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Open Thread 120.25

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

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727 Responses to Open Thread 120.25

  1. Uribe says:

    Warning: Old man rant

    Does Hollywood have any idea what it is doing? I love to see movies in theaters. Seeing a good movie in a theater is one of my favorite things in life, yet I haven’t enjoyed seeing a movie in a theater in at least 5 years. The movies don’t seem like movies anymore. Maybe I’m just old.

    One problem is I can’t stand most CGI. All I see is the Green Screen. The action doesn’t look like real action to my eyes. I wish CGI had gone the direction of trying to fool our senses into thinking we were seeing something real, instead it has gone the direction of making things look ridiculous and requiring ever more suspension of disbelief from the audience. When I’m an audience member, I’m lazy, I want the movie to do the work, not me. Otherwise, why am I at a fucking theater?

    • AnonYemous2 says:

      warning: young man response

      cgi works fine to me I guess, as someone who grew up on cartoons something being cartoonish isn’t necessarily disqualifying to me and I often can’t tell CGI from reality anyways

      • as someone who grew up on cartoons something being cartoonish isn’t necessarily disqualifying to me

        It’s more when things look cartoonish in a world that doesn’t. Unless you are trying to make Roger Rabbit, an explicit existential detective comedy, it stands out in a way that negatively effects the tone. I even have this problem with cartoons themselves, particularly anime, where one element will be CGI and it completely clashes.

        If everything is all CGI like Pixar movies then that’s great. It looks like a cohesive world even if it’s a totally unreal and fantastical one. It doesn’t really matter how “good” the CGI is in this case, because that’s relative to the world, hence the first Toy Story movie still holds up visually.

        I often can’t tell CGI from reality anyways

        When this happens then CGI is good. I think CGI has a higher bar for many people than practical effects, because even when a practical effect looks fake, you get a better sense of the physical craft that went into making it (though making CGI is a lot of work in reality), and even when it looks fake it only fails at being what thing it is supposed to be, while retaining a realness in that it is a physical object, whereas CGI can fail on a level where it doesn’t look like anything that could ever exist.

        So when CGI works well it’s seamless and great and allows you to do things you couldn’t*, but when it doesn’t work, it’s horrible. At least to me.

        *One of the reasons I don’t complain as much about CGI as I used to is that we’ve now got to a point where the majority of it does look that good.

    • sentientbeings says:

      Re: CGI, I agree with your sentiment, but you might consider that in some cases there is more CGI than you realize, but you didn’t notice the subtler CGI that did adequately fool your senses.

      If you do a web search for “subtle movie CGI” you can find examples that illustrate the point.

    • Tarpitz says:

      I actually think this year was stunningly good for films, though I’m also not generally a big fan of CGI action flicks. What kind of movies do you like?

    • Björn says:

      Hollywood is all in on super duper triple A event movies. The example everyone wants to imitate is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which creates a shitton of money for Disney. So everyone is trying to turn their own brands into money printing machines, which leads to things like the Hobbit trilogy, the Fantastic Beasts Movies, the third Star Wars trilogy and its spin-offs, the DC universe, and other brand milking attempts that fail right at the start like the Mummy or the Ghostbusters reboot.

      I’m not saying all those films are bad, but they are characterised by an insane budget and the attempt to create the ultimate genre movie with the most spectacle. This makes those movies rather generic, since spectacle is maximised by having the heroes fight someone who wants to destroyr the world, and the budget makes it a CGI fest. I read that the reason the CGI always looks so samey is that there are not many companies that can handle triple A CGI, so the same designers keep creating similar designs. That CGI always looks “weightless” sure doesn’t help.

      A side effect of this development is that Hollywood does not like to fund movies with a middle sized budget any more, which is why David Lynch for example does not make movies any more. And even if they do, they don’t market them like they used to. Or do you remember the last film by David Cronenberg or Martin Scorsese?

      • Tarpitz says:

        One of the big critical and commercial hits of this year was A Star is Born, a classic mid-budget movie aimed at English-speaking adults. I very much hope it wins Best Picture (it’s only my third-favourite film of the year, but the other two aren’t nominated), but more than that, I hope it sparks a resurgence in making films in that bracket. They’re sorely missed.

        • Deiseach says:

          One of the big critical and commercial hits of this year was A Star is Born, a classic mid-budget movie aimed at English-speaking adults.

          Which is a 2018 remake of the 1976 musical version remake of the 1954 remake of a 1937 original, and that’s not counting a Bollywood version from 2013 (so Wikipedia informs me).

          That doesn’t really come down in the scale pan of “original new content” but rather “doing what the studios are doing with the Marvel universe movies – taking a solid hit and remaking it until the cow has been so milked dry it up and dies”. To be fair, horror franchises got there first on that one.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Yes, but it’s a remake of a remake of a remake that cost roughly $40m. The point is that movies of that approximate budget are now extremely rare where they used to be very common, because received Hollywood wisdom is that that kind of film can’t make any money. This one made a lot of money, which may lead to more such movies getting made.

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        I definitely remember the last film by Martin Scorsese. Silence was one of the most memorable films I’ve seen in the last few years.

    • Plumber says:

      @Uribe

      “Does Hollywood have any idea what it is doing? I love to see movies in theaters. Seeing a good movie in a theater is one of my favorite things in life, yet I haven’t enjoyed seeing a movie in a theater in at least 5 years”

      I tried to think of the last “Hollywood movie” that I thought was good, and I realized it was Saving Private Ryan which was from 1998.

      I thought that The Fellowship of the Ring from 2001 was okay, but 2002’s The Two Towers just seemed off somehow, and I left the theater before watching all the of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, as what I did watch of it induced a headache.

      I actually made a list of the films that most impressed me and I saw that my two favorite years for movies are 1940 (His Girl Friday, The Grapes of Wrath,The Great Dictator, The Sea Hawk, and The Thief of Bagdad), and 1981 (Dragonslayer, Excalibur, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Road Warrior, and Time Bandits)

      • baconbits9 says:

        I tried to think of the last “Hollywood movie” that I thought was good, and I realized it was Saving Private Ryan which was from 1998.

        This is what came to mind for me last night as well.

        • herbert herberson says:

          no love for Fury Road?

          • Plumber says:

            @herbert herberson

            “no love for Fury Road?”

            I haven’t seen it, but I’ve read favorable reviews.

          • cassander says:

            here’s a video of a bunch of the scenes from Mad Max pre-CGI side by side with the finished scene from the movie. In most big action movies, you’ll see a few people in mo-cap suits on a minimal, stationary set on a green screen, and all the scene is added in post. In Fury Road, the post scenes are usually just the pre-scene with a lot of color correction and some background filled in.

      • John Schilling says:

        I count both Dunkirk and The Martian as very good A-list blockbuster movies with a heavy visual component. Dunkirk is noteworthy for its limited and very well integrated CGI work, and The Martian of course used CGI to depict a literally unearthly environment.

        I’m with XKCD on the unlikelihood of The Martian , and of course Dunkirk was greenlit on the basis of “I’m Christopher F. Nolan and this is the movie I want to make next”; these aren’t the sort of films Hollywood will usually make.

        And I agree with the general sentiment that an excess of CGI in what is supposed to be the real world(*) is usually unappealing. There’s stuff in real world that CGI has never come close to matching, and I’ve spent enough time in the Big Blue Room to have seen enough of it to know the difference.

        * Yes, this means you, MCU. One of the central conceits of comic-book superheroes is that they are supposed to live in a world that’s just like ours, the better to make for wish-fulfillment fantasy. But I’ll make a partial exception for e.g. the Asgardian scenes of the Thor movies, where the CGI worked much better.

        • Deiseach says:

          The Martian should have been the sort of movie I’d love, but I dislike Matt Damon/Ben Affleck (singly and collectively) so much that seeing him cast in the part killed all desire on my part to see it.

          Ben Affleck is also why I’ve avoided the new Batman movies, on top of the mess the DC universe movies have generally been, and the steaming mess the Batman adaptations turned into after Tim Burton’s re-imagining. The first Burton one was good, the second was spotty, and they should have left it alone after that but of course they couldn’t, this was a potential cash cow. (I do think Batman & Robin hurt Alicia Silverstone’s career and that she had to work hard to get back to the level of box-office appeal she had before that).

    • albertborrow says:

      The reason you see CGI is because you see bad CGI. It’s not that they’ve abandoned fooling you’re eyes, it’s that they’ve actually fooled your eyes, and have since moved on to greener pastures. That having been said, maybe the problem is that you’re watching action movies, instead of, you know, straight up comedy or drama films. Of course a big-budget action film is going to blow your suspension of disbelief out the window if you don’t want to be fooled by big-budget special effects.

      And that isn’t to say that action films have gone the way of the toilet either – movies like John Wick rely almost exclusively on practical effects, choreography, and the kind of light CGI that characterized nineties films. (like gunfire)

    • fion says:

      Have you been to many independent cinemas? There’s lots of films getting made that aren’t Hollywood, and some of them are very good. The big cinemas tend to show mostly Hollywood blockbusters, but small cinemas are often better at showing a bigger variety of films.

  2. sentientbeings says:

    I had a conversation at a bar last night about economics. It left me with a low opinion of my interlocutor and it continues to bother me. In short, we had a disagreement about what economics is about, but there’s a bit more to it. The wall of text version follows.

    For context, I was with a group of libertarian or libertarian-ish people. I was speaking to someone I’d met for the first time, who had made a comment I found intriguing. She said something to the effect that she was libertarian-ish because she believed in the efficacy of markets.

    I thought I could have an interesting conversation with her about her thoughts behind the remark and as well as a particular pet topic I like to discuss with people who have an interest in economics. I quickly learned that she is early in her career as an economist, but I never got to the second topic because we got into a disagreement that I find baffling.

    In a sense, the disagreement was over what economics is about, or the scope of its application, or what markets are. It wasn’t a pedantic dispute about better or preferred definitions, or a judgment about something being more essential, or really anything along those lines.

    Obviously, there is a risk in a noisy bar that people might simply misunderstand one another, so I asked a few questions to clarify and also tried rephrasing things myself. What I found was that she thinks of economics as being only about formal markets (as in financial markets and markets for goods and services) and also thinks that economic principles are only in play for explicit financial transactions (or something in the vicinity of that characterization). I said that economics is very much about human behavior, and that economic principals and things like market forces are relevant in all sorts of human behavior.

    Note that I wasn’t talking about some niche, obscure behavioral economics topic, or saying that economics needs to be rigidly defined in a way involving the words “human behavior,” or saying that economics provides a TOE for human interaction. I thought I couldn’t possibly have understood her correctly, so I offered simple points for clarification, saying, for example, that economic principles apply in exchanges between people whether or not a larger, formalized market exists.

    I tried out a few totally uncontroversial statements like that and she insisted I that was incorrect, at which point I felt an awful lot like Mugatu.

    Eventually she accused me of being mean, so I apologized for the phantom grievances and found a better conversation partner.

    The reason I’m posting this story here, aside from a meager attempt at catharsis, is that I was really disconcerted by the whole conversation. The dispute was not along the lines of “I prefer to think of economics as being focused more on [behavior|real-world markets|whatever]”. Her position was very much that human behavior was out of scope of the field or its applications. I would never expect someone to go with that sort of characterization after the first day of economics class, let alone into employment. It seems utterly nonsensical and felt out of place coming from someone who I judged otherwise reasonable.

    Have I badly misjudged people’s perception of economics? Are there any plausible ways to dissolve or explain the disagreement? Have you ever encountered a similar, baffling disagreement about a subject you and your interlocutor (supposedly) know reasonably well? Am I taking crazy pills? Is she? What in the world is going on here?

    • Incurian says:

      What school did she go to?

      • sentientbeings says:

        I am not sure, but she’s from abroad. That’s the best thing I’ve come up with as a potential way to reconcile it (maybe taught with a different focus), but it doesn’t seem like nearly enough because you just can’t escape certain subject matter.

    • AnonYemous2 says:

      how could economics be about explicit financial transactions – a human behavior – and not be about human behavior

      she’s probably just a dogmatic libertarian who has a hard-on for markets or something (?). Even I’m confused by this though.

      • sentientbeings says:

        how could economics be about explicit financial transactions – a human behavior – and not be about human behavior

        I’m glad I’m not the only one perplexed by that.

        Not a dogmatic libertarian, though. Libertarian-lite, maybe only libertarian-leaning.

      • baconbits9 says:

        If your view is that economics is a tool for measuring outcomes you could argue that it is only suitable for measuring financial transactions and not transactions that weren’t denominated in measurable units like dollars.

    • brad says:

      I don’t want to put words in your or her mouth, so I’ll just go ahead and ask the question that was lurking in the back of my mind when I read this. Did you or were you trying to move the conversation to talking about applying economic principles to sexual relationships?

      • sentientbeings says:

        No problem with asking, but no, not remotely.

        What I actually wanted to talk about was information theory/computer science-related topics as the underlying reasons why markets work so well (I think it’s an interesting topic area that gets neglected). If I had gotten to the topic, I would have described markets using a sort of different framework of abstraction than is usually used (but not unheard of), so I might have expected some resistance there. But I never made it to the topic. The disagreement was around things that I would consider entirely uncontroversial, A-B-C’s level, sky-is-blue kind of stuff.

        • Tenacious D says:

          That does sound like an interesting topic area.

        • brad says:

          I agree with Tenacious D, sorry for the implication.

          • Deiseach says:

            It’s not an unreasonable question to ask, given that the immediate thing that might come to a woman’s mind in that situation was “so you’re saying you’re only talking to me in order to get into my pants: you are paying in the coin of attention to buy access to me” if you chirp up about everything being an economic transaction.

    • sentientbeings says:

      I just remembered the bit of conversation that led to our disagreement and my attempts to figure out her concept of economics and markets. She said something positive about open source software (that I agreed with) but that indicated to me she probably had some common misconceptions about it.

      No, folks, I didn’t launch into, “Actually….”

      Instead I decided to point her in the direction of a far more knowledgeable and capable person in the hope she’d clear them up on her own, so I recommended The Cathedral and the Bazaar and said a thing or two about ESR.

      What got me in hot water was when a moment later I said something like, “market forces are still in play even in the context of large collaborative projects like open source software.” I was just about to mention a similar style of collaboration, Wikipedia, and how Jimmy Wales credits Hayek’s The Pretense of Knowledge
      as partially inspiring Wikipedia, then use Hayek’s speech as a segue into my target topic about distributed information processing. My interlocutor objected to my remark about market forces still being in play, insisting that couldn’t be, which led to what I thought were careful attempts to figure out her perspective.

      • 10240 says:

        “Market forces are in play” is pretty vague. It would make it clearer what you mean if you gave some examples of what sort of market forces you mean, or what situations can be described with models similar to more conventional markets.

        • sentientbeings says:

          It’s intended to be broad rather than vague, but yes, I see your point. My intention was to provide examples, but we never got that far.

          She did briefly try a line of conversation that – I’m guessing – was geared at conveying a point like “typical models don’t apply when the marginal cost of an additional unit is effectively zero,” but I couldn’t hear her very well at that point (which I told her), so I can’t be sure. I wouldn’t have objected to that, and I was taking pains to make sure we weren’t miscommunicating.

          A less charitable way to interpret that bit of the conversation was that she tried to play a “technobabble confusion” strategy on me. About when I mentioned I couldn’t hear her well, she asked “How many economics degrees do you have?” I assumed based on her age that she didn’t have a PhD and that based on the question she probably had a master’s. On the other hand, I think she dropped the point when I responded “one,” so…

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      Some people aren’t very smart. And some people just aren’t intellectually curious. They uncritically take what their professors tell them (or think they tell them). It’s not really worth worrying about what they think once they prove they’re not honestly seeking truth.

    • The obvious people to point at for your position are Gary Becker and James Buchanan, both of whom got economics Nobel prizes for applying economics outside of the normal framework of markets and financial transactions.

    • baconbits9 says:

      My Father in Law and I have very similar political/economic positions and I recently promised myself that I would stop discussing those topics with him because it frequently turns into disagreement, typically heated, far more than you would expect from a Vehn Diagram of our positions.

      Some combinations of personalities discussing subjects just don’t work. Maybe it was her, maybe its you, maybe its just you + her.

      • Deiseach says:

        Given that there seem to be several schools of economists all with different solutions to the same problems, maybe there isn’t One True Only Sole Explanation in economics for everything, so how about “this was two people with differing views of the matter” rather than anything else?

        Let’s not all pile on the silly girl for not seeing the obvious truth here, okay?

        • baconbits9 says:

          I don’t think I was piling on, I was making a statement that perhaps the disagreement occurred because of the way their personalities meshed (or didn’t in this case) which caused the inability to come to an agreement.

      • sentientbeings says:

        Some combinations of personalities discussing subjects just don’t work. Maybe it was her, maybe its you, maybe its just you + her.

        I think that this explanation is ultimately the one that makes most sense. It didn’t seem to be a problem when we had at least one other person in a conversation, but I think this particular conversation was the only one we had one-on-one.

        @Deiseach, I tried to convey in my original comment it wasn’t a One True Way sort of thing. I think that, no matter my attempts to clarify during the conversation, we might have had the situation that @baconbits9 describes. Maybe when you’re stuck in a situation of not speaking the same language, so to speak, attempts at clarification just sink you further in the way acquiring more information that is systematically biased can.

        I think I’ll just avoid one-on-one conversations with her in the future.

  3. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    Ran my first session as DM yesterday! What a blast. Felt much more natural sitting behind the screen than actually playing the game. 5 players, 5E. For most of the players, it was their first or one of their first sessions. So, naturally, they ended up nearly getting wrecked by the city guard for just being idiots, but they managed to pull their act together long enough to not all end up in the jail.

    Only one problem player thus far, kind of the person I anticipated it would be. He essentially wants to be a chaotic evil sorcerer, who isn’t too
    evil, just steals things, and wants to deliberately avoid the plot hooks to just play charisma shenanigans instead. So he managed to convince the Captain of the Guard that he works on behalf of the King. I did tell the player that the Captain of the Guard instantly fan-girled on a representative of the King, but I don’t think he yet realizes that the Captain is going to tell EVERYONE that the King’s hand is in town, and the Duke definitely, definitely, definitely knows what the ACTUAL hand looks like.

    Pre-generated list of names…very handy.

    • Incurian says:

      That’s a very clever way of dealing with your problem player. I was going to suggest dangling hooks specifically for him that allow him to be silly but don’t go anywhere, but your method is much better.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Being a GM’s a lot of fun, isn’t it? My biggest tip: if you aren’t already, keep lots of notes.

      Also, sounds more like CN than CE.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      TALK TO HIM BEFORE ONE OF YOU STOPS HAVING FUN.

      AS A DM YOU CONTROL THE LOGIC OF THE WORLD, AND WHEN YOU AND YOUR PLAYERS ARE NOT ON THE SAME PAGE REGARDING HOW THE WORLD WILL REACT TO THEIR ACTIONS, ONE PARTY WILL OFTEN START TO FEEL LIKE THEY’RE LOSING CONTROL AND BEING JERKED AROUND.

      YOU CANNOT GAMIFY THIS KIND OF FEEDBACK BECAUSE THIS IS A QUESTION OF WHETHER AND WHAT SORT OF UNDERLYING LOGICS EXIST IN THE WORLD OF THE GAME. IF YOU WANT TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK WITHIN THAT FRAMEWORK YOU NEED TO MAKE SURE HE UNDERSTANDS HOW HE CAN EXPECT HIS ACTIONS TO PLAY OUT IN THE GAME WORLD FIRST.

      This is the zeroth law of DMing. Neglect it at your peril.

  4. With current technology, is it possible to build a program that could listen to someone whistling a tune and identify the song? If not, is it something that could plausibly be done if someone worked hard on it for the next few years? Or is it something that is far beyond the capabilities of current technology?

    • tossrock says:

      Yes, it’s possible, and indeed basically already exists. Soundhound supports humming input, and could probably work for whistling too. It’s not super accurate, especially for less popular tunes, but it exists.

  5. thepenforests says:

    I don’t know if this belongs more in the classified thread, or what, but: are there any software engineers here at SSC who do model-based design work for control systems (like say, designing systems in Simulink/SCADE)?

    If so, I’d love to pick your brain. I now work in an adjacent field, and information about how industrial control system design actually works in practice would be pretty much invaluable to me.

    (This is maybe a long shot, but with the commentariat here being what it is, who knows?)

    • toastengineer says:

      I’d like to hear more about this topic as well. Control systems are fascinating.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I’m a not-software engineer with limited controls systems experience. Enough to have developed a “toy” system, not enough to have built one in an industrial setting.

    • sentientbeings says:

      Count me as another guy who is interested in a response. I don’t work as an engineer, let alone in controls, but I rocked that subject back in college. Fascinating subject and it’s one of those ones that gives you another framework for looking at lot of things in the world. Plus, whenever you get a system working it feels so damn satisfying.

  6. savebandit says:

    Something I’ve been wondering about recently.

    Does anybody else work in a company where one of the departments suffers from “regulatory capture”, for lack of a better word? I’ll use a fake example. Say there’s a company where a department is supposed to be the experts on shipping logistics. 10 years ago, shipping logistics software came out, and the industry changed. Before, a bunch of math whizzes calculated the optimal way to get goods off a ship and onto trucks for distribution. Now, the same department is staffed with a bunch of generic b-school grads whose job is to take shipment data and run it through their shipping logistics software.

    You are an employee in a department which frequently has detailed questions about shipping logistics. The department, which was useful before, has to call up the shipping logistics software company to answer your questions. About half the time, they get a sales rep, who answers the question, but also takes the opportunity to sell the shipping logistics department new software.

    Shipping logistics software costs have ballooned, since the software company has you over a barrel. Changing shipping logistics software companies is politically unfeasible (the employees of that department don’t know shipping logistics, they know specific software, and will fight tooth and nail to stave off change). Additionally, every time they have a question, they get sold on new software to answer it, so you rely on this company for more things than you might think.

    How do you wean your way off the shipping logistics software company? Is there even a way to do so? Also, is there a name for this phenomenon? Regulatory capture is the only term which seems to fit, but it’s not perfect.

    • Walter says:

      I’ve seen that sort of thing. Someone automates a job out of existence, only for the drones who used to do that to hang onto their employment as the ones who operate the software that does the job that they used to do.

      I’ve heard ‘brain drain’ described as it, when a company loses its startup guys and hires dilberts, but that’s not quite right. The important time was when the experts left and the guys who only know how to obey their contractors appeared, but it would have been described as an upgrade at the time, and if your crew had the knowledge necessary to fight that label they’d have been smart enough to not do it.

      As far as getting off of them, good luck. You are trying to create a new department, from the ground up, to do what you ostensibly rely on an existing crew does. This is a recognized bureaucratic war move, and since you guys work and they don’t they have more time for that stuff than you. I think you have to capitulate here, or follow the experts out the door.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Fire your shipping logistics team and hire a bunch of new ones. Your new software company will be happy to arrange training for all your new employees to get your business.

      • cassander says:

        This is the correct solution, but it’s one that’s difficult to implement because you need your shipping to keep on going to make your money. Plus, you need to tie all your other software (purchasing, billing, sales, what have you) into it. It’s almost always easier just to kick the can down the road than to take the medium term hit today.

    • honoredb says:

      It’s a kind of “vendor lock-in”, if you’re looking for a Google-able term. And in my experience the only way to escape is to build a new “shadow” logistics department from scratch with a different culture, and find ways of gradually cutting over (e.g. new projects use the new department), until you can build up the political will to actually allocate resources to migrating everything to the new department.

    • dick says:

      I’m not sure I’ve captured the essence of the thing you’re describing, but I think I’m familiar with this, and the way it gets solved (or at least, the way you find out about the problem) is that a relatively junior person, probably a recent hire, in the shipping logistics department tells a colleague they’re friendly with from another part of the company, “I feel embarrassed because what we do really isn’t very good – I think we could save a ton of money just by scripting out some of this stuff, but my boss isn’t even interested!”

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Not really sure I’m following, because this is alien to my experience with major companies. The drones don’t survive the software rollouts. The software rollouts normally automate away the drones’ jobs. The kind of work done to figure out how to ship stuff in the absence of shipping software is grunt work. The reason why you can’t find someone in the shipping department to find out how the programs work is because that’s not what they are paid to do. You need to find the applications analysts who are dedicated to supporting that business unit. THEY are the ones who are supposed to know how the stuff works.

      But this might be about really small companies, because the idea that I can just ask a software vendor to sell me new stuff is….odd. That’s, like, a multi-year project that needs to get scoped out and approved by lots of people.

      • savebandit says:

        So, this is an unsexy industry where starting a tech company requires lots of inside knowledge that you’re unlikely to get without working at a more traditional company first. So, there isn’t much competition in this space. The software rollout happened about a decade ago, the low-level people have been forced out, and the people who are left have senior titles (despite still basically being button-pushers rather than strategic people). The department is also still titled “Shipping logistics”, not “Department for running our shipping logistics software”, which leads to people assuming they can just redirect you to them for questions about shipping logistics.

        The seniority of the people who are left means that they have a wide latitude to approve purchases. The fact that the software revolution was about a decade ago means that the senior people now were just really good button-pushers who have sufficiently proved their loyalty to the company. The fact that no one else needs to ask them really detailed shipping logistics questions means that it is not common knowledge that they’re basically just a thin layer of bureaucracy on top of the software company.

        To my knowledge, they don’t have any supporting analysts.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I’m not sure if I’m familiar with this from inside companies, but certainly I’ve seen the downgrading of personnel when I’ve been a customer. Bank employees don’t know how to calculate an amortization schedule, or truly even understand a discount rate; they just ask the computer. Healthcare billings people have no idea what their fees are; they only know after it’s been billed (healthcare fees are so complicated that even if the billings dept mistakenly hired a genius, they wouldn’t know how to do it). Similarly, grocery clerks have no idea what their prices are — they can only tell you after they’ve rung it up.

      I think a separate process you are talking about is companies held hostage by software companies. This I have seen from the inside. In this case, the bigger the company is, the worse the problem, because of the more complicated systems. We’ve all seen those companies that have losses so great they have to make separate disclosures on their financials of their great losses. In my experience every single company spends enormous amounts of money when they make large software changes, and inevitably things don’t work near as well as planned. The ones who don’t have to disclose are just a little better off than the ones that do. So firms are very aware of their dependence on software. And much software requires a commitment that you can’t easily back away from. This gives the software companies enormous leverage once they’ve made a sale.

  7. Hoopyfreud says:

    Question about perception/intent:

    Of the quotes below, which (if any) should I understood as hostile to me – not in the sense of actively wishing me harm, but in the sense of “I think we’d [for any value of we, from the speaker’s point of view] be better off if you went away, died, and/or never existed?”

    America’s greatness did not stem from Latin immigration, but mostly from European and Asian immigration.

    Diversity is an active negative, not a positive and therefore immigration should be zeroed out.

    [I support] Immigration restriction; there might be a genetic component to IQ

    For reference, I’m a 1.5-th generation Mexican immigrant. I came to the country as an infant.

    • Plumber says:

      @Hoopyfreud,

      The first quote is dubious, the second quote is actively hostile, the third quote is two unrelated statements that look like gibberish to me when they’re side-by-side.

      • bullseye says:

        I think the third quote means that immigrants are genetically inferior and we should keep them out to protect our national IQ. I would interpret it as hostile.

        • Plumber says:

          @bullseye

          “I think the third quote means that immigrants are genetically inferior and we should keep them out to protect our national IQ. I would interpret it as hostile”

          Ah, that makes sense.

          To me “IQ” smells of hereditary castes and exists as a transparent excuse to deny education and gravy jobs to most people and keep them reserved for a lucky few.

          • Clutzy says:

            Then I’d suggest “The Blank Slate” as your next major nonfiction book.

            Its true IQ is very classist in today’s society, but that is (most likely) because IQ is the causal factor rather than the other way around.

          • To me “IQ” smells of hereditary castes and exists as a transparent excuse to deny education and gravy jobs to most people and keep them reserved for a lucky few.

            So far as I know, no college requests IQ scores from applicants, or administers IQ tests to them. Colleges do usually ask for SAT scores, which correlate with IQ but are not the same, and include achievement tests as well as aptitude tests.

            Currently about 70% of high school students enroll in college, which is the point at which SAT tests are relevant, so hardly a “lucky few.” Good SAT scores make you more likely to get into a very good college, but you don’t have to to Harvard to get an education.

            I saw a summary of a paper that tried to measure the effect of college quality on future wages by comparing people who had gotten into a to school but not gone there with people who had gotten and gone, thus largely eliminating the selection effect. The conclusion was that going to a top school got you a higher salary in your first job, but not thereafter.

    • Aftagley says:

      I’d say definitely one, probably two and three.

    • Evan Þ says:

      In my mind, #2 and #3. #1 is a historical claim which aligns at least with a high-school-level understanding of American history; someone actually saying it might follow it up with “… and therefore we shouldn’t have Latin immigration today,” but that’s a different claim.

      #3 is different in that, among other ways, it does make that followup.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        someone actually saying it might follow it up with “… and therefore we shouldn’t have Latin immigration today,” but that’s a different claim.

        I think the sticking point for me is that “and therefore we shouldn’t have (or perhaps shouldn’t have as much) Latin immigration” doesn’t directly lead to the further conclusion, “and therefore you shouldn’t be here.” This is a normative statement, not a political one. I think 2 makes this further leap, but I’m not sure about 3 and I want to check my impression on 2.

        Basically, it’s not a question about whether people are politically hostile towards me, but about whether people don’t like me/my presence.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          #2 has an ambiguous term at the end – “zeroed out” – which is not easily defined or understood. Trying to understand it as clearly as possible as written, the “immigration” (which I take to mean new immigrants not already here) should be reduced to zero. That sentence would be better phrased as “I believe new Latin American immigration should be reduced to zero.” That doesn’t sound overly scary for someone already in the country, depending on their definition of “scary” and whether they have friends and family trying to get into the country as well.
          “Zeroed out” can have connotations of “wiped out” or “removed” which would make it more hostile. If “immigration” means “immigrants” than it’s definitely hostile, but that seems an uncharitable reading, unless there was some indication that was a more correct way to view it (tone of voice, related statements, etc.).

          ETA – The “diversity is an active negative” could be scary to some on its own, but that’s probably more of a CW reason, since the left has made “diversity” a specific terminal goal and this statement actively speaks against that goal.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            That doesn’t sound overly scary for someone already in the country, depending on their definition of “scary” and whether they have friends and family trying to get into the country as well

            I disagree with this: the sentence carries the very strong implication that immigration should have been zeroed out already; diversity was presumably an active negative when any particular immigrant arrived too, and so it follows that any given immigrant would have been excluded if possible.
            As such, the person saying this probably regards your presence as an “active negative”, and may well wish they could “zero out” your presence in a more active way.

            For what it’s worth, I also think you’re wrong on your ETA: “diversity is an active negative” is menacing to a person from a diverse background because it asserts that your very presence is an active negative.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            If “immigration” means “immigrants” than it’s definitely hostile, but that seems an uncharitable reading, unless there was some indication that was a more correct way to view it (tone of voice, related statements, etc.).

            My understanding of the principle of charity is that it obliges me to respond to other people’s imputed best arguments, not that it obliges me to believe they hold them. I’m trying to calibrate what my default interpretation ought to be by wisdom of the crowd, as I’m (understandably?) biased.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Jumping from “X is actively bad” to “therefore I want to exterminate people who X” is pretty uncharitable.

            I do not want to exterminate people who X.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @EchoChaos

            I’m not saying you are. The thing I’m imputing is the normative belief that I shouldn’t be in the US. I’m not even saying that’s your belief – it may well not be – but that it’s a reasonable belief to read into the quote. My point is that the fact that it’s not the most charitable reading isn’t sufficient to make it an unreasonable reading. If we were discussing your position on immigration, I would try to clarify or else interpret the quote as charitably as I could, but what I want to understand is what I should believe about it, not how I should respond to it.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            @ Eugene

            “Zero future immigration” can exist as a philosophy that has nothing to do with previous immigrants. Otherwise every white person in America would be scaring themselves with their anti-immigrant talk.

            The ETA is about “diversity” as a buzzword of the left, separated from its definition. Almost nobody on the right seems to use that word unless responding to someone or something on the left. I am not a fan of “diversity” as often used (terminal value), but I like meeting and interacting with different people. Take that how you will I guess.

            @ Hoopy

            I know there are real people who would use similar language and mean it to be hostile. I don’t believe that to be a majority or the individuals who are against further immigration. As much as Echo appears to have said one of the phrases, he doesn’t sound hostile (if you take him at his word, which I have no current reason to doubt). As I mentioned in my reply to Eugene, being against additional/future immigration is very different from being against previous/existing immigrants.

          • EchoChaos says:

            > Otherwise every white person in America would be scaring themselves with their anti-immigrant talk.

            Not every white in the US is an immigrant. My family has been in North America since before there was a US and can’t reasonably have been said to have immigrated to anywhere.

            Was founding Jamestown immigration? To what nation?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            “Zero future immigration” can exist as a philosophy that has nothing to do with previous immigrants.

            Yes, of course, that’s why the rest of the sentence matters: the reasoning explicitly laid out in the quote is that “zero future future immigration” follows directly from “diversity is an active bad”–the problem with immigration is diversity, and so if you have a “diverse” background then your presence is an active bad.

            I’m not sure what usage of the word diversity would make the conclusion “zero out immigration” follow directly from “diversity is an active bad” in a way that wouldn’t also imply that anyone from an immigrant background is a manifestation of “actively bad” diversity, but you or EchoChaos should feel free to explain what “diversity” means to you, as distinct from what it means to the left, and how your version of “diversity” doesn’t imply that those from immigrant backgrounds shouldn’t be here, even if the badness of diversity is sufficient reason to stop immigration.

          • Randy M says:

            shouldn’t be here

            This is the key phrase of contention. Thou shalt not move to America was not the eleventh commandment. Answering “should they be here” is meaningless.
            The question is, is there harm, and what can ethically be done to mitigate it?

            Diversity is supposedly bad because of increased miscommunication, mutually exclusive goals, lower social trust, differing cultural preferences, and so on. (A lot of this could be mitigated by reduced centralization, ie, federalism, but that ship was sunk in the Civil War, if not earlier. And yes, I would actually prefer states rights, not just my preferences dictated, because of it mitigating the tension of diversity.)

            So yes, both new immigrants and previous immigrants contribute to the strain of diversity, similarly both legal and illegal. Although later generations less so because they differ less in those factors outlined above.

            But expelling already naturalized citizens is a new precedent and would cause extreme disruption both in the lives of those citizens and their communities. Arguably much greater than their staying.

            At the other end of the spectrum, reducing immigration does not disrupt their lives, and does not disrupt their communities and does not give the government new powers to decide who gets to remain a citizen.

            That’s why someone may want the latter but not the former even if they believed “diversity is our weakness”.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Randy

            Answering “should they be here” is meaningless.

            I disagree entirely. I’m very much interested in the answer to this question.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            “You don’t belong in the country. I can’t think of anything to do about it, but you still don’t belong” is, I think, very reasonably scary for someone–just because you’re unwilling to expel naturalized citizens doesn’t mean that aren’t other things you might to do make such people feel unwelcome, or try and convince them to move to their country of origin, and even if not, even if you’re just going to sit there and grump about all the people who shouldn’t be here, telling someone directly “you don’t belong here” is still absolutely hostile.

          • Randy M says:

            Who are you quoting?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Mr. Doolittle

            As much as Echo appears to have said one of the phrases, he doesn’t sound hostile (if you take him at his word, which I have no current reason to doubt).

            Since I retain dual citizenship, Echo has said they do, in fact, want me to go back to Mexico. That counts as hostile to me. But Echo is mostly irrelevant here; it’s a question about reasonable belief.

            Also, I reported the parent comment while trying to hide it. Sorry.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Why is it hostile to want a Mexican to go to Mexico?

            I wouldn’t consider it hostile if a Mexican told me that I should live in the US.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Not every white in the US is an immigrant. My family has been in North America since before there was a US and can’t reasonably have been said to have immigrated to anywhere.

            As in all 32 of your great, great, great grandparents* came over before the US, or some number of them less than 32 did?

            *or 64 or 128 or 256 depending on your age and the length of time between generations.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Immigration has a one drop rule now?

            The majority of the 32 go all the way back.

            But by that rule, even most Native Americans would be “immigrants”, which would be a unique way of thinking of the topic.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @EchoChaos

            I mean, on the one hand there’s the fact that I live here, I’m legally entitled to live here, I love America, I consider myself an American patriot, and you don’t think I should live here. On the other hand, there’s the fact that all of the above is true and you don’t think I’m “really” American.

            My living here and my identification with this country are both pretty important to me, so yeah, I consider that hostile. Understandably hostile, but still hostile.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            Then why retain Mexican citizenship? It is quite easy to renounce.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @EchoChaos

            Because I love Mexico and consider myself a Mexican patriot as well. My love and patriotism for both countries are contingent facts, true, but anything that would cause me to be split between these loyalties would, I think, be so reprehensible that I’d have no compunctions about surrendering them anyway. Hell, the fact that both countries allow me to claim dual citizenship (and the legal philosophy that provides the basis for that fact) is part of the reason why I love them both.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            So did you lie when you swore the oath of citizenship to the United States?

            “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen”

            Since you were not born in the United States, swearing this oath is the only way you could be a citizen.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @EchoChaos

            I was born a dual citizen with one American parent. She died after we moved to the US. My father may have lied.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Who are you quoting?

            I’m paraphrasing the view of a hypothetical someone who “may want the latter but not the former even if they believed “diversity is our weakness”.”

            Given that EchoChaos has in fact confirmed that s/he would wish Hoopyfreud to leave America, while still having “no particular malice or interest in de-naturalizing lots of immigrants from the past”, I don’t think it’s an unfair paraphrase of EchoChaos’s view.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            In what way are you an immigrant, then? An American citizen born abroad to an American isn’t an immigrant in the traditional sense.

            Your father certainly was an immigrant, but nobody (that I am aware of) calls Ted Cruz an immigrant, despite his situation being the same as yours.

          • But by that rule, even most Native Americans would be “immigrants”, which would be a unique way of thinking of the topic.

            The extinct macrofauna might agree.

          • Answering “should they be here” is meaningless.

            I don’t think so. One might believe it would be better if they had never come, whether or not one wanted to do anything about it. And it’s easy enough to imagine someone who thinks cultural diversity is a net bad being in favor of stopping future immigration, at least of people substantially different from the current inhabitants, but accepting the presence of those who immigrated in the past.

          • bullseye says:

            Was founding Jamestown immigration? To what nation?

            Powhatan.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Was founding Jamestown immigration? To what nation?

            I believe that would be considered invasion of Powhatan territory.

          • Clutzy says:

            Hoopy:

            America and Mexico go to war/have active hostilities akin to Israel/Palestine, who do you choose?

            I don’t actually think this situation is all that unlikely. Probably around 10% probability over the next 50 years.

          • EchoChaos says:

            > Powhatan.

            They refused the authority of the Powhatan king and fought several wars with him.

            That’s not immigration in any sense I’ve heard it used.

            And if it was, I definitely don’t want any of that.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Echo

            I was raised almost entirely by an immigrant father. My mother was an estranged dead American expat. I consider my citizenship from birth basically an artifact of circumstance, and my life experience is a lot more like that of the 1.5-th and second-generation immigrants I know than the native citizens I know.

            @Clutzy

            I put that at closer to .5%, and the outcome is very dependent on the circumstances. There’s a realistic pathway to conflict between, say, China and the US, that makes me pretty confident I’d side with the US. I don’t see that for Mexico.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            But you are not, in any linguistic sense I have ever heard of, an immigrant. And by presenting yourself as one, you are being disingenuous. For example, I assumed that you had taken the oath of citizenship, because you said you were an immigrant who had come as a child.

            So, setting aside the awful Warren Court precedent on dual citizenship, if you HAD been forced to take the citizenship oath to become an American, would you have been willing to forswear Mexico, or is it more important to you to be Mexican?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Immigration has a one drop rule now?

            @ Echochaos

            You made the argument that implied there are immigrants to the US and people who clearly aren’t immigrants. You have presented a continuum as if it is a dichotomy, and most of your points rely on that misrepresentation. There is a whole range of people, from immigrants who can’t trace any ancestors to being American born to people who can trace most, and maybe even all, of their heritage to pre revolutionary colonists. Under that most of your assertions are weak or meaningless.

    • lvlln says:

      My opinion is that none of those 3 could be reasonably interpreted that way.

      The 1st one is just a claim about the past and doesn’t imply anything about desiring to see you or a group of people like you went away, died, and/or never existed. Just because the speaker believes that America’s greatness didn’t stem from Latin immigration doesn’t mean that the speaker believes that it would have been preferable for Latin immigration never happened (or that those who partook in it ought to die or whatever).

      The 2nd one is a prescription for the future and comes the closest to being hostile to a 1.5th generation Mexican immigrant. My interpretation of “immigration should be zeroed out” is that, in the future, the net immigration ought to approach zero. Since you’ve already immigrated, this wouldn’t be asking you to go away or anything like that. Claiming that diversity is an active negative is a judgment call but doesn’t imply that the speaker believes that people who added diversity to the country by immigrating there ought to be expelled or killed or ought to never have existed. At worst, the claim is that, by immigrating to the country, you made the country worse, though even that would be stretching things a bit, since increasing diversity is only one of many things that one does by immigrating to a country.

      The 3rd one seems to be a policy prescription to limit immigration, followed by justification for that prescription presumably on some Horrible Banned Discourse basis. I don’t really see any connection to desiring to see someone expelled, dead, or wishing they had never existed. Desiring to discriminate against people in immigration on the basis of their IQ doesn’t imply that you’re one of those people they want to discriminate against, and even if they explicitly said they would have discriminated against you when you were immigrating, it wouldn’t follow that they wanted to see you expelled, dead, or that they wished you were never born.

    • Randy M says:

      According to Wikipedia, the US had <5% population speaking Spanish prior to 1980 (I’m surprised by this; but the following holds even is that is too low). Unless you think the US was not great before then, it seems trivially true. (Especially with the "mostly" qualifier.)
      Now, you should be worried if you hear someone say "America could not have been great with more Latin Immigration".

      Diversity comes with obvious drawback, oft-repeated mantra aside. There are also benefits. It is partially subjective, partially empirical question of which is greater (the details are confounded and the metrics subjective). The conclusion of that statement doesn't follow from the premise, as there could be reasons to support immigration in spite of the problems of diversity (or vice versa). Whether it is hostile or sloppy/hasty logic is going to depend on the tone of the conversation.

      Number 3 also contains many unspoken–but not absurd–assumptions, coupled with one clearly true assertion that is standing in for a somewhat broader and slightly shakier (but still likely true imo) premise. However, I don't think it is hostile unless you think immigration restriction is by nature a hostile act.

      • EchoChaos says:

        > The conclusion of that statement doesn’t follow from the premise

        As the quote maker of #2, I am curious how it doesn’t.

        Diversity is bad

        Immigration increases diversity

        Therefore we should stop immigration because it increases a bad thing.

        You can disagree with the premises, but the logic is certainly not off.

        • Randy M says:

          I guess I should have said it doesn’t necessarily follow from the premise? As I finished that sentence,

          there could be reasons to support immigration in spite of the problems of diversity

          Syllogisms work in a vacuum, but in the real world causes can have more than one effect, and effects more than one cause.
          Diversity is bad. Helping refugees is good. Immigration does both. Should we have immigration? Depends on how much we want to help refugees, how bad diversity is, and what other causes and effects there are, and what other ways we can achieve the goods without the drawbacks, etc.

          • EchoChaos says:

            That’s a different point than “it doesn’t follow”.

            What you’re saying is “I don’t think this is sufficient cause to oppose immigration”, which is a fair opinion for you to hold. It absolutely does follow.

            And obviously I think it’s sufficient cause to oppose immigration.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s a different point than “it doesn’t follow”.

            Very well, I apologize for using logic terms incorrectly.

            What you’re saying is “I don’t think this is sufficient cause to oppose immigration”, which is a fair opinion for you to hold.

            Thanks for the permission, but I actually do agree with you, I just don’t think the case is proven with just that quote. Which is fair, because there was clearly more context to it.

            I do think doing anything to reduce diversity other than that is problematic, as the kids say.

          • EchoChaos says:

            > I do think doing anything to reduce diversity other than that is problematic, as the kids say.

            I strongly agree. I have mixed-race family and would violently oppose any attempts to do that.

          • albatross11 says:

            ISTM that it matters a lot what you mean by diversity. Diversity of races? Cultures? Religions? Political beliefs? Economic backgrounds? National origins? Occupations?

            I work in an extremely diverse workplace in one sense–there are people from many, many different countries and cultures working with me. In another sense, we’re basically all very similar–highly educated, smart people with technical backgrounds (overwhelmingly math, CS, and engineering, but with the odd physicist or biologist hanging around to liven things up). Economically, most of my coworkers grew up reasonably well off, but one spent some time on a farm during the Cultural Revolution, and a couple others grew up in nasty dictatorships, and at least one grew up very poor in the US.

            I’d say diversity is a strength in this group in terms of national origin/background (need someone to go to China for a meeting who’s a native speaker?), and also in terms of technical background (physicists and mathematicians and computer scientists and EEs all kind-of think about the world differently.). But if you added a bunch of uneducated whites who found technical discussions confusing gibberish, we would not become stronger for the added diversity.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @albatross11

            Such an equilibrium exists, but it seems to be unstable. Any group playing identity politics gains an advantage over the others, resulting in the current collapse into identity politics. If a stable equilibrium of no identity politics is to exist, some currently-unknown stabilizing factor must be developed.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          I have to back Randy’s usage of ‘follow’ here. If I hear ‘Y follows from X’ I expect it to mean either ‘X logically implies Y regardless of other facts’ or (more often in a policy debate) ‘X implies Y given other assumptions I expect everyone in the conversation to share.’

          (I happen to disagree with you on immigration, but I’m absolutely willing to say that “we should increase immigration” doesn’t follow from “immigration helps refugees and helping refugees is good”, unless I’m in a room full of people who all agree that immigration has no costs.)

    • Nornagest says:

      Probably #2; there’s plausible deniability there but I’d say the implication’s pretty clear. In your shoes I’d probably be leery of the others too, but there isn’t a clear indication in either one of what the speaker wants (IQ tests? Points-based, like Canada?), so I don’t think you can draw an inference that the speaker wants you gone. #3 comes closer to that than #1, but “immigration restrictions” doesn’t imply that they see any particular immigrant as illegitimate.

    • I think only the second. The first is less positive about you than it is about me, but not negative. The third is hostile to you only if your genetic IQ is low.

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        The third is hostile to you only if your genetic IQ is low.

        Or if the speaker is likely to think your genetic IQ is low; possibly based on your background.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        The third is hostile to you only if your genetic IQ is low.

        Which, as I’ve just told you, is true. My racial background is weak evidence that I’m an idiot, which is probably why we disagree so often.

        • Smart people disagree with me too.

          I don’t know your racial background, but I can’t think of any racial background that would be strong enough evidence to outweigh the sort of evidence specific to you that you presumably have.

          You mention being half Mexican. I have no idea what the evidence is on the IQ of Mexicans, but racially they are mostly descended from Amerinds and Europeans, and I believe Amerinds, being themselves distant descendants of East Asians, have a higher average IQ than Europeans.

          No idea what the other half is.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      In terms of which quotes directly imply such hostility, I’d say only the second; and even that one wouldn’t without the second clause. (The third also almost-certainly implies it if all they know about you is that you’re a Mexican immigrant)

      But in terms of which statements are Bayesian evidence of hostility… well, that’s a much more complicated question.

      • Randy M says:

        But in terms of which statements are Bayesian evidence of hostility… well, that’s a much more complicated question.

        Right. One could quite reasonably say that “on balance the conversation left me feeling unwanted and excluded as you repeated pointed out negative effects of people like me”… but in this case I don’t think any of those statements on their own are ‘hostile’.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I will try to phrase this in a way that is kind and necessary.

      My most right-wing view (which is where that quote comes from) is indeed very hostile to immigration, and therefore to some degree to immigrants.

      Do I have any problem with you as a person? Not particularly, we’ve never met. And I’ve worked with plenty of immigrants successfully.

      But I believe that America is full and non-Americans should make their country better instead of coming to mine.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        I don’t mean to imply that you have anything against me personally. I’d just like to have a sense of how many people I could make happy by jumping in front of a train or (bad Hoopy) having an aneurism.

        • EchoChaos says:

          None?

          The negative externalities of suicide are massive. Please don’t do that.

        • Randy M says:

          Do you think that the second sentence is a less bad implication than merely “having something against you personally”?

          Seriously, the principle of charity called, but the call was cut short by the sound of gun fire and we haven’t seen it since.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Sorry, “jumping in front of a train” was uncalled for, but there are a lot of lines of reasoning under which my sudden demise is a net positive for everyone else.

            America is full -> more immigrants are bad -> fewer immigrants are good -> ?

          • Randy M says:

            America is full -> more immigrants are bad -> fewer immigrants are good ->

            1. But murder or even just random death is worse than the strain of one additional citizen.
            2. But that may not apply to this particular immigrant.
            3. But I don’t have the epistemic certainty to take any drastic action to change the current situation.
            4. But we’re going to have to learn how to deal with it eventually so may as well find mutually beneficial policies now (ie, more local authority, less federal decisions).
            5. But those immigrants nonetheless possess immortal souls and/or the faculty of reason and thus should be treated humanely.
            etc.
            –> Therefore, we should have care with our immigration policy, enforce the law consistently to discourage illegal immigration, and work to promote assimilation for those already naturalized.

          • EchoChaos says:

            > Sorry, “jumping in front of a train” was uncalled for, but there are a lot of lines of reasoning under which my sudden demise is a net positive for everyone else.

            None of mine.

            > America is full -> more immigrants are bad -> fewer immigrants are good -> ?

            Therefore Mexicans should move to Mexico and make Mexico great.

            It would be the best thing for both America AND Mexico if Mexico fixed her problems and became as stable and wealthy a neighbor as Canada.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Randy

            I mean, random death just happens to people sometimes. I don’t think that fact is particularly inhumane or evil. Granted that it does, one can be sad for the passing of an individual and still think it’s a net social gain.

          • Randy M says:

            Granted that it does, one can be sad for the passing of an individual and still think it’s a net social gain.

            how many people I could make happy by jumping in front of a train

            Eh, I did my part for mutual understanding. I leave you free to peer into people’s souls and recoil from the horror you imagine there.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Therefore Mexicans should move to Mexico and make Mexico great.

            Just to be clear: do you think that this applies to Hoopyfreud? Should s/he leave the country? Because if so, that definitely falls under the “went away” clause of Hoopyfreud’s definition of hostility, and to Randy’s point, “you should leave the country” is quite a bit stronger than just “having something against [one] personally”.

          • EchoChaos says:

            > Just to be clear: do you think that this applies to Hoopyfreud? Should s/he leave the country?

            If she is still a Mexican citizen, yes. Anyone who identifies enough with a foreign country to retain their other citizenship is not, to my mind, dedicated to being an American.

            However, I have no particular malice or interest in de-naturalizing lots of immigrants from the past.

          • Randy M says:

            to Randy’s point, “you should leave the country” is quite a bit stronger than just “having something against [one] personally”.

            Actually, my point was that the alleged bloodthirst was slanderous.

          • albatross11 says:

            Hoopyfreud:

            I think most people making political statements aren’t thinking of individual people anymore, but rather of amorphous groups. Just as many people have managed to be broadly negative toward blacks or Republicans but still get along fine with some specific black or Republican individuals, many people can be broadly hostile to immigrants while still getting along okay with individual immigrants.

            Also, one reason to be unhappy with mass immigration from Latin America is the numbers. Even if more-or-less each individual Mexican or Salvadoran or Guatemalan coming to the US is a perfectly fine human being behaving exactly as we would in his place[1], there may still be some negative effects when we get ten million or so of those folks coming here in a few years[2]. Or maybe there’s no negative, but it’s not obvious that there must be no negative impact to a huge inflow of people from a foreign culture and country. It’s possible to oppose large-scale immigration from Latin America without having any animus at all against any single immigrant.

            As an analogy, I’ve known and worked with a lot of Indians, and mostly they’ve been perfectly fine people. But if we planned to bring a hundred million people from India to the US in the next decade, I’d object, and that would not imply hostility to any one Indian prospective immigrant.

            [1] I think this is broadly true–if I lived in a poor country with little opportunity and there was a rich country with lots of opportunity nearby, I’d probably try to move there, too.

            [2] Though actually, the US has a long history of successfully assimilating immigrants, and a large population of people from Latin America who seem to assimilate reasonably well.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            It’s possible to oppose large-scale immigration from Latin America without having any animus at all against any single immigrant.

            Which is why the part about “zeroing out” immigration matters–it’s evidence that this concern with numbers isn’t what’s at issue, and so there is likely a more fundamental hostility to the idea of certain immigrants being in America at work.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            I would think the fact that I want zero immigration shows that I am in fact caring about immigration specially. I don’t want any more British, Norwegian or German immigration either.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Sure, I’m just saying this negates the possibility that you are okay with small numbers of immigrants, but object to overwhelming immigration: each individual new immigrant to America is one you oppose, individually.

            I don’t understand why you object equally to German, British, etc. immigrants if your problem with immigration is the negativity of diversity: do even British and German immigrants count as “diverse”? If so, then I amend my statement to “there is likely a more fundamental hostility to the idea of immigrants being in America at work.”

            It also makes me curious how you can hold this view that British people are unacceptably diverse, given how regionally diverse America is: does British immigration really introduce more diversity into America than is already present?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            Diversity isn’t just skin color. It’s also culture, heritage, religion, etc.

            For an example in the British case, the British have a long history of very strong government control of speech. I don’t want any more people who have a heritage of controlling “hate speech” in this country.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Sure, I just would have guessed that the British are similar enough along lines of culture, heritage, etc. At least, they don’t seem more dissimilar than some groups of Americans are to each other.
            I can think of a few countries whose immigrants would likely cluster more closely culturally, linguistically, etc, with at least one subgroup of Americans than that subgroup would with most other subgroups of Americans: Canadians, Australians, Kiwis, Irish, etc.

            And if all of those are unacceptably diverse, how are say, Southerners and New Englanders not too diverse to share a country?

            EDIT: I cleaned up some sloppy grammar.

          • EchoChaos says:

            They are. That’s why the original Constitution was so Federalist, so that they could co-exist with their very different countries.

            Unfortunately, Federal power was too great a lure and we’ve been fighting about it ever since.

            Which is why it is such a big deal to Californians that Alabamians want abortion laws similar to France.

            If it were up to me, America would be far more similar to the EU, which is what the Founders envisioned.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Do you object equally strongly to Californians moving to Alabama as you do to Mexicans moving to the United States?

          • EchoChaos says:

            Oh yes. If we could restrict the immigration of Californians so many problems in America would be solved.

            People in blue states voting themselves intolerable situations and then moving to red states and voting blue is basically a byword at this point.

          • albatross11 says:

            Even a very federalist version of the US would have open borders and markets between states. Even the EU has that. It’s hard to see how we’d get rid of that and be anything like the US.

          • Plumber says:

            @EchoChaos

            “If we could restrict the immigration of Californians so many problems in America would be solved…”

            The road goes both ways.

            If we could keep people from the rest of the U.S.A. (and the world) from coming to California that would help us out.
            Heck, if we could keep people from other parts of California from coming to the San Francisco bay area that would help.

            Please start with all the runaway/throw-away teenagers that come to sleep on our streets.

            If we’re so much worse than the rest of the U.S.A. why do so many come to live outdoors here instead of living indoors where they’re born?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Plumber

            California has been a net emigration source to the rest of the United States for about a decade. As to the rest of the world, I’m fine keeping them out.

          • John Schilling says:

            Even a very federalist version of the US would have open borders and markets between states

            Open borders and open markets, but not necessarily open franchise. Until 1972, states could and in many cases did require extended (years) residency before migrants from another state were allowed to vote in their new state’s elections. The fear that e.g. Californians would vote California into failed-state status, move to Alabama because of its not-failed appeal, and then vote for Alabama the same policies that hypothetically destroyed California, was mitigated by the fact that the Californians in question would have to live under Red-State law for five years or so before they could have any voice in the process.

            But we’re not allowed to have that firewall any more.

          • brad says:

            Another option is that we could get to net zero immigration by bringing back exile. There are plenty of American born people that if they left, the US would be a better place. Maybe Poland or Hungary would be willing to take some.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @brad

            It would certainly be considered horrifically racist (on average) to deport our bottom performers to another country, and I doubt most countries would want them.

          • brad says:

            “Bottom performers” in what sense? What about if we selected for exile those with the most despicable values?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @brad

            Economically.

            Whose value system?

          • brad says:

            1) So to your mind the biggest problem we have in this country is that our workers aren’t productive enough?

            2) Mine of course. This my hypo. We know what yours look like.

            Over in reality we are going to have significant net migration.

        • How many people you would make happy by dying depends almost entirely on things other than your ancestry.

          Do you have money and heirs who don’t much like you?

          Are there people who have wrong so badly, or who at least believe you have wronged so badly, that they would be happy to hear you had died?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The only people I’m sure would be sad if I died are my girlfriend and father. The latter would receive a life insurance payout that would actually probably be pretty helpful to him right now. Nobody else stands to benefit directly from it, and I don’t think anyone else would care in a material sense. That leaves people who have demographic concerns and lizardman’s constant of people who would actively be happy about it.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Hoopyfrued

            The Lizardman constant is about people who will respond with ridiculous answers despite their own beliefs, and would not represent people who would actually be happy that you died.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Any of them, if someone’s gone out of their way to say it to your face. Else, none of them.

      • AG says:

        Isn’t this where we get into the weeds of how social media has confused our brains as to what counts as “said towards us?”

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          Only if we want to. I can hew to the principle “don’t take things personally unless you have good reason to think they were meant personally” without having to have any particular ideas about social media.

          • AG says:

            Well, for example, many of the commenters here would be very tetchy if they saw the statements Hoopyfreud posted, re-jiggered to be against a nebulous “men” category. They would be even more so if these statements were merely posted on someone’s Tumblr or Twitter, of someone they don’t even follow, because the act of posting on those platforms is taken as a performative act of intent/support for people with intent. Or the case of going on Youtube and having someone’s “HERE’S WHY X GROUP SUCKS, WATCH ME OWN THE OUTGROUP” video shoved in your recommendations.

            With the feed/dashboard format of most social media, in which a platform algorithmically pushes content recommendations for you to see, statements posted without direction nonetheless become directly delivered to people. So the etiquette of “should you have posted it” evolves.

            Otherwise, why should anyone be miffed about the Gillette ad?

    • John Schilling says:

      #1 is a factual assertion that might be in error but is not, without further context, hostile. If someone says “England’s greatness is mostly from being a fusion of Celtic, Germanic, and Roman culture and owes very little to Maori immigration”, that probably isn’t meant as an insult to the native population of New Zealand. s/French/Maori and it’s less defensible but likely as not the result of ignorance rather than malice.

      #2 is likely to be hostile as a whole even if either part might not be in isolation. We can perhaps steelman it as the speaker believing Diversity just now crossed over from marginal positive to marginal negative and the speaker considers all previous immigrants welcome, but that requires IMO an excess of charity. It is reasonable to infer a belief or desire that immigration should have been zeroed out some time in the past, and even if the speaker doesn’t plan on acting on that belief it’s still unfriendly to express it.

      #3 is almost certainly hostile as a whole, even if again the individual parts might not be. The belief in a genetic component to IQ only reasonably leads to support for immigration restriction if one believes that major immigrant populations are genetically inferior in IQ. There simply isn’t the data to support that conclusion with any degree of confidence. Saying “I think you lot are genetically inferior in IQ”, without adequate evidence, seems pretty hostile to me.

    • Dack says:

      #1 seems rather on the nose if it is directed specifically at you, though I suppose it could be said in a historical point of information manner, that Latins were not a part of the mass migration periods of the 1800s.

      #2a has a strong argument. But #2b does not follow regardless of how you interpret “zero out”. If #2a is granted, then you’d need to look into which immigrants are assimilating and which immigrants are forming a counter culture.

      #3 doesn’t really make sense even if you believe that IQ is fully genetic. Presumably they want to increase their nation’s average IQ. But if you are trying to increase your nation’s average IQ, it doesn’t make sense to just disallow immigration from a country with a lower average and vice versa, what you would want to do is IQ test each potential immigrant.

      I don’t think any of these statements are inherently hostile. I guess it depends on how you say them?

      • Plumber says:

        @Dack

        “…I suppose it could be said in a historical point of information manner, that Latins were not a part of the mass migration periods of the 1800s…”

        IIRC the biggest contingent of immigrants in the 19th century came from German speaking areas, but I feel I should point out that Mexicans came to be in the U.S.A. in the 19th century because much of Mexico was taken by conquest.

        The street I live on in California is named after the Mexican land owners who were displaced by “Yankee” squatters after the war of 1846 to 1848.

        • Dack says:

          I didn’t mean to imply that there was zero influx from Latin America prior to “greatness”. But by all accounts Alta California was sparsely populated. It looks like the best estimate is that “no more than 8,000” Mexican settlers had the opportunity to become American with the treaty. (Presumably some of them chose to relocate.)

          Meanwhile (since you brought it up) 7.5 million Germans chose to come here between 1820 and 1870.

          • Dack says:

            Of the quotes below, which (if any) should I understood as hostile to me – not in the sense of actively wishing me harm, but in the sense of “I think we’d [for any value of we, from the speaker’s point of view] be better off if you went away, died, and/or never existed?”

            And in case it needs to be said, I personally do not think we’d be better off if Hoopy went away, died, and/or never existed.

    • WashedOut says:

      None of them.

      #1 and #3 are just vaguely worded expressions of opinion, with some speculation. #2 is true insofar as diversity can be negative in certain domains (e.g. a niche project team) but is a meaningless statement beyond that; nor does it follow that immigration should be ‘zeroed out’ even if you believe diversity is bad.

      ‘Never attribute to malice what can easily be attributed to incompetence’ is the relevant adage here. In this case, rhetorical incompetence.

    • onyomi says:

      I think any of your statements could be evidence of hostility depending on the context (the answer to the question “is this hostile,” is probably “depends on context” in most cases), but I don’t think any of them are “inherently” hostile, primarily because they’re all rather broad and abstract.

      Of the three, I think 1 is probably the best Bayesian evidence of hostility because of the vagueness of “greatness,” and because it names a particular group as non-contributors to “greatness.” More so if the person knows you’re a member of that group. Even more so if they’re saying it to your face, rather than on the internet (my prior is it takes a higher level of hostility to say the same potentially hurtful thing irl as compared to online).

    • Incurian says:

      As others have pointed out, context is everything. Absent any context, however, none of these seem particularly hostile (I don’t consider talking about group averages to be the same thing as asserting that the group is homogeneous). They’re not especially welcoming, though, and I can see how you’d interpret it as hostility if you are sensitive about the subject. I’ve tried to construct a parallel quote that I might be sensitive about but which is not technically hostile according to my own rules.

      “Men have a tendency toward a group of behaviors I call ‘toxic masculinity;’ these behaviors are inexcusable and need to be fixed.”

      Absent any further context, it would be silly of me to assume the speaker was accusing me of anything, however I must admit that the whole subject does start to get my blood boiling, even though the plain reading isn’t too controversial.

      I’m not sure, but I wonder if asking about “hostility” per se is kind of a red herring, and the better question is “should I take this personally?” The answer still depends on the context, but at least we don’t have to argue over the meaning of “hostility”.

  8. Machine Interface says:

    On the 22nd of June 1940, when the French government negotiated the terms of surrender with Nazi germany, unbeknown to the French delgation, the German delegation had secretely set up audio recording material so that they could record the entire thing. Later on, the existence of these recordings was revealed to the wartime French government, and a copy was sent to them for unclear reasons. However, at the end of WWII, these recordings disappeared (as with many other archive documents of the time) and remained lost for decades.

    Until a French historian found them at an auction in Munich in 2015, although it took until today for the content to be revealed to the public. There are more than 6 hours of recordings.

    Link in French, there doesn’t seem to be English language articles on the topic yet, you might be able to get the gist of it with google translate.

  9. Deiseach says:

    Another thing to blame the Vikings for! 🙂

    Also, Happy St Brigid’s Day! One of the Three Patrons of Ireland (along with Colm Chille and Patrick). Traditionally today is the start of Spring in Ireland (as separate from the astronomical calendar). Song in honour of the saint, traditions include making the Brigid’s Cross (which we did in primary school) and, the night before, hanging out the Brát Bhríde (half-Anglicised into “the black Breeda”) which is a piece of dark cloth left out to be blessed by the saint and then used to tie around your head to treat headaches.

  10. Uribe says:

    It seems to me that US politics could be improved a lot by a better hoop-jumping structure. By this I mean, currently, candidates have to take part in TV-network sponsored debates if they want to be taken seriously, but these debates are always stupid. You see how candidates look and act on camera but not much more.

    These debates are a product of the power of TV, but of course this power is waning. Eventually the web will force candidates to jump through some web hoops if they want to be taken seriously. Hopefully this won’t just be on Twitter. It’s possible responsible people on the webz could do a better job at holding candidates feet to the fire, making them answer more relevant questions.

    A structure I’d like to see would be to ask every candidate:

    1) What are your specific goals?
    2) What will be your strategy for achieving those goals?
    3) What is your response to the criticisms of that strategy? (Name the criticisms, if applicable.)
    4) What is your response to those who say more important goals are X, Y and Z?

    Why can’t we get political candidates to jump through some simple hoops like that? Do you agree it would be a vast improvement over what we have now?

    • Deiseach says:

      Do you agree it would be a vast improvement over what we have now?

      No, because eventually it would get turned into the same kind of thing as TV debates. Originally, having a politician go on TV for a grilling from an interviewer or a debate was the same intention as you suggest: make them answer questions honestly, show what their positions really are, get them away from the comfortable routine of making a speech to supporters. And for a while it worked.

      Then PR firms and the like sprang up to specialise in coaching politicians how to work those TV appearances (like this example from my own country which, at the height of its fame, was teaching politician from party A how to best attack politician from party B while simultaneously teaching politician from party B how best to attack politician from party A in such televised debates): how to deflect an interviewer, tricks and tips about presentation, coaching the candidate for hours until they could produce a (relatively) polished performance. TV debates then fossilised into the format they are now in.

      Look at one of your suggestions: “What is your response to those who say more important goals are X, Y and Z?” They’ve been coached that the way to handle that is “I’m glad you asked me that, Stephen, and I would like to say – “, then divert it to a canned prepared answer about something different in much the same way as this Irish comedy clip demonstrates.

      Anything online is going to go the same way – already I think everyone accepts that mostly a celeb’s Twitter isn’t really them, it’s curated and managed by some intern (except for Donald Trump and Elon Musk, and most people probably think it would be better if the accounts were taken away from them and handed over to an intern to tweet “thanks for that interesting response Shanice, my position on that is – “). Unless it was set up like Elizabeth Warren’s “Hi, here is me drinking beer in my own kitchen of my own house with my own dog and my own husband, as you can see we’re just regular folks” effort (which was excruciatingly embarrassing in its own way, not least because it came hard on the heels of the whole “Beer bad!” from the Democrat side about Kavanaugh’s drinking habits) where you do get the unfiltered personality, there’s going to be a whole team sitting there monitoring the chat and questions and suggesting answers and saying “Nope, avoid that one from Uribe, answer Shanice about what is your favourite ungulate instead, though remember that while we are looking for the camel vote we cannot afford to alienate the goat demographic”.

      And even with the Lizzie Drinks Beer Like You, Fellow Kids model, eventually that too will have an industry of coaching springing up around it to produce, in the end, the same kind of result as you are criticising now.

      • AG says:

        less of this, please

      • Plumber says:

        “…in much the same way as this

        I’d like to learn more about Jim Mohammad Everyman and his “vote for me, and I’ll buy ya a pint” platform 😊

      • Nornagest says:

        Xander: And was there a lesson in all this? Huh? What did we learn about beer?

        Buffy: Foamy!

        Xander: Good. Just as long as that’s clear.

      • Clutzy says:

        I agree. Everyone loves the podcast format, but politicians naturally ruin that as well. They ruined it from the beginning. You’ll notice they don’t go on places like Joe Rogan because no politician can afford to do 3 hours unscripted, because they’ll hang themselves from the left and the right.

        Just look at the (in)famous Gavin Newsom- Adam Carolla interview. That was like 10 years ago in the baby era of podcasts.

        • Deiseach says:

          Oh heck, just look at Gary Johnson’s “What’s Aleppo?” moment. Which is fine if you’re running for Mayor of Bump-on-a-Log or State Governor of MostlyMountainy or even President of Small Former Colonial Island Nation That Even Our Past Overlords Have Forgotten About, but definitely not for someone running for President of the United States, one of the two/three global superpowers (depending on if you think Russia is still a superpower, trying to recover being a superpower, and China is/is becoming a superpower) where, if successful, you will be appointing a Secretary of State part of whose job is to deal with Shit Like This, so you do absolutely need to have an opinion on it. It was hard luck on Johnson that his moment of brain freeze was caught on camera, but it shows why (a) interviewers like Jeremy Paxman made a reputation out of tough interviews with politicians and why (b) all the spinners and handlers try to keep their guy/gal out of such situations (warning: extreme swearing).

          Takeaway lesson from that one for all politicians and aspiring politicians was prepare, prepare, prepare canned answers for everything, control the conditions as much as you can, and don’t let anything spontaneous crop up that can take you by surprise. I have no reason to believe online ask-me-anythings would be any less controlled or turned into a formulaic TV debate if they took up such things.

          • albatross11 says:

            The good news is that if the president doesn’t know where it is, he probably won’t order it bombed….

          • Clutzy says:

            I think someone who’s heart was in it could get over the “Aleppo moment” the fact is that 99% of Americans didn’t know what that was, and upon learning didn’t care about what was going on (outside of the narrow caring in that they could now use it to bludgeon Johnson).

            Podcast hosts use a questioning style that is easy to work with if you are saying something, but if you just have the canned answers you end up “Rubioing” like he did in the debate with his, “lets dispel with this notion” line. Then the next question is like, “yea but why”? And then you Rubio-out. Just like Gavin did when he was trying to push his check cashing things. When he was asked, “why” he just broke down into meaninglessness. If he was running for Governor of a swing state, that would have been the end.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think someone who’s heart was in it could get over the “Aleppo moment”

            We’ve been through this before; everybody has Aleppo moments, and lots of politicians get over it.

            It’s got nothing to do with whether or not their heart is in it, either. What is needed is some combination of, A: the glibness to say “I meant to do that; so sorry you misunderstood” and make it stick, and/or B: a sympathetic media.

            If you get to pick the podcaster, or if you’re popular across pod-people demographic in general, then go with Plan B. Otherwise, Plan A is critical, and do we want to select politicians for that over all else?

  11. Uribe says:

    I found this Robert Wiblin podcast with Martin Gurri fascinating. Particularly the idea that, due to the information explosion, now everyone is against everything in politics, everywhere, because everyone has enough information to realize that everyone is full of shit. (paraphrasing)

    Scott’s current post on Zero to One, about how the zeitgeist is against people with grand plans, ties into this theme. We particularly don’t, anymore, trust politicians with grand plans.

    I also like the note of optimism toward the end, how maybe public servants will eventually learn to present themselves once again as public servants, and then maybe we will stop viewing them as this detached elite.

    It got me thinking that maybe all the Culture Wars and Twitter Wars etc., are simply due to society having not yet processed the information explosion, but that eventually it will. Eventually everyone online will be a digital native, for instance. Eventually, maybe, almost everyone will be sick to death of the constant, pointless online warfare, and politics will again become boring to almost everybody, which is how it should be.

  12. hedgehog says:

    Howdy, Scott, and the rest of y’all. I’m new hereabouts, and still frothing in dazzlement, having needed something like SSC for ages.

    I am particularly interested in this post, as well as its comments. Even more particularly, I’m wondering whether Sister Y is still “with us” — alive? communicating? A series of links to her blog, early in the post, seem obsolete, and her blog seems to have been inactive since 2015.

    I have gleaned that there is a limit on length/number of comments to individual posts, and am guessing that’s why I don’t see a way to ask this (comment) on that page. So here I am.

    Does anyone here know Sister Y’s condition/status?

    thx

  13. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Another fiction question: how many of us have read (how much) Edgar Rice Burroughs?
    I’ve read the first 8 or so of bignum Tarzan novels, first 9 of 11 Mars novels (collected the SFBC hardcover editions for the Frazetta art), all of Pellucidar, the Caspak trilogy (warm Lost World at Antarctica), the majority of his Venus series, and some misc. novels with Frazetta covers.
    My biggest takeaway is that his formula was basically a romance novel from the male POV. With the exception of Tarzan of the Apes, Burroughs usually sets up the setting of a series in a few chapters, then the hero Meets Cute, then they get separated on a merry chase through the fictional setting/some area of the real world, with the denouement being getting married or at least admitting they’re in love.
    Plumber said in the last thread I started “don’t underestimate how influential Burroughs was.” Influence mostly boils down to the sheer number of people who read your books, and when you consider that romance novels sell as many copies as the SF/F and Mystery genres combined, I can believe that the best writer of guy romances would sell ten of millions of copies. 🙂

    • Nornagest says:

      I’ve read about half the Mars books, the first two Venus books, and some Tarzan but I read that so young that I don’t remember many of the specifics. No doubt I could count books, but it would involve cracking open a bunch of dusty old boxes in my dad’s basement. I’m guessing 3-4?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The Tarzan series maintains a pretty consistent level of quality for the first 8. 1 & 2 make up one complete story of Tarzan’s discovery of humanity and wedding to Jane. #3 isn’t as good, being about Tarzan chasing their baby after a villain introduced earlier kidnaps him for revenge (though perhaps still worth it for persuading apes to row a canoe). #4 is another well-done love story, of the now-teenage baby from #3. #5 revisits the Opar plot from #2, while #6 stands out again as a collection of Jungle Book-esque short stories set before Tarzan met Jane. #7 and #8 involve the effects of WWI on colonial East Africa and a Lost World of dinosaurs in the middle of the continent.
        You’d probably like the first few Pellucidar novels. They’re close to the quality of the Mars novels you’ve read.

    • hls2003 says:

      First couple of Tarzan books, half a dozen of the Mars books.

    • Nick says:

      I haven’t done a thorough check, but I don’t think I have any Burroughs on my reading list. So he’s influential, but is he any good?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Good? If you’re looking for literary merit, you can stop after the first two books in the Tarzan, Mars, and Pellucidar series.
        If you consider the pulp SF innovators good, or worldbuilding good in itself, the Mars series continues to be good long after the first couple of novels. F’rinstance, #6, The Master Mind of Mars, might be the first SF story about brain transplants. Pellucidar follows a similar pattern of worldbuilding as a hero falls in love, is rejected, and chases the girl across the landscape, but isn’t good beyond the first two, or maybe the Tarzan crossover.

    • I think I read most of the Mars books, one or more books in a couple of other series.

      My younger son taught himself to read at about two and a half, was reading the Narnia books a few years later. That raised the question of what to suggest to someone with the reading ability of an adult, the tastes of an eight year old (I’m guessing the age–it was a long time ago). I suggested the Mars books and, as I recall, he enjoyed them.

    • Plumber says:

      I think it’s been at least twenty years since I read any Burroughs, but I started with (but never finished) Tarzan of the Apes, and then I read:
      At the Earth’s Core
      and
      The Land That Time Forgot
      which I got from the library because I saw the movie versions in the 1970’s (“You can’t mesmerize me, I’m British!”), and then I went on to read:
      Pellucidar
      The Lost Continent (a.k.a. Beyond Thirty)
      The Moon Maid
      Pirates of Venus

      and I’ve read at least three of the Barsoom/John Carter of Mars books (A Princess of Mars was the very first novel I bought on my own, which I got from the Dark Carnival bookstore when it was across the street from Willard Junior High), and I’ve also read Michael Moorcock’s Warriors of Mars by “Edgar Bradbury” homage, which since he was the screenwriter of The Land That Time Forgot film I saw as a kid is sort of full circle.

    • John Schilling says:

      About half a dozen total, I would guess, spread across Tarzan, Mars, Pellucidar, and “The Moon Maid”. It has been long enough that I don’t recall which novels (I wasn’t reading them in any chronology beyond what my sources happened to have available), but I have distinct memories of scenes from all of the major series,

    • sfoil says:

      I’ve read the first five Mars novels, which I found in a bargain-bin collection after the John Carter movie bombed.

      As you pointed out, A Princess of Mars is pretty much a male-POV romance: Carter meets a beautiful maiden, wins her heart, rescues her by the strength of his arm, and at the end she lays an egg to get his dynasty started.

      I was actually pretty impressed, even if he didn’t shy away from formulas. Despite zero tension over whether the protagonist will prevail, Burroughs still manages to make Carter’s adventures entertaining and he’s got a lot to show the reader. Even if you don’t buy into the power fantasy, John Carter is an excellent tour guide. I also appreciated how, despite being fundamentally a pulp writer, Burroughs always seemed to put in a little extra effort over the novels. Once John Carter’s power level maxes, he retires and his son takes over, and Carthoris relies a little bit more on subterfuge to get his way than the basically-superhuman Carter (not that he’s ever in danger of losing a straight fight).

      I’m not the first one to point out, but Burroughs was writing for the first generation in the history of humanity who had no frontier to conquer. Hence, I think, the mashup of Wild West and steppe-raider aesthetics.

    • Deiseach says:

      Some of the Tarzan novels, all the Barsoom ones and none of the others, but I did see the 1976 movie version of “At the Earth’s Core” (first of the Pellucidar novels).

  14. TentativeQuestioning says:

    Is Keith Lofstrom’s PowerLoop idea hokum, or something worth looking into?

    It’s basically a launch loop, but lying on the ground, used for electricity storage. The main problems appear to be power switching and safety. Pennies per kWh of energy storage sounds revolutionary, so I’m skeptical, but I’m no engineer so I’d like to hear what you all think.

    http://launchloop.com/PowerLoop
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Launch_loop

    • kieranpjobrien says:

      Ok. I’m not an engineer but I am an energy analyst.

      From a safety standpoint this seems bonkers. Having that much energy stored means any failure would be catastrophic.

      Building the damn thing would be the most significant project undertaken per capita by several orders of magnitude.

      The cost of US$1000/m is probably a vast underestimate at least by an order of magnitude. Rough calculation suggests at least US$6k/m for raw materials alone. Let alone the technological advances necessary. Let alone the cost of installing it. Transporting it.

      It’s far, far simpler to store energy as ammonia, methane, hydrogen (something that isn’t yet really at commercial scale) than to build this utopian system.

      This would be just about sensible for a pre-dyson sphere civilisation. Not anything close to feasible for us.

      • johan_larson says:

        Yes, I saw looked through the Wikipedia page for the Launch Loop, and it mentioned that the core of the tube would be traveling at 14 km/s.

        The rotor is an iron tube approximately 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter, moving around the loop at 14 km/s (31,000 miles per hour).

        That’s a lot of stuff moving very fast.

        • kieranpjobrien says:

          With the Launch Loop there’s a plausible (again, not an engineer) way of dispersing that energy if something goes wrong (from what I recall) as it’s 70km up.

          This would be ground level? Underwater? In either case, a large energy loss (explosion) would lead to… Bad things.

        • Lambert says:

          Wow.
          At those speeds, you’re not levitating the core, you’re holding it down lest it escape Earth’s gravity entirely.

  15. proyas says:

    Are there any redeeming advantages to human lungs vis-a-vis bird lungs, or are the latter simply superior?

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2662944/

    • pontifex says:

      I think bird lungs are probably just superior. I’ve heard this proposed before as an explanation for why dinosaurs were able to get so large (birds came from the dinosaur lineage.)

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        While it’s true that birds came from dinosaurs, I’m not sure how much evidence there is for the bird-like lung system across all dinosaur lineages. My recollection is that the best evidence for the bird-like system is in Theropods (duh) and Sauropods, but that the evidence is weaker in Ornithischian dinosaurs–this makes sense since birds are Theropods, and traditionally, Sauropods and Theropods cluster together as Saurischians; the idea is that Ornithischians have a more conservative version of the air-sac type long, that specialized in Saurischians and eventually was handed on to birds.

        However, new evidence suggests that the old taxonomy may be wrong, and in fact Theropods and Ornithischians cluster together under the new taxon Ornithoscelida, with Sauropods on the outs. This complicates matters as now to distantly related parts of the dinosaur family tree show evidence of bird-like lungs, but not the Ornithischians–did they lose these lungs for some reason? Will better evidence emerge of air-sac lungs in Ornithischians?

    • Eric Rall says:

      Mammalian lungs are a lot less vulnerable to inhalation hazards (smoke, noxious gasses, airborne pathogens etc) than bird lungs: the same features that allow oxygen to transfer into the blood more readily also make toxins transfer more readily. Bird lungs also have smaller air tubes than mammal lungs (for surface area, since they don’t have separate aveoli), so they’re more at-risk from dust and soot particles to clog up their lungs.

  16. Walter says:

    Developers of SSC, do you listen to music while developing? If so, what kind of music?

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Yeah, it’s usually necessary to block distracting outside noise. To prevent the music itself being a distraction I go with primarily non-English stuff so the lyrics bypass language processing.

      • albatross11 says:

        I like listening to Bollywood tunes for this–most of the songs are not in English (though there are occasional lines in English), and the music is catchy and interesting enough to keep some part of my attention.

      • Ouroborobot says:

        Second this. A lot of opera, electronic, and video game soundtracks for me. Blocks out distractions without diverting my attention.

    • sty_silver says:

      Depends on how difficult whatever I’m doing right now is. Very difficult -> nothing or white noise (rain or waterfall sound); fairly difficult -> something that I think of as less distracting, no clean vocals, not too emotional; not particularly difficult -> anything

      • brad says:

        I’m similar except it’s silence (haven’t tried ambient), non choral classical, and then anything. Though not podcasts.

    • SamChevre says:

      I listen to ambient music with no vocals quietly when programming; Mystical Sun and Solar Fields are particular favorites.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Absolutely. It blocks out redundant brain-channels by focusing them on enjoying the music while I code. My coding speed drops noticeably if I can’t listen to music.

      Mostly power metal, but some speed and thrash.

    • Nick says:

      No. But I rarely listen to music anyway.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Yes. I have a strong tendency to listen to soundtracks from the Fire Emblem series.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      No vocals. Ambient is often good. There are several Skyrim tracks on YouTube made to loop for literally hours; they work well at low volume.

      Alternately, synthwave mixes, also on YouTube.

  17. sty_silver says:

    Does anyone know a video player that can play videos at twice the speed, while 1) maintaining normal pitch (i.e. not make voices sound super high) and 2) not lagging?

    VLC starts lagging (video drags behind, everything else goes slow). Firefox doesn’t play them at all (neither from source nor from file). Chrome + addon stops every few seconds.

    • AG says:

      This isn’t how sound works. Pitch is based on frequency, so “stretching the wave out/compressing the wave” by adding/removing samples at regular intervals changes frequency and so pitch.
      In order to have audio play at high speed without changing pitch/frequency, an audio processor has to isolate the unit wave form and only selectively remove samples of that unit wave form.

      This is not something easily done in real time.

      So to practically do this, a video player would have to rip the entire audio track, process it (essentially creating a whole new audio file), and then use it for playback with the changed video. You’d have to select the speed you’re going to watch the entire thing at the beginning, and stick with it the entire way through.

      • 10240 says:

        Both VLC and mpv manage it real-time. I was surprised too.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Computers are easily fast enough to do it in real time nowadays. They’re probably using time domain techniques, but I would guess it can be done in frequency domain quite fast nowadays. Especially since you can pre-compute half of it.

        • AG says:

          sty_silver mentions that their VLC can’t handle it.

          I’ve use the speed controls on VLC myself, but never to a 2x rate.

          • 10240 says:

            @AG I meant that VLC and mpv have algorithms that can theoretically (and at least under some conditions practically) do it, so it’s doable, not that they don’t have bugs or performance problems for some people. Also, at sty_silver the problem was with the video, not the audio.

      • lvlln says:

        YouTube does this real-time. At least, I think it’s real-time. Any video on the website, I can choose speeds from 0.25x to 2x in 0.25 increments, and by using a Chrome extension, I can expand that to higher rates and smaller increments (I use 0.1 increments and often watch videos at 2.5x-3x speed). To my ears, the audio just sounds sped up, certainly no significant change in pitch. And this option is available instantly to any video I upload, as soon as the video is available to view, and I can seamlessly switch between any speed at any point in the video.

      • sty_silver says:

        Yeah, I know that pitch naturally goes up when you increase frequency, and that in order for it to stay constant, it needs to be scaled back down. I don’t have the technical understanding to know how hard this is, but since youtube can do it without lagging (and chrome and VLC can almost do it), I mean, that’s proof that it’s possible. All I need is something as good as whatever youtube uses.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Youtube does not do it in real time. That would be monstrous waste of processing cycles – When you upload it it creates an audio-track for each step of speed-up/down they want to make possible, and save it with the video file in question.

          Doing this will make the file on their servers only very slightly larger, impacts what they have to stream not at all, and cuts the processing requirements by a factor of “how many people watch this vid at speed”, because it is just selecting a different sound track depending on which speedup you pick. So an algorithm capable of doing so gracefully in real time is not implied by the fact that youtube delivers the illusion of one.

          I state this as fact, but it is just deduction based on the fact that youtubes coders are not idiots.

          • lvlln says:

            YouTube’s UI allows only steps of 0.25 from 0.25x – 2x, but by using a Chrome extension, it’s possible to use different steps as well as rates higher than 2x (e.g. 1.7x, 2.35x, or 3.7x are all possible using the extension, even though YouTube doesn’t support it natively).

            The extension also works for other online video sources, such as Twitch (which natively has 2x playback available).

            I’m not sure that that would be possible if YouTube were pre-processing the audio for each of the rates they intend to allow.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I state this as fact, but it is just deduction based on the fact that youtubes coders are not idiots.

            What is your track record with this kind of arrogant statement? Do you ever check your deductions?

          • AG says:

            @Douglas Knight:
            Thanks for the link, that as educational.

      • entasis says:

        Audible and some podcast apps can do it in real time. I routinely listen to podcasts at 2x; Audible goes up to 3.5x these days. It’s eminently possible without re-encoding.

    • 10240 says:

      VLC works fine for me. (Your problem is not clear to me. Does video play with twice the speed, but audio with the original speed, or what?) mpv works for me too (a command-line media player, though it has various GUI front-ends).

      • sty_silver says:

        If I play it with VLC, the audio will be fine (it plays with double speed), but the video will usually just show a still image and only reload a couple of times per minute. Also, everything else gets super laggy. It feels like the hardware just can’t quite handle it. It’s probably fine for you because your hardware (processor?) is better.

        So if there was a player with a more efficient algorithm, that should do the trick, I assume. I also have reason to believe it’s possible because I did try one other (forgot the name) where the video was fine but the audio was buggy.

        • 10240 says:

          Full HD at double speed lags on my machine too (cheap laptop). You could try a lower resolution video.

    • eigenmoon says:

      You could transcode the video with ffmpeg before viewing.

  18. FXBDM says:

    *Happy Jingle*
    -Hi Alice
    -Hi Bill, what’cha doin’ ?
    -Oh, not much, just getting set up for the SSC DIPLOMACY GAME
    -Diplomacy? What’s that?
    -Well, Alice, It’s a board game. It’s loosely based on 1900 Europe, and you goal is to CONQUER THE WORLD!
    -Really? Like Risk?
    -It’s very different! You basically have to convince your opponents to move the way you want through discussion, promises, lies and deception.
    -Sounds fun! How do I join?
    -Just email FXBDM (at) G Mail (dot) Com and he’ll hook you up with the game that’s just forming. They are looking for two more players!
    -Can I play Lichtenstein?
    -[canned laughter] Oh, Alice!
    *happy jingle, star fade to black*

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s very different! You basically have to convince your opponents to move the way you want through discussion, promises, lies and deception.

      This is reminding me of Brexit right now!

    • metacelsus says:

      Having played in the SSC diplomacy game last year, I can say it’s very fun, but will devour your free time with endless plotting.

  19. brad says:

    Did the Fed cave to political pressure? Is it reasonable to stop raising interest rates at 2.5% and unwinding QE with so much to go, given that the economy, if not the stock market, is still going strong (no thanks to the government shutdown)? Is this going to deepen and lengthen the next slowdown as the Fed won’t have much ammunition?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I’m okay with them raising interest rates but don’t you think they were going a little fast?

      • brad says:

        Not really, no. At least not holding as a given that they didn’t start earlier than they did. We effectively have had monetary and fiscal stimulus in a period when the economy was hot to begin with. By my understanding that’s the totally wrong thing to do. Nothing the Fed could do about the fiscal part, but given that it was happening they should have, if anything, quickened the pace of normalization. They have no mandate whatsoever to prop up the prices of speculative assets.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          You don’t think it’s a little disruptive when people have no idea what interest rates are going to be 2 or 3 quarters from now?

          • baconbits9 says:

            People have no idea what interest rates are going to be independent of the Fed. The gap between the Federal funds rate and treasury yields or mortgages is not remotely consistent. Here is the 10 year treasury minus the federal funds rate, knowing one doesn’t let you know the other, so knowing the federal funds rate in 6 months doesn’t really do much for limiting disruption.

          • brad says:

            This latest move increases uncertainty, it doesn’t decrease it. Before we were going to have slow steady progress towards normalization. Now, who knows.

      • broblawsky says:

        Not from a historical context, no. Worse still, this makes it almost a certainty that the Fed will have no ammunition for fighting the next recession.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I don’t believe that the political pressure angle has that much to do with it. There have been a few shifts in the economy that traditionally should cause the Fed to cut back on tightening. First the UE rate went from 3.7-3.9% with job growth, indicating that the labor market isn’t as tight as it was thought to be. Increasing labor force participation (according to models the Fed likely uses) acts as a dampening agent for inflation as more people joining the work force slows down growth in wages which slows down cost growth for companies with slows down costs for consumers. Different measures of inflation expectations dropped below 2% in December and November as well (5 year, 10 year). The Yield Curve also inverted in early December and increased its inversion in late December, which is generally considered an early indicator of a coming recession.

      Add in the stock markets dive in December and you have plenty of ‘legitimate’ reasons for the Fed to cut back on their tightening schedule.

      • brad says:

        What’s the game plan here? If the economy is starting to turn already how does the fed react when we move into actual recession? They can’t cut interest rates very much before going back to zero. Ever more QE, I guess?

        I see the argument that you shouldn’t sacrifice low inflation growth for the purpose of “ammunition” but now that we are staring down the barrel of the second half of that, I’m not so thrilled with it.

        • baconbits9 says:

          A full reply here would be an effort post. A few points:

          1. The Fed doesn’t view itself as a “preventing recessions institution”, they are a “business cycle moderating institution” if anything. Lots of people present them as the former, but that is one part of their approach, not the whole thing and they should be more viewed as a recession minimizing institution, not preventing.

          2. A decline in the inflation rate (or expected inflation rate), despite what monetarists claim, is not a good indicator for a recession. There was no decline in 5 year inflation expectations (and even a tiny increase) leading into the 2007 recession, and there have been large drops since 2008, in 2010 for instance and that metric was under 2% for about a year across 2015 and 2016 with no recession. You can craft a different story by looking at different metrics and deciding which recessions to focus on, but the general broad view is not much correlation.

          3. Point 1 is actually kind of wrong. If your reaction to point 2 is “then why stop raising rates when inflation fell” its because their mandate is stable inflation and full employment. The Fed layed out a pathway and employment and inflation were mostly going in the right direction, absent some inflation numbers in 2015-2016 but the employment metrics were still good, so they kept their long term plan intact with minor shifts until December when it seemed plausible that there had been a significant shift.

          I see the argument that you shouldn’t sacrifice low inflation growth for the purpose of “ammunition” but now that we are staring down the barrel of the second half of that, I’m not so thrilled with it.

          I don’t know how the Fed views this internally, but viewing higher interest rates as ammunition is almost certainly an unhelpful way of thinking about it. The Fed cut rates from July 2007 to May 2008 very quickly, from over 5% to 2% without preventing the recession that started in 2007 and without preventing the major issues that came a bit later. They also cut rates into the 2000 recession, and the funds rate was >19% on the eve of the 1981 recession and they slashed rates down to just over 12% in 5 months and the recession still lasted another year after that (they also raised rates from that point before cutting again so the evidence here isn’t clear, but there isn’t much evidence for “the Fed needs room to cut rates to prevent or fight a recession”).

          • John Schilling says:

            1. The Fed doesn’t view itself as a “preventing recessions institution”, they are a “business cycle moderating institution” if anything.

            What do you (or in your opinion the Fed) see as the distinction between the two? A recession looks an awful lot like an extreme trough in the business cycle; I don’t see how you moderate the one without preventing the other, or vice versa.

            Unless the plan is just to keep the deep troughs and shear off the atypical peaks, in which case why are we doing that again?

          • brad says:

            I appreciate the reply even if it’s “only” a mini-effort post.

          • baconbits9 says:

            What do you (or in your opinion the Fed) see as the distinction between the two?

            They don’t view their goal to be a world with no recessions, but more that what recessions do come are prevented from turning into depressions. A moderating force for the business cycle, not eliminating it all together.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I don’t think it’s political. I think the market is a strung out crack whore. Given that, easing up makes sense, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      My problem is that I don’t really know what the ‘correct’ interest rate is.

      There’s one school of thought that defines stimulus in terms of changes from long term historical rate levels and another that defines stimulus in terms of where the economy is relative to the fed’s target.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      Most signs point to a slowing economy. Earnings growth has slowed dramatically, and Europe and China are struggling. Also, the yield curve is pretty shallow. Finally, inflation has been below the 2% target for a few months at least. Why raise rates? And QE is continuing, just not accelerating, if I read the news correctly.

  20. I don’t think I understand rationality. Look at the lottery. If you do the math, the expected value of a ticket is negative, meaning playing the lottery is irrational. But let’s say that you have the winning ticket. Is it still irrational? On the one hand, it seems strange to me to say that taking an action that results in you winning is irrational. On the other hand, you don’t know that you won, meaning it shouldn’t change your calculations. Which is it?

    • It’s irrational if your objective is to maximize expected value. It might be rational if you are willing to pay a little in expected value in order to have a good excuse to daydream about being rich.

    • arlie says:

      First of all, I think you have to distinguish between “this thing I did had a good result” and “I made a good choice”. Sometimes you get (very) lucky, and sometimes you get (very) unlucky.

      Secondly, there are lots of reasons to make a good decision, and not all of them are rational. Let’s suppose we’re in a situation where what I want is to maximize expected value. I.e. I want to pick the response such that, if I always picked that response when this situation occurred, and did this often enough, I’d get the most of whatever it is I want. (Let’s call it money.) Let’s also assume that one of the choices available to me is really better than all the others.

      There are lots of ways I could pick the right answer – or a wrong one. Some of those reasons are a lot more rational than others. I could try divination. I could ask a salesman, who I know will be paid based on the option I choose – not based on whether that option is good for me, but on something else (worst case, I suspect the saleman gets the biggest payoff when I get the lowest, and vice versa). I could consult someone who I believe is good at evaluating these choices, and wants me to do well. Or I could evaluate the options myself, either emotionally (this feels good) or mathematically.

      Going back to your person who has the winning lottery ticket. *If* they have some way to know which ticket will win, then it’s perfectly rational to buy that ticket, but not any other one, if they can. But lotteries are generally set up so that it’s impossible to know this, barring e.g. bribing all the right people. If it’s a true lottery, they have to decide without knowing – and that’s when you have to look at ‘expected value’ – i.e. the average payoff per ticket, minus the ticket price.

    • sty_silver says:

      > If you do the math, the expected value of a ticket is negative, meaning playing the lottery is irrational.

      I think that’s not generally true, for several reasons. The first one is that utility isn’t the same as money, and it certainly doesn’t need to scale linearly with money. If all this talk about lottery winners not being happy is true, then if you’re planning to spend the money for yourself only, it would probably be irrational to buy lottery tickets even if the expected value is positive (which afaik is actually the case sometimes). On the other hand, if you value the experience of getting a shot at being rich, that could in principle make buying a ticket rational, though it’s a bit questionable whether that’s really a habit worth having.

      Whether or not you end up winning doesn’t make any difference in how rational the decision was. You always look at the expected outcome (but in terms of utility, not money). So yes, if buying the ticket was irrational when you did it, then the choice remains irrational in retrospect even if you ended up becoming a millionaire.

      • SamChevre says:

        Right: utility is not linear with money. This is why buying insurance with negative expected payoff is frequently rational.

        For a personal example, I am an actuary; I’m very thoroughly familiar with the expected profits from life insurance. I still own a good bit of term insurance; there’s a 99% change that it will be a straightforward cost with no payoff, and the insurer expects to make money. But if I die before the children are grown, it protects them and my wife; this is worth a lot in utility, enough that I think owning insurance is rational.

    • silver_swift says:

      What you’re describing here is results oriented thinking, ie. “this thing had a bad result, therefor the decision that led to it was bad” or “this thing had a good result, therefor the decision that led to it was good”.

      This is incorrect reasoning, because decisions often don’t have deterministic outcomes. When evaluating whether a decision is the right one, you have to look at all possible outcomes (and how likely those results are) and determine based on that whether on average those outcomes are positive.

      If you have the option of buying a winning lottery ticket then obviously you should do so, but in most circumstances the only option you have is buying a lottery ticket that has a 1/ chance of being a winning lottery ticket. In that case, you should evaluate whether a 1/ chance of winning is worth the cost of buying the lottery ticket (hint: it isn’t).

    • Ketil says:

      “Playing the lottery” means buying tickets with expected negative return, which generally is irrational¹.

      Saying you have the winning ticket doesn’t change that, it just means (if you have certain knowledge) that you are no longer playing the lottery.

      ¹ It might be rational if you include excitement or entertainment value as a positive return, or if your life depends on gaining a large amount of cash in a short time.

    • tossrock says:

      Playing certain lotteries actually has positive expected value at a first pass analysis (ie, without taking into account multiple winners, taxes, etc). For example, Powerball has a 1 in 292 million chance of winning the grand price, and a $2 buy in. That means if the jackpot is above $584 million playing has a positive expected value. This happens now with some regularity, due to the way lottery officials have manipulated the odds to drive larger, headline-grabbing jackpot sizes.

      Of course, playing games with positive expected value isn’t necessarily rational, as you have to take into account bankroll sizes and marginal utility of money. You can apply the Kelly criterion to determine how much you should bet, given that the odds are in your favor, and the answer is “basically nothing”: http://www.r6.ca/blog/20090522T015739Z.html

      • rlms says:

        That link is interesting, but I think this Hacker News comment on it is right:

        the reliance on the Kelly criterion doesn’t make any sense. the Kelly criterion is based on a game you can play over and over. it calculates an exponential expected growth rate based on how much you’re favored.
        favorable lotteries don’t show up very often. if a favorable lottery that you could play existed every day, then the Kelly criterion makes sense (it sort of makes sense in its original context, the stock market).

        Or in other words, bankroll sizes aren’t relevant here (especially if you’re considering betting $0 or $2). It still might be irrational to buy a ticket based on decreasing marginal utility of money, but that’s a separate issue (albeit one that the Kelly criterion would be applicable to if the decrease was logarithmic).

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I made a long comment but it got eaten because my login expired.

          Short form without caveats

          1. Powerball (292 million to 1) gets over 1:1 payout at least a dozen times per year, and is over 2:1 a few times a year.

          2. Large online group could buy. 1K people buying 10K each gets 10 million tickets, or a 1:29 chance of winning.

          3. That’s not bad for a 2:1 EV. It’s borderline on trying to bother, but there may be lotteries with the numbers make better sense.

          • arlie says:

            How does it manage such a payout? The folks who run it need it to at least break even, after expenses, unless they are running it as a means of giving money away. I suspect there’s an arithmetic error/misunderstanding behind your point 1.

          • acymetric says:

            Because the income is cumulative. In order for the payout to climb that high, people would have bought millions (billions?) of tickets that did not pay out prior to that payout. For a jackpot of $700 million, they might have taken in $2 billion dollars in losing tickets in the preceding days/weeks/months.

            Those numbers are made up, but I would guess not wildly far off. Real numbers or approximations are probably available somewhere.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I had this URL in my original comment before it got eated
            https://www.lotteryusa.com/powerball/pb-year.html

            That’s also the nominal jackpot, before losing money to taxes and losing money to annuitization. The 2:1 payout is more like a 1:1 payout, so what I called “borderline worth it” probably isn’t.

      • hls2003 says:

        Just a quick note that none of the large jackpot lottery games has ever had a positive net present value that I’m aware of, and I believe it is virtually impossible for them to ever be so.

        As you note, the headline number is for a $2 ticket in Powerball and MegaMillions, with odds of about 1 in 292 million and 307 million, respectively. That means that an expected ticket value of about $585 million (or $615 million), is necessary to be net positive.

        Actual jackpots, however, are stated in terms of annuity value, not cash value. The lump sum cash value depends on interest rates, but generally is somewhere around 60% of the headline number. Furthermore, if you have $2 in your pocket to spend on a ticket, that is a post-tax expenditure. But you will have to pay tax on the winnings, at effectively the maximum state and local rate (because a large jackpot will render negligible the graduated brackets). Federally this is 37%; states will vary but 3-5% is not uncommon. So a headline number of $1 billion yields an actual post-tax lump sum jackpot of around $350 million. On those numbers alone, you would need a headline number around $1.7 billion to come close to a positive expected value to a single winner.

        In your favor, the “fixed value” win conditions on a ticket usually amount to about 10% of the ticket price. So you’re not purely throwing your money away; every so often you will win back a few bucks on a partial win. Those wins are invariant with jackpot.

        The big killer, though, is jackpot splitting. Historically, ticket purchases scale superlinearly with jackpot size. You get exponentially more ticket sales for a $1 billion jackpot than for a $100 million jackpot. As the ticket sales increase, so do the jackpots, but the chances of splitting the jackpot increase faster than the jackpot size. This presumably saturates at some level, but whatever that level is, it appears higher than any jackpot any American lottery has seen, and thus one should assume that increased ticket sales will actually decrease the net present value of a ticket more than increased jackpot will boost it. By net present value calculations, you are actually probably best off with very large jackpot that has not yet reached “report it on the six o’clock news” record-breaking territory.

        If a hypothetical lottery got so large as to saturate the regular ticket market and gain a substantially positive NPV, then you would see irregular investment options. If there’s a 10% return out there on a ticket, imagine Goldman Sachs investing. Which pot of new money would restart the split-ticket problem, so it never gets to that point.

        All that being said – I myself play the lottery infrequently as a daydream facilitator, but I limit myself by the approximate NPV of a ticket. If it isn’t returning somewhere in the vicinity of 30 to 50 cents on the dollar, I won’t flush the money. It’s arbitrary but helps keep me from throwing money away except very occasionally.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Ha, we made our comments about annuities at around the same time.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lottery_jackpot_records There was one payout that was 1.45:1, cash value. You might just come out ahead after taxes!

          The $1.5 billion Powerball from January 2016 would have been 2.8:1 after lump-sum but before taxes. Too bad it split 3 ways.

          • hls2003 says:

            True, although the number of winners, post facto, is not the relevant calculation. Every lottery winner is massively NPV whether she gets the whole thing or splits it 100 times. Before the fact, though, you calculate the split probabilities and multiply the jackpot by the percentage chance of each one. So 25% chance of single winner, 35% chance of two winners, 25% chance of three, 10% chance of four, 4% chance of five, 1% chance of 6+ = (.25 + .175 + .083 + .025 + .008 + .000…) = something over .51.**

            **Edit note: Made-up numbers, though not terribly far off from the correct formula which I am too lazy to look up but can be found on the interwebs.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            You can reduce your odds of splitting the jackpot somewhat by picking numbers unlikely to be part of birthdays.

            In fact, checking my thesis, the three-way split of the $1.5 billion had the numbers 4, 8, 19, 27, 34 with a powerball of 10. The single-way split was 5 28 62 65 70 with a bonus ball of 5.

          • hls2003 says:

            I find that the best way of convincing my mind that odds of winning are basically indistinguishable from zero, is to propose buying “66, 67, 68, 69, 70” and a powerball. Somehow when I put it like that it seems properly unlikely; when I think of a random number, my brain wants to see improved odds even though I know they’re not.

    • J Mann says:

      There’s a couple ways of looking at it. The first is what does the system of philosophy referred to as “rationalism” say about that. I don’t know enough to answer that question, but someone could point to a couple of the “Sequences” that explain principles of “rationalism” that apply.

      Since I don’t know any of that, I’ll address what I think a lot of people mean by a rational approach to risk.

      – I think a rational approach to playing the lottery is to (a) be appropriately informed[1] about its costs and benefits and make a decision that is (b) consistent with your identified goals.[2]

      [1] Appropriately Informed: At a first pass, it’s a good idea to understand what your actual chance of winning is and what the expected payout is, and maybe to do some exercises to comprehend your minuscule chance of winning. (Rationalists will tell you that most people aren’t very good at assessing very small or very large numbers, so some work on that will help you align your actions with your goals.) At a second pass, you could learn about “rational ignorance” theory, which is basically the idea that information isn’t free, so while more information is generally helpful, you reach a point where additional research isn’t really worth the benefits. For a lottery, it’s trivially easy to look up the odds, so unless it materially reduces your enjoyment, I’d recommend it. You can decide how much “appreciating small numbers” training would be helpful to you.

      [2] Decision Consistent with Goals: As David Friedman says, if your goal is to maximize the expected money in your bank account, lotteries are a bad idea. Overall, the lottery losers lose more money than the winners win. (The difference is the money that gets taken out of the system to pay for advertising and other costs, and the profit that the lottery takes) If your goal is to give up a certainly of having $2 extra dollars per lottery ticket in exchange for a very small chance of winning because you enjoy that chance or prefer that situation (google “risk preference”), then it’s rational.

      Insurance is an inverse situation. Again, you can expect to be a net loser on average – the insurance company has to pay its costs, so absent government subsidies or something, it pays out less than it takes in or it goes bankrupt. With that said, rationalists still buy insurance – insurance is “rational” if you prefer a situation where you are probably net poorer as a result of buying the insurance, but in the unlikely event that your house burns down or your car is stolen, then your policy pays a portion of the loss.

      In general, a close look at the math leads to the conclusion that it’s not “rational” to insure costs that you can afford to pay yourself without much hardship (like buying the $1 insurance on a $30 set of headphones at Best Buy) or to insure costs that you are almost certain to have to pay, (like buying burial insurance instead of just saving the money), but depending on your preferences and situation, even those policies may be rational for you – the primary question is whether you’ve thought it through, and in some cases, whether you can adjust your preferences to be just as happy without the headphone insurance.

      • If your goal is to give up a certainly of having $2 extra dollars per lottery ticket in exchange for a very small chance of winning because you enjoy that chance or prefer that situation (google “risk preference”), then it’s rational.

        I understand the inverse situation but I have a hard time really getting this. If I pay a thousand dollars, and expect lottery style odds to win $1001, that seems irrational, regardless of what my risk aversion is.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          Your are responding to a post about a different kind of preference. People who play the slots at casinos want to win, but they also enjoy the flashing lights and spinning wheels that tell them they just lost. They aren’t just falling for a bad bet with odds against them, but actively enjoy the activity.

          Similarly, there are people who enjoy some aspect of buying lottery tickets. Some like the excitement of the possibility (“You can’t win if you don’t play!” “Somebody has to win, it could be me!”) or the “game” aspect. It’s much harder to calculate that value, but it’s real for a subset of people who play these games. Therefore, the “rational” time to play goes beyond the actuarial value of the ticket purchased.

          • With gambling you can think of it as either investment or consumption. If someone thinks of it as consumption, then gambling isn’t any less irrational than going to a theme park. But in the example I gave, I was trying to strip out all the extraneous features(the wheel, lights, etc) and make the odds even worse than the normal lottery and have the person treat it as an investment. He seemed to be suggesting that it still isn’t irrational because there is some tiny chance of having more money than before and some people are wired to want that. That just sounds like bad wiring rather than different preferences.

        • J Mann says:

          I might be “risk preferring” in some circumstances. Call it reverse insurance.

          Let’s say by buying lottery tickets, I know I will fall into one of two categories.

          Category one: Odds: 999,999 out of 1 million – I am two dollars poorer.

          Category two: Odds: 1 out of 1 million – I am one million dollars richer.

          The expected value is negative – I am losing one dollar on average, but I might prefer that risk distribution to the alternative.

          Some people model that as “I get present enjoyment from the possibility of winning in the future,” but it’s also possible just to have some unusual risk preferences.

          • hls2003 says:

            I have heard this formulated as the “expensive operation” principle. If you are dying, and the only chance is a $1 million operation, but you only have $2, then playing the $1 million lottery is completely rational despite the poor NPV.

          • A 1948 solution to the lottery/insurance puzzle, which is what people are discussing here. Not one I find very plausible.

          • A1987dM says:

            @hls2003:
            Except playing the roulette is going to result in much higher chances of turning $2 into $1M than a lottery.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      In philosophy we distinguish two senses of “ought”. The “objective” ought takes into account all the facts, whether or not you know them. This is the sense in which it’s plausible that Hitler’s parents ought to have smothered him in his crib, and the sense in which you should buy the ticket if as a matter of fact it’s the winning ticket.

      The “subjective” ought takes into account your uncertainty and false (though perhaps not irrational) beliefs. This is the sense in which given their knowledge at the time of course Hitler’s parents shouldn’t have smothered him, and in which you shouldn’t buy the ticket even if as a matter of fact it is the winner.

      “Rationality” is generally taken to have something to do with the subjective sense, not the objective sense.

  21. Tenacious D says:

    Let’s talk about the hosting of international sporting events. Hosting something like the Olympics or World Cup is a large expense for a few weeks of spectacle and maybe a boost in prestige. Often, they’re subject to significant cost over-runs, and corruption scandals occur with some regularity.

    A few months ago, the people of Calgary voted no in a plebiscite on their city’s bid to host the Olympics. On a much smaller scale, the premier of my province pulled the plug today on funding the Francophonie games after the budget for doing so had ballooned by 7.6 times.

    Is hosting events like these worth it? Do you think saying no to them will become more of a trend? And does anyone have good ideas for how they could be put on at a lower cost (or with more substantial, lasting benefits) to host cities?

    • kieranpjobrien says:

      And does anyone have good ideas for how they could be put on at a lower cost (or with more substantial, lasting benefits) to host cities?

      The obvious, and unoriginal, idea for cutting costs for the Olympics/World Cup is to host it twice. Or, ideally, to host it in the same place every time. So maybe Athens gets the Olympics every four years. Cape Town gets the Commonwealth Games. The UK gets the World Cup. Australia gets the Rugby World Cup. India gets the Cricket World Cup.

      Host it more than once and the Capex outlays for the new stadia and public transport upgrades can make sense.

      • Ketil says:

        Is hosting events like these worth it?

        Sports events can be very profitable, I think American football and especially Superbowl, is a pretty glaring example. The whole organization appears to be carefully designed to maximize revenues and profits.

        In contrast, the Olympics seems to be geared to extracting a maximum of public money and funnel it into opaque and undemocratic organizations, who appear to feel entitled to tax payer funds in return for a bit of entertainment. The sentiment seems to be that some things (here: sports) can’t be measured in money, and then the obvious thing happens to the budgets, which are guaranteed by tax payers’ money.

        I think it is perfectly possible to make the Olympics profitable, but there are no incentives to do so – at least not until we run out of corrupt dictatorships who still need a distraction from their governance.

        • kieranpjobrien says:

          The Superbowl is one event at one place at one time. It makes securing it much easier, makes it much easier to bolt on an event to existing infrastructure. And I believe (being British) that most American Football stadia are already huge in terms of capacity? So there’s less need to upgrade or completely rebuild stadiums for the purpose. For the Olympics you either need to rebuild a football (soccer) stadium to handle a 400m track or build a purpose-built stadium that can later serve as something else. You also need to build, as Johan says below, a velodrome, an aquatics centre, a rowing centre, you need to have a sailing and equestrian centre available. You need to secure them all and ensure people can get from hotels to venues and venues to venues.
          So the Superbowl, whilst certainly a major event, is orders of magnitude less complex than hosting the Olympics.

          If, however, you host it twice, or more, you barely need to upgrade facilities the next time, you can use them in the intervening years but then have the huge attraction of the Olympics paying for it over a 40 (?) year lifetime of a stadium.

          The IOC is, however, corrupt and awful. Their dedicated lanes on public roads and the kowtowing done to their officials during events is ridiculous.

          So I think it’s possible to make the Olympics profitable, but not by hosting it once. You would need a tourist tax and vastly inflated ticket prices that do away with the “spirit” of the games and would make the less attractive events (5m diving?) dull as there would be no crowds.

        • bean says:

          I think it is perfectly possible to make the Olympics profitable, but there are no incentives to do so – at least not until we run out of corrupt dictatorships who still need a distraction from their governance.

          LA managed it in 1984, although I’m rather glad I’m not a taxpayer there any more as they gear up for 2028.

    • johan_larson says:

      Things would be easier if it was accepted that not every last obscure sport had to be included in the Olympics. There just aren’t that many speed-skating ovals and velodromes in the world. There would be a lot more places interested in hosting the Olympics if they didn’t have to cater to the oddballs.

      Also, in an age of jet travel and the internet, why do all the events have to happen in (or near) one city? (Well except for the sex of course. The IOC’s eugenics program would suffer if the athletes weren’t housed in close proximity. But we don’t talk about that.) There would be more bidders if regions or entire countries could bid for the Olympics and other similar spectacles.

      • kieranpjobrien says:

        As a Brit I have to disagree on the velodrome. Without it we’d get (next to) no medals. But it’s nice in a fuzzy way that we do cater to the equestrians, skeet shooters, rowers, sailors, runners, jumpers, cyclists, triathletes, swimmers, divers, tennis stars, squash players, kayakers, gymnasts, golfers and surfers at one event. It’s mad. But when done well, it works. And if you only had to build those facilities once it could even make sense.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          As a Brit (and a rower), there has been talk of reducing the distance the rowers race from 2km to 1km in order to make the Olympics cheaper to host. Flatwater canoeing takes place on a 1km course that is usually the last km of the rowing course- so rowing is the only sport using half of the lake.

          Plenty of people, myself included, disagree because shorter race distances change the character of the sport (making endurance less important) and may make doping more profitable. I think that a shorter course would only be OK if it was combined with a long-distance time trial (which are cheaper to run as they can be held on rivers).

      • Deiseach says:

        Also, in an age of jet travel and the internet, why do all the events have to happen in (or near) one city?

        In 2002, Japan and South Korea co-hosted the World Cup and it seemed to work out okayish, I don’t remember any huge controversies (apart from the usual ones at sporting events). And I see that in 2026 Canada, North America and Mexico will co-host that World Cup, which seems like an interesting decision.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          While 2002 was the first World Cup to be hosted in multiple countries, World Cups are almost always hosted in multiple fairly widely-spaced cities. Even as far back as the second World Cup in 1934 there were 8 venues, the most distant of which were about 450 miles apart as the crow flies (Turin and Naples).

          Interestingly, the same is true of the football tournament in the Olympics. I think the number of matches required to hold a football tournament, and the fact that there probably has to be enough time between matches at the same venue for the grass to recover, means that they need multiple stadia.

      • Tenacious D says:

        (Well except for the sex of course. The IOC’s eugenics program would suffer if the athletes weren’t housed in close proximity. But we don’t talk about that.)

        Heh. Now you’ve got me wondering how many athletes give birth 9 months after the Olympics.

    • ana53294 says:

      Other than hosting it in the same city making it profitable, as mentioned above, the branding of a city can improve.

      The only case I can think of are the Barcelona Olympics, though. So many changes were made to the city under the auspices of the Olympics, that the city got a huge boost in tourism.

      Of course, they didn’t just build stadiums; they improved public transportation, cleaned up the city, fixed many dilapidated buildings, decorated the city with works of art…

      But maybe this only works in already up-and-coming places. Like the “Bilbao effect” of the Guggenheim museum only happened exactly once, and nobody has been able to replicate it.

    • Aapje says:

      @Tenacious D

      Is hosting events like these worth it?

      No. Post-facto studies consistently find no positive effect for the local economy. It seems that in practice, these events drives away tourists who are not interested in the event during that period and that the oversized sports facilities or other infrastructure are not a boon to the economy.

      Do you think saying no to them will become more of a trend?

      It’s already a very strong trend that Western and/or more democratic nations are pulling out of the bid process after being initially interested. Note that the bid process happens many years before the actual event, so if you merely look at the events themselves, you see bidding trends from 4-8 years ago or so.

      The upcoming large sports events have/had large numbers of dropouts. Where once the sport committees could pick and choose, they are increasingly forced to hope that a decent candidate remains.

      When the Oslo dropped out of the 2022 bid, despite getting the highest scores from the IOC, the latter even put out an angry statement lambasting the Norwegians in a way that seemed like an angry outburst by a jilted lover, where the anger at what the person itself misses out on is projected on the other party, telling them that they made the wrong choice.

      And does anyone have good ideas for how they could be put on at a lower cost (or with more substantial, lasting benefits) to host cities?

      If you look at the cost of the various Olympics, then London and Sochi really made a mess of things, being massively more expensive than the previous events. Sochi is especially noteworthy, because winter Olympics are normally cheaper (as it is a smaller event), but Sochi was 5 times more expensive than Rio.

      Rio in general was a relatively cheap event, so perhaps the huge costs of London and Sochi were just coincidence/idiocy, not a sign that future events have to be this expensive. Probably not though, as the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics cost 13 billion and the the 2020 Tokyo Olympics seems to suffer from large overruns, with the expected costs being around 25 billion, which would be a new (negative) record.

      There are various options to reduce the costs:

      1. Fewer participants & sports. The 1896 Olympics had 152 competitors playing 9 sports. Rio had over 10,000 athletes playing 28 sports. The entourage of the athletes also increased, where there are now many more coaches and such. However, the general trend is to more competitors (not just for the Olympics, but also for soccer cups).

      2. Host the event in a region/country rather than a city, spreading out the event, allowing more reuse of facilities and requiring less of the infrastructure. It can even be hosted in multiple countries. Soccer seems open to this possibility. The Netherlands and Belgium made a bid to together host the 2018 World Cup. While this didn’t win, FIFA has indicated that they would like multiple host nations for the 2022 World Cup.

      3. Host in the same place.

      4. Decentralize the organization. Most of the Olympic sports have their own world cups which are organized by the international federations (in a way that is much cheaper than during the Olympics). These could run these same sports events under the flag of the Olympics.

      Note that the IOC is already proposing to do 1, 2 and 4. However, the natural tendency of the IOC seems to make huge demands, driving up costs.

      • Tenacious D says:

        3. Host in the same place.

        I think I heard a suggestion on a podcast once to build some of the facilities on ships/barges so that they could be docked in the nearest harbour. It would allow for some reuse without completely restricting things to one location.

    • Walter says:

      We are hosting the Superbowl this weekend in Atlanta. The general feel in the city is that this is good for us, we will make money off all the spectators.

      • Tenacious D says:

        The Super Bowl is probably a good example of how to make that kind of event a success because it rotates among facilities that are already part of the NFL. And the fact that it is not an international event probably leaves less opportunity for corruption.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Visitors who come for such events bring money in, which means that these events may be profitable for the economy at large, and possibly even for the state if this extra economic activity generates enough tax revenue to offset the extra public expenditures.

      In practice I think that politicians use these events as excuses to justify public expenditures in infrastructures that they wanted to fund anyway, because they genuinely believe that they will be beneficial to the people and/or to feed pork to their cronies. It does make economic sense: even if the event is overall unprofitable, the one-off money injection by the visitors may offset some of the one-off infrastructure/pork barrel costs.

    • arlie says:

      I don’t understand the economics. But I have 2 suspicions about *any* decision involving taxes supporting athetics (including a city providing susidies to entice a major league team, etc.)

      1) There are externalities not even counted as part of the cost. (I curse my local arena, and its proud sponsors, every time I see it – and I live just outside the jurisdiction that took the tax hike to pay for it. To me, it’s all about traffic jams, though I also don’t appreciate the drunks and vandals.)

      2) The real utility involves civic pride, etc. Or maybe status improvements for particular politicians. Arguments are made about benefits to local business, extra tax revenue, etc. But if people cared, they’d run the numbers in great detail and publish them. So this is just an excuse.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I’m especially surprised that Calgary voted not to host, given that their 1988 event managed zero debt before it even began, and is widely considered a case study for how to finance it successfully.

      • Tenacious D says:

        And it was another winter Olympics, so they presumably could have reused some of the facilities.

        • Austin says:

          It ended up more of a referendum on the current municipal government. Also, a lot of people felt that it wasn’t being run the way the ’88 Olympics were. Not to mention a lot of handwavium on the costs.

          Also, many of the existing facilities needed upgrades or reconstruction for modern events – in particular the ski jumps. There was a proposal to do that in Whistler, and given the state of interprovincial relations, that didn’t help.

  22. Atlas says:

    Does anyone have any interesting takes on Latin American revolutions in the 20th century (Mexico, Cuba, etc.) that they’d care to share?

    (I’m currently taking a class on the subject for a history minor. I will shamelessly borrow, though vaguely attribute, any cool facts/insights shared here.)

  23. Brett says:

    Apparently launching rockets off of planes in mid-flight is much better in capabilities if you take off with the rocket stage “dry” (i.e. it has no fuel nor oxidizer in its tanks). It takes off, gets fueled up by aircraft doing in-air refueling missions, and then launches when ready off the plane. There was even a study done on it called Black Horse.

  24. theredsheep says:

    Since there are a lot of Bible-interested (and knowledgeable) people on here, a question: in what sense do you suppose the “original” readers of the Bible supposed it to be true? That’s an awkward phrasing, but I’m not versed in all the minutiae of epistemology or what-have-you, so examples are in order.

    I’m sure we’ve all read the remarks where Noah’s flood couldn’t really have happened because Modern Science–no geological evidence, there’s not enough water, etc. But it seems to me that the story, taken literally, is implausible by the standards of its own time. Plenty of people back then had experience with building, using, or maintaining boats, and those who didn’t were likely to have experience with animal husbandry. By either metric, the story sounds grossly unworkable. Eight people built a boat far larger than any contemporary vessel in common use (with a door in its side), then kept it afloat while heavily loaded through forty days of nonstop storm conditions, plus an indefinite period of calm thereafter? And literally every kind of animal in the world was inside, eating, drinking, urinating, and defecating, with poor ventilation, damp air, and no exercise, the whole time, and it didn’t spark a chain reaction of foul air and death?

    You can cite divine intervention, but that has God giving somebody a really silly plan then working overtime to fill in the gaps. My best guess is that the literal truth or falsehood of the story was beside the point, and anybody who brought it up would be thought of as a pedantic nerd who couldn’t see the forest for the trees. But I really don’t know how these people related to these stories.

    (Jonah is another Modern Science example–you don’t need to be a marine biologist to know that fish guts do not resemble a hotel room, and forcryingoutloud a third of the disciples were fishermen–but in that case the divine intervention comes much more believably, at least for me)

    • Nornagest says:

      Jonah is another Modern Science example–you don’t need to be a marine biologist to know that fish guts do not resemble a hotel room, and forcryingoutloud a third of the disciples were fishermen–but in that case the divine intervention comes much more believably, at least for me

      It’s just too good a setting to pass up, as the Decemberists noticed.

      • theredsheep says:

        Wait. The Decemberists adapted a story where somebody gets thrown overboard, and does NOT drown? And then he goes to a city and says they’re all going to die, and nobody dies except for a plant? That doesn’t sound very Decemberist-y at all.

    • Brett says:

      Depending on how well read they were, they were probably skeptical at least somewhat as to the literal truth of the stories (but maybe considered them more valuable for teaching/morality purposes).

      Using another example of mythology, one of the founding myths of Rome was that Romulus and Remus were abandoned as infants and then nursed by a wolf. Mary Beard’s SPQR has accounts of Classical Roman authors speculating on what actually happened in terms of the myth of Romulus and Remus, and they didn’t appear to take the story of Romulus and Remus being raised by a wolf literally.

    • Aapje says:

      @theredsheep

      It seems quite apparent to me that (large) parts of of the bible are intended to be allegorical and/or symbolic.

      Consider the (non-biblical) story of ‘The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs.’ That story is not a historical document about a goose that once lived and laid golden eggs & is not intended to teach us to not kill any geese that lay golden eggs if we encounter them. Instead, it teaches us to not sell our capital goods for a short term profit, a fully generalizable principle.

      The bible has stories like that.

      I think that you also have to keep in mind that many of the stories come from a time of minimal record keeping, where much knowledge was passed along orally, changing constantly as each storyteller added their own flourish. So unlike today, where we can lookup when certain events happened or even do archaeology to discover when & where we have stable records, back then it was usually very vague when things happened or if they did at all. Allegory could become interpreted as historical record. The number of years ago things happened or how long things lasted were often symbolic numbers (like 7 = a large but limited period*) or just wild guesses.

      The reason why there are two origin stories in Genesis is probably because two separate oral narratives existed and both were written down to prevent conflict between those who were raised with the one story and those who were raised with the other.

      It seems that the Christian oral traditions would also simply incorporate stories from other oral traditions. The story of Noah is probably just an adaptation of an older Mesopotamian narrative.

      I personally think that just like today, people of the past differed in their desire for fundamentalism. Some people today want/need the bible to be factually correct, while others are much more happy to see it as being primarily allegorical and/or symbolic. I expect that the same personality differences existed in the past.

      So in that sense your question makes just as little sense as asking whether current readers of the Bible supposed it to be true. Some obviously do, some clearly don’t.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      St. Augustine wrote in the 5th century:

      It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.

      With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation.

      So I think they would laugh at someone who took the stories literally. Biblical literalism is a modern Protestant heresy.

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        This passage suggests that Augustine’s view was not taken universally, though. Undoubtedly Augustine had heard people speaking “idiotically” about natural philosophy ostensibly based on Scripture, just as we do today.

    • eigenmoon says:

      The book of Jonah seems to be either a parody or a satire.

      But people seemed to believe the story of Noah. Earth was supposed to be a very different planet before the Flood: there was no rain (Gen 2:5-6) and people lived far longer (950 years in case of Noah). Maybe the real-world post-Flood experience wasn’t really applicable. Just to be sure, outside of the Bible several angels visited Noah to give him superpowers.

      but that has God giving somebody a really silly plan then working overtime to fill in the gaps.

      That’s not necessarily out of character for the OT God.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Unfortunately, we have very little idea how the original audience understood Genesis. Do note, though, that even the traditional date of the late 15th century BC post-dates Atrahasis by three centuries. It’s not until more than a thousand years later, in the different culture of Classical Greece, that we find discourse on how to interpret myths (cf. Plato, Phaedrus). By the time of the Church Fathers, the general belief was that Moses was divinely-inspired to meet the Hebrews where they were, not teach any scientific facts (eg. Augustine quoted upthread).
      So my guess is that people at the time Genesis was written did take myths literally, and there were three ways the author could have handled the primordial chapters (Creation through the Flood): rework the Atrahasis material from their Eastern neighbors, rework Egyptian myths, or write stories that were sui generis (which if we assume divine inspiration, could have been scientifically accurate). The problem with the last option would be that humans have a predisposition to believe myths, so the Hebrews would have literally believed the other myths in addition to what Moses wrote…

    • dndnrsn says:

      This is hard to know. A few things that are probably relevant:

      1. Presumably, the people who put it together, read it, etc, did notice inconsistencies and so forth. Either they had ways of reconciling them (eg, you can find Christian art showing the death of Judas which combines the two ways he’s supposed to have died, and while I’m not that well versed in Jewish commentary, I understand much of it involves reconciling inconsistencies and the like) or they were not troubled by presenting two inconsistent things close to each other, for whatever reason.

      2. The understanding of secular-vs-religious, natural-vs-supernatural that might be normal for WEIRD folks are probably the exception throughout human history. Even someone today who believes in divine intervention might have an understanding of the world in which everything is “natural” until God comes in and does something supernatural. In the ancient world, at least, it’s less a binary thing, a lot more of a spectrum. The ancient world was full of gods and spirits, both good and evil – the charge is made against Jesus, not that he is a trickster using some sleight-of-hand or whatever, or that the people he’s casting demons out of are just mentally ill and he’s got some placebo effect going on, but rather that he is in league with the demons, which is why he can command them. In Judaism, one sees a progression of monotheism, from some early stuff that hints that maybe it wasn’t so monotheistic to begin with, to increasing degrees of monotheism (eg, “there are many gods, but this God is our God” is less monotheistic than “our God is the only real god; all those other gods are actually demons” is less monotheistic than “our God is the only god; all those other gods are delusions and fairy tales.”)

      Further, “belief” is less of an issue – deities were known to exist, and faith in them was more about trust (if Captain Amazing is a known superhero, you can see the guy flying around, if I have faith that he will save me from Professor Unpleasant, that means I think he’s gonna do it!) than about an affirmation of belief in their existence. There’s a bit in a Pratchett book (one with the witches) that riffs on this sort of thing – believing in the mailman, etc.

      3. Just looking at the Hebrew Bible, there’s obviously differences in genre. Jonah is very funny (I was reading Jonah aloud the other day, and my audience and I both kept cracking up) and was probably meant as comedy originally – one has different expectations from comedy for “realism.” Nobody storms out of the theatre because the gunfights in an action-comedy are just not believable compared to a gritty war movie or whatever.

      4. Another “we’re the odd ones” thing is that our obsession with accuracy is a relatively modern thing. For the longest time, it was totally normal for artists to present Biblical or historical scenes in contemporary dress (you can find images of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion from the Renaissance where the Roman soldiers are wearing lobster helmets and so forth) or in some imagined/hacked together outfit. Does it matter to the point of the story that the Ark is kinda logistically dubious, or that getting eaten by a giant fish is a great way to get dead?

  25. Uribe says:

    It’s 2032 and somehow, someway politics is mostly about policy. We have fairly competent leaders. What does this look like? How do people debate and promote their policy preferences? Why does good legislation get passed?

    I’m not interested in how we get from here to there. Just imagine we are there.

    • AG says:

      What does it look like? Corruption into Disk Horse as usual within a few years.

      Evidence: the rise of the Kritik in competitive Policy Debate.

    • vV_Vv says:

      All elections are replaced by sortition, neutralizing demagogy and political tribalism.

      Officials are payed a considerable salary during their office and a lifetime stipend after it in order to disincentive corruption.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        I’d also suggest anonymity and/or confidentiality wherever possible so that officials don’t have to care how their choices look. At minimum legislators’ votes are secret.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      I don’t such a thing happening *except* in a world where fundamental values are agreed upon and so disagreements are either about people on different sides of the cost-benefit equation haggling against each other, or actual technical disagreements.

      So suppose there was no large mainstream contingent of people that debated whether it was ethically justified to restrict immigration [in any way, shape or form], both elites and the public had a consensus in favor of controlled immigration and so a public policy debate would be over

      A similar thing with say, a public consensus on fighting climate change by means of reducing carbon emissions . You would have debates over whether and to what extent you should adopt cap and trade, efficiency targets, nuclear power, etc. Obviously depending on your economic interests you would argue for one over the other.

      We’re granting that politics has become about policy but from my perspective this only occurs when the above conditions at met.

      It’s almost too unrealistic to imagine for me simply because of how strongly self-interest drives your model of the world as well as your value system. However in the above two examples we see how debates are potentially less rancorous because the range of policy preferences doesn’t extend to extremes where a large group of people have interests that are actively subverted by another’s.

      1. It becomes possible to have technical arguments about the most efficient policy on the basis of ‘dollars spent per desired output’. I.E. if we can demonstrate that cap and trade is more cost effective than emissions standards.
      2. Compromise solutions that employ mixes of policies are feasible. It’s not really possible to have a compromise when one half wants open borders and the other wants closed borders, but a compromise between building physical and electronic barriers is possible.

  26. Mark V Anderson says:

    A couple of threads ago, someone asked people to come up with policy agreements they had with each of the right, the left, and libertarians. I didn’t respond because I couldn’t think of anything that I agreed with for the left (at least that wasn’t even more emphatic of libertarians). As I thought about it, I realized that I was very strong in agreement with principles espoused by the left, but no policies. About the only principle difference I have is that I care a lot more about freedom than equality. It is interesting that I think of libertarianism as pretty much the opposite: the principles as espoused by hard core libertarians I often find harsh and uncivilized, but their policies are mostly good ideas.

    Three leftist policies in particular that I don’t like, even though I agree on the principles they supposedly spring from:
    1) Minimum wages to $15. Principle: help the less fortunate, give incentives to help people help themselves. Reality: This may possibly increase the wages of the moderately less skilled, at least temporarily. But this is at the expense of forcing the lowest skilled workers out of employment and many into lifetime unemployment, because they will never have the chance for on-the-job work to learn to be more productive.

    2) Anti-discrimination laws and affirmative action for racial minorities. Principle: Help those who have more difficulty getting jobs. Also eventually bring racial parity in jobs and income between Whites and Blacks. Reality: Blacks are hired as tokens in particular jobs in big companies to bring percentages in line with population %’s. This makes it appear that Blacks cannot get jobs without favoritism which increases racism.

    3) Ever more welfare programs to fill in gaps. Principle: The welfare system is complicated and there is great suffering when people that are genuinely poor fall through bureaucratic gaps, so we need to help these folks. Reality: The more programs we have, the more complicated the system, and the more difficult it is to determine who is falling through the gaps. With all the different welfare programs, and those programs that are semi-welfare, in that they give more benefits to the poor than others, no one in the US really knows how much the various governments pay in welfare, nor how many really fall through the gaps. (Caveat: I think the right has complicated the welfare system as much as the left. But still this is a failing of the left, even if also of the right).

    I suspect to those who mostly support the programs I discussed, this sounds like motivated reasoning. But I’m not sure what my motivations would be here. I do believe in the principles as stated above; I just think the policies go against the principles, not for them.

    • brad says:

      The best way to counter the impression that you engaging in motivated reasoning is to have your own ideas how to solve these problems you agree exist and advocate for those solutions just as vigorously if not more than you critique the solutions you think won’t work.

      Separately, but not unimportantly, it helps if your proposed solution and the benefits of them as you lay them out don’t *seem* totally unrealistic if not pollyannaish to your audience (whether they actually are is a separate issue).

      • eyeballfrog says:

        There’s a potential problem here–you may not have your own idea of how to solve the problems, but you’re pretty sure these policies are worse than doing nothing. This makes it seem like you’re advocating for doing nothing (and by extension, that you don’t think these problems are important), but you’re really just advocating for not digging the hole deeper.

        • J Mann says:

          That’s fair – rent control is a good example. We’d like people to be able to afford high demand housing without paying high prices, but in practice, it’s fairly disastrous, so arguing against rent control full stop is reasonable.

          Brad’s point still stands, however, that thinking hard about how to solve a problem is a good way to counter the impression that you’re engaging in motivated reasoning. If you’re a landlord arguing that you really care about affordability but are opposed to rent control, then it might be more convincing to have done some work trying to help.

          (The best way, IMHO, to rebut a charge against motivated reasoning, is to argue against your interests, in this case to be a renter in a rent-controlled apartment arguing against rent control, but then you might end up in an argument about your interests, which sounds not that fun.)

        • brad says:

          I agree with J Mann. Certainly it’s conceivable for either the interlocutor to have no good ideas or even in principle, as posters suggest below, there not being any solutions at all.

          However, I think there’s a difference in feel between someone struggling to come up with a solution he genuinely thinks is a big problem but not succeeding on the one hand, and someone that expends a lot of energy arguing against the other guy’s idea and then when asked about his just says “eh I’ve got nothing.”

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            and someone that expends a lot of energy arguing against the other guy’s idea and then when asked about his just says “eh I’ve got nothing.”

            While that’s certainly true in regards to the “impression that you’re engaging in motivated reasoning” there is another important angle here. Sometimes people just really disagree and really don’t want [X] implemented. We do, and should, put a lot of stake in convincing other people to come around to our point of view, but we still recognize the primacy of personal preferences (often through voting). People who are idiots and ignorant (whether truly so or just our opinion) still get to vote, and still have their preferences valued. A conservative business-owner can be against a union coming in for very good reasons and truly have good intentions, but the employees are the ones who get to vote on joining it. Similarly, 60 million people voted for the current president, and as much as his opponents wish they had not, they still saw that (and from what I can see, still do) Trump was better for their interests than the alternative.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            People who are idiots and ignorant (whether truly so or just our opinion) still get to vote, and still have their preferences valued.

            I think the usual counter to this is that everyone believes that anyone has a preference for having some of everyone else’s stuff, and that that preference ought not count. (And that consequently, the aim of many political persuaders is to convince others that that is what some otherwise legitimate preference of theirs amounts to.)

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            I think the usual counter to this is that everyone believes that anyone has a preference for having some of everyone else’s stuff, and that that preference ought not count. (And that consequently, the aim of many political persuaders is to convince others that that is what some otherwise legitimate preference of theirs amounts to.)

            Hmm, I never saw that as the contention. What I believe happens is that you see the following:

            Premise – Policy X helps out [the unfortunate], therefore we should support X. Moral Argument

            Counter – [The unfortunate] are [person making the original argument], therefore the higher level moral argument is instead a typical political argument. Remove moral argument

            It’s not that the preference should not count, but instead that the preference should not be given additional consideration from being a Moral argument, above mere Political arguments.

          • brad says:

            @Mr. Doolittle

            I don’t think I disagree with anything you are saying, but at the same time I’m not sure I understand how it connects to the discussion it’s posted in.

            Sure they get a vote. Nothing I can do about that. They don’t get my respect, which is mine to give or not give.

    • ajakaja says:

      I think that left-leaning people tend to want the right things but be rather clumsy at doing it. For instance, yes, it’s not really clear that raising the minimum wage will actually fix the problems that the people who want to raise it want to solve with it. Not at all; economics is too complicated. Yet the argument from principle alone — “the world seemed more equitable when the purchasing power of the minimum wage was higher” — seems, to me, to be a good one.

      What I can’t stand is when people shoot down “simple and straightforward” solutions like this one, but clearly aren’t motivated to bring their (apparently) better ideas into reality. It reeks of disingenuity: do they really think minimum wages are a bad idea, or are they just opposed to laws that they don’t personally need help from, and good at coming up with plausible-sounding justifications for that preexisting stance? (And by the way: no, universal basic income does not count as ‘simple and straightforward’ the way raising the minimum wage does.)

      I generally vote/think left because I would rather we implement policies which might turn out to have been naive, but came from good principles, than stand around arguing about which policies would be better while the people with bad principles but more willpower (and funding) get to give themselves more tax cuts or whatever behind-the-scenes stuff they’re up to. If we get to do something well-meaning and it goes wrong, we can fix it.

      While it’s true that non-left people might be more correct about how to avoid things that are dumb, I don’t see them actually trying to actually fix any problems I care about in society, though there’s a lot of “doing things orthogonal to fixing real problems and then saying that they’re helping”.

      • gbdub says:

        You seem to be falling prey to the “we must do something!” fallacy. If every proposed policy change makes things worse, “maintain the status quo” is a perfectly defensible position, even if there are problems with the status quo. Better than nothing is a high standard.

        If you propose something that I can demonstrate makes things worse than they are now, I’m under no obligation to come up with an alternative that improves the status quo – doing nothing is still better than implementing your proposal!

        • Randy M says:

          +1
          I’m happy to have people shoot down every policy that is clearly worse on net. I suspect this is what makes someone conservative in principle–being willing to live with problems rather than implement solutions which have a strong chance to make things worse. Progressives are happier to experiment on the chance things will improve or at least we will learn something. (Certainly there are values differences or differences in opinion about effectiveness as well, not to mention different groups benefiting differently from a policy)

          • J Mann says:

            Speaking of experiments, I recommend Jim Manzi’s book Uncontrolled every so often – he has a nice framework of how, if we’re spending money anyway, we should set up our spending to get useful efficacy data.

          • 10240 says:

            Or libertarian if you perceive that often the already implemented “solutions”, too, are worse than nothing.

          • Plumber says:

            @Randy M

            “I’m happy to have people shoot down every policy that is clearly worse on net. I suspect this is what makes someone conservative in principle–being willing to live with problems rather than implement solutions which have a strong chance to make things worse…”

            I note that in a previous thread suggestions of wealth taxes met with my approval, but eliminating marriage laws struck me as a dangerous gamble.

            I suppose that makes me a conservative when it comes to family life, and a radical when it comes to economics (though thr French had a wealth tax until 2017 so they’re not unprecedented in the world).

            I’d love to take a “political compass” quiz that didn’t seem bogus.

          • Randy M says:

            I suppose that makes me a conservative when it comes to family life, and a radical when it comes to economics (though the French had a wealth tax until 2017 so they’re not unprecedented in the world).

            This isn’t news to you, though, is it? I could have told you that a month after you joined. 🙂

          • MTSowbug says:

            A problem with experimenting with policy is that certain types of policies can be very hard to undo, even if they’re abject failures. Any policy that disburses money will be defended by its recipients, regardless of whether that policy achieves its goals. This causes ratcheting. Minimum wage is a good example – have you ever heard of it going down?

            I wonder if this problem could be solved by adding sunset provisions to policies that disburse money. I’d be much happier to experiment with policies if it were easier to undo unsuccessful ones.

          • Aapje says:

            @MTSowbug

            The minimum wage goes down automatically, assuming that there is inflation.

        • ajakaja says:

          “You seem to be falling prey to the “we must do something!” fallacy”

          I really don’t think I am, because I don’t buy your (or whoever’s) argument that they have actually shown that that the policy I support is worse than where we are. Particularly because I don’t see them having any discussions about how to do it any better. I would expect an actor who “wants a similar goal but sees the problem in my policy” to be trying to implement better plans. I would expect an actor who “opposes my policy because it violates their interests or principles” to come up with plausible-sounding reasons why my policy is bad without trying to do anything better. And I see lots of evidence that the latter is going on, so I don’t mostly don’t believe that it has been proved that this policy is a bad idea.

          • Nick says:

            I would expect an actor who “wants a similar goal but sees the problem in my policy” to be trying to implement better plans.

            Which they will not be able to do, if the status quo is the best they can come up with. This is a nonresponse to @gbdub’s argument.

          • Randy M says:

            “Doctor, have you tried… not bleeding your patients?”
            “Come now, how is doing nothing supposed to help these sick people? Give me a better option or kindly keep your opinion to yourself.”

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m not sure my suggestion of feeding his patients extract of moldy bread is going to be very convincing to the doctor, unfortunately.

          • Deiseach says:

            “Doctor, have you tried… not bleeding your patients?”

            “What, and leave these poor people with haemochromatosis to suffer and even die? What kind of quack do you think I am?”

            Sometimes leeches and bleeding really do still work.

          • Randy M says:

            Ah, SSC, home of the pedant’s pedant. Never change.

          • ajakaja says:

            @Nick: sorry, I wasn’t clear. What I mean is that I bayesianistically parse the actor who doesn’t seem to be trying to implement better plans as to be arguing in bad faith, and to have an ulterior motivate of self-interest. Not universally; sometimes there really isn’t a non-status-quo option. But in practice, all the time, because their arguments seem flimsy and their belief in these arguments seems disproportionate to how convincing they strike me.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            What I mean is that I bayesianistically parse the actor who doesn’t seem to be trying to implement better plans as to be arguing in bad faith, and to have an ulterior motivate of self-interest.

            Or maybe they have different priorities with only so much time and energy

          • ajakaja says:

            Right, of course. I don’t mean any “actor”, just certain ones, like politicians and pundits, who take some of these stances. I certainly am not trying to implement minimum wage increases either; I just favor the principle behind it.

      • Yet the argument from principle alone — “the world seemed more equitable when the purchasing power of the minimum wage was higher” — seems, to me, to be a good one.

        It seems like a good one if you interpret the minimum wage as a wage anyone who wants can get. But that isn’t what it is. It is the wage below which it is illegal to hire anyone. I don’t see an argument from principle for that—what principle implies that it is better for someone to have no job than to have a job that pays a low wage?

        • pjs says:

          If someone isn’t the moron you take as your straw-man (i.e. someone who thinks the minimum wage is necessarily something anyone who wants can get), the OP’s basic claim can still be extremely reasonable and defensible. (I think so much so that I question how productive and honest your “… if you interpret …” hypothetical even is).

          Do you think the OP’s original quote proves s/he believes that ‘it is better for someone to have no job than to have a job that pays a low wage’? I doubt he or she would agree, and it’s not in the text. Do you think OP has said something that – even faintly – implies that as a matter or logic, or economics, or practicality? It would be useful to see your reasoning.

          • I thought it was obvious. The question is whether ““the world seemed more equitable when the purchasing power of the minimum wage was higher” seems a good argument on principle. I can see someone arguing on principle that it is good for people not to be too poor, which is what the misinterpretation of the minimum wage would be. I can’t see why it would seem a good principle to forbid someone from accepting a low wage, given that he will only do so if he doesn’t have the opportunity to get something better.

            But perhaps you can sketch the argument.

          • ajakaja says:

            The principle is really a corollary to this one:

            People with power inevitably take as much as they can and leave as little as possible for everyone else. Market forces clearly do not stop this, certainly in part due to the fact that these people make the rules of the market.

            It seems that the people who take as much as they can will continue to do so if wages were higher as long as it is massively profitable for them to do so. It seems that they are getting very wealthy, so there is a large margin where they could spend more and still be making lots of money. At least until they automate away all the jobs in question, yes, plausibly they would keep paying them if it cost them more. True: it might move the margin on who gets kept on the payroll. But at least it tries, compared to the naysayers who don’t seem (in their actions) to be interested in doing anything at all.

            The argument that “not doing something” is better than “doing a thing that might be bad” inverts if the current state is bad enough, and I would argue that it is.

          • 10240 says:

            People with power inevitably take as much as they can and leave as little as possible for everyone else.

            @ajakaja Everyone does this for the most part, to the extent we can. The “to the extent we can” is a significant restriction, however, even on the powerful.

            Market forces are not supposed to change this. No force can change it, actually. At most, some force can change how much I can take and how much I have to leave to others, but it can’t force me to take less than I can. Market forces do restrict how much one can take, including the rich.

            The argument that “not doing something” is better than “doing a thing that might be bad” inverts if the current state is bad enough, and I would argue that it is.

            It doesn’t invert unless we have a good reason to think that the measure actually makes things better.
            I disagree that the current state is really bad. In developed countries, the vast majority of the population makes what I’d consider a decent standard of living. There are rich people who make a lot more, but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

          • ajakaja says:

            I understand that argument. The validity of the point about ‘inversion’ strongly, strongly relies on how bad you perceive reality to be. And I think the economic inequality is much worse than you evidently do.

            Particularly, the thing which I think is most bad is the lack of agency of the masses in an unjust system to make the system more just, though there are plenty of other systemic problems as well. I think many of the problems are presently masked by the economy’s recent strength, and that things will possibly come crashing down some time in the future. If that happens, I would like to live in a world where it will most financially hurt the people who caused it to happen. But of course it won’t, and that’s why the unjustness is such a problem.

            It seems to me that it is very typical, and deeply wrong, for a secure person to not be concerned about the insecurity of others — not their present wealth but their future prospects. I don’t know if that’s you, but it seems like it might be.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Particularly, the thing which I think is most bad is the lack of agency of the masses in an unjust system to make the system more just

            I think there might be a confounder here. My hypothesis is that the masses contain at least two groups: those who know how to make the system more just, and those who don’t. The former are busy doing just that, while the latter are drawing attention to their plight. The former make almost no noise, making it look as if the masses consist of nothing but the latter.

            “Just” has a broad definition in my hypothesis. The former group contain some who are helping their fellow masses. Some are helping themselves at the wealthiest’ expense. Some are helping themselves at fellow masses’ expense. Some are helping themselves at no one’s expense. I lumped these together because they’re all reducing the percentage of economic power of the wealthy, even the third group in many cases (because wealth isn’t zero-sum). The ones in the third group who aren’t helping are actual thieves and muggers of those who aren’t wealthy.

            If I try to argue your side, I find it’s genuinely hard. My hypothesis is that those you describe as secure but not concerned about others’ security fall in my fourth subgroup – they’re busy managing their affairs, but not actively helping anyone else except through normal trade. They’re a role model for people who don’t know how to help themselves, but the latter won’t necessarily know to copy them, and even then, they may lack the capital. I’m left with the usual notion that the secure are failing only insofar as they lack the capital to invest in the insecure, or are able to find higher rates of return elsewhere.

            It’s possible that there is a problem here that will persist so long as there is enough entrepreneurship available at the secure levels to absorb all of the available capital. So no one ever gets around to the insecure for anything other than altruism, which is in turn subject to personal whim.

          • 10240 says:

            @ajakaja Do you want most of the financial benefits of the boom to also go to the people who cause it?

            Also, “crashing down” is relative. An economic crisis may decrease economic indicators (GDP, salaries, whatever) by a few percents, or where they were a few years earlier; that’s only bad compared to the recent peak. Bankers, businessmen etc. make countless decisions over the decades, which are necessary for running an economy. When they make some mistakes and cause a crisis, everyone blames them (even though we haven’t figured out a way to make these economic decisions in such a way that crises never occur). If the crisis was preceded by many years of boom as they made (mostly) good decisions, nobody cares. It’s not very fair to emphasize that they are responsible for the crisis when in their absence we would still have a medieval economy.

        • Guy in TN says:

          what principle implies that it is better for someone to have no job than to have a job that pays a low wage?

          I don’t think its any person’s principle, that for one person it is better for them to have no job than a low paying job.

          Now if you ask, “Is it better for one person to have no job, if ten people see a wage increase?”, then the utilitarianism kicks in.

          • pjs says:

            Thanks GITN,

            You come close to my concern.

            I can imagine (actually I don’t right now, but could see myself doing so) thinking a minimum wage increase is good (more fair, more aggregate utility (ugh)) while still recognizing that there will be many individual harms. Specifically, certain people who would accept a good-for-them contract that the law would then prohibit.

            I see that as a legitimate point of disagreement and political discussion. DF is fairly explicit in arguing against this view:

            > It is the wage below which it is illegal to hire anyone. I don’t see an argument from principle for that—what principle implies that it is better for someone to have no job than to have a job that pays a low wage?

            I read this as: You can’t have a principle for policy X if X entails some harm to (unquantified – and maybe on some ‘principle’ it doesn’t need to be – relative to the overall benefit) number of Y. I dispute this. In this particular case, you need an extreme view of individualism and libertariasism to make this non-laughable compared to all sorts of other things that broad society finds OK.

      • Walter says:

        Want to *really* blow your mind?

        The people with bad principles see *themselves* as the real left, and you as the ones with bad principles! Those tax cuts are ‘simple and straightforward’ ways to fix the problems they care about.

        You are in a mirror match here. ‘Just do the obvious thing instead of talking about what is right to do’ falters on the fact that the obvious thing is dif for everyone, and talking about what should count as obvious falls into the ‘talking about what is right to do’ camp, to be disregarded by the next ajakaja who comes along.

        • ajakaja says:

          So we agree I’m right to support what I think are the good ideas? What else would I support?

          Anyway, my mind is… not blown. I know that both tribes think they’re right. The real problem seems to plague both: that we’re so drowning in misinformation and propaganda that we can’t tell what’s true and what isn’t.

          If I got to enact one policy it would not be anything to do with minimum wage, it would be making astroturfing or any sort of non-transparent support of anything
          (via funding think tanks, non-profits, flier campaigns, etc) completely illegal (for corporations and political parties, that is. Anonymous speech is of course fine). Support whatever you want, just say who you are, in detail, as you do it.

          • it would be making astroturfing or any sort of non-transparent support of anything
            (via funding think tanks, non-profits, flier campaigns, etc) completely illegal (for corporations and political parties, that is. Anonymous speech is of course fine).

            If I am a billionaire and do my anonymous speech in the form of ads on nationwide TV, online, etc., is that illegal astroturfing or fine anonymous speech?

            I can see two quite different objections to non-transparent support for things, one of which I sympathize with, one of which I don’t. The first is that if an organization produces a report claiming that policy X is a good idea, it would be nice to know if they were being funded by someone who profited by policy X. In Mark Twain’s words, “tell me where a man gets his cornpone and I’ll tell you where he gets his opinions.”

            The second is that it should be possible to punish people for supporting ideas you think are bad. That strikes me as a very bad idea. The appropriate response to bad arguments is good arguments, not making it costly to make bad arguments–because it is harder to refute good arguments than bad, but is not harder to punish people for good arguments than for bad.

            Which is your basis for the proposal, or do you have a different one?

          • ajakaja says:

            The first, by far.

            I don’t know how to answer the billionaire question. I know anonymity is important for political speech. But I also know that the state of things, with propaganda and manipulation coming at everyone from every direction, feels deeply sick.

      • J Mann says:

        I don’t really believe that a model of “bad people” is useful in this circumstance, and that most people honestly believe what they say. (They also tend to honestly believe things that align with their incentives, but that’s a problem for another day).

        Let’s take (1) reducing poverty through the minimum wage and (2) reducing abortion through proposed restrictions for a minute.

        1) Reducing Poverty Through Minimum Wage: IMHO, most people who oppose increases in the minimum wage (a) would like to see the working poor earn more money and (b) think increases will do more harm than good by putting people out of work in the long run.

        It’s certainly possible that some part of those people have convinced themselves that it’s a bad idea because they enjoy eating cheap cheeseburgers, but I think they honestly believe it.

        So why don’t they propose realistic alternative plans? (a) The problem is hard, (b) They are working on other issues and (c) the plans they propose honestly seem realistic to them and not to you. (For example, increase economic growth so there are more jobs).

        2) Reducing the Number of Abortions: I think there are many people who think that middle and late term abortions are at some level regrettable – that a second or third trimester fetus would, in an ideal world, have at least the same moral claim as a fish or a puppy or something, but that the costs of most proposed abortion restrictions outweigh the benefits.

        (To be clear, there are certainly some people who think a fetus literally has no moral weight until at least birth, and I’m sure there are some people who think the latter and pretend to think the former for political reasons – lets not get into the merits to avoid culture war).

        So why don’t they propose alternative plans that seem realistic to people on the pro-life side? (a) The problem is hard, (b) They are working on other issues and (c) the plans they propose honestly seem realistic to them and not to pro-life advocates. (For example, increased funding for teen contraception and eliminate abstinence based sex ed).

        That doesn’t make them dishonest, it just means they think the problem is hard and that the other side’s solutions do more harm than good.

        • EchoChaos says:

          > To be clear, there are certainly some people who think a fetus literally has no moral weight until at least birth

          Or even later, if you’re the governor of Virginia!

          • Not clear. Reading the article 10240 links to, it sounds as though the bill does not permit infanticide, but the quote from the governor was:

            The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired

            Which pretty clearly implies that the infant would not be resuscitated if that was not what the mother and the family desired–i.e.. would be permitted to die.

          • 10240 says:

            As far as I understand, it was about a case where the baby wouldn’t survive anyway.

          • Nick says:

            As far as I understand, it was about a case where the baby wouldn’t survive anyway.

            It wasn’t about any particular case but rather a hypothetical raised in the original questioning of Delegate Tran and reposed by the journalist, and there was no guarantee that the fetus is nonviable; in fact, Northam wisely hedged on that. These were his remarks, courtesy of CBS:

            “When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother, with the consent of the physicians, more than one physician, by the way,” Northam said. “And it’s done in cases where there amy [sic] be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that’s non-viable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother. So I think this was really blown out of proportion.”

            So if I understand this right, in a case where doctors had previously determined the baby might not be viable, it would be delivered, and then made “comfortable” until it died, unless the mother asked for care.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Which is further ambiguous because the multiple doctor requirement is the current arrangement, which I believe the law (or one of the other laws being talked about right now) would remove.

            He also isn’t terribly clear there what he means by “non-viable” if the baby is currently alive outside the womb, and that there’s a productive discussion to be had about treatment/care.

            What’s the current status of an otherwise alive/healthy baby if the mother decides not to resuscitate, outside of this discussion? I’m not familiar with the options parents have to decide to not treat, outside of some fringe religious groups.

          • Nick says:

            Which is further ambiguous because the multiple doctor requirement is the current arrangement, which I believe the law (or one of the other laws being talked about right now) would remove.

            That’s correct. Aside from some grammatical changes, the bill would do two things: reduce the physician requirement from three to one (so yes, the governor’s defense there misses the mark entirely), and remove the requirement that the impairment of the woman’s mental or physical health be substantial and irremediable.

            Of course, 18.2-74(c) is preserved, so the baby product of the abortion is legally subject to protections if there is “any clearly visible evidence of viability.” So Northam is again wrong about what the bill would do: it would not authorize doctors to merely make it “comfortable.” All the same, if this is how a pediatrician and governor feels these cases ought to go….

        • J Mann says:

          Whoops – I meant to say “I don’t really believe that a model of “bad people” is useful in this circumstance, and **I do believe** that most people honestly believe what they say.”

        • Deiseach says:

          This Virginia thing is a mess and I’m staying far away from it. One side is arguing that this is infanticide in all but name, the other side is arguing that it’s only for babies (they say “foetus” but I say if it’s delivered alive, it’s a baby) that would die anyway of fatal foetal abnormalities and it’s to prevent the kind of useless expensive intervention that doctors have to do when the more humane thing would be to make the baby comfortable and let it die naturally.

          I have no idea who’s right. Are American doctors obligated to make sure that a baby that would only live hours even with intervention gets that kind of futile life support? Or is it really abortion by the backdoor, where Virginian law restricts access to late-term (post second trimester) abortion for such cases so instead the governor is proposing this “if you had access to abortion this baby would never have been born, second best is to let it die humanely”?

          I do get the suspicion about the wording, because what I’ve seen the governor reporting as saying is so vague it could indeed be construed as “if the mother decides she doesn’t want the kid after all, put it aside and let it die of neglect” in the worst-case scenario, but since I haven’t seen the wording of the proposed law I don’t know what it actually says or how it’s limited.

          I can see why people would have suspicions about definition creep, though. Remember the whole controversy over Obama and the Born Alive Infants Act, where even the Washington Post admits that he later fudged the details a bit:

          Obama swore during the 2008 election that he would have supported the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, prompting the National Right to Life Committee to issue a scathing white paper that pointed out how he had contradicted himself by voting against the Illinois measure while backing the older federal version in retrospect during his presidential campaign.

          Obama denied any contradiction during an interview that year with the Christian Broadcasting Network, accusing the antiabortion committee of lying about the circumstances of his vote. Here’s what he said:

          “I hate to say that people are lying, but here’s a situation where folks are lying. I have said repeatedly that I would have been completely in, fully in support of the federal bill that everybody supported — which was to say — that you should provide assistance to any infant that was born — even if it was as a consequence of an induced abortion. That was not the bill that was presented at the state level. What that bill also was doing was trying to undermine Roe vs. Wade.”

          From what we can tell, Obama misrepresented the facts during this interview. The 2003 bill addressed his concerns about undermining Roe v. Wade, and it matched the federal legislation that he supported virtually word for word.

          PolitiFact determined that the claim about a neutrality clause in the federal legislation was True. FactCheck.org said “Obama’s claim [about the committee lying] is wrong.”

          For what it’s worth, The Fact Checker in 2008 appears to have overlooked the neutrality clause while awarding Two Pinocchios in a column that examined a separate claim from then-GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. However, that oversight wouldn’t have affected Palin’s rating, because her claim was different — closer to the claim from Huckabee.

          The evidence suggests we could have awarded Four Pinocchios to the former Illinois senator for his comments to the Christian Broadcasting Network, but that interview is several years old now, and it’s not the focus of this particular column. The president’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment on the matter of whether Obama’s 2008 comments on the Christian Broadcasting Network contradicted his 2003 vote against Illinois’s Born-Alive Infants Protection bill.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        And by the way: no, universal basic income does not count as ‘simple and straightforward’ the way raising the minimum wage does.

        Why is it important for a solution to be “simple and straightforward”? Given that poverty is such a difficult and longstanding problem, it stands to reason that a solution will not be simple or straightforward.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Why is it important for a solution to be “simple and straightforward”? Given that poverty is such a difficult and longstanding problem, it stands to reason that a solution will not be simple or straightforward.

          Because “simple and straightforward” correlates strongly with “likely to be implemented without mistakes, loopholes, budget overruns, or lengthy delays”.

          That said, I think raising minwage leads to well known economic problems and is also not straightforward due to CoL differences, and UBI has its own problems as well (namely, far too expensive to work as intended).

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        The alternative to minimum wage is wage subsidy. Yes, raise my taxes to do it.

        I don’t know of any politician offering this. Very well, that is all the more reason to make noise about it.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        What I can’t stand is when people shoot down “simple and straightforward” solutions like this one, but clearly aren’t motivated to bring their (apparently) better ideas into reality.

        I would very much like for wages to go up for Americans, so I voted for Donald Trump to reform or end the H1-B visa system, to build a wall across the southern border to stop the flow of cheap black market labor, and to stop importing 3rd worlders by the boatload to compete with Americans for jobs.

        Reducing the labor supply is a straightforward way to increase the price of labor (wages). The Democrats oppose this vehemently however. It reeks of disingenuity: do they really care about working class Americans, or do they just want votes and cheap labor for their donors?

        • 10240 says:

          Or they don’t think that this is the best solution, or a solution at all. Reducing the labor supply only increases wages if demand doesn’t decrease as well.

        • ajakaja says:

          I would like for wages to go up, but I would like much more for anti-immigrant sentiment to not go up, and I am pro-immigration in principle, not economically, which is also exactly where the Democratic party is. It’s not clear whether Trump’s election helped that or hurt immigrant-sentiment (because the country seems to get more polarized either way). But I would never vote for someone like Trump anyway because his literal repulsiveness – as a person, incompetent, hypocrite, idiot, adulterer, etc – makes him ineligible as a leader in every way to me, and the trend represented by his acceptability is abhorrent.

          That said I will be the first to agree that the Democrats are not doing an acceptable job of making ‘shock options’ not seem like good ideas, and I think there’s some validity to the “destructionist” philosophy that we should elect the biggest, most horrifying fool to shock the more sane people into realizing, as quickly as possible, that if they don’t do something to make themselves desirable they are going to lose all credibility.

          Nevertheless, I don’t find the democratic camp particularly disingenuous here. They are pro-immigrant in principle, and yes that (debatably) conflicts with other things they support, like better wages, but that’s how principles literally always work. (Anyway that argument inverts perfectly, anyway. Do Republicans really want better wages, or do they just want low tax rates for their businesses?)

        • Plumber says:

          @Conrad Honcho,
          What’s interesting to me is how the Democratic Party has become much more pro-immigrant in reaction to Trump, far more so than just five years ago, and how Republicans quickly changed their tune on international trade.

          Like @ajakaja I find Trump’s personal style repulsive, dating back to my watching a couple of episodes of The Apprentice with my wife, his “Your fired” shtick was odious.

          They’re Democrats I feel similarly about – Gavin Newsom comes readily to mind, but I do admit to being prejudiced against the “R’s” (I expect them to deliver tax cuts that save me very little but somehow greatly increase the Federal debt, and that’s what they usually do).

          Since I do support limiting immigration (especially the ones who compete with poorer Americans for jobs and housing) I’d be willing to be less against Trump if I saw some reports of Americans put in handcuffs for paying wages to non-citizens (no demand, no supply), but I’ve seen no evidence of that.

          As for the wall, Trump had both a Republican House and a Republican Senate – his party, for two years, shouldn’t he have had some building done in that time?

          • EchoChaos says:

            > I’d be willing to be less against Trump if I saw some reports of Americans put in handcuffs for paying wages to non-citizens (no demand, no supply), but I’ve seen no evidence of that.

            This isn’t plausible until there is a legal requirement to have proof of citizenship before hiring. Otherwise you massively increase the risk of hiring any Hispanic.

            The Democrats have blocked mandatory E-Verify quite aggressively.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            When ICE raids a business employing illegals they target the owners in addition to the workers. They do this frequently. A quick google search will turn up many, many reports of ICE raiding businesses.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            We do have a requirement to verify employment status. It’s called the I-9 form. You have to do it for every employee.

            What we don’t have is strict liability immigration law, where the employer is liable even if they check. I run into people who insist that they want this from time to time, always from the left. It’s obviously insane but oh well.

            E-Verify is an online version of the I-9 that gives instant answers against a monitored database. And while Democrats are fighting it (Governor Brown made it illegal for any cities or counties to require it), Republicans aren’t even using it where it exists. Very red states don’t enforce it. This article is biased but still shows that enforcement is largely left to the imagination despite being “mandatory.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-23/e-verify-laws-across-southern-red-states-are-barely-enforced

      • @ajakaja:

        If I correctly interpret your posts, you are saying that people opposed to the minimum wage make arguments against it but do not offer alternative ways of achieving the goal of those who support it–making poor people less poor. Let me offer several:

        1. Repeal the minimum wage. It makes poor people poorer by making it harder for them to take the first step on the employment ladder, get a job that pays poorly but gives them experience and lets them demonstrate their competence, leading to better jobs.

        2. Repeal all professional licensing, or at least all for jobs that do not actually require extensive training–barbers, for example, flower arrangers. Such laws block many of the paths by which able and energetic people can work their way out of poverty.

        3. Eliminate or drastically reduce zoning laws and other restrictions on housing construction. As best I can tell, such restrictions are the main reason that housing in the SF Bay area is as expensive as it is. Where I live, there appear to be no private houses of more than two stories (there may be one exception, a house dating from the 19th century), and few more than one and a half stories (two stories over part of the house). Apartment buildings appear to be limited to at most three stories. Given that a relatively small private house sells for something close to a million dollars, it is hard to believe that that is an efficient use of land.

        Doing this not only makes housing less expensive for poor people (and everyone else), it also makes it easier to move to where the jobs are. I observe lots of signs looking for employees as store clerks and the like—non-techy jobs. I gather that is not true in many other parts of the country. But if people from those places move here, they have to pay Silicon Valley rents, which are high mainly because of restrictions on construction.

        Someone in the thread mentioned the issue of arguments for and against interest. I currently own a house in the area. My proposal would substantially reduce its market value–and I have no plans to buy another.

        As I think these demonstrate, the problem is not that critics of the minimum wage have no alternative way of making poor people better off to offer but that their alternatives depend on their view of the world, so are unconvincing to those with a different view of the world.

        • AG says:

          Not convinced by the “repeal the minimum wage” argument. The rise of the gig economy, unpaid internships, and whining that X industry neeeeeeeds undocumented workers shows that employers will push to make whatever floor available the new exploitative normal, and the employees can starve while working full time.
          See also wealth distribution before the minimum wage was instituted.

          Agree on points 2 and 3, but also strongly extend variants on 3 to healthcare.

        • actinide meta says:

          Someone in the thread mentioned the issue of arguments for and against interest. I currently own a house in the area. My proposal would substantially reduce its market value–and I have no plans to buy another.

          Is this true? Obviously you would expect the value of your low density house to fall, but if you could replace it with a high density housing structure, the land value would presumably go up. And if your property is typical of the bay area, most or all of the current value is land value. The direction of effect on the total property value doesn’t seem obvious as a matter of principle, and my gut instinct is that it is positive. (If you owned the whole south bay, wouldn’t you jump at the chance to increase density, even though unit rents would fall?)

          • Fair point, especially since my lot is unusually large for the area. I find it hard to believe that the lot, in a world without building restrictions, would be worth more than the house is now—certainly lots that size in cities where building is much less restricted are not. But I don’t really know.

        • ajakaja says:

          I am sorry for getting into a discussion about something that I don’t know that much about. The point of my focusing on the minimum wage example was to characterize the nature of Left-leaning people’s focus on principles. I will be the first to admit that I really don’t know much about this particular example, because, well, I’m not an economist. But my point is that I will always choose the person implementing good principles clumsily over the person not implementing any principles, especially if I doubt their good-faith in disagreeing with the clumsy solutions (which I do, all the time. not for this minimum wage example, but for loads and loads of other examples, yes).

          That said, I agree generally with your options 2 (except definitely only do it for the frivolous jobs) and 3 (except definitely don’t get rid of all rules because things would be come terrible). Option 1, I cannot possibly imagine how that outcome would result, as opposed the much more likely one of “lots of people would make even less money and work even more jobs”. But I’m not an economist, and, as I said above, don’t know enough to argue about this.

      • sharper13 says:

        Just as a demonstration, my alternate “better” solutions off the top of my head would be:

        1) Minimum wages to $15. Principle: help the less fortunate, give incentives to help people help themselves.

        Better Solution: Government wage subsides. No minimum wage nor required benefits, but anyone who works can claim $X per earned dollar up to $Y amount. (To fill in X and Y with the “right” number would take me longer than off the top of my head allows.)

        2) Anti-discrimination laws and affirmative action for racial minorities. Principle: Help those who have more difficulty getting jobs. Also eventually bring racial parity in jobs and income between Whites and Blacks.

        Better Solution: Revise welfare laws to eliminate incentives for single-parent households and not working. Increase penalties for actual racial discrimination (as opposed to statistical based on people’s preferences), including prohibiting the collection of racial information and rewarding “blind” systems where someone’s race isn’t apparent in employment and college decisions. (This solution probably isn’t going to be as accepted, mostly due to the incorrect assumptions in the original principle that it’s desirable to create the same outcomes for unique people. Do we really want a quota of short whites for the NBA in the name of racial parity?)

        3) Ever more welfare programs to fill in gaps. Principle: The welfare system is complicated and there is great suffering when people that are genuinely poor fall through bureaucratic gaps, so we need to help these folks.

        Better Solution: Scrap the existing government welfare system with all of it’s complexity completely. Combine the solution to #1 above (encouraging work by anyone who can do anything useful, even if worth $0.01 to an employer) with a requirement that everyone participate in some sort of co-op which guarantees support for basic necessities (food, shelter, medical). Require the co-ops to be underwritten with hard assets similar to insurance companies (so the underwriters can do the quality/financial control) so they won’t fail in the event of a financial crisis. Go ahead and have the government pre-fund co-op assets on behalf of those currently under some asset level corresponding with poverty, then leave them alone to function based on their member’s contributions and preferences.

        I can see where a typical Democratic Party Member (tDPM) might disagree on #2, due to differing world-views. I’m not sure why any rational tDPM would dismiss #1 or #3 as not obviously much better than the “standard” DP solutions once they’ve looked at the empirical evidence of what has actually occurred in the past when various policies have been attempted. This makes me believe many DP politicians/professional DP policy people in the DP have either not actually paid much attention to understanding the potential solution space (because they don’t have incentives for actual solutions) and/or aren’t interested in joining with the right-wing folks (who would much prefer market and individual solutions and be thus willing to support) to solve those specific issues. Or their philosophy of life is just too different to consider anything which doesn’t enhance the collective over individual decision-making. Or something else more charitable I’m not currently thinking of off the top of my head.

        • cassander says:

          the reason to disagree with 1 is that 1 costs the government, and thus taxpayers, money directly, while a minimum wage puts the burden entirely on greedy corporations (TM), Of course, this isn’t actually true, but voters generally prefer the taste of free lunches.

          • sharper13 says:

            Ah yes, the old shell game where the “government does something” by mandating costs on someone else rather than being transparent about the costs and imposing them on taxpayers directly via the government budgeting, taxing and paying for them.

            Yeah, I can see how that appeals to many politicians, as it must seem to them to be a free lunch, just force someone else to bear the burden of their bad idea.

    • pjs says:

      Ok, since you sort of asked for it: I’ll accuse you of motivated reasoning, and I am personally sure my opinion/accusations doesn’t come from my politics.

      Minimum wage … Reality: it is likely to be a net transfer from the middle-class to the poorer, and because the poor don’t save much is likely to increase aggregate demand, which will drive up employment in some industries. (You don’t even need “increase” for this to be true; “change the composition of” willl get the job done.) And so some marginal but now employable individuals – in such industries – will be saved from a lifetime of unemployment.

      This is motivated reasoning. Yes, you could argue whether the claim is even true, but it probably is (read as written: it’s not saying that employment of the poor increases overall, just that some individuals will get a job that they wouldn’t get in the other world.). Most people would agree that ceteris paribus this is good thing, though I suppose you could argue that. But it’s a terrible argument for a more obvious reason: I’ve identified just one (probably real) benefit, and haven’t even hinted at the myriad of other possible benefits and drawbacks. And perhaps because I haven’t, I haven’t even suggested the need to quantify the effect: somehow, the fact that some people have been saved a lifetime of unemployment is supposed to be good enough in itself. That’s a transparently stupid argument.

      Frankly, each one of your ‘realities’ claims is a bit too much like this. I think your ‘reality’ here on unemployment is 97% likely to be true as stated (mine is a bit more questionable, yours seem more solid) but so what? At best, it’s an true unquantified part of an obviously larger picture (one where, amongst other issues, very challenging tradeoffs exist). Asking for actual numbers could be too much, but your ‘reality:’ arguments never even pay lip-service that there are other considerations and there are tradeoffs to be evaluated. Nothing about quantification, even in principle. Nothing about the other drawbacks and benefits? I believe these can be identified as clearly defective arguments whatsoever your stance on the underlying policies. (FWIW I agree with you on 2, also agree on 1 but am recently having serious doubts about whether to shift to “I just don’t know”, and find 3 too generically stated to be something I could form an opinion on.)

      • Martin says:

        I’ll accuse you of motivated reasoning

        Yes but why? Just because there are other or better arguments? You could just bring up those arguments without an accusation of motivated reasoning.

        • pjs says:

          No! but I suspect you missed my point (rather than disagreed) because I rambled too much.

          You could have said ‘here is the main counter-fact I find most
          salient in forming my opinion’ but you didn’t; you more or less invited us to consider this as your ‘reasoning’.

          And your reasoning(s) are rather all like: “Reality: Here is ONE disadvantage of a policy that pretty everyone sensible agrees REALLY HAPPENS (to some degree) and when it happens it IS BAD”

          That type of strategy could be a good argument in politics or a court of law. But if such an argument is really why _oneself_ has an opinion, it’s almost certainly nuts IMO (and no less nuts, if the bad things really really really does occur and really really is bad.) I don’t honestly see a good reason other than ‘motivated reasoning’ why it shouldn’t be recognized as crazy. If I argue for minimum wage based on one thing that really really will happen and is good (ignoring all the downsides too); fine, we are arguing politics. If I say that this one thing (will happen to some degree, will be good to some degree) is _why_ I believe in the policy shouldn’t you call me out on that?

        • pjs says:

          TL;DR

          There’s a world of difference between ‘Here’s my position; let’s debate; I’ll start with one claim X that supports my position; your move – you should rebut this or show something that dominates it importance’ vs ‘Here is why I believe in my position’. I utterly retract any accusation of motivated reasoning if you meant your post in the former sense.

    • Martin says:

      the principles as espoused by hard core libertarians I often find harsh and uncivilized, but their policies are mostly good ideas

      What principles and what policies would those be? Why do you find the principles harsh and uncivilized and the policies good ideas?

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        My impression is that many libertarians believe so strongly in freedom over any other goal that they think it would be better to let folks starve than to force taxation on others. Of course every one of these libertarians state that, oh no, private charity will result in less starvation than our current public welfare. But the principle is still there — if they are wrong they will support no taxes over saving the destitute.

        The good policies of libertarians are to put up a strong rule that government must prove any policy they propose will be superior to the free market. In most real cases of policy discussion the opposite is the case. It seems whenever the free market appears to not result in a perfect solution, politicians will propose solutions to fix this, and rarely is there much analysis to show that a government solution is better. I think government solutions more often than not make things worse. As in my three examples in the original post.

        I do think a simple government welfare system is an improvement on the free market, because I am not so certain that private charity will take care of everyone. I think our society is rich enough that we can easily afford to prevent people from dying in the streets because they are too poor to pay for food or shelter.

        • I’m not sure that private charity will take care of everyone either–it depends on how rich the society is and how charitable its members. But just as you have to judge the laissez-faire option by what you think it will do, not what you want it to do, you have to apply the same standard to the government option. The question is not whether you can design a welfare program that is an improvement on laissez-faire. It’s whether, in a political system where one accepted role of the state is transferring income, the programs that actually result will be better than laissez-faire.

          That might be the case, but showing it is much harder. In the system as it actually exists, quite a lot of programs justified as helping the poor almost certainly transfer up the income scale, not down–the farm program and subsidies to state universities are obvious examples.

          In an earlier exchange with Plumber, I pointed at the data on poverty rates. If you accept the conventional measure, the pattern is quite clear. From shortly after the end of WWII until the point when the War on Poverty got full staffed and funded, the poverty rate was falling quite rapidly. Since then it has been roughly constant, going up and down with the broader economy.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Absolutely. I’d love to evidence either way, as to whether government solutions or laissez-faire saved more in poverty. But lacking this evidence, I find it very unlikely that a laissez-faire approach would not have more casualties. Especially since our current system actually has both systems — nothing is preventing private individuals from helping poor people who fall through the government welfare gap.

            I do agree that the evidence is strongly in favor of government welfare programs causing more long-term poverty. It also seems clear to me that the reason for this is that those in poverty have much less incentive to pull themselves out of poverty if the government is willing to do it for them. But that too is evidence that the government does a better job of keeping the poor alive than private charity. Otherwise, why would the poor make more of an effort to stay whole without government charity?

          • I’d love to evidence either way, as to whether government solutions or laissez-faire saved more in poverty.

            There is one sense in which we have such evidence on a global scale–not for laissez-faire specifically but for non-welfare solutions. In 1990, about 37% of the world’s population was in extreme poverty. Currently it’s about 10%. That’s an enormous drop, and if you look at where it happened it wasn’t due to an increase in welfare payments. Pretty clearly, economic growth has played a much larger role in reducing poverty than government programs for the purpose.

            But lacking this evidence, I find it very unlikely that a laissez-faire approach would not have more casualties. Especially since our current system actually has both systems — nothing is preventing private individuals from helping poor people who fall through the government welfare gap.

            There are two different questions here. One is how bad the life is of someone who is poor. On that, your argument is correct–the current system does not prevent private charity.

            The other is how many people are how poor. That is affected not only by welfare, for the reason you mention, but by lots other things–minimum wage laws, professional licensing, zoning, schooling, … . Those things would be considerably different under laissez-faire.

            Of course, we didn’t have laissez-faire in the decades before the beginning of the War on Poverty, but we had a less active government than later, so the data I offered showing the decline in the U.S. poverty rate stopping at about the point the War on Poverty got really going is relevant, although not dispositive.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            DF — you seem to be conflating long-term poor vs short-term poor.

            I certainly agree that free markets are the best solution for long-term poverty elimination. As you stated, both the War on Poverty in the US and the tremendous drop in the very poor globally over the last few decades are good evidence of that.

            But I also want short-term welfare. I am not in favor of people dying on the streets, even if it results in fewer poor 20 years later. Government is more effective solving short-term poverty, even though less effective in long-term poverty.

          • I am not in favor of people dying on the streets, even if it results in fewer poor 20 years later.

            As I have mentioned before, the average real wage in a modern developed society is twenty to thirty times the global average through most of history, so dying in the streets isn’t really an issue. Living a less pleasant life, including less access to medical care, is.

            Would you rather have a system that gives us a permanent poor class of (say) ten percent living at a real income of (say) $20,000, or a system under which the poor class starts at ten percent and declines at a percentage point per decade as people work themselves out of poverty—but the income of the poor is $15,000?

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            As I have mentioned before, the average real wage in a modern developed society is twenty to thirty times the global average through most of history, so dying in the streets isn’t really an issue. Living a less pleasant life, including less access to medical care, is.

            So I think your opinion is that people would not die without government charity? It sounds like we are back to the level of certainty again. You sound pretty darn sure that the poor would at most live a less comfortable life; I do not agree.

            Yes, I remember your previous discussions on how little a person can live on, which is maybe an order of magnitude below the modern poverty line. But I think you are wrong that because someone lived at this lower level 100 years ago, or currently live at that level now in a 3rd world country, means a modern person can live like that, if they simply suck it up. 100 years ago, the poorest of the poor might have lived in a tent or a tar paper shack in the woods, because they couldn’t afford more shelter. But if someone does that today, they will be forced off the land. In the old days it was more acceptable because people knew that was how some people survived, but will be rejected today. Also, very cheap foods that would allow the poor to survive are not possible to obtain, as they would be when there was a substantial market for such goods. And of course it would be close to impossible for someone living that way to find employment. Part of the reason that people can’t live that cheaply is because of government regulations, but part of it is just that regular folks won’t allow it.

            Plus you alluded to medical care. I think the poor should have access to some minimal amount of medical care. Very hard to define what that is. I think it is also true that the poor often require MORE medical care than others — that is often both cause and result of being poor. If you were highly disabled and very poor 100 years ago, you simply died off at a young age. TO me that is equivalent to dying in the street, and I think it would happen without government welfare.

            I do speak in generalities here. I’d love to get more data. One reason I am in favor of the US ending its greatly complex system of welfare and moving it all to one agency is then we’d have much better data.

          • albatross11 says:

            Mark Anderson:

            Do homeless people commonly starve to death? If so, it’s evidence that without modern welfare programs, the poor would starve. But I don’t think that’s actually at all a common cause of death.

          • Also, very cheap foods that would allow the poor to survive are not possible to obtain, as they would be when there was a substantial market for such goods.

            That struck me as the point of yours that was clearly wrong. You can walk into a grocery store and buy lentils, powdered milk, and other foods with a very low price per calorie, gram of protein, etc. The current cost of a minimal cost full nutrition diet is about $600/year. And that’s considerably better nutrition than most people in the past got.

          • Nornagest says:

            Wanna buy 0.0824 of an orange?

            (Yes, I know.)

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Do homeless people commonly starve to death? If so, it’s evidence that without modern welfare programs, the poor would starve. But I don’t think that’s actually at all a common cause of death.

            This definitely an area we could use more data. I have heard of homeless freezing to death, and homeless dying from a chronic illness because they couldn’t get drugs. Plus of course they die from someone killing them or drug overdoses. But I have heard of no definitive studies.

            You can walk into a grocery store and buy lentils, powdered milk, and other foods with a very low price per calorie, gram of protein, etc. The current cost of a minimal cost full nutrition diet is about $600/year.

            Perhaps, although it could be pretty difficult to consume that food without a kitchen or a secure home. I think I’d like to see the post you made before detailing out the cheapest one could live at, so we could do better analysis. But it is kind of late in this thread to do that now.

    • Walter says:

      2) May backfire worse than you think.

      I’ve worked in dev for 20+ years, and I’ve seen multiple quality minority candidates passed over because of exactly these laws. That is, bosses value being able to fire people, and a candidate who will be harder to fire needs to make up for that value by having better qualifications. In this way anti discrimination laws make it easier for white dudes to get jobs, and harder for everyone else.

      The above paragraph isn’t supposed to be accusing anyone of racism. I’m just describing the consequences that I’ve seen.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I wrote the previous post too quickly and I feel I didn’t explain my overall points very well. I am somewhat gratified that I provoked lots of comments, but I think my posting was more offensive than I intended.

      First of all, I realize that I won’t convince anyone of anything here, with my few sentences describing “reality.” I kind of wanted to explain how I was thinking without thinking I would change anyone’s mind. And I shouldn’t have used the rather obnoxious word “reality.” I really just meant this is how I think it works. I am kind of curious if others find themselves in a similar position of agreeing with one political movement’s goals while totally disagreeing with them on their policies.

      I do wholly agree with those who caution about the political tendency to “just do something.” Many many laws have been passed by folks who thought that doing something questionable was better then nothing, and more often than not I think they’ve been wrong.

      But furthermore, just because I discussed three different things I think the government should not be doing, doesn’t mean I don’t have my preferred solutions. I actually wrote a whole book of my preferred solutions, so they are out there. But I was writing a simple posting, not a book.

      I will give the short version of my answers to the policies I disagree with:
      a) Instead of #1 and #3, I think we should solve the issue of the very poor by creating one simple welfare program, instead of the dozens that currently exist in the US. We should provide a minimum level of funds for each person with no strings at all. This much simpler program will result in fewer people falling through the gaps, or not being able to navigate the bureaucracy. It will also provide a base of income to all, which provides a natural minimum wage (that is not legislated), under which no one will accept a job.

      b) On #2, I think no laws can end racial discrimination. I was a hiring manager some years ago. It would have been easy for me to avoid hiring Blacks, if that was my aim, unless I was given actual quotas to fill. One can always come up with alternative reasons for whoever one hires. The only solution to racial discrimination is to go back to what was the cultural norm of 50 years ago to try to see people in a racially blind manner. It may take many years for racial prejudice to end under such a cultural rule, but it will happen eventually. Actively trying to offset racism with quotas and endlessly searching for structural racism will ensure that racism never ends.

      • We should provide a minimum level of funds for each person with no strings at all.

        Does that mean that each person gets the money whether or not he earns anything–a demogrant aka UBI? That’s what “no strings attached” seems to imply. In that case, either the amount is very low or the program is very expensive–roughly the total expenditure of the federal government.

        It will also provide a base of income to all, which provides a natural minimum wage (that is not legislated), under which no one will accept a job.

        If the money doesn’t depend on your being unemployed, why does it produce a natural minimum wage? Someone offers me a job at ten dollars an hour. If I don’t accept it I get my basic income. If I do accept it, I get my basic income plus ten dollars an hour. Why don’t you expect me to accept it?

        If the money does depend on how much you are making, you are describing a negative income tax or something similar.

        • brad says:

          One quarter of those existing federal expenditures are in the form of sending checks to virtually everyone over the age of 65. I can’t see keeping around social security in a UBI world, it would be duplicative. Right off the bat that’s $1T shaved off the net cost. And Social Security is hardly the only redundant program in a UBI world.

          • Randy M says:

            I can’t see keeping around social security in a UBI world, it would be duplicative. Right off the bat that’s $1T shaved off the net cost. And Social Security is hardly the only redundant program in a UBI world.

            Economically, I agree. Politically, there’s still going to be a large contingent with the “I paid in, I better get it” view, and that won’t change just because there’s another pile of money going out.
            Of course, if you call the UBI social security, that might fool enough of the people enough of the time.

          • Jaskologist says:

            You’re proposing a massive cut to Social Security in order to give a few thousand dollars to Warren Buffet. Good luck passing that. Or you’re going pay everyone what SS recipients get now, in which case it is still very, very expensive.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ brad

            Average SS payments (googling for all numbers) appear to be $16,000 a year with 1 in 4 households having a recipient and 1 in 5 people being a recipient. Quadrupling that so that every household has a recipient would mean a 4+ trillion dollar budget plus getting everyone who gets more than the average SS payment to agree to a payment reduction. To get it to a true UBI then you are quintupling it and the UBI alone would be ~115% of the 2019 federal budget with zero dollars allocated to any other program.

            UBI would be so prohibitively expensive in the US that shaving a Trillion dollars off its net cost still leaves it prohibitively expensive.

          • Currently, the Social Security payment for someone who has paid in at the maximum level for 35 years is about $30,000/year. Giving every American a UBI at that level costs about nine trillion dollars a year, which is about twice the total expenditure of the Federal government.

            So in practice, your UBI is going to be much lower than that. Do you think a current Social Security recipient will regard a UBI of $10,000/year, already a pretty high figure, as an adequate replacement for a Social Security income of twenty to thirty thousand?

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Although I agree with your overall point about it being too expensive, $9 trillion includes every adult and every child, regardless of living situation. My family of five would be getting $150,000 a year from such an arrangement. Even $60,000 for both adults in the household seems overly high for such a program.

            Again, not that I disagree with your overall point (even $4.5 trillion a year is still too expensive), but using the highest figures for your estimate seems disingenuous.

          • brad says:

            @DavidFriedman

            So in practice, your UBI is going to be much lower than that. Do you think a current Social Security recipient will regard a UBI of $10,000/year, already a pretty high figure, as an adequate replacement for a Social Security income of twenty to thirty thousand?

            I don’t know and don’t especially care if they would consider it adequate. I would consider it adequate. If it’s good enough for everyone else, it’s good enough for them (and vice-versa). Ditto for medicare.

            @Randy M

            Politically, there’s still going to be a large contingent with the “I paid in, I better get it” view, and that won’t change just because there’s another pile of money going out.

            I don’t think a UBI is politically possible in the medium term future. So I don’t see any reason to preemptively bowdlerize it in order to satisfy the desires of the FU I’ve got mine generation. They aren’t going to vote for regardless, so we might as keep the idea clean.

            @Mr. Doolittle

            Although I agree with your overall point about it being too expensive, $9 trillion includes every adult and every child, regardless of living situation. My family of five would be getting $150,000 a year from such an arrangement. Even $60,000 for both adults in the household seems overly high for such a program.

            I don’t think legal minors, or the incarcerated, ought to be eligible.

            @baconbits9
            I don’t think a UBI is practical at this point, but I do think $10-12k for adult, non-incarcerated, citizens is a good place to start. That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of three trillion. From that $1T is nothing to sneeze at.

          • @Brad:

            In your system, the person who can and does earn a good salary gets $10,000/year in UBI and the retired person, possibly too old to work, who was counting on getting Social Security, having paid into it through his working life, gets $10,000. The latter person still gets only $10,000 even if he has high medical costs that Medicare would have covered.

            Quite aside from political feasibility, does that feel to you like the outcome you want?

          • brad says:

            @David Friedman

            In your system, the person who can and does earn a good salary gets $10,000/year in UBI and the retired person, possibly too old to work, who was counting on getting Social Security, having paid into it through his working life, gets $10,000.

            I disagree he paid for Social Security *particularly* through his working life. The politicians he and his cohort elected put in place a variety of taxes and a variety of spending programs. Almost every year they spent all the money that the taxes generated and then some. There are no savings, certainly no vested savings.

            The latter person still gets only $10,000 even if he has high medical costs that Medicare would have covered.

            Quite aside from political feasibility, does that feel to you like the outcome you want?

            I’m open to the idea of means tested welfare programs instead of or in addition to a UBI. I tend to favor a UBI for efficiency and incentive reasons, not ideological ones. What I oppose in every case are welfare programs aimed solely at the elderly (among other special snowflake welfare programs).

        • LadyJane says:

          I think the expectation is that, once a rudimentary standard of living is guaranteed, people will simply refuse to take a job that doesn’t pay well enough. If a job only pays $1/hour, most people would prefer to spend that time doing other things – such as looking for a better job, learning skills that would enable them to qualify for higher paying jobs, doing independent work that could bring in money, starting their own business, or networking to make contacts in their field. In fact, given the costs of transportation and eating out, it might literally be cheaper for them to stay at home. (Last year I worked a job that paid $20/hour and it was still barely worth it because the hours were short, the commute was long and expensive, and I often found myself buying food while I was out instead of cooking.)

          • Walter says:

            That’s definitely a big worry. Like, if the gov will pay you for existing, why ever take any job at all?

            Video games are not expensive. If the UBI covers healthcare and rent, why spend 8 hours a day not drunk and stoned?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            That’s definitely a big worry. Like, if the gov will pay you for existing, why ever take any job at all?

            Why ever try for a raise if you can already afford rent?

            Video games are not expensive. If the UBI covers healthcare and rent, why spend 8 hours a day not drunk and stoned?

            Being drunk and stoned is covered under healthcare now?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Why ever try for a raise if you can already afford rent?

            How many people would offer to work an extra 40 hours a week for a raise?

            The difference between a UBI and a job and a job and a raise is substantial.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Why ever try for a raise if you can already afford rent?

            I totally agree. Why am I going to take on a massive amount of extra work to try to get a promotion that only pays an extra, what, $5k a year? I can already afford everything I need.

            Being drunk and stoned is covered under healthcare now?

            UBI pays for that, unless you want to introduce a bunch of complications that basically defeat the purpose of UBI.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            How many people would offer to work an extra 40 hours a week for a raise?

            Have you met Silicon Valley?

            I totally agree. Why am I going to take on a massive amount of extra work to try to get a promotion that only pays an extra, what, $5k a year? I can already afford everything I need.

            And if it was for x2 salary? x3? More?

            UBI pays for that, unless you want to introduce a bunch of complications that basically defeat the purpose of UBI.

            My interpretation of the previously quoted section was that the UBI was enough to cover rent+healthcare but no more. So unless you wanna move into an even shittier place or eat only Top Ramen 2 times a day, you’d have to work to make enough budget for substances to keep you domesticated 24/7.

            But I tend to focus on the Basic in UBI, which a lot of people stretch to include all sorts of modern amenities, so probably an inaccurate interpretation.

          • Randy M says:

            Certain people are going to work if they possibly can; they are ambitious or passionate about what they do. While they appreciate the money and/or status, that isn’t what motivates them.

            We should have UBI when the proportion of workers needed to sustain the economy is equal to or less than the number who are going to work no matter what. For this purpose, ‘sustain’ may also include grow enough to be competitive with nations that aren’t doing this, stay ahead of entropy, etc.

            Note that this conclusion is compatible with the rejection of the premise; if you think no one would work if they didn’t have to, then we should never have UBI unless and until we don’t need any human input into the economy.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Have you met Silicon Valley?

            If you are a high achiever, surrounded by high achievers, you won’t have a good idea of what normal people do.

            Most people give exactly what you ask of them and no more. Like Spiegelman’s Monster they will adapt to exactly what easy things the environment is offering.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Have you met Silicon Valley?

            Roughly zero percent of the population. SV is a rounding error or an outlier, not a type specimen.

            But I tend to focus on the Basic in UBI, which a lot of people stretch to include all sorts of modern amenities, so probably an inaccurate interpretation.

            By a “basic” UBI do you mean rent, healthcare and food, or less than that? Either way once you start out with your “basic” UBI there will be a large voting bloc now in favor of almost any expansion of UBI.

          • I think the expectation is that, once a rudimentary standard of living is guaranteed, people will simply refuse to take a job that doesn’t pay well enough.

            A UBI of $10,000/year times three hundred million Americans comes to three trillion dollars a year, or about 2/3 of the current Federal budget. Limiting it to adults still costs more than half the current budget, so I think that’s a pretty high estimate for a plausible level.

            The current Federal minimum wage is $7.25/hr, which comes to about $15,000/year for a full time worker. Do you think someone receiving $10,000/year from the government is going to feel sufficiently well off to refuse any wage offer below that?

            If a job only pays $1/hour, most people would prefer to spend that time doing other things

            If you offer $1/hour today, for some informal employment where minimum wage is unlikely to be enforced, do you thing you would get any takers?

          • Walter says:

            I’m not getting this across.

            Like, dudes work so they can afford rent and food and weed, where we are pretending weed is also opera tickets or whatever, all recreational stuff, ok?

            So if you show up and are like “I am taking from taxes and paying for everyone’s food and rent”, then a lot of people will say ‘cool, thanks, I quit’.

            Like, the opera ticket guys might keep working to fund their habits, but most people won’t. 8 hours a day is half your life, why spend it so you can afford slightly better video games and weed? If the UBI is sufficient for food & rent then it is sufficient for skipping some meals and living in a dumpster and paying for a smartphone.

            Which fine, I’m not judging, but the problem is you can’t tax these guys, alright? So the opera goers are now paying for the whole country to have weed, and the temptation is always going to be there to step back and join the slackers.

            Like, nowadays the people like this have to make up a disability and fight with doctors or whatever. It screens out the lazy guys who aren’t dishonest, or makes taking a crap job easier than jumping through all the hoops.

            But if you take the inconvenience out of the prospect, then everyone will jump on it. What’s the plan when the unemployment rate jumps to 80%, because working is provably dumb?

          • Theodoric says:

            That’s definitely a big worry. Like, if the gov will pay you for existing, why ever take any job at all?

            Video games are not expensive. If the UBI covers healthcare and rent, why spend 8 hours a day not drunk and stoned?

            Because they want more than the minimum (eg: having their own place rather than having to have roommates or live with their parents)?

          • Theodoric says:

            If the UBI is sufficient for food & rent then it is sufficient for skipping some meals and living in a dumpster and paying for a smartphone.

            Do you really think there are many who would literally prefer living in a dumpster and going hungry to working an entry level job?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Would you rather get by semi-comfortably slacking in a trailer park in Podunk, MS or work to afford a house in Trendy Metro, CA?

            Because I don’t see why a UBI would pay more in high CoL areas.

            So you can
            * Live in a “shithole county” for free
            * Find somewhat-more-leisurely-than-current work to get somewhat nicer digs and the latest and greatest Bread & Circuses. Someone has to transport and sell the food and other supplies to the freeloaders, at least until Bezos automates it all away.
            * Actually work a regular job if you want to afford to feed kids and give them somewhere to grow up that isn’t 90% wireheaders. But because you have the UBI to fall back on, 40 hours a week is for-realsies 40 hours not “hey we won’t pay you overtime but we need you to stay late and come in this Saturday”. And you can maybe even afford for one parent to stay home.
            * Highly ambitious people still have the highly ambitious people things to do. Might be marginally easier to break in through sheer effort but not sure how much this population changes.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            There are lots of non-shithole places where you can live on $1000 a month. The two alternatives aren’t Manhattan or the trailer park/ghetto/dueling banjo territory.

            Some people are extremely giddy about ripping out that fence built across the road. Won’t it be interesting to find out what it was for, when we tear it out and watch what breaks?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            And if it was for x2 salary? x3? More?

            There’s literally no amount of money you could pay me to work 80 hours a week for any useful length of time. The people who work 80 hours a week are weird, even though there are some of them.

            Similarly, there are a lot of people NOW who aren’t interested in holding down a 40 hour per week job, especially at off-shifts. Pretty much the only requirement for our 3rd shift packagers are “don’t bring cocaine to work. Please. Okay, just a bit.” They just have different preferences.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Wow this sure took off. I go to work and the comments go like crazy.

          Actually I meant “no strings attached” other than an income requirement. These days it seems like every welfare program forces you to (pretend to) look for work or perhaps go to school for more credentials, and often requires to have kids too. That’s what I was referring to. I am against UBI, because we simply aren’t rich enough for that. I think we’d have to tax half the GDP of the US to get enough funds to then give them back to everyone. I don’t want to see that kind of money flowing through the government, even if it would theoretically come back to everyone. Someday, when society is richer, it might make sense.

      • LadyJane says:

        Earlier in the thread, you said:

        The good policies of libertarians are to put up a strong rule that government must prove any policy they propose will be superior to the free market.

        Between that and your apparent support for UBI, I find myself very much in agreement with your point of view. It’s good to see another moderate libertarian around here – someone who agrees that we should have some system in place to help the poor, someone who generally prefers free market solutions to government intervention but still recognizes that there are a few cases where government intervention might be necessary.

        I also agree with you regarding affirmative action, which has led to all kinds of unintended consequences: as you said, it causes people to assume that successful minorities only got where they are through favoritism; as Walter noted, it may actually make it harder for minorities to get hired due to perverse incentives; and with regards to education, it puts minorities who’ve had poor educations into highly demanding universities, which makes them less likely to succeed than if they’d gone to a less demanding college, and further increases negative perceptions of minorities. There’s also the intrinsic unfairness of it helping rich minorities but not poor Whites/Asians (although I think affirmative action based on socioeconomic class rather than race would have its own problems).

        Although if we’re being perfectly honest, my single biggest reason for opposing affirmative action is simply because it gives rhetorical ammo to my ideological enemies. I know that might not be the most honorable of motivations, but the “White male identity politics” of the New Right is centered around this ridiculous idea that straight White men are being systematically oppressed by minority activists, liberal politicians, political correctness, and so forth, and I really just hate the fact that affirmative action gives even the slightest shred of credibility to that self-centered delusion. It’s a program that’s useless at best and counterproductive at worst, and it’s probably done very little to harm Whites or help minorities in any meaningful sense, but its existence means that there is just the slightest grain of truth to the 99.9% false “White males are systematically oppressed” narrative, and I resent that. I’m reminded of Jeff Daniels’ quote from the first episode of The Newsroom: “Sharon, the [National Endowment for the Arts] is a loser. Yeah, it accounts for a penny out of our paycheck, but he gets to hit you with it any time he wants. It doesn’t cost money, it costs votes; it costs airtime, column inches. You know why people don’t like liberals? Because they lose. If liberals are so fucking smart, how come they lose so goddamn always?”

        • Plumber says:

          @Lady Jane,

          Due to my on-the-job experiences, and the prejudices that has inculcated in me, I support affirmative action that gets more black men city jobs.

          Civil service exam results are public record so it’s easy to look up what another guys score was (and when you’re not yet hired for a permanent position you want to know how you stand, and afterwards you want to know whom you’re most likely to work with in the future), and while the scores Asians and whites somewhat seem to correlate with how effective they work, many times I’ve noticed that low scoring black guys (and the one black women) who were hired as temporaries are far better co-workers than their scores suggest (I don’t know why this seems to be, but I’ve definitely noticed this).

          The guy I work with who most often has good ideas of how to solve problems was hired as part of a special affinactive action program of the early ’90’s that hired folks from what was then a poor black neighborhood (it’s now a bit more “gentrified”), and without that program I probably wouldn’t be working with him which would be a shame.

        • I also agree with you regarding affirmative action, which has led to all kinds of unintended consequences: … as Walter noted, it may actually make it harder for minorities to get hired due to perverse incentives;

          That argument is about non-discrimination law, not affirmative action. Are you opposed to that as well? I am, but you describe yourself as a moderate libertarian and many moderate libertarians, including Gary Johnson, are not.

          • 10240 says:

            It’s an argument against enforcing anti-discrimination law regarding firing with a presumption of guilt, or with an assumption that if, say, black people get fired more often, it’s because of their race. Also, an argument for making sure that anti-discrimination law is not enforced in a stricter way regarding firing than regarding hiring.

          • Also, an argument for making sure that anti-discrimination law is not enforced in a stricter way regarding firing than regarding hiring.

            Very hard to do.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I consider myself a moderate libertarian (or actually I describe myself as leaning libertarian), but I am against discrimination laws. As I think my initial posts indicates. They don’t work. Affirmative action is the worst, but all discrimination laws have worse side effects than benefits.

            Plumber, it has always been my experience that intelligence is highly correlated with ability to do almost any job. And I think the evidence backs this up, although I am less sure about that. I would think that civil service exams would greatly correlate with intelligence, but perhaps some pretty smart folks do badly on them because they are simply low in literacy or something. But if this is so, I suspect there would just as many Whites that score poorly that would be effective. It sounds like an improved test is in order.

        • albatross11 says:

          LadyJane:

          I think identity politics are in general a force for evil in the world, and that racial identity politics, where we organize politically primarily on racial lines, are an extremely bad idea. Piles of skulls bad.

          So I find a lot of the common acceptable rhetoric involving identity politics w.r.t. race, sex, sexual orientation, etc., to be really awful. Rhetoric that’s focused on dividing the world into the white men vs everyone else, or whites vs everyone else, is pretty common in the big wide world. Combine that with massive media approval and support for identity politics by every group but whites.

          As long as this was just done by relatively obscure and powerless groups, the damage and danger were limited. But that’s not really the case anymore. This rhetoric comes from powerful people at the top of media and politics and academia. You can find commentary in the New York Times or from sitting congressmen blaming white men for everything, or talking about toxic whiteness or toxic masculinity.

          And one reason this rhetoric is so terrible is because it encourages a response. If it’s commonplace to have rhetoric blaming everything on white men and making nasty comments about them, it’s not the biggest shock in the world when you get political affiliations of white men forming, and people thinking in terms of white identity politics. We really, truly, genuinely, do not want a large scale white identity politics movement in the US. Trump and the current alt-right is like 2% of what that will look like if it gets going.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            If it’s commonplace to have rhetoric blaming everything on white men and making nasty comments about them, it’s not the biggest shock in the world when you get political affiliations of white men forming

            Do you think an identity politics of white men is recent in American history? Does it only postdate modern identity politics for other groups?

          • EchoChaos says:

            > Do you think an identity politics of white men is recent in American history?

            I don’t know about @albatross11, but I would say that they are. White men voting 63-31 for a party (more identity than Latinos) is brand new in American politics.

          • BBA says:

            All politics is identity politics. It may be implicit – as in, say, the identity of the group that formerly dominated politics to the exclusion of all other possible identities – but it’s always there.

          • albatross11 says:

            BBA:

            Can you explain that claim?

            Suppose I support banning abortion, go to pro-life rallies, give money to pro-life organizations, volunteer for campaigns of pro-life candidates. In what sense is that identity politics?

            Or suppose I support strict gun control–I go to gun-control rallies, give money to gun-control groups, volunteer for and vote for pro-gun-control candidates. Is that also identity politics?

          • albatross11 says:

            Eugene Dawn:

            I think the Civil Rights movement in the US saw whites largely step back from racial identity politics for whites, largely on moral grounds. Racial discrimination was evil and nasty, the means needed to maintain segregation in the South were ugly and brutal, and large numbers of whites weren’t willing to go along with it. Laws against racial discrimination, and even laws supporting or requiring affirmative action for racial minorities, were pushed by prominent white politicians and were supported by lots of white voters. For a couple generation, most white parents have even been raising our kids to oppose racism, on moral grounds.

            I think we can have a stable societal arrangement that says “let’s not organize politics on racial lines, that works out badly.” Ways to keep that arrangement involve stuff like everyone powerful agreeing that the law should be race blind, that explicit discrimination should be forbidden or at least strongly opposed and criticized, and that rhetoric that blames whole races for some political problem and tries to drum up anger at them to unify other groups politically should get condemnation from most everyone. None of this is what we actually see at this point.

          • WashedOut says:

            BBA: All politics is identity politics. It may be implicit – as in, say, the identity of the group that formerly dominated politics to the exclusion of all other possible identities – but it’s always there.

            No it isn’t. Identity Politics refers to the practice of using a particular set of personal traits (e.g. race, sex, ethnicity) as the basis of policy or political argument.

            Yes, almost all politics involves a transfer of benefits from one ‘group’ to another, obviously. Is this what you’re claiming is just ‘all identity politics’?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @Albatross

            Racial discrimination was evil and nasty, the means needed to maintain segregation in the South were ugly and brutal, and large numbers of whites weren’t willing to go along with it. Laws against racial discrimination, and even laws supporting or requiring affirmative action for racial minorities, were pushed by prominent white politicians and were supported by lots of white voters.

            I mean yes, but other prominent white politicians opposed ending the system of discrimination, and were able to use this opposition to launch themselves into national politics, supported by lots of white voters as well.

            For most of American history, it’s been white identity politics that has been the biggest obstacle to having a non race-based politics–for two hundred years, “let’s not organize politics on racial lines” was a position that most whites would have rejected as radical.

            Your presentation of the matter suggests an exact inversion of history: that identity politics is an invention of non white men, and that while it would be terrible, we shouldn’t be surprised if the rise of this kind of politics leads white men to develop their own version; when in fact white men were the innovators and key contributors to a race-based politics for centuries, and modern identity politics is itself the unsurprising backlash.

            None of these means that modern identity politics is good, or that you’re wrong to see another backlash coming, but I find it incredibly frustrating to see someone write about the rise of a race-based politics without even the slightest acknowledgement of the history of race-based politics pre-1970. I agree we don’t want a large scale white identity politics movement because we’ve already seen what it looks like.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @WashedOut and Albatross

            I’m not BBA, so perhaps this isn’t what s/he meant, but I’d widen WashedOut’s definition to say that identity politics i the practice of using a particular personal identity as the basis of policy or political argument.

            This includes race, sex, etc., but also includes wider categories like “real Americans”, “mothers”, “guys like me”. Then, any appeal to voters by making yourself seem like the kind of person voters identify with counts as identity politics. So an appeal to “soccer moms”, or an attempt to portray your opponent as a “Massachusetts liberal” count as identity politics because they are appeals based on personal identity. A little more abstractly, even an appeal to the “silent majority” is a plausible case of identity politics–it’s not strictly an appeal based on policy, rather based on a feeling of being the kind of person who is turned off by vocal political arguments.

            With this in mind, BBA’s claim becomes more plausible: it’s obviously not true that literally all politics comes down to these kinds of identity-based appeals, but a lot does: the effort by candidates to look like “the kind of guy you’d have a beer with”, to connect with “middle Americans”, or to paint their opponents as “out of touch” are indeed a huge part of politics, and are much more identity-based politicking than policy-based.

          • DeWitt says:

            Here to echo Eugene’s last post and add the following:

            People really, really like to belong. It’s easy for some to forget, but this has been the case since time immemorial and deciding that politics would be better off without this desire is a non-starter; it is baked too far into the human condition.

          • albatross11 says:

            Eugene Dawn:

            We had racial identity politics and pro-white discrimination for a very long time. Then, we managed to largely repudiate it–to get most everyone in positions of power to agree that discrimination by race, or judging someone by their race, or organizing politics along racial lines, were bad things. Even the politicians who continued trying to do this stuff w.r.t. white voters had to try to dodge around the issue by talking about crime or schools or crack babies or something. I think that was a pretty good development. I also think it’s being thrown away, and that we’ll miss it when it’s gone.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Even the politicians who continued trying to do this stuff w.r.t. white voters had to try to dodge around the issue by talking about crime or schools or crack babies or something. I think that was a pretty good development. I also think it’s being thrown away, and that we’ll miss it when it’s gone

            I agree it was a good development to get rid of overtly racist politics, but if you’re willing to concede that a sizable number of voters and politicians still want it to come back, and have only invented clever circumlocutions to practice that old-time white identity politics, it’s not clear a) why it’s wrong for identity politics practitioners to identify that white identity politics is still being practiced, or b) why you’d place most of the responsibility for the rise of a new white identity politics on backlash to modern identity politics: why wouldn’t the rise of white identity politics, if you concede that it was popular for two centuries, and only underwent a rebranding since, just be chalked up to the continuing popularity of identity politics among white voters?

          • cassander says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            but if you’re willing to concede that a sizable number of voters and politicians still want it to come back

            I’m not willing to concede this. I think it’s, frankly, a fantasy that the left is desperate to believe is true and have convinced themselves of. there are some genuine, pre-civil rights racists out there, but the vast majority of whites, and essentially 100% of white politicians are not in that group and, if they’re on the right, desperately want questions of race to just go away forever. That attitude will change, though, if the left keeps at what they’ve been doing, and continue to make their movement more explicitly identitarian.

          • albatross11 says:

            Eugene Dawn:

            I don’t think most white politicians or voters were or are especially interested in bringing back white identity politics as a thing. But I’ll ask the sort-of obvious question that your and HBC’s comment raises in my mind: Given your belief that all politics is identity politics and white identity politics is totally standard stuff that’s around already, do you have any objection to politicians or political movements organizing primarily along white interests? I mean, I do, because I think white identity politics is pretty rare and identity politics in general is evil, but if you think all politics are identity politics and white identity politics is commonplace, then it’s hard for me to see why you’d object to the White Nationalist Party having rallies and running candidates for office.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I’m not willing to concede this.

            Yes, my remarks are addressed to Albatross specifically, who did seem to concede at least a weak version of the above. I am aware that not everyone here would agree with that.

            @Albatross

            Given your belief that all politics is identity politics and white identity politics is totally standard stuff that’s around already, do you have any objection to politicians or political movements organizing primarily along white interests?

            A few points: I don’t actually think all politics are ID politics, that’s BBA–I’m just defending the weaker view that ID politics are more widespread than people give credit for.

            I think some version of ID politics is inevitable, but which identities are targeted, how divisive that particular cleavage of the electorate is, and the actual policies being sold all are factors to consider in evaluating different versions of identity politics against one another. A campaign that tries to appeal to “ordinary working Americans” is all-else equal much less objectionable than one that tries to pit “left-coast elitist snobs” against “real American heartlanders”, or whatever. And I’d object to an appeal to ordinary working Americans that was being used to sell a particularly horrible policy (no fun examples come to mind right now).

            So, my objection to white identity politics is primarily on two grounds: 1) it’s known to be extremely divisive and 2) it’s usually been used to sell horrible policies–and specifically, both of these apply to within-living-memory America, this isn’t some general phenomenon being attributed out-of-context. Within the lifetimes of about 1/3 of Americans, white ID politics was the driving force of some of the most turbulent, violent politics in America history, in defense of an indefensible social order.

            Finally, a somewhat separate point, the existence of a white identity party would be a lot more reasonable if white people otherwise had little representation in the US government. Picking a few sample metrics, I calculate that white Americans comprise, by my count, 99.7% of all US Senators, and 98% of all US Presidents, and that 91% of current Senators are white; you can quibble with these metrics but I think the basic point stands that white Americans don’t need a specifically white nationalist interest group to represent their interests: they have plenty of power now, have had it in the past, and have never been targeted by the use of government power wielded by other groups like other minorities have been.

          • John Schilling says:

            We had racial identity politics and pro-white discrimination for a very long time.

            In roughly the sense that we had oxygen-breather identity politics and pro-oxygen discrimination for a very long time.

            It’s not politics unless you have people who disagree about something. If all “people” firmly agree in oxygen-breather supremacism and agree that non-oxygen-breathing life forms are to be administered in whatever fashion most benefits “people”, and any dissenters are outside the Overton window and mostly know better than to talk about that crazy stuff, then you don’t really have oxygen-breather identity politics going on.

            s/oxygen-breather/white and it doesn’t change much. The United States went through a couple of transitional periods where white identity politics was relevant to real and significant political debate, which were fairly conclusively settled by agreeing that nobody gets to do white identity politics any more on penalty of Overton defenstration.

            It’s coming back, but to say that it has been present “for a very long time”, I think requires overreacting to fringe positions of one sort or another.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            In roughly the sense that we had oxygen-breather identity politics and pro-oxygen discrimination for a very long time.

            For the analogy to work you’d need that the United States had no non-white people in it during this time which, is not true. The whole point is that US politics excluded 15-20% of its population for the first 80 years of its existence!

            It’s not politics unless you have people who disagree about something.

            Again, I suspect there were some people living in the US and subject to its laws who would have had…strenuous disagreement about some major features of American politics pre-1865.

            I think requires overreacting to fringe positions of one sort or another.

            Are you contending that the maintenance of slavery, the non-eligibility for citizenship, and the disenfranchisement of African Americans were “fringe positions”? Or that I am overreacting to them as important features of American politics pre-civil rights?

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            I think that John’s point is not that white nationalism didn’t exist in the past, but that right now there is practically no one who wants to bring back slavery, wants to disenfranchise blacks because of their supposed inferiority, etc.

            What I see is that attempts to reduce voter turnout of blacks is seen as white nationalism by the left, but it seems to me that this is not meaningfully based on actual malice towards blacks as such, but mainly a combination of:
            – different concerns (the right is more concerned about abuse of the system by people across the board)
            – general attempts to stack the deck to Republican victories, where black neighborhoods are very relevant to gerrymandering and such, because black people overwhelmingly vote Democrat, not because they are black as such.
            – general incompetence

            Note that Democrats have also engaged in behaviors that would surely be called evidence of racism against blacks, were it not that it’s the Democrats doing it. When they harm minorities, it doesn’t fit the narrative and thus isn’t used as evidence, but that similar evidence exist shows that it’s too simply to just attribute all evidence by Republicans to racism.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I think that John’s point is not that white nationalism didn’t exist in the past,

            John is responding to Albatross (not me, as I misread) saying “We had racial identity politics and pro-white discrimination for a very long time.”, a clear reference to the past, not the present. It’s possible John is making the point you attribute to him, but I don’t see how, and he can clarify for himself.

            I of course agree that only a tiny minority of people want to disenfranchise African Americans out of explicit racial malice; I’m not sure if that distinguishes the present from the past, as I presume the politicians of yore had their own self-interested reasons to exclude African Americans as well. What matters is whether or not African Americans are deliberately targeted for disenfranchisement, not the motives of the people enabling that disenfranchisement.

            I disagree that your article proves what you want it to prove: while New York’s primary rules are an outrage, everything in that article references the primary system, not general elections, so no one is being disenfranchised from voting in general elections, and nothing in the article suggests that black voters are targeted for disenfranchisement: the article mentions young people as potential targets, but never mentions any ethnic minorities.

          • Aapje says:

            The article actually does claim that blacks are being disenfranchised:

            They are disproportionately young. Nationally, some 44% of millennial voters are registering as independents rather than with a party, yet polls show this age group overwhelmingly self-identifies as Democratically-leaning. Among the millennial generation’s independents, African Americans are the most likely to lean Democratic, followed by Latinos.

            Why does the New York Democratic Party insist on locking them out of the primaries and creating a culture of non-participation?

            So the article says that it’s especially the young, blacks and latinos who are harmed by this.

            Anyway, the issue I have with your claim is the same issue I have with a lot of ‘disparate impact’ arguments: that blame is far too easily put (entirely) on the right side of the equation, ignoring the left side, when the equation is: group A tends to do X & group B tends to do Y -> group C treats people who do X badly.

            Then it is not immediately obvious that group C reacts nastily because they dislike group A and X is just an excuse or whether they truly dislike X and they are unwilling to ‘benevolently’ discriminate in favor of A.

            A (greater) willingness by Republicans to disenfranchise groups who overwhelmingly don’t vote for them should not automatically be attributed to malice by race, just as a desire for hard punishment of crime isn’t automatically racial malice, even if it disproportionately targets blacks.

            One of the problems with such criticism is that it attributes motives to others that they don’t believe they have and consider pejorative. This harms debate and persuasiveness. I think that Democrats would be much more persuasive to the not-yet-converted if they would focus much more on arguing in favor of enfranchisement generally.

            In general, putting so much focus on the right side of the equation results in hard questions about the left side of the equation to not be asked so much.

          • albatross11 says:

            Eugene Dawn:

            If white racial identity politics are so dangerous, then why does it make sense to court them with explicitly anti-white rhetoric from the top of society, and with explicit discrimination against whites in school admissions and hiring as a matter of policy?

            IMO, “no discrimination by race” is a good policy and one I can agree with; “no discrimination by race, except it’s okay to discriminate against people who look like me” isn’t a policy that’s getting my support anytime soon. Similarly, “no rhetoric trying to drum up hatred against racial groups for political advantage” seems like a good principle, and one I’d buy into. “No rhetoric trying to drum up hatred against racial groups for political advantage, except it’s okay to drum up hatred against people who look like me” doesn’t sound so great to me.

            Also, nonwhite racial identity politics isn’t exactly benign. How has that worked out in (say) Rwanda, Nigeria, the Philippines, Uganda, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @Aapje

            I think you’re still wrong. The article seems to be arguing that the Democratic primary disenfranchises independents; but it never argues that independents are more likely to be African American, rather than independent African Americans are more likely to lean Democrat. This is what the quote you presented is arguing, and it’s a substantially different claim.
            A quick Google search didn’t turn up much, but the evidence presented is completely compatible with a world where African American independents lean Democrat, but the NY Democratic party is yet more African American than independents.

            I don’t dismiss the possibility that there is actual race-based disenfranchisement happening, and NY’s system is still an anti-democratic machine-politics remnant that ought to be changed, but there’s nothing you’ve said that shows that it’s an attempt at race-based disenfranchisement.

            FWIW, I’m not making a “disparate impact” argument; take a look at what I said again:

            What matters is whether or not African Americans are deliberately targeted for disenfranchisement, not the motives of the people enabling that disenfranchisement.

            “deliberately targeted” is there for a reason: I’m making the distinction between a world where African Americans are deliberately targeted for voter suppression because of intrinsic hostility on the part of politicians/voters, and a world where African Americans are deliberately targeted for voter suppression for purely partisan reasons. To distinguish the latter case from disparate impact, imagine a politician who passes the “Blacks can’t vote bill” of 1909–this is clearly a bill deliberately targeting black voters, not just by disparate impact. I’m simply claiming that knowing the motivation of the politician who passes the bill isn’t very important: maybe he personally hates black people, maybe he’s an opportunist who thinks his constituents do, maybe it’s for partisan gain, who knows? The deliberate targeting is what matters.
            Whether or not this actually happens today is certainly contestable, but the North Carolina laws are examples where black voters seem to have been deliberately (if not explicitly) targeted.

            @Albatross

            If white racial identity politics are so dangerous, then why does it make sense to court them with explicitly anti-white rhetoric from the top of society, and with explicit discrimination against whites in school admissions and hiring as a matter of policy?

            I’m not saying it does make sense; I’m saying that framing this as “courting” white identity politics makes it sound like white identity politics only arise in response to identity politics in other guises, when this is contradicted by all of American history. If I were to defend the claim, I would probably argue that modern identity politics are necessary to undo the legacy of past instances of explicit white rule, and that white identity politics is more successful when there is no pushback, and so while it’s a risky strategy, it’s got upside too: it makes the white identity politics that can otherwise seem like just politics (see John Schilling’s argument elsewhere in the thread) apparent.
            This of course doesn’t mean that all manifestations of modern identity politics are defensible on these grounds (I don’t support “drumming up hate” against anyone), but I think some of them are.

            And even if you disagree, I think you’re missing a big piece of the picture if you continue to frame the issue as if white identity politics is only forming because of provocation, rather than being the dominant mode of American politics for most of history, and to which the current wave is the backlash. You can still think it’s wrong but you should at least discuss the issue in a way that’s consistent with the history.

            Also, nonwhite racial identity politics isn’t exactly benign. How has that worked out in (say) Rwanda, Nigeria, the Philippines, Uganda, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka?

            Obviously there’s nothing unique about white identity politics, and in countries other than America, with different histories and different contexts, different considerations apply.

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            You are debating the logic of the article. That doesn’t matter in this context. I think that the writer clearly makes the claim that blacks are especially locked out due to this.

            My point is that if Republicans did this, it would be called racist and intentional, yet when Democrats are doing it, CNN is giving them the benefit of the doubt and (probably correctly) argues that it is a side effect of trying to achieve a certain selfish goal.

            An issue is that disparate impact is very hard to avoid, when groups are actually not the same.

            I’m simply claiming that knowing the motivation of the politician who passes the bill isn’t very important: maybe he personally hates black people, maybe he’s an opportunist who thinks his constituents do, maybe it’s for partisan gain, who knows? The deliberate targeting is what matters.

            But how can you know?

            Imagine a Republican gerrymanderer to whom you give an anonymized map that only shows vote percentages. That person will logically redraw the map to put all overwhelmingly Democrat areas in a single district.

            If you deanonymize the map, you will find that black areas will usually be gerrymandered into a single district, disenfranchising those black voters. However, that doesn’t and can’t directly have anything to do with them being black, but that they tend to group together and overwhelmingly vote Democrat. If any other demographic acted that way, it would be logical to gerrymander them the same way.

            Of course, Democrats don’t care for the Republicans winning elections, so they think it is absurd to harm blacks for this cause & it is racist to believe that the inequality of the policy is worth the benefit.

            However, many Democrats do think that inequality of affirmative action policies are worth the benefit.

            That is why identity politics results in race/gender/etc wars: ‘My inequality and bias is totally reasonable and necessary & the harm is not that bad. Their inequality and bias is because they are evil and don’t care about the welfare of these people we care deeply about.’

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            You are debating the logic of the article. That doesn’t matter in this context. I think that the writer clearly makes the claim that blacks are especially locked out due to this.

            I mean, yes? I think evaluating the logic of a claim matters to whether or not we should judge it compelling? If you’re implicitly comparing the actions of Democratics vs Republicans when it comes to disenfranchising minorities, how good the comparison is actually matters?

            My point is that if Republicans did this, it would be called racist and intentional, yet when Democrats are doing it, CNN is giving them the benefit of the doubt

            Well, this is kind of important: what is “this”? Is it disenfranchising black voters? Because, importantly, my argument about the logic of the article is that isn’t actually happening and the article provides no evidence that it is; I’m not sure where you see CNN “giving [Democrats] the benefit of the doubt”; the only intrusion of the CNN editorial voice I see is the clarification that African American millennial independents are the most likely millennial independents to vote Democratic; without knowing the original “unclarified” claim I’m not even sure how this gives Democrats the benefit of the doubt.
            To be honest, the fact that CNN was even willing to let the insinuations about disenfranchisement based on such bad logic into the piece speaks against the assumption that Democrats are getting away with something here.

            But how can you know?

            Imagine a Republican gerrymanderer to whom you give an anonymized map that only shows vote percentages. That person will logically redraw the map to put all overwhelmingly Democrat areas in a single district.

            Well, you can check to see if the process that the gerrymanderer actually used to derive their gerrymander: if it looks like your anonymized process then that’s evidence against it! If instead you found that the lawmakers “requested data on racial differences in voting behaviors in the state”and then used that data to “[amend] the bill to exclude many of the alternative photo IDs used by African Americans”, you might conclude otherwise.

            It’s certainly true that inferring the intent of laws passed by broad coalitions of people with lots of different incentives, interests, and people in play can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make informed judgments–we should certainly be careful of the natural tendency to attribute single-minded objectives to amorphous groups, to attribute to political opponents nefarious motives, and we should be mindful that people with different priors can form different judgments, but an all-encompassing response of “how can you know” is too nihilistic: we form judgments about this kind of thing all the time.

            As an example, I cite the original Jim Crow voter suppression laws. I suspect that even most of the people disagreeing with me in this thread will acknowledge that the Jim Crow laws had racist intent. And yet, many of those laws were racially neutral on their face: poll taxes and literacy tests were racially neutral and did impact poor whites as well. Moreover, blacks in the South tended to belong to the Republican party, and black political power kept Republican governments in power in many southern states, so white Democrats had ample partisan motivation for Jim Crow, absent any racial malice! And indeed, white supremacist militias targeted Republicans generally, not just blacks!

            And yet, it’s possible to conclude, in some cases, that blacks were indeed targeted above and beyond the fact that they were Republicans, and sometimes we can even infer that this was due to racial malice.

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            If you’re implicitly comparing the actions of Democratics vs Republicans when it comes to disenfranchising minorities, how good the comparison is actually matters?

            My goal for linking the opinion piece was not to argue whether the Democrats are acting better/equal/worse than Republicans, but to point out that ‘intentional targeting’ can easily naturally happen when pursuing other goals, despite no intent. However, actually seeing it that way is highly dependent on not having sympathy with those other goals.

            To be honest, the fact that CNN was even willing to let the insinuations about disenfranchisement based on such bad logic into the piece speaks against the assumption that Democrats are getting away with something here.

            It was written by Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, who presumably doesn’t think that biasing the system in favor of Clinton was a good goal.

            This piece is part of an internecine feud, which is why the long knives came out.

            And yet, it’s possible to conclude, in some cases, that blacks were indeed targeted above and beyond the fact that they were Republicans, and sometimes we can even infer that this was due to racial malice.

            Sure, but the spectrum goes from actual malice to indifference to little caring to moderate caring to high caring to extreme caring.

            My argument is that with this narrative of racism being the cause of problems of blacks, any one who is to the left of the beholder is seen as racist. However, once you cross a certain point on the spectrum, the high caring with one group cannot but be at the detriment of another group.

            So then that group feels oppressed and they have their own spectrum of identity politics, going from actual malice to indifference to little caring to moderate caring to high caring to extreme caring.

            Because of this framing, on both sides it is seen as being a traitor to show (too much) caring for the other group, further cementing these battle lines.

            My argument is that one don’t solve this by arguing that the identity politics of the other side is worse, which fundamentally says most about the person making that claim.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            but to point out that ‘intentional targeting’ can easily naturally happen when pursuing other goals, despite no intent.

            Right, and my point is that there is no evidence that targeting, intentional or otherwise is happening so your point remains unsupported by any evidence.

            It was written by Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, who presumably doesn’t think that biasing the system in favor of Clinton was a good goal.

            I know who Jeff Weaver is; I don’t understand how this helps your point: CNN is willing to post politically motivated attacks against Democrats that insinuate racial disenfranchisement without providing any actual evidence, which is what you claim they do to Republicans all the time, but wouldn’t do to Democrats…and yet here they are doing it to a Democrat. So…?

            I don’t understand how the rest of your comment relates to our discussion: I pointed out that there are ways to determine when policies are racially motivated, which is how most people on this thread decided that Jim Crow laws were racially motivated, even though many of them were facially neutral and affected white people as well. I pointed out that there is plausible evidence of a deliberate attempt at targeting black voters in modern North Carolina.

            I do not think that the only problems afflicting black Americans arise from racism, but I think there are problems afflicting black Americans that arise from racism: as an example, black Americans who have their political power diluted by being disenfranchised by the North Carolina disenfranchisement law.

            To the extent that pointing out that this law racially targets black voters counts as identity politics, then identity politics is necessary to state this true fact. The rest of your post strikes me as overly general, and not really engaging with anything that’s been said so far.

            Anyway, we are the last two people in an otherwise dead OT, so I will not respond further, though feel free to clarify any of your arguments if you want.

            EDIT: I changed an instance of “enfranchised” to “disenfranchised”

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        I would favor a UBI in a wealthier society or more automated society, but I am not sure a livable one is practicable yet.

        I do have one question about UBI as “universal welfare”, which I do not claim is essential to whether it is a good idea, but which I do think is important—how do homeless people collect their checks? This question became much more important to me when I realized that programs which ostensibly help the poor often need an address to send the help to. This cuts off aid to the whole bottom of the ladder, which bugs me.

        • I would favor a UBI in a wealthier society or more automated society, but I am not sure a livable one is practicable yet.

          Average real income in modern developed societies is about twenty to thirty times as high as the global average through most of history. That’s relevant to your concept of “livable.”

          Given that you, living in a very wealthy society, are defining as not livable an income many times higher than what most people in the past lived on, don’t you think it likely that if the society became still more wealthy people’s perception of a livable income would rise accordingly, leaving you with the same problem you now have?

          • DeWitt says:

            Average real income in modern developed societies is about twenty to thirty times as high as the global average through most of history.

            Could you show us where you’re getting this from?

          • I got the figure from Dierdre McCloskey, probably from Bourgeois Dignity. She discusses the general issue in Chapter six of that book, but I’m not sure if that’s where I got the specific numbers, which were ten fold for the ratio of average global real income today to average global real income through most of the past, and twenty to thirty fold for the ration of average real income today in developed countries to averagle global real income through most of the past..

          • DeWitt says:

            Does she manage to show how she got to those numbers? I’m very sceptical of any historical claim about income, given how different anything in the past was from today and how poorly some take this into account.

          • McCloskey is an economic historian, and I believe is reporting not her own research but the conclusions of other economic historians.

  27. Well... says:

    I’m sure this sort of pattern occurs in lots of places but I’m sticking with this one example because I recently came across it in a “life in other parts of the world” kid’s book I was reading with my kindergartner today:

    In Japan, some families sit down to dinner on the floor (cushions or low stools sometimes used), eating at a very low table in the traditional style, while other families sit at a higher western-style table with western-style chairs.

    When I read that I immediately wondered: Do the latter types of families also tend to use more silverware? How about eat more non-Japanese food?

    And what I’m really curious about is: do the latter types of families tend to be less traditional in other ways unrelated to eating? And if so, in what other ways are they less traditional?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I’ve never been to Japan, but it’s occurred to me that homes and temples are some of the only buildings in Japan where Japanese rather than Western manners apply. You don’t take off your shoes to enter school or sit at a low table with no chair to do office work!

      • L says:

        You take off your shoes to put on uwabaki in youth schools, but usually not college.

      • Dack says:

        Funny, I once interviewed at a Japanese company in the midwestern US and they made me take off my shoes. I didn’t see any low tables, but everyone else was wearing slippers, so I guess they weren’t just messing with me.

    • L says:

      In my experience having lived there a couple months and been involved in Nikkei communities for several years: Yes, in general, “Western” traits cluster and “Traditional Japanese” traits cluster. Households with Western chairs are more likely to have toast for breakfast instead of rice. Furthermore, they might do things like have a Western style bathroom instead of a tub where the same heated water is used by multiple people. “Western” households might also consider it completely inappropriate to be naked around another person, instead of alright around immediate family or the same sex. However, I put “Western” in quotes because it’s not a carbon copy of American, British, or whatever culture either, it’s a slightly unique Japanese take on it. Cf omurice.

      Furthermore, even “Western” families may have designated rooms of the house or holidays of the year where they go “back to basics” and even wear kimono.

      • Well... says:

        Interesting. Did you get a sense of whether the more traditional families are also more politically conservative? Or does that mapping even work in Japan?

        • False says:

          Families that have more “Western” trappings in their homes are simply richer. It’s not a political divide, it’s a class divide.

          Being able to afford the space to have a western style table is a huge barrier of entry. Many households are simply not designed or big enough to have the kind of open space/wooden floors required, thus necessitating the use of a kotatsu or other type of lowered table. Having bread instead of rice is also a class issue, as (good) bread is more expensive than (good) rice.

          Culturally, Japan has always viewed foreign-style things to be “higher class” (whether it be Chinese or Western). Higher class families will pride themselves on both being able to afford foreign luxuries and having the education to appreciate them. Lower class families have no need to signal this way, and in fact may not even understand why these things are “valuable”. Why would I buy a long table if it won’t even fit in any of my rooms? Why would I buy a western style bed if its just going to damage the tatami mat floors?

          It may be the case that higher class people recieve a more western-style education, and are therefore more comfortable with a western style living situation; however, I don’t think it maps along a left-wing/right-wing political axis.

  28. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Any thoughts on why it become obligatory for the fantasy genre to use made-up worlds rather than Earth?
    When Tolkien, Robert E. Howard or Clark Ashton Smith didn’t want to be constrained by historical facts, they set their fantasies in a mythic time before surviving historical documents. With the exception of Tolkien, this generally took the form of a Theosophy-based outline of prehistory: CAS used Hyperborea and Atlantis, the Conan stories are set “between when the ocean drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities and the rise of the sons of Aryas”, Lin Carter had his “Thongor of Lemuria”, the “Atlan” series by Jane Gaskell also gives it away in the title… even Tolkien had Numenor as his Atlantis, though he didn’t adopt the whole schema.
    Why the change to stories that take place nowhere?

    • albertborrow says:

      Because if you set a fantasy story in prehistory, you know exactly what comes next. History. It’s not very exciting to see the hero save the world from certain disaster when it’s implicitly understood that, ten thousand years later, the Holocaust happens. Additionally, worlds that are constrained to prehistory are restricted in their cosmology – the act of writing a world with its own gods and religions that are literally true becomes strange when you later assert that it’s the world we live in currently. And, finally, creating a world from scratch allows for more creative worldbuilding. Essentially, if you want to make a prehistorical fantasy world interesting and divorced from our own enough to not impact the (known) future, you’re going to end up making an original world anyway, so why bother with the extra step of connecting it to what we know?

      That having been said, these stories haven’t disappeared. Science fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction are the time-inversed versions of this, and they have a lot of the same problems (an interesting and conflict-filled future implies that our efforts right now to prevent that are meaningless) but they are greatly popular. There are also modern fantasy stories that work the way you’ve described, where they are ambiguously post-apocalyptic or pre-history, they’ll just never be as groundbreaking or popular as the first fantasy authors.

      Without a doubt, the biggest reason you don’t see this nowadays is that Tolkien didn’t do it. He set the standard for fantasy worlds with the Silmarillion, and now everyone either needs to imitate him by stealing his ideas or imitate him by making their own absurdly complicated fantasy world. That is the way of popular fiction.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Without a doubt, the biggest reason you don’t see this nowadays is that Tolkien didn’t do it. He set the standard

        Does it all come from misunderstanding Tolkien, then? He was emphatic that his books took place in our world. You can hear him mention the misunderstanding at ~5:40 here.

        • albertborrow says:

          Then it certainly is based on a misunderstanding. Although, I would argue that Tolkien didn’t really make a great effort to inform the reader that Middle-earth is a vision of our history. Quote:

          All I can say is that, if it were ‘history’, it would be difficult to fit the lands and events (or ‘cultures’) into such evidence as we possess, archaeological or geological, concerning the nearer or remoter part of what is now called Europe; though the Shire, for instance, is expressly stated to have been in this region (I p. 12).6 I could have fitted things in with greater versimilitude, if the story had not become too far developed, before the question ever occurred to me.

          Or:

          As for the shape of the world of the Third Age, I am afraid that was devised ‘dramatically’ rather than geologically, or paleontologically. I do sometimes wish that I had made some sort of agreement between the imaginations or theories of the geologists and my map a little more possible.

          So while it is true that he wrote Middle-earth as a sort of alternate history, it wasn’t particularly well-conceived. And, related to your original point:

          I have, I suppose, constructed an imaginary time, but kept my feet on my own mother-earth for place. I prefer that to the contemporary mode of seeking remote globes in ‘space’.

          I think that a lot of our understanding of “another world” or a “parallel universe” is borrowed from our conception of physics and the many-worlds theory. Not to say that isekai stories are remotely grounded in reality, but rather, the concept of a world that is our own but adjacent in some unseen way is rooted in an idea that had very little reason to exist before now. Before this, we had separate planets that happened to develop in parallel. That, to me, seems to mirror how comic books went from superpowers centered around mutation to radiation to quantum physics, as the popular understanding of science advanced.

          • So while it is true that he wrote Middle-earth as a sort of alternate history, it wasn’t particularly well-conceived.

            It wasn’t written as an alternate history but as a fictional history set before the time we have records of. He just didn’t do a very careful job of making that plausible.

          • LHN says:

            I think the quantum “many worlds” interpretation was retrofitted to the science fiction/fantasy parallel world idea, rather than inspiring it. Parallel worlds in SF go back at least as far as 1934’s “Sidewise in Time” by Murray Leinster, and were comfortably part of science fiction’s furniture when they were integrated into DC Comics’s cosmology in the 60s-80s. While the MWI goes back to 1957 in physics, I don’t think it really started penetrating speculative fiction till the 70s or 80s.

            (And it was notably not part of the rubber science underpinning earlier parallel worlds. DC’s, for example, were all “vibrating at different rates”, not diverging with quantum events.)

        • JPNunez says:

          Now I want the Tolkenian Schliemann, who finds archeological evidence of the city of Gondor.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Without a doubt, the biggest reason you don’t see this nowadays is that Tolkien didn’t do it.

        Certainly he did. Middle Earth is in our Earth’s past, farfetched as that may be.

        • J Mann says:

          There’s a point where that’s a distinction without a difference. If Terry Pratchett had declared that Discworld is literally our existing Earth’s past or Abbott declared that Flatland takes place in a forgotten neighborhood of 1820’s Liverpool, that wouldn’t IMHO make them much different than setting them in Melniborn or Planet Vegeta.

          • True for both of those, because they are drastically different than our world. Tolkien’s Middle Earth isn’t. It’s inconsistent with the history, but not the world.

          • acymetric says:

            It would be a pretty loose consistency at best. The only things that are consistent with our world are things that would be consistent with any most any world.

            Not trying to be snarky here, I’m genuinely curious why you draw a distinction between Middle Earth and the other two examples (in-universe, that is, I understand that Tolkien has presented it that way when discussing the books). Any world with an Earth-like climate would seem to be “consistent” with Middle Earth to me but I may well be missing some important details/clues from the books.

          • hls2003 says:

            @acymetric:

            It’s most explicit in The Hobbit, where the narrator’s voice is somewhat stronger. The narrator repeatedly references the modern world and that this is set in our past (from memory “long ago, when there was less noise and more green, and the hobbits were still numerous and prosperous…”; “thus was the battle won and the game of Golf invented at the same time”; “it is likely that they [goblins] are responsible for inventing many of the machines that have since troubled the world, but in those times they had not advanced (as it is called) so far…”).

            With The Hobbit as predicate, anything set in Middle Earth is, by in-text attribution, our past.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            “The year no doubt was of the same length [fn: 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 46 seconds], for long ago as those times are now reckoned in years and lives of men, they were not very remote according to the memory of the Earth.” — LOTR, Appendix D

          • J Mann says:

            @David Friedman – Fair enough! Closer to the point, I’m not sure that an fantasy nominally but implausibly set on in our actual past is much different than one explicitly set in a parallel past or fictional universe. Maybe it’s more poetic, but maybe Tolkien would have been just as poetic without it.

          • @:J Mann

            Part of the game of alternate history is that you are supposed to signal where the divergence happened.

            Writing in a fantasy world eliminates a lot of constraints that you get by setting your story in the real world. You can get part of that by setting your story in the real world a long time ago and assuming that elves etc. have died out, the shape of the lands have changed–as Tolkien did. But you still expect most of the same species, humans about as humans are now, and the like. A fantasy world gives you a lot more freedom to change things.

            But I agree that the forms blur into each other. My first novel was set in what felt like our world, but with invented history and geography. I’ve played with the idea of making it alternate history, but that doesn’t solve the geography problem, which Tolkien largely ignored. My second was like our world, but with different laws of physics, hence magic that could be treated, was in the process of becoming treated, as a science. That’s farther in the direction of fantasy—but Tolkien has magic, although most of it is pretty unobtrusive.

      • meh says:

        It’s not very exciting to see the hero save the world from certain disaster when it’s implicitly understood that, ten thousand years later, the Holocaust happens.

        I take it you’re not much for historical dramas or period pieces.

        the act of writing a world with its own gods and religions that are literally true becomes strange when you later assert that it’s the world we live in currently

        This doesn’t seem to be a problem for say super heroes, horror, stephen king, present-day fantasies, etc…

        • albertborrow says:

          I get the point, but… superheroes don’t live in our world – they live in a world similar to our own, except that it has superheroes in it. It’s less alternate-history than it is alternate-present: you can prove that superheroes don’t exist by walking outside and observing that there are no people in spandex flying around. With alternate pre-history, on the other hand, the story occupies a space of uncertainty in the past, where all of the events feasibly could have happened, but the evidence of them was erased. It’s like the god-of-the-gaps argument, only more benign. Saying Tolkien’s Middle-earth is supposed to be a pre-history of the modern Earth is only useful if the story contains evidence that this could have happened (like magic slowly dying out), and thus it puts a constraint on the story. If you don’t obey that constraint, and fail to find some way to make it plausibly historical, then the point of placing it sometime in our past is moot.

          EDIT: It’s like writing an urban fantasy story without the masquerade – the mystique of saying “it could happen to you” is gone.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I get the point, but… superheroes don’t live in our world – they live in a world similar to our own, except that it has superheroes in it.

            As far as I know, this distinction got started in the 1960s, when the Flash (Barry Allen) met the Flash (Jay Garrick) and their “vibrating to different Earths” adventures showed an Earth with no superheroes, complete with DC Comics offices in New York.
            In the Golden Age no such distinction was addressed (I think). They probably thought kids weren’t that pedantic.

          • meh says:

            prequels?

          • AG says:

            Giles: This world is older than any of you know. Contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons demons walked the Earth. They made it their home, their… their Hell. But in time they lost their purchase on this reality. The way was made for mortal animals, for, for man. All that remains of the old ones are vestiges, certain magicks, certain creatures…

            Buffy: And vampires.

            Xena: Warrior Princess notoriously treated history as mere suggestion, to hilarious lengths.

          • Randy M says:

            Speaking of not taking the OT literally, I loved how Xena visited both David and his alleged descendant Jesus without a few years timespa (if that).

          • LHN says:

            Superhero universes are by convention very much “our world, but with superheroes”. They mostly aren’t allowed to diverge very far even at the expense of plausibility. (Which is why, for example, Reed Richards is Useless.)

            Everything outside the horizon of everyday humans may be completely different, there may be fictional countries wedged into the map somehow, but the overall shape of history won’t change. The world can become very strange (alien invasions, regular destruction of whole cities, half the world’s population may be temporarily killed). But the follow-on effects that might be expected will rapidly tamp down in a way that preserves a world that mostly continues to reflect the one familiar to the reader, rather than strongly diverging from it.

            Works that introduce superpowered humans but don’t constrain history and human behavior within fairly strong conventional lines fairly rapidly stop looking like superhero universes (especially if the narrative laws of the universe don’t give heavy support to the unlikely institution of freelance costumed heroing) and become more like science fiction. (Alan Moore did a number of these, notably Marvelman/Miracleman and Watchmen.)

            Superhero universes do also contend with the problem of the heroes seeming useless in the face of a defined future. (Sorry, Batman– Batman Beyond tells us that your lifework was a waste, and Gotham is even worse in the future than it was in your prime. But hey, maybe it would have been still worse without you, so that’s nice and inspiring.) Which is probably one reason they often have a bunch of alternate futures (which in turn raises questions about the stakes in those stories) or shake up/rewrite their predestined futures periodically.

          • AG says:

            The Xena timeline is ridiculous nonsense. She’s friends with Hercules, participates in the Trojan War, but spent a lot of time with Julius Caesar (whose actor also plays Cupid) BEFORE going to Troy, but also Cleopatra, but also David and Jesus as mentioned, but also Boudicca and Beowulf, and also the “true founder of Daoism” along with and Mongol Horde leader.

            It’s great.

      • Nornagest says:

        Now that you bring it up, I wonder why postapocalypse as fantasy setting isn’t more common. It’s been done, but it’s fairly rare, and usually more of an excuse for a secondary world than a fully fleshed-out derivative of ours.

        • albertborrow says:

          You’ve answered your own question; the reason post-apocalypse is often not a fully fleshed-out derivative of our own is that it would require an author to conceive of and execute on a fully fleshed-out derivative of our own world. Any of the effort conserved by setting a story in a world with less society-induced-complexity is swiftly made up for by the effort it takes to flesh that post-apocalypse out.

        • hls2003 says:

          Terry Brooks’ Shannara books purported to do this.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve heard the same. Didn’t pick up on it when I read them, though (which was, to be fair, when I was about twelve).

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Wasn’t The Sword of Shannara the first doorstopper fantasy since LotR to be a best-seller?
            Hmm, yep, 1977. Robert Jordan didn’t start his post-post-apocalyptic The Wheel of Time until 1990.

          • Nornagest says:

            David Eddings wrote fairly popular doorstopper fantasy starting in 1982, although I don’t know if anything he wrote ever cracked the bestseller lists. Brooks still predates him by a few years, though.

          • AG says:

            The TV adaptation The Shannara Chronicles does this overtly.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            Terry Brooks got more and more overt about this as he kept writing. The first three books only had faint and plausible allusions to our world. By “the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara”, he had made the link explicit. Since then, he has bridged his urban fantasy “The Word and the Void” to the Shannara world via “The Genesis of Shannara.” He kept writing after this, but I lost interest.

          • LHN says:

            The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant also started in 1977, so that may have been steam engine time for the fantasy trilogy. (The giant doorstop series was IIRC a child of the 90s, though maybe there’s something I’m forgetting.)

          • EchoChaos says:

            I wouldn’t call Shannara doorstoppers.

            Tolkien set the “trilogy rule” and it was pretty hard and fast until Jordan made true doorstoppers.

            I agree with @LHN that true “epics” as we think of them today are Jordan’s creation, for good or ill.

        • beleester says:

          Aren’t a lot of fantasy settings technically postapocalyptic? As in, there’s usually some great empire full of magic that collapsed, leaving behind ancient ruins and forgotten magical artifacts and other adventurer-friendly stuff?

          Or did you mean “This fantasy setting is actually our world’s future”? I think it’s hard to worldbuild a setting that is visibly connected to modern Earth, but also isn’t so well-connected that it becomes a standard technological post-apocalypse instead of a medieval fantasy. You need civilization to crash so hard that not even something as durable as an AK-47 is still working, but not so hard that it becomes unrecognizable.

          • Nornagest says:

            I mean visibly set in the aftermath of an apocalypse for modern Earth or a setting that might as well be modern Earth, yes. A lot of fantasy settings have a cataclysm ending a golden age somewhere in the background, but unless that golden age had iPhones it doesn’t qualify by my lights.

            Fair point re: tech levels, but I think you could have Mad Max level technology, or better, without breaking the basic structure of epic or heroic fantasy.

          • Skivverus says:

            Alternatively, midapocalyptic: just before the campaign starts, something happens to/in the world to make large-scale civilization either collapse, or otherwise tie up enough attention from the existing institutions to allow the players agency. The magical artifacts and assorted adventurer-friendly stuff aren’t forgotten, just not widely known either. How many people know where the nearest armory or military base is today?
            If you’re set on having the ruins be ancient, the apocalypse can include all sorts of shenanigans: time-dilation, geologic or dimensional upheaval, epic bureaucracy, et cetera.

            More seriously, it’s a good point that D&D-like settings tend to need some reason those riches are (a) out there for the taking and (b) known to exist by the players, and apocalypses are a decent way of handling that.

            Edit: completely missed the context from Nornagest’s previous post, but it does provide a possible reason as to why there isn’t as much postapocalyptic fantasy fiction: it’s in games instead.

      • John Schilling says:

        Because if you set a fantasy story in prehistory, you know exactly what comes next. History. It’s not very exciting to see the hero save the world from certain disaster when it’s implicitly understood that, ten thousand years later, the Holocaust happens.

        I don’t believe this is significant. Almost nobody reads fantasy novels with their enjoyment contingent on the belief that if the heroes win, everybody will live happily ever after for ever and ever until the end of time, and it is almost as rare for enjoyment to come from the fictional conceit that humanity will be rendered literally extinct if the heroes fail. If Conan fails, maybe Thulsa Doom will impose a reign of necromantic terror that will last a thousand years and still allow for Sargon to found Akkad a few thousand years after that. Nobody is going to see that as a lowering of the stakes to the point where they no longer care about the prospect of a thousand years of terror or be entertained by the fight against same, any more than fans of Star Wars had their enjoyment lessened by the prospect that Vader and Palpatine were neither immortal nor omicidal and so there likely would have been a restoration of not-Evil galactic rule sometime in the next ten thousand years. Likewise the future villainies that will occur even if the heroes defeat the present one.

        And in any event, this is a constant factor and cannot explain the observed change in taste. In the 1920 and 1930s, when much or most fantasy literature was set in Earth’s historic past, readers would have been aware that this fictional conceit means that all of the wonders and horrors of known history would occur no matter what the heroes do, and in the 1960s and 1970s the same would be true, but in the one case the conceit was common and the other it was rare. So what caused the change?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          And in any event, this is a constant factor and cannot explain the observed change in taste. In the 1920 and 1930s, when much or most fantasy literature was set in Earth’s historic past, readers would have been aware that this fictional conceit means that all of the wonders and horrors of known history would occur no matter what the heroes do, and in the 1960s and 1970s the same would be true, but in the one case the conceit was common and the other it was rare. So what caused the change?

          Yes, that’s exactly what puzzles me!

        • Tolkien makes it explicit that the future of his world will have its own problems.

        • Baeraad says:

          I’ve never understood why people think like this. The furthest extreme of the attitude would be Doctor Who fans complaining that they felt like “everything in the series was meaningless” because one episode showed that humanity would eventually go extinct… from the heat death of the universe. In 100 trillion years’ time.

          I think a lot of people just really want to hear that “they lived happily ever after,” and resents being reminded that that’s not actually a possibility in any world that’s even remotely like ours.

          • Randy M says:

            Interesting thought experiment. Say the world ends in forty seconds. Most people would probably say everything anyone does in the interim is meaningless, save perhaps some romantics about to have their first kiss or whatever.
            Move it out to a trillion years, (or the more immanent death of the solar system in 7 or 8 million years) and most people with a realistic conception of large numbers aren’t going to view the interim as meaningless.
            Where do you draw the line?

            Even discounting the afterlife, I’m going to error on the side of meaning. No point planting a tree if the world ends tomorrow, but there’s plenty of point in still taking seriously how your actions effect other people.

          • EchoChaos says:

            As a strong “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” advocate, I am going to say that planting a tree when the world is ending in forty seconds is still meaningful.

            “A society grows great when men plant trees in whose shade they will never sit” and all that.

          • John Schilling says:

            OK, but I hadn’t heard of any great decline in Dr. Who’s ratings after that, or any directive from on high that the writers should steer clear of deep-future stories. So I don’t think this is “a lot of people” in any relevant sense, just a small but loud group of annoying people.

          • Jaskologist says:

            In-universe, the eventual death of the universe was a major motivating factor for the villain (The Master). It made him embrace nihilism and murderism. When he showed the last humans their end, they embraced it too, going back in time to murder their ancestors because “it’s fun.”

            This gave The Doctor a sad.

          • Nick says:

            murderism

            That rarest of philosophies.

            Is this all to do with that story where the TARDIS goes to the end of the universe to shake of Jack Harkness and they meet the Master again and etc? And weren’t humans still around and still looked exactly the same? I don’t know what folks can ask for more than “your progeny will survive till the literal end of time.” Well, heaven, I guess, but that’s obviously not happening in today’s Doctor Who.

          • Randy M says:

            “A society grows great when men plant trees in whose shade they will never sit” and all that.

            I had that in mind.
            But I meant the thought experiment literally.

            Obviously there is a distinction in people who care about what happens after they personally die versus those who don’t. But if the world is literally going to end, you aren’t making society any greater by planting the tree–though you might enjoy digging in the dirt and all that.

            But if we are all to die tomorrow, I think it is still morally preferable for us to reconcile than for us to fight to the death, even though there are no consequences.

            that story where the TARDIS goes to the end of the universe

            That’s the one.

    • Atlas says:

      Any thoughts on why it become obligatory for the fantasy genre to use made-up worlds rather than Earth?

      One exception would seem to be JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. (And also Lev Grossman’s The Magicians series.) However, you might see them as fitting into a different place in the schema of fantasy fiction than Tolkien, Howard and Ashton Smith.

      • albertborrow says:

        “Fantasy” and most modern genres, in general, are supremely unhelpful. They range from settings to thematic schemes, to descriptions of physical plot elements, to the specific emotional arc involved in the story, to the actual story format. So it’s not hard to conceive of an epic romantic dystopian cyberpunk tragedy, despite the fact that we refer to all five of those things as “genres”. It’s saner to say that a genre is a colloquial collection of tropes that are vaguely associated with each other, because of how many people imitated some specific work of fiction in the past. In that case, it makes sense that Tolkien and Rowling are only similar in that they use the words “magic” and “elf”.

      • Nornagest says:

        It’s a different branch of fantasy’s phylogenetic tree, yes. Harry Potter is a changeling fantasy, and changeling fantasies usually start out in our world, or an undefined setting that could plausibly be our world. Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth”, Neil Gaiman’s “Stardust”, etc. Arguably the Narnia books.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Narnia is usually grouped with the “Alice” books (literal portal fantasy!), “Peter Pan” (a literal changeling!) and Oz (which has to be set on Earth for Dorothy to travel by tornado).
          The weird thing about Rowling’s Wizarding World is that it’s metaphorical. Wizards, elves, goblins and centaurs live in the same Britain as Muggles. There are dragons in Hungary that Muggle Magyars cannot see.

          • Nornagest says:

            You’re right, I hadn’t considered portal fantasy separately. I think portal and changeling fantasies speak to the same basic impulse, though; the setup’s slightly different, but they tend to be structured similarly.

            And a lot of authors have worked on both. Gaiman’s Stardust, mentioned above, reworked some concepts from Neverwhere, which is a portal fantasy where the protagonist literally stumbles across a princess of a parallel London.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:

            I think portal and changeling fantasies speak to the same basic impulse, though,

            Well, yeah, I don’t disagree.

          • Nick says:

            Brandon wrote a post about two weeks ago extending Farah Mendlesohn’s typology. Interestingly, she has portal fantasy as one of the basic types:

            (1) Portal-Quest: The characters enter by some means into a fantastic world.
            (2) Immersive: The story occurs in a fantastic world treated as the real world.
            (3) Intrusion: The fantastic enters into and disrupts the real world as something foreign to it.
            (4) Liminal: The fantastic enters into the real world as if it were part of the real world.

            The categories aren’t quite to what LMC’s asking about: the mundane doesn’t have to mean our world vs. the fantastical prehistoric world of Middle Earth (though when you count certain asides to the reader, it certainly can mean that), but may merely mean Frodo leaving the mundane world of Hobbiton for the fantastical one of Rohan or Gondor. I think the best way to translate the question is, Why is the outermost relation now immersive instead of liminal? Put that way, it strikes me that immersive might just function better as escapism, because it’s less about our world, but that’s only a guess.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I’d just like to add that I loved The Magicians books and anyone who hasn’t read them should stop what they’re doing right now and go read them.

    • Plumber says:

      Usually credit is given to the Mariner space probes and the end of “Planetary Romance” as a plausible genre, but there were other antecedents to the “imaginary worlds” fantasy genre: 

      “Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, though it wasn’t in my time, nor in your time, nor anyone else’s time, there was a girl whose mother had died, and her father married again. And her stepmother hated her because she was more beautiful than herself, and she was very cruel to her. She used to make her do all the servant’s work, and never let her have any peace. At last, one day, the stepmother thought to get rid of her altogether; so she handed her a sieve and said to her: ‘Go, fill it at the Well of the World’s End….”
      The Well at the World’s End, 1896

      “…I found myself lying prone upon a bed of yellowish, moss-like vegetation which stretched around me in all directions for interminable miles. I seemed to be lying in a deep, circular basin, along the outer verge of which I could distinguish the irregularities of low hills.

      It was midday, the sun was shining full upon me and the heat of it was rather intense upon my naked body, yet no greater than would have been true under similar conditions on an Arizona desert. Here and there were slight outcroppings of quartz-bearing rock which glistened in the sunlight; and a little to my left, perhaps a hundred yards, appeared a low, walled enclosure about four feet in height. No water, and no other vegetation than the moss was in evidence, and as I was somewhat thirsty I determined to do a little exploring…”
      “A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1913

      “..The Free State of Dorimare was a very small country, but, seeing that it was bounded on the south by the sea and on the north and east by mountains, while its centre consisted of a rich plain, watered by two rivers, a considerable variety of scenery and vegetation was to be found within its borders. Indeed, towards the west, in striking contrast with the pastoral sobriety of the central plain, the aspect of the country became, if not tropical, at any rate distinctly exotic. Nor was this to be wondered at, perhaps; for beyond the Debatable Hills (the boundary of Dorimare in the west) lay Fairyland. There had, however, been no intercourse between the two countries for many centuries. 
      The social and commercial centre of Dorimare was its capital, Lud-in-the-Mist, which was situated at the confluence of two rivers about ten miles from the sea and fifty from the Elfin Hills.
      Lud-in-the-Mist had all the things that make an old town pleasant. It had an
      ancient Guild Hall, built of mellow golden bricks and covered with ivy and, when the sun shone on it, it looked like a rotten apricot; it had a harbour in which rode vessels with white and red and tawny sails; it had flat brick houses – not the mere carapace of human beings, but ancient living creatures, renewing and modifying themselves with each generation under their changeless antique roofs. It had old arches, framing delicate landscapes that one could walk into, and a picturesque old graveyard on the top of a hill, and little open squares where comic baroque statues of dead citizens held levees attended by birds and lovers and insects and children.
      It had, indeed, more than its share of pleasant things; ..”
      “Lud-in-the-Mist", Hope Mirrless, 1926

      “It was the Year of the Behemoth, the Month of the Hedgehog, the Day of the Toad. A hot, late summer sun was sinking down toward evening over the somber, fertile land of Lankhmar. Peasants toiling in the endless grain fields paused for a moment and lifted their earth-stained faces and noted that it would soon be time to commence lesser chores. Cattle cropping the stubble began to move in the general direction of home. Sweaty merchants and shopkeepers decided to wait a little longer before enjoying the pleasures of the bath. Thieves and astrologers moved restlessly in their sleep, sensing that the hours of night and work were drawing near…” 
      – “Two Sought Adventure”, Fritz Leiber, 1939

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I had never heard of “Lud-in-the-Mist”, and while I’ve read William Morris’s fantasies, I didn’t recall that any took place nowhere in nobody’s time.
        As for Fritz Leiber’s fantasies… did you know that Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser’s home city was originally going to be Alexandria? He sent a draft to H.P. Lovecraft, who sent back corrections and a bibliography that young Fritz should read to avoid making any future errors about the Hellenistic period.
        On that day, Lankhmar was created.

        • Plumber says:

          @Le Maistre Chat,

          Yes, in the early (started in 1934) F&tGM story co-written with Harry Otto Fischer: “Adept’s Gambit” we have

          “…It happened that while Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were dallying in a wine shop near the Sidonian Harbor of Tyre, where all the wine shops were of doubtful repute, a long-limbed, yellow-haired Galatian girl lolling in Fafhrd’s lap turned suddenly into a wallopingly large sow. It was a singular occurrence, even in Tyre…”

          which is explicitly set in historical earth not Nehwon (later explained by them getting lost in a branch of Ningauble caves), the story wasn’t published until 1947, and sort of stands apart, but in Swords of Lankhmar they meet a German speaking cross-world traveler, and in Swords and Ice Magic the “new” (to their world) gods Loki and Odin appear.

          Besides Mirrless, Lord Dunsany had published many imaginary lands stories in the early 20th century, which Lovecraft imitated, Howard had imaginary histories inspired in part by (I assume) historical “swashbuckler” fiction, I think the real switch was from the popularity of “other worlds” “planetary romance” and “hollow earth” tales becoming more implausible with space probes in the 1960’s which made Lowell’s Mars unlikely (I remember reading a 1950’s Werner von Braun book at the library that pictured canals and lichen on Mars), without being able to have A Princess of Mars tales remotely plausible anymore explicitly invented worlds stepped in to fill the craving.

          Don’t underestimate how popular and influential Burroughs was.

        • sfoil says:

          He sent a draft to H.P. Lovecraft, who sent back corrections and a bibliography that young Fritz should read to avoid making any future errors about the Hellenistic period.
          On that day, Lankhmar was created.

          Might that be a hint about what’s going on? Low-level “casual” Classics education became less ubiquitous (eventually working its way all the way to the elite). The typical pulp author was simply less informed about history in general, and found it easier to start from scratch than worry about historical verisimilitude from an older generation.

          Also, now that I think of it, the mythical prehistory used by the likes of Howard was pretty popular with Hitler and company. That couldn’t have helped either.

    • Brett says:

      Science fiction was already effectively doing that with stories set on imagined other worlds, so I don’t think it was a stretch to eventually imagine doing that with fantasy stories (as long as readers could buy into them and suspend disbelief).

      Why they came to dominate so many fantasy novels recently is a good question – I tend to think it was because of the popularity of various fantasy tabletop gaming settings and their lore, and the many, many spin-off novels from those. Once other fantasy novels started using imagined worlds for their settings and were successful, others did the same type of thing and got picked up, and so on and so forth.

    • arlie says:

      I’m not sure that your premise is true, except perhaps in terms of what tags the publishing industry puts on the books, and where they get shelved in bookstores or libraries.

      I still see all kinds of novels. Even if I include only those with fantastical elements (magic, psi, faerie, and similar), not explained as science/engineering, and try to limit myself to novels published this century, or even this decade, I still see a bit of everything.

      – set in a recognizable earth past, with significant differences (e.g. Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series)
      – set in a supposed interstellar future (e.g. Weber’s Honor Harrington series – the human psychics really have to count as a fantasy element)
      – set in a fantasy world, with no connection to Earth (e.g. Weber’s series featuring champions of Tomanak)
      – set in a near future, with a much modified Earth (e.g. much of Wen Spencer’s work, most of Laurel Hamilton’s work)
      – post-apocalyptic near future (S.M. Striling’s huge series involving 2 generations of post-technological future, with starting with only the one Change, but growing ever more fantastical as the series progressed)
      – alternate present (Harry Potter series, Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series, most Vampire RPGs), often with the diffrences hidden from those uninvolved
      – if I dig around a bit, I can probably find recent examples of people miraculously transported from present day earth to some magical alternate world (the one I read most was probably from the late 90s)
      – I can probably also find recent examples set in a recognizable earth past, where the main difference from the true past is that things believed *at the time* but fantastical to modern eyes, are actually true in the novel
      – Set in a fantasy world, but re-enacting actual earth history (no examples both fantastical *and* definitely recent come to mind, but there’s been somewhat of a cottage industry of retellings of Byzantine history, particularly stories involving Belisarius)
      – fantastical tropes explained as technological, but managing to involve fantasy standbys like telepathy etc. Or explained as characteristics of non-human species – sometimes in a future universe with humans, sometimes not.
      – set in a supposed past Earth so badly described as to have anyone with any knowledge of history completely unable to suspend disbelief, sometimes with various magic/psi/faerie phenomena thrown in (almost so-called historical romance :-()
      – and then there’s a whole sub-genre involving modern towns/ships/villages etc. being transported by something unexplained into what’s supposed to be a normal past earth. (Usually the only fantasy is the transport mechanism, so we might not want to count them.)
      – If we consider super-human heroes (that are supposedly normal human, but have all the skills/talents/strengths the story ever needs, we can probably add a lot of thrillers to the ‘fantasy’ category – along with anything in the Superhero genre (most of the latter already qualify, though a few of the heroes supposedly use tech to accomplish their feats, or aren’t actually human).

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Did it? The Wheel of Time is almost certainly set in Earth’s distant past/future (because Wheel). There are legends that seem to be based on 20th-century real world events, and something in a museum that is probably a Mercedes badge…

      • EchoChaos says:

        Correct, except substitute “almost” for “absolutely”.

        The First Age is our age and ends when “Mosk and Merk fought with spears of fire” (Moscow and America have a nuclear exchange).

        In the post-apocalyptic world people realize that they can channel, starting with Tamyrlin (Merlin) and rebuild civilization into the Age of Legends. Then they have their own apocalypse, which results in the Third Age, when the books are set.

        So it’s double post-apocalyptic.

        • Lignisse says:

          I think it’s deliberately ambiguous whether our age is in the story’s past or the story’s future. “Our age” is certainly some version of the First Age, but a central feature of the cosmology is that Time is a Wheel (it’s right there in the title, and part of the opener is “In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, and Age long past”). There’s not even any reason that we’re meant to be either of the two “adjacent” First Ages.

          My favorite related theory is that (series ending spoilers) Zbevqva vf Enaq’f vapneangvba sebz gur cerivbhf Guveq Ntr, naq yvivat guvf ybat znqr uvz ovggre naq vafnar – ohg guvf vf nyfb jung jvyy unccra gb Enaq nf ur tbrf bss jnaqrevat ng gur raq bs gur frevrf. Ab erfg sbe uvz. Guvf vf jung gurzngvpnyyl yvaxf gur cebgntbavfg gb gur gvgyr.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I will suggest that it’s not ambiguous at all that our age is the First Age, because the specific people in our particular incarnation of the First Age are the ones referenced (John Glenn and Mother Theresa, for example).

            As discussed between Mat and the Heroes of the Horn, there are differences every time the age weaves. It’s not the exact same, it just rhymes. So the odds of the First Age having someone with the exact same name but not being ours are zero.

            And I will suggest that the final spoiler there doesn’t work at all, because one of the themes is that the Champion of the Light has never once bent his knee, and the first time he does the Dark One wins forever.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @EchoChaos- is it ever outright stated that the legends (Materese, Mosk and Merk, Lem, etc) are from the First Age? It’s possible, but there are also artifacts from other Ages before the Age of Legends in existence, like the portal stones.

            Similarly, do we know that the Age of Legends is the first Age in which people can channel?

          • EchoChaos says:

            > is it ever outright stated that the legends (Materese, Mosk and Merk, Lem, etc) are from the First Age?

            Not outright that I know of.

            However, in Jordon’s cosmology, which is not directly stated in the books, there are Seven Ages (which is why the Wheel has seven spokes), starting with ours (the First) and getting some sort of hard reset that destroys our memories of prior ages (except for through magic things like the Horn) after the Seventh.

            Hence why we believe we are the first and that time is finite, although it isn’t (in the WoT cosmology). So for the legends to be remembered, they must be from the most recent First Age.

            > Similarly, do we know that the Age of Legends is the first Age in which people can channel?

            It’s the first Age of each cycle that channeling happens, yes.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @EchoChaos: I looked a bit further and there is an interview with Jordan in which he claims that the discovery of channeling marked the beginning of the Age of Legends/ the end of the Age before it.

            Also, the Portal Stones are weird. They predate the Age of Legends, but they also require channeling to use. Was there some other means of activating them that is now lost? Are they meant to have been created late in our Age?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @AlphaGamma

            That comports with my recollection as well. And that’s in a post-apocalyptic world.

            re: portal stones

            The only things we know about them come from seriously unreliable narrators (Lanfear and Aes Sedai history) and the Age of Legends is long enough that even if Lanfear was telling the truth for once, she could very well be wrong as to when they were created.

          • Lignisse says:

            I agree that those names are evidence that the books are set in our future, but there’s even more evidence of the same sort (name similarity) that the books are set in our past. Al’Thor the Dragon’s story is (clearly?) the myth of King Arthur Pendragon with no more than the expected amount of time-based name modification. Lan->Lancelot, Egwene al’Vere->Guinevere, Caemlyn->Camelot, etc.

            So I think we have to say that names are one of the features that the Wheel’s turning keeps similar when they come around again.

            And I think “the Champion of the Light has never once bent his knee, and the first time he does the Dark One wins forever” is…exactly the point of my theory? Except that “the Champion of the Light has never once bent his knee” refers to that character at that particular point(s) in time at that particular conflict; it’s not about the rest of his life.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Yeah, turns out we have at least two examples of fantasy novels that are post-post-apocalyptic.

    • John Schilling says:

      Why the change to stories that take place nowhere?

      Schliemann excavated Troy in 1871, turning what had been a wonderful set of myths into OMG this actually happened!

      See also the excavation of the Great Sphinx, 1887-1936, the opening of King Tut’s tomb in 1922, and the general Egyptmania of that period. The discovery of early Minoan civilization at Knossos, 1900-1905, and of Machu Pichu in 1911.

      And for that matter, Stanley et al reached the source of the Nile in 1875, Amudsen reached the South Pole in 1911, and all the discoveries in between.

      Beyond this world, Lowell et al “discovered” irrigation canals on Mars in 1894, and Tombaugh rounded out the solar system with Pluto in 1930.

      From roughly 1870 to 1930, mundane scientific discoveries made the universe seem a fruitful place for planetary romances, lost worlds, and lost histories. Human or humanoid civilizations could be expected to lurk in any dark corner we hadn’t quite peered into yet, and classic myths from Atlantis on down could reflect civilizations that fell before ours ever arose. All of these fertile playgrounds into which heroic adventurers could ply their trade, and all of them plausible.

      By 1960, pretty much all of the gaps had been closed. The universe still contains wonders, but mostly inanimate ones of inhuman scale, not terribly useful for this sort of storytelling. If you want a community of humanoids for your heroes to interact with, it has to be either a known present or historical civilization, or one we will create in the future, or wholly extrasolar aliens, or it has to be an explicit fantasy that never was. Nothing else remained plausible.

      I still like pretending otherwise, and reading some of the wonderful tales of that era. But I understand why authors have mostly stopped writing new ones.

      • LHN says:

        There are some stories featuring interaction between H. sapiens and neanderthals. But those are either limited to portraying hunter-gatherer bands or require an explanation of what happened to wipe out any more complex societies and tech.

        (IIRC at least one, back in the long penumbra of John W. Campbell’s injection of psi into the genre, where Neanderthals were all telepaths, conveniently producing an interestingly complicated culture with no inconvenient material artifacts to be discovered by archeologists.)

        These days there are a few more hominid/hominin subspecies to add in, but that much less room for them to have had civilizations or post-stone technology to play with.

    • Deiseach says:

      Any thoughts on why it become obligatory for the fantasy genre to use made-up worlds rather than Earth?

      Suspension of disbelief has become harder since today we have more/better/sounder knowledge of what the past was really like, or the constraints on how it could have been?

      See the discussion in the Links post about what Scott said regarding the Indonesian pyramid:

      leading pseudoarchaeologists have been claiming that a pyramid in Indonesia is 30,000 years old, which would make it 20,000 years older than any other known building, and limit potential builders to pretty much Atlantis and Lemuria

      Just as you could get away with having Lost Civilisations on Mars when the notion of the canals was still faintly plausible but once Proper Astronomy got involved nobody (except Bradbury) wrote Martian Romances after that, in the same way back in the 20s or earlier you could write about Lost Prehistoric Civilisations because who knew? They were still trying to put the bits of bones together. The Piltdown Man hoax happened in 1912 and there was enough ignorance even amongst the learned that the originator could get away with it even in the face of strong challenges, but it was eventually thoroughly debunked in 1953 when science had caught up enough to say “nope, not possible”.

      Nowadays if you want to write a Martian Romance you have to do the terraforming yourself, and the same with Lost Civilisations in fantasy: build your own world.

      • bean says:

        S. M. Stirling did Planetary Romance on both Venus and Mars a few years ago. But that’s definitely the exception, particularly as it was written as a throwback to the genre.

  29. Hoopyfreud says:

    I’ve been coughing, sneezing, and experiencing continual congestion and occasional headaches, fatigue, slight fevers, and nosebleeds (possibly caused by chafing) for about 3 weeks now. Can’t afford to see a doctor. Any recommendations?

    • Vitor says:

      1) get an antiseptic mouthwash or something similar (the kind of stuff you get in a pharmacy, not the supermarket), and use it to gurgle regularly.

      2) headaches + congestion can mean dried out nasal cavities. Moisturize them by using drops for your eyes and some kind of nasal spray/ointment etc.

      3) reconsider seeing a doctor. You could have something serious. Ask friends/relatives for help.

      Get well!

    • SamChevre says:

      How’s the humidity in your living space, especially your sleeping space? If it’s very low, which is common in the winter, this can cause a lot of the symptoms you describe. Get a cheap cool-mist humidifier.

      Humidity is very low if a damp towel will dry fully in 4 hours just hanging up.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I have found that thyme leaves in tea helps prevent coughing at night if drunk before bed. This has helped take the edge off of colds where you can’t sleep well due to the coughing, which wears you down and feeds-back into a longer (or additional) sickness.

    • Creutzer says:

      70mg of zinc (in some organic salt form) per day for a week or so.

  30. Atlas says:

    I really, really hate the “America is a republic, not a democracy” meme that is trotted out to defend the various undemocratic institutions of American government. (See e.g. this column.)

    This is not because I am necessarily in favor of democracy; Jason Brennan made many cogent criticisms of it in Against Democracy and the famous Lee Kuan Yew quote about multiracial democracy seems quite apt to me. However, if one wants to oppose democracy, one should use logical reasoning to suggest alternate forms of political decision making. “Republic not a democracy” memers do not; the institutions that they defend make decisions on arbitrary bases with scant if any logical justification.

    It is alleged that the Founders/Framers greatly feared majority rule, and thus created institutions like the Senate and the Electoral College to stymie such rule. I do not actually agree with either this analysis of history or the premise that the Founders/Framers should be deferred to uncritically in evaluating forms of governance, but for the sake of brevity I will avoid litigating these contentions and accept them for the purposes of the argument.

    Presumably, the alternative institutions to majority rule should have some sort of logical basis for selection of their members that makes them superior to universal suffrage. For example, you could have what Brennan calls “epistocracy,” in which those who demonstrate more factual knowledge about political issues have more political power. You could also have a “skin-in-the-game-ocracy,” in which people who are allegedly more subject to the consequences of political decisions—by having children, owning property, serving in the armed forces, et cetera—have more political power. I do not know whether such systems would be better than mass democracy, but they are at least based on identifiable logical principles.

    By contrast, the Electoral College and the Senate, which give numerically disproportionate political power to subsets of their members, are not based on such principles. There is no logical reason, at least as far as I have heard, why people in an arbitrary group of geographical areas deserve more power in selecting the president and the legislature than other people in a different arbitrary group of geographical areas.

    If we think that democracy is a good idea, we should have democratic institutions of government and get rid of institutions like the Electoral College, the Senate and the Supreme Court [1] which are not democratic. If we do not think that democracy is a good idea, we should design institutions that make decisions on a basis that is theoretically better than political representation based on universal suffrage. There is no reason to have institutions that accord political power on an arbitrary basis that no one explicitly defends.

    [1] Admittedly, the issues of constitutional law and the institutions based on it differ somewhat from the ones I’ve raised here. Perhaps I will explicate this in a later post, but as a side note I do not believe that there is any reason to have a “constitution”—in the sense of a set of laws that are much harder to change than other laws—whether or not one believes in democracy as a form of government.

    • SamChevre says:

      I disagree with the main point, but I’ll argue with the footnote instead: I think having constitution, law, and regulation, with very different standards for adoption makes a lot of sense. One reason I argue this is that it’s common for private organizations.

      Constitution is “what we do” and takes a stable, widespread near-consensus. “We are going to provide youth activities in our town and pay for the costs ourselves.”

      Law is a “how to do what we agreed to do” and takes a majority, or maybe a majority of two groups, or at two meetings. “We will run a soccer tournament the second week of August. We will require teams to have a majority of members from our town or to pay an extra $100.”

      Regulation is a “how to accomplish the details,” and gets delegated to experts. “We’ll let Joe, who’s good at schedules, figure out who gets which field when.”

      • Atlas says:

        That’s an interesting formulation, though I still disagree.

        I agree with that there is an important difference between “what we do” and “how we do it,” and I think that a “constitution” in the sense of “a statement of principles about what we’re doing” is a fine idea. (E.g. the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, the Gettysburg Address, et cetera.)

        However, I think that it is a bad idea to try to write specific, hard to change laws that are the supreme law of the land supposedly embodying those principles. I think this for many reasons, but most relevantly here because it turns important disagreements about specific issues/the proper application of those principles into pointless, sophistic discussions about whether or not a lesser law accords with the wording of the hard to change supreme law. (I discussed this a bit here.)

        For instance, the endless debates about what constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” under the 8th Amendment. (This is the kind of question that high school government teachers think is really, really important to discuss.) Surely the more useful question to study is whether the specific punishment in question is efficacious and just? I think it’s perfectly reasonable to appeal to the Framers’ views about criminal justice in debating the issue, but I think it’s an intellectual cul-de-sac that their principles have been codified into very hard to change holy writ whose import we have to study like religious scholars.

    • albertborrow says:

      It is alleged that the Founders/Framers greatly feared majority rule, and thus created institutions like the Senate and the Electoral College to stymie such rule

      I don’t really think we should be beholden to the founder’s vision either, but it’s impossible to deny that at least some of them feared majority rule. Quote:

      If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. (Fed. Papers #10)

      That was James Madison. I think Alexander Hamilton was generally less opposed to majority rule – he mentions multiple times that he can’t conceive of a world where the tyranny of the majority takes place, and people don’t subsequently rise up and revolt. I think that world view was colored greatly by the fact that he rose up and revolted himself, though.

      • Atlas says:

        To elaborate briefly:

        I think that “the Founders/Framers” are very misleading terms, because there was a continuum of beliefs on many important political issues in the early United States, including this one. My understanding, from e.g. Chernow’s biography, is somewhat different from yours: I had thought that Alexander Hamilton was one of the least majoritarian of the Founders, and that he emphatically believed in the rule of a commercial-political elite. In contrast to, for example, Jefferson, whose (victorious) political philosophy was more pro-democracy.

        Also, even the least democratic Founders/Framers within this spectrum believed in popular government to a much greater extent than statesmen in most other polities of the late 18th century did.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          The Fallacy of Gray.
          Sure, the Founders had diversity. But the institutions they chose are a compromise. The institutions are anti-democratic because that was the center of mass. Gouverneur Morris proposed direct election of the President, but the drafters, as a group, rejected that. Is it worse to read the partisan Federalists over taking it as a black box of results? I don’t think so, as long as you keep the authorship in mind. But those aren’t the only options. You can read the minutes and see the diversity.

          There are additional subtleties. Specific policies that we might see as anti-democratic today were not necessarily chosen for that reason at the time, because the Founders weren’t fucking morons. The weighting of states in the Senate and EC were not chosen for fear of the masses. The indirect election was for fear of the masses.

    • shenanigans24 says:

      People in different areas have different values and want different governments. That seems true all over the world. Seems perfectly logical to me.

      • Atlas says:

        People in different areas have different values and want different governments.

        Sure. But how do we adjudicate those differences? One possibility is through mass democracy—values and beliefs get greater representation with more votes. You could suggest other systems based on different principles in which certain people’s votes count more than others’ on the basis of e.g. their knowledge or accomplishments.

        However, the Senate and Electoral College are not based on either of these. They value the votes of some people—in e.g. small or closely politically divided states—more than those of people who live in different geographical areas in apportioning political power. No one seems to explicitly believe in a principle justifying this, whether they support democracy or not.

        Thus, the “republic, not a democracy” meme is not a valid defense of the Electoral College or the Senate.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          Without the EC or Senate, smaller regions would be overwhelmed by concentrated populations. In the original formulation, Virginia had such a large population that it could effectively overwhelm many of the smaller states on its own, and needed only little support from a few other states. That moves the Overton Window of options strongly in their favor. Delaware, being one of the smallest states, would get approximately zero of their preferred policies, despite having [greater than zero]% of the population.

          We see this in action now in states with very large cities – New York and Illinois. Upstate New York is far more conservative than NYC, but because of the population imbalance, the rest of the state gets very little say in anything state-wide.

          Going back to our original 13 colonies, Delaware’s options are “Lose every time” or “Join a larger state, and have your preferences overwhelmed by theirs.” They would have one other option, which would be to join a coalition of other states, (which is essentially what the Senate is) but that runs into the same problem of just joining a larger state – Delaware needs a bargaining chip beyond the size of their population in order to get any of their preferences.

          The solution was to create a chamber in the legislature that was population-based, and one that was based on [an approximation of] regional preferences.

          In 2019 California and New York still have strongly outsized power (on a state-to-state comparison) without having the ability to ignore the smaller states. One could certainly argue about whether “Wyoming” or “Rhode Island” specifically should exist as independent regions deserving of a preference, but that’s certainly no worse than the “logical” approaches you laid out in the OP.

    • Nornagest says:

      I really, really hate the “America is a republic, not a democracy” meme that is trotted out to defend the various undemocratic institutions of American government.

      I’m right there with you on hating it, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it used as a defense of undemocratic institutions. More as a way of insinuating that USG is illegitimate because of those institutions.

    • johan_larson says:

      It is an annoying meme, and I don’t think it’s actually correct. The US has a complicated system of representative government elected by a broad franchise. Such systems of government are routinely referred to as democracies. There is a more narrow definition of democracy, used as a term of art in political science, that requires direct self-rule by the citizenry. But that hardly exists, except for the municipal governments of a few towns in Maine. I mean, when Churchill and Roosevelt were orating about democracy, they weren’t talking about a couple cantons of Switzerland; they were talking about their own countries, and others like them. Insisting that the US is not a democracy is usage so skewed as to be wrong, except possibly within the pages of a poli-sci journal. And the internet is no poli-sci journal.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Most of the times I’ve seen people saying it, it’s been pedantry for the sake of pedantry. So, no big surprise to find that it’s also wrong.

    • JPNunez says:

      I think it makes more sense if you think of America as…United States of America. With the word “State” here meaning “Country”.

      Just like the European Union, except with a way stronger federal government, and 200 years of history, so everyone forgot that they were supposed to be different countries, and just coalesced in a single country.

      Then the original reasoning to not have 1:1 votes for president makes -a little- more sense. The smaller countries didn’t want to give up too much of their power when joining.

    • Walter says:

      I’m a bit confused. It seems like you get that the ‘US is a republic and not a democracy’ are true words, but wish that people would stop pointing it out to you? Why?

      You are doing a lot of heavy lifting with ‘should’ in your second to last paragraph, and I think you are wrong about it. We can think democracy is a good idea, and still sit contentedly under the rule of our Council of Nine. Indeed, folks are doing this even as I type. If you want to change that, make your argument, but don’t use ‘should’, blow it up and get into it.

      Things are better here than in most places, so we are strongly predisposed to reject appeals to change stuff. I get that that isn’t fair to your proposals, but we don’t have any obligation to be fair.

    • Randy M says:

      I agree with you that the argument by definitions (“We’re a republic, therefore undemocratic policy X is good”) is bad, but then, it counters a weak argument by definitions (“We’re a democracy, therefore democratic policy X is good”). Both are mistaking an instrumental process for a terminal goal.

      Regarding the Senate and the EC, these are not set up that way due to principles –there’s nothing in the meaning of republic that demands a bicameral legislature–but as a compromise and way of having different factions check each other (which I suppose might be more of a republican principle than a democratic one, but I think it’s more of a strategy in any case).

      As it stands, the undemocratic functions of the US government are status quo, and if you want to convince people to change them, you need convincing arguments why it would be good to change them. In this case, I think recourse to fairness of process or which form of government is more ideal are no better than in invoking the definitional argument in favor of the status quo. Nevermind if having the President preferred by a strict majority is “more fair”, does it reliably give better governance?

      And if the answer to that is, we as a nation have such different views on what constitutes better governance that simply using the term is meaningless, it’s all about whose principles rule–maybe some people care more about inequality than GDP, for instance–that’s a good argument for federalism and localism.

      • Nick says:

        Regarding the Senate and the EC, these are not set up that way due to principles –there’s nothing in the meaning of republic that demands a bicameral legislature–but as a compromise and way of having different factions check each other (which I suppose might be more of a republican principle than a democratic one, but I think it’s more of a strategy in any case).

        In the case of the electoral college, Hamilton did list desiderata in Federalist 68. And the very first one is “It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided,” which sounds pretty democratic to me. The presidential election was actually more democratic in Hamilton’s scheme than, say, the Senate, which was elected by state legislatures.

        Moreover, since it’s up to each state how electors are to be chosen, states can choose a proportional system or skin in the game or whatever. If @Atlas wants to know why we don’t have any of these, I think he should start there. To my knowledge we’ve mostly seen our system get more “democratic” in the meanwhile rather than less—enfranchising more people, electing senators directly, and with the EC particularly, most non-popular vote plans have been abandoned—and it would be an interesting question why that is.

    • mobile says:

      The Founders and Framers were informed by Polybius’s theory of political cycles and were suspicious of majority rule, and of monarch rule, and aristocratic rule, and rule by philosopher kings. They divided power among each of these forms of decision making in the House of Representatives, the President, the Senate, and the Supreme Court, respectively. There are democratic and anti-democratic institutions, but also aristocratic and anti-aristocratic, monarchal and anti-monarchal, technocratic and anti-technocratic institutions. To complain that America is undemocratic, or that America ought to be more democratic because is to be at least six levels of thinking behind the Founders.

    • John Schilling says:

      I really, really hate the “America is a republic, not a democracy” meme that is trotted out to defend the various undemocratic institutions of American government. (See e.g. this column.)

      You may hate it, but it is both true and important.

      You talk about “majority rule” as if it were a synonym for democracy, and concern yourself primarily with the distinction between democracy and not-democracy, but in fact the various forms of government fall into three significantly different classes w/re the role of the majority.

      1. Those in which the will of the majority is necessary and sufficient to change a law or policy,

      2. Those in which the will of the majority is necessary but not sufficient to change a law or policy,

      3. Those in which the will of the majority is not necessary, not sufficient, and so not relevant.

      The United States of America is and always has been a type-2 system, and the word “republic” has almost always referred exclusively to type-2 systems. “Democracy”, is ambiguous in that there is a casual usage in which it encompasses type-1 and type-2 (see e.g. Wilson “Make the world safe for Democracy”) and a more precise usage in which it refers only to type-1. And a still more precise usage that refers only to a subset of type-1, because all these borders are fuzzy.

      It is a serious problem that we don’t have a word that unambiguously refers to type-1 systems, and leads to a great deal of Motte-and-Bailey thinking.

      But there is a strong case to be made that type-1 and type-3 are both Very Bad Plans, that type-2 works reasonably well in practice, that the people who established the United States specifically intended it to have a type-2 government, that the United States does presently have a type-2 government, and that people who want the United States to have a type-1 government should be told to go to roughly the same place as the people who want it to have a type-3 government.

      “America is a republic, not a democracy”, is the short form way of saying that. If it offends you because you prefer to use “democracy” for both type-1 and type-2, then there is miscommunication happening and it will continue to happen until we come up with that word for type-1-only government or until people who prefer the broader usage of “democracy” take greater care to understand how other people are using the term.

      If you simply want to disagree with the claim, fine, but you should probably start by understanding it and not hating the usual expression.

      There is no logical reason, at least as far as I have heard, why people in an arbitrary group of geographical areas deserve more power in selecting the president and the legislature than other people in a different arbitrary group of geographical areas.

      You’ve really never heard that one before?

      The geographic areas in question aren’t “arbitrary”; they are classified explicitly by population and thus implicitly by urbanization. One of the distinctions between type-1 and type-2 government in the United States, is that it is approximately necessary for a majority of the urban population and a majority of the rural population to approve of a law or policy change, with the implementation being done in a way consistent with 18th-century communications and information-processing infrastructure and existing political institutions.

      Another distinction is that we want both a present majority and a majority averaged over the past generation or so to approve of major changes; since there is a fair correlation between rural and conservative, arranging for one house of the legislature to be weighted in favor of both low population density and long tenure may be effective in this role.

      • SamChevre says:

        This typology is very helpful–thank you!

        • John Schilling says:

          You’re quite welcome. And thinking it over, “will of the majority” in this typology should be understood to mean the will of the present majority; a sufficiently enduring majority will pretty much always get its way in the end under any system.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      If you envision each individual as a sovereign, rational, and completely separate entity, you tend to get upset at the idea that someone’s vote counts for less simply because they live in a city or populous region.

      If you envision each individual as a member of a tribe whose beliefs and values are a product of that tribe, and not truly rational or sovereign, you tend to get upset that one tribe is able to make policies both for itself and others simply because it happens to have more members. More so because quantity of members doesn’t guaranty quality or fairness of policy. (*cough* California)

      I personally don’t like a lot of the framer’s logic, but the

  31. Well... says:

    Apparently I haven’t fully digested this topic yet…

    Someone foolishly suggested that M&Ms are a type of dumpling. This is ludicrous of course, but to provide clarity I submit to you that an orange creamsicle and a corndog are both in the same category as fondue, and this is actually an “impaled” cousin subcategory to the one that contains M&Ms (all varieties).

    All these foods comprise one thing surrounded by a uniform outer layer of another thing. In the case of M&Ms, the outer layer is poured (or sprayed? I’m not actually sure), while for the others it is definitely applied by dipping — thus, cousin subcategories. But none of them belong in the category “dumplings”, because with dumplings the outer layer is pressed on.

    • Nornagest says:

      I wonder if I can get a grant for topological gastronomy.

    • meh says:

      There appears to be an entire class of food related taxonomy debates.
      https://www.hot-dog.org/culture/hot-dog-sandwich

      • Well... says:

        Oooh, it might be fun to debate the classification of those debates.

      • Brett says:

        Good times.

        My view is that if the “bread” isn’t separated into two pieces, then it’s not a sandwich – it’s a wrap.

      • dick says:

        People who are Smart but don’t Get Things Done often have PhDs and work in big companies where nobody listens to them because they are completely impractical. They would rather mull over something academic about a problem rather than ship on time. These kind of people can be identified because they love to point out the theoretical similarity between two widely divergent concepts. For example, they will say, “Spreadsheets are really just a special case of programming language,” and then go off for a week and write a thrilling, brilliant whitepaper about the theoretical computational linguistic attributes of a spreadsheet as a programming language. Smart, but not useful.

        From here.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I just read that and it conflicts greatly with the experiences of two people I know in programming, a brother who is CTO of a small company and my wife who is a back end manager for a medium sized company. Outside of truly terrible employees (lazy, unreliable and unproductive) the worst programmers seem to be smart and gets things done, but have some other flaw like don’t do it in the right structure, they don’t communicate well or they feel the need to be the hero. These are the people who (from what I have heard) cause the biggest messes that require the most cleanup and piss off the most clients.

          Would be interested in hearing from other people in the industry.

          • dick says:

            It’s not clear how those things conflict; it seems like you misunderstood Spolsky’s position, which certainly is not that people who are smart and get things done can’t have other problems. Would you dispute that all this “pop-tarts are essentially a variety of ravioli” food category discourse is an example of “Smart, but not Useful”?

        • SamChevre says:

          What does it say about me that I read that and recognized it?

    • Nick says:

      Someone foolishly suggested that M&Ms are a type of dumpling.

      Come now, this is vicious libel. My contention was that dumpling is a genus and ravioli a species, as you can see from the original discussion over pop-tarts. I don’t actually think M&Ms are dumplings, but at least the claim has the right form in a way “M&Ms are raviolis” does not.

      • AG says:

        I’m the one who made the “M&Ms are raviolis” claim as a shitpost tag to one of my comments.

        I conceded the point that they are not, because the coating is, well, a coating, rather than a wrapping.

        “Corndog is tempura” sure is a mood, though.

        Also insert some shitpost tag about Turducken here.

  32. Uribe says:

    Originally posted this on the Links thread but decided to move it here:

    I’ve wondered if laws meant to discourage corruption don’t, in extreme situations, encourage it. For instance, there is a country to the south of the US known for high levels of corruption where individuals involved with choosing a winning bid can be criminally charged for accepting a bid in which every single blank isn’t filled in–something not normal as far as I can tell in less corrupt countries.

    I wonder if this vicious cycle occurs: perceived corruption is high -> anti-corruption laws are stiff -> criminal risks for government employees is high -> high-level risk taking among government employees increases because adding personal reward through graft decreases the risk/reward ratio of their position.

    • Clutzy says:

      I don’t really think there is such a cycle, but I will say that I think anti-corruption efforts are likely doomed to fail if they originate in government. IMO its a ground up process, not top down.

      • I don’t think that’s true at all and I’m not sure why you think so. If you look early US history, Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 is generally credited with reducing corruption as it ended the spoils system.

        • Clutzy says:

          I think you misunderstand the situation in Mexico (for example) vs. the US then. In Mexico every level of government and social institutions are corrupt because they cannot govern the people. Essentially the people don’t respond to them. There is no law you can pass that convinces them to respect you. Its like JEB!’s “please clap” line, or the “I’m a Man, I’m 40!” by Mike Gundy.

          The federal government at the turn of the century was still a drop in the bucket and the reforms didn’t end corruption in the sense of affecting people’s lives all that much (and the newly empowered lifetime bureaucrats have proven to be worse in many ways). It ended “corruption” in a definitional sense because it ended the spoils system, and many people define that system as corrupt. But there isn’t much evidence that you’d rather be a target of a federal investigation in 1915 rather than 1860.

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      This causation makes sense to me. I’m a fairly risk-averse person, and if I had a high chance of being convicted of corruption for simple mistakes, I would probably avoid the government for jobs (despite being very trustworthy and, I think, very unlikely to be corrupt).

      Whether it’s true or not will depend on the relative populations and whether risk-averse people are more or less likely to be corrupt. My anecdotal evidence leads me to believe that it’s true, but I openly admit I have no solid basis for that opinion.

  33. Brassfjord says:

    I have noticed that the successful people I know seems less emotional than the average person.

    Let me explain what I mean with ”emotional”. I believe that we all are on a spectrum (probably a bell curve) on an axis describing frequency and amplitude of mood swings. (This in turn probably comes from weaker or stronger self reinforcing feedback of emotions. When some people are sad, they think of other sad things, making them sadder, focusing even more on their sadness, feeling more sorrow for themselves, and so on. Others don’t do this.)

    Persons at one tail end of the bell curve are called drama queens/ hypersensitive/ manic-depressive and at the other end indifferent/ non-empathetic/ psychopaths.

    Do you think that it’s easier for those closer to the cold hearted side of the curve to have their lives in order? (We have the meme that many bosses are psychopaths)

    Are feelings a handicap?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Alternative hypothesis: those who are unemotional and unsuccessful merely “lead lives of quiet desperation”, eventually dying (perhaps by their own hand, but no note), so you don’t notice them.

    • Uribe says:

      Perhaps more emotional people have greater variance in outcomes. A lot of super-successful people are known for displaying emotional extremes. OTOH, the people I’m thinking of are also in positions of power who are thus able to get away with displaying those emotional extremes.

      It may depend on the path to power. An entrepreneur can probably get away with displaying more emotion than someone climbing the corporate ladder.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      I think sentimentality can lead to rash or poorly thought out decisions.

      Increased likelihood of gravitating to work with high variance of outcomes but most people on the losing end. Consumption patterns driven by short term mood, etc.

    • meh says:

      perhaps you have the causation reversed?

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I certainly think that putting undue influence on one’s emotional response to something is likely to result in non-optimal results. This is all pretty vague. But it seems pretty common to me for people to base their response to anything on their emotional response, without bothering to look any further, especially in politics. Basically, the emotional response is system 1, and if you don’t bother to access system 2, then you aren’t using your human capabilities. You won’t come up with a better response than a dog.

    • baconbits9 says:

      This isn’t my impression, my impression is that successful people are often driven by a smaller number of intense emotions, and many top level CEOs (Jobs, Musk) seem to be prone to large emotional swings.

      • AG says:

        It’s about requiring a balanced chemistry. Any company with an emotional/inspirational founding figure has at least one grounded practical founder along with them.

    • dick says:

      In my first job as a manager, I was directly supervising a woman I’ll call Melissa. Melissa was super-chatty and gossiped all over the office. One day, she was complaining about her husband – “He never helps around the house, when it’s bath time for the kids he’s on the computer, why is he so lazy” and so forth. I made some sort of disinterested response along the lines of “Oh, that sucks, he should pitch in more.”

      A week later, I’m in my boss’s boss’s office with two HR representatives. Apparently, later that day, Melissa was chatting to someone in the break room and said something like, “My boss said my husband is lazy.” She wasn’t being malicious or trying to get in to trouble, she was just a gossip relaying a thing that had happened earlier. And the thing is, she wasn’t exactly wrong.

      I didn’t make an overt change, like “I resolve never to discuss a report’s personal life” or anything. And I didn’t get in trouble, everyone involved understood that this was miscommunication. But I would bet that my workplace interactions got a little bit more aloof and a little more stiff and a little bit less emotionally authentic that day. I think this is a learned response to having authority and being subject to consequences, just like learning not to cuss or discuss religion.

  34. johan_larson says:

    Say hello to Earth Plus One. It’s a timeline a lot like our own, but slightly better. It’s the place where a few of the things that went wrong in our world went right, and a few more clever and public-spirited people had a chance to make a difference.

    How does Earth Plus One differ from our world?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Hitler dies in WWI. Stalin gets bumped off some time before Lenin dies. Mao is killed and the KMT win in China. WWII still happens, instigated by some other German leader, but no Holocaust. The Soviet Union still exists, but is slightly less brutal without Stalin at the helm. China becomes a fascist dictatorship rather than a Communist one, there’s no Cultural Revolution or Great Leap Forward, nor US involvement in Korea.

      • cassander says:

        how about you dodge all three at once and just have the franz ferdinand sit with has back facing awa