or might already have written three or four.

    • Well... says:

      My daughter does this all the time, like at least 30 minutes a day and often far more than that. She’ll actually sit there narrating long rambling stories in kind of a murmur to herself, often with herself as the protagonist, referring to herself in the third person. She plays with toys and things while she does it, so she’s probably using them to act out the stories a bit.

      But she’s five so it might be pretty normal. Does anyone know? If so, then at what age are kids supposed to grow out of it?

    • fion says:

      I think I do this, but your description sounds more like what I experience than the first two paragraphs of the wiki article do. I view it as a positive or neutral thing, though. I use imagined conversations to clarify my thoughts around a philosophical or political issue or practise an interaction which will happen in the future. Or just explore something that might be fun. I’ll sometimes spend half an hour a day for weeks imagining my life playing out if I just met myself from the future, or something equally silly.

      Actually, thinking about it, the “practise an interaction which will happen in the future” is probably negative, because it fuels anxiety and possibly makes it easier to put off the interaction from happening.

      • futatsuiwa says:

        I think the “maladaptive” part is really open to interpretation, it seems more like an adaptive thing to me, even in the latter case.

        Practicing an interaction is kind of similar to a creative fantasy – it’s creating a new pathway in the brain for that particular thing. Instead of just writing/drawing/creating from the void, there is something in your brain to use as a blueprint for it.

        Similarly for the interaction case, you have at least a basic script to go off of. The worst case is that it veers off-course and you’re back at square one where you are interacting purely in the moment.

        Not that it can’t take a maladaptive direction if you’re always looking for negatives, but I think it’s generally a positive thing, or starts out as such.

        • Angel says:

          Since I’m more aware of my day-dreams I’ve used them to be a little better in conversations. I’m not very good finding topics to talk at the moment, so going as you describe (building a basic script as a support) sometimes help. As long as it doesn’t become in something that hurts you in some way, visualization can be really helpful.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      See, I’d call this Walter Mitty syndrome, and I’d say I have a bit of it, but this is alien to me:

      Everytime I try to think about something (an opinion, an idea, an emotion…) I instantly create a fantasy where I express it. It is difficult for my to not express my internal dialogue in this way.

      This seems very abnormal. I do not know anyone who has an internal dialogue like this. The closest I think normal folk come to this is imaginary arguments in the bathroom that they fully except not to happen in the real world.

    • bullseye says:

      I daydream about explaining stuff to people all the time; typically something I read that I’m interested in. I usually don’t envision any specific person I’m talking to.

      I don’t recall ever actually explaining something to someone in the way that I daydream about.

  25. Baeraad says:

    Browsing the recent threads, I found I had been mentioned in my absence.

    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.)

    Unique and bizarre. That’s me. *sighs*

    I feel I should mention that 1) the whole “free argument” thing was me building on something someone else had said, and 2) I wasn’t being 100% serious. But just to make my stance entirely clear, let me explain three different positions: the one I don’t hold but like the idea of, the one I’d like to hold, and then the I reluctantly feel I must hold in this imperfect world.

    What I half-jokingly suggested

    What @LadyJane was referring to in that comment, as near as I can recall, was me suggesting that perhaps speech should be divided into arguments (which anyone would be allowed to counter by other arguments) and expression (which would be forbidden to counter except by other expression). So if a Christian were to say that atheists were a bunch of poopy-heads, it would be perfectly all right for an atheist to respond that nuh-uh, that’s not true, and also Christians are totally the real poopy-heads, so there! But if a Christian wrote a novel in which all the atheist characters just so happened to turn out to be poopy-heads, atheists would not be allowed to clutch their pearls and claim persecution. If they wanted to counter it, they would need to write their own novels in which all the Christian characters just so happened to turn out to be poopy-heads.

    To me, the benefit of this is obvious: it would prevent assholes from shitting over every single thing I tried to like. It would actually be possible, once more, to be a fan of something without constantly being told either that it was Problematic or that it was Pandering To SJWs (or sometimes both). This would do wonders for my mental health, because it would mean I could actually relax and enjoy something without always having to steel myself for the inevitable cry of “you are BAD for enjoying that!”

    But I don’t think it is possible to implement it in practice. There would be too many grey areas.

    What I actually want (but I know I ain’t gonna get it)

    Wall-to-wall censorship of hateful assholes.

    Yep. Far from wanting to protect only “the first person to comment on an issue,” I want that person to also shut their big, stupid mouth if all they’re going to do is insult someone. As I see it, all the practical benefits of free speech (spreading good ideas and combating bad ones, giving each person the dignity to speak their mind) have been rendered moot by the sheer mass of communication going on in the Internet age (good ideas, if indeed any still exist, are drowned out by verbose idiocy; and there is no dignity in having to listen to a thousand psychopaths burbling “beta faggot cuuuuuuck!!!” at you all at once). Enough, I say! We have proven ourselves to be idiot children, so let’s have some adults force us to be nice to one another and stick to the officially approved truths.

    Or I would say that… if there was a chance that the supposed adults would extend this protection to everyone. Sadly, that will not happen. If a program of Correct Thought was put into place, it would follow the current conventional wisdom that straight white men need no protection and that, in fact, it is absolutely necessary for them to be endlessly badmouthed and verbally abused. Well, guess what? This particular straight white man DOES need protection! This particular straight white man can barely get out of bed in the morning because he knows he’ll face a constant barrage of reminders that the world hates him and wants him to die!

    Thus:

    What I’m reluctantly forced to ask for

    Near-perfect freedom of speech. I am actually as on board with this as the staunchest libertarian – I’m just not enthusiastic about it, or believe that it will lead to anything good. In fact, I feel convinced that freedom of speech leads to nothing but suffering – but right now, suffering is what all the loudmouths deserve, and as long as they are all suffering equally there is the chance, the tiniest little chance, that they’ll eventually realise that this sucks and that they’ll need to negotiate some sort of compromise whereby we all agree to not shout out our most hateful and entitled feelings all the time. Whereas if we just silenced half the people, the other half would make sure that their dominion lasted for ever and ever.

    And, even sadder but just as true: as long as people have the right to hurt me, I need the right to cry out in pain. I hate the fact that people are allowed to shame and debase me, and I would gladly gag myself for life if it meant that they could no longer do so – but when being shamed and debased, it makes it feel just a miniscule bit better when you’re allowed to respond with some version of “fuck you!” without being hypocritically accused of hate speech.

    I’m sure that this seems just as bizarre to everyone, but I hope it at least clears up what my priorities are.

    • Aging Loser says:

      The main problem is that we can’t see the facial expressions of people who post conversationally informal comments, and they can’t see the facial expressions of the people to whom they imagine they’re speaking. Facial expressions usually subtly indicate non-hostility, so in their absence writing looks hostile unless it’s carefully formulated in a non-conversational way or is so exaggeratedly aggressive that it’s obviously offered with semi-humorous intent. (Same with vocal tone, shrugs, hand-gestures, etc.)

      • Well... says:

        Time to beta test a feature where every comment, in order to be submitted, must be accompanied by an emoji chosen from a large menu that spans the entire breadth of human emotion and disposition with plenty of redundancy.

        Seriously, I think this is probably the function served by GIF memes: they’re a shorthand way to communicate the emotional context of a verbal statement the same way tone of voice, facial expression, or body language normally would in meatspace. (Although memes are currently almost exclusively used to convey some form of levity, this need not always be the case.)

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          a large menu that spans the entire breadth of human emotion and disposition with plenty of redundancy.

          Good luck

        • AG says:

          Gaming this kind of system is how eggplant emoji happened, and 🙂 gained connotations of sarcasm/passive-aggressiveness. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

          EDIT: Oh good god that emoji conversion is hideous. WordPress why. >:|

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      There are a non-trivial number of people in the world that are more offended by unconventional ‘statements of fact’ or presumed fact then they are direct/overt insults leveled at other people. And given people’s penchant for self-deception, a statement of fact that meets that criteria can be interpreted as an insult. [Thus off-limits]

    • LadyJane says:

      Well, thanks for clarifying what you meant. Your idea seems strange to other people because it’s designed to optimize “making it less acceptable to offend you, personally,” which is not really anyone else’s priority with regards to social norms. It reminds me of this image, except with social acceptability standards instead of property rights.

      It would actually be possible, once more, to be a fan of something without constantly being told either that it was Problematic or that it was Pandering To SJWs (or sometimes both).

      Does it only bother you if this happens for political reasons, or does it bother you when people insult things you like for non-political reasons too? If it’s the former, then I can certainly understand your frustration with the Culture War, but I think you’re getting a little too caught up on a fairly minor aspect of it. If it’s the latter, then I’d say you’re getting way too worked up about your tastes and interests. I liked the Star Wars prequels and people used to insult them all the time, I remember getting into huge internet debates about those movies back in the early 2000s, and I didn’t take it as a personal offense when people bitched about how much they sucked.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Liberalism is what you get when people who all want ills not to be visited on them personally get together and decide that ills should not be visited on people as a whole. I agree to prioritize Baeraad’s well-being and he agrees to prioritize mine and we both end up better off for it. It’s not a bizarre idea, it’s how Western Civilization is supposed to function.

        It breaks down when you get a group of people who say “actually instead of respecting this person’s rights we can do as we please and we’re powerful enough collectively not to fear the consequences”. This is what Culture War ultimately boils down to, people deciding that they can force people to optimize for not offending them without avoiding giving offense in turn, and tearing up the truce that was liberal social norms.

        • LadyJane says:

          Yes, the bizarre part is that Baeraad has rather different standards than most about what would constitute an ill against him. I know he was half-kidding, but most people don’t consider “people insulting books/movies/games that I like” to be such a serious offense to warrant a rule against responding to art with argument. Hence why such a standard is only useful for preventing him from being offended; most people just wouldn’t care that much in the first place.

  26. LadyJane says:

    A critique of the populist right, the socialist left, and the establishment center: https://medium.com/@farrah_jane/three-roads-to-dystopia-814c7cdb5090

    • Erusian says:

      There’re blind spots in this piece to support mainstream Democrat positions. It also fundamentally fails to understand the right. This is is a ’50 more Stalins’ argument at its core, except driving to the Democratic Party mainstream rather than either extreme side. And I give her credit for that: we need more moderates who are willing to fight. That said, look at the group she wants to put together: Anti-fascists, anti-communists, non-socialist progressives (including Berniecrats), libertarians who will compromise on liberal desires, some centrists, anti-Trump ‘conservatives’… that’s the Democratic Party. She’s describing the Democratic Party.

      This is a vision of anti-extreme centrism that somehow always comes down on the Left. That isn’t going to happen. Either you let in real conservatives, the sort that might not be comfortable for you, or you end up fighting your own extreme wing and the other party. And then you lose. Both sides chose instead to forge an alliance with their own extreme wing. And they ended up with hardline divisions.

      More widely this is the Kasich/Brown problem. Kasich and Brown are very popular among moderates. Their base, as a result, is too small to seriously get them anywhere outside of the Great Lakes (which is a generally moderate area). There aren’t wide coalitions to be made around being a standard centrist in the current parties. There could be new wide coalitions made by political entrepreneurs though.

      • LadyJane says:

        My ideal is actually something more like Niskanen-style socially progressive, economically centrist libertarianism. There are some key differences between that and Democratic Party orthodoxy, particularly when it comes to individual rights, civil liberties, and foreign policy. Hell, the article quoted Adam Bates and he’s practically the poster child for progressive centrist libertarianism.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I don’t know what this means. However, I don’t like Trump, but there’s no room for folk like me in a Democratic Party that’s still largely concerned with expanding the social safety net and doubling down on the education system to resolve perceived inequality. If recent Twitter has taught me anything, it’s that center-left Democrats are WAY more willing to tolerate bank nationalization or extreme restrictions on their activities, 70% upper marginal tax rates, and Medicare For All, than they are President Romney (or any other generic GOPer). That’s not a recipe for a centrist coalition, that’s just current politics, except that Democratic leadership themselves are actually beholden to certain interest groups that makes them substantially more conservative. Handing over the coalition to the intelligentsia would just make the situation worse.

        • Erusian says:

          What differences precisely? There’s nothing in the article, or really from the Niskanen Center, that wouldn’t fit as a moderate Democrat.

          • LadyJane says:

            Support for deregulation, opposition to raising taxes (the idea is that we can keep taxes down and improve the social safety net by reducing spending on other things, like the military budget), opposition to corporate welfare and corporate influence on politics, support for the decriminalization of recreational drugs and sex work (the Libertarian Party is currently the only party in the U.S. that officially endorses the legalization of prostitution), opposition to the surveillance state and foreign interventionism.

          • Erusian says:

            I’m going to go through the Democratic Party Platform and see where it stands on your positions.

            Support for deregulation,

            Which regulations? Everyone is in favor of deregulation until it comes to specific regulations. Anyway, this is in there (specifically, simplification/streamlining and elimination of unnecessary ones while guaranteeing good working environments).

            opposition to raising taxes (the idea is that we can keep taxes down and improve the social safety net by reducing spending on other things, like the military budget),

            Military cuts is in there. So is increasing spending on social safety nets. The only difference is the Democrats say they might have to raise taxes to do so. If you had to choose between raising taxes on the wealthy or not increasing welfare, which would you choose? If you say ‘increase welfare even if it means raising taxes’ then you are exactly agreeing with them.

            opposition to corporate welfare

            In the platform.

            and corporate influence on politics,

            In the platform.

            support for the decriminalization of recreational drugs

            Some of them are in the platform.

            and sex work (the Libertarian Party is currently the only party in the U.S. that officially endorses the legalization of prostitution),

            Not mentioned either way. But then again, there is no federal law on prostitution. I’m going to call this one a draw.

            opposition to the surveillance state and foreign interventionism.

            This was a position under Barrack Obama but not Clinton. I’ll give you this one since Clinton is more recent.

            You (generously) got 1/6. So in terms of specifically disagreeing with the Democrats, you specifically object to Clinton’s support for surveillance and foreign interventionism. You instead support Barrack Obama’s more non-interventionist foreign policy. Otherwise, you agree with them or think they should go even further. I still think this would fit very comfortably in the moderate Democrat mainstream.

          • LadyJane says:

            So is your take that libertarianism is just “liberalism but even more so”? Because I’ve heard plenty of liberals say that libertarianism is just “conservatism but even more so.”

            At any rate, part of my problem with the Democratic Party is that they don’t actually do most of the things I mentioned, regardless of whether their platform calls for it or not. (Of course, you could argue that the Libertarian Party would be just as useless if they actually got into power, but we can’t know for sure until they actually win some important seats.)

          • Erusian says:

            So is your take that libertarianism is just “liberalism but even more so”? Because I’ve heard plenty of liberals say that libertarianism is just “conservatism but even more so.”

            So have I. But no, I wouldn’t say that, because the Libertarians have policy positions that so directly contradict the Republican mainstream. And they actually will spend money and votes working to achieve them, including working with Democrats. To name a few, the Republican and Libertarian views on drugs, immigration, criminal enforcement, and the military are all different from the Republican answer.

            So Libertarians have significant things they can point to as differences with the mainstream Republicans. Major issues that contradict the Republican Party Platform.

            Do you have anything like that? Because ‘I want to decrease the military to spend more on welfare instead of raising taxes to spend more on welfare’ doesn’t get anywhere close to the difference between open borders advocates and Trump.

            At any rate, part of my problem with the Democratic Party is that they don’t actually do most of the things I mentioned, regardless of whether their platform calls for it or not. (Of course, you could argue that the Libertarian Party would be just as useless if they actually got into power, but we can’t know for sure until they actually win some important seats.)

            Like I said, this is a ‘Fifty Stalins’ argument. You’re not actually criticizing the Democrats except in that they aren’t Democratic (with a big D) or effective enough. That’s fine as far as it goes. There’s really nothing wrong with being a committed moderate or a Democrat.

    • theredsheep says:

      Could stand to be compacted, though it provides a good general summary of where things stand. I feel that the conclusion she (you?) reach/es is probably not practical, and we’ll wind up with escalating aggression until somebody starts shooting. And then, well, who knows what.

    • Nick says:

      I’ve only just read it, but a few things:
      1) When you mention the 7% polled who want “communism” or “fascism,” how much of that is the Lizardman’s constant?
      2) I know you mention in the next paragraph that the alt-right has different concerns than mainstream conservatism, but it might do to emphasize that in your “united by … ” definition. Like, the alt-right has an indifference at best to the religious right and its concerns, at least as far as policy goes—I know Milo says he’s Catholic, but that doesn’t appear to have a measurable impact on his stances, and I know Bannon is working with Catholic traditionalists in Europe now, but he was as you said non-centrally alt-right and this signals if anything a further departure from American anti-PC provocateurisme*.
      3) My biggest concern here is that you correctly diagnose that the alt-right arose because of establishment failures, but your solution is a step backwards. Yes, liberalism isn’t living up to its own standards, but no movement lives up to its own standards! You’re ultimately judging communism and populism by their realities but liberalism by its ideal; so why wasn’t the problem with communism in Russia that it likewise didn’t have enough communism?

      The difference I take it is that one can show certain problems arise out of communism itself, the way Marx argues capitalism destroys itself I guess. But ever since the 2016 election there has been buzz in the Catholic sphere over just this sort of thing about liberalism. Deneen at Notre Dame wrote a whole book with the thesis that liberalism tends to destroy its own foundations, and Catholic integralists have been advancing similar critiques. Here’s a good intro to the debate between Deneen and the integralist Vermeulle. And here’s a conversation between integralists Vermeulle and Pappin, moderate** Deneen, and classical liberal Munoz at Notre Dame last year; Rod Dreher has a summary up if you prefer text. I’m getting off track here, but the point is that if you want to advance that the solution to liberalism is more liberalism, you need to resolve or do away with the contradictions alleged by Deneen and the like. You mostly admit this at the end, but then you say we don’t need to listen to illiberals. Sorry, but that’s exactly who is making these critiques; there’s no one else to listen to. If you don’t engage arguments like this—as Munoz did in the colloquy above—you’ll only succeed in driving more folks from the center.

      *Do I have the form of this word right? I made it up, but French speakers help me out. Or tell me if there’s a better term for Milo-esque behavior.
      **The moderate in this debate, of course.

      • wunderkin says:

        I’d think that if you’re looking for a way to measure the lizardman constant, asking “do you support fascism” is a pretty solid question to ask.

        • Deiseach says:

          asking “do you support fascism” is a pretty solid question to ask.

          Which variety – Hitler? Mussolini? Salazar? Franco? Salazar seems to have been the most successful, with a “dictatorship lasting 48 years”, and I haven’t heard anybody throwing around Portugal as an example of a Fascist state (or even any awareness that it was a Fascist state) on the same level as Nazi Germany when it comes to making condemnatory comparisons (when was the last time you heard someone say “If things go on like this, the US is going to turn into a dictatorship like Portugal”?), so Salazarian Fascism seems the way to go!

          OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: THIS IS A JOKE, DO NOT QUOTE THIS AS ‘OMG, SSC IS OVER-RUN WITH ALT-RIGHT ACTUAL FASCISTS!’

          • theredsheep says:

            Come to think of it, now that people like Bernie are unabashedly calling themselves “socialists” to mean something like “social democrats,” I wonder if “fascist” could see a similar watered-down rebranding?

          • wunderkin says:

            The question is deliberately vague. You’ve also got Argentine Fascism, which actually still has defenders in argentina apparently. Plus you have the a variety of post-colonial governments that, while never explicitly fascist, were nationalist, socialist, secular regimes that used rhetoric not all that different from that of fascists. Pan arabism in particular.

          • Plumber says:

            @theredsheep

            “Come to think of it, now that people like Bernie are unabashedly calling themselves “socialists” to mean something like “social democrats,” I wonder if “fascist” could see a similar watered-down rebranding?”

            Huh, the British Labour Party was still a member of the Socialist International until 2013 (they still send observers), and it was barely Social Democrats, much less for socialist for much of this time, and in the U.S.A. voices on the Right have called modern day Canada and the mid 20th century “socialistic” so much that many millenials we seem to just want the welfare state their parents or grandparents had now call themselves “socialists”, so I may easily imagine enough young people after being called “fascist” for not being left-of-center start to adopt the label themselves.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah, judging Fascism as an ideology by Adolf Hitler’s regime is like judging Communism as an ideology by Pol Pot’s regime – it may be an ideology with serious problems, but those problems aren’t helped by being run by a lunatic with a hard-on for murdering his own people en masse, and things don’t always turn out quite that bad.

          • Guy in TN says:

            One major difference is that “fascist” has been used almost exclusively as a pejorative in the past 50 years, while successful and popular political parties self-describe as “socialist”.

            Remember: its not like Bernie Sanders started describing himself as “socialist” as a reaction to rightwing Obamacare talking points.

      • LadyJane says:

        Really, it comes down to values, goals, and methods.

        I disagree with the far-right in terms of all three. Their values are not my values. I prioritize civil rights, social freedom, methodological individualism, economic prosperity, and technological advancement; they prioritize tradition, unity, communalism, and shared identity. Our values may not quite be diametrically opposed, but they certain conflict in a number of obvious and not-so-obvious ways, which makes it difficult or outright impossible to find common ground with them or reach any sort of compromise. So in my view, they are the enemy.

        I agree with the far-left in terms of values, but still disagree with their goals and methods. They’re humanists, they’re egalitarians, they’re utilitarians, so far so good. But their objective is to overthrow capitalism and replace it with a socialist or communist system, and that’s where I part ways with them. They adamantly believe that destroying capitalism will bring about a society where the majority of people are freer and more prosperous; I adamantly believe it will do the exact opposite. So I see them as ideological enemies too, but they’re well-intentioned enemies who I have sympathy for, at least until they start shouting about how the kulaks deserved to be exterminated.

        With liberals, I agree with their values and their goals, I just disagree with their methods. I would love for every country on Earth to be a prosperous capitalist liberal democracy, just like they would. The difference is, I don’t think invading foreign nations, interfering in civil wars, and supporting third-world dictators is a good strategy for achieving that goal. So I don’t really see them as ideological enemies at all, just as very misguided allies. Fundamentally, I’m still a liberal at heart, just a liberal who’s deeply upset about how the liberal establishment has chosen to pursue its goals.

        • Deiseach says:

          social freedom

          Depending if I’m understanding this correctly, social freedom is all very well until it comes to where the 0.001% of the population can hold the rest to ransom by screaming about being disrespected and oppressed, and that is just as much imposed unity of thought as any traditional, communal society. If “we’re socially free because everyone is free to live in the way they choose and hold their own beliefs, as long of course as none of those beliefs come under the headings of this long list of hate speech”, then you have a social imposition of shared identity, like it or lump it.

      • LadyJane says:

        As for the traditionalist Catholics, I simply didn’t consider them relevant enough to include in the article. There are plenty of ideologies opposed to all three of the groups I mentioned. I brought up libertarianism because that’s the most popular one, but there are dozens of others, from the hard greens and primitivists to the third positionists and national Bolsheviks to techno-monarchists and accelerationists. But most of them aren’t particularly important, at least not in the context of U.S. politics.

        Things might be different in Europe, but TradCaths are an extreme minority in North America. The Religious Right is almost entirely comprised of Evangelicals here, and they don’t exactly mesh with TradCaths, partially because they’re hardcore millenarians and TradCaths are reflexively opposed to millenarian ideologies, and partially for the simpler reason that a lot of them are bigoted against Catholics. The majority of North American Catholics are either liberals or mainstream conservatives. At most, they’ll side with the Evangelicals against abortion and LGBT rights (and not so much that second one anymore, slightly under 2/3rds of American Catholics are now supportive of gay marriage), but they’re not really a political force in their own right.

        • Nick says:

          That’s fine for a fringe position like integralism, but Deneen is your real opponent here, which is why I focused on him. He, like many such critics, thinks liberalism’s problems are coming from within. The way I see it, you’re diagnosing the symptoms of liberalism’s malaise, but not the disease, and plausibly that’s why you don’t know how to proceed. Deneen’s offering a diagnosis, and one that isn’t just ‘liberalism is insufficiently Catholic,’ so it’s in your interest to engage with him, rather than dismissing him as a far-right enemy.

          • LadyJane says:

            I haven’t read Deneen’s book, so I might be missing out on some of the nuances in his argument. But going by the links you provided, he’s basically just making the same arguments that paleo-conservatives have been making since the 50s: social liberalism and unrestrained capitalism are destroying traditional values, tearing apart communities, and turning people into miserable atomized consumers with no concern for anything but their own immediate desires. The solution is to reject the centralized authority of governments and corporations in favor of socially conservative communitarian localism. Deneen is smart enough to ascribe the problem to perverse systemic incentives, rather than claiming that it’s a result of deliberate malice by some conspiracy of (coastal elites/secular academics/rootless cosmopolitans/cultural Marxists), but otherwise I don’t see his view as being all that different from the Pat Buchanan types. That said, it’s a very strong argument for that view, so I will give him credit for that, even if I still strongly disagree with him.

            As for why I think that view is largely misguided and wrong, I’ve gone over my reasons in plenty of other SSC threads, and I’ll probably include those counter-arguments in a follow-up article on Medium.

          • Plumber says:

            @LadyJane

            “I haven’t read Deneen’s book..”

            Neither have I

            “….he’s basically just making the same arguments that paleo-conservatives have been making since the 50s

            1950′? Who said that then?

            “…social liberalism…”

            Does that mean voting rights and fuller citizenship for black Americans, after which other Americans decided to dismantle the welfare state? 

            The end of Jim Crow and the rest of the ‘Great Society’ was a good thing, the backlash wasn’t. 

            Or do you mean legalized abortion? 

            No fault divorce?  

            Something else?

            “…and unrestrained capitalism are destroying traditional values, tearing apart communities, and turning people into miserable atomized consumers with no concern for anything but their own immediate desires..”

            .Well yes, but I suspect those things contribute to the “I got mine Jack” ethos which feeds the cycle

            “…The solution is to reject the centralized authority of governments…”

            Why? 

            Use government to restrain capitalism instead, and help build communities.

            “…and corporations..”

            Regulating corporations sounds good

            “….in favor of socially conservative communitarian localism…”

            What does that mean?

            If that means rejecting the divorce revolution then that sounds good, if it means rejecting the industrial revolution that divides parents from their children then that sounds even better! 

            Bring on William Morris’s dream! 

            (I won’t hold my breath waiting though, “cause the revolution was supposed to have happened in 1952)

          • LadyJane says:

            The John Birch Society has been making arguments like that since 1958, and I’m sure the sentiments go back even further.

            By social liberalism I mean: secularism, racial/ethnic/religious equality, egalitarian gender norms, widespread access to contraception, sexual freedom, social and legal tolerance of LGBT lifestyles, social and possibly legal acceptance of recreational/psychedelic drug use, and the general sentiments that 1.) people should be treated as individuals rather than collectively pre-judged on the basis of traits like race and sex, 2.) people should be free to do what they want as long as they’re not hurting anyone else, and 3.) we should have a culture that allows and encourages people to express their individuality. And yes, legalized abortion and no fault divorce would be an inherent part of that.

            “The solution” I mentioned wasn’t my solution, it was the proposed solution of paleo-conservative thinkers like Deneen. They almost always think the solution is to shift power down from the federal government to state governments and municipal governments, with the expectation that this will lead to a resurgence of socially conservative communitarianism.

            People having been talking about reversing the Industrial Revolution since the Industrial Revolution happened. It goes a lot further back than 1952! But I agree that you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting, they’ve been saying “any day now” for the past 150+ years.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @LadyJane

            You’re confounding communitarianism with anti-industrialism and social repression, which is not politically inaccurate but also doesn’t follow. The problem of the death of community seems to me mostly orthogonal to the question of liberal governance, unless you’re proposing a sort of anti-Confucian social liberalism in which there are no norms or social structures (aside from a universal acceptance of the value of freedom) from the Emperor President on down to the family, only people standing alone screaming into the void.

          • LadyJane says:

            I don’t think communitarianism and social conservatism have to go hand-in-hand, there are socially liberal variants of communitarianism too. I was just pointing out that paleo-conservatives tend to support both. And Plumber was the one who brought up anti-industrialism, although I’ve noticed a lot of paleo-cons tend to be at least mildly anti-industial too. (That’s not always the case; I’ve known a few paleo-cons who were outright technophiles, but they’re rare.)

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Fair.

            If you plan to argue against the communitarian position it would be nice to see the liberal communitarians treated as well as the conservatives.

          • Deiseach says:

            social and legal tolerance of LGBT lifestyles

            But it’s gone from tolerance, tolerance is no longer enough. This person’s plaint had me eye-rolling all the way through, but especially at this part:

            I’ve handed out literature about my life and asked for questions and feedback, never receiving a single one. I’ve written and distributed “family newsletters” explaining the details of my life in lighthearted, accessible ways, and then spent days by the phone waiting for inquisitive calls that never came.

            You see? You’re not allowed to just mind your own business, or even “okay I got it”, you have to make A Big Deal out of rushing out to gush over what a wunnerful, wunnerful person they are. Now, someone may be entitled to expect that of their family (personally, I think if your family don’t want to know intrusive details of your private life that is their perogative as well) but they sure can’t expect it of a random person in the street.

            And yet.

            True allies do not merely “tolerate” someone’s gender identity, sexual orientation, or life choices. “Tolerance” is not the same thing as unconditional love, support, and protection, and trust me, marginalized people all know the difference.

            You are entitled to not be harassed. You are not entitled to my personal attention and unconditional approval. And in a truly socially free society, this would be accepted. But it won’t be, and I don’t think this is anything more than the normal human instinct to impose conditions to live by. There won’t ever be the Utopia of “live and let live”, censorship remains, it’s just that the books now being banned have different content to the ones that were banned under the previous dispensation.

        • people should be free to do what they want as long as they’re not hurting anyone else

          That is not the (modern) liberal position, unless you define “hurting” broadly enough to include “not helping.”

          If it were, modern liberals would be opposed to minimum wage laws, regulation of medical drugs, medical licensing, laws against discrimination, … . But those are things which they are the chief supporters of.

          • Statismagician says:

            I think a synthesis can be accomplished if we posit that professional politicians are primarily interested in being re-elected and that the median voter doesn’t know anything about systems economics, neither of which seem controversial.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        I agree broadly with this critique. I also think that it’s orthogonal to liberalism.

        As Deneen says, we can’t go back. No way out but through. And every time we’ve tried to formulate collective values under an atmosphere of bloody repression it’s turned into a nightmare later down the line. We haven’t really tried to formulate them under liberalism yet. Why not try?

    • wunderkin says:

      Of course, one of the biggest reasons that people lost trust in the political establishment is because it doesn’t deserve their trust. The Bush administration lied to the American public to lead us into a disastrous war under false pretenses, with the support of Democratic politicians and liberal media establishments. The Obama administration continued the previous administration’s wars and got us involved in several new ones. Both administrations engaged in borderline illegal surveillance policies, and in the blatantly illegal practice of detaining suspected terrorists without due process. On the economic front, Bush-era deregulations led to an financial collapse, and the Obama administration’s response to the crisis was to bail out the banking firms responsible.

      The Bush administration didn’t lie, they were wrong. There was certainly nothing blatantly illegal about detaining enemy combatants. The bush administration didn’t de-regulate anything, it oversaw the two largest expansions in backing regulation in decades, sarbanes oxely and basel III. The banks weren’t responsible for the financial crisis.

      The article is replete with these sorts of errors, these are just an example. It’s hard to take the arguments of people seriously when they demonstrate that they are incapable of separating fact from congenially colored fictions.

    • Plumber says:

      @Lady Jane, 

      Interesting to read another generations take on things, thanks for that.

      A couple of responses to some things:

      “…Some leftists will respond that the government would create new housing, but if that’s a possibility, then why doesn’t the government just do that now instead of abolishing rent?….”

      Once upon a time the government did “create new housing”, I lived in what was called “Public Housing” as a small child, and it still exists in a diminished form today, before his death my Dad still lived in a public housing complex in 2017.

      Most commenters describe public housing as “awful”, but I judge it better than all the tent encampments that have sprouted up in the last few years.

      “…It’s also telling that ‘liberal’ has become a dirty word among the far-leftists…”

      This isn’t new, I remember the “adults” who described themselves as ‘leftists’ in the ’70’s doing the same, as they listened to Phil Ochs sing in a 1966 record album:

      “…Sure, once I was young and impulsive; 
      I wore every conceivable pin,
      Even went to Socialist meetings, 
      learned all the old Union hymns.
      Ah, but I’ve grown older and wiser, 
      and that’s why I’m turning you in.
      So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal”

      It was only with the election of Reagan that I stop hearing ‘leftists’ slam “liberals” and start to say things like “If I only knew it would be worse after Johnson”, then right-wing talk radio starting slamming “liberals” when few called themselves that anymore, just “moderates” and “progressives”.

      • Most commenters describe public housing as “awful”, but I judge it better than all the tent encampments that have sprouted up in the last few years.

        How did it compare with the low income housing that was cleared by urban renewal for public housing–and other things–to be built on?

        • brad says:

          I can’t speak to San Fransisco, but in NYC the public housing projects are a mixed bag.

          The crime rate in them is now way down from its peak. A lot of potential factors there, but one I think isn’t talked about much is the aging of the population that lives in them.

          The rents paid by residents are much cheaper than anything available in the open market. That’s true even for one bedrooms (there are no studios) but even more so for multi-bedroom units.

          The physical conditions of the buildings and the apartments are as bad or worse than anything the private market has to offer. Stories about long standing holes in ceilings / floors, lack of heat, broken appliances, unlit hallways, etc. are legion. The repair backlog totals billions of dollars. It doesn’t help that staff doing these repairs are members of a very strong union.

          My biggest problem with public housing, vouchers, rent control, and affordable unit set asides (i.e. the entirety of the urban affordable housing policy set) is that it picks winners and losers. Rather than making things a little better for everyone they give windfalls to some and nothing to many others. I’d much rather see policies put in place designed to lower housing costs for everyone, or at least everyone that’s poor.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            My biggest problem with public housing, vouchers, rent control, and affordable unit set asides (i.e. the entirety of the urban affordable housing policy set) is that it picks winners and losers. Rather than making things a little better for everyone they give windfalls to some and nothing to many others. I’d much rather see policies put in place designed to lower housing costs for everyone, or at least everyone that’s poor.

            Very nice Brad. I agree totally.

        • Plumber says:

          @DavidFriedman

          “How did it compare with the low income housing that was cleared by urban renewal for public housing–and other things–to be built on?”

          Before my time, but from what I’ve read and heard the old “Fillmore” district in San Francisco was better than the post ‘urban renewal’ one.

        • Statismagician says:

          How did it compare with the low income housing that was cleared by urban renewal for public housing–and other things–to be built on?

          Poorly, at least in my area (although I live in Saint Louis, which is on the extreme side of poor public housing decisions).

    • Guy in TN says:

      …Many of these self-proclaimed socialists don’t actually want to dismantle capitalism, they merely want a proper healthcare system, better-funded schools, a stronger social safety net, an infrastructure that isn’t falling apart, and all the other benefits of European-style welfare capitalism…

      …Another popular far-left slogan is “nationalize Amazon.” What would happen if the U.S. federal government actually did so? Well, under current law, it would have to compensate the shareholders for the value of their company, so the government would be down a trillion dollars that it could’ve used to improve the lives of its citizens. ..

      I can only assume the author is utterly unaware of the history of state-owned enterprises in the Nordics. When the left advocates for “European style” system, they aren’t talking about the UK or France, they are talking about the Nordic system, which achieved its welfare state by nationalizing many of their major industries in this very way.

      • LadyJane says:

        There are different meanings of the term “nationalization.” Specifically, there’s a huge difference between the government owning a controlling stock in publicly traded companies, as in Norway, and the kind of direct state (or popular) control over industries that the socialists are calling for. Capitalism is maintained under the Nordic model, the state is simply another major shareholder. You can argue that it’s market interference that goes against the laissez-faire principles of a pure free-market approach, but it’s far from the central planning seen in actual socialist/communist nations.

        • Guy in TN says:

          Specifically, there’s a huge difference between the government owning a controlling stock in publicly traded companies, as in Norway, and the kind of direct state (or popular) control over industries that the socialists are calling for.

          I’m trying to understand how this needle threads. Is the author’s position (and I’m presuming yours), that controlling Amazon by buying >50% of the shares could be a good thing, but controlling it by buying 100% of the company would be bad?