Open Thread 119.75

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1,022 Responses to Open Thread 119.75

  1. kupe says:

    I think I’m losing my memory and I want to do an experiment to test this. I’ve got two goals: to find out how my memory stack up against average, and then to see whether it’s getting worse.

    Personal context:

    I’m in my mid twenties, and since my late teens I’ve felt I had poor long term memory compared to others. Among other things, I don’t recall a number of important stories from my childhood that others feel I should, there are entire papers from my degree that I got good grades in from which now I can’t remember the fundamental concepts from and recently I couldn’t remember without help what I did to celebrate new years a year ago. I worry it may be getting worse (I’ve had multiple concussions in the past few years)

    How would you design an experiment to test this? I’ve got some ideas but I don’t want to share them in case it anchors people’s thinking.

    • Well... says:

      If you’re serious about this you should probably start by seeing a neurologist or something.

      • emiliobumachar says:

        Seconded. Investigating cognitive decline is hard, but fortunately there is quite an edifice of knowledge on the topic, and professionals who study it for years to practice it for decades. Plan A is definitely to see a doctor.

        • Well... says:

          Plus those professionals have MRI machines, which might be useful in proving or disproving various hypotheses.

        • kupe says:

          I want to do this eventually, however it would be great to substantiate my thoughts before spending the amount of money to see a neurologist. I’m going to bring it up with my GP next week to see if she has any low hanging fruit ideas that won’t constitute a significant financial hit.

    • zoozoc says:

      I don’t know anything about an experiment to test, but this is my history with my memory.

      When I was in high school (probably earlier high school), I rarely had to write anything down to remember it (specifically a TODO or something of that nature, or an event like you describe). In my twenties, while in college, I noticed I had to start writing things down to remember them. Now that I am in my later 20s I have a hard time even recalling things from a couple of days ago (uneventful things, but still). I could definitely see myself in your boat where I would forget something “eventful” from a year ago.

      The only major co-founder I can think of is that I am a lot more sedentary now than I was in high school or college, but I had noticed this decline while in college. I assume it is just age but maybe I am wrong.

      • kupe says:

        That’s a part of why I haven’t sort professional help yet. It could be age and a natural decline, it could be a sort of fading affect bias regarding my memory in my teens, it could also be a growing anxiety about my memory causing me to notice it more and interpret forgetfulness differently.

        All this is why I want some data to scope out the extent of the problem before I invest in any interventions.

        With regard to writing, I have thought to start keeping a journal to try and record life events etc. Even the act of writing things down may help me to keep the common thread of things.

        • Randy M says:

          Given you mention concussions, in your place I would follow up with a specialist.

          With regard to writing, I have thought to start keeping a journal to try and record life events etc. Even the act of writing things down may help me to keep the common thread of things

          I think this would be an excellent thing to do to both measure and mitigate the problem, and have personally intended to do it many times. :/

          Also consider the possibility that you remember as well as other people–but fail to unconsciously fill in the blanks with plausible sounding details that make you look good. The eye and the brain–two organs that wash themselves.

          • kupe says:

            Also consider the possibility that you remember as well as other people–but fail to unconsciously fill in the blanks with plausible sounding details that make you look good.

            This is an issue I’m having with my experimental design. An idea I had was to track how I remembered various topics e.g. What did you have for lunch this time last week? However if there’s no way to verify it then my confidence in the matter could just be my brain filling in blanks.

            As an additional complexity, if I was to try and track some data for verification use then the act of tracking and even just knowing that it’s something that is being tracked may affect how I remember it.

            My current thoughts are to write a program that shows me random images of animals from a large set. I do this on a regular basis (weekly?) and I select whether I believe I’ve seen the image before. This is basically an adaptation of short term memory tests I’ve seen online.

        • AG says:

          I remember seeing an article about how the advent of various recording technologies seemed to make people’s memories worse, but really just shifted the thing their memory was prioritizing. Instead of remembering phone numbers, they would better remember the navigation path to get to the contact list.

          So in starting to write things down, your memory about those things will likely get worse, but your memory for where you left the list will get better.
          Counteracting this is basically the flash card approach: reviewing the thing to be remembered to reinforce the neural pathways.
          I may not remember the details of a vacation because I know there are a bunch of photos archiving it and I know where those photos are, but I’ll remember the trip even better if I’m frequently reviewing said photos/video afterwards.

          • kupe says:

            Reviewing eventful details is a valid strategy. One of the things I’m coming up against though is forgetting smaller things is often more stressful. Things such as a work process I haven’t gone through for a few weeks or what happened earlier in a book that I’ve put down over a busy week. It’s not worth reviewing those.

        • I started going through a similar decline, especially forgetting names… but then I moved out of the small damp basement flat I was in, into a larger flat above ground with high ceilings and lots of airspace, and the problem almost completely disappeared. I wondered whether I was being poisoned by something.

          • albatross11 says:

            Could your result have to do with either:

            a. Light exposure (perhaps mediated through vitamin D or depression/circadian rhythms)?

            b. A mold allergy keeping you constantly in some kind of inflamed/crappy-feeling state? (If you have some asthma, this could easily screw up your sleep. Or allergies could clog your nose, messing up your sleep.).

          • kupe says:

            A reversible environmental cause would be such a relief to me. I should look into common environmental poisons and test for them. Thanks for the tip!

          • J Mann says:

            Scott had a few posts about CO2 accumulation a month or two back that are probably worth reading. (Although, somewhat ironically, I don’t remember many details.)

          • @albatross11

            I think it was most likely b. I started having a skin problem when I stayed in that flat and it’s gradually cleared up after leaving.

            This was a place where once, when the outside drain was blocked, water piled up against the frontroom windows because there was a semicircular area below ground level where it could collect if the drain was blocked.

            Glad I got out of there.

  2. Well... says:

    Recently Youtube has been recommending me a bunch of “Sovereign citizen gets pwned by [judge]/[cop]/[etc.]” videos. I watched one or two before realizing these videos are nowhere near as interesting as they could be, primarily because sovereign citizens appear to be mostly just not very smart. Actually I was surprised this was still a thing; I remember first hearing about sovereign citizens a decade or so ago, where there was some kind of feature journalism piece where they followed one around, and he actually came off as rather articulate and well-read in relevant areas (law, civics, etc.) even though he was still a bit kooky, and then I didn’t hear about them for a while.

    Anyway, it’s got me wondering what David Friedman or others knowledgeable in anarchist thought think of sovereign citizens.

    • kupe says:

      Not an anarchist, but people of that ilk are so common in our courts that we have a handbook on how to deal with them.

      • Well... says:

        Whoa, really? I wonder how they became so common, and how long that’s been going on.

        • Clutzy says:

          I used to work for a judge, we got them all the time. Most of them learn about it in prison from as far as I can tell. Its got a lot in common with a get rich scheme, so you can see how it appeals to low-IQ inmates.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Not an anarchist, but on this topic, something to be aware of with sovereign citizen and similar arguments is a lot of the time people didn’t come up with them on their own, but were sold them by someone posing as a tax preparer or whatever. Specifically in the realm of taxes (I know it shows up in other cases in civil-type court) it looks like:

      1. your buddy knows a guy who can get you a great refund.
      2. said guy pitches you on his scheme, which is about the little-known loophole that you can claim big refunds because something something gold standard something social security or similar.
      3. you sign up, pay him money, and he submits your taxes.
      4. maybe you get the refund, maybe you don’t, but sooner or later the tax people notice and ask for proof of what’s claimed in the taxes, and maybe ask for their money back plus
      5. you go to guy, and he gets you to submit some kind of appeal or whatever, often giving you forms you sign, which are full of pseudolegal gibberish, usually giving you a line about how the taxman trying to get the money back is just a formality and how it ordinarily happens, just wait for the court to vindicate you
      6. while the case is working its way through the system, guy disappears, or tries to.

      The people who show up in these videos might seem dumb not because they’re the sort of people who come up with wacky legal interpretations – which at least requires reading a few books and so forth – but because they’re the sort of person who get ripped off by the people who come up with the wacky stuff (either believing it or pretending to). Not “sovereign citizens” in the sense of holders of a doctrine or whatever, but rather, people who got it sold to them as a way to save money on their taxes or whatever.

      • Well... says:

        That’s an interesting take, and seems plausible. I wonder how commonly that’s the backstory.

        • dndnrsn says:

          My exposure probably means I would highball the % that were tax-related. Taxes might be an area where it gets used as a scam like that, rather than people in some other legal trouble who read about it and get into it.

          Have you read Meads v. Meads? It’s family court, not tax-related; husband shows up and starts doing all sorts of crazy-tax-theory stuff. It gives the judge’s breakdown of the whole thing as background; a bit over the top in places but worth reading.

    • brad says:

      The fundamental misunderstanding that they have is that they think the law is some kind of fantasy magic system where all you need is the correct incantation. Although there are very rare occasions in small areas of the legal system where a seemingly farfetched result will occur because the law technically requires it, that is far and away the exception and not the rule. In almost all cases judges are not genies that have to give you exactly what you want as long as you phrase it really carefully; most of the time you can’t get that unreasonable thing you want no matter how you phrase it.

      • dndnrsn says:

        It’s definitely an understanding of law as magic. They’re really into true names, as well.

        • Nornagest says:

          There’s a pretty good fantasy setting somewhere in here. Max Gladstone did “magic as economics” in Three Parts Dead and sequels, and Charlie Stross did “magic as mathematics” in his Laundry books, but I don’t think anyone’s done “magic as law”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Magic affects someone to the extent the caster knows their true, full name. Revealing larger or smaller parts of your name, or more or less detail (a nickname might give a little bit of name to target, full legal name and they are in your power), would be an important social-rules thing. The more you’re willing to sign a contract with your name, the more of your name you sign it with.

          • Nick says:

            Magic affects someone to the extent the caster knows their true, full name. Revealing larger or smaller parts of your name, or more or less detail (a nickname might give a little bit of name to target, full legal name and they are in your power), would be an important social-rules thing.

            I believe the Bartimaeus trilogy did this, or something very like it.

          • testing123 says:

            @nick

            one of my favorite book series.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Actually, Three Parts Dead at least (I haven’t read the rest of the series) had magic as contracts.

            One important part of real world societies is promises, and promise-breaking on a large scale has disastrous effects.

            True names: I’ve noticed that for dealing with computers, sometimes the hardest part is finding the name of the thing your trying to change or get.

      • Guy in TN says:

        I would describe the situation as more as a belief in legal literalism. That is, the belief that judges are required to follow the letter of the law precisely, and if you find some grammatical ambiguity/typo, you win.

        The reality is, of course, that actual enforcement of the law is based on a form of soft judicial activism, where tradition, social norms, and not-burning-everything-down prevail.

      • Murphy says:

        I mean the general idea isn’t too bad: There are a fair few real incantations that make a big legal difference.

        I would never have thought that sending a debt collector a letter , signed for, registered delivery with “I dispute this debt. Only contact me in writing at [this address]” along with some other magic words can, under a lot of circumstances, apparently leave dodgy debt collectors racking up violations fast and can leave people with significant settlements rather than debts under the american system.

        But that one’s due to a law specifically written to allow people who may not be legally literate or even particularity literate protection from dodgy companies…

        The problem is that they try to invent new magic words rather than picking the ones that have been legally tested and worked.

        • John Schilling says:

          The legal incantation being necessary and the legal incantation being sufficient are two different things.

          If you’re asking for X and the law is generally understood as calling for X, getting the incantation right still makes it easier for judges, etc, to give you X and harder for your adversary(*) to convince the judge that you are a crank who the judge shouldn’t bother listening to. You need to get the incantation right, or you need a charitable judge who is willing to take on some extra work to get you what you deserve.

          If you are asking for X and the law is generally understood as calling for Not-X, there is no incantation that will help you.

          * You have an adversary, who is trying to deny you what the law calls for you to have, or we aren’t having this discussion. And how vigorously the adversary decides to push the fight, depends on the expected cost and likelihood of victory, which depends in part on whether you can get the incantations right.

      • J Mann says:

        That’s a great post, Brad. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I love it.

      • Randy M says:

        Is “I feel unsafe” something of an effective incantation in the realm of college administrators? Something they are bound to at least seriously investigate even if it doesn’t make a ton of sense in the context; or is that overblown?

        • J Mann says:

          That’s a good point.

          There are definitely some valid incantations in the world of law, in that once you say something, you may trigger an actual legal consequence – “I accept your offer” or “I reject your offer” are some classic examples from contracts case in law school. Both have very specific consequences, and there are many others. “You are hereby on notice of a potential lawsuit and have an obligation to preserve relevant documents and records” is another, but those mainly deal with decisions by the speaker or issues of notice to the hearer.

          As Brad points out, the goofy thing about the Sovereign Citizens is that they have a Gnostic belief in the law – that there are secret legal rules that apply, but only if you know them and say them.

          • nkurz says:

            the goofy thing about the Sovereign Citizens is that they have a Gnostic belief in the law – that there are secret legal rules that apply, but only if you know them and say them

            Is it goofy to explicitly say “I am asserting my right to remain silent” versus just (temporarily) remaining silent? Are they foolish for believing that there is a significant legal difference between the colloquially equivalent sentences “I want to speak to a lawyer” and “I think I should speak to a lawyer”?

            I’m not well versed in legal matters, but I’ve been lead to believe that there are quite a few cases that have turned on the exact phrasing of these two. Am I wrong? If not, how is someone under the sway of a charlatan selling Sovereign Citizen nonsense supposed to know which part is junk is which part is real?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @nkurz

            The catch is that the magic words matter when the judges want them to matter. And even then, there’s so many that you’ll NEVER get them all right, so they end up just being an excuse. You can’t control the system that way; the technicalities are merely an excuse for the system to reach the desired results.

          • hls2003 says:

            how is someone under the sway of a charlatan selling Sovereign Citizen nonsense supposed to know which part is junk is which part is real?

            As I told a cousin once who seemed to be falling under the sway of this nonsense, if it’s telling you that you can avoid taxes, it’s junk and you will end up in jail. So in that regard, it’s basically the same rules as avoiding any other scam – if it seems too good to be true (i.e. free money) then it probably is.

            You’re not wrong that cases have turned on how one asks for a lawyer, although the media pretty badly misreported one such case (State of La. v. Demesne, I think). The defendant conditionally said he should perhaps get a lawyer (something like “if you think I did it, then I should stop talking and you should get me a lawyer, dawg”). In right-to-counsel litigation, the request must be unequivocal, not conditional. The media misreported the Louisiana court as holding that the request was ambiguous because it referred to a “lawyer dog” instead of a lawyer. That wasn’t it; it was ambiguous because the request was conditional (“if you think I did it, then…”) instead of unequivocal. Helpful analysis here at WaPo.

            I seem to recall reading sometime that a libertarian organization was distributing cards with simple rules for police encounters. “I do not consent to any searches” was on there, I think; “If I am not under arrest, I am leaving. Am I under arrest?” or something like it may have been on there (“am I being detained”-shouting guy sounds like somebody thought it had more significance than it did). “I refuse to answer any questions and I demand to talk to my lawyer” is always a good talismanic phrase to repeat until such time as you are, in fact, given a lawyer.

          • J Mann says:

            @nkurz – that is a very good point, but I’d lean on the “Gnostic” and “secret” parts.

            In many other cases: “I request asylum,” “I wish to speak to my lawyer,” “I do not consent to any search,” etc., a clear expression of intent is important, and there are “magic words” that can express that intent specifically and unambiguously but (a) there is no secret and (b) at bottom, it’s not the specific words that matter, it’s just that those words are accepted as unambiguous statements of the underlying intent.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The Washington Post was being overly charitable to the court.

            In my view, the defendant’s ambiguous and equivocal reference to a “lawyer dog” does not constitute an invocation of counsel that warrants termination of the interview and does not violate Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 68 L.Ed.2d 378 (1981).

            However, that was not the court’s decision; that was a concurring opinion.

            The actual decision was that he didn’t make the magic incantations in the _right order_ to _the right daemons_

            WRIT NOT CONSIDERED. Petitioner has not demonstrated that he sought review in the court(s) below before filing in this Court nor shown the “extraordinary circumstances” that would justify bypassing that level of review. La.S.Ct.R. X § 5(b).

          • brad says:

            J Mann

            There are definitely some valid incantations in the world of law, in that once you say something, you may trigger an actual legal consequence – “I accept your offer” or “I reject your offer” are some classic examples from contracts case in law school. Both have very specific consequences, and there are many others. “You are hereby on notice of a potential lawsuit and have an obligation to preserve relevant documents and records” is another, but those mainly deal with decisions by the speaker or issues of notice to the hearer.

            Exactly phrasing almost never matters. There are a bunch of lawyers that for some bizarre reason think you need to write “Comes now the Plaintiff”. No one ever has to, or should, write that.

            In contract law the standard is objective manifestation of intent to be bound. “I accept your offer” works, but it isn’t the only possible phrasing that works.

            It is true that there are these fourth amendment cases where exactly what the defendant said makes a big difference but courts are at least pretending to try to understand what the defendant meant (i.e. I want a lawyer vs thinking out loud about maybe needing a lawyer). I can’t think of any case where the judges or justices agreed that a statement unambiguously meant to invoke one of the Miranda rights but ruled against the plaintiff anyway because it wasn’t the exact formulation courts had suggested in prior cases.

        • brad says:

          Is “I feel unsafe” something of an effective incantation in the realm of college administrators? Something they are bound to at least seriously investigate even if it doesn’t make a ton of sense in the context; or is that overblown?

          I don’t know. It’s a long time since I was in college and I’m very unwilling to take the third and fourth hand reports I see e.g. here about what is and isn’t pervasive there at face value.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s a long time since I was in college and I’m very unwilling to take the third and fourth hand reports I see e.g. here about what is and isn’t pervasive there at face value.

            Likewise, but if true, it is an example of where legal language has become somewhat talismanic. Maybe due to overlapping but unclear jurisdictions, or maybe due to administrators actually wanting to push in those directions and using the law as an excuse. Admittedly I wouldn’t want to take on more responsibility for policing student interpersonal relations in their shoes, but it could be done by some with intentions of righting genuine wrongs.

          • hls2003 says:

            @Randy M:

            it is an example of where legal language has become somewhat talismanic

            There’s something of a difference between “talismanic” and “legally fraught.” Certain phrases are red flags because they invoke specific statutory or evidentiary standards, and thus set off warning bells about potential plaintiffs and liability. For example, in the case of colleges, while I’m no expert in this area, I believe Title IX creates a cause of action when there is “harassment” that creates a “hostile environment” and the school knows but does not remedy it. The phrase “I do not feel safe” is very much on-the-nose for setting up a potential plaintiff’s future case that the school knew of a “hostile environment.” Thus, when schools hear it, their liability radar is pinged – do something, this is a potential plaintiff.

            This is a little different from examples like “I accept your offer,” which are basically actions with legal effect, which I consider a closer match for “talismanic.” I suspect a lot of seemingly talismanic language arises because the plaintiff’s bar likes to be able to plead things to a court like “School A was explicitly notified on [date] that the plaintiff did not feel safe in the hostile environment. School A took no action.”

          • albatross11 says:

            To steal a line from some commenter on Sailer’s blog awhile back: Protesters yell that they feel unsafe while bashing you for the same reasons policemen yell “stop resisting” while bashing you. (Though the magical incantation is more likely to work out for the cops.)

    • Zeno of Citium says:

      If you haven’t read it, the opinion on Meads v Meads is a magisterial look at the Sovereign Citizen movement (and associated ilk) at the time of the writing (2012). The judge basically turned the thing into a short book (or perhaps a long paper) on what on Earth Sovereign citizens are and what they say and do, and why, in order to give a judgment in a case where the defendant used Sovereign Citizen arguments. It’s from a Canadian court, but it covers similar American groups, and both legal systems share the general principles that, e.g., you have to follow the laws and there’s no magic incantation you can say that gets you out of paying taxes. It’s a great read.

      Link: https://www.canlii.org/en/ab/abqb/doc/2012/2012abqb571/2012abqb571.html

      • Walter says:

        That was a great read, thank you.

      • FLWAB says:

        I had to do a double take when, in the midst of the nonsensical “legal documents” he submitted to the court, he sent a “court order” to a bank ordering them to send him $100 BILLION in precious metals. There is a fine line between “naive individual hoodwinked into thinking he can loophole his way out of a legal situation” and “ignorant enough to think the bank will just give him $100 billion if he asks the right way.”

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I do like the ones where the guy just keeps yelling “AM I BEING DETAINED?!?” and the cop keeps saying “yes. Yes you’re being detained.”

  3. sunnydestroy says:

    I will be traveling to Thailand in May. Specifically Bangkok -> Chiang Mai -> Khao Sok Park -> Koh Samui -> Koh Phangan -> Koh Tao

    Anyone have any recommendations?

    • AKL says:

      Spend less time in Bangkok and more time in Chiang Mai. Stay in Pai and/or Mae Hong Son. Don’t bother spending more for fancy places to stay. Walk into one of the trekking outfits and take an overnight trek.

    • Elementaldex says:

      Chiang Mai was unpleasantly hot when I was there a few summers ago, consider some of the higher elevation hikes nearby as a cooler alternative. Pedal biking was generally a nice form of transit in Thailand. In Bangkok I specifically recommend the Pier 21 Terminal 21 Food Court. It is a very cheap food court which serves high quality street style food cooked in a safe and insect free way. It was a food court in a mall which is weird, but among inexpensive food it was the best I had in more than a month in Thailand.

      If you fence epee or play bridge there are decent expat clubs for both of those things in Chiang Mai (the bridge is pretty good the fencing is maybe closer to subpar than decent).

      There is my Thailand travel infodump…

  4. Plumber says:

    So last thread @albatross11 asked:

    “….where would you point someone who wanted positive masculine role models…”

    and since “My son’s former after school basketball coach” only applies to the one guy I have in-mind (do you live near Oakland or Richmond, California @albatross11?) I answered:

    “@albatross11

    “….Where else would you point someone trying to raise boys to end up as healthy, functional men?”

    Going through a four or five year trade apprenticeship seems to mature most boy-ish men beyond the years alone, and those that are ex-military, volunteer for extra work for their church, and/or volunteer for extra duties for their union seem exemplary, but it’s hard to judge which is cause and which is effect. 

    Helping build a fence (or other such work) seems to have a positive effect, and so does teaching him how to cook something for his mom to eat (using the heavy cast-iron pans that his mom doesn’t use to make it “masculine”) as does “women’s work” like babysitting, really just any kind of work, but the trick is to do the work together and calmly offer advice on doing it, just “go do chores” doesn’t quite do it, you have to be there.

    Having your son learn something you don’t know is also good, a computer programming or some other skill class beyond what’s in school, some days at Home Depot with their monthly kids classes are good as well (yes you’ll wind up with birdhouses and wood toy cars that will barely roll, suck it up and find a place for them).

    The main lesson is not to quit and to be the one to rely on to finish whatever the task, and be counted on, however many mistakes are made.

    Shop Class as Soulcraft” by Matthew Crawford, and “How to Tell When You’re Tired” by Reg Theriault are good books for  an older teen to read.

    For films to watch together and discuss:  Casablanca, The Grapes of Wrath, Lord Jim, On the Waterfront, and Saving Private Ryan are great, and if you could only include the scenes with Sir Percival and somehow keep Mordred being Arthur’s son a secret I’d be tempted to recommend Excalibur, but maybe that movie is one for your son to find on their own. And after he reads or watches The Lord of the Rings ask him to tell you about Samwise Gamgee.

    For you to read: “The Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man’s Guide to Chivalry” by Brad Miner, which is sort of “Red-Tribe-ish”, and “Rules for a Knight” by Ethan Hawke, which is sort of “Blue-Tribe-ish” are two good takes with which to make a synthesis of values to pass on.
    If you can take your son to your paid work or (better yet) volunteer work with you that’s good as well, as is taking him to a union meeting”

    and in that spirit, not organizations and individuals as @albatross11 asked for, but what activities and media do you recommend for your son’s and for that matter what for your daughters? 

    I can’t think of many values that if I had a daughter I’d want her to learn that would be much different than those I try to teach my son (maybe I’d stress fighting to protect your spouse less with a daughter, and stress protecting your kids more, but I’m not sure), but I suspect a different media list would probably be warranted.

    What do you suggest for your kids?

    • dndnrsn says:

      For the purpose of skills, or values, or both? I’m a bit skeptical myself about whether skills teach broader values. I’d want my hypothetical kids to do legit martial arts, since it’s something I started doing late that has been really beneficial, but I don’t believe that discipline in it teaches discipline outside of it, and so on. Further, lots of people in martial arts, from super-traditional martial arts practitioners to guys teaching MMA, are super prone to talking about how martial arts teach respect and humility and so on – but it’s clear looking at the top martial artists in the world that this isn’t the case.

      • Nornagest says:

        lots of people in martial arts […] are super prone to talking about how martial arts teach respect and humility and so on – but it’s clear looking at the top martial artists in the world that this isn’t the case.

        In general I agree. But I do think that martial arts is good at teaching one type of humility, which is paying attention and not getting offended when being taught something that on the surface appears condescendingly simple but isn’t. That comes up surprisingly often, and I definitely didn’t develop the skill until I started doing martial arts.

        • Plumber says:

          @Nornagest,

          That sounds a lot like some of the values that may (if taught well) be imparted with building and repair skills.

      • sfoil says:

        Most people’s experience in martial arts involves getting the daylights beaten out of them (or at least easily bested) by people vastly more skilled and talented than they are, and can probably ever hope to be. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily apply to the tiny group of “top martial artists in the world” (until they get old).

        I’ve noticed an almost identical effect in American football.

        • Charles F says:

          There is a pretty big group of people whose experience in martial arts doesn’t involve getting the daylights beaten out of them at all. The martial arts I did as a kid/teen basically never included sparring (beyond step sparring) or competition and that seemed to match most of the stories I heard from other people. I don’t know if that’s a majority, but it’s certainly a significant fraction, especially if we’re talking about kids’ exposure to it.

          • My original martial arts training (Judo) would have started about 1955 when I was ten, continued to about eighteen. None of it involved getting the daylights beaten out of me. I wasn’t terribly good at it but it was probably good for me, inasmuch as it was an athletic activity where I wasn’t competing with kids who did for fun what I only did in gym class, hence undercut the “I’m terrible at athletics” intuition.

            My next martial art was SCA combat, back when it was just starting–the very beginning of SCA in the midwest, a few years after it had started on the west coast. We were all beginners and I turned out, surprisingly, to be quite good at it. Which was probably also good for me.

            Lots of bruises, but nothing I would describe as getting the daylights beaten out of me.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Eh, if you stick with it, you get to a point where there’s a five-fold division: those you can smoosh, those you can best but gotta be careful, those you are competitive with, those you can maybe get the better of sometimes, and those who smoosh you.

          Plus, speaking from personal experience, there’s also plenty of talented successful local/regional competitors who lack a certain humility.

        • baconbits9 says:

          This wasn’t my experience with Tae Kwon do, nor my experience with wrestling which is at least close to the martial arts.

        • sfoil says:

          “Getting the daylights beaten out of you” may have been the wrong term to use, I’m probably biased since my martial arts experience includes boxing.

          However, even getting easily knocked over or tapped out in another contact sport like rugby or BJJ by someone who’s way better than you is certainly something I have found humbling, even though I’m no slouch myself.

          I actually feel the same way about music. I can play the guitar well enough not to completely embarrass myself, but I am keenly aware of the difference between myself and a true guitar god — and again, I feel myself quite humbled by the skill of a truly talented player.

          Maybe what these have in common is that there’s an element of “all or nothing” to them. A decent mechanical engineer can do pretty well for himself being just…decent. But if you want build your life around sports or music performance, you had better be really good. Top 1% at least. Maybe those guys don’t ever feel humbled — their experience consists of skill and drive overcoming all before them. But the other 99% aren’t like that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            True. For professional performers, probably anyone you see in whatever the major league equivalent is, probably at least top 0.1%. Although someone whose skills are just very good and who has some other skill that combines well with it could become a teacher, coach, etc.

            I’d agree that the experience is humbling, but I don’t know that it carries over to some general quality of humility. Legit BJJ schools advertise the kids’ classes with the exact same pitch as the most McDojo-y strip mall dubious lesser-known TMA school: learning this is going to teach your kids discipline and respect and humility etc. Which it might in the context of the martial art, especially if they have the right attitude; I don’t know that it would make them do their homework more willingly.

      • Plumber says:

        @dndnrsn

        “For the purpose of skills, or values, or both?…”

        Both, but more for learning an attitude of perseverance and service.

    • Taking charge of a project involving relevant skills.

      Years ago, our daughter was chief cook for an SCA feast (with her parents as assistant cooks, but she was ultimately in charge). More recently, she has several times taken responsibility for feeding all of the people at a weekend event a friend of hers hosts once a year.

      Much longer ago than that our son, perhaps twelve or so, was DM for a weekly role playing game. That meant that each week, before the other players arrived, he had to have made all of the necessary preparations for that week’s game. He did.

      • Plumber says:

        @DavidFriedman,

        Sounds like you have great kids and they had a great upbringing!

        • I like to explain that, by pure good luck, I ended up with the world’s most wonderful children.

          You might think that would be dangerous, because other parents would want to steal them from me. But by further good luck, all the other parents were so prejudiced that they thought they had the world’s most wonderful children, so mine were safe.

          You could come to the South Bay meetup this Sunday and meet them.

    • This is why I’m not having kids. Why would I want to raise kids in the midst of a hostile, alien culture that fights against my values every step of the way, only to have to inevitably give my offspring up to that Moloch to be exploited as more labor-power for the capitalist machine once my offspring reaches adulthood? It is an inhuman system.

      That said, I would do my best to help my son of mine to do all of the following:
      1. Learn how to use hand tools and (at a certain reasonable age) power tools to make things. Try to acquire raw materials occasionally (lumber, screws, etc.) to allow my son to be creative with this sort of stuff on occasion. Discover the joy of (safely) taking household apart when they are broken, putting them back together, and seeing how seemingly mysterious gadgets actually work. Not only is it enlightening and not only does it build a sense of resilience when confronting new problems, but I highly doubt that fine physical motor manipulations and sensory-based discriminations that are involved in the various skilled construction trades will be going obsolete any time soon, so those will make for good, respectable fall-back careers for a long time. Alongside that, encourage the study of engineering, computer science, medicine, or other practical, yet higher-status hard sciences that have a hands-on aspect (i.e. not theoretical physics). Relevant games that I might encourage: Minecraft, Rimworld, Factorio, Cities:Skylines.
      2. Learn history…especially the history of the tradition (one could say “religion”) from which I hail, the Marxist socialist movement. Even if my son ends up being a disbelieving Marxist, my son will be a Marxist nonetheless (sort of like how people can be secular Jews. They don’t necessarily believe in any of it, but they are so steeped in it that they get all the in-jokes, all of the historical allusions, and understand where their believing brethren are coming from…and maybe, with age will come wisdom and an authentic, self-directed embrace of the tradition). Relevant games that I might encourage: Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, Age of Empires 1&2, Civilization 4, Europa Universalis 4, Hearts of Iron 4, Secret Hitler (board game), Monopoly (to see how much success in the capitalist system is a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle).
      3. Engage in athletics in a comradely manner, keeping firmly in mind that teams are contrived imagined communities just like nations, that there is no point in getting too worked up over team-nationalism or school-nationalism since class is the only objectively-given affiliation in life, and that the sport is there to cultivate self-discipline, good health, and comradeship.
      4. Films and shows are OK in moderation, but I would in general encourage my son to engage in more participatory and creative activities, such as woodworking, sports, games, choir, etc.
      5. Role-models: Karl Marx, of course! A great unsung scholar. And Lenin, a man of iron self-discipline and principles. Alleged Lenin quotes: “Learn, learn, learn!” and “Every cook must learn to govern the state.” Paul Robeson (a respectful, yet dominant and unyielding presence in music and politics). Ronnie James Dio (intense, yet humble). And if we are talking fictional characters, then the rock-solid Captain from the film “Das Boot.”

      • Plumber says:

        @citizencokane,

        You remind me of my Dad a lot!

        He had a big picture of Paul Robeson on the wall of his last apartment and while he didn’t completely pass on his Marxism to either me or my brother (were both too Burkean), my brother is registered with the Green Party and I still often view things through a Marxian lens and have been on picket lines, so some of those values got passed on (and I don’t feel much like arguing why not all of them right now), make of that what you will.

      • johan_larson says:

        Karl Marx, of course! A great unsung scholar.

        Unsung? He gets referenced all the time by scholars. He is one of the most cited sources in scholarship. Here’s an article about it:

        http://news.mit.edu/1992/citation-0415

    • LesHapablap says:

      If you have the means, flying airplanes is a good one. Challenging, incredible fun. Develops discipline, good communication, assertive decision making, basic math and science skills.

  5. J.R. says:

    To the commentariat: how do you have the time to post such thoughtful comments here? What is the opportunity cost of doing so?

      • Statismagician says:

        Yep, exactly this.

      • Nornagest says:

        Pretty much.

      • Nick says:

        Yeah, this.

      • John Schilling says:

        Approximately this, along with “I need a few minutes to mentally decompress after some serious brainwork”. But for the “exactly this” crowd, are long compile times really still a thing? It’s been probably a couple decades since I’ve had anything take more than a few seconds to compile, and I occasionally do some fairly heavy(*) coding.

        * 10-20 KLOC in C++, but it’s all my code + standard libraries rather than a more complex build.

        • Nornagest says:

          But for the “exactly this” crowd, are long compile times really still a thing?

          Builds of my team’s projects at $UNDISCLOSED_LARGE_INFOSEC_COMPANY take anywhere from five to forty-five minutes, depending on the level of compiler optimization, drift between my local repo and source control, whether any widely included header files have been touched, etc. Deployment into a testable environment, if that’s necessary, can then take another fifteen minutes or so.

          My team has complained about this, but solutions have not so far been forthcoming.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            projects at $UNDISCLOSED_LARGE_INFOSEC_COMPANY

            He’s a Russian! Get him before his team hacks an election!

          • Evan Þ says:

            That’s longer than most of our builds here at Very Big Software Company; one of mine was taking about ten minutes earlier today.

            On the other hand, we usually use the rough-and-ready method. The nicer method that’ll install without my babysitting it can easily take 45 minutes.

        • brad says:

          Aside from just working on a large codebase, deploys, if not necessarily compiles, in many CI/CD environments involve running test suites, including spinning up entire ephemeral swarms of microservices for ETE testing.

        • The Nybbler says:

          There’s a bunch of Googlers here. When I was still working there the build times were terrible despite Devtools working their butts off trying to bring them down. The dependency tree was basically a ball of spaghetti.

          My current project is considerably smaller, but still big enough that it takes significant time to build on a single machine, though incrementals are usually quick. We do use distributed compilation which brings build time down to a few minutes for a clean build. Unit and integration tests are what actually tend to be slow, especially since I work on stuff where a lot of setup and repeats might be needed to catch an intermittent issue.

          10-20 KLOC is a tiny project. My current project is over 1.8 MLOC of C++ and C.

          • John Schilling says:

            My current project is over 1.8 MLOC of C++ and C.

            Right, but if I can compile 15 KLOC in two seconds, then 1.8 MLOC should be no more than four minutes, and that’s not enough time for more than the very lowest levels of goofing off.

            If we’re using “compiling” as shorthand for “compiling and unit testing” then yes, that can be tedious and if the testing part is done by a script you can get some serious goofing off done there. And, yeah, runs of serious number-crunching code can easily take hours to days.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Right, but if I can compile 15 KLOC in two seconds, then 1.8 MLOC should be no more than four minutes, and that’s not enough time for more than the very lowest levels of goofing off.

            2s is short enough to not interrupt your train of thought. A 4min disruption is enough time to get bored, wander off, and come back in 15-20min when you reach a good point to stop goofing off and realize your build finished 10min ago.

          • Nick says:

            That argument assumes compile time increases linearly with LOC. But is that the case with C++? My impression (from seeing these debates on Hacker News over and over) is that header files can cause many recompiles of the same code, so that compile time can grow nonlinearly.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Nick has it right; thanks to C++ header files, compiling is superlinear. So is linking, unfortunately.

          • John Schilling says:

            That seems like it would only be significant with gratuitous overuse of header files, but OK, if gratuitous overuse of header files gets you more time for roller-chair swordfighting or whatnot, I suppose that’s the new industry standard.

            ETA: A bit of googling suggests that the culprit is the increasing tendency to put most of the executable code in the header files, for what seem to me a mix of mostly silly or inexplicable reasons.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yeah, it’s C++ templates and template metaprogramming. It’s not that most code is in header files, it’s that a significant amount is, and it’s the part that’s most expensive to compile.

            I blame Stroustrup.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m seeing sources indicating that it has crossed the line to literally most, but yeah, anything more than very carefully selected little bits is probably too much and should be punished by taking away the roller chairs and toy swords and making the coders actually sit through compilation.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          Can confirm, building (and testing, and running benchmarks…) takes for.ev.er.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I do a lot of SQL on a lot of staggeringly large databases. Hour long query times are not unheard of.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          [A]re long compile times really still a thing?

          Thanks to Eclipse, long compiles in Java mostly went away over the last ten years. And Python and JavaScript are mostly interpreted, so they were never really a problem. Those are probably the big three languages right now.

          However, for many large projects, it wasn’t so much “make” as it was “make unit-tests”.

          Also, every once in a while, I find myself having to do an on-site build, and oh look, customer has a requirement that I can’t bring my own hardware in, and their department “helpfully” provided me with a laptop running an i3 CPU…

        • Statismagician says:

          I do statistical modelling and complex data manipulation with multi-million-record datasets; some of my programs take days to run.

      • CatCube says:

        For my job, it’s “my finite element model is running.” I’ve been (un?)fortunate enough to have a project where the runs can take upwards of 20 minutes. Most of them take less time, though.

        • WashedOut says:

          Lucky you. A few years back I was running a seepage flux FEM for an unsaturated soil column that took about 8 hours to run, using the best software on the market. It was then that I learned how much partial differential equations hate sudden changes in material properties and boundary conditions.

      • albatross11 says:

        How about running test cases against your code?

      • Alejandro says:

        Until I saw the replies talking about code compiling, I didn’t bother to click the xkcd link because I was certain it was the “someone is wrong on the internet” one.

    • Plumber says:

      I linger after work reading and posting instead of going straight home and my productivity at work has actually gone down since I discovered SSC, thanks for the reminder to cool it!

    • beleester says:

      I banned myself from doing it at work (and knowing that I had avoided such bans in the past, I went all the way and banned it in my hosts file). All of a sudden, I stopped having as much time to comment here.

    • Well... says:

      For me it’s like a mental disorder. In moments when my mind idles (e.g. while walking from one room to another, in between songs on the radio while I’m driving, when I look out the window and see a bird land in a tree, etc.) one of the activities it now defaults to is approximately something like this:

      have a random thought --> something I'd like to know more about --> ask the SSC hive mind about it

    • I’m retired. I have assigned myself two hours a day, seven days a week, of work on writing projects. I also try to walk about twenty minutes a day for my health.

      That leaves me a lot of free time. The main cost of my activity here is reading fewer novels. A while back, after reading a particularly good one (Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik), I concluded that my time allocation was suboptimal; I’ve read more novels and spent a little less time here (and on FB) since.

      Thirty years ago I would have been spending quite a lot time on Usenet, in the same sort of activities I engage in here.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Have you found other novels you’d recommend?

        • None recently that struck me as that good. I read some David Duncan, and thought Ill Met in the Arena was pretty good. I’m fond of The Paladin by Cherryh.

          My daughter bought me an audiobook of Podkayn of Mars, by Heinlein, since she knew I liked it, and I’ve been using it to entertain myself while out walking. But you have probably already read it.

          • Ventrue Capital says:

            I believe you recommended Sewer, Gas and Electric by Matt Ruff many years ago.

            Are you aware that he thanks you in the Acknowledgements section of Bad Monkeys?

          • I don’t remember recommending, or even reading, that book. It sounds as though it might be fun.

            I didn’t know that he thanked me in an acknowledgement section, but I’m always happy to discover that I have done good at zero marginal cost.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I’m nowhere near retired, but I recently came to a similar conclusion and decided to spend more time reading books (mostly novels or history books) and less time on Facebook and Reddit.

        I’ve also considered writing up book reviews or “book tangents” with my thoughts on what I’ve read, but I haven’t started that yet.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      The effort posts take more time than I feel comfortable admitting, to be quite honest.

      Other than that: while I am probably below-average intelligence for this blog, I’m quite a bit smarter than the typical employee at my level, and usually more diligent, so I can accomplish more work in a shorter period of time, and it will be higher value as well. So, in my current job, I reworked all the variance reports. The variance reports have gone from “uhhhh…I guess you lost money somehow?” to “you lost 6 hours on line 6 on 3rd shift Thursday night, because you switched Line 6 and Line 7 to a new product and wanted to synchronize production, and you needed 6 hours to run out Line 7. In the future, you can probably accomplish 2 washes and a short run in 6 hours on Line 6, but it may be difficult to manage this unless you start planning 48 hours in advance.”

      SoI typically have lots of extra time to do whatever I want. In my last company, I spent about 3-4 hours a day doing nothing, which is actually quite stressful in an open office. Looking busy is way harder than being busy.

      • bean says:

        More or less this. I’m really good at what I do, but my ability to concentrate usually run out before the clock does.

    • Rowan says:

      I don’t actually post *thoughtful* comments here, but I’m in the commentariat anyway, so. I’m a NEET, and have barely mustered the executive function to do anything besides browse the internet and play videogames in the two years since the last exams I failed. The opportunity cost mostly funges against even less “productive” actions, although there is the possibility of not staying up so late.

    • theredsheep says:

      I can’t code for squat, but Hurricane Michael left my badly-damaged hospital on restricted hours with full pay. Then they laid me off. For a total of like three months there, I had waaaaayyyy too much free time, which I tried to spend productively by writing (things I can do something with, not just posts here). Now I’m employed again, so I won’t be dumping so much on here.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Stay at home dad with 3 kids, through whatever combination of luck and quality parenting my older two get along well, are well behaved and are helpful. #3 is under 3 months old and so sleeps roughly 75% of the time, this combination means I have a lot of short term flexibility.

      The opportunity cost is not improving at something other than posting here, or getting in shape or learning some other skill.

  6. Randy M says:

    Somebody thought better of their writing prompt, so I’ll make this a top level post (though I won’t be surprised if it gets little discussion as it is a regular topic here).

    I’m reading The War on Normal People now, where Andrew Yang argues for UBI on the basis of automation improving jobs and returning some of the economic gains that that produces to the average citizen. I think he makes a pretty good case, for example, with how big an industry transportation is and how disruptive self-driving vehicles will be. Best case scenario, these changes are phased in slowly and technological changes create new jobs to accommodate the average person; worst case they come in quick and represent a new baseline putting most people out of work and wondering what to do and how to survive. At the same time, I’m reading essays from Theodore Dalyrmple in Life at the Bottom about his work with the poor and criminal class in Britain. The worst problems he sees people face do not come from poverty, and in some cases stem from the ease at which they get assistance; for example, the story of a woman given an apartment on the dole, into which she invites her abusive, violent ex, who trashes it, only to be moved to another.

    Neither of these authors are necessarily objective, but they do both demonstrably want to help people. I left somewhat pessimistic about what a UBI will do to the recipients character (or at least enough of them to worry about), but also that it may nonetheless be the best option in some form.

    • I can’t imagine that self driving cars will be more disruptive than what happened in manufacturing and we managed to survive that without a UBI. It’s funny that he approaches this from the left because I just read this article from Bloody Shovel where he discusses Tucker Carlson’s fight against certain parts of the GOP with what he believes should be the overall focus of conservatives:

      —-The goal [of government] is to have an economy which makes it possible for normal, average young people to marry and have kids

      Of course, Carlson probably doesn’t support UBI but it’s interesting that both are trying to look at the problem and how to fix it.

      • ManyCookies says:

        Wait I’m confused on how that article relates to UBI and poverty, isn’t he arguing more political strategy/framing than the actual policies for poor folks?

        Also wow is that article like super questionable:

        They control the votes of every single Bioleninist constituency, and they are all growing. Single women? Growing. Gays and assorted sexual deviants? (can we call them GASD)?

        Uhh.

        The goal of the Right is… “The goal [of government] is to have an economy which makes it possible for normal, average young people to marry and have kids”… Or in other words, to ensure a future for our children. There’s another version out there in 14 words.

        Not even my “side” but UHHHHH.
        —————–
        Also further down the page because I can’t help myself:

        Whatever your take on what homosexuals are and how they came to be, one thing is clear, by their own admission. Gay men generally want to have sex with heterosexual men. But heterosexual men by definition won’t have sex with men. So homosexuals have two choices here. They can undergo a sex change, either surgically complete (as they enforce in Iran), or some half-way (as its easy to see in Thailand), and try to convince heterosexual men to take them as women. Or they can give up on heterosexual men and have sex with fellow gay men.

        Neither choice is very satisfactory. Most homosexual man can’t pass as an attractive woman, even after extensive extensive surgery. And sex with fellow effeminate gay men requires industrial amounts of LARPing, having to make oneself look like a tough man when they really want to wear dresses, and empirically not a small amount of drugs. It is a tough life either way. No good solutions. It must be irritating, which is why gays tend to look irritated and often driven into extreme self-harming behavior.

        Either myself and every other gay I know are super atypical, or this is ludicrously off-base and crazy.

        • There’s a lot of snark and asides I don’t agree with in the article but I do think he’s getting at something important. Basically the economy right now is really not conducive to families and it’s getting worse in many ways. There is an increasing “superstar” economy where good jobs go to a small number of people who live in extremely expensive cities that don’t support family formation and where the rest of the country has unstable, low paying jobs that also make it hard to support families. Based on the description of the book above, the author is basically looking at this and giving a UBI as an important part of the solution. Someone like Tucker Carlson would basically rather see more regulation instead. It’s interesting because that’s generally considered a leftist position but it highlights a growing fracture in the Republican Party.

          • ManyCookies says:

            @dick

            That last weird gay sex hangup thing was from another article, to be fair. Though there were other, err, distracting asides.

            But yeah I’d have tried to find a similar take or just paraphrase. I understand iffy sources can still have some good ideas in them, but at some point the cruft just gets way too distracting. Like I probably wouldn’t post an article from DailyKos or *checks r/politics* truthout.org here even if it had a nugget of insight, the style would generate way too much heat for the light.

          • dick says:

            @ManyCookies

            I actually deleted that since it was needlessly argumentative, but yeah, I question the wisdom of reading beyond stuff like that. Or of posting it here, actually. Surely even the most homophobic of SSC commenters would consider “gay guys want to screw straight guys and wear dresses” as obviously dumb, right?

          • 10240 says:

            Surely even the most homophobic of SSC commenters would consider “gay guys want to screw straight guys and wear dresses” as obviously dumb, right?

            @dick I know little about what gay guys typically want (other than that they want to date or have sex with men, by definition). As such, I can’t make a judgement about whether the statement is right or wrong. I don’t see why it would be obviously right or wrong to someone who doesn’t much about gay people.

        • Aapje says:

          @Wrong Species & ManyCookies

          That take is really quite shitty and seems to be quite unfair to Carlson, whose point is that it is wrong for conservatives to focus so much on a lack of morality on the part of citizens without recognizing how big business and laws that benefit them push people into a individualized life of empty consumerism, which benefits them, rather than allow people to live a good life.

          Instead of discussing the article on Bloody Shovel, I suggest discussing the actual speech by Carlson, which has been written down here.

          There is no mention of gays who predate on heteros (or gays at all) in Carlson’s speech.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I don’t see how the author can so casually dismiss culture when it is one the driving traits. Yes, we have more direct control over economic policy, but that’s like having a broken tub that you want filled and just leaving the water run. It’s more difficult to fix the damn tub, but all that’s going to happen with the water is continued spilling everywhere BUT the place where you want the water.

        Even if you could break Woke Capital and make everyone richer, they are just going to piss that money away. Upper Middle Class makes plenty of money, but they are all convinced they need to go out-of-state, rack up debt, get advanced degrees, take multiple international vacations (per year if possible) and experience lots of different genitalsdate widely to “discover themselves.” That’s an empty, dead soul, and you’re never going to fill it with money.

        • Aapje says:

          @A Definite Beta Guy

          I think that Carlson’s point is that the focus has been on making ‘everyone’ (actually mostly the elite) richer in the sense that they can buy more shiny toys, but that the things that actually matter in life have actually become less attainable.

          Carlson seems to believe that some desires, like women’s desire for men who earn more, are not changeable and that policies should match these preferences.

          I do agree with you that part of the issue is that the norms have increased/changed so much that far fewer people nowadays are willing to make choices that earlier generations made. However, policies can effect this. For example, you could force down the price of higher education, which would then force universities to cut down on their amenities.

          Telling young people to be more moral/smart and forego these nice things that their fellow students enjoy seems fairly hopeless. Removing temptation probably works a lot better.

          • I completely disagree on education. If we want average people to thrive economically, then we should somehow reduce the importance of university. If you make it cheaper then you just encourage more people to go to it. Those that don’t go to university will be even more left behind than they are now.

          • Aapje says:

            That is a issue that should not and cannot be fixed by making universities very expensive.

            I think that it is bad all around that young people are burdened with a lot of debt, causing them to put off starting a family.

          • I don’t think it will fix it but subsidies will make it worse. If universities are free, then having bachelors degree will become worthless.

          • Plumber says:

            @Wrong Species

            “I don’t think it will fix it but subsidies will make it worse. If universities are free, then having bachelors degree will become worthless”

            My mother went to college and got a bachelors degree for free, as all U.C.’s and other public California colleges were tuition free in the 1960’s, and her degree wasn’t useless, she got good jobs with it.

            Free college would be a return to the status quo of what it was like when I was born, and it worked then, it worked well!

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It wasn’t useless because not everyone had one.

            A degree signaled high degrees of conscientiousness. A college life was also very spartan, so the cost was low, which meant the price could be, too.

            Make college universal, and the signaling effect is greatly reduced. And the 10% of people who can’t still can’t pass college are now signaled, correctly or no, as being the worst 10%.

          • Aapje says:

            @Wrong Species

            Degrees should have value because of what people had to learn to get it and what they had to be able to do.

            If the only requirement is to have money and to show up, then the quality of the education is worthless and should be improved.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          The willingness and desire to have a reproductively sustainable society is, in my opinion, cultural at it’s base but isn’t independent of economics. There are people in other countries that are more fertile and are willing to be so at a much lower standard of living. That said it probably comes across as callous for a 1%-er to tell 1st world middle class people that they need to accept a lower material standard of living in order to have kids. [Even if it’s technically a truism]

          Carlson wants econ policies to encourage family formation probably because he thinks it’s easier than culture. I’m not so sure but I also recognize that we have no choice in the matter. Sub-replacement fertility cannot continue indefinitely. It will either end because of public policy and shifting attitudes or it will end simply because people who adopted permissive social attitudes will be replaced by those with more traditional ones; either from within the country or without.

          Tucker probably opposes UBI because he fears it will bring middle America that much closer to becoming the kind of underclass that was created during the midcentury.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The problem is if that if the middle class tries to spend itself to pretend to be the 1%, it will never have enough money to have kids. I mean, obviously they do not spend money to THAT level, but median family incomes have still climbed except for some pauses, so the family of today should be more financially able to have children than the families of the 1970s, or at least not SUBSTANTIALLY worse off.

            Plus, there are still a bunch of relatively well-off millennials who are doing the DINK thing. And why not, when you can live like a 1%er and go to Iceland, and then Thailand, and then Greece, all in the same year?

            If you do want to target incomes, okay, but I don’t see what hammering on free trade specifically does for you. That helps out a lot of older folks who are outside the fertility window. You need to help out people in the 14-30 range make money, or at least stay out of horrific debt. Maybe limit credit cards, cut down the student debt racket, employ more young’uns digging ditches, build some stuff out in cheap areas so towns grow up around them, that sort of thing. You don’t need to be making 6 figures if Jack and Diane never got into debt and have a $120,000 3 bedroom home in Iowa where the new Lockheed missile factory was set-up or whatever.

          • acymetric says:

            The problem is if that if the middle class tries to spend itself to pretend to be the 1%, it will never have enough money to have kids. I mean, obviously they do not spend money to THAT level, but median family incomes have still climbed except for some pauses, so the family of today should be more financially able to have children than the families of the 1970s, or at least not SUBSTANTIALLY worse off.

            Has an increase in the cost of “essential” goods outpaced that increase in median incomes? Possibly aided by societal “scope creep” of what is essential?

            There are a lot of expenses that simply didn’t exist in the 70s (internet and cell phones are the obvious examples, I’m sure there are others). Transportation is more expensive (cars cost more, more complicated designs means repairs cost more and less can be done at home without expert knowledge, fuel costs more).

            There is an argument that we are getting more bang for our buck for these things that cost more, but it doesn’t change that the entry point has a higher cost than it used to, so you either get more bang for more bucks (leaving less money for other things) or you get nothing because nothing is available at the older, lower cost.

            I would be interested in a thorough analysis of this, and I am sure there have been some, but I don’t know how to find one that can be trusted to be honest and unbiased. I’m not even sure it is possible for such an analysis to be unbiased, because part of the analysis is going to involve weighting the importance or relative value of various goods/services across time, and those weights are going to be influenced by the biases present.

          • Plumber says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            “…You don’t need to be making 6 figures if Jack and Diane never got into debt and have a $120,000 3 bedroom home in Iowa where the new Lockheed missile factory was set-up or whatever…”

            I’d prefer if people weren’t forced to emigrate to lands they’ve never seen in order to have a home for a family.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’d prefer if people weren’t forced to emigrate to lands they’ve never seen in order to have a home for a family.

            Pigeonhole principle plus population growth leaves you kinda stuck there, in the general case.

        • 10240 says:

          What is even an empty, dead soul?

      • Randy M says:

        We’ve survived the manufacturing automation, so far, but not smoothly. Some large portion of the manufacturing workforce has shifted to disability–3.5 million more since 2000. (2% of the workforce for context)
        3.5 million are employed as truckers, with many more relying on them in part a at truck stops and other restaurants.

        Hopefully this will be like any other technological revolution of the past, but at there’s no guarantee and it seems glib to be sure. Anyone working agriculture could shift to assembly line work with little training. “Learn to code is not quite as easy as that, and more over who’s to say coding can’t in large part be automated as well?

        It’s funny that he approaches this from the left

        Like climate change, one can certainly be wary of those noticing a problem that can only be solved by what they already wanted to do. But I think the argument that UBI–if it involved curtailing some of the more paternalistic welfare–would be less centralizing. And yeah, I understand the enormity of that caveat.

        • Just to put this in to context, manufacturing jobs made up a staggering 25% of the labor force in the 60’s. The trucking industry is a drop in the bucket in comparison.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          The issue with modern automation, and the reason people say “this time it’s different” is the nature of the replacement work combined with the idea of cognitive loading of work.

          Replacing farm-hands with tractors and having the unneeded farm hands work on assembly-lines making widgets instead involves work that is simple enough at a cognitive level that the capital equipment can be used by the same sorts of people in terms of IQ/educational attainment.

          Now it’s an issue that people that have the cognitive ability for truck driving but not computer coding will find a smaller and smaller number of fields that they are qualified and capable of doing being aggressively automated by the computer coders whose standard of living is predicated on automating the jobs that the truck drivers can do.

          This isn’t a problem if you think that job skills and education are purely a matter of training and anyone can learn any thing with enough time and effort. But I think Most people here are wiser than that.

          I’m not certain if wage stagnation for non-college educated males is explained solely by the Simpsons paradox of higher numbers of college graduates. If it isn’t then it would still be explained by this phenomenon of cognitive barriers to alternative employment.

          Obviously low-skilled immigration and an economics paradigm where “labor shortages” are a word that is taken seriously. wouldn’t help this process along much.

          • INH5 says:

            A casual glance at Persian Gulf Petrostates suggests that the potential demand for low-skilled labor isn’t remotely close to saturated in most developed countries. Just to give one example: in the United Arab Emirates, 96% of citizen families employ domestic workers to help take care of their children. How many upper-middle class families in the United States even know someone who has ever hired a nanny?

            Granted, as The Nybbler points out below, a lot of this may well be due to regulatory barriers, but that still means that the root problem isn’t automation.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Automation and regulation go together, though. If the fully burdened cost of an employee to do a task is $10/hour, and the amortized cost of a machine to do it is $15/hour, most businesses will hire. If the cost of the employee goes up to $20 due to a change in regulations, the businesses will get the machine and the ex-employee will go on unemployment.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            INH5 — I’m a believer in markets in the sense that I don’t believe that lightly regulated markets result in gluts in supply or literal labor surpluses.

            What i *do* believe is that automation squeezes low-skilled persons into an increasingly narrow number of fields. Causing their wages to stagnate or even decline.

            It’s for reasons like this that you get domestic workers and the “Gig” economy.

            It’s not as if ‘domestic servants’ is some innovative product. It’s typically the preview of the very rich. And it’s something that only appears and re-appears at a more broad level when certain segments of the population have are willing to work for wages that a household is willing to pay. This is typically the result of immigration from very poor countries, but if native workers begin to resign to that kind of lifestyle you know something bad has happened.

            The link you provided was intended to show how bad things were for bahraini domestic servants. Which makes sense. How low would the compensation of these people need to be

          • What i *do* believe is that automation squeezes low-skilled persons into an increasingly narrow number of fields. Causing their wages to stagnate or even decline.

            That’s plausible for relative wages. But at the same time, automation is making almost everything cheaper, so the real wage of the low-skilled people might be going up.

          • Plumber says:

            @DavidFriedman

            “That’s plausible for relative wages. But at the same time, automation is making almost everything cheaper, so the real wage of the low-skilled people might be going up”

            Almost everything is cheaper, except housing, education, and a stay at a hospital, for ten years every increase in pay my union negotiated from the contractors went into the health plan costs, plus some more, so our take home pay was actually less despite each hour of our labor costing them more, and I started as an apprentice plumber making $15 an hour pre-tax, and upon reaching Journeyman status my pay was bumped to $45 an hour (before taxes), but a house that sold the year I started my apprenticeship and sold for $2010,000, sold the year after my five year apprenticeship for $850,000, and I went to Open House showings before both sales, and they were no improvements, it was the same house just older, the price had just jumped over four times in less than seven years.

          • brad says:

            Given the above, I’m shocked that there is so little animosity towards health care workers, especially specialist doctors.

            Lots of people hate bankers and programmers but doctors mostly get a pass.

          • theredsheep says:

            Bankers and programmers seldom directly save anybody’s life, and most people think of them when the economy goes bad or when they run into an annoying glitch, respectively. And, while doctors operate as part of a gigantic corporate structure, it’s their direct interaction with the patient that makes the difference between life and death. Most people never meet the programmers who make their stuff work.

            Also, I think a lot of people have a vague idea that the high cost of healthcare is simply the price you pay for cutting-edge medicine; they’re in no position to know that most life-saving drugs used at hospitals are generics invented decades ago, or that a lot of drug research goes into inventing near-identical analogues of existing drugs to play games with the patent system. I don’t know where the cost comes from, myself, but I assume lawyers or administrators are involved somehow.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            That is because the doctors are not really the problem.
            US doctors are paid more than usual (as compared to medium income) for first world nations, but they also see more patients than usual, so that the cost of the doctor per-patient is in fact, pretty standard.

            This may be a good explanation for why US health outcomes are not that impressive – you are overworking/rushing your doctors even more than usual for that profession, and should damn well train a lot more of them, but the excess cost of US health care is not down to greedy doctors.

            The two main factors is that US health care has an administrative overhead twice as high – in percentage terms, as best practice. This is money down a void of red tape. (this works out to two percent of US GDP is going to unneeded medical red tape) and the fact that you are bloody terrible at negotiating medicine prices with pharma.

            Note that the first factor is not even inherent in private insurance – The Swiss also have a private insurance system, but have about half your admin costs. (in percentage of total spending) the problem is that the regulations regarding private insurance in the US are simply not fit for purpose – Billing and coverage rules ought to be standardized with a 2 tonne sledge hammer so that hospitals would not need to give two cents who your insurer is, it is the same form and the same coverage.

            That way they could fire most of their billing staff, and costs would go down.

            Problem with that is, well, congress is far too corruptible. Sensible rules are possible, but would get repealed by the next republican congress.

            Which is why you see most people argue for single payer – If you get rid of the private insurance companies, there is noone left with financial incentives to rat-fuck the regulations.

          • brad says:

            Like car mechanics, doctors generate their own demand. We don’t need more doctors, that would just mean even more waste.

            Much of that overhead you reference is absolutely necessary to rein in specialist doctors that continuously try to exploit the payment systems. Single payer would save a bunch of money, not by eliminating outrageous insurance company profit (which doesn’t exist) but by being able to impose rates and rules on greedy doctors, who are in fact a big problem.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            I am not talking about insurance company *profits* Switzerland has those too. I am talking about wage costs of paper shoveling.

            Every private insurer in the US insists on being a special snowflake about what it covers, what its copays are, what documentation it requires, what discounts it has negotiated, and so on. This forces medical providers to have enormous staffs on hand to cross the t and dot the i correctly for each and every patient, or they do not get paid.
            The insurers then employ a matching army going over the paperwork they get sent looking for fuckups so they can say “Wrong, not paying!”.

            Both of those armies produce no actual value and are completely unnecessary.

            The US is, simply, in a very shitty nash equilibrium as far as this goes, because neither hospitals nor insurers can unilaterally stop doing this and stay in business, and also these jobs are utterly soul-killing to boot.

            And you are burning somewhere around 2 percent of gdp on this. Not medical care, not insurance company ceo yatchs – on people filling out a storm of paper out of a nightmare Kafka had after a drinking way too much absinthe.

            Again, you can have private insurance that does not do this, but only if your government is interested in writing legislation that puts a stop to it.

            Or you can have single payer which forcibly reduces the problem to one set of forms.

          • testing123 says:

            @brad

            Single payer would save a bunch of money, not by eliminating outrageous insurance company profit (which doesn’t exist) but by being able to impose rates and rules on greedy doctors, who are in fact a big problem.

            We know that this won’t happen, because it’s been tried. Congress passed laws mandating exactly that cost saving lower payment rates, and then waved those reductions every year for more than a decade before repealing them. The US political system is not capable of forcing down prices the way you’ve described for all of the medical industry.

          • brad says:

            @testing123
            I agree that’s true, but *why* it’s true is because there’s so little animosity towards health care workers, especially specialist doctors. This despite the fact that health care cost growth (along with out of control credentialism and rent seeking land owners) are destroying the economic prospects of entire generations.

            @Thomas Jorgensen
            If doctors wanted single payer health care, we’d have it. How do you square that with your story about how they are innocent victims of malicious paperwork armies foisted on them by insurance companies?

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Wrong question. The question you should be asking “Would doctors like it if insurance companies were forced to use a common price schedule, standardized forms and unified documentation requirements?” Because the answer to that is likely “Fuck yes”.

            Markets are children of regulatory regimes, if you get them wrong, they do not work.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            I mentioned this before and plumber did as well but the ‘big budget items’ — Housing, Education, Healthcare, throw a wrench in the works. These things will likely eat up any offset to falling or stagnant incomes. This isn’t strictly the fault of the free market [I hate personifying market economies] — There are almost certainly reforms you could make (and I support) that would allow prices in these sectors to fall and provide some, or perhaps substantial, relief. But the political will to carry them out is about as forlorn as the political will to institute certain forms of economic protectionism [e.g. restricting lawful and unlawful immigration]

            @Brad
            It’s easier to hate institutions then it is to hate tangible people. I think a similar dynamic plays out w.r.t school teachers.
            Also, Society has always had a love-hate relationship with doctors. Nurses aren’t paid kings ransoms and speaking in generalizations they often have to put up with a lot of tough work.

            It may also be that because much of the cash flow for medical expenses is from patient to insurer, and the insurer is basically faceless and seemingly has no productive role in the procurement of medicine, that most of the hatred towards healthcare prices goes towards them.

            @Thomas Jorgensen;

            I’m a P&C guy so I don’t have any industry experience with health insurers. Are US health insurers not regulated by the NAIC? [that’s where I got my financial data from] if uniform coverage forms don’t exist couldn’t they institute them? Doing so wouldn’t require an act of congress though it would require the commissioners to lobby each state, but this has already been accomplished in the P&C space.

            Also is there any data on Swiss insurers [like expense ratios]? I’m curious.

          • Randy M says:

            Lots of people hate bankers and programmers but doctors mostly get a pass.

            People hate programmers? Haven’t seen a lot of this myself, outside of maybe the programmers who think they will get rich quick with apps of dubious utility.

            Also, doctors don’t have quite the esteem they used to. I think nurses might get even more respect, for putting up with all the same shit (and vomit, and blood, etc.) without the god complex that the doctors stereotype has.

          • Plumber says:

            @Randy M

            “People hate programmers?…”

            Yes, some people do (or rather they hate the displacement and their bidding up rents).

            “… I think nurses might get even more respect…”

            The nurse practitioners that sometimes substitute for physicians seem just as competent if not more (but since it’s not my trade I can’t be sure), and they certainly seem more attentive, but my perceiving them as more competent may just be that they look like adults while most physicians that I see now look like youngsters.

          • acymetric says:

            That is probably fairly localized to specific areas though, I don’t think that sentiment is widespread.

          • brad says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            The question you should be asking “Would doctors like it if insurance companies were forced to use a common price schedule, standardized forms and unified documentation requirements?” Because the answer to that is likely “Fuck yes”.

            If the common price schedule was Medicare’s, I don’t think it would be.

            @RalMirrorAd
            Nurses aren’t paid a king’s ransom though the people that go into nursing tend to do a lot better than similarly situated people that made other choices. The big problem there is that there are too many nurses, too many x-ray techs, and so on and so forth. Only specialist doctors make obscene amounts of money (well them, hospital administrators, and Martin Shkreli) but the entire sector is way too big.

            @Randy M
            People make jokes, but no one votes against their interests. Compare lawyers, for another example.

            @Plumber
            The kinds of doctors that can be replaced by nurse practitioners shouldn’t exist. And even NPs are over-educated (see out of control credentialism above).

      • 10240 says:

        It says The goal of the Right is, again…

        —The goal [of government] is to have an economy which makes it possible for normal, average young people to marry and have kids

        How is that even a right-wing goal? It basically says “make people better off” (a goal everyone agrees with) “…at the expense of the rich, if necessary” (a traditionally left-wing goal). It looks like you can make everything sound better to right-wingers if you replace “people” with “families”, as it makes you sound like a right-winger.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Because primacy of marriage and children is right-wing.

        • Aapje says:

          @10240

          You are missing the implied parts of the argument, which become more evident if you look at how conservatives and progressives tend to help families. Conservatives tend to design their policies for the nuclear family with a stay-at-home parent. Progressives tend to design their policies much more around single moms, double incomes, etc.

          For example, one of the conflicts between the more conservative and less conservative in my country that the former want the tax-free part of the salary to be transferable to a spouse, which means that a family with a single income of $50k gets the same tax break as a family with two $25k incomes. The less conservative want the tax break to be strictly individual, which means that single income households are taxed more.

          The more conservative politicians/people see this as deincentivizing what they see as a proper family and deincentivizing having kids.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Maybe some or most progressives assume that their ideal society would not render family formation a luxury. At least in the eyes of right wingers they tend to subordinate the direct concern with family formation with other goals which [in their eyes] *do* in fact make family formation a luxury.

          — Progressives want economic parity between the sexes, anything a man can do a woman should be able to do [if not better] If at the same time women still prefer men who make more than they do this reduces the poor of eligible men. [The carlson argument]
          — Progressives want divorce something that can be easily initiated and make sure in particular a woman who engages in divorce is given full economic protections from any loss of income that may result from the divorce in the form of child support. It’s not explicitly framed this way but single motherhood should be something survivable and not at all something frowned upon.
          — Progressives place a higher [relative to right wingers] value on enhancing the economic well being of poorer foreigners. Who obviously compete with the working poor of the first world for jobs.
          — Progressives at least culturally are urbanists, and many [present company excluded] support measures to restrict the growth of the housing supply.
          — Cradle to grave welfare states siphon resources from working parents and reduces the economic benefits of children in old age.

          I can only assume in the mind of a progressive that government transfer payments and social programs would necessarily outweigh any of the above potential issues [or they don’t recognize the above as disincentiving family formation at all and so is a non-issue.]

    • Randy M says:

      Would this be in the sense of material immiseration, psychological/spiritual confusion, or both?

      Worse in the sense of difficulty in transition. Shutting down jobs after people retire and replacing them with automation saves having to retrain the workers versus what seems to have happened during the last recession–people being replaced after lay-offs and then looking for new work in an economy with that many fewer openings.

      I find it very hard to believe that advances in technology will make most people worse off in a pecuniary sense,

      More productivity is more stuff produced, which is the end result of any kind of work (if we are generous with the definition). More stuff should make people in general better off. The challenge is that the benefits are going to go largely to those who are productive via inventing or funding the machines and programs absent some kind of redistribution. Which is the kind of thing that I used to be dead against for economic theory and moral reasons. Now, I’m largely agnostic on economic matters.

      I think that the decreased real prices of goods formerly produced by human labor would at least counterbalance the effects of decreased demand for manual labor in terms of real household income.

      Prices have to drop to zero for people making zero to benefit from the reduction. However (and I should probably finish the book before posting on it, since it looks like Andrew is pointing in this direction at the chapters after the UBI suggestion), I could see an evolution towards personal human service being a high status good. Maybe you google engineers will pay my kids enough to be maids to support the whole clan. Along with an increased focus on things like Youtube, people awarding each other status or money based on creative output in niche communities and so forth.

      At the end of the day, I think there will be hard truths for everyone as it is made clear that a lot of human misery is solved by abundance, but a lot of bad behavior is not.

      If you’ve never read the short story Manna, it’s thought provoking on the topic, although it does seem rather far-fetched in the latter chapters, the early ones seem plausible.

      edit:

      The same Andrew Yang wrote a pretty interesting article in Quillette on the subject that you might find intriguing if you haven’t read it already. (And which I think is quite relevant to his views on UBI.)

      He thinks it is relevant too–it’s chapter 14 in the book I linked. 😉 Hey, nothing wrong with getting paid twice for the same words.

      Regarding the economics, I’m going to naively assume it will all work out in that if it is ever truly necessary (because machines are so much more productive at everything than people), it will be feasible (because machines will be so much more productive at everything that people).

      • Deiseach says:

        Maybe you google engineers will pay my kids enough to be maids to support the whole clan.

        I’m very dubious about this. See any discussion (such as one we had a while back) about paying for daycare for children while both parents work; the consensus is that this is crazy expensive and should be lower and why don’t we let babyfarming Mrs Jones mind sixty toddlers in her terraced house happen to keep prices at a reasonable level?

        Because everyone thinks that childminding is easy, that parents do it for free so why should someone be paid a real industrial wage for doing it? Same with maids: why pay them big money for doing housework, when generations of wives did it for nothing? We already treat stay-at-home mothers as not really working, or not doing a job, so turn “cooking, cleaning and running errands” into a paid job and it’ll be low-status and low-wage.

        It’ll be high(ish) status to have a servant, but to be a servant will not be high-earning. If you’re the housekeeper/estate manager for a wealthy family, you’ll probably get paid relatively well, but working for a software engineer household? Not so much.

        Depends also on what you think a reasonable salary is to keep an entire clan of dependent relatives; does $50,000 gross a year sound like what you think a Googler would be willing to pay a live-out housekeeper? And that’s a job for “Ultra High Net Worth” family (which Wikipedia defines as having a net worth of at least $30 million, if Googlers are that well-off no wonder it’s so desirable to work there!)

        • 10240 says:

          The main question is not “what they will pay out of goodwill” or “what price they won’t grumble about”, but “what the market-clearing salary will be”.

        • Nornagest says:

          $50K is more than half the take-home pay of your average Googler. Even $25K is about what one could expect to be paying yearly for a studio apartment in Silicon “The Rent Is Too Damn High” Valley. You’re not going to see Googlers hiring full-time housekeepers at those rates anytime soon.

          A maid service coming in once a week for a hundred bucks, now, that’s more reasonable, but then you’d have one maid covering twenty-plus households, so maid service can’t possibly be a big part of the local economy.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Maybe you google engineers will pay my kids enough to be maids to support the whole clan.

        Can’t, because regulation has made hiring people to do personal services too expensive for “google engineer” pay (unless they’ve raised it a lot in the past few years). Gotta be “Google Senior Vice President” pay and there aren’t enough of those.

        • 10240 says:

          What sort of regulation, and how is it enforced? Do Americans typically employ domestic servants in a legal way? In many countries that’s not the norm.

        • Nornagest says:

          Americans, even fairly wealthy ones, don’t often employ domestic servants. Those that do, who are mostly absentee landlords and the elderly, are more likely to contract with a service that sends gardeners or cleaners every so often than to pay an individual. These services more or less have to be above board, at least as a corporate entity — the people they send might not be, but that’s transparent to the client.

          There are exceptions, but they’re rare.

        • 10240 says:

          @Nornagest My question applies to occasional domestic helpers (cleaner etc.) too. In Hungary one typically calls the individual directly (not through a service), and pays in cash. A few years ago the government even made a rule that, after registration, it’s legal to employ domestic helpers without paying tax, basically they realized that they aren’t going to be able to collect taxes on that anyway.

        • The Nybbler says:

          To actually be an employer means calling all of employment law down on your own head. Tax withholding, minimum wage, working condition laws, insurance or bond requirements, probably a bunch of other stuff. The paperwork alone is significant. Americans are more likely to hire people (through services or not) for cleaning or landscaping or whatever, but you can’t (lawfully) get a full-time maid that way.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      The argument that cheaper goods will offset the pain ignores the fact that the big budget items; healthcare, education, and housing, are basically immune either because of physical constraints or political ones to any potential cost savings from automation and/or outsourcing/offshoring.

      The same goods that have gotten cheaper due to globalization will continue to get cheaper with self-driving cars. Millions more people will be unemployable, meanwhile the remaining jobs will increasingly be concentrated in metro areas with inadequate housing and infrastructure which means skyrocketing rents and longer commute times.

    • Walter says:

      Dalrymple gives me a very ‘Dark Star Safari’ vibe. It reminds me of the House of God post on this site. That is, the reason help is not helping is that it is the problem.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I disagree with the whole “we need to think about UBI now because robots are going to put everybody out of work” thing. Instead we have record employment, millions more job openings than we have workers, and the right wants those jobs filled from folks on the dole and the left from mass immigration. There is no glut of workers with nothing to do.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        IMHO, UBI matters more as a tool to drive the capital/labor power dynamics toward labor. Shitty retail managers would have to treat you like a human being if you don’t need the job. Not an economist, but my instinct says an awful lot of the dark side of global capitalism would go away if the workers weren’t required to either unionize (good luck these days) or put up with various abuses because the alternative of unemployment is worse.

        Setting a floor on the Race to the Bottom, essentially.

      • Plumber says:

        @Conrad Honcho

        “I disagree with the whole “we need to think about UBI now because robots are going to put everybody out of work” thing. Instead we have record employment, millions more job openings than we have workers, and the right wants those jobs filled from folks on the dole and the left from mass immigration. There is no glut of workers with nothing to do.”

        A decade ago I woulds have said “No it’s the plutocrats on the Right that wants that (it was Ronald Reagan who signed amnesty for illegal immigrants into law), but the way things have shaped out lately (“From 2008 to 2018, the percentage of Democrats who said the government should create “a way for immigrants already here illegally to become citizens if the meet certain requirements” grew from 29 to 51 percent, while the share who said “there should be better border security and stronger enforcement of immigration laws” fell from 21 to 5 percent.“) I must concede that you’re correct. 

        However with our exploding number on disability, and as far as the federal government is concerned, you’re disabled if you have “a medical condition that makes it impossible to work” this “full employment” isn’t exactly the same as previous times of full employment, and millions simply don’t have the diplomas, young faces, and/or strong backs to get hired, but if they had the status of say a judge or tenured professor they could keep working. 

        There’s also that many employers just prefer to hire immigrants, as a somewhat related anecdote one of my co-workers told me that he was hired back in the early 1990’s as part of an affirmative-action program to hire residents in what was then a primarily a poor and black neighborhood, and at that time many of the old-timers wouldn’t train and work with the new hires because they feared that they were “criminals” (which my co-worker says was true in some cases, he says that he had been one in his youth), and since he “wanted to work, so I asked to be put on night shift, and it was all ‘china-men’ on the crew, and one week they all lined up to go in front of the night shift supervisor so I lined up too, they was giving envelopes to him, and he gave me an envelope, there was $500 in it! The next time they lined up I did too and he told me ‘I can’t have you in my business here'”, it was kickbacks for having the job I told him ‘I got family who’d love a job and would pay you too’ and he said ‘No black or white, they tell, only the china-men go for this'”, in a somewhat similar fashion today H1-B allows employers to have indentured servants who were trained on another countries dime, and other employers would rather have “under the table” illegal immigrants because they’re more docile, I’ll add that since most business owners are Republicans,  and with a Republican President and until very recently a Republican majority in Congress that if “The Right” wanted to they could have had “those jobs filled from folks on the dole”, just as they could have started to “build the wall” two years ago. Please remind me why that didn’t happen @Conrad Honcho (I’m not just trying to be snarky, I’m just pointing out that by their actions “The Right” hasn’t exactly matched their rhetoric).

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Immigration enforcement the party as an institution is adopting largely against its will. It is not popular with the donors, the chamber of commerce, or the leadership. IIRC it was Ryan’s congress that created those omnibus bills that said ‘no money may go to a wall’ or something to that effect. Obviously once a certain threshold is reached in places like Texas and NC, the republican party [and their leadership] will be rendered impotent. But I guess the idea is to make as much money as they can for now.

          Immigration control is very popular with less economically advantaged republican voters and to a lesser extent, independents, and for the most part has been for some time.

        • Randy M says:

          There’s a lot difference in of “the right”, from plutocrats to populists.

          • Plumber says:

            @Randy M

            “There’s a lot difference in of “the right”, from plutocrats to populists”

            I’m not even sure it’s useful to speak of “Right” and “Left” as anything other than shorthand for “not Democrats” and “not Republicans”.

            Both plutocrats and populists advocate policies that may be labeled at “left” or “right”, which side does Peter Thiel’s fall on, or the 2008 electorate that voted both for Obama and to ban gay marriage?

          • Randy M says:

            the 2008 electorate that voted both for Obama and to ban gay marriage?

            Obama was explicitly against gay marriage, but no one believed him. If you mean people who voted for Obama but against proposition 8 in CA, those were probably closest to populists. Moderately culturally conservative black church lady types that vote Democrat and especially Obama for identity reasons. If any other group voted for both, it would probably be elite Conservatives who were against gay marriage (duh) but really hopeful the election of Obama would help usher in racial harmony–but I’d need to see proof such a group existed.

            Peter Thiel

            has written against democracy specifically, so it’d be farcical to label him a populist. I don’t know much about him, but Neoliberal or Technocrat would be my guess.

          • Plumber says:

            @Randy M

            “….Peter Thiel has written against democracy specifically, so it’d be farcical to label him a populist. I don’t know much about him, but Neoliberal or Technocrat would be my guess”

            Peter Thiel was my example of a plutocrats, not a populist

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not sure what your questiion was for? You found a hypothetical group and an individual that borrowed from left and right positions and wanted me to try to tell you which they fit into more?

          • Plumber says:

            @Randy M

            “I’m not sure what your questiion was for? You found a hypothetical group and an individual that borrowed from left and right positions and wanted me to try to tell you which they fit into more?”

            My question was how useful is it to use the terms “Left” and “Right” anymore.

          • Randy M says:

            Oh. It was rhetorical, wasn’t it? Oops.

          • Plumber says:

            @Randy M

            “Oh. It was rhetorical, wasn’t it?”

            Sort of, I have a problem pattern matching “Left” and “Right” these days (in many ways I feel like a Rip Van Winkle/Steve Rogers), maybe these things are more intuitive to others.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s an well worn argument that trying to fit everyone into one of two camps is going to end up with some that defy easy classification.

            I think it’s possible [how’s that for refusing to commit?] that it is more true in the last several years because we are going through a period of transition. Maybe because globalism is kind of new, or at least newly possible, and so people who find that favorable are trying to find a home in an established political party, and likewise the reaction to it.

            Or maybe it’s the internet giving fringe voices wider reach. Were the John Birchers a good fit for the republican party? But conflict between them and more establishment voices got less play than now, though more than in days of radio or pamphlets.

          • My question was how useful is it to use the terms “Left” and “Right” anymore.

            It’s at least useful for labeling tribal identification. In the case we have been discussing, someone who considers himself on the left is much more likely to read the evidence in a way unfavorable to the Catholic students and favorable to the Native American than someone who considers himself on the right.

            I can see that pattern subjectively in myself. Libertarians are by convention thought of as on the right and have been through my lifetime, despite some of them objecting to it. So if I see some foreign political party described as right wing, my initial response is mildly positive–even though it may turn out that the party (I’m thinking in particular of the FN in France) is right wing in the senses in which I am not (i.e. anti-immigration), left-wing in the senses in which I am right wing (economic policy). Similarly for my response to a party being labeled as left wing.

            The collection of ideas labeled right or left is in part a matter of consistency, in part historical accident. Free trade has gone from being a Democratic position Republicans were against to being a Republican position Democrats were against to now being something Republicans, or at least the President, are against and Democrats for.

          • Plumber says:

            @DavidFriedman

            “It’s at least useful for labeling tribal identification. In the case we have been discussing, someone who considers himself on the left is much more likely to read the evidence in a way unfavorable to the Catholic students and favorable to the Native American than someone who considers himself on the right”

            I don’t know what it says about my “tribal affiliation” but, after “What the Hell are you guys talking about?”, my early reaction was “Leftist media conspiracy? Yeah right, pull the other one, I’m sure it’s a phantom”, which went to “Holy Hell, ‘The Right’ is right, those kids are being slandered!” 

            “I can see that pattern subjectively in myself. Libertarians are by convention thought of as on the right and have been through my lifetime, despite some of them objecting to it. So if I see some foreign political party described as right wing, my initial response is mildly positive–even though it may turn out that the party (I’m thinking in particular of the FN in France) is right wing in the senses in which I am not (i.e. anti-immigration), left-wing in the senses in which I am right wing (economic policy). Similarly for my response to a party being labeled as left wing”

            As far as I can tell, despite both you and the Rassemblement National/Front National being labeled as on “The Right” their political views and your political views are just about completely opposite in most every way. 

            “The collection of ideas labeled right or left is in part a matter of consistency, in part historical accident. Free trade has gone from being a Democratic position Republicans were against to being a Republican position Democrats were against to now being something Republicans, or at least the President, are against and Democrats for”

            Yeah, the flip-flopping of stuff like that is some of what’s causing my confusion.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          If it’s easy for immigrants to become citizens, or at least be treated as citizens so far as work is concerned (can’t vote, won’t be deported), they they’ll be head-to-head competition, but they won’t be more docile than citizens.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Once you have enough money to live a comfortable life, extra income has a very small impact on your overall happiness. Things like family and friends and a sense of self-worth and usefulness have a much bigger effect. If people can afford to buy more cheap tat but can’t get a job or raise a family, they’re going to be less happy than if they couldn’t afford as much but were supporting themselves and their family with an honest job.

      • Aapje says:

        Even with a not that comfortable life, family, friends and a sense of self-worth & usefulness seem to easily be able to outweigh the impact of more income, for most people.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        You would think so, but my impression is that people are glad to work overtime if they get time and a half pay for it.

        • Aapje says:

          Sure, because it feels like a good deal to get extra money per hour worked, that you in theory can use to reduce working hours in the future beyond the hours you worked extra.

          Except that future may never come…

          I also wasn’t talking about what people do, but what makes them more happy. That’s not the same.

    • baconbits9 says:

      This type of writing would be considered the work of a charlatan if it was directed at individual advice. For example:

      1. Self driving cars are inevitable
      2. They will dominate various industries in short order
      3. The main beneficiaries will be capitalists owning them, lots of other people will be pretty much SOL
      4. So massively overweight your portfolio towards companies that are working on self driving cars.

      This is a straighter line of thinking than inserting the UBI conclusion for #4 and it would be roundly rejected by 90% of people who read it here and with good reason. When you make predictions about a complicated process the default assumption should be that you are wrong. It doesn’t matter how rigorous your research or how impeccable your logic sounds, there are far more ways to be wrong and conditional predictions mean that being wrong in just one part of your line of reasoning will lead you to an incorrect conclusion.

      • Randy M says:

        Self driving cars were one example of an automation trend that is reducing demand for service labor just as demand for manufacturing labor and agricultural labor were similarly reduced. Other examples range from self-checkout to legal zoom.

        there are far more ways to be wrong and conditional predictions mean that being wrong in just one part of your line of reasoning will lead you to an incorrect conclusion.

        That’s a good point, and solutions to predicted problems should only be implemented if the costs and side-effects are relatively minor if the problem does not materialize. Relative to the magnitude of the problem and it’s likelihood, that is.

        • baconbits9 says:

          The costs and side effects are just as unpredictable as everything else. To predict the costs of a UBI with any accuracy you are going to have to predict the impact of a UBI on economic growth accurately AND economic growth without the UBI accurately over a long time span. We currently know of roughly zero people who can predict economic growth accurately over a long time span

  7. Aapje says:

    Interesting fact: ‘mesmerizing’ comes from the German doctor Mesmer, who thought that there was a natural energy transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects that he called animal magnetism.

    His treatment would consist of sitting in front of his patient with his knees touching the patient’s knees, pressing the patient’s thumbs in his hands, looking fixedly into the patient’s eyes. Mesmer made “passes”, moving his hands from patients’ shoulders down along their arms. He then pressed his fingers on the patient’s belly, sometimes holding his hands there for hours. Many patients felt peculiar sensations or had convulsions that were regarded as crises and supposed to bring about the cure.

    Supposedly, the people he treated became ‘mesmerized’ during the treatment.

  8. Mark V Anderson says:

    Today I read an article in my local paper that make me somewhat outraged. It is local, but I am curious what folks here think about it. This was the article.

    The best thing about my outrage is it is not culture war at all. All parties can be outraged at the government on this one!

    In the article, they talk about one county’s officials in our Metro area trying to find out what Minnesota offered Amazon to be the second office in the US.

    I am somewhat outraged just that this deal was private. I never tried to find out what was offered Amazon, but it never occurred to me that I couldn’t find out if I wanted to. And then I see in the article that Amazon required a non-disclosure agreement. Really?? Amazon requests that everywhere in the country tell them what goodies they will provide, but the voters can’t be told what they are? Is this even legal? Is it binding on city or state? I have heard that in New York, Amazon is getting a bunch of pushback by folks there that disagree with some of the agreements that were made. Well, yeah, if the people aren’t told what they’ve agreed to, maybe it won’t work out too well when they find out.

    The other item of my outrage is even more local. Apparently the Minnesota proposal was made by the group called “Greater MSP.” I guess it is some kind of agency that specializes in corporate welfare or something. They were sued last summer to give up the details. But the judge said that Greater MSP is a private organization so that rules for the government don’t apply to it. What?! Isn’t the proposal about the taxpayers giving Amazon goodies to induce them to move to Minnesota? How can a private group have authorization to do that? It makes no sense.

    Maybe this is just an example of a very poorly written article. Why didn’t the journalist ask these questions? Am I missing some obvious thing? This makes no sense to me.

    • Plumber says:

      @Mark V Anderson

      “….The best thing about my outrage is it is not culture war at all. All parties can be outraged…”

      I see what you mean, whether you’re anti-corporations or anti-government you may find the story upsetting, sadly I’m not surprised as I’ve seen many stories about Eminent Domain being used for private profits instead of public purposes.

    • Aapje says:

      @Mark V Anderson

      Big business gets all kinds of special tax deals in The Netherlands (and some other European countries), which are secret as well. David Friedman asked in the other OT how globalization harms the masses and benefits the elites & this is part of the answer.

      In general, globalization has and is causing a major power shift towards (big) business, where more and more of the tax burden is born by citizens and less and less by companies. Coupled with ways to avoid paying taxes on business profits, this contributes to stagnating buying power for regular citizens and an elite who refuses to contribute enough.

      PS. Presumably, the way to try to find out what the deal is, is to file a FOIA-like request with the country, assuming that such a law exists on the state level. Although, in my country the similar law has various exceptions, which allows the government to keep their deals secret.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        “Less being born by businesses and more by individuals” — I’m not a fan of globalization as it has come to be known, but Businesses in themselves can’t really pay taxes except through employees, shareholders, or customers.

        Might it be more accurate to say that the tax burden shifts from those who hold mobile assets to those who hold less mobile assets?

        • Aapje says:

          Yes, the issue is that the tax burden shifts more to the less globalist people, eating up their productivity increases.

          In general, this is my criticism of globalism: the globalists offload many and often the worst negative aspects of their desires on the people who don’t want globalism, while simultaneously disenfranchising them as much as possible.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        Eh.. That is blatantly illegal under EU law. Examples? Because this is a core principle of the union, and while Vestager has been unusually high-profile about putting metaphorical heads on pikes, “No sweetheart deals for individual companies” is not a new principle, and has been enforced pretty darn consistently.
        To get a subsidy or tax break for something specific, it has to be approved at the EU level, and that list is extremely emphatically public.

        • Aapje says:

          Eh.. That is blatantly illegal under EU law.

          The official stance of the Dutch (and Luxembourg and Irish) government is that the rulings provide certainty to companies by clarifying how certain transactions are to be judged beforehand and that the same tax law is applied to all. However, this is a lie.

          The rulings are kept secret based on the argument that they involve specific information about the business dealings of the companies, which is private information.

          Vestager’s approach is like trying to go after each individual buyer of drugs, while leaving the dealer alone. Such an approach is fairly hopeless, because the capacity is not there to go after all buyers.

          So your “enforced pretty darn consistently” is actually: ‘enforced selectively and very late.’ Perhaps Vestager will be able to change these practices, but I don’t see much evidence that her efforts are working in that respect.

          To get a subsidy or tax break for something specific, it has to be approved at the EU level, and that list is extremely emphatically public.

          There is EU law and there is EU reality. The two aren’t as intimate as you might think.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            .. She did, in fact, get the Irish to stop their general practices.

            That is what the huge jump in reported gdp was about. – Ireland stopped letting companies offshore profits onwards from Ireland to extra-EU tax havens, which meant they started filing in Ireland.

            Not sure why the ever living hell Ireland was doing that in the first place, but suspect outright corruption, because it makes no sense from a national accounts perspective. Ireland is still a good place to file, even if you have to actually pay the headline 13% rate.

            So, yhea, the Dutch government is likely on the hitlist. Only real question is “Before or after Luxemburg?”

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I think the case against an Apple subsidiary in Ireland underpaying their taxes by Euro 13 billion, according to the EU, is part of this? So it does seem that the EU is trying to enforce the sweetheart rules for individual companies bit? At least when there are billions of Euros at stake.

          • Aapje says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            Perhaps, but I’m not holding my breath.

    • Incurian says:

      “We’re uncomfortable, too. Transparency was one of the values that you saw on our slides,” Frosch said.

      This is hilarious.

  9. Plumber says:

    Y’all had a point.

    Some months ago I discovered SSC (actually for the second time but this time I stuck with it and commented), and I saw lots of interesting ideas and discussions, and I also say something I found weird, stuff (including early posts by our host) about “culture war”, “social justice warriors”, “Twitter mobs” and the like that I regarded as way overstated if not phantoms.

    Well…

    ….over the holiday weekend a new story apparently festered and spread over the internet about three protest groups meeting and nothing much that I’d consider newsworthy happened (but lots of video!) that I didn’t know about until someone mentioned it in a SSC comment (but it took many other responses before me to I could glean what the hub-bub was about), come my Tuesday morning drive to work the radio was reporting (badly) on a video that “went viral” (apt label!), and since then the mainstream media is now filled with takes on it, but since nothing much actually happened the “event” is pretty much the reporting and the reactions.

    A very big part of me wishes that I was still ignorant of this mess and thinks that there shouldn’t have been any reports in the first place, but y’all were right “Twitter mobs” exist and their nonsense gets on the radio.

    Lord helo us all!

    • theredsheep says:

      Yeah, even assuming the worst that’s been said of all three parties, “minimally supervised teenagers harass passersby,” “protesting cultists say terrible things” and “longtime activist is self-promoting liar” are all pretty much commonplaces. NB that the outrage mill is also on Facebook.

    • Incurian says:

      Lord helo us all!

      A prayer for repentant communists?

    • dndnrsn says:

      It’s the sort of thing that would have been enormous news in a town with a few hundred or maybe a couple thousand people. Thanks to social media, you get the bulk of people of an enormous society, with the “personal feeling” of a very small one.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        It’s the sort of thing that would have been enormous news in a town with a few hundred or maybe a couple thousand people. Thanks to social media, you get the bulk of people of an enormous society, with the “personal feeling” of a very small one.

        This has been a long-standing peeve of mine. Thanks to the internet, local-interest stories become national-level stories. Audiences aren’t adapting well to this.

        Local stories appeal to the emotion, but that had been tempered by their happening to people you’d meet in town, and there not being that many of them, so they don’t fill your world.

        Now there are thousands of times as many. We’re treated as if we’re supposed to feel for someone in Lincoln, Nebraska the same as someone in Atlanta, Irvine, Boston, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Portland, Peoria, South Bend, Seattle, and our local school, and it’s senseless to assume the human psyche can keep up with that moral imperative.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Conversely, 50% of a town of a few hundred hating you is less aggregate hate than 0.1% of a much larger “community” and we aren’t necessarily great at separating gross hate from hate per capita.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Has anyone compiled a ranking of nations by Hating Power Parity (HPP)? Make it happen, econometricians.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I’ve seen it suggested (I think it was by someone one here) that part of the reason people tend to be more worried about crime, despite crime rates being lower than at most times in the past, is that our brains unconsciously interpret everything as if we’re still living in little villages. If you live in a village of 150 or so people and somebody gets killed every week, that’s a major problem and you probably need to do something, fast; if you live in a country of 300 million and someone gets killed every week, you probably don’t need to worry. And yet, our brains are used to living in small communities, so every news story we hear about people getting killed is treated as if it’s in our immediate community.

      • Ventrue Capital says:

        I believe Wallace Stevens’ “The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words” agrees with you.

        It is not only that there are more of us and that we are actually close together. We are close together in every way. We lie in bed and listen to a broadcast from Cairo, and so on. There is no distance. We are intimate with people we have never seen and, unhappily, they are intimate with us. Democntus plucked his eye out because he could not look at a woman without thinking of her as a woman. If he had read a few of our novels, he would have torn himself to pieces.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Does anyone else here think that the “story” isn’t the story? For me the story is everyone’s reaction to the “story”.

      Honestly, theredsheep is bang on the money WRT to the meat-and-bones of the whole thing. It’s so much a non-story, it’s kinda depressing we’re still talking about it.

      Except…

      Apperently there exists a compelling market for this type of story – not what actually happened, mind, but rather what (for want of a better word) the media made out of it. I’m not particularly keen on attributing the fact that multiple, seemingly serious news outlets proved quite prepared to fabricate the thing out of whole cloth to malice on the part of the journalists/editors involved, but instead suspect that it’s simple demand-begets-supply at work. All in a day’s work for Moloch, eh?

      Except…

      This trend of mindless pampering to market demand for people to hate scares the living daylights out of me. Again, we’re not talking about a fringe group of people known to be bad actors (neo-Nazi’s, say). The surge of bad feeling towards the CCS boys that this story brought was, for all intents and purposes, a mainstream phenomenon. Hating people is apparently a-ok now, provided it’s the right (that is: wrong) kind of people.

      • Statismagician says:

        This is a good comment.

        I have no idea what the media think they’re doing, but it’s not constructive, it’s not good journalism, and it’s having very negative effects on [everything everywhere].

      • The original Mr. X says:

        This trend of mindless pampering to market demand for people to hate scares the living daylights out of me. Again, we’re not talking about a fringe group of people known to be bad actors (neo-Nazi’s, say). The surge of bad feeling towards the CCS boys that this story brought was, for all intents and purposes, a mainstream phenomenon. Hating people is apparently a-ok now, provided it’s the right (that is: wrong) kind of people.

        Yeah, that’s basically my reaction, too. An out-of-context photo and a few seconds of video footage is now enough for people across the world to judge you a vicious monster with no place in polite society. And the kids’ school and diocese publicly threw them under the bus, too, so don’t expect the people who should be looking out for you to stand up to the outrage mob, or even to refrain from piling on.

      • methylethyl says:

        No kidding. We now have cameras in nearly everyone’s hands, all the time, and all it takes is one person shooting your photo while you’re chewing, or swatting at a mosquito, or maybe just having a bad day and scowling at your own thoughts, or otherwise looking awkward– and then posting it on the internet with the worst possible interpretation– and now suddenly you’re held up in front of the whole country for the official Two Minutes of Hate.

        If that doesn’t scare the crap out of you, you haven’t thought it through.

      • J.R. says:

        In The Image, Daniel Boorstin coined the term “pseudo-event” for an event that was conducted purely for the media; pseudo-events are the outcome of the news media generating events for themselves to cover. Press conferences, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, and (televised) presidential debates are all pseudo-events. He points out that this is driven by our demand for news outpacing the supply of real events to cover.

        Boorstin wrote the book in 1961. Since then, technological developments have changed the incentive structure of newspapers: internet advertising revenue is based off clicks for individual stories instead of selling an entire newspaper or magazine, and more and more people read on mobile, which makes them more likely to read short pieces instead of in-depth investigative work. These incentives have pushed news outlets to sort by controversial and signal-boost the stories that are weapons-grade toxoplasma. And as consumers, our appetite for news has never been bigger: we can scan headlines and as fast as we can spin our mouse’s scroll wheel. Unlike the original pseudo-events, toxoplasma events are not staged for the media’s observation: they are staged for the media’s observation of our reaction to them. So I think the real story is the media’s reaction to our reaction 😉

        We know all this. Our host has covered this quite well before.

        I suspect that a large part of the traffic that these stories generate is that, after a critical point has been reached (say, the topic goes Trending on Twitter), well-intentioned people like you and me and Plumber all go click on the stories in more respectable outlets so we can be informed about the latest outrage of the day. It’s innocent enough, really. We want to know what everyone else is talking about. But we’re playing right into Moloch’s hands.

      • theredsheep says:

        I believe that, in this case, the media are largely followers; people increasingly look to each other–or small independent outfits–for information, rather than organized professionals, and the media are hopping aboard on every story purely to retain relevance. If a large number of people are talking about something, it becomes news basically by definition; an outlet that’s ignoring the elephant in the room isn’t so much virtuous as oblivious. It used to be that public discourse had to go through newspapers via letters to editors, and the editors would screen out the wackos and distasteful sorts who might scare off any advertisers. Which is not to say that the old way didn’t have its downsides.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Have an alternative to malice.

        The public got fascinated by the story. The public is made of people. Reporters are also people, and perhaps not wildly different from the public.

        Also, this kind of thing is cheaper and easier than doing real investigative reporting.

    • Well... says:

      Well…

      I was summoned.

      The desire to remain ignorant of these nothingburger news stories is a good one. You should explore it further.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I’ll just say that the whole thing depresses me, but not for the reasons it depresses most of the people on SSC.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Why is that?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Roughly speaking, two wrongs don’t make a right.

          This article captures some of what I find disturbing

          The hat’s text is in a fight with the hat’s subtext, and a kid smirking under its brim makes that obvious contradiction visible. Of course that image went viral. In a healthier country, that image wouldn’t have been so furiously overread because the other side would long ago have easily conceded that yes, there is something wrong and disturbing about Americans screaming “lock her up” and “build the wall.” That is not the country we have.

          If you have ever played or watched sports, you know that some players are instigators. They do dirty, underhanded things the whole game, they pinch, claw, spit, trip. Then when someone gets angry they protest their innocence and make a big show of complaining to the refs.

          Yes, there was an explosive over-reaction to the behavior. But that doesn’t mean the behavior was meaningless.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Wait, I’m confused — who exactly is supposed to be the “instigator” in this situation, and how? Trump? Sandmann? The 50% of the electorate who voted for Trump?

            catchphrases to associate those hats with people who want to … imprison their enemies without due process

            Given that Hillary Clinton is still, to the best of our knowledge, at liberty, and given that nobody’s actually complaining about this state of affairs, I’m going to call bullshit on the idea that either Trump or any non-negligible fraction of his supporters wants to imprison their political opponents, with or without due process.

            and lock out the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

            The fact that so many American journos think that enforcing the immigration laws is some sort of extremist outrage is itself a sign of how insular and extreme the US elites are.

          • Randy M says:

            I find this incredible, but I’m not sure if anything is gained discussing it any more.

          • albatross11 says:

            HBC:

            Is there any way an anti-abortion Trump supporter could express his views on the national mall that would not be provocative, in your view? I mean, standing there with a dumb look and a MAGA hat seems pretty tame, as these things go.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I guessed at first that you might be bummed over your own epistemic overconfidence, and it made me think better of you. Back to the status quo ante now.

          • and lock out the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

            Practically every American politician at present is in favor of doing so, and it has been the majority position since the 1920’s, unfortunately. The disagreement is only on how many of the huddled masses should be locked out, which ones, and how the locking out should be enforced.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Given that Hillary Clinton is still, to the best of our knowledge, at liberty, and given that nobody’s actually complaining about this state of affairs, I’m going to call bullshit on the idea that either Trump or any non-negligible fraction of his supporters wants to imprison their political opponents, with or without due process.

            While I strenuously disagree with HBC, it should be pointed out that Hillary is no longer a serious political opponent. The election is long since over and done with. If she were to run again in 2020 the “lock her up”s would return.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I do see a fair about of ‘LHU’ on the donald’s subreddit whenever she comes up, which is distressingly often for someone who is gone.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            While I strenuously disagree with HBC, it should be pointed out that Hillary is no longer a serious political opponent. The election is long since over and done with. If she were to run again in 2020 the “lock her up”s would return.

            So how many current serious political opponents have been imprisoned? How many Trump supporters are calling for them to be?

            “Lock her up!” is nothing more than the political equivalent of football fans’ chants. It no more indicates a desire to imprison people than “We’re gonna SLAUGHTER the other team this weekend!” indicates a desire to commit mass murder.

          • acymetric says:

            @The original Mr. X:

            It is unsurprising that these chants are “meaningless football cheers” when made by the ingroup but dangerous calls for action when made by the outgroup. I am not accusing you specifically of doing this (I’m certainly not going to dig for examples of you being overly concerned with slogans from the left and I won’t assume that you have done so without checking), but certainly a lot of people on both sides do.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            One could cynically argue that serious political opponents won’t exist until the 2020 election kicks into high gear because Congress has willfully reduced itself to nothing more than a soap opera 😛

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It is unsurprising that these chants are “meaningless football cheers” when made by the ingroup but dangerous calls for action when made by the outgroup. I am not accusing you specifically of doing this (I’m certainly not going to dig for examples of you being overly concerned with slogans from the left and I won’t assume that you have done so without checking), but certainly a lot of people on both sides do.

            I’m sure they do, but in this case we don’t need to rely on political tribalism – Trump has been President for over two years now, so we can just look at his track record to see where he stands on the matter. So far, he hasn’t made any moves to lock up any political opponents, and his base hasn’t applied any pressure on him to do so. Based on current evidence, then, I think that anybody who sees a MAGA-hat-wearing kid and assumes he’s in favour of imprisoning Democrats is being more than a little paranoid.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @The original Mr. X:

            IIRC Trump wanted the FBI to investigate Hillary Clinton and they basically refused. I don’t know how far Trump would go if both parties and the entire government were mostly opposed to his agenda [the parts that deviate from republican orthodoxy that is]. But my guess is if the representation of federal agencies and congress was closer to Trump’s general worldview we might see a mirror image Mueller investigation where Clinton’s people might have tangential charges thrown at them.

            This is my understanding:

            Hard core trump supporters do generally believe Hillary Clinton is a crook who rented out the powers of the state department to foreign entities for personal gain and would ideally want to see her thrown in prison or at least investigated. [not that they would trust an innocent verdict]

            Hard core leftists generally do believe Trump is a Russian agent [either in a literal sense or in a more soft and technical sense] and in an ideal world would like to see him in prison or at least investigated [not that they would trust an innocent verdict]

            One of these beliefs is supposed to disqualify the person in question as a hateful lunatic and the other is a reasonable supposition that is in some capacity being responded to.

            My problem with this excusing of the reaction to the maga-hat is that we have more and more exterminationist rhetoric being thrown at certain races of people in general and certain article-of-clothing wearing people in particular… and it being excused on the grounds that the targets in question represent, or are intending to do some more sinister crime.

            It’s the doctrine of pre-emptive self defense, writ small.

            And I do not mean this in a condescending or sarcastic way, but the red-hat types are simply not of the mind to understand how the act of excluding certain foreign nationals from entry into the united states as an act of violence against them that would at least in part justifiably open them to physical/verbal abuse, doxing, loss of employment, or death threats.

          • testing123 says:

            @RalMirrorAd says:

            Hard core trump supporters do generally believe Hillary Clinton is a crook who rented out the powers of the state department to foreign entities for personal gain and would ideally want to see her thrown in prison or at least investigated. [not that they would trust an innocent verdict]

            I loathe clinton, but I don’t think that she rented out the state department, and I don’t know anyone who claims she did. At most, you get her accused of using her position and profile to leverage donations for her foundation, but not actually selling american policy. But she did get caught with the emails of the senior state department stored on private servers, including classified information, lied about it, and destroyed evidence that was under subpoena. I know plenty of people with clearances who know how deep and dark a hole they’d be thrown in had they been caught doing any one of those things, much less all of them, it rankles a lot of them to see those crimes so blithely dismissed.

            There is a world of difference between hillary clinton getting caught red handed doing things that would get lesser mortals thrown in jail forever, and wild rumors of vague “collusion” that trump has been accused of.

          • suntzuanime says:

            The Clinton Foundation got a lot of donations from foreign entities while she was Secretary of State. Maybe those Middle-Eastern Sheikhs just wanted to support the good work it was doing around the globe, but it’s not unreasonable to suspect there was something a little more sordid going on. Especially since the donations to the Clinton Foundation dried up the moment she lost the election and no longer had power to sell.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Hard core leftists generally do believe Trump is a Russian agent [either in a literal sense or in a more soft and technical sense]

            Outgroup homogeneity bias at work here, I think. The hard-core leftists I come across generally think attempts to prove Trump a Russian agent are McCarthyism, because that’s something hard-core leftists pattern-match to.

          • John Schilling says:

            There’s definitely a community that believes that Vladimir Putin has been pulling Trump’s strings since the campaign; I keep getting linked to them in social media by otherwise-sensible people I know. But the people I know who are doing this aren’t hard-left, and I don’t think the people who are linking to them are hard-left. They mostly seem to be ordinary liberal democrats who have gone over into full Trump Derangement Syndrome.

            If the actual hard left has a different take on the matter, that’s news to me but I don’t spend enough time with the hard left to be confident in my understanding of their views on this.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ RalMirrorAd:

            But my guess is if the representation of federal agencies and congress was closer to Trump’s general worldview we might see a mirror image Mueller investigation where Clinton’s people might have tangential charges thrown at them.

            Well, have either Trump or a significant portion of his base made any statements to the effect that they’d like to get Clinton and her allies, if only the feds were on their side?

            I mean, it’s theoretically possible that in a world where the federal agencies were all full of Trump supporters, we’d be seeing tangential charges thrown at Clinton’s campaign team, but that seems like an incredibly weak reason for supposing that a random MAGA-hat-waring kid is in favour of “imprisoning [his] enemies without due process”.

          • nkurz says:

            I’m not sure whose argument this strengthens, but I was surprised recently to see that Judicial Watch’s lawsuit regarding the use of a private email server is ongoing. In fact, last week, they had what they feel was a big win.

            The judge finally granted them discovery, allowing them to conduct written depositions of various officials, including Susan Rice: https://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/weekly-updates/weekly-update-big-court-victory-on-clinton-emails-and-benghazi.

            After the initial discovery, there will be another another ruling that they hope will allow them to depose Mrs. Clinton and Cheryl Mills. For better or worse, it still seems entirely possible that people may eventually be sent to jail because of this.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          I use the word Hard-left to mean the most outspoken partisans against trump. This might not be an appropriate term because the term at one point would have referred to people who might have been called foreign agents for opposing a foreign policy of containment.

          And I only bring up the issue with clinton because -if- the reason people should fear red-hats is because they think a particular politician is a criminal and want to see legal proceedings be brought against them. That same sort of person has a high probability of thinking the president was an agent of or received unlawful assistance in gaining power from a foreign entity.

          What we see in our slice of the multi-verse is where one side of this feud lacks the political capital to get a $5B piece of wall built, and the other side is capable of keeping the head of state under investigation for over a year.

          So for now we’re stuck having only our imagination to guide us about the horrors of a MAGA dominated government.

          I’d say the closest thing we ever got to seeing what a government filled with red-hats would do to a politician was the nothingburger of the Benghazi hearings.

  10. There is a South Bay meetup this Sunday, January 27th. I have just put it on the schedule for a second time, but since it vanished the first time I am not counting on it showing up this time.

  11. Kestrellius says:

    Last thread had a discussion about role models, and someone was asking about female role models.

    My pick: Madoka Kaname. Everyone should be more like Madoka Kaname.

    • Charles F says:

      Everybody should fail to solve their problems so many times that the universe gets tired of watching it and allows them to simply wish the bad things away? Madoka’s a bit too passive for me to think everybody should be more like her, but as long as we’re listing good female role models in anime, I’ll put forth Inoue Meiko and Ayase Chihaya.

      • Kestrellius says:

        (Retraction: “Everybody” was unnecessarily hyperbolic on my part. On reflection I think I might actually believe that literally everyone should be more like Madoka, but that statement’s inclusion reduced the clarity of a fairly simple sentiment.)

        Each instance of Madoka only failed once, with the exception of the final timeline, in which she didn’t fail at all. Unless you’re counting the various deaths and transformations throughout the series as failures on Madoka’s part, anyway, which I don’t think is reasonable — she wasn’t in a position to do anything about them without making a contract, which Homura prevented her from doing.

        Now, Homura fails to solve her problems a whole bunch of times, but I did not say that everyone should be more like Homura. She certainly has qualities worthy of emulation — her persistence, for example, is quite admirable. Her judgment, on the other hand…

        As for wishing her problems away…I think that’s underselling Madoka’s accomplishment somewhat. After all, half the point of PMMM is that wishes aren’t as easy as they sound. Every girl who contracted with the Incubators theoretically had the ability to wish her problems away, but the situation remained bad until Madoka came along. Granted, she had a unique advantage in that she was sitting on a god-sized pile of magic, so it’s not clear how much previous magical girls could have accomplished by making similar wishes.

        (There’s a bit of weirdness with how wishes work — Kyubey emphasizes early on that a girl can wish for literally anything, but either that’s not true or the Incubators are morons. If it was true, then the first thing Kyubey should have done was convince some girl to wish for a perpetual motion machine, and the whole thing would have been done with. It’s a bit of a plot hole, given how careful Kyubey is about avoiding outright falsehoods the rest of the time.)

        Even with her power, though, there were a lot of ways Madoka’s wish could have gone wrong, and only a few ways for it to go well. It’s her careful reasoning and her understanding of the situation that lets her see the way out of the situation. She saves countless people from despair by using her head, and I think that’s incredibly admirable.

        …and then Homura fucks it all up. But let’s just pretend Rebellion never happened.

      • aristides says:

        My vote for female anime role model is Takamachi Nanoha from Mahou Shojou Lyrical Nanoha. Unlike most magical girls, she embraces her power immediately. She is always kind and tries to make friends with her enemies, but when she is unable to she battles unhesitatingly. She grows up to be a strong military officer, that trains an elite special forces unit, risks her life, saves a planet, adopts a child, and raises her strongly as well. I’d recommend her as a role model regardless of gender.

        • beleester says:

          Yeah, magical girl shows are going to be good places to look for role models in general, seeing as they’re built around young girls becoming idealized versions of themselves.

      • beleester says:

        Everyone should be idealistic enough to think that the world should be a better place, and wise enough to figure out how to actually do that when the opportunity arises.

        I’ll admit she’s fairly passive for a lot of the show, but that’s because she spends most of the show gathering information before she makes a decision. Thematically, it’s pretty clear what the show is doing. Madoka has to find a balance between Homura (rational, knowledgeable, but so cynical that she cannot into people) and Sayaka (so idealistic she ignores reality) – balancing rationality and emotion, and finding the one wish that will actually change the system instead of repeating the cycle.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Yeah, yeah, spoilers, this show is 8 years old now, and I am pretty sure every SSC nerd that wants to watch the show has already watched it.

        Pretty sure Homura’s wish deliberately made Madoka more passive than she otherwise would be. In the 1st timeline, Madoka is a confident magical girl already by the time Homura comes around. Homura wishes to protect Madoka, and her wish retcons reality so Madoka is not a magical girl when Homura first arrives. She’s also substantially more passive, and this just seems to get worse and worse every time Homura resets the timeline.

        Madoka never remains passive, in any time line. She always chooses to be a Magical Girl, and it’s always out a genuine desire to help people. She has a lot of good qualities. Madoka does not boast, she is slow to anger, she is appreciative of the life she has, she is a good friend even when she doesn’t have god-like powers, she’s pretty smart, and she is quite self-sacrificing. She never realizes the costs of being a Magical Girl until the end, but when she does she elects to transcend reality and take the rest of the Magical Girls to Valhalla rather than let them become Witches. It’s a big, eternal, personal cost to bear, because it’s not what Madoka ever would have wanted if she ever had another choice, and that’s why Homura undoes everything in rebellion: Homura did not succeed in saving her friend, and Homura just let her friend take on the entire burden of the universe, which Homura cannot allow.
        Madoka’s biggest problem is that she thinks far too little of herself and tends to value her own life cheaply. She was about to sell her soul for a cake, and in past timelines had sold her soul for a cat. Homura correctly calls her out on this all the time. This is not a problem for Madoka at the end of the series, she clearly understands what she is giving up and what she’s signing up for, and she does it anyways.

    • Aapje says:

      @Kestrellius

      I would suggest putting a bit more effort in next time by explaining who this is and why she is a role model.

      I haven’t seen the anime, but looking at the Wikipedia page, I doubt that she is a good role model, unless you think women should follow traditional gendered behavior more. The character is said to be weak and powerless until she gets magical powers, then she finds out that the risk of using magic is extremely high.

      It seems to me that magic is a metaphor of risk taking (‘male’) behavior and that the story does more to reaffirm those who are socialized and/or biologically predisposed to risk avoidance and who are envious of the things that risk-taking can bring, that trying to achieve this has more downsides than upsides. So instead of actually pushing these people to be a bit more risk-taking, it may allow them to vicariously experience such behavior, while actually being reaffirmed in their real-life stance that this is far too dangerous for themselves.

      • Kestrellius says:

        I would suggest putting a bit more effort in next time by explaining who this is and why she is a role model.

        Yeah, you’re right. I posted this on a whim; I basically meant it as a reply to the discussion in the previous thread, but, well, it was the previous thread. I should have remembered that top-level comments sort of work differently than replies.

        The character is said to be weak and powerless until she gets magical powers, then she finds out that the risk of using magic is extremely high.

        Not quite. I’m going to ROT13 for spoilers.

        Fb, jung unccraf vf gung Znqbxn naq ure sevraqf ner nccebnpurq ol n perngher pnyyrq Xlhorl, jub bssref gb znxr pbagenpgf jvgu gurz: gb tenag rnpu bs gurz n fvatyr jvfu naq genafsbez gurz vagb zntvpny tveyf, jubfr ebyr vf gb svtug fhcreangheny zbafgref pnyyrq jvgpurf. Jnagvat gur cbjre gb uryc crbcyr, Znqbxn pbafvqref npprcgvat, ohg nabgure zntvpny tvey anzrq Ubzhen crefvfgragyl jneaf ure ntnvafg vg, bppnfvbanyyl hfvat sbepr gb cerirag Znqbxn sebz znxvat n pbagenpg.

        Bire gvzr, gur pbafrdhraprf bs znxvat n pbagenpg orpbzr pyrne. Zntvp vfa’g evfxl fb zhpu nf varivgnoyl pngnfgebcuvp: nalbar jub orpbzrf n zntvpny tvey jvyy, ab znggre jung, rvgure qvr na rneyl qrngu be snyy gb qrfcnve naq genafsbez vagb n jvgpu. Xlhorl’f crbcyr, gur Vaphongbef, frg hc guvf jubyr flfgrz va beqre gb tngure raretl sebz jvgpurf — sbe fbzr ernfba, guvf raretl ivbyngrf gur ynjf bs gurezbqlanzvpf, nyybjvat gur urng qrngu bs gur havirefr gb or ceriragrq.

        Ubzhen vf gelvat gb xrrc Znqbxn sebz zrrgvat gur sngr bs nyy zntvpny tveyf — fur’f orra geniryvat onpx va gvzr bire naq bire ntnva, gelvat naq snvyvat gb cerirag Znqbxn sebz znxvat n pbagenpg juvyr nyfb qrsrngvat na vaperqvoyl cbjreshy jvgpu anzrq Jnychetvfanpug, jubfr neeviny vf abj vzzvarag.

        Nyy bs guvf vf xabja gb Znqbxn ol gur gvzr fur svanyyl znxrf ure pbagenpg. Jura fur qbrf, ure jvfu vf gb renfr rirel jvgpu, cnfg, cerfrag, naq shgher, jvgu ure bja unaqf. Gur ynjf bs gur havirefr ner erjevggra, naq Znqbxn orpbzrf n pbfzvp cevapvcyr ehyvat bire n fbeg bs nsgreyvsr sbe zntvpny tveyf.

        So, as for why I find Madoka such a praiseworthy character? Two reasons.

        The first is, quite simply, her empathy and compassion. Her primary motivation throughout the entire story is a deeply-felt urge to help people, especially those who are suffering. It’s certainly not a complicated or even uncommon attribute, but it’s something we could use more of.

        The second and more significant reason to admire Madoka is her ability to take the long view and make wise decisions. She can be contrasted with Homura in this way: while Homura is incredibly determined, she has no long-term plan, and her only goal is to keep Madoka alive and non-magical. She cares nothing for the broader situation. On top of that, she treats Kyubey as her enemy — which doesn’t tend to work out well, because Kyubey simply has more resources than Homura does.

        Amusingly enough, Madoka’s wish can sort of be viewed as a triumph of Mistake Theory: while Homura views Kyubey as a hostile agent, Madoka treats him as simply another aspect of a terrible situation — one more obstacle to work around. She comes up with a plan to satisfy the objectives of all parties, including Kyubey, which means she doesn’t have to deal with any resistance from him.

        I’m speculating here, but I think perhaps Madoka understood that — his amoral nature aside — Kyubey’s ultimate objectives were basically good, and that simply “defeating” the Incubators and ending the magical girl/witch system wouldn’t be desirable in the long run.

        So she takes the risk, and she becomes a magical girl — but only after she understands what’s going on, and only after she knows exactly what she needs to do. In the end she is a proactive character; it just takes her a while to get going. On her own, she figures out how to leverage her resources into an act that will save both the universe and the souls of all magical girls across time, and then she puts her plan into action — and she does it all out of universal empathy.

        That’s why I think she’s a good role model.

    • AG says:

      This essay continues to be relevant.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Modesty Blaise. I’m exceedingly fond of the novels– I don’t know whether they’re much different from the comics.

  12. LadyJane says:

    Counterpoint to Scott’s “Whatever Happened To Environmentalism?” post: I was actually just talking to a woman who was deeply concerned with the current garbage crisis. She mentioned the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the Kessler Effect, and she was actually complaining about how the debate over whether climate change is real or not made everyone stop talking about the trash problem. So while it’s not exactly common, there are apparently still some people talking about it.

    • Watchman says:

      I’m not sure this is a great example. The garbage island has been rediscovered recently, probably as part of the campaign against plastic packaging that is certainly underway in Europe. My favourite example of this (today) being a song called Drive On by a group of very-early twentysomethings whose name I didn’t catch (it was on the radio whilst I was driving). They wrote this inspired by the discovery of said island of rubbish, leading to my cynical thought that I’d probably heard five songs inspired by the same discovery since the 90s…

      OK song to be fair, but clearly was a first play (it was in a slot on the UK Radio 1 new music show, and they’ve not updated their playlist for this yet). But proma facia evidence the garbage island is back on the environmental agenda.

      • LadyJane says:

        How recently? Her Facebook history shows that she’s been talking about the trash crisis for a while (not specifically the garbage island), so either it’s been back on the environmental agenda for at least a few months, or she’s an outlier whose pet cause just happened to come back into the spotlight.

        • Tarpitz says:

          I’d say I’ve been playing Facebook whack-a-mole with people linking to stories about it for roughly a year.

    • ana53294 says:

      There was recently a story in the Atlantic about how the effort to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch could end up destroying a rare floating ecosystem.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Generally speaking, waste management is a much more local issue, because living next to an operating facility absolutely sucks. It’s the ultimate NIMBY issue.

      And the overall issue of environmental pollutants, which is what the issue with garbage patch is, and is one of the general issues with waste management, has not really ever gone away as an issue. Global warming is just the current iteration of the ongoing battle on that front. And it’s frankly near impossible to get multiple issues to retain head space in the overall social mind. Each new thing pushes the old out of the limelight.

  13. Aapje says:

    There was an interesting theory presented in my newspaper (by an opinion writer) that population growth in Africa is a good thing that will create rapid economic growth, because a dense population makes roads and such more affordable, allowing farmers to bring their produce to further away markets.

    At first glance this seems plausible. However, it also seems inconsistent with my understanding of why the Agricultural Revolution happened, which is primarily because of productivity growth through land reforms and new technology.

    The Agricultural Revolution also first happened in England, which had a smaller population density at the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution (~1750) and fewer waterways than The Netherlands (which makes for a very cheap way to transport goods). Population density did increase more in England during the Agricultural Revolution, but this seems more likely to be effect than cause (although a feed-back effect is of course possible).

    Finally, countries like Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe already have a considerably higher population density than England at the start of the Agricultural Revolution. So the theory doesn’t seem that plausible to me.

    • Watchman says:

      Does the article indicate a mechanism by which the increased population will cause rapid economic growth? If an increased population can cause economic growth it suggests to me that there has to be a labour shortage, which is not something I’ve ever associated with Africa, where a huge proportion of the population are engaged in subsistence framing (which might simplistically be called a way of keeping a pool of surplus labour).

      And it is not transport that stops agricultural surplus being profitable; its the problem of preserving produce in a hot and mainly humid environment. India has a good road network (for a value of good anyway) but has exactly the same problem of farmers not being able to monetatise surplus production die to spoilage and resultant low prices. Transport, unless extremely rapid, will not solve this problem on its own.

      All else being equal I’d expect a population explosion in Africa to result in an increase in the pool of surplus labour, so increased subsistence farming, with resultant negative effects on the environment and no discernable positive outcomes on economic growth.

      • Aapje says:

        Does the article indicate a mechanism by which the increased population will cause rapid economic growth?

        Mostly because roads are expensive and you need enough density of people to pay for good roads.

        • Murphy says:

          That only works if the people in question have capital with which to build the roads.

          10 people with a million bucks each who want to build a road for their convenience and economic activity are probably going to have an easier time of it than 1,000,000 people on the same land with 10 bucks each.

          • Aapje says:

            Or that they pay taxes.

            I question the extent to which African countries get tax income from these additional people. It seems quite plausible that a lot of government income is independent of the size of the populace.

          • Murphy says:

            Whether you gather the money through tax or any other means: you hit the same problem if you have 10 people with a million bucks each or 1,000,000 people on the same land with 10 bucks each.

            You still ultimately need the capital available.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Transport, unless extremely rapid, will not solve this problem on its own.

        There’s transport improvements other than speed. The refrigerated truck was invented in 1939, for instance. Of course reefers are more expensive to manufacture and operate than ordinary trucks.

        Not that I think adding population will help any; that idea is just bizarre.

    • rlms says:

      Agree that this is confusing cause and effect, but I don’t think comparison with the agricultural revolution is helpful anyway. The world is different now.

    • There’s also the fact that India and China were very densely populated in the 18th century and of course the Industrial Revolution didn’t happen in those places.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Zimbabwe was a major producer and exporter of farm goods prior to the 80s when it was still known as Rhodesia, and was one of the wealthier countries in Africa.

      There isn’t a single attribute that causes growth, this much seems clear. The density argument rests on the assumption that the increased population is going to be comprised of productive individuals who will have the means to demand goods, the number of assumptions underlying that are uncountable.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      You do not get an economic takeoff until you have a generation which has grown up with an adequate diet and the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic – Which usually means you do not get an economic takeoff until super high population growth stops, because a poor population cannot provide that for 6 children per couple. So no, barring major external shocks to the food supply, do not count on it.

    • Clutzy says:

      Put me in the category of, “extremely skeptical”. Africa has examples of countries that used to have really awesome roads without the population boom, its just they were run by colonizers, rather than natives. Until natives get as good at government as colonizers, that is going to be what holds them back. And some of the more…pessimistic views on this indicate that the African population boom is more likely to lead to an exodus to Europe/America than an improvement in government.

  14. onyomi says:

    This video is the first explanation of the weird state of housing construction in Chinese suburbs (most major Chinese cities are surrounded by eerie, empty suburbs of uninhabited luxury housing towers) I found somewhat satisfying and also seems an interesting case study of the really weird incentives some seemingly pretty reasonable* policies can create.

    *Not that “rural land is collectively owned but can become privately owned if a city expands to include it” sounds reasonable to me, but I can imagine how it might to a formerly communist country (yes, I know it’s still run by the CCP but I don’t consider China a “communist country” since 1978).

    • Walter says:

      Leaving a note here so I remember to come back and watch this video when I am on a machine where I can do that.

    • Plumber says:

      @onyomi

      “…it’s still run by the CCP but I don’t consider China a “communist country” since 1978…”

      Mainland China now seems to fit the definition of “Fascist” to me, while “The Republic of China” (Taiwan) went from a more fascist-ish regime to a liberal democratic republic.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Ironically, the Kuomintang is still officially a fascist party.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_ideology_of_the_Kuomintang

        So China is divided between fascist China (officially Communist) and democratic China (officially fascist).

        This makes sense somehow.

        • Aapje says:

          I don’t see proof of that on the Wikipedia page.

        • onyomi says:

          Though many would describe Chiang Kai-Shek as “fascist” vis-a-vis Mao, I don’t think the KMT has ever officially identified with the label “fascist,” but they do call themselves “nationalist.” Certainly the idea that the KMT today is “fascist” (any more than a Democrat in the US might call the Republicans “fascists”) would be more weird to the Taiwanese people I know than the idea that the PRC’s ruling ideology is communism. The official ruling ideology of the KMT is Sun Yat-Sen’s “Three Principles of the People,” one of which is often translated as “Nationalism,” but means something more like “populism” or “rule by the people(s).”

          The KMT today is the more economically liberal, relatively socially conservative, China-friendly party, whereas, the DPP is more socially-economically progressive, yet also more “Taiwanese nationalist.”

          That the more “right-wing” party is also the China-friendly party, besides being an historical artifact may also point to the PRC today in fact, being more fascist in practice, which I agree seems to be the tendency of communism (to gradually turn into fascism because ethnicity and nation are better Schelling points for collectivism than international class interest).

  15. Hoopyfreud says:

    Continuing the weeks-long healthcare trainwreck…

    The latest in the thread is,

    Without patient investment, doctors are mostly useless, and without you feeling that pain in the pocketbook, you don’t have any incentive to change behavior. And maybe its good for most people to skip a few meals and each just rice for a month to recoup the cost of a doctors visit, because doing that is a greater benefit than the doctors visit itself.

    As pointed out, the marginal value of a dollar is rather different to different people, and my view is that, in the real world, this turns into “maybe it’s good for people to contribute less to their 401k for a few months” for some and “maybe it’s good for people to freeze to death” for others. The first does relatively little to affect marginal consumption among the group it applies to, while the second depresses consumption so much that it means that people die of (to whip my long-dead horse into a merengue) diabetic ketoacidosis instead of hypothermia.

    Given that there are people who are priced out of the existing healthcare system, is there a better mechanism for allocating healthcare than price? If not, are all effects that distort the pricing mechanism bad? If so, what’s the most humane way to kill the poors with Type I diabetes and cancer? Because their inevitable fate sounds like an awful way to die to me, and if efficient resource allocation means they shouldn’t get actual medical care then at least they can hope for a relatively nice death.

    I’m aware that the above is (probably needlessly) inflammatory, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to pretend that healthcare isn’t an area where time-domain transient effects aren’t both large and potentially disastrous. So, actual serious questions: what’s the best way to allocate healthcare and why? If the answer is the pricing mechanism, should healthcare providers be aiming to maximize profits, as most market models assume? How aggressively should healthcare providers discriminate on price, and how amenable to exceptional circumstances should the price discrimination algorithms be? Is it a good idea to let people sell themselves into indentured labor in exchange for healthcare? What about actual slavery?

    • Murphy says:

      And maybe its good for most people to skip a few meals

      It sounds a lot like people are trying to solve 2 problems badly with 1 solution merely because they correlate and interact rather than dealing with them separately and doing a better job of it.

      Like trying to solve healthcare by lumping it together with employment and ending up in a situation where people can end up incentivized to switch to a job where they have less competitive advantage and have less to contribute because it comes with health cover.

      Or trying to hit 2 birds with one stone and only winging both of them.

      If you want to get people to get fit and exercise there’s no rule that you have to link it to medical care. You could just go a little big-brother and write a law fining people for failing to do as much exercise as the local offical party officer says they should.

      Or you could pay people a small bit for maintaining a healthy BMI. Target teenagers such that they can make pocket money from being healthy or improving their health from week to week before they reach adulthood and it may not even be terribly expensive with lots of positive knock on effects later in life.

      As for healthcare allocation, it comes down to what kind of society you want to live in. If you’re comfortable with a society where people who can’t earn enough just don’t get healthcare: own it and accept lots of people and their progney dying young from fairly preventable things. If you don’t consider healthcare something that people should get if they really need it by dint of being human then there’s no problem.

      Your indentured labor and slavery bit is again, mixing in separate issues that aren’t really about healthcare so much as a general issue of what people in a financial hole should be expected to do in the society you want to live in. Do you want debtors prison? Should debts transfer to next of kin like assets to motivate people more? Selling organs you can do without? Selling organs you can’t do without? Lots of things have historical precedent.

      • Clutzy says:

        Since I am the one who was quoted, I feel like a bit of response would be good. I think the problem is calling everything from immunizations and antibiotics to permanent dialysis and organ transfers, “healthcare”.

        Even though I’m fairly libertarian, I think its defensible to have some intervention in the market at those low (and extremely cheap) levels, but when we are talking about state-of-the-art healthcare delivered by expensive, highly trained professionals. Where is that ever a right? We don’t expect everyone to be able to eat at The French Laundry, even though that is technically food.

        And that, IMO, is more representative of the system we need to have. Everyone has floridated water, can get vaccinations, there are clinics that can deal with minor things, but yes if you have type II diabetes, sorry pay your own way.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Medical conditions that are the result of chronic and voluntarily engaged in behaviors are not appropriate for health insurance to begin with, and insurance aside, health care costs are not necessarily cheaper for random accidental medical conditions then they are for those resulting from bad behavior.

      I do think some kind of out of pocket payment of medical services is necessary to prevent prices from ballooning but I don’t believe the decision to live a healthy lifestyle can be driven much by fear of health care costs.

      Also Any program that tries to encourage healthy lifestyles focusing on behavior, perhaps via telematics, would be intrusive and cost prohibitive. Any program that relies on outcomes runs the risk of being accused of engaging in discrimination. [I would imagine, given that a fair portion of health outcomes are heritable anyway]

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Medical conditions that are the result of chronic and voluntarily engaged in behaviors are not appropriate for health insurance to begin with, and insurance aside, health care costs are not necessarily cheaper for random accidental medical conditions then they are for those resulting from bad behavior.

        I’m not sure if there’s anything in my post this is meant to be taking exception to, as I specified Type I diabetes. I agree with the last clause completely.

    • Statismagician says:

      I mean, the trivial answer would be that one weird thing everybody else does where they don’t price people out of the health care market. This is not in fact all that complex of a problem, nor especially expensive on net. Major cost drivers in the US are the ‘daughter from California’ phenomenon, where some relative demands extreme and extremely-expensive end-of-life care with no particular QOL benefit, and very poor implementation of preventative measures, respectively for the high- and low-SES chunks of the population, and our actively unhealthy infrastructure more generally (e.g. huge sprawling car-based cities vs. European-style dense, public-transit based ones). NB, this does not disagree with that billion-graph RCA post, I’m just observing that economies which don’t treat health care spending as a luxury good also receive broadly adequate health care at a fraction of our cost and with superior average outcomes (although this last is probably mostly environmental).

      Arguably, give the existence of liens and wage garnishments specifically and [the set of all loan-enforcement policies] more generally, indentured labor for payment of debts already exists; IDK if that ever applies to health care charges, though.

      I think if we didn’t treat health care so differently from other economic activities, a market-based approach would probably work just fine. But we do, so we should stop pretending otherwise and take the obvious economies of scale.

    • SamChevre says:

      I think starting with price gets the whole discussion started with confusing the issue.

      The issue is resources: price is a (variably accurate) proxy for resources.
      So there are two questions, that rapidly become four:
      1) How many resources do we want to spend on health care
      1b) Who’s we?
      2) What do we want to spend them on?
      2b) By implication, what don’t we want to spend them on?

      My opinion is that healthcare resources that could plausibly be used vary so much between people that the answer to 1b ends up needing to be “the whole society”.

      Given this answer, I think the early-90’s Oregon Plan is the best option; rank treatments by benefits/costs, and cover as far up the list as the money goes.

      One clear answer to 2b is “we don’t want to spend them on things that do no one any good”; the problem is that this is a hard category to define clearly and usefully. Do EMR’s do anyone any good? What about reserve capacity in an emergency room so that trauma cases can be seen immediately if there’s a multi-car accident at 3:00 AM? And then there’s the question of how to value lives and years and health.

      Here are five reasonably-typical patients: if only two get non-palliative care, which two should it be?
      1) Very premature infant; 50% chance of “pretty much fine long-term”, 25% chance of “will survive but will probably need to live in a supervised environment”, 25% chance will not not survive.
      2) Infant with sickle-cell anemia: will have high health care costs and lots of pain life-long, without prophylactic antibiotics, is unlikely to survive to age 1, but will survive with prophylactic antibiotics.
      3) 12-year-old with cancer: 50% chance of 10-year survival with treatment
      4) 40-year old, has been addicted to opiates for 20 years, has hepatitis and will die within 3 years without a liver transplant
      5) 80-year-old, mind is still clear but physical health is poor overall; has pneumonia

      The US system is very bad at providing routine care at routinely-manageable cost, but it is superb at providing rarely-needed, very expensive care.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The thing about your dilemma is these resources aren’t totally rivalrous. I can strike the 40-year-old addict easily, and more controversially the sickle-cell infant who will never lead a normal life. But then I look at the 80-year-old who (assuming bacterial pneumonia) probably just needs a course of antibiotics and maybe some sort of temporary breathing assistance; this really costs not much if anything more than palliative care, and the only reason it’s being weighed against the other two is we’ve set some sort of arbitrary resource limit and made a death panel to distribute them.

        • SamChevre says:

          Right. The nasty and dilemma-making part is that the two people who it’s cheapest to treat now (antibiotics are fairly cheap), and who will almost certainly survive given treatment, are the two who generate the most costs later. It’s cheaper, long-term, to let them die now. My goal was that the expected cost over the next 10 years is the same for each patient.

        • rahien.din says:

          Quibble :

          maybe some sort of temporary breathing assistance

          If you’re talking about intubation, which requires ICU care, and which subjects the patient to other sorts of risks, then this is not cheap.

    • Guy in TN says:

      Given that there are people who are priced out of the existing healthcare system, is there a better mechanism for allocating healthcare than price? If not, are all effects that distort the pricing mechanism bad?

      The econ 101 lesson is that price is determined by supply and demand. But next the step people often miss/forget, is that supply and demand is determined by the regulatory framework the system operates under.

      Which is to say, there’s no “natural” price. We are always controlling it, by determining who has the power to control access to resources, even in nominally “free market” economies. Whether this regulatory power lies in the hands of authorities we label “public” or “private” entities makes no difference in this regard.

      So if you want to reduce the price of healthcare, and maximize utility, one option would be for the government to no longer choose to implement policies that concentrate wealth in the hands of a few, and instead transfer this wealth to those who have less. The price reduction comes in the form of shifting demand from expensive-but-only-slightly-useful procedures/medications that the wealthy peruse (because the marginal utility of money is so low to them), to cheap and highly effective medication/procedures that the poor can now afford, but previously couldn’t. And to ensure that the money is being used for its appropriate target, the government can place restrictions on this money such that it can only be used for healthcare spending.

      The price drops and net utility increases. Its not a radical idea, nearly every country, including the US already does this to some degree (I’m just describing Medicaid and Medicare, really). We just need to turn up the gas.

      • baconbits9 says:

        The definition of demand in this situation is based on the price of the goods in question. A person with zero dollars has zero demand for a Porsche. It does not matter how much they want a Porsche they don’t effect the price of Porches. However if you give a person who desperately wants a Porsche enough money to buy one then they have demand and that demand the pushes UP the price of Porches. Which means that your conclusion here

        So if you want to reduce the price of healthcare, and maximize utility, one option would be for the government to no longer choose to implement policies that concentrate wealth in the hands of a few, and instead transfer this wealth to those who have less

        Is literally false in the econ 101 sense. Transferring purchasing power to people who currently cannot afford health care will INCREASE the price (actually cost, but I will save that for the inevitable “but the Nordics” rebuttal) of healthcare.

        In an econ 101 world you get price decreases by increasing supply and price increases by increasing demand.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          actually cost, but I will save that for the inevitable “but the Nordics” rebuttal

          Can we skip the “but the Nordics” and talk about this now? If it’s predicated on population-level comparative advantage arguments I don’t think I buy the argument that this moves the needle much on price relative to irrational distortionary effects, collusion, and rent-seeking behaviors that markets don’t seem to be able to eliminate.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The shorter answer is that prices and costs are two different things. Prices are reflective of costs with roughly zero frictions, the more frictions you have the more prices diverge from costs.

            An extreme, but real world, example. During one period in the USSR everyone got coupons for things they needed, like a loaf of bread, largely (or supposedly) regardless of the value of your work. So bread was “free”, as it cost you zero dollars. However to obtain your bread with a coupon you often had to line up several hours before the bread outlet station opened. The cost of bread in the US was (I forget the actual number, something like 10-15 mins at average wages at one year) a fraction of an hour and the cost of bread in the USSR was ~10-20 times that in terms of number of hours needed to obtain a loaf of bread, but the “price” of bread was infinitely cheaper on the official market in the USSR.

            So costs can diverge from prices fairly easily. If we take a country like Norway they have ~ 15% higher GDP per capita than the US, and spend less per capita on healthcare. Using wikipedia PPP numbers you are looking at Norway having ~ 28% higher GDP per capita that the US after healthcare spending (~$50,000 for the US and ~64,000 for Norway). This gap appears to have persisted for at least 20 years (smaller in some years, but generally in the 15-30% higher GDP range), but it is unclear where this money has gone. Summed up since 1998 Norweigans have individually should have had 4-6x thier current GDP in extra spending that Americans (that is not compounded), and its unclear where that has gone. They don’t appear to live in larger houses, own more cars or electronics, eat out more, spend more on travel*, etc, etc, etc**. These numbers are PPP adjusted as well, so they should be taking into account how much more expensive Europe is.

            This pattern generally holds across the Nordic countries (I haven’t looked at literally every European country at this level of detail) where it appears that running these systems leads to dead weight loss (compared to the US, not compared to some ideal) in the range of 10-30% of GDP per year.

            * some of these categories might show Norweigans spending more than Americans, but the sum of the categories doesn’t.

            ** One possibility is that Norweigan’s have much higher individual net worth than Americans, meaning they have functionally saved more. This is a trickier calculation for a lot of reasons, but my preliminary view is that the gap doesn’t come particularly close to 4x total GDP, and if they are saving more then it should be compounded, not summed, meaning the gap should be 10x+ of GDP, not 4x over 20 years.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            it appears that running these systems leads to dead weight loss (compared to the US, not compared to some ideal) in the range of 10-30% of GDP per year.

            That seems like a wild conclusion to draw. If you could show that healthcare (real) costs are drastically higher than in the US I might buy it, but I don’t see signs of that. In fact, I don’t see clear signs that the losses you’re talking about are deadweight. Just because we don’t know where the money is going doesn’t mean it’s not paying for valuable things.

          • baconbits9 says:

            That seems like a wild conclusion to draw. If you could show that healthcare (real) costs are drastically higher than in the US I might buy it, but I don’t see signs of that. In fact, I don’t see clear signs that the losses you’re talking about are deadweight. Just because we don’t know where the money is going doesn’t mean it’s not paying for valuable things.

            Deadweight loss in economics is not something that is useless, it is a necessary cost to ensure transactions happen. For example if the US government wants to collect taxes the amount that they have to spend on the IRS to ensure tax collection would be a deadweight loss. The IRS is valuable to the US government but it still requires real resources to run and they only produce a transfer of funds, no productivity of their own, and so they are a loss to the system when compared to a hypothetical where everyone pays the exact amount of taxes required without enforcement.

            This does not imply that the money is being wasted, it implies that the system requires these extra resources to function, and that the system then costs more than the prices reported convey.

            You could also argue that the GDP PPP numbers don’t reflect reality, but then you can’t really compare US healthcare prices to Norwegian healthcare prices.

        • Guy in TN says:

          Transferring purchasing power to people who currently cannot afford health care will INCREASE the price (actually cost, but I will save that for the inevitable “but the Nordics” rebuttal) of healthcare.

          You are literally incorrect in the econ 101 sense. It will not increase the cost, because there is no increase in demand. Allow me to demonstrate:

          John has $2 which he spends on hamburgers and Jim has $0. If I take $1 of John’s and give it Jim with the stipulation “you can only spend this dollar on hamburgers”, what is the change in total demand for hamburgers? (And just to prove that I’m correct on both fronts, also ask what is the change in the average price of hamburgers?)

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Isofar as this changes the marginal value of a dollar for John, demand for hamburgers may decrease, actually. And if a hamburger costs $2, decreased demand drives costs down, but John doesn’t have access to burgers and Jim has worthless funny money. *glances at HSA.*

          • hls2003 says:

            What if each hamburger costs $2?

          • Guy in TN says:

            @hls2003

            What if each hamburger costs $2?

            Prices would drop to meet the new average consumer’s purchasing power, assuming the seller wanted to stay in business.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You example holds only if John has $2 and spends his money on nothing but hamburgers and does not shift his spending after losing $1 (so that just buys 1/2 as many hamburgers), so you are 100% wrong unless your claim is that rich people and poor people have exactly the same marginal preferences, and that the marginal preferences of rich people don’t change as they are taxed, and that rich people only buy healthcare with their money, and there is zero dead weight loss to taxation.

          • Guy in TN says:

            And if a hamburger costs $2, decreased demand drives costs down, but John doesn’t have access to burgers and Jim has worthless funny money.

            You wouldn’t want to cause prices to drop to the point where the healthcare industry is no longer profitable (and goes out of business), but I don’t think we have to worry about that for the time being.

          • Guy in TN says:

            You example holds only if John has $2 and spends his money on nothing but hamburgers

            Yes, its true that you wouldn’t want to transfer more money from the rich than they would otherwise have spent on healthcare in a hypothetical no-tax world. But maintaining the same level of spending, just distributed differently, would cause no change in demand all else equal.

            so you are 100% wrong unless your claim is that rich people and poor people have exactly the same marginal preferences, and that the marginal preferences of rich people don’t change as they are taxed

            As hoopyfreud pointed out, increasing the marginal utility of a dollar for the rich would likely cause them to shift to spending less on healthcare, if it changes anything at all. The higher you raise the taxes, the more this becomes an effective tool to lower total costs.

            and there is zero dead weight loss to taxation.

            No deadweight loss here, so long as the same level of exchange previously done between the rich with the healthcare industry is evenly replaced by the poor and the healthcare industry. I suppose if total healthcare costs drop, then you have to take into account the loss of the industry becoming less active. But its kind of weird to dwell too much on it since you’d have the same loss if technological/health improvement made the population healthier for some reason, and they stopped needing to buy so much healthcare.

          • baconbits9 says:

            In a competitive market the price of a hamburger would be close to the marginal cost of producing a hamburger, and so the only way to reduce the price of a hamburger by half would be to reduce the costs of producing a hamburger by half. The expected way that this would happen would be a decrease in the quality of the hamburger, meaning the “real price” should roughly be unchanged even if the nominal price did manage to be cut in half.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I should point out that since there’s a limit on how much you can tax without pushing up demand in the process (no more than the rich would have otherwise spent on healthcare), the best way to keep the rich from responding to the taxation by buying additional healthcare (and shifting demand up themselves) is to simply ban private insurance.

            In a competitive market the price of a hamburger would be close to the marginal cost of producing a hamburger

            “Close”, what does this mean? Who says profit margins always have to be slim?

          • Skivverus says:

            “Close”, what does this mean? Who says profit margins always have to be slim?

            For “who says”, “anyone who can (1) compare the costs going in and the prices coming out, and (2) replicate the process”.
            This means that profits are higher for longer when (1) and/or (2) is harder, and points to larger corporations favoring more arbitrary/heavy regulations (to make (1) and (2) harder).

            When it comes to health care in particular, hospitals are larger than doctors, insurance companies are larger than hospitals, and the federal government is larger than insurance companies.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            You wouldn’t want to cause prices to drop to the point where the healthcare industry is no longer profitable (and goes out of business), but I don’t think we have to worry about that for the time being.

            The average cost of a stage 3 clinical trial, last I checked, is $100 million per treatment. If a pharma company expects to sell that treatment ten thousand times, it necessarily has to charge $10000 per treatment just to break even – more than that if it wishes to afford to fund the next new treatment.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            But maintaining the same level of spending [on hamburgers], just distributed differently, would cause no change in demand all else equal.

            I believe this is why baconbits9 mentioned John having to spend all his $2 on hamburgers in order for your claim to work. This doesn’t hold in practice. John, having $2, might spend it all on hamburgers, but if he’s arbitrarily deprived of $1, he may very likely switch to a different purchase. For example, he may instead buy something that offers more calories per dollar, since calories were one of his factors when deciding what to buy with his $2.

            The result would be John spending $0 on hamburgers, Jim spending his $1 on hamburgers by state fiat, the hamburger vendor selling half as many hamburgers, and all three parties being less satisfied.

            [I]ncreasing the marginal utility of a dollar for the rich would likely cause them to shift to spending less on healthcare, if it changes anything at all.

            As I think you pointed out earlier, people will still buy healthcare if the cost wouldn’t ruin them and the alternative is dying. That includes the rich. They might buy different types of care, though, including less expensive types, which would mean that the total demand for those types still rises, possibly by a lot if they’re also bought by people who received the rich’s money. (Is this accurate, baconbits9?)

          • baconbits9 says:

            Yes, its true that you wouldn’t want to transfer more money from the rich than they would otherwise have spent on healthcare in a hypothetical no-tax world. But maintaining the same level of spending, just distributed differently, would cause no change in demand all else equal.

            Incorrect on multiple levels. To get this result you need 100% of the decrease in spending by the rich from the higher taxation to be healthcare related. Secondly you need perfect substitution of healthcare from rich to poor. If the rich are spending less on MRI’s and the poor spending more on general doctor’s visits then you have an expected increase in the costs of the goods consumed by the group that you are alleging will have lower costs. Finally these assumptions only get you FLAT, not lower, costs.

            As hoopyfreud pointed out, increasing the marginal utility of a dollar for the rich would likely cause them to shift to spending less on healthcare, if it changes anything at all. The higher you raise the taxes, the more this becomes an effective tool to lower total costs.

            This is completely incorrect. You have not yet shown how you get lower total costs, you have at best created a hypothetical world in which costs are flat which rely on unrealistic assumptions. You cannot amplify your cost savings when your cost savings are zero, you are multiplying by zero.

            No deadweight loss here, so long as the same level of exchange previously done between the rich with the healthcare industry is evenly replaced by the poor and the healthcare industry.

            Again false on an econ 101 level. The dead weight loss is from having to set up the transfer system, the only way you get zero dead weight loss is if magic fairies transfer the money, the rich make no efforts to avoid the magic fairies, and the poor wake up with perfect knowledge of how to interact with the healthcare system. And even under the most ridiculous assumptions you still have not given a reason for why costs would be lower, all of these are required just to keep them flat.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            The result would be John spending $0 on hamburgers, Jim spending his $1 on hamburgers by state fiat, the hamburger vendor selling half as many hamburgers, and all three parties being less satisfied.

            Why is Jim “less satisfied”? He gets free money for hamburgers!

            They might buy different types of care, though, including less expensive types, which would mean that the total demand for those types still rises, possibly by a lot if they’re also bought by people who received the rich’s money.

            Its a good point. Missing from my original proposal is that you would probably have to ban buying healthcare outside the government system, to keep this from happening. If you do that though, problem solved.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            If a pharma company expects to sell that treatment ten thousand times, it necessarily has to charge $10000 per treatment just to break even – more than that if it wishes to afford to fund the next new treatment.

            There’s lots of areas of healthcare that doesn’t have a $10,000 per-treatment price tag, though. You have to ask which produces more utility: poor people having access to cheap, basic treatments, or rich people being able to afford the $10,000 shiny new thing. If the companies charging $10,000 a treatment have to lose out, it may be a trade off worth making IMO.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @baconbits9

            Secondly you need perfect substitution of healthcare from rich to poor. If the rich are spending less on MRI’s and the poor spending more on general doctor’s visits then you have an expected increase in the costs of the goods consumed by the group that you are alleging will have lower costs.

            I never claimed that the price of any given treatment would decline. I said that the “price drops”- by which I meant the average price of a treatment.

            You have not yet shown how you get lower total costs, you have at best created a hypothetical world in which costs are flat which rely on unrealistic assumptions.

            I’m not interested in lowering costs, really. It’s utterly incidental to my proposal. You are the one who keeps bringing it up. Go back and read the OP if you don’t believe me.

            Again false on an econ 101 level. The dead weight loss is from having to set up the transfer system, the only way you get zero dead weight loss is if magic fairies transfer the money

            Its really simple, econ 101 stuff here. Lets say a poor person has a subsidy of 100 dollars. They value getting healthcare from a provider at 120 dollars. The healthcare provider is willing to accept 100 dollars for their services, but only because they value the opportunity cost for their time at less than that. So the poor person trades their subsidy for healthcare, and there is a net gain in surplus value for the system.

            Now, if you were to come in and take away this government subsidy by lowering taxes, then the poor person might only have $75 they are willing to spend on healthcare. And since this mutual beneficial transaction no longer takes place, the surplus value is no longer created.

            This, in a nutshell, is why moving from the current system to the free market system would create massive amounts of deadweight loss. You are factoring this into your calculations, right?

          • baconbits9 says:

            I never claimed that the price of any given treatment would decline. I said that the “price drops”- by which I meant the average price of a treatment.

            Which is wrong. You claim in your OP

            The price reduction comes in the form of shifting demand from expensive-but-only-slightly-useful procedures/medications that the wealthy peruse (because the marginal utility of money is so low to them), to cheap and highly effective medication/procedures that the poor can now afford, but previously couldn’t.

            Lets say there are two types of healthcare, MRIs and doctors visits. In a large country there are 1 million MRIs preformed on rich patients per year at a cost of $10,000 each and 100 million doctors visits at $100 each. You ban MRIs and tax the rich the $10 billion dollars that they would have spent on MRIs and transfer it in the form of vouchers for doctors visits to the poor.

            There is now $10 billion dollars in vouchers added to the payment pool for doctors visits, chasing roughly* the same amount of supply. The price of doctors visits must go up with Econ 101.

            Its really simple, econ 101 stuff here. Lets say a poor person has a subsidy of 100 dollars. They value getting healthcare from a provider at 120 dollars. The healthcare provider is willing to accept 100 dollars for their services, but only because they value the opportunity cost for their time at less than that. So the poor person trades their subsidy for healthcare, and there is a net gain in surplus value for the system.

            This is not Econ101, this is just counting portions of the ledger and leaving everything else out. To get this result you have to assume that the resources are sitting otherwise unused to be obtained by the $100 (but for some reason won’t be sold for $75). In your standard S&D model the person receiving the voucher goes out and bids for the healthcare providers resources. Either he bids the same as someone else and one of them doesn’t get the resources, meaning no net change in utility or he out bids someone meaning a net increase in price of the service.

            *You can intentionally create a situation where transferring the resources from the MRIs creates more supply than is needed to absorb the extra demand and then prices fall, but that isn’t an Econ 101 outcome, that is a make up your own numbers outcome.

          • baconbits9 says:

            As I think you pointed out earlier, people will still buy healthcare if the cost wouldn’t ruin them and the alternative is dying. That includes the rich. They might buy different types of care, though, including less expensive types, which would mean that the total demand for those types still rises, possibly by a lot if they’re also bought by people who received the rich’s money. (Is this accurate, baconbits9?)

            I think you are talking about the rich substituting a lower cost healthcare good for the one they can no longer afford. This is likely the average outcome, but is not a primary factor in the cost argument and gets into minutia (not the right word) that isn’t necessary to demonstrate that GinT’s position is incorrect.

          • Guy in TN says:

            There is now $10 billion dollars in vouchers added to the payment pool for doctors visits, chasing roughly* the same amount of supply. The price of doctors visits must go up with Econ 101.

            We’re in total agreement here, honestly. I’ve read and re-read the OP, and nowhere did I say or imply that the price of every possible treatment would decline. I said it “shifts demand from expensive treatments to cheaper treatments”, which causes the average price of treatments to drop. Perhaps I was ambiguous in saying “price” instead of “average price”.

            To get this result you have to assume that the resources are sitting otherwise unused to be obtained by the $100 (but for some reason won’t be sold for $75)

            I’m confused by your objection regarding deadweight loss, because this seems so simple. The resources, by which I assume you mean the healthcare, won’t be sold for 75 dollars because they are worth more than that to the supplier. I picked this number out of thin air of course, but for any good there’s a bottom price the for the seller. If for some reason the buyer’s purchasing ability drops below this level (because of a sales tax, price controls, removal of healthcare subsidy, ect), then the exchange won’t be made and the parties will incur deadweight loss.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            @Guy in TN

            I’m confused by your objection regarding deadweight loss, because this seems so simple. The resources, by which I assume you mean the healthcare, won’t be sold for 75 dollars because they are worth more than that to the supplier. I picked this number out of thin air of course, but for any good there’s a bottom price the for the seller.

            The highlighted bit is actually the core of the objection.

            Let’s assume a doctor can reasonably receive 12 patients a day. They charge $100 per visit and only get eight patients per day. If the reason their time is under-utilized (they’re getting fewer patients than they have capacity for) is that potential patients can’t afford $100 per visit, then the doctor stands to make more money by lowering the price. The lowest price for the seller is such when they can no longer increase profits by selling more at a lower price.

            This has implications for the idea of giving money to people who can’t afford stuff.

            If you’re prepared to accept that a doctor isn’t charging less than $100 per visit because they are already working at full capacity at that price (which means they can’t earn more money by selling spare capacity at a lower price), someone who just got $100 to spend on a medical appointment still won’t be able to see a doctor: the doctor is full already.

            If the number of people wanting and able to see a doctor for $100 per visit increases (because they got extra money from somewhere), but doctors are already working at full capacity, one of two things will happen (possibly both):
            – you get a bidding war between everyone who wants to see a doctor, which increases the market price above $100, or
            – there will be a push to increase supply of medical services (for example, by opening new clinics) to absorb the extra demand; unfortunately this extra capacity has additional costs that the incumbents do not (because they’re starting from scratch), so the minimum price they can offer will be higher than the incumbents; the market price will still rise above $100, although perhaps less than in the alternative scenario.

            (Added for completeness: the positive correlation of quantity supplied and price is as econ 101 as it gets – Law of Supply and all that. Intuitively, if people thought it worthwhile to open extra clinics at a $100 market price, they’d have already done so.)

            So, what you get is that people who couldn’t afford to see a doctor still can’t (‘coz doctors are now more expensive and you only gave ’em $100), plus you get people who could afford to see a doctor previously, but now can’t (‘coz more expensive).

            In short, you can’t even keep the prices flat if you start pumping money into the system – unless there was some non-price reason that you had spare capacity (in which case, you’re addressing the wrong problem).

            I never claimed that the price of any given treatment would decline. I said that the “price drops”- by which I meant the average price of a treatment.

            That’s exactly the opposite of what we would expect to happen – going by econ 101. What’s worse, the people affected would also be among the poor (if not truly destitute) – people who can just about afford the $100 per visit now, but won’t be able to afford the higher price resulting from increased demand at the $100 price point.

            To the extent that we might assume rich people use different medical services than the poor, the rich might not feel the crunch at all (unless you specifically target rich-people medical services, as opposed to introducing a general redistributive tax; rich people have surplus income and/or wealth, by definition).

            Finally, it should go without saying that you can’t solve the foregoing by doubling down. You gave people $100 for medical services and you got medical services costing $150 and as a result more people can’t afford them than previously? Give everyone $150! Yeah… except medical services cost $200 now, because you can’t simply magic doctors into existence.

          • Guy in TN says:

            In short, you can’t even keep the prices flat if you start pumping money into the system

            My proposal explicitly addresses how total demand is kept consistent, by using taxation and market controls (specifically, banning purchasing healthcare outside the government plan).

            Of course in your scenario, when you add more money to the healthcare system, the price increases. Basic stuff. My proposal doesn’t do this.

            My proposal works like this (with sample numbers):

            Healthcare spending before implementation:
            -Poor people pay $50
            -Rich people pay $1050
            -Total healthcare demand is $1100

            Healthcare spending after implementation:
            -Poor people pay $50 dollars + healthcare subsidy
            -Rich people pay $50 + $1000 in healthcare taxes (which becomes the healthcare subsidy)
            -Rich person is prevented from purchasing additional healthcare on the market
            -Total healthcare demand remains $1100

          • Skivverus says:

            Healthcare spending after implementation:
            -Poor people pay $50 dollars + healthcare subsidy
            -Rich people pay $50 + $1000 in healthcare taxes (which becomes the healthcare subsidy)
            -Rich person is prevented from purchasing additional healthcare on the market
            -Total healthcare demand remains $1100

            The bolded part kinda reads to me like “and we stop the tide from going out”.
            Also “what counts as health care becomes highly politicized” and “house price becomes a proxy for doctor quality in a similar way to how it’s already a proxy for public school quality and nearby-job quality”.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            My proposal works like this (with sample numbers):

            Healthcare spending before implementation:
            -Poor people pay $50
            -Rich people pay $1050
            -Total healthcare demand is $1100

            Healthcare spending after implementation:
            -Poor people pay $50 dollars + healthcare subsidy
            -Rich people pay $50 + $1000 in healthcare taxes (which becomes the healthcare subsidy)
            -Rich person is prevented from purchasing additional healthcare on the market
            -Total healthcare demand remains $1100

            These numbers don’t even add up.

            If each poor person pays $50+SUB, then they’re necessarily consuming more than each rich person who is capped at $50.

            Secondly, there’s $0 allocated to the deadweight cost of transferring all that money over.

            Thirdly, it’s ignoring all the aftereffects that will obviously happen, such as the poor not spending all of the subsidy, buying possibly different types of care, and putting a shock on the care system, while the rich respond to the tax by spending a fraction of it on paperwork that makes them not look like rich people in the eyes of that law.

            It enriches lawyers and tax transfer officials for approximately one year, and then the state has to figure out what to do with the impending insolvency of the entire thing.

          • Guy in TN says:

            These numbers don’t even add up.

            Where is the error?? Don’t just make the claim without pointing it out.

            For these sample purposes, assume that there are equal numbers of people in the “poor” and “rich” categories (obviously the subsidy payouts would need to be decline based on whatever the real-world ratio is)

            If each poor person pays $50+SUB, then they’re necessarily consuming more than each rich person who is capped at $50.

            Yes, and? I simply switch the primary consumers from the rich to the poor. Total demand remains constant.

            Secondly, there’s $0 allocated to the deadweight cost of transferring all that money over.

            That’s because the deadweight loss from the lack of exchanges between the rich/healthcare providers will be replaced by an equivalent surplus now occurring between the poor/healthcare providers.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Skivverus

            The bolded part kinda reads to me like “and we stop the tide from going out”.

            Regulating economic activity is actually really easy. We currently have regulations that say, “you can’t be a doctor without being certified”.

            So despite it being a hugely profitable enterprise if someone were to pull it off successfully, what percentage of the healthcare industry do you think is black-market unlicensed doctors right now?

          • Skivverus says:

            We currently have regulations that say, “you can’t be a doctor without being certified”.

            Don’t know about the percentage, but does the phrase “diploma mill” ring a bell?

          • Guy in TN says:

            Is your position is that requiring medical licensing has no effect on the actual medical capabilities of doctors?

          • Skivverus says:

            Is your position is that requiring medical licensing has no effect on the actual medical capabilities of doctors?

            Is your position that we should prosecute people for performing CPR without a license?

            Regulation certainly has effects; the point I’m trying to make here is that its effects are neither as universal as nor limited to what their wording alone would suggest. Prohibition is one of the canonical examples.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Regulation certainly has effects; the point I’m trying to make here is that its effects are neither as universal as nor limited to what their wording alone would suggest.

            I’m aware that all laws have a less than 100% enforcement rate. But your position, comparing the law to “stopping the tide from going out” seems to imply that they have 0% enforcement rate.

            If I say “we should have regulate x”, and your response is “ah, but did you know you will have a less than 100% success rate?”, I’ll be like yes, I know. I can bake that into the equation if that will satisfy you.

            One easy way, for this particular example, would be to make the subsidies equal to <100% of the taxation, with the percentage reduction equal to the rich-person black market spending rate.

    • Dack says:

      So, actual serious questions: what’s the best way to allocate healthcare and why? If the answer is the pricing mechanism, should healthcare providers be aiming to maximize profits, as most market models assume? How aggressively should healthcare providers discriminate on price, and how amenable to exceptional circumstances should the price discrimination algorithms be?

      Make healthcare providers compete on price. The current price discrimination (insured price vs out-of-pocket price) is what is causing the cost disease. So discrimination should go. Obviously the providers make a reasonable profit at the insured rate or else they wouldn’t make those transactions.

      • The one obvious problem with this is that the insured rate is for a bill that the hospital is reasonably confident will be paid without the need to go to court. The uninsured rate is not.

    • rahien.din says:

      I’m not convinced that price/markets/etc. do anything medically useful. These may (or may not) bend toward the most efficient price per unit of care – but that’s it.

      The difficulty is how we define a unit of care. Physicians want to solve medical problems. Patients want to live healthy lives. Administrators want to build clinics and hospitals. Everyone wants to get what htey want, with a maximal amount of money left in their wallet thereafter. Therefore, physicians, patients, and administrators all define a unit of care differently. Moreso, physicians, patients, and administrators conflate [unit of care] with [price of medicine] differently.

      That’s your actual problem – solve that shit for me. All the bickering about price-based allocations and market solutions and efficient distributions and single-payor systems is just meaningless bike-shed noise.

  16. johan_larson says:

    Say hello to Earth Minus One. It’s a timeline a lot like out own, but slightly worse. It’s the place where a few of the things that went right in our world went wrong, and a few more clever and public-spirited people got hit by buses before they had a chance to make a difference.

    How does Earth Minus One differ from our world?

    • Tarpitz says:

      It’s probably a post-apocalyptic wasteland following a superpower nuclear exchange, frankly.

      • johan_larson says:

        Well now, this is supposed to be an only slightly worse world, not a the full-on crapsack. So maybe rather than two uses of nuclear weapons, there were five or six. How might that have happened?

        • Murphy says:

          I think the point was that we only just scraped by avoiding nuclear war in our current timeline. Even just randomising things a little means a good chance of nuclear helfire. Making things worse even more so.

          if you want a half dozen extra uses of nuclear weapons they basically have to happen very shortly after WW2 when it wouldn’t trigger a multi-nation nuclear exchange.

          Kill a few important vaccine developers and the vaccines for polio and a few other diseases might take an decade or 2 to get into general use.

          If Frederick Sanger got hit by a bus synthetic insulin probably would have been put back a few years along with the field of genetics.

        • bean says:

          That’s really not so different from our world. One option is to have WWII in the Pacific go slightly worse, so that the US isn’t able to use the bombs until about January 1946, which is when I think we’d have about that many. Another is for some minor brushfire war to break out in the mid-50s, and Eisenhower to make a point with a couple of nukes. But that world might actually be better than ours.

          • Protagoras says:

            I think you need to have the Germans last longer as well. Otherwise, the Soviets probably still enter the war against Japan shortly after Germany falls, and Manchuria gets overrun. If that isn’t enough to make Japan surrender without nukes, surely the Soviets overrun Korea in only a few more weeks, which should decisively weaken the faction that thinks fighting on will in any way improve things for Japan.

            On the other hand, if both Germany and Japan last longer (perhaps a more isolationist America that provides less help to the British and starts preparing for war later and less thoroughly could produce that result, though for the outcome we’re seeking here the U.S. would have to still have the Manhattan project despite this, which is a little bit of a contradiction), we may get what we want. Making them both longer lasting could mean nukes used to bring on the final German surrender, and then more nukes a little while later to bring on the final Japanese surrender.

          • Statismagician says:

            Korea, possibly? MacArthur certainly wanted to, and I don’t know enough about contemporary Chinese politics to say it wouldn’t have worked, at least to a first approximation.

          • bean says:

            Good point re Germany. But I’d not be certain that Manchuria being overrun would actually make them see reason. It was a very near-run thing IRL, and pushed through only because the Emperor personally intervened to make them agree.

    • johan_larson says:

      In a slightly worse version of Canada, the issue of Quebec independence got violent and stayed that way. An organization rather like the IRA formed, and the government had a hard time suppressing it, in no small part due to significant pro-independence sympathies with in the Surete de Quebec, Quebec’s provincial police force. While the pseudo-IRA isn’t very active any more, it did succeed in driving away many English-speaking Quebecois and some French-speaking members of visible minorities.

    • EchoChaos says:

      In the slightly worse version of South America, Chile and Bolivia have been fighting an undeclared guerilla/terrorist war over the Antofagasta for the past 100 years.

      It’s a bleeding sore that leads every American President to take a swing at the Peace Process, but the area is blighted and tensions remain high with regular car bombings and attacks on infrastructure.

    • Walter says:

      It’s easy to imagine that, in a world a little worse than our own (if we handwave that it made it through to the 1800’s identically, which of course it probably wouldn’t), the United States’ civil war didn’t really ever end. Maybe President Not-Lincoln let the South go. Maybe he ordered the place set on fire after the Union’s victory. For whatever reason, it is easy to imagine that the split became long lasting and bitter, even more than it really did.

      A Divided States is obviously much worse off, and its impact on the rest of the world would likely be calamitous. The two World Wars, just to pick an easy example, would have been very dif if America’s part in them had been fighting itself.

      • moonfirestorm says:

        Harry Turtledove’s Southern Victory series envisions an independent south, and then proceeds to go through the World Wars. This leads to some cascading differences though: since Britain and France come down on the side of the Confederacy (the threat of foreign blockades is why Lincoln eventually has to let the South go), the World War 1 battle lines put the North on the side of the Central Powers and the South on the side of the Allies.

        It eventually diverges pretty heavily, with gur Prageny Cbjref jvaavat JJ1 naq gur Fbhgu gnxvat gur ebyr bs Treznal jvgu n cnenyyry rpbabzvp qrcerffvba naq evfr bs Pbasrqrengr Uvgyre sbe JJ2, jvgu oynpxf orvat gur Wrj-nanybthr.

        • albatross11 says:

          That was a fun set of stories to read, but also serious nightmare fuel for adults. “My name is Jake Featherston, and I’m here to tell you the truth!”

      • BBA says:

        There are some who argue that in our world the Civil War never really ended.

        The Earth-Minus-One I can think of is that Stephen Douglas was a bit more partisan, decided to endorse Breckinridge instead of running his own campaign, and the united Democrats pulled off a narrow victory over Lincoln. The result is that it’s the North that secedes from the Union. There are a lot of different ways this can play out, nearly all of which lead to slavery surviving for at least another generation, possibly to the present day.

        • albatross11 says:

          Is there any reason to think the North would have seceded, though? Why wouldn’t the stalemate over slavery have just continued a few more years, perhaps triggering a civil war a little later on?

          What if the civil war had waited till 1890 to happen? My sense is that the North’s advantages were only growing over time, so you’d expect the war to end up the same way. What am I missing?

    • Randy M says:

      Air pollution in Los Angeles never improved in the 90’s and 00’s due to some efficient technologies not being invented, however the population is slightly higher due to tax incentives leading several large employers to locate there, with the resulting tax revenue being embezzeled rather than put towards water infrastructure. Gang violence increased over that time as well, spilling out to the suburbs and adjacent counties. The national guard was called in, but was in dire straits since most of the units had been rotating in and out of Iraq since the 90s.

      Also, they are still focusing on reality television rather than stories with long narrative arcs. There’s one popular shows where contestants compete to see how long they can stay outside in LA in summertime.

      Due to some quirk in the production of High Fructose Corn Syrup, obesity is even more of a problem; locally this is addressed by a government funded inhaler program, so school kids can do laps outside despite the smog.

    • The Nybbler says:

      George Washington died between Yorktown and the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Maybe Franklin too. As a result, the convention fails, and North America eventually breaks into a number of at-best-wary and more likely hostile nation-states. A few late Industrial Revolution inventions don’t occur — the threshing machine, the cotton gin, and various improvements to iron and steel manufacture.

      End result is North America is a bunch of squabbling nation states. Britain tries to prevent the slave trade through boycott and naval blockade, and this combined with slave rebellions (instigated by Britain and by other North American nations) stops the trade but not the institution. The South consists of poor rural pariah states. Expansion into the upper midwest still happens, but much more slowly. The Great Plains remain Indian territory. The south-central part of the country a chaotic area with escaped slaves, various “Spanish” generals (though Spain is unable to maintain control) with overlapping claims, and Indians.

      Europe stagnates; the French Revolution ends with the Thermidorian Reaction but instead of Napoleon (who alas is never born), we get restoration of the monarchy. Spain retains its colonial possessions in name only; the loss of its fleet plus internal squabbles prevent it from actually exercising control.

      With the Balkanization of North America and the blunting of the industrial revolution, the world in general returns to the static conditions prior to the Age of Exploration. 1950 looks a lot like 1850, and 2050 won’t look so different either.

      • albatross11 says:

        The UK signs a peace treaty with Germany after most of their army is wiped out in the early phases of the war. The invasion of the Soviet Union turns into a bloody stalemate, and Europe ends up with a Communist dictatorship in the East, a set of Fascist dictatorships in the West, with a weakened UK hanging on on the periphery. WW2 for the US is basically just us pounding the hell out of Japan. By 1950, there’s a three-cornered Cold War, with the US, USSR, and Germany all pointing nukes at each other. Fascism has about the same level of success at getting imitators/client states as Communism in out world, and so does Communism. Democracy becomes a US/UK/Australia/Canada thing.

        • woah77 says:

          So, the USA conquers Mexico and central America in the hopes of gaining a work force to defend themselves from Germany Naval blockades?

          • Statismagician says:

            Probably, but it’s worth noting that a US that’s just won a war with Japan does not need to worry about German naval blockades. The US Navy can outbuild the German one by a staggering margin basically indefinitely. Economic blockade, maybe, but as per above there’s nothing Germany can actually do to stop us exporting to South America/Asia.

          • bean says:

            Huh? That’s not a thing that could realistically happen. If all of Europe is German-dominated, then the major shipping lanes are all running north-south along the American coast. The Germans were able to do a lot of damage to those during the “Happy Time”, but we eventually got our act together, and they’re far enough away from Europe to be fairly difficult to actually get U-boats to. And the idea of a surface confrontation is the sort of thing that everyone from Admiral King on down is begging for.

        • Nornagest says:

          If the US doesn’t enter the war in Europe, I don’t think American democracy has much of a future. It was a pretty close-run thing even in our timeline.

          • albatross11 says:

            Nornagest:

            Why do you think that?

          • Nick says:

            My impression from e.g. Alan Turing: The Enigma (I confess I haven’t read much World War II stuff) is that even toward the end of the war Germany was producing so many U-boats that we were in serious trouble in the Atlantic. Could a few months’ delay have given Germany an adamantine grip on it by the time we did join? Or is there a more pertinent angle of the war you have in mind?

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m thinking mainly about the era’s political environment. Old-school great-power aristocracy had been (intellectually) discredited and (literally) decimated by the First World War, then a little bit later capitalism and liberal democracy were badly shaken by the Great Depression. A lot of people were looking for alternatives. Communism was one of the big winners in that period, but if you were one of the many people who were disillusioned with the Great War-era alignments but also skeptical of communism, you were likely to end up in a fascist or fascist-lite party, or one of the various minor perspectives like Spanish anarchism.

            In the US, the New Deal coalition managed to forestall any major shifts by democratically adopting a greatest-hits version of socialist and fascist proposals, but FDR barely pulled it off, and at the time of the American entry into WWII its long-term success was still in doubt. In our timeline it got a big shot in the arm from wartime propaganda and then from the European victory, but without a clear ideological victory in Europe, I don’t think it would have been stable. The US would still have won in the Pacific, but it would have been harder to sell that as a mandate, and propaganda in that theater didn’t focus on the ideological angle as much.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:

            In the US, the New Deal coalition managed to forestall any major shifts by democratically adopting a greatest-hits version of socialist and fascist proposals,

            Oh man, I love your descriptions of historical events. You should write a book.

          • bean says:

            @Nick

            No, we were not in serious trouble in the Atlantic at the end of WWII. We weren’t in serious trouble any time after May 1943. If the Type XXI had gotten to sea in large numbers, we might have been, but I even have some doubts about that. And if the situation had been better for the U-boats earlier, it might well have delayed Type XXI production, which IIRC was a response to improvements in Allied ASW.

          • Nick says:

            Bean, thanks. I may be misremembering the book, or the book may be wrong. I’ll check when I get home.

    • Plumber says:

      @johan_larson

      “Say hello to Earth Minus One. It’s a timeline a lot like out own, but slightly worse. It’s the place where a few of the things that went right in our world went wrong, and a few more clever and public-spirited people got hit by buses before they had a chance to make a difference.

      How does Earth Minus One differ from our world?”

      Leaded gasoline gets phased out later in the U.S.A. and the murder rate doesn’t decline until later, Manhattan island is made into a walled prison, then Air Force One is hijacked by a domestic terrorist posing as stewardess, the President makes it to an escape pod, and lands in Manhattan just before Air Force One crashes, killing everyone else aboard. Police are dispatched to rescue the President. However, Romero, the right-hand man of the Duke of New York (the top crime boss in the prison) warns them that the Duke has taken the President hostage, and that he will be killed if any further rescue attempts are mounted, Snake Plissken, a former Special Forces soldier convicted of bank robbery is sent in….

      • EchoChaos says:

        The prompt said worse, not WAY MORE AWESOME.

        • Plumber says:

          Yeah 1997 did have awesome elements unlike 2019 with that mutant destroying Neo-Tokyo, and those Nexus-6 replicants killing those people in the off world colonies and coming to Earth, but at least we have episodes of The Running Man to watch, I think it’s an even better show than the Rollerball show we had in 2018, that new contestant, Ben Richards, is one bad mother……

    • S_J says:

      For one small thing that might have huge impact…Imagine that Henry Wallace was still Vice President of the United States in April 1945.

      Would this be the kind of thing that might make the Earth Minus One timeline less immediately warlike (in the late 40s and early 50s), but leave Earth Minus One with a stronger global Communist movement? Would some form of Communism, with all its attendant internal problems, have been dominant in much more of Earth Minus One?

    • woah77 says:

      Instead of WW2 being won in 1945 by the US, it lasts until 1946 when Russia storms the beaches of Japan and conquers it. The US was less successful in the Pacific, which gave Russia the opportunity to take Japan. The US retaliates being denied Japan by bombing several Russian locations in Western Europe.

      • Randy M says:

        Do you think that’s something that would have been plausible? Would the American’s have been envious of Russia’s success, or happy it was Russian lives being spent rather than American? (non-rhetorical question)

        • woah77 says:

          I think that America already opposed Russia ideologically. The rush to drop bombs was partially to deny Russia the opportunity to invade Japan. I could easily see Russia succeeding in capturing Japan causing hostility to mount between America and Russia.

      • John Schilling says:

        Russia and what navy?

        I think we’ve been through this before, but Russia had a grand total of two light cruisers and eleven destroyers in the Pacific in 1945, plus some smaller craft. They had no shipyards capable of building more. They had no dedicated landing craft. They had no bases close enough to provide fighter cover or close air support over any Japanese beach, and they did not have the logistical capability to build and sustain such bases. Every explanation you’ve ever seen about how Sea Lion couldn’t have worked and the Nazis couldn’t have invaded England in 1940 no matter how weak the British Army was at the time, dial that up to eleven and apply it to Russia invading Japan in 1946. Greater distance, harsher environment, fewer resources, and as broken as Japan was in 1945 or would have been in 1946, they’d still have had enough machine guns and ammunition and not-quite-starved Japanese soldiers to kill Russian soldiers on the beaches faster than the Russians could deliver them to said beaches.

        You could possibly come up with a counterfactual where Russian troops on American ships carry out the invasion, but I don’t think the politics for that work.

        Russian armies overrunning all the territory Japan had seized over the years in Manchuria and Korea and maybe Northern China, certainly, but I’m not sure that gets you the end of WWII.

        • bean says:

          Actually, I’m not so sure about this. Downfall made a pretty strong case that Russia was planning to invade Hokkaido when the war ended, and could have pulled it off. Remember that by this point, most of Japan’s troops were in Kyushu to face down the Americans, their navy was essentially nonexistent, and their internal transport network was in shambles from the bombing. None of these were true of Sea Lion. But at the same time, Russia probably couldn’t have gone further south, and this is rather conditional on the US pounding Japan like it did IRL.

          • bean says:

            Also, I have to question “no landing craft”. The people who did WITP:AE look to have done their homework, and the Soviet OOB in that game had a bunch of landing craft. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t turn up during a quick search, because Soviets, but I’m pretty sure they existed.

        • woah77 says:

          That’s a legitimate concern. Maybe Russia retools their manufacturing to produce a navy that can land on Japan. I don’t have an entire plan to produce the effect I’m describing it. I’m just saying it would be a “slightly worse Earth”

        • Protagoras says:

          The “lack of airbases” strikes me as an especially important weak point in this argument. Airbases can be built. It’s easier with less advanced aircraft (like WWII planes). If they overrun Korea, they can build some around Pusan. And if they overrun south Sakhalin, they can build some there. That they didn’t have airbases ideally positioned in actual history just means it would have taken a little bit longer, because they’d have to build some. The other points still have merit, but I can’t credit the lack of air bases argument, and if the Soviets could establish air supremacy (and they had plenty of oil, and the Japanese didn’t, and they were building lots of planes, and the Japanese couldn’t) that would make a big difference.

    • Mao lives ten years longer, postponing the Chinese abandonment of communism by ten years. To make it worse, Deng Ziaoping is dead by the time Mao dies and Chen Yun instead becomes the leading figure in the post-Mao elite, with the result that China moves towards something more like a Soviet centrally planned model, less like capitalism. The result is not only that Chinese citizens are much poorer than in our world, but that other poor countries, such as Vietnam and India, are less willing to shift towards something more like a free market system.

      Effects on the U.S. are unclear.

      • Plumber says:

        @DavidFriedman

        “…Effects on the U.S. are unclear”

        I’ll take a guess:

        China is not admitted to the World Trade Organization, more manufacturing jobs are retained in North America, but they are less job and business selling cell phones as the higher cost of manufacturing them makes them less of a ubiquitous “must have”, and because of this instead if my being issued a “Smartphone” I still use the old radios we used to have and I don’t read this thread and write this message.

    • fr8train_ssc says:

      The Velvet Divorce ends up being tense, perhaps not as bad as the dissolution of Yugoslavia, but similar to The Troubles. This issue prevents both countries from joining the EU and Schengen. Poland and the Czech Republic have sour relations over Zaolší. As a result, post-communist economic growth in the three countries is significantly diminished.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      scenario 1:
      A wild bus appears and drives over baby Bismark.
      No strong German Empire. No World Wars.
      No Soviet clusterfuck.
      No Armenian genocide, no Holodomor, no Holocaust.
      Possibly other genocides and other world wars, which might
      be more bloody, brutal and/or more nuclear.

      scenario 2:
      During President Wilson’s inauguration, suddenly a wild bus falls from the sky
      and sadly crushing him. Thus no American WW1 involvement (which was a stretch even then).
      Germany negotiates a somewhat favorable peace. Everyone is reasonably unhappy
      and licks their wounds. Western Europe forms European alliance to rein in
      the Soviet Union during Holodomor as a humanitarian mission and ends communism.
      German century (yay!).

      scenario 3:
      All the Manhattan brainiacs die in a bus crash, before they get to work…
      Nothing much changes, except a conventional war with the SU breaks out over tensions.
      The Japanese get to negotiate a conditional surrender and mellow out a little, anyway,
      after having their ass handed to them.
      A couple million more dead in fighting, including conscripted Germans.
      Many German cities are conveniently already rubble, so small favors.
      The US gets their nukes eventually, and ends communism levelling Moscow, killing Stalin.
      The Brits get nervous and some kind nuclear disarmament deal is struck and the UN (or whatever) ensures, that noone builds more any more nukes, because they’re dangerous (and nobody has any reason to get involved into an arms race right now). Vietnam wont see war. Some things with China will happen, but it can’t be worse, than what actually happened.

      I’m noticing a pattern. Whenever I time-travel to murder someone clever and public-spirited,
      the future gets better. That’s odd.
      Not sure I’m doing this right.

    • Basil Elton says:

      Obviously, that person is Adolf Hitler.

      As he’s killed by an artillery shell during the WWI, other charismatic leader with similarly destructive ideas plays on Germans’ feeling of resentment for the lost war and ruined economics (or whatever Hitler used), but does so 5 years later. So the WWII’ starts in 1944 and both US and Germany have nuclear weapons 2 years later, on the peak of the war. Since those are single free-falling bombs rather then thousands of ICBMs it does not end up in apocalypse and Allies still win in the end. But few major European cities are turned into radioactive wastelands, Berlin and London are among them. Casualties are proportionally, perhaps few times, higher, and the increased rate of genetic disorders continues even until nowdays.

      PS: Yes I know that WWII probably was Hitler’s personal fault and would’ve never happened if not for him. My scenario doesn’t violate this, it’s just that there was another leader just like him in all the relevant aspects, but who came to power 5 years later.

      • Nornagest says:

        A complication is that the Pacific War would probably still have happened on schedule — the reasons behind it don’t have much to do with Europe. That might influence the US to develop nuclear weapons faster than Germany, since they’d have more incentive than anyone else with a realistic shot at it for a few years. (Japan would have even more incentive, but their nuke program was hopeless.)

        • Basil Elton says:

          AFAIK the German nuclear program had all the chances to create first nuclear weapons at the same time or even before the US did, and was only thrown back by the operation Gunnerside in 1943. Without it, and Germany not busy being defeated at 1945, it could plausibly have developed them at 46. Maybe faster, if Not-Hitler had chosen another nation to hate and not so many Jewish geniuses would’ve fled from Germany to the USA.

          Ofc this all does not sound very likely. But woah77 above has already suggested an entire US Pacific Fleet worth of ships popping out of nowhere on Soviet navy bases in Japan Sea… with the bases themselves popping out immediately before that. So why not have a little stretch or two and make the world worse-off by killing Hitler?

          • bean says:

            The German nuclear program was so poorly run that I’m not sure it could have produced a weapon by 2000, much less 1945.

            OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but it’s kind of hard to describe just how terrible it was. There were a couple of fundamental mistakes in physics, most notably discarding graphite as a moderator. I’ve seen three different explanations for that (sabotage, incompetence, and better US tech), and have no clue which one is correct. And there were loads of programmatic mistakes. The US program was ultimately run by a general who was primarily an administrator. The Germans put their best scientist in charge. I’ve seen serious claims that the Japanese program probably would have given a bomb sooner.

            And yes, this kind of thing was pretty much inherent in the German war effort. I don’t see it going away unless one of their few competent managers takes an interest.

    • johan_larson says:

      If relations between the US and Canada were a bit less friendly, trade between the two nations might be less free, to the detriment of both. In such a scenario, Canada would do more business with the Europeans and Asians, but that probably wouldn’t compensate fully. Both nations would be slightly poorer.

      What might account for a tenser relationship between US and Canada?

      • The Nybbler says:

        What might account for a tenser relationship between US and Canada?

        A history of war… well, more than that, a history of a _nasty_ war. Suppose while the US Civil War is going on, a populist leader unites much of what is now Canada and declares not Dominion status but full independence from Britain. And then, following that up, invades the Northern US while the US is busy with Reconstruction. An army led by a general who makes Sherman look kind reaches as far as New York City, burning, slaughtering, and raping all the way. The incursion is repulsed, but the bad blood remains.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          You could go more fundamental than that – there was fighting between the US and Canada in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Just continue that for a few more years (especially with low level fighting along the border), and antipathy can grow unchecked. That makes your Civil War scenario much more likely, but even that would be unnecessary, because the condition is already met.

      • aristides says:

        54 40’ or fight becomes a reality with the US invading Canada around 1840s and seizing land with Canada also damaging NYC in the process. When the Civil war occurs, Canada allies with the Confederacy to seize their land back. WW1 comes along and Zimmerman’s sends a telegram to Canada along with Mexico. If all three of these things occurred and were particularly violent, I could see a rivalry similar to Japan and China occurring up to today.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      The Green Revolution doesn’t happen, or at least is much less effective.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Prohibition isn’t repealed, or at least is repealed much later. At a minimum, organized crime would be a good bit more powerful.

    • What about the world where Winston Churchill dies early, perhaps during his escape from Boer captivity. Lots of detailed changes, hard to judge the overall effect.

      The Dardanelles expedition doesn’t happen, which is a good thing for the allies given how it turned out—I’m not sure if that results in Ataturk’s career going less well. Tanks may get invented later, possibly by the Germans. If something like WWII happens, England may agree to a compromise peace. Lots of other changes. Bean can tell us whether, without Churchill’s influence before the war, the British navy would have been weaker, so more likely to lose at Jutland or equivalent.

      • bean says:

        Bean can tell us whether, without Churchill’s influence before the war, the British navy would have been weaker, so more likely to lose at Jutland or equivalent.

        No. The drivers for the RN’s buildup were independent of Churchill, and he actually fought the “we want eight” program earlier on. And the margin at Jutland was high enough that it would have taken a big cut to put the British in peril.

        The Dardanelles expedition doesn’t happen, which is a good thing for the allies given how it turned out

        I’m not so certain about this. British strategic thought had always emphasized the importance of seaborne strikes on the enemy’s flanks. If it wasn’t the Dardanelles, it would have been the Baltic coast of Germany, or the Adriatic, or somewhere else.

  17. Dan L says:

    Samu had posted an interesting prompt in this OT, but I think their elaboration got it deleted by the aurors. Nevertheless, let’s try again: what are your strongest Left wing, Right wing, and Libertarian beliefs?

    (“Wait, do you mean which of my beliefs are the most extreme in those directions, or what are my strongest beliefs that happen to fall in those windows? And where are those windows anyway?” Your call! IMO, the meta-discussion ought to be half the interesting bit.)

    Mine:
    Left: I’m unapologetically on the Demon’s side. That does cash out as a Right-wing position in a few interesting cases, but most of the time I feel like it’s solidly a Left thing.

    Right: Pax Americana is real, important, and worth actively maintaining.

    Libertarian: A significant relaxation of governmental and “ethical” oversight in medicine would be net positive. Particularly in the field of human genetic engineering.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Is the Pax Americana a right wing position? It seems like one of, if not the, core centrist / establishment positions in American politics.

      Paleoconservatives aren’t exactly fond of our policy of “invade the world, invite the world.” Progressives are likewise skeptical of the “military industrial complex” and “American imperialism.” It’s the neoconservative and neoliberal wings of both parties which support America playing the role of world police.

      A right wing position would be either to reduce foreign entanglements or at least insist that other countries kick in their fair share of the costs of defending them. The status quo of Washington threatening to spend American lives and tax dollars to punish other countries for not towing the line on LGBT seems like the precise opposite of right wing.

      • I think it depends on what we mean by “Pax Americana”. If it means taking John McCain’s policy positions of invading every country that looks at us funny, then probably not. But I bet most believe that something like the Gulf War was a good thing. Basically, don’t invade because of internal problems in a country but do invade when when they are threatening some other country.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Pax Americana may also mean economic interests in addition to military or human rights interests. So for example, it is worth pursuing trade deals favorable to the US, on PaxAm grounds.

      • gbdub says:

        To me Pax Americana implies a belief that Western Civ in general, and America in particular, are, in meaningful ways, better than the available alternatives (particularly Communism and Islamism). And therefore, a world where everybody is either directly allied with the US or at least generally willing to avoid directly opposing American and allied interests, lest they get the Big Stick, is the best world we can reasonably hope for right now.

        It does not mean that American Culture is the best possible culture, or without issues, just that the USA is the only state with both the willingness and ability to be a Superpower that I want anywhere near Superpower status in today’s world.

        • albatross11 says:

          Why does US culture being better than, say, Haitian culture require us to invade or bomb them?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Why does US culture being better than, say, Haitian culture require us to invade or bomb them?

            In what way did gbdub imply this?

            All he seems to be claiming is that US culture being better than Nonustan culture means the US is going to be pickier about who it bombs or invades than Nonustan would be (while still having “bomb or invade” in its playbook as a plausible deterrent), which is probably better for everyone.

            Compare China, considered likely to invade Taiwan if US culture weren’t around, and Russia, which very much has “invade” in its playbook and poses a threat to the US ability to deter.

      • InvalidUsernameAndPassword says:

        This is a just partisan fantasy. When did the US ever seriously contemplate military action (I assume that’s what you mean by “spend American lives and tax dollars”) to punish a foreign country for not “toeing the line on LGBT” rights?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      From the “which of my beliefs are the most extreme in those directions” angle:

      Left: Anti-corporate. Strongly pro-labor, generally pro-union [1].

      Right: Close the borders [3].

      Libertarian: Taxation is theft [2].

      [1] But you gotta keep a close eye on the leadership.

      [2] But is a necessary evil in support of civilization.

      ETA: [3] Fine I’ll put a caveat on that one too. Not so much “close” but “moratorium on immigration until we figure out what the hell is going on.”

    • Plumber says:

      @Dan L

      “Samu had posted an interesting prompt in this OT, but I think their elaboration got it deleted by the aurors. Nevertheless, let’s try again: what are your strongest Left wing, Right wing, and Libertarian beliefs?….”

      @Samu

      “….was a thing in Twitter some time ago so let’s do it here. Post your most right-wing, left-wing and libertarian opinion down below”

      Sure, but since I’m wishy-washy as to which I believe most strongly I’ll do more than one per category:

      Right-wing: Parents getting divorced is mostly bad for children, and the widespread social acceptance of the practice did more harm than good.

      The most effective social-welfare system in the U.S.A. is the church-based one in Utah, it better to be born poor in Salt Lake City than in most other places in the U.S.A.

      Most social issues should be decided by local elections not national judicial fiat. 

      Too many immigrants all at once is too much competition for those already here especially for the so-called “low-skilled”.

      Leftist: Trade unions are a good thing and there should be more of them

      Affirmative-action to benefit many African-Americans is still warranted

      Affirmative-action to benefit all kids growing up in poverty is warranted.

      Great extremes of wealth and poverty are a bad thing.

      Libertarian: Government should be progressively weaker the more remote it is from the individual citizen (I suppose that’s “Localist” rather than “Libertarian” so please someone help me out with a suggestion for a Libertarian idea that sounds good to me).

      • Well... says:

        Libertarian: Government should be progressively weaker the more remote it is from the individual citizen (I suppose that’s “Localist” rather than “Libertarian” so please someone help me out with a suggestion for a Libertarian idea that sounds good to me).

        There was a thread on that one or two OTs ago. I can’t remember what term they came up with…municipalist or something?

        • Plumber says:

          @Well…

          “There was a thread on that one or two OTs ago. I can’t remember what term they came up with…municipalist or something?”

          Yes that was a suggestion in that thread, @Watchman suggested “localism”, and that seemed clear, “municipalism” seemed good as well.

          • Well... says:

            Localism to me is the thing about buying/eating stuff made/grown locally whenever possible. Doesn’t have implications about the size/power of government at various levels.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Mine

      Left: Corporate control of government is a real and serious problem in America, largely because corporations are so big and powerful.

      Right: Diversity is an active negative, not a positive and therefore immigration should be zeroed out.

      Libertarian: Regulations on small businesses (<100 employees) are substantially too high.

    • aristides says:

      Left: Some sort of larger redistribution of wealth should be implemented, not sure if I favor UBI, wealth tax, expanded EITC, or something else.

      Right: It is usually better for families to be a two parent household, with one relative staying or working from home, with a religious upbringing.

      Libertarian: All occupational liscensing should be abolished. Certification, yelp reviews, insurance costs, and legal liability can deal with the risks better than occupational liscensing.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Left: ethno-nationalism is bad. Having lines drawn in ways that cannot be changed or are perceived as being unchangeable is really dangerous and has a long, bad history. It’s kind of a silly idea in the first place (because the definitions do change; there are “ethnic groups” that in the past were a bunch of smaller, often hostile groups)

      Right: it’s beneficial to have some changeable cultural means of creating a dollop of group identity and so forth. The important bit here is that it’s changeable and can thus in theory expand to include all people in the group “humans”. Is this really right-wing? All the workers and peasants everywhere identifying as a group would be pretty left wing, so really I’m a big ol’ cheater.

      Libertarian: all recreational drugs should be legal starting at 18. The nastiest drugs either would disappear when better stuff can be easily found or the nastiness is in large part due to the illegality.

      • Nornagest says:

        The nastiest drugs either would disappear when better stuff can be easily found or the nastiness is in large part due to the illegality.

        I don’t really disagree with the proposition this is supporting, but put this way, it sets off just-world alarms in my head. There’s nothing inherent to how drugs work that’d require this, and it’d be awfully convenient if it was true by pure chance.

        On the other hand, you could get opiates and cocaine over the counter for decades, and the world didn’t end.

      • WarOnReasons says:

        ethno-nationalism is bad. Having lines drawn in ways that cannot be changed or are perceived as being unchangeable is really dangerous

        Does it mean that you also oppose Affirmative Action based on ethnicity or gender?

        • Plumber says:

          @WarOnReasons

          “Does it mean that you also oppose Affirmative Action based on ethnicity or gender?”

          You didn’t ask me but I’m going to chime in anyway, if affirmative-action based on ethnicity was replaced with affirmative-action based on relative family wealth I’d have no problem with that and would even support that, but what I wouldn’t support would be no affirmative-action at all, which is usually what’s advocated.

          As for affirmative-action based on sex, I feel no great urgency to have more women be carpenters or plumbers and more men to be lawyers or teachers, but I don’t feel very strongly against those efforts either (but I hardly notice them anyway).

          What would be AWESOME!!! is affirmative-action based on age, forcing the young out of jobs that don’t require heavy lifting would be great, and less Americans would have to subsist on Disability, and a program to maybe create more of those jobs (doubling the number of teachers for example) seems good to me.

      • monistowl says:

        >and can thus in theory expand to include all people in the group “humans”

        I can think of three big explicit attempts to do this: Islam, Christianity, and Communism. Each seems to slow down, Xeno’s Paradox style, and fragment the closer it gets to planetary fixation.

    • fion says:

      I think it probably says something interesting about a person whether they view The Demon as mostly left or mostly right. I kind of view it as mostly right. It’s all about competition, and about the most efficient course winning, whether or not it’s good and pure. (Of course, what “efficient”, “good” and “pure” mean are different to different people…) Sure, it’s progressive, but it’s progressive in an unchecked way, being guided more by an invisible hand than by a government or a local community.

      However, I am solidly left and still mostly on The Demon’s side, so perhaps I’m talking nonsense.

      To answer the question:
      Left: A myriad of options, but probably the leftist view that I hold most strongly is that some services such as the railways, health service, post office and energy are better off nationalised than privatised.

      Right: I’m not sure if I have any strongly-held right-wing views, but I would accept right-wing proposals to fight climate change, if I expected them to be effective. (One example might be increasing the tax on fuel, even though this will disproportionately harm the poor. Stopping climate change is more important than fighting poverty right now.)

      Libertarian: Prediction markets should be experimented with as part of the process of government. (This isn’t specifically a libertarian view, but given that it’s extending the market to something that it’s not normally extended to I think it’s within the spirit of the thing.)

    • J Mann says:

      I’ll interpret “strongest belief” as “most aligned with that viewpoint that I am still reasonably confident of.”

      Leftist beliefs: We should engage in carbon taxation because a significant portion of the population is concerned about carbon output, it’s a reasonable compromise, and you have to tax something. Marginal gun control (like outlawing extended magazines) is probably the right thing to do, even if it amounts to depriving people who bought extended magazines of a good faith expectation, and even if it doesn’t do much good.

      Rightwing beliefs: “Western civilization” (the mish-mash of Greek and Roman roots, Christianity, and the enlightenment) has some significant harms to answer for that should not be ignored, but has been net positive and should be celebrated.

      Libertarian beliefs: Great jumping Jehoshaphat, leave people alone and get a life you bloodless bureaucrats! Let that little girl sell lemonade! Shut down the G-D raisin cartel! When you find yourself in the M-F US Supreme Court defending the United States practice of destroying people’s raisins in order to make sure we don’t have too many raisins in the US, you should look at your life and judge it a failure. I don’t particularly even care if it’s Constitutional, and I don’t like raisins, but how do you go to work every day and say “my job is to make sure there aren’t too many raisins in order to maintain raisin price stability.” HOW????

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I like this question! (I assume for the sake of argument that you’re referring to the US sense of these terms – I feel a little sorry for the extent to which this leaves out our extra-US readers…)

      Left: The right to acquire and use birth control should not be infringed.

      Right: +1 to Pax Americana being real, important, and worth actively maintaining.

      Libertarian: Any failure in a free market exists in any alternative economic framework, to equal or greater extent.

      I feel like the latter is significantly stronger than the former two. And I notice the conflict between them. And I’m open to counterarguments on all three.

      • Mr. Doolittle says:

        Birth control is a bit complicated. The recent pushes to make it OTC have been either Republican led or at least Republican supported. I am not aware of any push by the Trump administration nor the Republican Congress to reduce access to birth control.

        The conflict appears to be an underlying issue related to the ACA. Republicans (and Libertarians) might characterize the conflict less about access to BC, but instead who is required to pay for it. The recent court cases are about religious organizations with an ideological reason not to want to buy BC being required under the terms of the ACA. That’s either pro-religious freedom (mostly Republican) or anti-government force (Libertarian), rather than anti-BC.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          One reason I gave the answer I did for Left was that it was something I expected Democrats to advocate, and Republicans to oppose. So it’s interesting that OTC BC gets Republican backing.

          OTOH, it’s not surprising that Republicans oppose having the state pay for it, which is why I wrote “the right to acquire and use“, rather than the more ambiguous “the right to”.

          Like David Friedman, I find a lot of my strong views about right and left tend to also align with libertarianism. My view on PaxAm is a rare point where I (and the Right) part with the latter (though perhaps not with a consequentialist implementation of it). It’s harder for me to think of a point where I side against it with the Left. I did, however, have two candidates written down that I hold more weakly:

          Left: It may be worth pushing to expand the options available to the poorest 40% of Americans, even under threat of force. At the very least, it is worth mapping those current options in greater objective detail, thus expanding options by way of raising awareness of available options, and doing so now rather than later.

          Left: There exist certain segments of US infrastructure that might be mature and institutionalized enough to not be worth the cost of trying to privatize them at our current technological level (e.g. interstate highway maintenance, vaccination, collective defense, and fire prevention, but not education, local road maintenance, health care, medical care, or welfare).

          It’s possible there are others, perhaps involving the rights of children, the comatose, and generally people unable to act as their own representative. Also, there are cases involving incomplete information that I have yet to work out to my satisfaction.

    • The problem for me is that the views of mine that might be considered left are also libertarian. Examples would be drug legalization and free immigration.

      For conservative, it would probably be support for stable marriage, especially as a context for rearing children. My guess is that mf and ff couples both work—I’m not sure which works better. My guess is that both work better than mm couples, but I don’t have a lot of data to support that. As a libertarian I am not in favor of legal restrictions on casual sex, polyamory, open marriage, and the like, but my guess is that the more traditional approach, probably watered down a little, on average works better.

      For libertarian, my most extreme position is probably support for a stateless society.

    • Walter says:

      Left: Take everyone’s guns.
      Right: Punish people who break the law, even if they are sad.
      Libertarian: Gov shouldn’t know about marriage, period, relate to citizens as individuals.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Libertarian: Gov shouldn’t know about marriage, period, relate to citizens as individuals.

        The problem with this one is that the government gets called in to settle your divorce. When someone is trying to take half your stuff (or you’re trying to take half of someone else’s stuff) it’s really useful to be able to point to the existence or lack of thereof of a document certifying that yes you were in fact married, you were of age, not coerced or intoxicated, not still married to someone else, etc. This is the true purpose of a marriage license and is why when Mrs. Honcho and I got our license it came with a 30 page booklet, one page of which said “grats on getting married” and the other 29 pages were about how to get a divorce.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          This is pretty much the rationale for civil unions.

        • 10240 says:

          No marriage, no divorce. You can always write a contract that each of you can get half of the other’s stuff by invoking the contract. Absent a contract, no-one gets half of the stuff of anyone; bank accounts belong to the one whose name is on it, real estate belongs to the one whose name is on the deed, movable property belongs to the one who bought it (or the one who was gifted it), etc. The last one may be hard to prove, so if you have movable property of considerable value, it’s a good idea to write a contract about who they belong to (unless you have a general 50–50 contract).

          A lot of people enter marriages without actively thinking about all its legal consequences. If you were forced to write explicit contracts about all these legal agreements (assuming you want to make them), you would actually think about them, and about whether you want them. I’m not sure at all that most people who get married today would actually be willing to sign contracts equivalent to the current legal consequences of marriage; for example, the part where you have to give half of your stuff to your partner on demand would be a hard sell if it was not part of an institution that most people consider an expected part of a life path.

          • Walter says:

            I agree with this comment. This is what I was thinking of.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I agree with this too. There is a bunch of discussion on this in a thread above this (but written afterwards, confusing), in which I kind of wanted to chime in with agreement to 10240, but hard to get in a word. I think that government regulating marriage is a bad idea, but it is also true that you’d need a whole lot more than the two paragraphs above to discuss what sorts of contracts would replace marriage contracts. But I do agree with 10240 that marriage is way too much of a “one size fits all” to work very well. I also think the government provides far too many privileges to married people, which is discriminatory to singles.

          • John Schilling says:

            But I do agree with 10240 that marriage is way too much of a “one size fits all” to work very well.

            What fraction of the human population do you think want something significantly different than the “standard contract”, and in what way?

            How to handle divorce would be an obvious point of divergence, except that almost everybody still goes into a marriage expecting there won’t ever be a divorce, so good luck getting people to implement real improvements over the standard marriage contract through careful consideration of divorce terms up front.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            What fraction of the human population do you think want something significantly different than the “standard contract”, and in what way?

            Given the number of people living together without being married, I would say a pretty large fraction.

            We just went through a culture shift where now two folks of the same gender are included with the group are widely accepted in the marriage umbrella. How long before more than two living together are acceptable? And how about siblings or others couples (or groups) living together with no sexual components included? It seems to me that there are a lot of different contractual arrangements for different situations where some of the current rules for marriages are needed, but not others. Our society has gotten used to the idea that kids grow up, then get married, then have 2 1/2 kids of their own. Because of this meme in society, competing contractual arrangements haven’t been developed. I think such other contracts would be useful.

          • John Schilling says:

            Given the number of people living together without being married, I would say a pretty large fraction.

            How many of those people have any sort of contractual relationship with one another?

            “Living in sin”, shacking up, what have you, has pretty always been a thing, often frowned on to some degree, now not so much. Marriage, one man one woman one economic union with joint custody of the children till death do us part, exit clause for adultery abuse or abandonment, has pretty much always been a thing. And as long as governments have been a thing, they’ve passed laws saying “this is what we understand the standard marriage contract is; if our courts take official notice of any problems, this is what we will enforce”.

            The claim, as I understand it, is that governments are doing this badly because they are enforcing a one-size-fits-all contract and lots of people want a different contract. If that’s the case, people who are just shacking up with no apparent desire for any formal agreement, don’t come into it. We need to look at the people who are drafting domestic partnership contracts that are substantially different from traditional marriage. How many of those are there, and what do their contracts look like?

          • Lambert says:

            I bet more people would go for a formal contract other than marriage if society considered it an option.

            i.e. They were aware of it as something they could do,
            enough legal precedent had been established that they knew how the courts would interpret things
            enough lawyers with experience in drafting such agreements
            etc.

            Also, there’s the issue that the current ‘one size fits all’ agreement is tangled in a load of social stuff, such as throwing the most expensive and stressful party of your entire life.

          • ana53294 says:

            But there is a standard, legal form that can be signed when you are starting cohabitation, and it is known and widely practiced – it’s called a will.

            And many cohabitating couples don’t even get a will, the standard contract that can be changed at any moment while you are alive. Stieg Larsson’s girlfriend famously lost all rights not just to the copyright of his books, but moral rights also, because he didn’t get a will.

            So no, all those people who cohabitate do not seem to be demanding a new type of cohabitation contract – they seem to want no contract at all.

          • John Schilling says:

            But there is a standard, legal form that can be signed when you are starting cohabitation, and it is known and widely practiced – it’s called a will.

            Also, cohabitation agreements and domestic partnerships are a thing; they’re just rare. Except where they were the only way that same-sex couples could have something like a marriage – and when that was a fairly high-profile thing, the same-sex couples in question mostly seem to have wanted their domestic partnerships to be as marriage-like as possible. And approximately no straight couples looked at this and said, “Hey, we could use this newfangled ‘domestic partnership’ thing to formalize that arrangement we’ve always wanted, that’s just like marriage but only lasts seven years” or whatever.

            And of course legal marriage can be uncontroversially modified by prenuptial agreements, but only about 5% of Americans do that. Variants like explicitly open marriage are even more rare.

            All the places this alleged demand for something other than standard-issue marriage could manifest under current law and custom, are too conspicuously underpopulated for me to believe that there is a huge demand for variant marriages that is suppressed because states and churches don’t make it part of the standard contract labeled “marriage”.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Look, John, I don’t mean that married and unmarried folks out there are clamoring for new contractual arrangements. Most people don’t think about such things, and don’t want to think about such things. They just go with the flow, and they either get married or shack up as they decide is the best option.

            But that doesn’t mean a whole bunch of them wouldn’t grab different options if they were available. And I don’t mean they are going to go find a lawyer to write up their own special contract, as your link suggested. Of course, most people won’t bother with such complications.

            Marriage is a very strong meme in society. It has benefits both in custom and law. It allows you to file joint tax returns, it gives the spouse the right to various procedures if the other becomes incompetent or unconscious, one gets additional medical benefits and pension benefits (both from employers and the government), and a bunch more things. I got married 36 years ago so my girlfriend would be covered by my employer’s health insurance. It is hard to judge how much people would demand other contracts when the law and customs so favors marriage. I strongly favor the government undoing those rights, so maybe we could find out.

          • John Schilling says:

            But that doesn’t mean a whole bunch of them wouldn’t grab different options if they were available.

            It also doesn’t mean that they would grab different options if they were available. Because, different options are available, and very few people are grabbing for them. You keep claiming that this is because it’s too hard and it isn’t evangelized the way marriage is, but some of them (e.g. prenups) aren’t that much harder than straight marriage.

            You are asserting a substantial demand for variant marriages, but presenting zero evidence beyond “you can’t prove there’s not a demand, if it’s cheap enough and promoted widely enough”. So I think I’m just going to rest my case.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I just want to repeat the most important piece of my previous rant:

            It is hard to judge how much people would demand other contracts when the law and customs so favors marriage. I strongly favor the government undoing those rights, so maybe we could find out.

          • Plumber says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            “It is hard to judge how much people would demand other contracts when the law and customs so favors marriage. I strongly favor the government undoing those rights, so maybe we could find out”

            Ypu want a radical change in customs and laws just to see what would happen?

            Why take the gamble?

          • albatross11 says:

            I think some states have “covenant marriage,” which means that divorce can only be gotten for cause (rather than just because someone got bored). And many states were offering domestic partnerships as an alternative to marriage (mainly to allow gays to get more-or-less the same benefits from the law as straight couples, at least within the state, but some straight couples used them). It would be interesting to look at how popular those were, to get a sense of how much demand there is for this sort of thing. Perhaps another small step that would let us learn if this is something a lot of people want would be to publish a few standard prenups and recommend choosing one when you get married.

            An interesting aspect of marriage law is that the terms of the contract were changed from the top down over several decades, as states and judges changed the requirements for divorce, the assumptions underlying alimony and child support, etc. In a world where that had been spelled out by explicit contracts, I wonder whether we would have seen the same changes.

            One reason to suspect we would have seen those changes is that a lot of racial discrimination in housing was done via private contracts (restrictive covenants). I think (from a quick Google search) these were declared unenforceable by the Supreme Court in 1948, but they were still put into contracts until they were made illegal in 1968. It seems plausible that the same social forces weakening marriage might have led courts to decide that some common terms of the standard marriage contracts were no longer enforceable.

          • 10240 says:

            @John Schilling , I find it plausible that many people get married primarily because it’s a tradition rather than because they actually want its legal consequences, and if marriage was not available, they wouldn’t make any contract (except perhaps about a small part of its consequences such as inheritance or hospital visitation). To the extent transfer of property is justified (e.g. if one partner does more housework than the other), in most cases it can be handled in ways such as transferring money from one account to another, having a joint account, or deciding in what proportions to own a real estate when you buy it.

            As you implied, most people don’t sign prenups because they find it unromantic to discuss what would happen in a divorce when they get married. If the standard option was taken away, they would be forced to make a conscious decision about it — or just not sign any contract. Another problem with prenups is that they are not enforceable in some jurisdictions.

            @Plumber If most people are actually on board with the current legal consequences of marriage, nothing would change as people would continue to get married at private institutions or sign contracts with similar consequences.

            The custom of marriage evolved under very different economic and social conditions from today’s. It’s unlikely that the traditional rules of marriage are best suited to today’s conditions. The institution has been updated in some aspects (e.g. no-fault divorce) but not in others (e.g. lifelong alimony, which still exists in some jurisdictions, is hardly justified when women can and do work).

          • 10240 says:

            @albatross11 It’s unclear because when the laws around marriage were changed, they typically didn’t make it illegal or unenforceable to make contracts with terms similar to the earlier legal effects of marriage, unlike in the case of segregation. However, some of the current or earlier terms of marriage may be unenforceable in a generic contract as one-sided, or for other reasons.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            What 10240 said to John and Plumber.

            Taking away the legal benefits of marriage doesn’t mean people won’t get married, or keep up tradition. If it’s a good tradition, it will stay. I think we saw in the discussion on gay marriage the discrimination that single people face. Allowing gays to marry just subtracted a few of those discriminated against. I think we should eliminate the discrimination altogether.

          • John Schilling says:

            If it’s a good tradition, it will stay.

            And if it stays, it will result in disputes over property and child custody and yes even hospital visitation. Which courts will have to resolve, and they’ll ask “OK, so what did you guys agree to?” And when the answer is basically the same as the last hundred billion or so people to implement this tradition, they’ll start presuming that agreement exists unless some other is explicitly specified, and then legislatures will formally codify it, and most of us will live happily every after. And really, you can replace all those “if” statements with “p>0.95”, because we’ve done every part of this before many times and it pretty much always ends the same way.

            I think we should eliminate the discrimination [against single people] altogether.

            This is the lowest form of “eliminating discrimination”, where you reduce every thing and every one to the lowest common denominator, take away a benefit that most people enjoy just because it can’t be provided to anyone.

            Speaking as someone who is not enjoying that benefit and is among the victims of the alleged discrimination: knock it off. You’re not helping people like me, and you’re not helping people like you, you’re just hurting all the rest.

          • 10240 says:

            @John Schilling The “If most people are actually on board with it” part is important. As I’ve said, I don’t think that most people consciously agree to all of it’s current legal consequences, and that they would stay. I doubt that anywhere near 95% of people could say that they’ve agreed to something equivalent to e.g. the current rules about property distribution and alimony in a no-fault divorce if they didn’t have the memetic power of being the default arrangement tied to marriage, which they consider to be an expected part of a life.

            This is the lowest form of “eliminating discrimination”, where you reduce every thing and every one to the lowest common denominator, take away a benefit that most people enjoy just because it can’t be provided to anyone.

            We should separately consider the legal consequences of marriage which constitute an agreement between the two persons (and which could be substituted by a contract), and the ones that constitute benefits accorded to the couple by the government. The latter part is where discrimination happens at the expense of single people. (Although such benefits are minimal or non-existent in many jurisdictions.) Such benefits could be either eliminated or, if we consider it beneficial to society to have children, tied to having children rather than to being married.

      • EchoChaos says:

        > Right: Punish people who break the law, even if they are sad.

        I don’t see this as remotely right-wing. The left wants aggressive enforcement of the law just as much, they just don’t care about the same laws as the right.

        • Walter says:

          I hope that you are right, but in my experience the left have a strong tendency to want to let people off, because racism/patriarchy/they are refugees/whatever.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I find that this is mostly an excuse to get laws they don’t like defacto repealed rather than go through the pain of repealing them, not really principled objections to strong enforcement.

            There aren’t tons of left wing protests against super strict gun laws in Chicago that primarily incarcerate young black men, for example.

          • acymetric says:

            It is part trying to defacto repeal laws we don’t like via lack of enforcement, but also trying to reject the outsized punishments that have developed for some crimes that are agreed generally should be crimes but where the penalties have become far too severe through constant “tough on crime” one-upsmanship. It also isn’t always related to feminism/racism/etc, sometimes people just think laws (or at least their associated punishments) are bad for everyone and do more harm than good when enforced.

            If you think a crime warrants some community service, a fine, and maybe some kind of substance or behavioral rehab, but the mandatory minimum sentence is 5 years in prison, you might well decide to look for some excuse not to convict the person of that crime at all rather than issue what you see as an outsized punishment that harms both the person and the society more than it helps either party.

      • S_J says:

        Left: Take everyone’s guns.

        I’ll push back against this one, using an argument that I’ve seen elsewhere.

        Imagine a scenario, in which a violent man confronts a woman in an dark parking lot late at night.

        The scenario might lead to several possible outcomes. In outcome A, the woman is forced into the trunk of her own car, driven to another location. It ends with the possibility for rape and murder.

        In outcome B, the woman resists with a firearm that she had been carrying. The would-be-attacker ends the evening on the pavement, severely wounded. The intended victim waits for Police and the ambulance to show up, gives a statement, and then drives home.

        In outcome C, the woman also has a firearm, and points it at the would-be-attacker. He runs away, and the woman sits in the parking lot waiting for a Police officer to write down her description of the would-be attacker.

        Which outcome is morally superior?

        If you are in favor of taking everyone’s guns, you are in favor of making outcomes B or C much less likely.

        This is an edge-case. But it is a good way of describing the tradeoffs involved in forbidding the law-abiding from carrying a gun. It is also a good way of describing the tradeoffs involved in forbidding the law-abiding from even owning a gun.

        • Plumber says:

          I’m fine with having just young and/or unmarried men and boys being forbidden gun ownership, Hell just make it so only women are allowed to possess pistols.

          • Statismagician says:

            This is obviously unconstitutional, even before questioning how on Earth you’d go about enforcing such a policy. Or, you know, why we apparently don’t care about self-defense for men.

            My sense of the issue is that no plausible gun control has any real effect, so we should all stop shouting about it every two years until the political climate changes.

            EDIT: Illegal under the Civil Rights Act, not unconstitutional. I forgot where the protected classes came from.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Statismagician, it’s unconstitutional under the Second Amendment as well.

          • Statismagician says:

            Right, yes, obviously. *smacks forehead*

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’m fine with having just young and/or unmarried men and boys being forbidden gun ownership, Hell just make it so only women are allowed to possess pistols.

            And what if the young and/or unmarried men and boys are sickly, and the scenario S_J describes above is a mugging (just to make it a bit less edge-case)?

            What if they appear strong, but aren’t able to fight due to nerve damage?
            What if the man is middle aged and/or married, and still finds it lucrative to go raping and pillaging?
            What if the attacker decides he can get a black market gun (he’s going to commit rapes and muggings anyway, so why not) and mug and rape until he gets caught?

          • 10240 says:

            Possibly under the Fourteenth Amendment as well. Discrimination by private parties is made illegal by the Civil Rights Acts only, but discrimination by the government is usually unconstitutional.

          • Randy M says:

            I read that as “discrimination by private parts” and it made perfect sense.

          • Plumber says:

            “I read that as “discrimination by private parts” and it made perfect sense”

            Indeed it does, and you got me to laugh!

            Thanks @Randy M

        • Walter says:

          Maaan, you don’t need to go into A/B/C until you establish that I care about this situation, yeah?

          I don’t trust y’all. I am safer if less of you are armed. There are less cops than there are folks, so a vibe where just cops have guns is better than a state where cops and folks have guns. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Maaan, you don’t need to go into A/B/C until you establish that I care about this situation, yeah?

            I can’t tell what you’re getting at here. If, for instance, you care about women being abducted even in cases where no guns are around, why are you okay with them being disarmed?

            I am safer if less of you are armed. There are less cops than there are folks, so a vibe where just cops have guns is better than a state where cops and folks have guns.

            There’s the rub; this simply isn’t true. Reduce the number of guns, and eventually there will be people who can get guns, and people who can’t, and the former become safer while the latter become much less safe.

            This is compounded by motivation. When guns are scarce, the former group will contain people with intent to make the latter even less safe. But if everyone can obtain them legally, there will be many more people with intent to make people (themselves, at the very least) more safe.

            This was strongly implied by the A/B/C post, and is fairly common knowledge. If you want to claim “less guns = more safe”, you will be required to address this, or the claim won’t make it farther than the nearest listener who understands how incentives work.

        • rlms says:

          If you only consider one side of a tradeoff, obviously you’ll get a one-sided conclusion.

          But also, that argument isn’t in favour of permitting gun ownership. Rather, it’s in favour of *mandating* gun ownership (at least for people who could be the victim in that scenario). And empirically, I believe a mandate like that would go against the majority of people’s preferences about carrying guns.

          • 10240 says:

            How so? The woman who could carry a gun but doesn’t only increases her own chance of getting in trouble. While many people (though not everyone) support creating some obligations in order to protect people from their own bad decisions, most people don’t support creating such obligations for every possible situation.

          • rlms says:

            Maybe mandating was the wrong word. I mean that it makes the stronger claim that people should carry guns, not that they should be allowed to. In comparison, you should be allowed to e.g. drink heavily and endanger your health, but it’s not true that you should actually do that.

          • 10240 says:

            @rlms Assuming someone thinks that it’s a good idea for women to carry a gun as a means to defend themselves, it’s not implausible that he thinks that they should carry a gun (at least in some situations).

          • rlms says:

            @10240
            Perhaps, but that’s weird for several reasons. Firstly, most people exhibit revealed preferences against carrying guns; saying that actually you know what’s best for them doesn’t seem very libertarian. And secondly, the claim that people should do something typically comes policy proposals to encourage them to do the thing. But e.g. a proposal to give tax breaks to people who cary guns would be very peculiar, and even purely cultural promotion of carrying seems to focus on defending the culture against politics where it exists, rather than expanding it to places where it doesn’t.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think even among very gun-positive people, most everyone recognizes that some people shouldn’t have a gun. For example, if you’re inclined toward suicidal depression or homicidal rages, you really should not have a gun, because you’ll do something terrible with it. If you can’t be troubled how to use the damned thing safely, likewise, you ought not to have one. And so on.

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s a parallel with herd immunity here, right? If a large enough fraction of the public is armed, then some kinds of predators will be driven away or killed off, and so there will be almost no rape/armed robbery/mugging/etc. in that society–the would-be perps either got wise or died of lead poisoning. But then there’s very little incentive to carry a gun around, since crime is almost nonexistent….

          • 10240 says:

            @rlms Your argument is a really weird argument from repugnant conclusion (if I understand it correctly). You’re basically saying that it’s implausible that carrying a gun makes a woman safer, because that would mean that women should carry a gun, which would be non-libertarian, and which would lead to proposals to make it obligatory to carry a gun, which nobody supports. With your example, it’s like saying that it’s implausible that heavy drinking is bad for your health, because that would mean that you shouldn’t drink heavily, which would be non-libertarian, and which would lead to proposals to ban heavy drinking, which few people want.

            Of course such arguments have no bearing on whether carrying a gun actually makes you safer, or whether heavy drinking is bad for your health. Depending on one’s understanding of what a “should” statement means, either the first implication (“you should carry a gun if it makes you safer”) or the second one (“if you should carry a gun, then it’s reasonable to make it obligatory to do so”) doesn’t hold.

            It’s also likely that it’s only worth carrying a gun for some people, and only in some situations, and the person in question is better suited to decide than the government.

          • 10240 says:

            @rlms Or maybe you are arguing that even if carrying guns makes people safer, it’s not an argument for making it legal, because if it had any bearing on whether it should be legal to carry one, it would also be an argument for making it obligatory, which we disagree with. But the same logic could also be used to argue that everything should be either forbidden or obligatory, something anyone who cares even a little bit about freedom and doesn’t want to live in a totalitarian state disagrees with.

    • gbdub says:

      What’s interesting is how few of any of these so far I disagree strongly with. Anyway, for me, and I’m probably going to cheat and do more than one:

      Left: Yay gay marriage. Purely market based health care is never going to fly, so let’s just get on with Medicare for all already.

      Right: +1 to Pax Americana (and Pax Western Civilization in general). Ban unionization of government employees and pass right-to-work everywhere.

      Libertarian: Legalize most drugs, decriminalize the rest. Significantly curtail legally required professional licensing, or at least the ability of non-government modern guilds to control it. Citizens United was correctly decided.

    • IrishDude says:

      Left: Open borders
      Right: Strong nuclear families create strong individuals and societies
      Libertarian: Political authority is not legitimate

      • Note that your “left” is a position more popular with ideological libertarians than with ideological leftists. Bernie Sanders was against it. I’m for it.

        • IrishDude says:

          It’s complicated. Some of the best open borders arguments I’ve read have come from Bryan Caplan, an ancap. But libertarians have a split on this issue in the same way the left does, with factions within each arguing for and against open borders. Some libertarians argue against open borders because of the welfare state or concerns about cultural assimilation/voting patterns. And the leftiest parts of the left, international workers of the world uniting types, are open borders advocates:

          “Whatever practical compromises we may be forced to make on the route to “free movement,” we should always insist upon it as a core value, and we must never repeat the mistakes of the bigoted, conservative parts of the labor movement, which were self-destructive and misidentified the causes of working people’s suffering. The best and most noble radical traditions have always been fueled by immigrants, welcomed immigrants, and upheld the central left slogan that must always continue to guide us:

          Workers of the world, unite!”

          That said, you may be right that open borders have a larger base with libertarians than the left; I don’t have good data on that.

          I struggled a bit to come up with my most left position, as they all seem to overlap with my libertarian position (drug and sex work legalization, the destructiveness of crony capitalism, etc.) and settled on open borders because I was kind of stuck.

    • Left: Whereas conflicts of interest between “races,” nations, and religions are socially-constructed and exist because of subjective wills that define their identities in certain ways in opposition to other subjectively-contrived identities, conflicts of interests between different classes are not socially-constructed. Class is not an identity to which one ascribes, but instead an objective economic condition with objective and unavoidable interests attached to it. Therefore, different class interests and class struggle are inevitable under capitalism, and it is only to their disadvantage if participants on each side fail to recognize these objective class interests of theirs.

      Right: Modern IQ tests probably point to some type of capability that we should care about; perhaps it is not the only type of capability that we should want humans to maximize, but if we discover genetic interventions that could predictably raise IQ in future generations with little to no side effects on other types of human capability that we care about, we would be wise to employ those interventions.

      Libertarian: Protective tariffs slow down the aggregate growth of the capitalist world economy.

    • SamChevre says:

      Left: bigness and high inequality are problems. They give too much ability to manipulate politics.

      Right: anti-discrimination law is an utter disaster and should be abolished at the Federal level and scrutinized carefully by the courts at the state level. Any group that people are free to leave or to avoid dealing with should be able to set it’s own criteria for what and with whom it will associate.

      Libertarian: people should be allowed to run their lives how they want, unless they are defrauding or attacking others. If John’s good life is wake-and-bake pot use, Jim’s is a bunch of opium every day, Joe’s is ascetic monasticism, and Bill’s is peddling conspiracy theories on street corners–this isn’t the government’s problem.

      Basically, I want lots and lots of little hierarchies and few and weak big hierarchies.

    • Nornagest says:

      Left: Coordination problems are hard, and this difficulty cashes out into a lot of the environmental, social, and economic problems we face. Large corporations exert undue influence over regulatory processes. Neoconservative nation-building exercises were a terrible idea and we shouldn’t participate in them.

      Right: Culture is complex and potentially fragile, and the downsides to messing it up can be very severe. While claims of marginalization deserve to be listened to, proposed solutions that involve overhauling foundational cultural concepts should be steeply discounted. (But on the other hand, some cultural concepts aren’t as foundational as they appear. The shift from viewing marriage as an institution for producing children to an institution enshrining romantic love was a major overhaul by my lights, but once you have the latter, it’s not a major overhaul to then bring in gay couples.)

      Libertarian: Individual and local sovereignty is a goal worth pursuing, even at some cost in safety. “First, do nothing” is a good heuristic for governments.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Left: Medicare for all.
      Right: Two-parent families for every child. Immigration control. Western countries and India should have state religions, and where impractical due to having many different churches with significant “market share”, that’s a suboptimal fact on the ground rather than a fundamental human right.
      Libertarian: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Therefore, we should replace political parties that contest universal-suffrage elections by making voters hate and fear their fellow citizens as an enemy tribe with giving all power to two guys who will check and balance each other. 😛

      • Nornagest says:

        Therefore, we should replace political parties […] with giving all power to two guys who will check and balance each other.

        Yes, but which two guys?

        For maximum reality-television potential, I nominate Mel Gibson and Tim Curry, stipulating that the latter be made up as Dr. Frank-N-Furter whenever he appears on camera. Both will be armed with ice picks.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      I’ll try again at something that could be shoehorned into working for all 3:

      A liveable UBI should be given to all citizens above the age of majority. Open borders for anyone that can demonstrate they would pay enough tax to cover their portion, at least for [some number of] years. This would create a strong enough foundation that we could then get rid of most welfare, unions, and government departments: gives sufficient resources and negotiating power to workers, and the govt could be more-or-less stripped down to the UBI apparatus & military (+border control) that protects it.

      (I personally would prefer to keep state-run criminal law enforcement and FDA/CDC types, but we’ll set that aside to try and qualify for the libertarian prong)

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I am a partisan Republican, political center-right (US spectrum)

      Left: The majority of people on the right are pretty damn racist or selfish, with a sizable minority that are just flat-out unapologetic racists.
      Right: The majority of people on the left are disaffected outcasts that want to blame others for their problems, and a sizable minority that are basically just socialists in it to take other people’s money.
      Libertarian: If the public education system gets trillions of dollars and is unable to teach more than half of Americans that the Earth revolves around the Sun, the public education system does a crappy job of educating the public and we should start defunding it.

      Centrist opinion: The US is a decently well-run nation and almost no major politician deserves even a tenth of the outrage they have to deal with. The major exception is DJT. I am undecided on AOC. America’s political opinion, IMO, roughly tracks with people becoming more politically active, and greater political activism will probably make things worse, not better.

      Self-reflecting opinion: My opinions have changed enough in the last decade of my life that I don’t put too much stock into them. If they are stable over the next 5, I’ll start trusting them a bit more.

      • J Mann says:

        Beta Guy, what’s your thumbnail guess on what percentage of the right and left are racist. (And if it makes a difference if we believe it’s possible to be racist against white people, maybe give a number assuming it is and a number assuming it isn’t.)

        • Plumber says:

          @J Mann

          “…what’s your thumbnail guess on what percentage of the right and left are racist…”

          You didn’t ask me but I’m going to chime in:

          My rough guess is that 99.9999% of “The Left” is racist to some extent, and that roughly 99.9999% of “The Right” is racist to some extent.

          Since I assume that I am a person who does bad things I do assume that I’m sexist, bigoted, and generally tribalistic, as well as my being prideful, greedy, lustful, envious, gluttonous, angry, and very lazy, indeed since people aren’t celestials I assume that most everyone I meet is, to some extent, as well and I try to check my dark impulses and I try to be forgiving when others don’t, as I think much of that is “baked in”.

          That doesn’t mean I don’t bemoan those qualities in myself and others, I just try to view people as people not demons.

          Realize the evil, strive for the good.

        • To answer that question, you have to define “racist.”

          If believing that there are significant differences in the distribution of significant characteristics by race counts as racism, then I expect that over ninety percent of both left and right are racist. If reacting differently to individuals of different races does it, then still a large majority of both left and right.

          If “racism” is limited, as I think it should be, to hating or despising people because of their race, I would guess under ten percent on either side.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          It’s possible to be racist against white people, and it’s possible to be racist against other black people even if you yourself are black.

          My back-envelope calculation is 20-30% of the American Right are “I don’t want my daughter dating a black man” racist, and maybe 50-80% are “I really don’t feel comfortable with all these black people being here” racist. I’m not even counting the “I think black people are lower IQ,” because that’s a totally different question and I don’t think believing in genetic variances among people should fall into the “I don’t like them” camp.

          I don’t know about the American Left, because it contains too many ethnic underclass minorities I do not regularly interact with. My impression of America’s white liberal upper class is that Lizardman Constant are “I don’t approve of inter-marriage” racist, and 20% are of the “I don’t feel comfortable” racist. I am NOT including the “I don’t want to deal with those idiots in AP after they outsourced it to the Philippines,” which would drive up those numbers to something like 80%.
          I’d put, at most, 15% of the Left in the “I will assume the worst of white people” camp, though this gets amplified considerably if HuffPo tells them to hate on a white man who is assumed to be wealthy.

          You didn’t ask, but among the American Left that I deal with, I’d say about 50% are one Lost Decade and one charismatic leader away from “Hail Stalin” in terms of their economics, particularly as you advance down the economic ladder. I’d say about 75% are one step away from the Jacobin.

          • Nornagest says:

            My impression of America’s white liberal upper class is that Lizardman Constant are “I don’t approve of inter-marriage” racist

            Probably about right.

            and 20% are of the “I don’t feel comfortable” racist.

            Waaaaaaaay too low. I’d put this only slightly lower than the right-wing equivalent, maybe somewhere around 50-60%; you’ll have a hard time getting them to say so, but there are a lot of people in the white liberal upper class who’ll talk up minorities any chance they get but still cross the street when they see a black dude coming, especially as you start looking at older people and/or people outside of ethnically mixed city centers. Note however that this isn’t incompatible with “I will assume the worst of white people”, especially when that amounts to talk more than action.

            Upper-class Blue social mores come down way harder on explicit racism than Red ones, but upper-class Blues are probably less likely to come into frequent social contact with non-Asian minorities than any other other white cohort outside of actual hillbillies. That means you’ll end up with a lot of implicit racism. (The urban WWC on the other hand is probably the most likely.)

          • albatross11 says:

            ADBG: That seems way high to me, but I don’t really know whether you’re right or not. Is there good polling data on this stuff?

            This poll said 96% of blacks and 84% of whites approved of interracial marriage in 2013. Assuming not much has changed, that might give us some notion of the right numbers–people who disapprove of interracial marriage[1] presumably would not want their kid to bring a black girlfriend/boyfriend home with them, and as of 2013, that was probably about a quarter of whites. That’s *way, way* more than I would have expected.

            [1] Note: the question isn’t whether it should be illegal.

          • Theodoric says:

            maybe 50-80% are “I really don’t feel comfortable with all these black people being here” racist.

            If this belief were due to blacks having 8x the homicide rate of whites, would you still code it as “racist?”

          • and as of 2013, that was probably about a quarter of whites.

            16%. About a sixth.

          • Note: the question isn’t whether it should be illegal.

            It also doesn’t specify why they disapprove of inter-racial marriage. One reason might be that they believe the couple, or their kids, would face hostility.

            I’m thinking of a real case, a couple who are good friends of ours. She is Chinese-American (born in the U.S.), he is Croatian-American (ditto). Their parents knew each other professionally (chinese restaurants and wholesale butchers) and cooperated in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the kids apart. Her Chinese father thought American men didn’t treat their wives properly. His father thought the children of a mixed marriage would have problems.

            The couple are married with four children, the youngest now college age. As best I can tell, they got along fine with both sets of parents. I would be reluctant to describe either set of parents as racist.

          • albatross11 says:

            David:

            a. Thanks for the correction! Yes, 16%, not 26%.

            b. This seems like a reasonable first cut to the answer, but what would really be useful would be a poll which asked party affiliation and whether (assuming you had kids) you would object to them bringing home a partner of another race.

            My intuition is that when the other race is black, you will have much higher negative responses than when the other race is Asian or hispanic, but that’s just a guess.

          • @ albatross11:

            My guess as well, but there is still a problem of interpretation.

            My guess is that many parents would be more uncomfortable if the Asian brought home was a recent immigrant, speaking fluent but accented English, than if he or she was a third generation Asian, indistinguishable if your eyes were closed from a white American. Someone your child marries is part of your family, and having members of your family with a very different cultural background could be uncomfortable.

            I suspect the same pattern would apply if the person was black. A middle class black who felt culturally “normal”—i.e., like your family—would be much less of an issue than someone who had grown up in the inner city and showed the fact in speech and attitudes.

            I can only remember having dated one black girl, long ago, not for very long. My memory is that she felt more like “my kind of people” than the average white girl.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Left: Recycling is good and worthwhile

      Right: Values matter and most people need to work

      Libertarian: The (college) education system is incredibly broken, bordering on evil

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      All answers assume loose, colloquial US standard of Right-Left-Libertarian. If I list multiple beliefs it’s because I can’t narrow it down further. I’m going with broad stuff rather than specific policy positions where possible because I feel like that’s a different discussion.

      Strongest as in most deeply, firmly held…

      Right: American values and culture are in fact exceptional, and most of America’s failures have been failing to live up to those values, not failure OF those values. This cashes out in a lot of different ways, from being hostile towards attempts to redefine or narrow individual liberties in the name of progress, to thinking that we should balance welcoming and accepting immigrants with ensuring that we remain committed to assimilation and discourage the sort of “multiculturalism” that leads to cultural and community segregation, to a hundred other little things.

      Left: Immigration is a good thing, on net. We need some social safety net provisions as part of our government and shouldn’t depend solely on private charity. Gays, Lesbians, and Trans men and women are not inherently threatening to social order or virtue.

      Libertarian: The government that governs best, governs least, and is as small and as weak as it can be while still performing its core functions. Note that over time I’ve come to conclude that “small and weak as possible” in my view is still bigger than any doctrinaire Libertarian would agree with, though my solution would be to decrease the size of the polities. I also think that more smaller countries are better than big countries.

      BONUS ROUND:

      Anarchist: Because the most outnumbered minority will always be the individual, it’s wrong-headed and narrow-minded to see “The Government” as the only threat. Whether it’s a church, a union or guild, a homeowner’s association, or even just a group of like-minded people organizing for power, organized hierarchies are necessary evils and should not be allowed to get too large or too powerful.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      German context applies

      Right:
      the refugee situation, is badly handled, specifically:
      Opening the borders was a mistake. No refugees should be allowed to be let in, without all of them being monitored, fingerprinted and the state knowing about their whereabouts at all times (afraid, that part is also not even thinkable, because Nazi-past).
      The current system of handling the refugee crisis is a drain on German resources and a potential security risk.
      What I’d actually like, but is not exactly a Rightist position, because our Right is too cool and edgy for making all that many constructive propositions:
      There should be a points system, that allows and encourages refugees to prove themselves integratable and useful and quickly decide for each one (I’m thinking 6 months max), whether they’re to be sent away or whether they can stay long term as probationary citizens (which I think is common sense, but I’ve never seen anybody suggest it. Our discussion is either shouting ‘Refugees bad’ or ‘Refugees welcome’, and sadly never asking ‘What the hell do we do with them all? How do we ensure, they’re not causing any trouble? Who can stay here long term and under what conditions and who can not?’ This for years now, and nothing ever gets settled.)

      [this is really awkward, because our chancellor is supposed to be right/conservative, but stands for the absolute opposite policy here. The new right-wing-malcontent party appears rather scarily racist sometimes and isn’t exactly an overly coherent movement that can be agreed or disagreed with.]

      Left:
      Some form of UBI should be implemented.
      caveat:
      [though I prefer a UBI that cuts out all other services and is fairly low, in addition to getting rid of many restrictive land and property use regulations, since rent is the greatest expense for the poor and middle class; having just one major welfare state transfer should at least cut down on the bureacracy and the make-do work; just first guess of best solution, Friedman (the Elder) had this negative income tax-concept, that was some kind of UBI mechanism as well, which I probably would prefer, if I went to the trouble of understanding it]
      Libertarian:
      tax reform, specifically:
      The VAT should be simplified to one averaged rate, instead of two.
      The income tax calculation should fit on a beer coaster.
      [old campaign promises, that they’ve never managed to implement,
      despite being in government for years and years. Our Libertarians are kinda useless.]
      Uber should be allowed here. [not sure, if the Libertarians have even demanded that]

      [for more context on German politics, read below]

      damn, that’s hard for a German. Left, Right, Libertarian is so 1970s.
      (we used to have a right/left/libertarian three-party system till 1980,
      with the libs almost always being in government as a tie breaker, which I think did
      the country much good)

      The policy space, that’s under discussion at any given time is rather small. This country is incredibly conservative and unimaginative sometimes. Which is good, because it also means, that we’re not going to invent a new government agency every Tuesday, but I digress.

      Today it’s more like Kinda Leftish*, idiotic Super Left, Kinda Right (but really, left, but really what Merkel feels like), Kinda ActuallyRight (Bavaria only, though), priveleged eco-Hipsters, useless Libertarians, Right-Wing Malcontents;
      currently less important: Hippy Hacktivists Pirates, that nobody takes seriously (because why would we); some wannabe Nazis, that everyone pretends are super duper dangerous, but don’t actually do much;
      Antifa that likes to burn down cars, when they’re feeling particularly ambitious (nothing compared to the ’70s RAF terrorists); some other thing in Bavaria called ‘Freie Wähler’ (right-wing?)

      *The 100 year old+ SPD suffers from a complete and probably fatal identity crisis, because they’ve been economically libertarian/austerity in the 2000s and as of yet have not recovered from that (good for the country, bad for the party). Last I’ve heard, the current new promising leadership candidate wants to make feminist porn available in the public TV streaming service. Which is…. a thing….. and a good example of how it alienates all it’s working class voters and seems to have forgotten it’s roots.

    • LadyJane says:

      Leftist: Methodological individualism and equality of opportunity. I think it’s both morally and practically wrong to pre-judge people on the basis of arbitrary traits like race, gender, and sexual orientation, and I think that all people should be given an equal opportunity to succeed. We may not ever be able to completely accomplish this goal, but we should strive to come as close as possible. I also support a universal basic income, which is generally a leftist idea (although I’ve heard some libertarians and even a few right-wingers support it too).

      Rightist: Free-market capitalism. While there may be a few utilities that require some degree of government control (due to perverse incentives, natural monopolies, or overly high barriers to entry), the free-market is simply the best approach for the vast majority of industries. Like Scott, I’m in the weird position of being very pro-welfare, but also very anti-regulation: For instance, I don’t support the idea of the minimum wage at all, and I think it actually hurts poor people a lot more than it helps them. I think we should either get rid of it or lower it significantly (I’ve heard convincing arguments that we need some minimum wage to prevent a race to the bottom), which puts me to the right of most conservatives!

      Libertarian: Methodological individualism and free-market capitalism already put me on the same page as Ayn Rand, but aside from that, my general support for civil rights and opposition to foreign interventionism.

      • WarOnReasons says:

        I think it’s both morally and practically wrong to pre-judge people on the basis of arbitrary traits like race, gender

        Suppose that by some accident you find yourself lost in a very high-crime area. Two of the locals (a ~20 years old male and a female of the same age) notice you and make separate offers of giving you a ride to your hotel. Whose offer are you going to accept?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Suppose that by some accident you find yourself lost in a very high-crime area. Two of the locals (a ~20 years old male and a female of the same age) notice you and make separate offers of giving you a ride to your hotel. Whose offer are you going to accept?

          Neither. But if I must choose, the male. If he meant me harm he’d most likely harm me right there rather than offer a ride. The woman if she means me harm will bring me to be harmed by her family or gang, who would quite possibly justify it to themselves by the fact that I interacted with one of “their women”.

        • acymetric says:

          I’m with Nybbler, probably neither. If I have to choose, my answer is that there isn’t enough information provided. I assume you are trying to appeal to some heuristic that men are more likely to be violent or commit crimes, but I already know I am in a high crime area so everyone is likely to commit crimes. I would choose based on visual and verbal cues (the appearance of the person, the way they talked, and what kind of car they drive).

      • J Mann says:

        Methodological individualism and equality of opportunity. I think it’s both morally and practically wrong to pre-judge people on the basis of arbitrary traits like race, gender, and sexual orientation, and I think that all people should be given an equal opportunity to succeed.

        Interestingly, I associate that principle with right wing and libertarian views more than left wing. I think it’s left wing if you make some assumptions about systemic discrimination that requires counter-discrimination to correct, though.

    • spkaca says:

      Left: the railways and BAe should be nationalised (British context showing here). These are not industries subject to normal competitive pressures so privatisation doesn’t work well.

      Right: no abortion after the first trimester.

      Libertarian: legalise all drugs. The war on drugs is a fake war with real casualties.

    • Theodoric says:

      Left: Income distribution, maybe UBI, limit employers’ ability to regulate what you do off the clock (ie: expand laws prohibiting employers from firing employees for legal off the job activities, restrict drug testing to determining if someone is showing up to the job site intoxicated, not weekend drug use, etc).
      Right: Immigration restriction; there might be a genetic component to IQ
      Libertarian: While I might not want any kids I might have to be or use sex workers, use drugs, etc, I do not think those who do these things should be handcuffed, strip searched, confined in an environment with a real rape culture (county jail counts), and given a record that makes it hard to find work at McDonalds.

    • salvorhardin says:

      Most extreme:

      Left: The BLM protestors are basically correct about the racist nature of policing and incarceration systems in the US; a large majority of offenses that are currently punishable by incarceration should not be. US housing and immigration policy are also deeply and viciously racist. Abortion on demand and without apology. There is no good reason to gender-segregate bathrooms.

      Right: Majoritarian democracy is deeply flawed because most people aren’t, *in their role as voters*, cognitively or morally fit to participate in governance. Epistocracy would be an improvement; possibly some form of property qualification for the franchise could be as well; in the meantime supermajority requirements are good and we should have lots more of them. Military coups that overthrow democratic governments are sometimes justified; the 2002 attempt against Chavez was in this category and the US should have supported it, ditto the 2016 attempt against Erdogan.

      Libertarian: There is a moral right to violently resist the enforcement of unjust laws. Governments differ from mafias only in degree, not in kind.

      • There is no good reason to gender-segregate bathrooms.

        That strikes me as odd. Do you regard all the existing norms about exposure, urination in public, and the like as things that could easily be abolished? Those norms are strongly and widely held and having only gender mixed bathrooms forces lots of people to violate them.

        Do you feel similarly about the norm against cannibalism? Wastes a lot of good meat.

        • salvorhardin says:

          The exposure and urination norms (which are silly, but yes, likely to be clung to because people cling to silly things) can be easily accommodated by having a row of actually-private Euro-style stalls with a row of not-private sinks outside them. I’ve seen this work perfectly well lots of places including the US (the Slanted Door in SF does it this way IIRC).

          The cannibalism comparison is odd, because cannibalism aversion has substantive reasons for it (disease avoidance, avoidance of incentive to kill people) that “modesty” does not.

          • Making every lavatory single user is indeed one solution, but not a costless one. And I don’t think you should assume norms related to sexuality have no function. They are at least in part a language, hence arbitrary but not useless.

            The obvious example is dress. It’s useful to know whether a woman is likely to want to date you, sleep with you, whatever. Styles of dress are one way of signalling that sort of thing. Wearing a wedding ring on a particular finger of a particular hand is arbitrary, but conveys useful information.

            One can suggest reasons for the norm against cannibalism, but how strong they are depends on the particular circumstances of the society. You take it for granted that one could not think up reasons for norms under which (for example) a woman letting a man see particular parts of her signals something about her intentions towards him.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Are most of the women you know comfortable with pooping next to their male coworkers? What if they find one male coworker especially creepy, would they be comfortable then?

            Myself I would prefer not to poop next to any woman that I’m interested in dating. I don’t think that is silly because if a woman hears and smells some disgusting pooping going on from myself then she is likely to be grossed out and not attracted to me.

            This is pretty normal and I don’t think these norms are silly.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            “I do not see the use of this wall between the restrooms; let us clear it away.”

          • salvorhardin says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Yes, all-stall desegregated restrooms can be a costly retrofit to existing buildings, but as I understand it they are costless or even cost-negative for new construction due to less duplication and superior ability to balance demand as the gender mix in the building changes over time, and many new buildings whose architects would like to use them are prevented from doing so by building codes. If building codes really gave full freedom to builders to install desegregated restrooms, but the market demanded segregated ones anyway, I would roll my eyes but respect builders’ right to build whichever they liked.

            The other responses in this thread rather prove my point. If you seriously think that “some pretty girl might be grossed out by my pooping in the stall next to hers and therefore not want to date me” is a valid reason to impose the substantive, material burdens of segregation on others, your moral system is way out of whack. Nor is desegregation an untried fantasy of social reformers: it has been tried repeatedly with no negative consequences observed that I’m aware of. Nor, in fact, are we ignorant of the historical reason why segregation exists– it’s because of 19th C sexist delusions about the weakness and vulnerability of women.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I’m all in favor of keeping the question out of the building code. But in the rare case where the builders go for unisex bathrooms, the only question will be whether the tenants decide as company policy that the unisex bathroom on the third floor is for women and the unisex bathroom on the fourth floor is for men, or their employees make it an informal norm on their own. Either way, the urinals on the third floor will go to waste.

          • LesHapablap says:

            salvorhardin,

            Do you think it is silly for a woman not to want to share a bathroom with a coworker that she finds creepy, or that has harassed her in the past? If a woman expressed this concern, would you tell her that she is blinded by 19th century sexist attitudes and her feelings are invalid?

            If we’re talking full enclosed stalls that are just small bathrooms, then fine, but that’s not desegregated that’s just going from 2 bathrooms with X stalls each to 2X bathrooms. Those are great set ups and are ideal in my opinion, but they won’t be cheaper than ordinary stall dividers + urinals in the mens + a female bathroom, and hey maybe women want their own space anyway.

          • ana53294 says:

            Being in a private room with a man that has harassed you before is uncomfortable regardless of whether the room in question is a toilet or no. Are you suggesting to make office coffe rooms, break rooms, or any other rooms where women can bump into their harassers one-on-one segregated?

            If safety is the issue, you can make toilets where only the stalls have non-transparent walls. And make the area with the sinks have transparent walls, so anybody can see if there is something threatening happening there.

            And install panic buttons inside all the stalls. It could also be useful if somebody faints or feels unstable, and they are standard in disabled toilets.

            I think desegregated toilets are great, achieve potty parity and get rid of a lot of the nonsense over transgender women supposedly molesting little girls.

            In Sweden, there were plenty of desegregated toilets, and they worked fine. I also saw a swimming pool in the UK with not just a desegregated toilet, but a desegregated locker room with individual stalls to dress and undress. They managed to fit more people this way, and things were easier for everybody.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            If you seriously think that “some pretty girl might be grossed out by my pooping in the stall next to hers and therefore not want to date me” is a valid reason to impose the substantive, material burdens of segregation on others, your moral system is way out of whack

            Which are… what, exactly? Using a little more space to build two restrooms instead of one mega-restroom?

          • albatross11 says:

            Does the comfort of the people using the restrooms have any weight in this calculation?

            My guess is that gender-neutral restrooms are one of those issues that seems pretty pressing in SJW and academic and journalism circles, but has almost no support outside those classes. 95% of the public would react with some version of shaking their head and thinking “what the hell are those guys smoking.” Our society being what it is, that probably means we’ll find ourselves with gender-neutral restrooms as a matter of law and public policy, without any particular consideration for whether the benefits are worth the costs.

        • rlms says:

          My personal experience of non-gender-segregated toilets is that female/male are simply relabelled as cubicles/cubicles and urinals. I’ve not used them enough to know which kind women tend to use (men tend to use the ones with urinals). If building new ones I think it would be silly to not use urinals, for efficiency reasons. Exactly what a system designed around efficiency would look like is an interesting question.

          • Plumber says:

            @rlms,

            My experience has been that they put a lock on the door, which is nice except that there’s usually multiple stalls locked away by the one person in the restroom, which increases wait times (especially when “urban campers” move in), and my wife complains that “men are filthy, I hate gender-neutral”.

          • rlms says:

            @Plumber
            As in effectively changing rooms with several stalls to ones with only one? That sounds crazy and terrible.

          • albatross11 says:

            Plumber:

            I think there’s no workable strategy for having decent public restrooms alongside a large homeless population inclined to camp out in them. The fact that we have spent decades letting homeless people turn public spaces unusable seems utterly nuts to me.

            It’s like we’re in the sweet spot of cultural inability to cope with homeless people–we’re too liberal to have the cops run them off/arrest them for vagrancy, we’re too conservative to maintain effective services that keep them in some kind of shelter instead of camping out on the street, and we’re too libertarian to forcibly commit the crazy people.

          • Plumber says:

            @rims

            “….That sounds crazy and terrible.”

            Nevertheless it’s what I’ve seen partially or wholey done with some State of California court restrooms, some City and County of San Francisco restrooms, and at many corporate owned businesses.

            As far as I can tell, if the restrooms have more than three seperate toilets and/or urinals they’re still being left seperate men’s and women’s restrooms, but the ones with two and three toilet stalls and/or urinals are being converted to “gender neutral”, with a lock for whole restroom (as are the one’s with only one toilet, but those make sense to be converted, unlike the multiples).

            Looks like typical corporate and governmental central planning, so ’tis not surprising.

            @albatross11

            “…It’s like we’re in the sweet spot of cultural inability to cope…”

            That’s a very apt description!

          • johan_larson says:

            It’s like we’re in the sweet spot of cultural inability to cope with homeless people–we’re too liberal to have the cops run them off/arrest them for vagrancy, we’re too conservative to maintain effective services that keep them in some kind of shelter instead of camping out on the street, and we’re too libertarian to forcibly commit the crazy people.

            You’ve stumbled on a pretty deep insight, there. If you wrote an article about homelessness around that insight, I bet you could get it published in some influential forum, like the Atlantic. It would be a week-long orgy of wonkish chin-stroking.

          • Randy M says:

            keep them in some kind of shelter

            There is some fraction of homeless that prefers the streets to following the rules of a shelter. This is likely because a disinclination to follow rules is correlated with an inability to maintain employment.

          • albatross11 says:

            I gather the shelters are often not well run, and sometimes are unsafe. And also that trying to make them safer and better run tends to lead to kicking some people out of those shelters, which leaves you with people on the street.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            My understanding of the most common rule that causes people to avoid shelters is the prohibition on drugs (and maybe alcohol).

            I’m not sure how to remedy that particular issue, since allowing drugs seems like a really bad idea.

          • 10240 says:

            I’m not sure how to remedy that particular issue, since allowing drugs seems like a really bad idea.

            Why? It’s an alternative to living on the street where they can use drugs (illegally, but enforced less than in a shelter I presume). If the drug users bother the non-users, segregate them.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            There is a significant history of drug users at shelters acting violently or disruptively. “Segregate them” implies levels of enforcement beyond denying them entry that may or may not exist, and is a lot harder to monitor and administer than a straight ban.

            Currently, non-disruptive drug users can be at a shelter if they are not disruptive and hide their activities well enough. Removing the ban will make such an arrangement much more difficult for the shelter.

          • 10240 says:

            @Mr. Doolittle A simple implementation is that some shelters allow drug use and some don’t, in proportion to homeless people’s preferences or rates of drug use.

          • Randy M says:

            What if even drug users don’t like to be around other drug users?

    • Bugmaster says:

      One of my strongest beliefs is that freedom of personal expression (in the sense of a social building block/concept, as opposed to legal construct) is absolutely paramount. Obviously there are exceptions, such as “information wants to be free and nuclear launch codes are information, so here we go”; but restricting freedom of expression in the name of social engineering, no matter how benign, can never end well.

      I honestly can’t tell which philosophy this belief aligns with best. It’s tempting to say “Libertarian”, but I do not believe that “money is speech”, and am in fact in favor of a regulated market, not anarcho-capitalism, so that probably doesn’t fit either…

    • albatross11 says:

      Mine:

      Left: Most people on the bottom of society are there substantially because of bad things that happened to them–largely their genes and upbringing and the economic environment in which they live. We should help those folks out using taxpayer money and government programs, if we can work out a sensible way to do it, because you don’t deserve a shitty, deprived life just because you got a bad INT roll.

      Right: Most people are going to be happiest in a more-or-less traditional family structure, in which a man and woman get married and raise kids, take them to church regularly, and are involved in their community. It’s important to allow for exceptions, but in both social and government policy, we should be trying to make this the default path for people, and to support it as a workable path for most people. IMO, allowing gay marriage is an example of an attempt to expand the availability of this to a larger set of people. (This has all kinds of downstream implications that don’t track well with political sides.)

      Libertarian: Government, law, and taxation have no special moral status–it’s just people. We don’t know how else to run an advanced society or solve some critical coordination problems other than to pretend that policemen enforcing laws are in a different moral category than vigilantes enforcing social norms with violence, but really, they’re the same thing, and subject to the same moral problems. A policeman bashing in your door to arrest you for drugs is in the same moral category as an angry neighbor bashing in your door to beat you up for using drugs. A tax collector demanding $X from you is not morally different from a mafioso demanding $X in protection money–the taxes tend to be spent in ways that arguably benefit society, and we don’t know how else to run things, so we grit our teeth and accept the evil as necessary.

      • Bugmaster says:

        A tax collector demanding $X from you is not morally different from a mafioso demanding $X in protection money

        Morally, you may be correct; but functionally, the tax collector solution works out much better, due to the incentive structure and general accountability.

        In general, moral arguments are IMO non-starters; morality basically amounts to personal taste, and is thus pointless to argue about.

    • rlms says:

      Left: nationalising railways etc. (in the UK) would be a reasonable thing to do. I don’t think we should kill all men, but a world with no cis men (and somehow no issues with fertility and sexuality) would probably be a significant improvement on this one. Anarchist communes are cool.

      Right: American: affirmative action is obviously terrible; British: privatising the NHS would be a reasonable thing to do.

      ?: maybe ban (or severely regulate) hardcore pornography, restrict patenting of drugs.

      Libertarian: general: yay drugs, maybe yay ancap charter cities; British: slightly laxer gun laws would be good.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        but a world with no cis men (and somehow no issues with fertility and sexuality) would probably be a significant improvement on this one.

        What does this mean? No man thinks of themselves as male? Presumably humankind would be gone in 100 years, since reproduction would cease. Unless this means something different from what it sounds like to me.

        • rlms says:

          “somehow no issues with fertility” means making sperm in a tube or something.

        • whereamigoing says:

          Maybe it’s something like “the world would be better if everyone became a hermaphrodite”? I’m not convinced that’s true though.

  18. dndnrsn says:

    Hello, and welcome to the eighteenth installment of my Biblical scholarship effortpost series. Last time, we looked at wisdom literature and its main example in the Hebrew Bible, Proverbs. Proverbs teaches, among other things, that good and prudent behaviour is rewarded whereas bad and imprudent behaviour is punished. Both of the books that we are going to look at today, Ecclesiastes and the book of Job, are at least in part examinations of the observable fact that this is not in fact the case.

    Caveats: I’m not a real expert on this, but I did study it in university. I’m aiming for about a 100/200 level coverage of this, fairly briefly, but will try to expand if people have any questions. This is about secular scholarship, not about theology. I’ll be providing limited summaries, but space is an issue.

    Ecclesiastes is a book of experiential wisdom on a variety of topics: it presents its content as the result of the writer’s experiences. It seems to have internal indications of structure, which might indicate that it is a coherent document.

    The author of Ecclesiastes, calling himself Koheleth (the names meaning something like “assembler” – of sayings, or of people to a gathering), begins by discussing the futility (the word literally means air or breath; it’s been translated in various different ways in English) of human endeavour. Nature and human life are cyclical. Attempting to understand the ways of the world is also futile. The pursuit of pleasure, the acquisition of property, luxury, is also futile. The wise man and the foolish man both die – what advantage is it to be wise, especially considering that wisdom can make you unhappy? The oppressed suffer. There are those who have riches but do not enjoy them. Chance can make or unmake a person.

    One thing the author notices is that reward and punishment, as presented in a tradition like that of Proverbs, and on a different level in much of the rest of the Hebrew Bible, don’t always work. Some good people don’t prosper, and some evil people do. Everyone will die in the end and whether someone prospers or fails depends on more than just their merit. The latter is most famously put in 9:11: the fastest doesn’t always win the race, and so on. The author of Ecclesiastes seems either to think there is not an afterlife (3:20-21 says people come from dust and return to it, and questions whether a person’s lifebreath rises upwards and that of an animal down – men may be no better than beasts; also, this may be a reference to a particular Hellenistic belief about the afterlife), or that the afterlife is undifferentiated and does not preserve a person’s self (see 9:5-6); in either case, there is no reward after death to make up for unrewarded merit in life. The wise man and the fool are in the same boat once they die.

    Ultimately, the conclusion of Ecclesiastes is that human understanding is limited, and part of wisdom is to understand this. What ultimately can be known is that God is in charge, and that people should try to enjoy their lives, even if they cannot fully make sense about what happens to them. There’s comparable material in some other ancient Near East wisdom literature, especially from Egypt (as noted in the last installment, Israel’s wisdom tradition seems most influenced by, or at least most similar to, Egypt’s).

    The text itself identifies the author as a king, specifically Solomon. However, the rest of the document isn’t consistent with this; the author does not consistently speak from the position of a king. Based on contextual references (to politics, land, and money) it is likely that the author was of a landed, well-off class, but not connected to the royal court.

    Internal evidence, including the use of Persian loanwords, suggests a postexilic origin for Ecclesiastes. It might be from the Persian period, or from the Hellenistic period. As noted, 3:21 may indicate a Hellenistic origin, but this is fairly weak evidence.

    Considerably longer than Ecclesiastes, and more challenging from a scholarly perspective, is the book of Job. It begins with a prose introduction. Job is a “blameless and upright man” who is quite prosperous. “The Adversary” (or, “the Accuser” – Satan in Hebrew), part of God’s divine court, incites God against Job, saying that Job is pious only because life is good for him, and that if this wasn’t the case, he would blaspheme. God agrees with this, and Job’s life is ruined: his children and his flocks are all killed or carried off. He doesn’t blaspheme, though. The Adversary, however, answers that if Job suffers physically, he will blaspheme. Job is then struck with a terrible skin disease, and while his wife urges him to blaspheme, he still does not. Job’s friends come to comfort him.

    The text then shifts to a dialogue between Job and his friends. Job insists that he is blameless and questions why these things are happening to him. His friends insist he must have done something, and that he presumes to question God. Ultimately, God shows up and basically tells Job that he isn’t capable of understanding what’s going on – he’s not God, and cannot judge God’s power. Job agrees.

    The dialogues are followed by another prose section. God condemns Job’s friends for not speaking the truth about God as Job did. God restores Job’s fortunes, and he is more prosperous than ever, dying “old and contented.”

    The book’s Hebrew is trickier than usual, and there are features (such as indications a speech is meant originally to have been spoken by someone else) which suggest there have been transmission errors. In general, the textual history of Job is very confusing. The scholarly debates are pretty arcane, but a fairly common view is that one way or another Job consists of two stories combined. The first, consisting of the prose introduction and conclusion (some scholars think 27 is also involved, and the discussion of wisdom in 28), is about a man named Job who has everything taken away from him, does not blaspheme, and then is restored. The dialogues are about a man named Job who has everything taken from him, disagrees with his friends over his responsibility, demands justification, and then is shut down by God.

    The scholarly debates, as I noted, are complicated, and rely a fair bit on fairly advanced Hebrew work, which I am not equipped to deal with. The consensus seems to be that Job is two stories combined (plus a bit of other stuff). One story takes a view that goes with what we saw in Proverbs: Job is a good man who is harmed by what amounts to a test which he passes, and is thereafter restored. Good behaviour is rewarded. The other book has a message that more resembles what we saw in Ecclesiastes: humans are not God and cannot understand things as God does. What seems to us incomprehensible or unjust is simply beyond our capability to get. We’re not in charge. The alternative explanation to this view would be that disjunctions between the prose and dialogue, and between the introduction and conclusion, were the result of a rougher-than-usual transmission process.

    What God says to Job includes a lot of creation motifs. God’s statements include a lot of rhetorical questions pointing out that Job had neither a hand in creating the world nor in the operation of that creation in the present. Similar to the speculations about God’s past enthronement in the Psalms, there’s some speculation that the creation motif includes hints of supposed older traditions, in which God’s role at the beginning had included struggle. Regardless of this point, God’s superiority is expressed very heavily in these terms.

    Job is a non-Israelite, from the land of Uz. Uz, another name for Edom, was part of the Transjordan. This area in general was sometimes known as “Kedem” (more generally, one could talk about “the East”) and its people were known for their wisdom tradition (1 Kings 5:10 boasts that Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the Kedemites and Egyptians; you wouldn’t boast about being wiser than a people not known for their wisdom). Job is cited in Ezekiel 14 as a righteous character. Job may originally be a folktale character, famous for his response to catastrophe. There are some similar stories in other ancient Near Eastern literature.

    Job is tricky to date, because the dialogues are poetically styled, and poetry is more likely to be intentionally archaic in style. The language of the prose introduction and conclusion suggests no earlier than the sixth century; meanwhile, the dialogues seem closest to material from the sixth century also. The role taken by (the) Satan in the introduction suggests a postexilic date, while the use of the definite article points to a date before Chronicles. Job must be from before the third or second century, the date of an Aramaic paraphrasing version found at Qumran. Most scholars thus date it to the sixth or fifth century.

    So, that’s Ecclesiastes and Job. Both are associated with the wisdom tradition, but are quite different from the more typical wisdom worldview we saw in Proverbs last time. Ecclesiastes is a reflection upon humanity’s ultimate failures, and the book of Job includes, or is, one – depending on how you look at the scholarship. Both deal with the observation that God doesn’t always reward the good or punish the bad. Job is likely from the sixth or fifth century, while Ecclesiastes is probably a bit later.

    EDIT: If I’ve made any mistakes, let me know as soon as possible, and I’ll edit or note them.

    • Jaskologist says:

      The author of Ecclesiastes seems either to think there is not an afterlife (3:20-21 says people come from dust and return to it, and questions whether a person’s lifebreath rises upwards and that of an animal down – men may be no better than beasts; also, this may be a reference to a particular Hellenistic belief about the afterlife), or that the afterlife is undifferentiated and does not preserve a person’s self (see 9:5-6); in either case, there is no reward after death to make up for unrewarded merit in life.

      One alternate interpretation: Ecclesiastes is exploring the implications of there being no afterlife, rather than necessarily endorsing that position.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m not informed enough to have a real opinion but I wouldn’t be surprised if Job was originally two stories because as a single story it badly undermines itself.

      In the beginning we get an omniscient narrator who tells us exactly why God is punishing Job: he’s got a bet going with Satan that Job won’t blaspheme, and goes along with Satan whenever he raises the stakes. Then, when Job questions why he’s being punished, God makes a big deal out of how Job can’t judge him because he has no idea why God is doing what he’s doing. Which might be a fair point for Job himself to keep in mind, but the reader knows exactly why he’s doing it thanks to the omniscient narrator telling us about the bet. Which makes God come off as a liar, since he’s clearly implying that there’s some good or at least incomprehensible reason for what he’s doing when it’s actually just the sort of shenanigans that Zeus would have gotten up to.

      Either you can have the story about the bet or the speech about God’s unknowable motives. Putting them both in the same book undermines them both.

      • J Mann says:

        1) Can’t you just go back a step and say we don’t know why the bet was a good idea because we can’t comprehend God?

        2) Alternately, Job’s virtue is precisely in having faith in God even when God doesn’t appear to have a good reason for his actions, which is coherent but not immediately very satisfying.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          The problem with 1) is that if we do that, we’re fighting against a plain interpretation of the text. There’s no reason to think that Job has an unreliable narrator, and the narration suggests a perfectly straightforward motivation for God to take Satan’s bet.

          2) is what I meant when I said that it makes sense for Job himself to behave as though God has a real reason for tormenting him even if we as readers know it isn’t true. We don’t have the benefit of omniscient narrators in our own lives so we can’t actually make those judgements.

          • J Mann says:

            Thanks!

            1) I think there’s more to it than that. I think we see God permit Satan to afflict Job, but I don’t think the Bible tells us why. The passage explains (twice!) that Satan shows up, that God volunteers Job as a example of perfect virtue, that Satan argues that Job’s virtue will wither if his fortune does, and that God permits Satan to test Job.

            a) First, a quibbble, but I think an important quibble; I don’t think that precisely describes a “bet” – there aren’t any stakes that we know of.

            b) It would IMHO be fairer to say that God permits Satan to afflict Job and predicts that Job will remain virtuous.

            c) You could call it a “test,” then, instead of a bet, but ultimately I think this is exactly the problem of evil – why, exactly, does God permit undeserved evil (here, personified as Satan), to occur to Job?.

            One possible answer is to prove a point – that God wants Satan to learn that Job’s virtue does not depend on his fortune. Another would be that God himself wants Job to be tested by adversity. but (i) IMHO, neither interpretation is clearly spelled out in the text, and (ii) even that would just force us to ask why God cares what Satan thinks about Job and/or wants Job tested.

            But ultimately my read is that (a) God permits undeserved evil to happen to Job, (b) we don’t know why, and (c) then he tells Job that Job doesn’t get to know why and/or couldn’t understand it. It adds a little extra edge that it seems like God is just doing it to prove a point – that He and Satan are throwing dice with men’s lives – but IMHO, the beginning creates that assumption and then the end reveals it as an unjustified assumption. God says “you have no idea why I am doing what I do,” and when we look back at the original narrative, we realize that we don’t.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            2) is what I meant when I said that it makes sense for Job himself to behave as though God has a real reason for tormenting him even if we as readers know it isn’t true.

            Why isn’t it true? By letting Satan test Job, God is giving him an opportunity to grow in faith and to become detached from transient, worldly goods. Those are both good things.

          • Deiseach says:

            Well, the bet is Satan saying there is no such thing as real virtue, people are only good when they’re well-off and happy, take someone like Job who is praised for being blameless – it’d be different if he lost all his riches and contentment, then he’d turn on God just like the rest of humanity.

            God is saying “Job is not like that” and in a wider sense virtue does exist. He permits the testing of Job because He has confidence in Job (and in humanity, His creation). Satan is the everyday cynic who believes it’s all relative – people are good until it costs them, then they revert to their original and base nature. It’s like the people who say that you don’t see someone’s real true self until you see what they’re like when they’re angry or stressed – then you’re supposed to take the drunken/angry/stressed snap reaction as the ‘real’ person and ignore all the times they haven’t snapped because that wasn’t the ‘real’ person, that was only the comfort talking.

            It’s not really a bet on God’s part because, well, He’s God, He knows how this is going to turn out. This is letting Satan (and by extension all the other “yeah there’s no such thing as good and evil, there’s no such thing as virtue, it’s easy for you to be good” types) see that they can be wrong. Job gets everything stripped away from him, is put under stress, and the ‘real’ Job that emerges is the same as the ‘fat and happy’ Job who put all his trust in God.

            In Hindu mythology/religion, there is the concept of Pariksha (a test or examination, also used in this meaning in ordinary life as for example sitting an exam) that devotees and ordinary people undergo, either by the gods or for other reasons. The famous one is the Agni Pariksha, or trial by fire, that Sita had to undergo to prove her chastity after being rescued from imprisonment by the demon Ravanna. However, later on Sita is exiled (because the common people of the kingdom still doubt her after spending all that time in another man’s house) and called upon once again to prove her chastity by undergoing another test, and she refuses and returns to Mother Earth. At least Job got his happy ending after the testing!

      • dndnrsn says:

        The scholarly debates are basically a fancier version of “hey, this story undermines itself!” I think Job is one of the places where the scholarly consensus requires relatively few tenuous bits where people sorta say “uh huuuuuh?”

        EDIT: Also, there is a Zeus-y edge to it. I think it’s relevant that some scholars think the prose intro/conclusion are based on an older folktale: older, “folksier” stuff is often supposed to be older. For some reason I’m remembering that some scholars think the amoral/weird miracle-type things that happen in Kings are older: folksy, amoral tales are supposedly a different beast from more literary, theological stuff.

        • Randy M says:

          I wonder if any of that comes from expecting ancient people to be less sophisticated than we are. A fable where everything made perfect sense and the message was perfectly consistent might have made for better propaganda (what biblical scholars seem to think the purpose was) but not matched reality as well and thus not been preserved as well.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think you’re right that there’s an expectation that less-literate cultures are less theologically inclined. But I think I’ve explained it poorly. It’s not that the earlier societies had stories that made less sense or were inconsistent. It’s that moralizing elements, stuff that exalts God more, etc can be a later theological element: the original stories feature a God who makes bets like that. Meanwhile, earlier people just cared less about that stuff. So some kids (JPS translation has “little boys”) made fun of Elisha and he sicced bears on them. So what?

            The God who shows up to say “hey you know what, why don’t you try and be Me, why don’t you try that, since you got all these criticisms, oh right, YOU CAN’T” is by this theory the product of a later tendency to have a God who is more majestic and removed from our experience. Even the betting stuff is fairly small potatoes by the standards of deities of the time.

            Couple this with the whiffs some scholars find (and/or imagine) of early polytheistic stuff, of the idea of God having once had to win a primordial victory, and you get some interesting (if wildly speculative) things going on. Unfortunately, the bits of Job that include the supposed primordial victory stuff are not in the folktale-seeming bit…

        • marshwiggle says:

          Agreed with Randy on the scholars thinking ancient people were less sophisticated.

          I’d like to come at this from a slightly different angle. I know Biblical scholars aren’t rationalists, but when we see an apparent contradiction in just about anything there’s two possibilities. One, there’s two opposing things there. Or two, one of our assumptions is false. What if wisdom literature is designed to question our assumptions precisely by presenting apparent contradictions? Seems like a thing it would do. But Biblical scholars aren’t exactly set up to question their own world view assumptions.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s possible, but it’s untenable for scholarship if any inconsistency in a document of a philosophical, etc bent could really be evidence of being intended to make the reader question their assumptions. At a minimum, one would need some indication that there was a tradition of this in Judaism – I have no idea whether there is or isn’t.

            I think there is an unfair assumption of simplicity of folktales, especially given that these were folktales written down later.

          • Aron Wall says:

            Whoever put Proverbs 26:4 and 26:5 right next to each other was clearly intending for the reader to directly notice and grapple with the contradiction. So that’s some evidence for deliberately posing paradoxes being a thing in the ancient Jewish wisdom tradition. Certainly Judaism does not seem to have a tendency to shun paradox, unlike other religious traditions I could mention.

            If believing that the ancients were sophisticated in this particular way undermines the methodology of biblical scholarship then… so much the worse for biblical scholarship?

            One problem with saying that the prose and poetry parts of Job were originally two separate accounts is that there’s nothing in the prose part of Job, as we have it, for 42:7 to refer to.

            To me this is the key verse in the entire book—God says that Job was justified in speaking as he did (even though he did so from a position of ignorance). And therefore, believers are justified in being honest about our actual grievances rather than thinking we sin unless we accede to pat justifications. It seems to me fairly obvious that the writer of the poetry section agreed with that judgement, i.e. that he was on Job’s side of the debate.

            Of course, you don’t really avoid such theological issues by saying that the prose and poetry were originally two separate documents. Because once you postulate a redactor who edited them together, then you can still ask what the redactor meant by combining them in a way that leads to an obvious paradox. Unless you want to say that the redactor simply didn’t notice the issue, but that seems too contemptuous of his intelligence.

            (In some ways this supports my point about Judaism. If there was a school of redactors who combined superficially inconsistent religious literature into books, then the theology of that school obviously believed that it was important to synthesize apparent contradictions rather than picking one side and dropping the other. And may I humbly suggest that, if we are asking big questions like “does virtue lead to happiness”, then it’s pretty obvious that both the yes side and the no side contain important insights that need to be combined if we’re going to match the data in the real world.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aron Wall

            1. The scholars who think that the story was originally one thing usually appeal to transmission errors being likelier for Job, due to complicated Hebrew-related reasons. So either way you’ve got a problem: either they were kinda mashed together, or there’s stuff missing that would reconcile the prose and the poetry.

            2. I think that, while it is true that Biblical scholars have a tendency to posit greater “development” with time, at the same time, the German Protestant Biblical scholarship tradition has a strong preference for earlier stuff: it’s very easy to read the foundational Biblical scholarship and come up with the comparison of cool, ethically-concerned prophets and lame, rules-and-purity-obsessed codifiers. (Similarly, a lot of them really seem to dislike Paul, viewing him as having sold out the message of Jesus.) Biblical scholars seem to prefer the poetic bits of Job, but frankly, it’s more interesting than a story about a guy who is tested and vindicated.

            2. So, this is an area out of my wheelhouse; the actual hardcore redaction criticism is above my pay grade and I did enough Hebrew to conclude that Hebrew is hard. The redactors definitely did know they were preserving multiple accounts of things, contradictions, etc. Possibilities I can come up with:

            a. they were, not more cool with paradox in some kinda Zen sense or something, but more cool with putting two different accounts there together. We might be the weird ones, overly concerned with determining the way things really happened. (We almost certainly are the weird ones.)

            For something dissimilar but arguably related: up until a certain point, it was completely normal to put historical scenes, scenes from the Bible, etc, in contemporary dress (and now if it happens it’s seen as having some greater significance – the stained glass window with Christ alongside men dressed as Canadian soldiers circa ~1918 while there’s been some attempt at historical accuracy in the other windows was paid for by the parents of some poor boy or multiple boys). Presumably Caravaggio knew that Christ wasn’t apprehended by soldiers wearing what some guy with a musket in his day would be wearing. (But I’m not an art historian and maybe it had special meaning intended actually.)

            b. it was really, really easy to screw up. I still make mistakes on a computer, touch typing. Imagine if you had to do everything with ink on paper, and probably paper and ink are more expensive. And your pen kinda sucks. And you don’t have electric light (which provides way more illumination than all but an impractical number of candles). There’s things for ease of reading which are more recent developments (it’s way easier to translate Greek or Hebrew from a nice modern scholarly printing than a papyrus withthewordsallrunningtogether.

            c. I don’t know very much about Jewish traditions and their history concerning the copying and handing down of the text and much in-depth scholarship about that; I spent more of my time on bits of the New Testament. You’re right that there has to be a reason for the two things being presented alongside each other; the scribal types who wrote and edited this stuff down weren’t dum-dums.

            On the other hand, the Biblical scholars weren’t/aren’t dum-dums either – I’m probably not doing a good enough job of presenting the more arcanely-derived bits. (One could also make the case that the professors share many of their virtues and vices with the folks who put the books together in the first place: there is a ton of scholarship in German that’s taken as basically foundational, or at a minimum you gotta respect it.)

    • S_J says:

      I find it interesting that these books are bundled together with Proverbs in the Wisdom literature.

      (It reminds me of the humorous stereotype, that three Jewish scholars can have a discussion and produce four different opinions on the subject of discussion.)

      The book of Ecclesiastes has a cynical edge, but it also has beautiful poetry. Chapter 3 is especially interesting, and has entered the popular culture of the 20th century in the form of a song.

      I think I’ve also mentioned elsewhere that the book of Job is an epic-style story. It is not linked closely to the historical parts of the Hebrew Bible. It tells a story in an epic-poem form. It refers to people who might be connected to the family of Abraham (detailed in the genealogies of Genesis), and it tells a story of a man who worshiped God in a style similar to Abraham. But it doesn’t deal with foundational cultural events or heroic military leaders. It is an epic-poem about…theological discussion.

    • theredsheep says:

      I tried reading Job once and found it unfathomable; Job and his interlocutors kept appearing to say the same things, yet still be in disagreement with each other. A corrupted manuscript would explain a lot there.

      • hls2003 says:

        Job is difficult, no question, but I have never read it as the interlocutors saying the same things in different ways. Job says “I am suffering without deserving it, God is punishing me unfairly, I demand God account to me for why.” His friends then state as a syllogism that (1) God only punishes the wicked, (2) Job is being punished, (3) therefore Job must have committed some wicked sin. Job protests that he has not, that he’s better than the wicked men around him (which appears true). His friends get progressively nastier and more personal and proceed to directly accuse Job of secret terrible sins, perverting justice, harming the poor, etc. The argument breaks down when Job calls God to witness an oath that he has no such specific sin-skeletons in his closet.

        One way of looking at it is that Job is saying “How could God do this, God should be righteous, and I know I am better than other men, many of the truly wicked don’t endure this kind of horrible suffering.” And Job is correct that he is better than other men – God in the end answers with incomprehensibility; he does not tell Job he is worse than other men, only that he is a man and cannot understand God’s ways. But the friends dispute Job by saying “Actually, you are worse than the truly wicked – we just don’t know how.” That is why God says the friends have not spoken rightly, as Job has. Job is correct that God is just; Job is correct that Job is not especially wicked; and the friends’ attempts to justify God by smearing Job are wrong.

        • theredsheep says:

          Idunno, I kept reading through the interminable conversation and thinking that they were all saying the same thing, viz. “God only makes bad things happen to bad people, so shut up.” I’m familiar with the broad outlines of the story, I just found actually reading it to be an unedifying experience.

          Perhaps I had a bad translation.

          • hls2003 says:

            Actually, Job spends a fair amount of time complaining that God does not make enough bad things happen to bad people – he opines that the wicked are often fat, happy, and prosperous.

      • Plumber says:

        @theredsheep

        “I tried reading Job once and found it unfathomable; Job and his interlocutors kept appearing to say the same things, yet still be in disagreement with each other. A corrupted manuscript would explain a lot there”

        Really? Job is the only book of the Bible that I’ve fully read, it just felt more cogent to me than the others I tried to read.

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      If I understand Robert Alter’s translation of Ecclesiastes correctly, he puts a much more Buddhist-seeming gloss on it: the author is framed as meditating on the ephemerality and meaninglessness of the material world. Thus the literalist translation of “havel havalim/hakkol hevel u re’ut ruach” as “merest breath/all is mere breath and herding the wind, and thus also the recasting of 9:11 and after: it’s not that the swiftest doesn’t always win the race because sometimes the underdog does instead, it’s that *nobody ever really wins because victory is meaningless,* because time and chance wipe out whatever illusory meaning victory might have.

    • Aging Loser says:

      Job represents the Jewish people / Am-Yisrael — that’s why he can’t himself be a Jew. The whole thing is a meditation on what has happened to the Jewish people and a repudiation of the typical (Christian) charge that the Jewish people were punished for their sins.

      Similarly, the speaker in pretty much every psalm is the Jewish people / Am-Yisrael — the psalms are absolutely not about the spiritual condition of “the individual.” They make no sense as expressions of an individual person’s suffering and hope (how many individual people are destroyed to the extent that the psalm-protagonist is typically destroyed?) and complete sense as expression of collective Jewish suffering and hope.

      Same with the Jonah story, by the way, which is evidently built up around the psalm that’s embedded in it — probably the story was constructed in order to make more literal sense of the psalm but still in a way the preserves the psalm-protagonist’s representative identity with the Jewish people as a whole.

      • Jaskologist says:

        What event are you referring to when you say “what has happened to the Jewish people”? It can’t be a Christian charge, because whenever you date Job to, it’s definitely BC.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Are we talking about later interpretation, or about initial context? Job couldn’t be a repudiation of a charge made by Christians, who didn’t exist yet. Plus, at a minimum, chunks of the Hebrew Bible come from a period before suffering and hope became the big thing: there was a period of, what, half a millenium or so where the big question wouldn’t be “why do these awful things keep happening, and somehow getting worse”.

        • acymetric says:

          a period before suffering and hope became the big thing: there was a period of, what, half a millenium or so where the big question wouldn’t be “why do these awful things keep happening, and somehow getting worse”.

          What a time to be alive!

      • bullseye says:

        I don’t follow. Why should a symbol of the Jewish people not be a Jew himself?

    • Aron Wall says:

      One argument for the book of Job being rather early is that the poetry sections contain many extremely archaic words. You mention this in your description, but maybe don’t quite convey the extent of the issue: I’ve been told that a large part of the book was left untranslated by the Septuagint because they couldn’t understand it.

      On the other hand, a lot of the dialogue between the friends seems to presuppose that a wisdom tradition similar to Proverbs is already in existence. One would naturally think that such a tradition would not first appear in the context of a dialogue where the proverbs are being “perverted” (either by being misused by Job’s friends or reused ironically by Job).

      “The Adversary” (or, “the Accuser” – Satan in Hebrew), part of God’s divine court, incites God against Job, saying that Job is pious only because life is good for him, and that if this wasn’t the case, he would blaspheme. God agrees with this,

      Agrees in the sense of allows Satan to intervene; I don’t think you meant to imply that God agrees with Satan about how Job will react.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I must admit that my limited Hebrew exposure is a hindrance. I did more Greek than Hebrew, and the New Testament is easier Greek than the Hebrew Bible is Hebrew – some parts of it are very easy indeed, and classicists make fun of people learning Common Greek (or at least, some classicists made fun of me in particular). I’m far better able to describe the character of a text in Greek than in Hebrew.

        (With regard to God and Satan, yeah, that God was agreeing to give him the power.)

        • marshwiggle says:

          Some parts of the Hebrew Bible really aren’t so hard to read. Job is very much not one of them. In Proverbs, grammar often goes out the window, but at least the individual words are still legal. Job not only has archaic stuff, it’s got lots of individual words that are either in some wacky dialect of Hebrew, so old the rules are different, or something that produces much the same results. For this reason I have not read Job, just English translations.

          Agreed that most of the NT is less elevated Greek than the Hebrew Bible is Hebrew. But think of all the wacky puns you miss not reading in the Hebrew.

  19. John says:

    I love fungi! I was once the youngest person to write a letter to the British Mycological Society. Perhaps I still am. My knowledge is pretty rusty, unfortunately. No, that’s not right. My knowledge of fungi is mouldy. I was thinking of my knowledge of metallurgy.* Anyway, twelve year old me would be appalled at how little I can recall.

    Fungi are closer to us biologically than they are to the plants, but unlike animals they spread their tissues across acres of decaying organic matter in damp forests, rather than being encased in one compact central body. These fragile mycelial threads communicate across great distances. No, not a mind, not the internet either, but something nonetheless. They can live for centuries and mass more than a whale.

    Given this habitat it should perhaps not be too surprising that they have developed some truly remarkable compounds to defend themselves in the bitter microscopic turf war that is their existence, compounds that humans can make good use of.

    *Could probably extend or alter this joke by talking about rusts on plants, which are fungal.

    • Elementaldex says:

      Do you have specific compounds in mind when you refer to humans making good use of them?

      • John says:

        The nootropics community has been singing the praises of lion’s mane supplements for quite some time now. Are they on[to] something?

        I think the anti-microbial and anti-viral potential of many fungal compounds is going to receive greater attention in coming years. Paul Stamets, undoubtedly the most famous of the fungal popularisers has a number of youtube videos on the potential of Agarikon and other species.

        Bear in mind that he is a bit of a showman and many of his claims are oversold and require further scrutiny. Take what he says with a big pinch of something that has good anti-fungal properties and could rid you of athlete’s foot.

        That said, I’m still a fan. If he can create a groundswell of interest in this field and increase the number of professional mycologists he will have done a very good thing.

    • achenx says:

      Could probably extend or alter this joke by talking about rusts on plants, which are fungal.

      Indeed, after moving to a house with juniper trees in the yard, I learned all about cedar-apple rust. What a bizarre life-cycle, though I take it not actually unusual for a fungus.

    • Well... says:

      I love fungi too, at least intellectually. (Not gastronomically.) I don’t know a lot about fungi but most of what I do know is from the In Our Time podcast episode about them. Fascinating stuff, and inspiring too.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      Do you expect there to be fungi in the deep biosphere? I’d assume, there’s not enough organic material down there, but since until recently we assumed there’d be close to none at all…
      Also, mushrooms talk to each other?
      Or are you referring to those yellow, jelly fungi (I don’t recall what their name was)?

    • Basil Elton says:

      Wow, I’ve just recently learned about prototaxites, which some say were fungi. Do you think it’s likely, and if yes why the hell would they need to be so huge – 8 meters tall – in the era when the biggest plant was waist-high?

      • Nornagest says:

        If Wikipedia’s right and it had algal symbiotes, then it would have got its energy through indirect photosynthesis. Then it could have formed vertical forests like true plants did later, and for the same reasons — to compete for light with similar organisms.

        Alternately, growing higher would have meant better spore dispersal, though that’s a bit more of a long shot.

        • Basil Elton says:

          Yeah, lichens competing for light is one option, but as I understand it remains highly controversial whether those things had symbiotic algae. And if they didn’t – is it such a great benefit to have better spore dispersal to justify the expenses? I mean, how big and far spreading a mycelium should be to support say one such thing, if it’s a plain fungus?

  20. Alexander the Great wanted to conquer all of India but was forced back because of low morale among his men. If it wasn’t for that, is there any reason to doubt that he could have done so?

    • Protagoras says:

      As I understand it, the predominant theory is that Alexander died as a result of infections produced by some of his numerous battle wounds. So there’s no reason keeping going with the fighting in India would have prolonged his life any, and in fact it would likely have shortened it. India did not have a unified government as Persia had had, so there wasn’t any one enemy he could defeat and bring the campaign to a close; he’d have to defeat a lot of petty states, which would unavoidably take time, possibly more than he had.

      If you extend his lifespan, his prospects improve some, but it would be very hard for him to bring reinforcements from home all the way to India. Replacing losses with local recruits would, over time, reduce the proportion of his troops that are Macedonian, and at some point having too few Macedonian troops and too many foreign troops would worsen loyalty and morale problems, so even if he’d averted the initial crisis that caused him to turn back, more would likely have arisen.

      • I’m not sure the local recruits would have been an insourmountable problem. Towards the end of his campaign, he accepted a batch a freshly trained Persians in to his army. There was some grumbling but his troops were still loyal to him. If he doesn’t die from infections/poison, then he was still a young, ambitious 33 year old who had plenty of time for deft maneuvering to take care of that problem.

        • Protagoras says:

          I know he used foreign troops, but that practice would have become more troublesome as the ratio of Macedonian to foreign troops shifted to fewer of the former and more of the latter.

          • I understand, I’m just saying I don’t think it was an insurmountable problem. Didn’t the Mongols increasingly use foreign troops in their army? They had a much larger empire with very few mongols relatively speaking. I don’t know if they had any serious problems but it didn’t seem to affect them terribly.

          • Protagoras says:

            Sure, Genghis Khan made it work. Impressive though Alexander was, he was not so impressive that “if the Great Khan could do it, he could do it” looks like a safe inference to me.

          • What was it about the Mongols that made it possible for them to have higher numbers of foreigners in their army but not the Macedonians?

          • broblawsky says:

            Mongol-style horse archers are almost unbeatable in a straight-up fight with the technology available at the time. If the conscript troops mutinied, the Mongols probably could’ve just slaughtered them.

          • @broblawsky:

            My impression is that the non-Mongol forces were mostly other groups of steppe nomads, also fighting as horse archers.

          • John Schilling says:

            Mongol-style horse archers are almost unbeatable in a straight-up fight with the technology available at the time.

            Linking to the other instance of that claim in this OT, for discussion of the rebuttal.

      • Don_Flamingo says:

        From what I understand, the Indians wouldn’t have been pushovers like the Persians were. Them being non-unified (and I’m assuming semi-constantly at war with each other) would have made them tough to beat on their own turf.
        After Alexander won against Porus his men were less than amused, because just that one petty state gave them a lot more resistance than they were used to and at this point willing to face (what’s the point of having conquered, when you just die trying to conquer more).

    • John Schilling says:

      If it wasn’t for a shortfall of the single most important thing in war, the one that successful military leaders agree is three times as important as everything else put together, [X] could have won more military victories than he did.

      True for all values of X.

      • I’m not saying I believe that low morale is something that can be glossed over. I don’t think there’s a scenario where he could have kept going. I’m saying that if you look at the resources available to him along with his own strategic thinking and imagine that troop morale was higher, how does that compare to the states of India?

      • fion says:

        single most important thing in war, the one that successful military leaders agree is three times as important as everything else put together

        I’m intrigued by this and I wonder how literally you mean it. Your point is that morale is very important, and I can believe it’s more important than I’d expect, but is there any meaningful sense by which we can say it’s more important than other factors?

        • suntzuanime says:

          It hasn’t really been true since the introduction of the machine gun, but in premodern warfare Bravery was *the* stat. Formations were strong, individual soldiers were weak, so battles were about scaring the enemy soldiers into breaking formation and massively reducing their strength. And having your formation fearlessly charged is really scary, so it was an offensive weapon as well.

        • John Schilling says:

          I was mostly riffing on Napoleon, but he wasn’t just pulling the number out of thin air.

          Very few armies retain much useful combat strength after even 20% material losses, and usually break well before that point. If you know how to make your army be the one that endures until 20% losses, and you know how to make the enemy be the one that breaks at 5%, then you can expect to defeat an army 2-4x the size of your own, depending on which version of the Lanchester equations you are using.

          And yes, this works even in the modern era. You just substitute “scare the enemy into breaking formation” to “scare the enemy into hiding at the bottom of their foxholes, each one content to leave the fighting to the rest”. Formations made it easier to handle morale, because it is immediately obvious to both commander and comrade-in-arms who is not doing their part.

          • fion says:

            That’s very interesting; thanks for the explanation.

            (By the way, your link to the Lanchester equations appears to just direct to this thread. It’s easily googleable, though, so no worries. 🙂 )

  21. anonymousskimmer says:

    I tried resposting four comments (as quotes within one comment) from a 119.25 thread in order to show context and continue the conversation here, and it got marked as Spam. Is this because I tried adding the following link to the conversation, or is it because reposting in this manner is frowned upon and someone clicked report?

    (The original thread is about the US Constitution, original intent, etc…)

    Original thread: https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/01/16/open-thread-119-25/#comment-712702

    • Erusian says:

      Original poster here. My point, supported by the fact that the Founders told us their intentions, is countered with that they may have been lying. You then go on to say that if something is ambiguous, we must presume we cannot know the Founder’s intent. We then presumably may insert our own, as you argue for.

      Frankly, you have an issue. We have mountains of evidence on our side and you have an innovative definition you thought up recently and that contradicts how it was understood at the time and all times until your innovation. You’re desperately reaching to make evidence irrelevant by constructing a world where there can be no evidence at all and all interpretations of any ambiguity are allowed.

      But nothing can change the fact we have evidence and you do not. You can make an epistemic argument about what evidence is or how we even know anything at all. This might make you a great philosopher. But it makes you a poor lawyer.

      You also make the absurd claim that nothing in the US system privileges precedent. The US is a Common Law system, except for Lousiana. The Supreme Court itself uses common law precedent principles on its decisions.

      • brad says:

        Who told you his intention? A handful out of dozens of drafters? And even if you had all the drafters they exercised no sovereignty whatsoever, not even the delegated kind. They were mere proposal makers. The act of sovereignty were the ratifications held in the states. It was the ratifiers and what they believed they were agreeing to that matters, not the inappropriately capitalized (and quasi-deified) founders, which is in the end largely just Hamilton and Madison.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          what they believed they were agreeing to that matters

          Is this a consistent legal principle? I was under the impression that if you misunderstand a contract you’re SoL

          • brad says:

            First, I should say that this is assuming the contractarian view of constitutional legitimacy. I have mixed feelings about that and texualism in general, but for this discussion it clearly fits.

            Secondly, in both cases (contract and constitution) if the text itself is clear that’s it. It’s only in cases of ambiguity that the understandings of the parties come into play. In the case of a contract, the parties are the people that signed the contract (not the lawyers that drafted it!). In the case of the constitution it is the ratifiers that matter, hence original public meaning, not the drafters (Founders, peace be upon them).

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Ah yeah, I’m not meaning to contest the constitutional aspect too strongly (not necessarily agreeing but it’s outside my expertise and is at the least an interesting take I hadn’t encountered before).

            More curious about whether contract law actually worked that way. I guess the issue there would be that contracts which are arcane to regular shlubs – but “clear” to lawyers – are also clear to judges?

          • brad says:

            Contract law gets fairly complicated, fairly quickly. There’s something called an integration clause (https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/integration_clause) that is put into every professionally drafted contract. There’s the parol evidence rule (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parol_evidence_rule). There’s the UCC that, among other things, provides “gap fillers” for contracts it governs. There’s rules about industry customs and practice, and how that sheds light on ambiguous provisions, etc, etc, etc.

            But to your question, ambiguous and unambiguous is judged “objectively”, which means in practice that they aren’t concerned about the understandings of shlubs.

        • Erusian says:

          Who told you his intention? A handful out of dozens of drafters?

          The people who occupied leadership positions within the group and actually drafted the law. Of course, this is irrelevant because I do not need to have every single person for my interpretation to be stronger. I have more than you, who have none, and that is sufficient.

          If I have exactly one person explaining their intentions to me, no matter how dubious, and you have zero, then I have more evidence for my interpretation than you. This principle applies not only to Founding Fathers but, for example, the people who wrote laws last year. Or in the 1950s.

          What is your argument precisely? We do not know the secret thoughts of every person who voted to ratify a bill so we are free to interpret any ambiguity however we please?

          And even if you had all the drafters they exercised no sovereignty whatsoever, not even the delegated kind. They were mere proposal makers. The act of sovereignty were the ratifications held in the states.

          Here you equivocate between the Founding Fathers and the drafters for some reason. The two groups are not equivalent. But yes, the arguments in the Federalist Papers are relevant because they were advanced to the people who ratified the document. Of course, the bar for this has sometimes been much lower. The entire concept of Separation of Church and State comes out of Jefferson’s letters.

          It was the ratifiers and what they believed they were agreeing to that matters, not the inappropriately capitalized (and quasi-deified) founders, which is in the end largely just Hamilton and Madison.

          Yes, therefore it might be relevant to see what the Ratifiers were told to influence their ultimate decision. Reading people who ratified it, as many of the Founding Fathers did cast such votes, also helps.

          And on a petty but revealing note: ‘Founding Fathers’ is a proper noun and is thus properly capitalized. It is not a particular mark of respect. The All Union Communist Party and the Nationalist Socialist Workers Party both require similar capitalization. I do not know why you keep returning to this point. Or why you keep accusing me of deifying them. You seem to have some unique objection to them. Something that drives you to object to basic rules of grammar when you feel it gives them respect.

          • brad says:

            Of course, this is irrelevant because I do not need to have every single person for my interpretation to be stronger. I have more than you, who have none, and that is sufficient.

            No it isn’t. We don’t need intent to begin with. You have what you believe is intent and you are using that to bootstrap a need for it.

            We have the plain text, we have the shared context, we have the teachings of our nation’s history, we don’t need Jefferson’s letters. They have no bearing on the meaning of the Constitution.